In what order should you play Yakuza games?
With Yakuza 7 now free on PlayStation Plus and most series arriving with the Extra tier later this month, you might be tempted to jump right in and experience the cult action RPG hit for yourself. But with so many games in the series, it can be hard to decide where to start.
Then we are here to help you! Yakuza games don’t have to be played in the order they were released, or same necessarily in the timeline they are set. Below is the order in which you should play Yakuza. Trust us, it’s for the best.
With Yakuza 0 being a prequel to the first game, it makes for a great entry point for the series. The two mainstays of the series, Kiryu and Goro Majima, are young Yakuza trying to rise through the ranks. Majima survived the brink of death after being framed for the planned murder of a clan higher up. Majima is now stuck running a Cabaret Club in town and must balance her responsibilities there with trying to move up the ranks.
Kiryu is in a similar position. After taking money from someone who owed his employer, this man is found dead in a very important vacant lot in the city. While the clan blames him for the murder, the man was killed in a small plot of land that would allow the entire space to be redeveloped. Kiryu’s top brass believe that whoever can cede this land to the Tojo clan will become the president of the entire clan.
Timeline: 1995 and 2005
After the surprise success of Yakuza 0, Sega quickly capitalized on it and released a remake of the original Yakuza for the PlayStation 2 using 0’s engine. Unfortunately, the result ended up being what looked more like half-baked DLC instead. only a major improvement over the badly aged original.
After his orphan brother and fellow Yakuza Akira Nishikiyama murders the Dojima family boss for trying to rape their childhood friend Yumi, Kiryu takes the fall to protect his friends. After spending 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Kiryu returns to Kamurocho to find that 10 billion yen has gone missing from the Tojo clan, and the entire underworld is looking for him.
Both Kiwami titles are loaded with callbacks and continuations of elements introduced in Yakuza 0, so they’re best played after this one.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Kiwami 2 is considered one of the best titles in the series. Among the mainstream Yakuza games, it is only the second to use the new Dragon Engine, and features major improvements on its implementation after Yakuza 6. Besides featuring another sequel for Cabaret Manager like Kiwami 1, Kiwami 2 also features the full arcade port of Virtua Fighter 2. Both Kiwami titles are in a “love it or hate it” state among the player base.
Kiwami 2 directly follows the events of Kiwami 1. Kiryu travels to Osaka with Daigo Dojima, whose father was the patriarch of the Dojima clan. Kiryu wants Daigo to take over and rebuild the Tojo Clan, and broker a peaceful deal to prevent a war with the Osaka-based Omi Alliance. The son of the president of the Omi Alliance, Ryuji Goda, does not want to concede anything to the Tojo before taking over and running the company.
Yakuza 3: Remastered
Yakuza 3 has a more relaxed and toned down story compared to the first two titles. After Kiryu thinks he is about to retire from Yakuza life for good, he opens an orphanage to care for the children of parents killed by the Yakuza. The first half of the game is mostly spent taking care of the children in the orphanage rather than typical Yakuza business. Naturally for Kiryu, he is brought back to his old life to help his friends.
Yakuza 3 was known for removing major features and minigames for the Western version. The remaster restores some of these mini-games, such as “Aroma Massage”, but all versions of the game omit some sub-stories from the original, citing “cultural sensitivities”. So unless you speak Japanese and have an original PS3 copy of the game, you will at least miss it some contents. At the very least, the reissue removed some moan-worthy translation choices like this:
Even with the majority of content restored for this release, Yakuza 3 remains the weakest release in the series. The entire Remastered Trilogy works great when played in 3-5 order. While you may miss some of Kiryu’s lead thus far, there are some helpful recaps of previous games featured in all three. remastered trilogies to make sure you’re up to speed.
That being said, it’s the one game in the series that no one would blame you for skipping.
Yakuza 4: Remastered
After the controversial release of Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4 bounced back hard. It features several main playable characters, each with their own unique fighting style. Of the 3 remasters released side-by-side (3, 4, and 5), this is the best of the bunch, featuring some of the gameplay and characters from the series.
The downside to Yakuza 4’s multiple main characters is the convoluted story it creates as a result. While it serves up some good character moments throughout, the overall story feels hazy, as if it’s just hitting the typical Yakuza game story beats for the sake of it. Yakuza 4 is an odd case – a must-have but flawed game.
Yakuza 5: Remastered
The series’ most elusive main title features five playable characters compared to Yakuza 4’s four. Unfortunately, in this case, bigger isn’t better. New 5 deals are significantly lower, with controversial mini-games such as Kiryu’s taxi driving and Haruka’s idol dancing and singing sections. Kiryu is once again drawn into the affairs of the Tojo clan, as the clan tries to avoid an all-out war. Kiryu’s main concern is his old Yakuza life which interferes with his daughter Haruka’s new life as an idol.
Story-wise, despite the jarring cuts from typical Yakuza drama to a basic idol story, it feels better paced than Yakuza 3, but is still one of the least popular Yakuza titles in the game. together.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
The first title using the new Dragon Engine got off to a rocky start with Western audiences. An error while downloading the game demo meant that the The whole game was playable through the demo, and people were playing the full game in its entirety months before it was released. The issue was resolved within a few hours, but not before thousands of gamers enjoyed playing through the game.
Despite this, Yakuza 6 has still become one of the best-selling Yakuza titles in the West. It’s the last of the Kiryu-led Yakuza titles, and serves as a fitting farewell for the character, involving whole new areas like Onomichi. With her adopted daughter Haruka hit by a vehicle, Kiryu learns she had a son and searches through Hiroshima to find the father. Kiryu becomes entangled with local Yakuza families during his search and must be drawn into the life of crime he’s been trying to avoid for over a decade.
It’s the most ambitious title in the series with its new locations, new combat engine, and much more in-depth mini-games such as Spearfishing, Baseball, and Clan Creator. Given the finality of the main story beats, as well as callbacks to almost all previous Yakuza titles, playing this game to the very end is not recommended, even if it does. arguably the most enjoyable game in the series.
Yakuza 7 (Yakuza: Like a Dragon)
Like a Dragon is a major shift in the genre from the traditional Action RPG series into a full-fledged JRPG, and if you’re planning on going through the entire series, I’d recommend saving it for last, as it features characters from titles previous ones whose inclusion won’t be as engaging without playing at least one of the other games.
The plot is largely self-contained despite being set after earlier events in Yakuza history. The game follows Ichiban Kasuga, a former Yakuza who goes to jail to protect his boss who saved his life as a teenager. After 19 years, Ichiban is released and finds that no member of his former family is waiting for him. After becoming homeless, he falls into the middle of a dispute between the various crime syndicates in Ijincho. Outside of a few story beats that are direct callbacks to previous Yakuza titles, you’ll still enjoy this on its own merits.
Honorable mentions: Yakuza Kenzan, Ishin and Dead Souls
Dead Souls: Alternate Universe in 2011
Ishin: from the 16th to the 19th century
Kenzan: 17th century
In the interest of covering all Yakuza title in the series, it is worth mentioning these three outliers. Kenzan and Ishin were exclusive to Japan, reimagining the series under the lens of feudal Japan. None of these titles were released outside of Japan, so again, unless you speak Japanese and have a PS3, chances are you won’t get your hands on them.
Dead Souls, on the other hand, got a localized version. It was a spin-off capitalizing on the zombie craze of the late 2000s and early 2010s. The game is more of a third-person shooter than an action-RPG. By forcing the game to focus on gun combat in an engine that was not designed for it at all, this game is considered the weakest in the entire series.
Ports of any of these three games were impossible just a few years ago. However, with the new international audience these titles have received in recent years, it has almost assured that they will be playable to some degree in the future.
And that’s about it. While a majority of players only have the regular essential tier of PlayStation Plus, this will make Yakuza: Like a Dragon the most popular option to jump into the series. If you have access to the extra tier, I highly recommend jumping into the more traditional titles starting with Yakuza 0.