How to play Yakuza games in order

The Yakuza series has a history almost as interesting as the criminal group it is named after. The series started on the PlayStation 2 but was so poorly marketed that future releases, until the most recent ones, didn’t even receive an English dub. At its core, the series is a 3D brawler focusing on the Japanese Mafia, aka the Yakuza, and how one man, Kazuma Kiryu, becomes embroiled in the most complex web of criminal activity, political chess , corporate espionage and personal activities. blood feuds.

By the time the series started to gain traction in the west, the series was already around Game 5 fourth, which isn’t exactly a welcoming number to see if you want to get into a series. Since then, remakes, prequels, spinoffs, and a reboot have all enjoyed extremely high critical and commercial acclaim, bringing the series’ popularity to the levels it’s always had in Japan, but also further confusing new players as to know where to start. Although the narrative is not directly linked to each game, the characters and past events are all very important to know when reading the series. If you want to immerse yourself in this epic crime drama series, here’s how to play the Yakuza games in order.

Further reading

Yakuza 0

Yes, this prequel came out after the first game, so adding the zero to the title to specify its prequel status, but Yakuza 0 is one of the best-integrated prequels you’ll find. This game perfectly presents the two main actors of the series: Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. Kiryu is only 20 years old in this game and starts out as a low level grunt in his Yakuza family with his best friend, Nishiki. He is accused of murder and must face the Yakuza to try to prove his innocence. Majima, on the other hand, is being blackmailed to get return in the Yakuza.

Yakuza Kiwami

Majima emerging from under a sewer in Yakuza.

Now the name may be confusing, but Yakuza Kiwami is just the remake of the original Yakuza for PS4 and Xbox One generation consoles, which is much more playable than the PS2 version. This game opens with Kiryu fresh out of prison serving a 10 year sentence (which you will understand after playing Yakuza 0) and he’s back in the Yakuza as a lieutenant. Along with getting used to everything that has changed since his incarceration, he must now solve the mystery of a 10 billion yen theft from the clan that threatens to spark a war between criminal factions.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Kiryu showing his back tattoo.

Again, the Kiwami just means it’s the second game remake. We fast forward about a year after the events of the first game, during which Kiryu has enjoyed a life without the Yakuza and their drama. However, now infamous for his skills, he is drawn back into the criminal underworld to help end a war between the Yakuza and the rival organization known as the Omi Alliance. He must find a new leader for the clan to negotiate peace. Meanwhile, Kiwami 2 also adds an extra segment not included in the original release called The Majima Saga. This focuses on how Majima ends up leaving the Yakuza.

Yakuza 3

Yakuza 3 continues Kiryu’s current trend of trying to leave the Yakuza behind but never really dealing with it. This time, he puts Majima in charge of the Yakuza and takes his adopted daughter to small town Okinawa to run an orphanage. Things go according to plan for six months until a local Yakuza clan tries to evict them to build a resort. When Kiryu refuses, the plot, as it does, turns into a major conspiracy that throws back to the clan leader, betrayals, and all the good stuff you expect from a crime thriller.

Yakuza 4

Yakuza 4 cover.

For the first time since Yakuza 0, or the very first time if you pass by when the games actually came out, Yakuza 4 doesn’t just put you in Kiryu’s polished shoes. This time, you play as three other characters: a loan shark, a prisoner and a detective. As different and unrelated as these three (plus Kiryu) may be, the game’s expert weaving of plot threads ultimately brings them all together. This game ties in more directly to the previous ones than any so far, so make sure you catch up before trying this one.

Yakuza 5

Kiryu and Akyama on the street.

Running an orphanage hasn’t quite worked to escape the criminal underworld, though he’s still trying, so how else can Kiryu make an honest living? Become a taxi driver, of course. This game increases the number of characters from four to five, including Kiryu, the loan shark and criminal of Yakuza 4; Kiryu’s adopted daughter, Haruka; and a new character named Tatsuo. This time, Alliance President Omi fell ill, causing the truce between them and the Yakuza to collapse. Can these five unlikely heroes stop a crime war? Probably, but play it to find out!

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Older Kiryu wearing his signature costume.

Here we come to the end of the Kiryu saga of Yakuza games, so to speak. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of Kiryu himself. Moving on again to his release from prison, Kiryu discovers that Haruka was hit and run and is in critical condition, but also that she was holding her baby at the time. Kiryu goes to take care of her and her son he’s never heard of, only to realize that the accident wasn’t an accident at all, but someone specifically targeting Haruka’s son. Why would anyone try to murder a baby? This is what Kiryu is determined to find out, and the path he takes is completely unpredictable.

Judgment (optional)

The main character of Judgment shows someone a photo on his phone.

Now, Judgement is listed as optional here where other games, like Yakuza: dead souls, are completely left out for one main reason: this is where the series splits into two directions of gameplay. If you loved the series for the 3D action brawl gameplay then definitely check it out Judgement. It evolves that same combat but features many new mechanics when you play as a former lawyer-turned-PI named Yagami in the same city and time period as the main series. It’s a perfect setting for the kinds of stories that Yakuza games like to tell.

Yakuza: like a dragon

Ichiban of Yakuza: Like a dragon.

The other branch the series has been split into is… JRPGs? Yeah, originally a joke, Yakuza: like a dragon is a turn-based JRPG with jobs, gear, levels and all that. However, everything is framed as being grounded, so spells will be things like throwing birdseed at an enemy so the pigeons attack them or… firing a gun. The new leader Ichiban is almost the opposite of the cold Kiryu and is immediately endearing and impossible not to like. His drive and loyalty drive the plot forward, along with his equally fantastic cast of party members. There’s no need to play another game in the series before this one if you wanted to, but there are plenty of references and appearances that you’ll appreciate if you’ve been with the series for the entire duration.

Judgment lost (optional)

Yagami's slide kicks an enemy in Lost Judgment.

The second match with PI Yagami follows a new case set in a school setting. It is the direct sequel to Judgement, and since this one did all the introductory work for the main cast, be sure to play these two sequentially. You can also upgrade to this side series as a pair of standalone games and not miss a thing if you prefer the more detective style of play where you more actively solve crimes and mysteries, collect clues, and perform other detective tactics. .

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