When the game ends, the player either loses the game if he failed to properly win over any of the girls, or "finishes" one of the girls, often by having sex with her, marrying her (as in Magical Date), and/or achieving eternal love.This gives the games more replay value, since the player can focus on a different girl each time, trying to get a different ending.The censored version contains far more endings and new added scenes due to the absence of sexual scenes.

This can lead to confusion, as visual novels are considered a subgenre of adventure games and are not technically included in the dating sim genre.

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.

There are also GL games, which focus on female/female relationships, and BL Games, which focus on male/male 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.

These games often feature a day-night cycle with a time scheduling system that provides context and relevance to character interactions, allowing players to choose when and if to interact with certain characters, which in turn influences their responses during later conversations.

While bishōjo games make up the bulk of dating sims, other types of games exist.

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One game series that often includes dating, with the goal of marriage, is the farming sim series Harvest Moon.