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.

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Homosexual relationships are also possible, as there are games with no specific gender lines ("all pairings").

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

They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance.

The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship.

The subplot of dating is more focused towards choosing one of several girls or guys (dependent on the player character's gender) and offering them presents or joining them on events in the game.

The Star Ocean series of RPGs also feature dating sim elements in a similar manner.

Dating sims such as Tokimeki Memorial, and some role-playing games with similar relationship based mechanics to the genre such as Persona, often give choices that have a different number of associated "mood points" which influence a player character's relationship and future conversations with a non-player character.

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.