What's up with NTR games?
Everybody wants to be a cheater in Naughty List News #95
NaughtyList.News is a free weekly publication about adult games, sometimes supported by advertising. This week’s edition was sponsored by Private Dick: Lipstick & Lies
For the past few years, I’ve noticed a sharp rise in cheating in my games. And not the kind of cheating you’re thinking of, like peeking through walls in an online shooter. No, I’m playing games where your goal is to steal your neighbor’s wife and force her to fall in love with you instead.
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What makes this fantasy so appealing? And why do they all seem to play from an isometric perspective, divide their days into segments, and emphasize the female character’s emotional toil?
What is NTR?
Netorare, often abbreviated as NTR, is a Japanese term translated as “to be stolen” or “cucked.” This genre of adult media typically revolves around a story in which someone’s partner is seduced or taken away by another party. NTR stories culminate in feelings of jealousy, betrayal, and emotional distress in the party being cheated on.
There are a few common character archetypes in NTR media:
Protagonist - Typically male, they are depicted as emotionally invested in the relationship with their partner. Their journey focuses on the feelings of jealousy and betrayal caused by the cheating behind their back.
Love Interest - The other half, and in a committed relationship with the protagonist. They are usually portrayed as attractive and extremely desirable. Their role in the story is to either decide to cheat on their partner themselves, or they are lured into doing so by the rival character.
Rival/Bull - The character who steals the love interest away from the protagonist. They are often depicted as charismatic and emotionally manipulative. Their actions lead to the betrayal and infidelity that underlie the NTR storyline.
NTR is a controversial genre in adult media. While some people find it thrilling escapism, others find the themes hitting too close to home for comfort. After all, these are stories about emotional abuse that leave a protagonist feeling inadequate or worthless. As with all adult media, it's up to personal taste and preference.
What I find interesting about the NTR games that have cropped up recently is that you don’t play as the protagonist character in the story but as the rival.
NTR Legend sets the tone
NTR Legend (or NTR Densetsu) is a Japanese game by GoldenBoy that was first released on DLSite in July 2020. You play as the neighbor of a young couple who moved in next door. The woman of the couple needs money for her upcoming wedding anniversary, and she suggests to the neighbor that she can help him clean his apartment for a small fee. However, you have very different plans for her since you are well-known as The Family Destroyer.
Each in-game day is divided into morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Different activities are available during each part of the day, like working a part-time job in the morning and going to the sex shop at night. If there's nothing to clean, your neighbor won’t work for you, so you’ll need to spend time trashing your apartment to give her an excuse to come over. You use the money from your part-time jobs to pay for her cleaning services and to upgrade your apartment.
What’s notable about how you play the game is that you cannot move around the world freely; instead, you interact with specific points on the map. A lot of the game is controlled through a phone interface. For example, you can call your neighbor to ask her to come over and order food and other items through an app.
During the cleaning, you can sexually harass your neighbor by fondling her genitals and stroking yourself while she isn’t looking. There’s an arousal and a suspicion bar that are raised simultaneously by your actions. If you fill her arousal without alarming her, you will increase her lust and unlock more options for harassment. You’ll also be able to install a spy camera in your neighbor’s apartment, and you can eventually get invited for dinner. The goal is to put sleeping pills in the husband’s drink so you can have sex with his partner without being disturbed.
NTR Legend uses sprite graphics, an isometric perspective, and simple animations. However, a lot of work has been put into the facial expressions of the neighbor, which takes up a significant portion of the screen during sex scenes. NTR Legend was extremely popular on DLSite, ranking as the 18th most popular title in 2020. And although mainstream gaming sites never covered it, the game’s influence has reverberated throughout the adult gaming community.
NTRaholic takes inspiration
In the upcoming NTRaholic, you also play the bull in an NTR relationship, but the twist here is that you are the landlord of two apartments that are next to each other. When a young married couple moves into the other apartment, you decide to have some “fun” with the woman, but corrupting their true love will be extremely difficult, even for someone with your skills. You decide to get help from an outside contractor, i.e., the demon Lilith, who grants you her erotic powers for the next ninety days with your immortal soul as collateral.
There are a lot of similarities between NTRaholic and NTR Legend. Both games are about cheating and corruption, but both games have an isometric perspective, and you can’t move around the map freely. NTRaholic also has a super-charged phone interface through which you control the game, just like NTR Legend does. I’ve played both games, and they are so similar that it can be hard to keep them apart in my head.
However, I would not want to claim that NTRaholic is outright cloning another game. The makers on their store page say they are “inspired by NtrLegend,” which is an accurate distinction. For example, there are far more locations to explore in this game, the minigames are very different, and the corruption of your target is tracked as a womb tattoo.
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Doom Clone vs. First-Person Shooter
There are actually far more games I wanted to cover here. There’s Handyman Legend and NTR Boy, which both seem heavily inspired by NTR Legend as they have an isometric perspective and UI elements very familiar to players of another game. A handful of games about cheating do not make a genre, but they do make for an interesting trend. These developers seem to be riffing on a shared game design and trying to give it their unique spin. And because of this, I think we’re witnessing the birth of a new genre of adult games.
Something similar happened after the original Doom came out. That game blew everyone’s minds when it was first released in 1993. As one of the first fully 3D titles for home computers, this was the first time many people experienced a shooter in a first-person perspective. Doom created a thrilling and immersive experience by centering the player’s perspective in the action. It was such an influential title that it set genre conventions and audience expectations for years that other developers found difficult to escape.
But at the time, that genre of games was simply called “Doom Clones.” If you look at posts on Usenet, a precursor to social media in the early 90s, it took almost five years for the term “first-person shooter” to gain traction from video game enthusiasts over the term “doom clone."
I suspect we’ll see something similar happen with the “NTR-but-you-play-the-bull” genre in the future. It seems to me that NTR Legend was so bold and innovative when it was released three years ago that it inadvertently set conventions for an entire genre.
And I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next.
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
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MangaGamer has an NTR sale until May 29th. Now that’s what I call timing! (They did not sponsor today’s newsletter.)
NookGaming reviews otome visual novel The Spanish Privateer. “Although the storytelling is dull at times due to too much telling and little showing, the story itself is filled with interesting and unexpected events that keep the momentum and curiosity going.”
Visual novel publisher NekoNyan promises they won’t drop adult content going forward. The publisher addressed concerns raised by their latest release shipping without the adult content that was promised when the game was announced.
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Artist spotlight 💡
Thanks for reading this far!