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Japan has undoubtedly contributed extensively to the video game industry, but are there any games set in Japan?
There certainly is!
Video games don’t only pay incredible attention to detail, but also allow the person to immerse themselves in a situation or culture that they otherwise couldn’t.
So if you’re looking to live a day in the life of a feudal samurai or be part of a group of friends fighting the supernatural, I’ve got you covered!
Here are 10 of the best video games set in Japan.
1. Katamari Damacy REROLL
Genre: Action, Puzzle, Casual, Absolutely bonkers (might have made that last one up…
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Best for: People who love Japan’s crazy side
If there was any game to show the utter lunacy of Japan, it would be Katamari Damacy REROLL.
One of the strangest games made in Japan on this list, Katamari Damacy REROLL is the HD remaster of the original ‘Katamari Damacy’.
The king of the Cosmos has accidentally destroyed all the stars in the sky and he’s ordering you, his son, to get them back!
So, obviously, the best way to do this is to roll up katamaris (clumps/balls) big enough to become a star. Of course!
Take a look at this PS4 launch trailer to understand what I mean:
Japan has some absolutely crazy things going on, from robot restaurants and cat cafés to Capsule hotels and High-Tech toilets. So it seems fitting then that there would be at least one game to embody that side of Japan, and boy does it not hold back.
Think about what the weirdest thing you’ve ever controlled with your joystick is. I bet it’s not as strange as a prince from the cosmos controlling a giant katamari! haha!
Looking for a game set in Japan that’s damn right ridiculous?
Katamari Damacy is it!
Genre: Adventure (though includes elements from many others)
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Best for: Those who want to learn about Japanese mythology
ōkami translation: 大神 “great god” or “great spirit”
In what might be the most highly praised switch games set in Japan on our list, ōkami sees the player control Amaterasu (The goddess of the sun) in the form of a white wolf.
Set in classical Japan, ōkami takes references from Japanese mythology and folklore to spin a compelling and engaging story for its players.
According to GameXplain, you should allow yourself at least 60 hours on your first play-through and even longer if you’re hoping to achieve 100%.
Because of such time devotion, I would advise playing it on the Nintendo Switch if you’re able to. This not only allows you to play it out and about but also gives you access to a port that might be better suited than the original PS2 release.
Players can use learned fighting techniques, found weapons, or even a celestial brush to destroy enemies making combat a particularly varied aspect of the game.
Take a look at this run-down of the game if you’re interested in playing it. He gives a much better explanation of the game than I ever could!
As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the most beautiful depictions of ancient Japan in general, and only increased with its addition of mythology and unique watercolor-based art style.
If you’re looking to give some time and devotion to an extremely well-put-together game, Okami is absolutely for you.
3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Genre: Action RPG (one of the most brutal offerings FromSoftware have given us so far!)
Platforms: PC, MAC, Xbox
Best for: People who have a death wish and love to be challenged
Ever played dark souls?
Or do you just enjoy the pain and suffering that comes with an almost impossibly hard learning curve?
Well let me introduce you to one of those games set in the heart of Feudal Japan, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
From the creators of the Bloodborne and Dark Souls series, Sekiro is enough to challenge even the hardiest of gamers.
The story is based on you, a Shinobi, bound to protect a young lord. This of course means you inherit many of his enemies and a lot of the struggle that comes with it.
Soon your lord is captured and you must do everything you can to regain your honor.
Sekiro is set in 1500s Sengoku period Japan and will see you explore all corners of the country. Your quest will also see you face perilous enemies and overwhelming circumstances for both your character and you.
Even though throughout your journey you will upgrade your character’s abilities, you won’t upgrade any stats until defeating specific bosses. This takes the ‘Get Good’ ideology from Dark Souls to a whole new level and seriously tests your stamina and resilience.
How hard is Sekiro?
Well, according to one reviewer, it took them 2 years and 300 hours to beat sekiro. That’s not exactly unique when you’re talking about a FromSoftware game, but the focus of the game makes it even more daunting than dark souls, in parts.
There is simply just one way to beat bosses and new enemies on Sekiro, and that is to ‘get good’. You won’t be able to trick or craftly work your way around a boss, you’ll have to plow right on through it. And maybe, just maybe, after you 299th try, you’ll beat it.
This game is absolutely not for the faint-hearted, but if you are willing to undertake such a cruel learning curve, it absolutely will not disappoint.
4. Ghost of Tsushima
Best for: Those who like feudal Japan
Sometimes you just want a chilled-out gaming experience.
Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily call Ghost of Tsushima ‘Chilled out’ It’s certainly a more casual game than Sekiro and for that reason, I think it will appeal to a wider audience.
Ghost of Tsushima is to me, one of the most beautiful open-world games set in Japan.
Players will have the chance to roam around feudal Japan and explore its vast countryside and numerous landmarks as well as participate in one-on-one combat or expansive ancient battles.
Jin, the protagonist is on a mission to protect what’s left of his village by any means necessary. This means breaking away from long-standing traditions and making friends with unlikely allies.
The gameplay is packed with rich character development and numerous ways to upgrade your character.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like looking cooler than the enemies you slaughter!?
This is one of those games that will truly make you feel like you’re in Japan. So if you’re into roleplaying games this should be a strong contender.
5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Genre: life/social simulation
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Best for: The creative souls among you
Ahh, now this is what I would call a chilled-out gaming experience.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a Japanese-made game that allows you to build your very own island and curate the inside of your house too.
There are some absolutely stunning island designs for pretty much any topic you could think of, but most importantly you can design it based on Japan.
I recently wrote an article about the very best Japanese islands in the community, so make sure to check it out when you have a spare moment.
Fancy building your own onsen garden? You can!
Want to create an entire town filled with Japanese vending machines? You can do that too!
With custom designs and massive amounts of space, the only limit is your imagination.
6. Persona 5
Platforms: PS3, PS4
Best for: Those who want to explore supernatural Japan
Persona 5 is a Japanese role-playing video game set in Tokyo.
The game incorporates dungeon crawling, social situations, and turn-based combat where school kids battle demons using their own psyche.
I’ve never played this game before, but I’ve heard many times it’s a game you shouldn’t rush.
But also don’t take too long…
Each dungeon you attempt to clear will give you a countdown clock until something bad happens. In this case, it’s game over for you!
So take your time; enjoy the Japanese supernatural in all its glory, but don’t forget there are some hard deadlines, too.
7. Yakuza 0
Genre: Action adventure/beat ’em up
Platforms: PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox One
Best for: Those who want to see Tokyo’s underworld
Yakuza 0 is an action-packed open-world game set in Japan that sees you playing as Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, switching at specific times during the story.
The games take place in the late ’80s and will have you wandering around Kamurocho (a take on Kabuchiko, Shinjuku) and Sōntenbori (Based on Dōntonbori, the entertainment district of Osaka).
Players can walk freely through these rickety populated locations and will often find themselves in the middle of gang warfare on most corners, so keep your wits about you!
Yakuza 0 also has a number of extremely interesting side quests for when you’re looking to take time away from the main story.
These side quests include:
- Eating every dish at a restaurant
- Out Run- Sega game (Fully playable)
- Super Hang-On- Sega game (Fully playable)
- Space Harrier- Sega game (Fully playable)
- Fantasy Zone- Sega game (Fully playable)
You can even play Taiko no Tatsujin within the game, so if gang fights aren’t your thing there’s always that! HA!
Top tip: If you find ‘Mr Shakedown’ just run! He’s far stronger than you and will likely steal all your money.
8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore
Platforms: Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Best for: Those who want to see real-life Tokyo
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is one of only a handful of games that take place in Japan’s capital, Tokyo. It’s a role-playing game quite similar to Persona 5 in that it tackles the supernatural, though there are a few fundamental differences.
In the game, you’ll be playing as Itsuki to defend the world from evil mirages who seek to completely rid the world of creative energy.
You’ll also get the opportunity to play in real-life locations such as Harajuku and Shibuya and as you can see from the photo above, it’s quite life-like!
The Japanese game is playable on the WII and Nintendo Switch but I would advise playing it on the Switch for an improved gaming experience. If that’s something you’re interested in you should look for the game title with ‘Encore‘ at the end. This means it’s playable on the switch.
9. Trek to Yomi
Genre: Action-adventure (Cinematic?)
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Best for: Those who want to experience classic Japanese cinema
Trek to Yomi is a black-and-white, side-scrolling, sword-fighting masterpiece and it might just be the most beautiful game set in Japan on this list. While the description might have you thinking it’s one of these PS2 games set in Japan, the actual experience is incredibly refined. Some have referred to it as the new Ominusha game, but it really deserves to be free of any preceding games’ shadow.
Players take control of Hiroki on a quest for vengeance after his home village was burned to the ground. This leads him to the Japanese underworld where he must confront a whole host of evils from a past life.
Throughout this game set in Edo Japan you can expect to unlock new weapons, encounter mythological creatures from Japanese folklore, and experience gameplay like it was a classic Japanese movie. I imagine this is what 7 Samurai would have looked like if it were ever made into a game (and not Seven Samurai 20XX, we forget that game ever existed!).
10. Tokyo Jungle
Genre: Action/animal beat ’em up? I literally have no idea with this one…
Best for: People who want to live in an animal version of Battle Royale
It’s not going to win any Japanese video game design awards, but Tokyo Jungle has to be one of the most interesting, or perhaps ridiculous games based in Japan that have ever been made. You’ll play as a selection of animals from a pomeranian to a dinosaur, and everything in-between. It’s survival of the fittest in this post-apocalyptic game where animals have taken over and humans have disappeared!
It’s certainly a unique way to explore Shibuya, but you are moving back and forth along the somewhat 2.5D background pretty frequently. Plus, it’s a Japanese-exclusive game which means you’ll either have to import it from Japan or download it from PlayStation Plus if it ever comes back on there. Sometimes there’ll be a few copies on Amazon (through the red button below) but they’ll often be sold out. If that’s the case, I’d recommend checking eBay or having a look at somewhere like ZenPlus.
11. Ghostwire: Tokyo
Genre: Supernatural action-adventure
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Best for: In-depth explorations of Japan’s folklore & tradition. And an incredibly detailed look around Tokyo
We’ve already talked about Ghostwire: Tokyo in the best Japanese ps5 games article, and it deserves to be on this list as well.
As I explained in that article, I’d never heard of this game until I saw it in one of Japan’s huge electronics shops. After seeing just a couple of screenshots, and rampantly researching it when I got back from Tokyo, I knew it was something special.
‘Ghostwire: Tokyo’ sees you playing as Akito Izuki merged with his sometimes unwilling counterpart ‘KK’, a spirit who used to be a detective. Together, the pair of you strive to defeat Hannya, the antagonist who’s turned Tokyo into an apocalyptic nightmare, and rescue your sister.
In my opinion, this is possibly the best recreation of Japan’s capital city from any of the open world games set in Japan. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE used to be my top pick for games set in Tokyo, but Ghostwire: Tokyo has rightly become the one to beat
Its streets are densely packed, the atmosphere is astounding, and the dance between tradition and modernity is one that’s been done exceedingly well.
The quality of graphics in this Japan open world game is expected to be high, but one look at Ghostwire: Tokyo will reinforce the fact that we’ve definitely moved up a generation in consoles. Japanese PC gaming addicts will probably see the most exceptional graphics if your rig can take it!
Combat and character progression weren’t been given the best of reviews, with people claiming it’s a little one-dimensional. So while it is, in my opinion, one of the best video games set in Tokyo, you may not be as happy if you like an in-depth character control of everything.
However, if games about Japan that delve into the country’s relationship with ghosts and traditions are something you’re interested in, this is the one for you!
The Verge puts it best: ‘Ghostwire: Tokyo is a paranormal love letter to the city’. So if you’re looking to explore Japanese folklore, spirits, and the biggest city in the world, this is the game for you.
12. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Genre: RTS Edo period stealth
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Best for: Destroying your enemies from the shadows
Whether a game is set in Japan or set on Mars, I’m not a fan of stealth games. Assassins Creed, the earlier ones at least, were full of stealth missions and I really felt like it ruined the games. Nowadays they seem to add those kinds of missions in because they can’t think of anything else, either way, I don’t like them.
So why is a stealth game on a list of the best Japanese open-world games? Because my word, have you seen that art style?!
Octopath Traveller is the only other game that gives me these warm and cozy vibes, though I’m starting to suspect that practically all 2.5D games are damn beautiful…
The premise of the game is that a Shogun takes control of Japan, and enforces a nationwide peace. To help his campaign, he recruits five assassins, each with a specialist set of skills.
As the game progresses, you’ll gradually be introduced to these people and understand their strengths and weaknesses, and how to use them to your advantage.
If you’re looking for an absolutely brutal, fairly unforgiving, and incredibly well-designed RTS game set in Japan (Edo period), then Sadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is one of the best Japanese open world games worth picking up.