Top 5 Visual Novels for Beginners
#1 One: to the Radiant Season (AKA One: Kagayaku Kisetsue)
I recommend this as a first because it's a classic. It's a pre Key visual novel made by many of the people who would go on to form Key. Many of you unfamiliar with eroge and vn's are fans of the anime Kanon, Air, and Clannad. All of these anime were based on vn's made by Key.
#2 Kana Little Sister (Aka Kana Imouto)
This was the first vn I played and I found it very hard to stay dry eyed towards the end. This one is licensed and available from J-List or what ever online anime retailer you prefer.
#3 Snow Sakura (AKA Yuki Sakura)
Cute, soft, and simple harem eroge. Won't amaze you with a stellar story or bring you to tears, but it's entertaining all the way through with cute character designs and decent ero scenes. Also available from J-List and other retailers. Saki-chan = love
love the op Simple, brain dead simple... But of course has the famous anime based on it. Cute character designs and art from the famous artists Hiro Suzuhira and Aoi Nishimata. First VN I was able to collect all the CG from without a game guide. Available for download from Manga Gamer. Tho honestly... the way they translated the h-scenes suck.
#5 Da Capo
Another one that has a popular anime based on it. Available from Manga Gamer... tho once again they messed up the ero scenes. (Referring to women's genitalia as a love tunnel? Are you serious guys?) Other than that everything is fine.
Top 3 recommendations for people who already read Visual Novels.
Pretty long. In fact I've yet to finish one story route and then another hidden one. H Scenes aren't the greatest but believe me, the story in this VN is outstanding.
#2 A Drug that Makes You Dream (Yume Miru Kusuru)
Slightly dark with beautiful artwork and character designs by Kiyotaka Haimura, known for Toaru Majutsu no Index. Available at J-List too.
#3 Wanko to Kurasou
Perverted and filled with delicious high quality ero scenes. Mikan = love
Top 2 non-ero Visual Novel recommendations
#1 Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume.
Guaranteed to make you cry. You have to be completely heartless to stay dry eyed through this one. Quick read and there's no choices in this visual novel. Story by Key and art by C02A. A must read for anyone.
Has the extremely popular anime based on it. But believe me, the visual novel is much better. Tomoyo = love
And for the heck of it here's a couple visual novel ops I like. Bittersweet Fools, Little Busters, Kanon, Figu@Mate, Moonlight Cradle, and Tomoyo After.