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"Ren'ai" or "Renai" is Japanese for "romance", "love", or "romantic love".  Roughly.

It's conventionally romanised (transcribed in English) as "ren'ai". The apostrophe is the conventional way of indicating a break between the Japanese consonant "n" and a following vowel: it's not spelled れない "re - na - i" but れんあい "re - n - a - i".

"Ren'ai games" is a broad term for computer games which have a strong plot element of romantic love.  Thus naturally DatingSims? are ren'ai games; but there are a number of other types, ranging from VisualNovels? to strategy games like SakuraTaisen.  It might be fair to call FinalFantasy 8 a ren'ai game.  See DatingSim/AlexsRecommendations for further thoughts.

I would have thought that being a ren'ai game meant you had at least some input into which girl/guy/extraterrestrial/thing you ended up with?  If true, that would rule out FF8. --K
Not necessarily.  Literally, a "ren'ai game" just means it's a game "about" romantic love.  As commonly used - there are a number of VisualNovels? where the plot is completely linear, including who ends up with who at the end, but which would still be counted as ren'ai.  This is partly why "Renai game" is a significantly wider term than "DatingSim". --AlexChurchill, ready to be corrected if anyone wishes

In English, DatingSim and renai game mean the same thing. It doesn't matter what the technical meanings are. - ma.comcast.net
So they mean the same thing if you disregard their meanings?  Umm.  Yeah.  Actually, I think what you're trying to say is that, in literal translation, they mean roughly the same thing.  A great many words, however, have entered the language with very different meanings than what they were intended for (raisin springs to mind). --K
...from the comment immediately before yours: ..."Renai game" is a significantly wider term than "DatingSim". Please respond to the points made in Alex's comment, because it is a direct counterpoint to yours and would appear to render it void without further reasoning from you.

CategoryComputerGames, CategoryAnime

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