What’s Up With Those Horny RPGMaker Games on Steam?

Why hentai titles are trying to fly under the radar.

If you’ve browsed Steam for any amount of time, you might have spotted some titles on the New and Trending lists that appear to simply be hastily-made RPGMaker games, only with anime boobs. Maybe you left it at that — or maybe, like me, you were curious about who makes these titles and what their deal is. Are they really just the 2D equivalent of Unity asset flips designed to make a quick buck from unwary gamers? Well, kind of — but there’s something else going on, too.

Look through the reviews on a title like Noelle Does Her Best, Apostle: Rebellion, or Castaway of the Ardusta Sea and a recurring message emerges: “download the patch.” Head over to the publisher’s site — in the case of these three, that’d be Kagura Games — and you’ll find what you’re looking for. What does the patch do? Well, it uncensors the titles, which are porn games. But wait — isn’t sexual content allowed on Steam now? Long past are the days when titles like Ladykiller in a Bind had to cover up characters with ugly Christmas sweaters, right?

Well, yes. Back in 2018, Steam published a blog post announcing that they were relaxing rules on content they’d allow on the storefront. Since then, everything has been allowed on the store, “except for things that we [Steam] decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” Rather than focus on what is and isn’t allowed, Valve has instead aimed to provide tools to users so they can determine for themselves what they can see, tools like tags and the Mature Content filters, which can conceal titles that contain “Frequent Gore or Violence,” “Nudity or Sexual Content,” “Adult Only Sexual Content,” and “General Mature Content.”

The only one of those filters I usually have enabled is “Adult Only Sexual Content.” I had it, too, turned off for a while on the assumption that I might be missing out on a potentially interesting title by enabling it, but was disabused of that notion pretty quickly. I don’t mean to dismiss the entire genre of horny games, but for the most part, they aren’t for me.

Now, many titles released by publishers like Kagura Games are tagged for “Nudity or Sexual Content,” but many aren’t. That’s ostensibly because the censored versions of these games don’t feature the explicit content that the originals do. These latter games all show up even if you aren’t logged in or if you are and have filters enabled. So what’s the deal? Why jump through the hoops of censoring your game for Steam and making a decensoring patch available to download on your website when you could just publish your fucky title on Steam as-is?

Castaway of the Ardusta Sea
Castaway of the Ardusta Sea

Part of it, I have to assume, is about market reach. If you’re able to sell your porn game as a straight-up RPG too, why not do that? I can’t imagine this is an extremely lucrative approach given that these games typically look like jank, but maybe the promise of an anime yabbo or four is enough to entice some gamers who happen to have sexual content filters turned on. And hey, the people who know your product are probably going to be fine with downloading a patch anyway — it’s only been a few years now that outright porn games have been allowed on Steam, so they’ve presumably been doing this tango for a while.

There’s also the question of legality — if an anime porn game depicts a character who looks like they’re underage (never mind if she’s actually an ancient dragon), then the publisher and Steam could potentially land in hot water in jurisdictions where that’s illegal. The ethics of illustrated sexual content are beyond the scope of this piece, but suffice to say that a lot of corporations would rather be safe than sorry.

It’s likely a combination of that kind of caution and the desire to not have their horny RPGMaker games dropped into the black hole of “Adult Only” that motivates developers and publishers to release their titles on Steam like this. Some publishers make the patches available via DLC, but others like Kagura are sticking with hosting them on their site. That might not last forever, though — multiple recent posts on the Kagura Games discussion board on Steam bemoan the difficulty of patching their titles on Valve’s Steam Deck hardware, so publishers may need to reevaluate their tactics moving forward.