With most fans of the long-running Yakuza series looking forward to playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon when it hits multiple platforms later this year, there are still many people who’d like to sample Sega’s best. However, with an overwhelming number of games in the series it’s not easy to figure out the best place to start or how to get into it. More so when you consider that Yakuza has been around for over a decade across three (soon to be four) console generations.
Yakuza publisher Sega and developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have been releasing quality titles both inside and outside Japan for a long time but the series really had a breakthrough moment with Yakuza 0 on PS4 in the West back in 2017.
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.
Over the years, it has been difficult for some people to buy some games because of the lack of story continuity for modern systems. I know many people including myself who played Yakuza 6 after Yakuza Kiwami because those were the only games available on PS4. Today, the franchise is in a much healthier spot with assured localisations, multi-platform ports, and soon simultaneous multi-platform releases. With so many games accessible on almost all current (and some future) consoles and PC, now is the best time to get into one of Sega’s best franchises ever.
Why should I care about the Yakuza franchise?
The Yakuza franchise has always had a hardcore following for its quality writing, great characters, superlative blend of genres, and great overall narrative. This fanbase exploded with Yakuza 0 on PS4 and eventually when the series arrived on PC via Steam for the first time.
The Yakuza series of games might seem like too goofy for some based on what gets shared the most on social media or games that just look like an adventure games from Japan. The reality is that this series has more heart and care put into it and the characters than almost any other series I’ve played. With so many games available and thankfully more platforms being brought into the fray, now is the best time to get into the series and discover why everyone loves Majima, Kiryu, karaoke, and more.
Barring the fantastic stories, these games are known for mini-games, substories (side-quests), and virtual tourism. These games have gorgeous fictional recreations of parts of Japan like Osaka, Okinawa, Kabukicho, and more. Many of the games even have various locations from the real world based on the year the game takes place.
Depending on which platform(s) you have access to, the best starting point might change because unlike a few years ago, there are a few ways to get into the Yakuza series of games now without feeling overwhelmed and lost.
What Yakuza game to start with on Xbox One?
Sega finally brought the Yakuza series to Xbox One with the jaw-droppingly good Yakuza 0 in February this year. Yakuza 0 is not only the best Yakuza game thus far (and one of the greatest this generation) but also the optimal starting point for the mainline series. It sets up everything to follow brilliantly and introduces you to both Kiryu and Majima. Yakuza 0 also has a ton of mini-games and side activities available to keep you busy for over a 100 hours if you get deep into some of them. If you own an Xbox One only, Yakuza 0 is the best entry point into the series. It is even included in Xbox Game Pass for Xbox One.
What Yakuza game to start with on PS4?
This answer is a bit complicated because there is more than one game you can try on PS4 given the sheer amount of games from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio available on the platform. Yakuza 0 is the most accessible entry point given the low asking price but there are two options worth considering.
Judgment is basically a Yakuza game in everything but name but it offers a few things that make it more accessible to newcomers. It includes EFIGS localisation and has dual audio. Judgment also happens to be a fantastic standalone game in its own right that has almost everything that makes Yakuza games great with an added bonus of detective gameplay.
The final option to consider is for those who are fans of older anime. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an over the top take on Yakuza gameplay blended in with the Fist of the North Star anime characters. It is a self-contained story but has a lot of the series staples from Yakuza like rhythm mini-games, side stories (side quests), great combat, lots of exploration, and fantastic boss fights. The only downside to this is that the game itself is quite weak quality-wise compared to the best of the Yakuza franchise so this is only worth considering if you are a fan of the anime as a newcomer to the Yakuza franchise.
What Yakuza game to start with on PC?
This answer is the same as that for Xbox One above. Yakuza 0 introduced PC-only gamers to Sega’s superlative series in a big way. It sets up everything to follow brilliantly and introduces you to both Kiryu and Majima. Yakuza 0 also has a ton of mini-games and side activities available to keep you busy for over a 100 hours if you get deep into some of them. Yakuza 0 is easily the best entry point into the series. It is even included in Xbox Game Pass for PC and is available standalone on Steam at a great price point. Keep in mind that while Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami are very well optimised even for lower end PCs, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a lot more demanding so don’t expect the same level of performance across all games on PC right now.
What is the best play order for Yakuza games?
This will change a bit depending on what platforms you own.
Yakuza games best order to play on PS4
- Yakuza 0
- Yakuza Kiwami
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
- Yakuza 3 Remastered (included in The Yakuza Remastered Collection)
- Yakuza 4 Remastered (included in The Yakuza Remastered Collection)
- Yakuza 5 Remastered (included in The Yakuza Remastered Collection)
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Feel free to play Judgment or Fist of the North Star anywhere in between.
Yakuza games best order to play on Xbox One
- Yakuza 0 (included in Xbox Game Pass)
- Yakuza Kiwami (included in Xbox Game Pass)
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (coming soon to Xbox Game Pass)
Yakuza games best order to play on PC
- Yakuza 0 (included in Xbox Game Pass for PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami (included in Xbox Game Pass for PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (coming soon to Xbox Game Pass for PC)
Yakuza 0 is the best Yakuza game for beginners
Yakuza 0 is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Windows 10, and Steam at a low price point. It is the perfect entry point for beginners and is a must play game for anyone who owns any of those platforms. You discover the origins of the franchise many people including myself love and get to experience one of the best narratives in gaming told through the viewpoints of two brilliant protagonists. The game is also chock-full of quality content that extends to the plethora of mini-games, substories, and more.
Should you start with Yakuza Kiwami?
For a lot of people, Yakuza on PS2 was the entry point into this series. Yakuza Kiwami is a full remake (not remaster) of the original Yakuza in a new engine featuring enhancements to the core gameplay introduced in Yakuza 0 and basically making it feel modern (to an extent). The problem with Yakuza Kiwami as your first taste of Yakuza in a post Yakuza 0 world is that it doesn’t hold up as well as Yakuza 0 and almost feels like an extension or DLC to Yakuza 0. I would consider Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami as a pair of games to play. Despite Yakuza Kiwami being free on PS+ and even included in a Humble Monthly Bundle, you would be doing yourself a disservice playing it before Yakuza 0.
Should you start with Yakuza Kiwami 2?
This is where things get easier (but not in the way you expect). Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a remake of Yakuza 2 on PS2 for PS4 and PS4 Pro. It was then ported to PC and Xbox One. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a much better and more polished release than Yakuza Kiwami for a few reasons. Yakuza 2 itself was a way better game than Yakuza on PS2. Yakuza Kiwami 2 builds on the new Dragon Engine of Yakuza 6 and has even better visuals. Yakuza Kiwami 2 felt like a return to greatness when it coms to story and pacing. It definitely is of the same calibre as Yakuza 0 for me after Kiwami, while great, felt lacking.
Should you start with The Yakuza Remastered Collection?
No. The Yakuza Remastered Collection includes Yakuza 3 Remastered, Yakuza 4 Remastered, and Yakuza 5 Remastered. Play those only after you have completed Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2. Each new game will spoil some moments from prior games so don’t ruin earlier games (chronologically) by playing these games first.
Should you start with Yakuza 3 Remastered?
No. Despite being the first game on PS3 (then remastered for PS4) and the first game many people played, Yakuza 3 Remastered is not the best or even a good entry point into the series. Play this only after you have completed Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, and Yakuza Kiwami 2. Each new game will spoil some moments from prior games so don’t ruin earlier games (chronologically) by playing these games first.
Should you start with Yakuza 4 Remastered?
No. Despite being the second game on PS3 (then remastered for PS4), Yakuza 4 Remastered is not the best or even a good entry point into the series. Play this only after you have completed Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, and Yakuza 3 Remastered. Each new game will spoil some moments from prior games so don’t ruin earlier games (chronologically) by playing these games first.
Should you start with Yakuza 5 Remastered?
Yakuza 5 Remastered is by all accounts the longest game in the series and one of the best. It is not a good entry point into the series given that Yakuza 0 exists at a lower price point and on more platforms. Play Yakuza 5 only after you have played Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, Yakuza 3 Remastered, and Yakuza 4 Remastered.
Should you start with Yakuza 6 The Song of Life?
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is an interesting game when it comes to the story and overall narrative because a lot of people including myself played it directly after Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami since no other game was available on PS4 at the time. Yakuza 6 is the finale of Kiryu’s story and the first game in the new Dragon Engine (so expect a few rough edges). While it didn’t ruin the experience of prior games (chronologically) for me, I wouldn’t recommend playing this before you have played every numbered entry. It is a fantastic game and conclusion to a series many people love.
Should you start with Judgment?
Judgment is a spin-off to the Yakuza series and has you playing as Takayuki Yagami who is an ex-lawyer turned detective. It takes place in the same universe as the Yakuza series but has a brand new story. It is even set in Kamurocho which is where a majority of the mainline games take place. Judgment adds detective gameplay to the tried and tested gameplay and combat fans of the series love. It is one of the most technically impressive games in the series as well with its gorgeous visuals and improvements made to the new engine that debuted in Yakuza 6. Judgment is currently available only on PS4 and also features EFIGS text localisation and both an English and Japanese dub option. Sega definitely went all out for the localisation of this game and it shows.
Should you start with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise?
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an over the top take on Yakuza gameplay blended in with the Fist of the North Star anime characters. It is a self-contained story but has a lot of the series staples from Yakuza like rhythm mini-games, side stories (side quests), great combat, lots of exploration, and fantastic boss fights. The only downside to this is that the game itself is quite weak quality-wise compared to the best of the Yakuza franchise so this is only worth considering if you are a fan of the anime as a newcomer to the Yakuza franchise. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise has both English and Japanese voice acting. The interesting thing about the Japanese voice acting is a lot of the cast who do the Yakuza games in Japan voice characters here. There’s even a Kiryu skin for Kenishiro (the protagonist of Fist of the North Star) since he is voiced by Takaya Kuroda who voices Kiryu in the Yakuza games.
Should you start with Yakuza: Like a Dragon?
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is my most anticipated game this year. I played the Japanese demo on PS4 Pro a few times already and loved my time with it. Read my impressions here. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is branded as a fresh start with a new protagonist. It does have callbacks to past games and cameos though. Given the option, I would still recommend playing through the rest of the games in the series but Yakuza: Like a Dragon will always be a good option since it has a new cast. Just keep in mind that while the other games have brawler real-time action combat, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has turn-based combat. It is more like a traditional JRPG blended with a Yakuza game.
The future of the Yakuza franchise in the West
It is going to be interesting to see how Yakuza: Like a Dragon ends up faring in the West since this is the first time the franchise has seen a simultaneous multi-platform release. Yakuza: Like a Dragon has also been shown off at a Microsoft event which is another surprise (in a good way) where it was revealed that the game would be available on launch day for the Xbox Series X.
As of now, the future is looking bright for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and Sega with the Yakuza franchise seeing more releases and ports in the West. Hopefully we see more of the series come to Xbox One and PC platforms so that Sega can eventually finally give us Yakuza Ishin in the West.