[Top 25] Best Japanese Games Made By Japanese Game Developers

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This one's for the otakus.

Japan is home to some of the best media franchises in the whole world.

From music, to video games, to movies, Japanese media is popular not only locally but with the worldwide audience, too. Some have traditional Japanese themes, while others are so Western you might not have even known they were made in Japan! 

In need of your fix of games from the Land of the Rising Sun? Read on for a list of 25 of the best games made in Japan by Japanese game developers.


25. Tekken 7

Tekken 7 Gameplay Trailer

The Tekken series is a legend in the world of fighting games. Beginning with the very first installment in 1994, Tekken games have always been released on both arcade and home consoles. Tekken 7 is the first, however, to be available on PC since release (Windows only, though. Sorry, Mac users!)

Tekken 7 continues the narrative of previous games: the conflict between members of the Mishima family. There have been some ridiculous twists in the series thus far (see: somehow surviving being thrown into an erupting volcano?) but Tekken 7 serves to, supposedly, be the end of the storyline.

Tekken 7 is focused on 1v1 combat and adds some new gameplay elements to the series, such as Power Crush and Rage Arts. Thanks to these, the game is more beginner-friendly without losing its excitement factor.

Did you know that "Tekken"  (鉄拳) means "Iron Fist"?


24. Dead or Alive 3

Dead or Alive 3 Trailer

Released in 2001, Dead or Alive 3 was one of the original Xbox's launch titles. It pushed the console to its limits from the get-go! The game was praised for its graphics and animations which were of amazing quality at the time.

The Dead or Alive series is produced by Team Ninja and has been one of the most highly acclaimed fighting games of all time. DOA3 and its predecessor, DOA2 are particularly praised and considered to be the landmark games of the series.

Like other installments of the series, DOA revolves around the Dead or Alive Tournament. The tournament is being held with the ulterior motive of testing the abilities of a human weapon called Omega. The other competitors — including the protagonists: Ryu, Ayane, and Hayate — aren't pleased, and want nothing more than to take Omega down.

Dead or Alive 3 is still available on more recent consoles: the Xbox One and Series X/S!


23. Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

Sonic The Hedgehog Commercial

This series was Sega's answer to Nintendo's Mario. They even admitted it in a commercial for the first game!  It's similarly a 2D side-scrolling platformer, but with gameplay elements that set it firmly apart from its inspiration. The most unique of these is Sonic's ability to roll along a curved surface.

Sonic the Hedgehog introduces the main plot point that surrounds the series: Sonic seeks to defeat Dr. Robotnik who has trapped animals inside robots and is trying to find the powerful Chaos Emeralds.  Sonic must maneuver through levels containing slopes, spikes, springs, and robots, on his way to stop the Dr.

The series was a successful one from the start, receiving 90%+ scores from many publications at its release. Its fast gameplay was especially praised, as most platformers at the time did not have such speedy progression.

Sonic the Hedgehog was released in North America one month before it was released in Japan.


22. Resident Evil 2 (2019)

Resident Evil 2 E3 Gameplay Video

In Raccoon City, there's an outbreak of a virus that's turning people into zombies and other dreadful creatures. Rookie police officer Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield each have unique circumstances but they both have one main goal in mind: escaping the zombie-infested town.

Resident Evil 2 is a survival horror game first released in 1998 by Capcom, following the first Resident Evil game. It was highly praised for improving upon the foundation of its predecessor, including the addition of a branching storyline. 

The 2019 remake took everything that the original did right and made it even better! It maintained the storyline and atmosphere from the original but offered improved character designs, a new camera system, and more photorealistic visuals.

The Resident Evil series is called "Biohazard" in Japan.


21. Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread Launch Trailer

Metroid Dread was conceived much earlier than its release; it was supposed to be released on the Nintendo DS! Technical limitations meant that development had to be canceled quite early on, and so Dread wasn't released until 2021 on the Nintendo Switch.

As with other titles in the Metroid series, the protagonist is Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter. In Dread, she is tasked with investigating strange transmissions coming from the planet ZDR.

Metroid Dread is an action-adventure platformer with the side-scrolling gameplay of earlier installments, along with adding stealth elements. It was very successful, becoming the fastest-selling Metroid title in Japan, the US, and the UK! It's also one of the best-selling games in the franchise, behind only Metroid Prime.

Along with the Castlevania series, Metroid spawned the Metroidvania subgenre of platformers.


20. Tales of Berseria

Tales of Berseria Gameplay

Tales of Berseria is the sixteenth installment of Bandai Namco's Tales series. Games in the series have separate storylines and characters, instead being linked by just the high fantasy setting and gameplay that they share. 

Berseria's protagonist is Velvet, a troubled young woman who has recently been released from prison. The game is set in the land of the Holy Midgard Empire, in which a disease known as Daemonblight is causing people to transform into monsters.

The Tales series have a unique combat system called the Linear Motion Battle System. With this, players can move freely around the battle zone and have free control of the camera angle. 

One of the prominent features of Tales of Berseria, and other games in the series, is its "Skits." These are short clips that play between cutscenes and battles, establishing character relationships and lore.

Tales of Berseria is set 1000 years before the previous title, Tales of Zestiria.


19. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony English Subbed Trailer

A group of high school students have been trapped in a school and are forced by a talking teddy bear to play a "game" of killing each other. Sounds ridiculous yet horrifying, right? That's the charm of the Danganronpa series.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third of the main Danganronpa series developed by Spike Chunsoft. It's an interactive visual novel with very similar gameplay to the previous games in the franchise.

The gameplay is split into three sections. In School Life, you Interact with other students in a dating sim-esque fashion. Deadly Life has you investigate murders, trying to find as much evidence as possible before the Class Trial. In this third section, you take part in solving logic puzzles to figure out the culprit along with your fellow students.

V3's Japanese title is "New Dangan Ronpa V3: Everyone's New Semester of Killing"


18. Death Stranding

Death Stranding PC Launch Trailer

Death Stranding is the first game by Hideo Kojima (director of the Metal Gear games) after his not-so-amicable parting with Konami in 2015. The game stars actor Norman Reedus, alongside Mads Mikkelson who was in Metal Gear Solid V (and whose bromance with Hideo Kojima the internet loves). 

Gameplay is action-focused in an open world. The player character, Sam Bridges, is a courier who delivers supplies to isolated cities after highly dangerous creatures have begun roaming the Earth. It's of utmost importance to keep your cargo safe from the elements and the creatures that will attack you.

Death Stranding is the first of what Kojima calls "strand games." He compares the concept to how the original Metal Gear, now known as a stealth game, had been called simply an action game before the stealth genre was fully established.

One of the characters in Death Stranding features the likeness of director Guillermo del Toro.


17. Super Smash Bros. Melee

Super Smash Bros. Melee Gameplay

Super Smash Bros. Melee is more than 20 years old at this point and is succeeded by Brawl and Ultimate. There's something about it, however, that makes it remain the fan-favorite. 

Many fans praise its fun, fast, and immersive movement as its best feature. It's also amazing just how different the gameplay is for each character — playing a new character can feel like playing a whole new game! There are lots of options for both offense and defense, making the combo/punish gameplay insanely diverse.

Melee was developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo in 2001. It and other Super Smash Bros. games feature characters from Nintendo's most popular series, such as Pokemon, Zelda, Super Mario, and Donkey Kong.

Super Smash Bros. Melee is the best-selling game on the Gamecube.


16. Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 Gameplay Reveal Trailer

Dante and Nero, along with a new character V, return to the series five years after the narrative of the previous game. The trio trek across Red Grave City — based on locations in London — taking on missions as they seek to ultimately defeat the Demon King Urizen who wants to destroy the human world.

The action-adventure gameplay is similar to its predecessors. You fight demon hordes, aided by the abilities you obtain by defeating your enemies with speed and style. One great aspect of the combat is just how different the fighting style of each protagonist is.

Director Hideaki Itsuno said he wanted Devil May Cry 5 to be both easy enough for newcomers while still challenging enough for gamers returning to the series. His execution worked, no doubt, with the game receiving lots of praise from fans and critics.

Within just a year, Devil May Cry 5 outsold the previous games in the series.


15. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey E3 Trailer

Super Mario Odyssey was released by Nintendo for the Switch and is a platformer like most games in the series, this time in open-ended, 3-D goodness! As usual, Mario travels through various kingdoms on a quest to save Princess Peach from being forced to marry Bowser. 

Odyssey adds a new character to the franchise; Mario's cap comes to life for the first time as "Cappy." Cappy's ability allows Mario to take control of other characters in order to solve puzzles throughout the game.

Super Mario Odyssey's new features only add to the fun that the series has always promised; it's still good old-fashioned Mario fun. The fact that it's innovative yet stays true to the series was praised by many critics and fans. As of December 2021, it's become the fastest-selling title in the franchise.

Super Mario Odyssey is the first sandbox-style game in the Mario franchise since 2002.


14. Kingdom Hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts 2 Promotional Trailer

The Kingdom Hearts franchise had already been doing well but Kingdom Hearts 2's release was massive. I'm pretty sure almost every 90's baby who had a PS2 played this game! It wasn't just a commercial success but a critical one too, on account of its gameplay and story.

The series is a collaboration by Disney and Square Enix but is developed and published by the latter. It contains a mix of original characters, Disney characters, as well as characters from Square Enix franchises such as Final Fantasy.

Sora returns as the protagonist from the previous two games, this time alongside Donald Duck and Goofy who — in this universe — serve the king of Disney Castle. The storyline is linear, told mostly through cutscenes, and gameplay is a mix of action RPG and hack-and-slash.

Kingdom Hearts 2 features worlds inspired by Disney locations, such as Beast's Castle.


13. Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X & X-2 Remaster Trailer

Final Fantasy Xfollows Tidus whose homeland has been destroyed by a monster known as Sin. He finds himself in the world of Spira (inspired by locations in Japan, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific) along with a crew of adventurers, and they set out to bring Sin down.

This game  introduced some ambitious changes to the franchise. Square Enix said adios to pre-rendered backgrounds and hello to glorious, (almost) full 3D! It was also the first Final Fantasy game to have voice acting. With all that plus a new battle and leveling system, it was clear from the beginning that this game would change the series forever.

Final Fantasy X was met with such great reviews that it spawned a direct sequel in Final Fantasy X-2, becoming the first game of the typically unconnected series to do this.

Final Fantasy X was released in 2001 and its sequel, X-2, in 2003.


12. Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 PC Launch Trailer

Yakuza 0 is a narrative prequel to the first game in the series, set seventeen years prior. In 1988, Kazuya Kiryu and Goro Majima are facing separate difficulties with rival factions of the yakuza — Japan's organized crime syndicate — seeking to take control of a patch of land. 

Yakuza 0 takes place in an open world, in fictionalized versions of areas in Tokyo and Osaka. You play as both characters alternately, in third-person perspective. As you work towards Kiryu and Majima's main objectives, you take on side quests, play mini-games, and battle enemies who jump at you on the street. Fun fact: a few Sega arcade games are available as fully playable mini-games!

Yakuza 0 is generally agreed to be the game that brought the series to heightened popularity in the West. 

Yakuza 0 is the sixth game in the Yakuza franchise, released by Sega.


11. Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4 Golden Steam Trailer

Persona 4 is set in the countryside where your protagonist has just moved to, while his parents are working abroad. He and a group of high school students — as par for the Persona course — find themselves in a murder mystery that shakes up the rural town.

While not necessarily "lighthearted" — this is a Shin Megami Tensei game, after all — Persona 4 isn't quite as heavy as other games in the series. It's got brighter aesthetics and an overall more humorous tone.

Persona 4 Golden is sort of the definitive version of Persona 4, released four years after the original. It makes for a much more comprehensive experience of the storyline. It adds new characters, personas, and cutscenes, as well as a new dungeon and ending, and much more!

Persona 4's plot was inspired by murder mystery novels.


10. NieR:Automata

NieR:Automata Debut Gameplay Trailer

In the year 11945, a war is raging between human-created androids and alien machines. You control 2B, 9S and A2, fighting alongside their fellow androids in the war. 

NieR:Automata was released in 2017 by Square Enix, as a sequel to 2010's Nier. It takes place in an open world. Gameplay is a combination of hack-and-slash action and role-playing elements, as well as a bit of platforming!

The game takes place several thousand years after its prequel. It has a branched storyline; you need to do multiple playthroughs to unravel the whole plot. The main themes are mostly philosophical: questions such as "what's the real value of life?" and "why do people kill one another?" The game received particular praise for the way it tackled these themes.

NieR:Automata has a total of 26 endings!


9. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Trailer

In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you play as Dracula's half-vampire-half-mortal son, Alucard. Your goal is to destroy Dracula's castle which has reappeared in 1792, four years after mysteriously disappearing.

Symphony of the Night's gameplay was adopted by future games in the series but, at the time, the style was a break from tradition for the Castlevania series. It was more focused on exploration, role-playing, and non-linear levels than most of the previous twelve games in the franchise had been.

SotN, originally released in 1997 by Konami, has achieved classic status. Though sales were low at first, Symphony of the Night became an overnight sensation largely by just word-of-mouth! It ultimately inspired one half of the Metroidvania genre.

Symphony of the Night's soundtrack ranges from classical to techno to metal.


8. Metal Gear Soild V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Gameplay Demo

Nine years after the events of the previous game, the mercenary "Venom" seeks vengeance for his destroyed forces and his own near death. Make your way through Afghanistan and surrounding regions in tow of those who wronged you. Remain undetected as you move with stealth and tactical precision.

Here's another game by Konami, this time developed by Kojima Productions. The Phantom Pain is the ninth mainline entry in the Metal Gear series, and was released in 2015. It garnered critical acclaim for its sandbox level of freedom, as well as its emotional narrative and intricate gameplay mechanics.

As with other games in the series, The Phantom Pain actually encourages you to play non-violently. Nothing's stopping you from ignoring this — I think most players do!

The Phantom Pain was Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions' final game with Konami.


7. Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III Gameplay Reveal Trailer

The First Flame which keeps cursed beings at bay is dying out, seeming to bring the Age of Fire to a close. Willthe Kingdom of Lothric manage to survive the Age of Dark and restore the world from chaos?

Dark Souls III is the final entry in the Dark Souls trilogy, and the fourth in the overall Souls series. The series has seen both praise and criticism for its high difficulty. This aspect of the franchise partially inspired the "soulslike" subgenre of action RPGs. 

The game is set in an open world, centered around the Kingdom of Lothric. Combat is difficult and requires precision, which makes it all the more rewarding. A notable element of Dark Souls III and other Souls games is its indirect storytelling. The game's ability to tell a story through the environment and through things left unspoken is amazing.

Within two months of release, Dark Souls III became Bandai Namco's fastest-selling game!


6. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

Street Fighter II Gameplay

Popularizing the fighting game genre whilehelping revive the declining arcade game scene? Street Fighter II is the definition of iconic. Many people think of it as the most influential fighting game ever and I'm inclined to agree. 

Most arcade games at the time were focused on single-player, with the goal of achieving high scores. Street Fighter II turned the trend on its head thanks to its prominent two-player mode, encouraging direct competitive play. This led to the game growing a thriving tournament scene, and being a direct inspiration for the EVO tournaments.

Along with its popular multiplayer mode, Street Fighter II was also known for having a wide selection of characters, all having unique fighting styles. Its super satisfying combo system was also a huge attractor.

Street Fighter II was released in 1993 and was the best-selling fighting game until 2019!


5. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island Trailer

Kamek, a koopa working for young Bowser, tried to kidnap baby Mario and Luigi as they were being delivered by a stork. Baby Mario eludes him, falling from the sky right onto Yoshi's back! The dinosaur and his friends take it upon themselves to save Luigi from Kamek and reunite the brothers safely.

As is standard for a Mario platformer, you run and jump while solving puzzles to reach the end of each level. Yoshi's Island was praised for its art style, level design, and overall gameplay, and is considered to be a masterpiece of the franchise.

Yoshi's Island was the first game in the series to have Yoshi as the main player character. It was a successful choice; Yoshi became one of the most popular characters in the franchise and got his own series of spin-offs!

Yoshi's Island was the last 2D game in the Super Mario franchise for more than ten years.


4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Trailer

Link is awakened, with no memories, from one hundred years asleep in a healing chamber. Hyrule is ravaged and it's up to Link to defeat Ganon and restore the land to its former glory, as he explores and recovers his memories. The story can be completed in a non-linear fashion and there are many side quests that can be taken on.

To say Breath of the Wild was popular since release would be a serious understatement. It was almost instantly lauded as one of the best video games of all time!

Breath of the Wild is unstructured in the best way possible. It encourages exploration and rewards experimentation. It features an open world, as well as insanely detailed physics and chemistry engines. Every object has unique properties that influence how it interacts with characters, other objects, and the environment itself. 

Breath of the Wild's release was considered monumental for open-world gameplay.


3. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 Gameplay Trailer

We already talked about Resident Evil 2, but it'd be hard to not bring up 4 on a list of the best Japanese games, too. Government agent Leon S. Kennedy returns in this installment, this time on a mission to save the president's daughter who's been kidnapped by a cult.

RE4 is set in Spain and its flavor of zombies are called Los Ganados (Spanish for "The Cattle). They're not like the series' usual zombies; they can communicate and work collectively, as well as wield weapons. Definitely not the kind of brain-eating crowd you want to be maneuvering through! The bosses transform into even more hideous monsters when confronted.

Resident Evil is Capcom's best-selling franchise. It's also the overall best-selling horror game franchise! The series has had a pretty consistent track record, and 2005's Resident Evil 4 is no exception.

Resident Evil 4 helped make the "over-the-shoulder" third-person perspective popular.


2. Persona 5

Persona 5 Gameplay Trailer

In Persona 5, the main characters are grappling with the toxic world they live in, ruled by corrupt adults. The game follows the basic structure of the previous six entries in the series: a rag-tag group of teenagers awaken their "Personas" to battle enemies known as Shadows. Gameplay is a mix of role-playing, dungeon-crawling, and dating sim.

The Persona series had been growing with each and every release, and so Persona 5 was highly anticipated. After being delayed for two years, it was finally released in 2016 (2017 outside of Japan).

Persona 5 is crazily highly acclaimed and has been called one of the greatest RPGs of all time. From story, to gameplay, to music and art direction, the game really isn't lacking in any areas.

Persona 5 is the best-selling game in the entire Shin Megami Tensei franchise.


1. Bloodborne

Bloodborne Gameplay Trailer

Bloodborne is set in the Gothic city of Yharnam, in a world where people are infected by a bloodborne disease. Your protagonist travels to the city looking for a cure, only to find that it's been overrun by citizens that have transformed into beasts. Protect yourself from Lovecraftian creatures as you unravel the mystery of the source of the plague and search for the cure.

Bloodborne was released in 2015 by Sony, It has a very high level of difficulty, in a similar fashion to the Souls games. This is unsurprising, given that FromSoftware developed both!

Calling Bloodborne a masterpiece wouldn't be much of a controversial statement in the gaming world. It's been highly acclaimed on account of its difficulty, gameplay, themes, atmosphere, and sound design.

Bloodborne was heavily inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.


You may also be interested in:  

- Top 10 Upcoming JRPGs We're Excited For (2019-2023)

- Top 15 Best Japanese Horror Games We Love!

- 25 Best Japanese Games To Play on Your PC right now 

Near the turn of the century, Rebecca was dropped by a stork onto a tropical island. They spend their free time leveling up their gaming skills, enjoying nature's bounty, and basking in the sunshine.
Gamer Since: 2001
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Hades, Pokémon Legends: Arceus
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