Dating sims (or dating simulations) are a video game subgenre of simulation games, usually Japanese, with romantic elements. The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship. The term dating sim is also often used as a synonym for the visual novel genre. However, this is mixing genre and medium, as visual novels are considered a subgenre of adventure games and the term does not cover simulations. While the two genres often share a common visual presentation, dating sims are sometimes considered to be more statistically based than the "choose your own adventure" style of visual novels.
The technical definition of a dating simulation game, known as a in Japan, can involve several technical elements such as a time limit, several statistics such as looks and charm which can be boosted through exercise, or an "attraction meter" which can increase or decrease depending on one's decisions.
While bishōjo games make up the bulk of dating sims, other types of games exist. Games where the player character is female and potential objects of affection are male are known as GxB or otome games. Homosexual relationships are also possible, as are games with no specific gender lines ("all pairings").
There are many variations on this theme: high-school romances are the most common, but a dating sim may also take place in a fantasy setting and involve such challenges as defending one's girl from monsters. Dating sims, as their name suggests, generally strive for a romantic atmosphere.
One game series that keeps a sub quest of dating in most of the games is the farming sim series Harvest Moon. The subplot of dating is more focused towards choosing one of usually five girls and offering them presents or joining them on events in the game.
Due to cultural differences in the social perception of sexual maturity, Eastern Asian dating sims may allow the player to romance and have sexual relationships with characters in their teens or even younger (such as the very successful Sakura Wars series). The degree of sexual content varies, but may often include intercourse. Strongly sexual dating sims may fall into the category of H Game or Eroge.