The gaming industry owes its entire existence to Japan, more or less. While many of the earliest games didn’t come from Japan – games like Tennis for Two and Pong were Western creations – it was Nintendo that arguably saved the industry from the 1983 crash, paving the way for the gaming mania that swept the 80s and 90s.
Today, the Japanese gaming industry is massive and thriving, with companies like Nintendo and Sony still making incredible games that gamers around the world flock to. Look closely online and you’ll even find a casino in Japan you can check out if you’re looking for some more adult-oriented entertainment.
We’d like to celebrate the best of what the Japanese gaming industry has to offer today, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 best Japanese games you can play right now!
While Persona 5 Royal may not be the single greatest game Japan has ever produced, it’s one of the finest JRPGs on the market right now, and it arguably encapsulates everything that’s great about the country. Taking place in Tokyo, Persona 5 Royal revolves around a group of high school students calling themselves the Phantom Thieves, who enter the minds of delinquent adults and try to correct their personality flaws through stylish turn-based combat and dungeon-delving.
2. Elden Ring
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Elden Ring is a Western creation. It’s got the epic high fantasy sweep and grounded feel of a Tolkien world, and there’s a good reason for that; it’s a collaboration between Dark Souls maestro Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, so it’s a true cultural exchange game. Regardless, this massive open-world action RPG has everything Dark Souls fans love, but bigger and more impressive in scope.
For years, Capcom’s excellent The Great Ace Attorney games remained untranslated, likely due to fears that their specific Japanese cultural references would fly over audiences’ heads. Now, both games in the series have made their way West, and it’s safe to say that they’re among the best adventures the Ace Attorney series has to offer. Ryunosuke’s tale is by turns funny, witty, and emotionally affecting, and the games’ beautiful Victorian setting is incredibly immersive.
4. Live A Live
While there are a huge number of great classic JRPGs out there, we’re picking Live A Live over games like Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger. The reason is simple: Live A Live is one of the most ambitious and influential games you can play right now, and this gorgeous HD-2D makeover is the definitive way to experience this quirky, offbeat story. Eight heroes’ paths intersect across time as they chase a mysterious villain, with each story offering something different.
The Japanese seem to understand horror in a way that Western developers seldom do, and Resident Evil 4 is proof of that. The game mixes horror, comedy, and action in a way that feels simultaneously audacious and retro, and this remake streamlines the original by making the gameplay feel much more fluid and intuitive. If you love spooky games and don’t mind a little tension, then Resident Evil 4 should definitely be on your must-play list.
We jumped for joy when we heard the news that Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was being remastered for modern platforms, because it’s one of the great unsung adventure games of its era. Designed by Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi, Ghost Trick often feels like a spiritual successor to that franchise, even going so far as to boast character designs that feel markedly reminiscent of iconic Ace Attorney characters. Innovative gameplay, a beautiful story, and great art make this an essential purchase.
The original Final Fantasy VII is pretty much an undisputed masterpiece, but this remake fleshes it out in some incredibly exciting ways. The world feels more alive than it did in Cloud’s original adventure; if you’ve played the original, this remake is worth a playthrough just to see the incredible work the developers have done on Wall Market and the Honeybee Inn. The ending has proven somewhat divisive, but we’re still excited to see where this ambitious remake is going.
If you look at Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s score on review aggregator websites, you’ll see a somewhat disappointing figure that lands somewhere in the mid-70s. However, as far as we’re concerned, that doesn’t tell the full story; these ambitious, highly flawed games are the most exciting Pokemon products we’ve seen in years. With a surprisingly affecting story, a massive open world to explore, and a huge number of ‘mon to catch, Scarlet and Violet’s myriad technical problems are the only Cutiefly in the ointment.
This is the game that started a revolution…or should have. Breath of the Wild’s influence on open-world gaming is arguably only just starting to be felt; while games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Genshin Impact appropriate elements of Breath of the Wild, they don’t feel as organic or well-crafted as Nintendo’s excellent game does. Exploring Hyrule in Breath of the Wild is, well, breathtaking; there’s always something new to find around every corner.
Forgive us for including two games from the same franchise, but Final Fantasy XIV is such a success story that it’s hard to ignore it. The original Final Fantasy XIV was a complete disaster; it was an unplayable mess that deterred MMO fans due to its complexity and off-putting nature. 2013’s A Realm Reborn reboot streamlined the game, making it much more accessible, and since then, every single one of the game’s expansions has been received rapturously by a grateful and engaged fanbase.