For better or worse, sex sells. And for some of Japan's most famous game companies, it was what they sold when they first started making games. That's right, many of Japan's biggest game makers have turned to or even had their origins in pixelated pornography.
Here are some of the more notable examples and some of the adult games that they released.
Note: While many of the games featured highly questionable content, this article is written to neither condone nor condemn the following companies' work with adult content, but more as a historical look back. Reader discretion is advised!
Hudson is a game developer famous for the Bomberman series, as well as the video boardgame Momotarou Dentatsu, a Monopoly like game that literally ended one of my childhood friendships.
One of the oldest adult video games on record in Japan. Yakyuuken (Strip Rock-Scissors-Paper) was developed by Hudson back during a time when the only way to display a curved line on a computer screen was to use ascii art. Very little is known about this game, as no screen shots can be found, and in fact the only proof of its existence is the title listing in an old computer magazine. Still, it is the oldest Japanese adult video game on record.
Mari-chan Kiki Ippatsu (1983)
Enix is perhaps best known for the Dragon Quest series, but one of their earliest titles was this bizarre (by today's standar… Nah, I'm pretty sure it was bizarre back then, too) game where a young girl, Mari, is kidnapped and the player must rescue her by playing a series of rock-scissors-paper games with her kidnapper.
The game was based pretty much entirely on luck, which apparently made the game quite horrifying seeing that if you lost, Mari would be killed in a variety of disturbing ways, including stabbing, electrocution, and getting blown up. For the final stage of the game, the player would get to play strip rock-scissors-paper with Mari to make her remove articles of clothing. Getting her to take off her panties revealed the message "Due to program error, this portion cannot be displayed!!"
Lolita Syndrome (1983)
Another Enix title and another "save the girl or she dies" game. In Lolita Syndrome, the player is a young man going to visit his five young friends at their apartment. He finds the girls have been trapped in their rooms at the mercy of Saw like death machines and must rescue each girl one by one. For each girl rescued, the player is rewarded with an explicit image.
Koei is well known for their historical simulators of the The Kingdoms Era of China and the feudal period of Japan, as well as the one-man-army series of Warrior games. Koei is also known in Japan as the pioneers of the adult video game. While their adult games were not the first to ever be released (as Hudsons' Yakyuuken proves) they are regarded as the most influential in the development of the adult video game genre. Nightlife was the first.
Nightlife was a "sexual simulator" game in the most basic sense. The player would be given a list of 8 questions to answer from how they were feeling, what position they wanted to try, to locations and lighting and even when the last time they had sex was. After the questions were answered, the player was treated to a simple digital silhouette image. Players would specify how long they would have sex and get started. The timer would run down and the game would end with a "Good Night."
The "Let's Fuck!" in the above screenshot probably doesn't need any clarification.
Danchiduma no Yuuwaku (Seduction of the Residential Complex Wives) (1983)
More of a straight-forward adult game, player would play a door-to-door condom salesman and their objective was to sell all their remaining condoms or be fired from their job. The player would enter a 7-floor residential complex with ghosts and gangsters roaming the halls that they would have to battle before entering rooms and negotiating with the women there to have sex.
Oranda Tsuma wa Denki Unagi no Yume wo Miruka? (Do Holland Wives Dream of Electric Eels?) (1984)
The title is an obvious play on the Philip K. Dick novel that the movie Blade Runner was based off of, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Not only the title, but the game itself played off of the plot where the player was hunting three stolen autonomic sex dolls. The only way to distinguish one of these sex dolls from a real human would be to have intercourse with them. The only way to "defeat" the sex dolls would be through the use of various sex toys found in hidden sex shops.
Jyoshi Daisei Puraibeeto (College Girl Private) (1983)
Responsible for famous JRPG series like the Ys series and The Legend of Heroes series, Nihon Falcom also developed this sliding puzzle game. Puzzles would become progressively harder as stages progressed and girls would remove more clothing.
These games (and companies) appeared in Introduction to Cultural Studies Adult Games (エロゲー文化研究概論), a book released earlier this year in Japan. You can see images of the text here on Akiba Blog. Site and images are NSFW.
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