With Atelier Ryza set to release later this month in North America and early next month in Europe (and digitally in India), more potential fans than ever before have been considering jumping into Koei Tecmo and Gust’s (the developer of Atelier, Nights of Azure, and more) beloved series. There is one pretty big problem though. The sheer number of entries is daunting and puts most JRPG fans off because of potential problems for starting with a specific entry. I’ve been playing the Atelier games ever since I got a PS Vita and have played basically every title in the franchise that’s released on PS Vita, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. If you’ve ever considered getting into the series but are confused where to begin, this is the guide for you. While this guide is meant for newcomers to the series, it will also be useful for fans who have played a few entries and are looking for what to get next as well.

Why should I care about Atelier?

There are a few things to consider before getting into the series. The biggest question most people have is why they should care about Atelier when there are tons of long running JRPG series out there. Gust’s Atelier franchise is more slice of life than traditional JRPG. In fact, the combat isn’t even close to being a focus here.

Atelier games are all about characters, interactions, exploration, and crafting. Crafting is a huge part of these games alongside aesthetics and music. The series has traditionally been focussed on PlayStation systems but Koei Tecmo began taking it multiplatform a few years ago. Depending on what system or systems you play on, your starting point to the series will change. There are also a few games that are amazing for beginners and others that aren’t recommended. 

Atelier games’ biggest draw for me is the visual style and how Gust manages to perfectly transition gorgeous character portraits to in game models. This results in the games having a fairy-tale aesthetic. The second aspect that is well worth any JRPG fans time is the music. I can’t stress enough how great the soundtracks are for almost every Gust game. Even the one-off games like Blue Reflection have excellent music.

What Atelier game to start with on PS4?

If you own a PS4, the best entry point to the series is Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. This game is great because it is the start of a new series with no prior knowledge required, it removes the time limit that is a turn off for some people, and has both English and Japanese voice acting options. It was the first Atelier game on PS4 and hence has the lowest asking price depending on where you look. It also runs and looks brilliant on base PS4 which some of the later games struggle with. 

What Atelier game to start with on Nintendo Switch?

On Nintendo Switch, things aren’t as straightforward. The first game to arrive on Nintendo’s hybrid system was Atelier Lydie & Suelle which is the third part of the Mysterious trilogy that began with Atelier Sophie. While prior knowledge isn’t essential, the technical shortcomings make it not worth your time as an entry point. Atelier Rorona is a much better entry point. If you don’t want to try out an older game, wait for either Atelier Ryza or Atelier Ayesha when the port releases. Atelier Rorona on Nintendo Switch is a huge upgrade in terms of performance and visuals when it comes to the handheld version compared to the PS Vita release.

What Atelier game to start with on PC?

If you play on PC, the best entry point to the series is Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. This game is great because it is the start of a new series with no prior knowledge required, it removes the time limit that is a turn off for some people, and has both English and Japanese voice acting options. It was the first Atelier game on PC as well and thanks to this, it suffers from being a barebones port that still has some issues compared to newer Gust releases on PC. 

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is the best Atelier game for beginners 

This is easily the best entry point into the modern Atelier games and is the first game in the Mysterious trilogy. It is available on PS4, PS Vita, and PC currently and tells the tale of Sophie who finds a book called Plactha that moves and talks on its own. She aims to restore the book’s memories which in turn make her a better Alchemist. Atelier Sophie has both English and Japanese voice acting options. Any of the three platforms is fine for this release. Now, if you own a Nintendo Switch or

Should you start with Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey?

Atelier Firis saw Gust get ambitious and try and go for a more open world experience. The end result is a game that runs very poorly on PS Vita, not great on base PS4, and only really good on PS4 Pro and PC after patches. Atelier FIris is my least favourite modern Atelier game because of the new open focus. It is also a very poor entry point to the series and only worth playing if you already loved Atelier Sophie. It suffers from bland map design but has a very nice synthesis (crafting) system. If you want to play this, get it on PS4 Pro or PC. Atelier Firis has both English and Japanese voice options.

Should you start with Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings?

Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the third and final part of the Mysterious trilogy of Atelier games. It is also the first one to release on the Nintendo Switch while the PS Vita version was dropped for English release. Atelier Lydie & Suelle is set nearly a decade after Atelier Sophie and features Lydie and Suelle who are twins working at their father’s atelier. As the name suggests, mysterious paintings are a focus here and the twins get sucked into a painting. This is where their journey begins. On a technical standpoint, Atelier Lydie & Suelle runs and looks pretty poor on Nintendo Switch and base PS4. It is just about fine on PS4 Pro and really only great on a decent PC. It is a massive downgrade in performance compared to earlier games on modern hardware. You definitely shouldn’t start with this one if you have access to a PS4 or PC. The callbacks to earlier games aren’t essential but help so it is an alright way to play if you only have a Nintendo Switch. Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the first Atelier game to only offer Japanese voice acting in the West and this is a disappointing note to end the Mysterious trilogy on.

Should you start with the Atelier Arland Series Deluxe Pack?

This is the first set of remasters from Koei Tecmo and Gust bringing PS3 and PS Vita exclusives to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC for the first time. The Arland series of games that includes Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, and Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland is widely considered a great entry point to the series’ peak. The games are available standalone or as a triple pack called the Atelier Arland Series Deluxe Pack available on the same platforms at a discount. In terms of contents, these properly replace the PS3 and PS Vita versions bringing almost all DLC into the package right from the get go and also happen to be very competent ports albeit a bit lacklustre when it comes to performance improvements. Thankfully, these three games all offer both English and Japanese voice acting options. Since a trilogy purchase is a tall ask for many people, individual games that are priced a bit on the higher side given the port quality are options for some people. 

Should you start with Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland?

Currently available on PS3, PS Vita, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC, this entry is the best way to get into older Atelier games. It is the first entry in the Arland series. You play as Rorona who is trying to save her Atelier from closing down thanks to the kingdom in the land. She aims to increase the popularity by synthesizing better quality items and helping more people. The time limit is daunting for many but it definitely helps people get into a routine in game.

Should you start with Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland?

Currently available on PS3, PS Vita, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC, Atelier Totori is the second game in the Arland series of Atelier games and not a great entry point at all. Atelier Totori is set half a decade after Atelier Rorona and features Totori who is Rorona’s student looking for her mother. You should only play this after finishing Atelier Rorona. It improves on Rorona in some ways but still isn’t a good entry point. 

Should you start with Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland?

Atelier Meruru is the third and what was earlier final game in the Arland series of Atelier games. It features Meruru who is a young princess trying to grow her small town through alchemy. Meruru meets Totori who is a full fledged alchemist now and their story begins. Since this follows two games in the Arland series, you should definitely not start with this one. Atelier Meruru is absolutely worth playing but only after you finish the two earlier games. It is available on PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Should you start with Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland?

Atelier Lulua is a surprising release. Not only is it the fourth entry in what was previously the Arland trilogy, but it is also a game that got many people I know into the franchise. I would only recommend this release after you have played the three Arland games in the Atelier Arland Series Deluxe Pack. One standout feature of this release is that it is the first Atelier game that is actually very good on Nintendo Switch. I ended up playing it a lot more on Nintendo Switch than PS4 Pro because I’ve enjoyed Atelier games handheld and this is the first Switch release that is competent on the technical side of things. Atelier Lulua disappointingly only offers Japanese voice acting which is annoying considering many fans are used to Arland characters speaking English. 

Should you start with Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World?

Nelke is a spinoff game to the Atelier series that draws characters and interactions from all earlier games and blends them in with new gameplay and a new story. Nelke is a very interesting release because it has gameplay that is perfect for playing on a portable with its simulation RPG focus but it is also the worst Nintendo Switch port so far. It feels unpolished even on PS4 and PS4 Pro. As a 20th anniversary title for the franchise, this isn’t great technically but longtime fans will love the interactions across different generation alchemists. Despite being technically bad, I’ve put in way more time into this on Nintendo Switch than PS4 Pro. If you have access to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC, this will be best on PC when it comes to the technical side. Consider buying and playing Nelke only if you’ve already enjoyed earlier games because this isn’t a good introduction gameplay or story wise to the Atelier franchise.

Should you start with Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout?

Atelier Ryza is a brand new Atelier game for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC that aims to be a reboot for the series. Every bit of gameplay so far has been impressive and it looks like the first game in years to actually look ahead when it comes to visuals and scope. While this is definitely going to be a great entry point since it is a brand new entry with no baggage, you will be doing yourself a disservice by skipping some of these fantastic JRPGs.

What about the Atelier Dusk Trilogy Deluxe Pack?

As with the Arland games, Gust and Koei Tecmo are bringing Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, and Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. These ports are releasing in Japan this December with an English release set for January 14, 2020. I vastly prefer the Dusk trilogy in both aesthetic and music to the Arland series but if you want to wait it out for ports of these games on current systems, Atelier Ayesha is the best entry point for sure. These releases will include most of the paid DLC from the PS3 and PS Vita releases that includes new costumes, bosses, playable characters, and more.

The future of the Atelier series

My only hope for localisations of the series is that Koei Tecmo considers an English dub for future entries. With Atelier Ryza seemingly breaking records all over the place and it being a reboot, it would do wonders to bring back English voice acting for those who enjoy playing JRPGs with it.