have their origins in the early 1980s, when Japanese companies introduced their own brands of microcomputer to compete with those of the United States.Competing systems included the Sharp X1, Fujitsu FM-7, MSX, and NEC PC-8801.

To Heart's music was so popular it was added to karaoke machines throughout Japan—a first for eroge.

After a similar game by Tactics, One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, became a hit in 1998, Visual Art's scouted main creative staff of One to form a new brand under them, which became Key. It contains only about seven brief erotic scenes in a sentimental story the size of a long novel (an all-ages version was also released afterward), but the enthusiasm of the response was unprecedented, and Kanon sold over 300,000 copies.

In 2002 a 13-episode anime series was produced, as well as another 24-episode anime series in 2006.

According to Satoshi Todome's A History of Eroge, Kanon is still the standard for modern eroge and is referred to as a "baptism" for young otaku in Japan.

In some of the early erotic games, the erotic content is meaningfully integrated into a thoughtful and mature storytelling, though others often used it as a flimsy excuse for pornography.

Erotic games made the PC-8801 popular, but customers quickly became tired of paying 8800 yen () for such simple games.Soon, new genres were invented: ASCII's Chaos Angels, a role-playing-based eroge, inspired Dragon Knight by Elf and Rance by Alice Soft. In it, before any eroticism, the user has to first win the affection of one of a number of female characters, making the story into an interactive romance novel. Soon afterwards, the video game Otogirisou on the Super Famicom attracted the attention of many Japanese gamers.Otogirisou was a standard adventure game but had multiple endings. In 1996, the new software publisher Leaf expanded on this idea, calling it a visual novel and releasing their first successful game, Shizuku, a horror story starring a rapist high school student, with very highly reviewed writing and music. However, in 1997, they released To Heart, a sweetly sentimental story of high school love that became one of the most famous and trendsetting eroge ever.Although many eroge still market themselves primarily on sex, eroge that focus on story are now a major established part of Japanese otaku culture.Oftentimes, voice actors who have voiced for eroge have been credited under a pseudonym.There is no set definition for the gameplay of eroge, except that they all include explicit sexual content.