Given their erotic origins (and most visual novels to this day have sexual content in one form or another), visual novels led the charge in popularizing attraction to 2D characters.
Often one or more girls’ story will get ignored or dramatically shortened, just because there was no way to make the story make sense in the linear narrative of the anime.
The first really good visual novel anime adaptation I’m aware of is Kyoto Animation’s 2005 adaptation of Key’s Air (also written by Jun Maeda).
As stories in these games grew more complex, anime companies, seeing a target audience already built in, began to produce anime adaptations of their stories.
Since these games have branching stories with multiple paths for multiple girls, this is easier said than done.
But sometimes, that concept is just too complicated or too weird to explain satisfactorily without completely drowning out the rest of the review.
Visual novels are a medium almost entirely unique to otaku.
Some other notables include School Days, a dark and twisted show based on a game known for its dark and bloody bad endings, Ef, whose anime has an unusual visual style that seems divergent from the original game, and White Album, which handles the juggling of multiple simultaneous romantic relationships that such adaptations usually require better than any other show I’ve seen, and does it all with a subtlety that is unique not just for the genre, but for anime in general.
Dating game adaptations have also had an effect on the broader anime market.
Given that most visual novels are told from a first person perspective, with the player acting as the male protagonist, most dating sim main characters tend to be undefined, so the player can put his own imprint on the character.
This means that the protagonists of most anime adaptations are similarly blank, often turning into bland, milquetoast characters that don’t do much more than stumble around while the much more interesting female characters inexplicably fall for dullards like them.
They developed out of simple PC games in the 80s which consisted of simple stories framed by anime-style artwork.