As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays.
In Japanese terminology, a distinction is often made between visual novels proper (abbreviated NVL), which consist predominantly of narration and have very few interactive elements, and adventure games (abbreviated AVG or ADV), which may incorporate problem-solving and other types of gameplay.
Most visual novels have multiple storylines and many endings; the gameplay mechanic in these cases typically consists of intermittent multiple-choice decision points, where the player selects a direction in which to take the game.
This style of gameplay has been compared to the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
These dating sim elements are often referred to as Romance Sidequests in the RPG genre.
Wiki is an unofficial, wiki-based encyclopedia dedicated to the interactive romance novels and social-based dating simulation games developed and published by NTT Solmare.
While the plots and storytelling of mainstream video games is often criticized, many fans of visual novels hold them up as exceptions and identify this as a strong point of the genre, comparing the quality of writing to literature.
 Some visual novels do not limit themselves into merely interactive fictions, but also incorporate other elements into them.
These can be more closely compared to story-driven interactive fiction.
While many view them as video games, others view visual novels as an entirely new medium of narrative art.
 In recent years there have also been some Western games that resemble Japanese visual novels, most notably The Walking Dead, which can be seen as an American take on the genre.
Visual novels are also known for the amount of dialogues they contain, which on average surpasses that of any other video game genre, including RPGs.
Visual novels also, on average, contain more dialogues than even traditional novels, due to the interactivity (such as non-linear plots, multiple endings, and hidden/optional dialogues) requiring more dialogues to be written for visual novels than would normally be required for the more linear traditional novels.