I don’t even know how to go about this post. If you love video games, a good story, and Japan, this entire series is a must-play. I cannot recommend this series enough. Now, I’m going to be adding to the legions of people on the internet singing praises about this franchise. Ikuzo!
This is going to be a braindump of my experiences with the Ryu Ga Gotoku games (known outside Japan as the Yakuza games). As a PC player, I can only comment on games that are out on Steam already. These are:
(L-R) Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami (Yakuza 1 Remake), Yakuza Kiwami 2 (Yakuza 2 Remake), Yakuza 3 Remastered, Yakuza 4 Remastered, Yakuza 5 Remastered, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
I might do a separate post for Yakuza: Like A Dragon someday, as it isn’t a part of Kazuma Kiryu’s story anymore and that there is a notable shift in gameplay as well. Also, I haven’t even started the game yet.
Released March 2015
Ah, where it all began. I’m going to have to give thanks to a random Steam Sale for showing me this game for under $5. What a steal. I will always look back fondly on this game as my gateway drug into the series. Because of nostalgia (as well as just being a great game in general), it stands on top as my favorite game here.
- My recommended game to start with as it’s the cheapest on the Steam store.
- The perfect test to gauge your compatibility with the series. If you don’t like the gameplay, story, activities, and ridiculousness here, then you won’t enjoy the other games. But if, like me, you get hooked; then you’re in for 6 more games similar to it.
- Chronologically the first game in the canon timeline, so no need for any prior knowledge before jumping in.
- Memorable characters and a strong plot means that if you take the time to really understand the story, you will be rewarded with a good payoff.
- Lots of quality side content. Ridiculous (and heartfelt) substories, enjoyable mini-games, life-changing interactions, and so much more.
- Combat is good and crunchy. So many heat actions to explore, weapons to use, and styles to master. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of beating every Nouveau Riche I encounter.
- Two open-districts to discover. Kamurocho and Sotenbori are beautiful and the perfect example of map density a.k.a. quality vs quantity. As a Japanophile, I enjoyed the sights and the cuisine as the characters explored these maps.
- You will be able to understand the Baka Mitai memes.
- Cabaret Club Mini-Game. One of the greatest mini-games to ever be created.
- I have to say that the story can get a little convoluted, and this goes for the other games as well. There will be plot twists that were never hinted at and other surprises, but you really just have to roll with the punches. “That is bullshit” moments are standard fare in this series. You have been warned.
- Unless you already know how to play (and are proficient at) Mahjong, Shogi, and some Japanese card/dice games, you’re gonna have a tough time getting to 100% completion.
Again, the ridiculous amount of content and distractions in this game will either make you love it or hate it. It can become one of your favorite games or something you won’t be able to relate to. But whatever your take on this game will be, it’s definitely worth a try.
Released January 2016
Although this is a remake of the original Yakuza game for the PS2 (released December 2005), my first thought while playing Yakuza Kiwami was that this could have been an expansion or DLC for Yakuza 0 instead. There are a lot of things carried over (since they’re based on the same game engine) and even more things cut out. But after a second look, I can conclude that it can stand on its own.
- Another good choice for an entry into the series since it is “technically” the first game in the series. Reintroduces the main characters in Yakuza 0 after a decent timeskip.
- Plot-wise, the most important game in the series and sets the foundation for everything else that will take place in the games after. I don’t know why anyone will skip this if they’re already interested in the world of Yakuza.
- The combat system is amazing. You still have the different styles from Yakuza 0 so there’s no shock at all. Plus, they made style switching even faster. This is probably my favorite combat system because of how smooth it is. Shame that you only play as Kiryu the entire game.
- Majima everywhere. If you loved Goro Majima in Yakuza 0, then this is definitely a pro. Seeing all his shenanigans unfold is quite entertaining, plus you get a mini-boss fight and unlock abilities as well.
- You get to hold hands with Haruka while walking around Kamurocho.
- Not as much content as Yakuza 0. A lot has been cut out and Kamurocho is the only place to explore.
- Mesuking isn’t that fun to play. And you have to do the entire Pocket Circuit mini-game all over again.
- Majima everywhere. I have to be honest, I didn’t like this feature at first. It’s either very annoying or completely missable. I only did this in the post-game adventure because I wanted to see more of Majima.
- This goes for every Yakuza game, but reaching 100% completion is a bitch. I’ve already learned all the games aside from Mahjong and Shogi thanks to finishing Haruka’s whims.
I would recommend playing this immediately after Yakuza 0. Although Yakuza Kiwami 1 is also an acceptable place to start the series, the characters that were fleshed out in Y0 make the events in YK1 hit even harder. Whichever option you choose is honestly fine although Yakuza 0 is definitely the superior game in my opinion and the series is best enjoyed by simply following the numbers.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Released December 2017
The newest game in the mainline series and with the same Dragon Engine as Yakuza 6. It’s a remake of the original 2nd game on the PS2 (released December 2006). The first time I booted this game up, it made my PC sound like an airplane engine. Optimization aside, I was shocked with how upgraded the graphics looked. Kamurocho in High Definition is a sight to see. Definitely a welcome change if only it didn’t make my computer hot enough to fry eggs.
- If your computer can handle it, this game is buttery smooth. There are no more loading screens when entering the buildings and getting into fights, making Kamurocho feel even more alive.
- Ryuji Goda is a top-tier antagonist. Majima is still around with a role to play, unlike the next games down the list. Overall, the characters and plot are engaging and easy to follow. If you can handle Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, then this is normal fare.
- You get to return to Sotenbori from Yakuza 0. Although not as open as before, there are still the familiar landmarks and lots of things to do. Any addition to Kamurocho is always welcome.
- With the return of Sotenbori, it’s also the comeback of the Cabaret Club Mini-Game!!! Aaaah no further explanation needed.
- Although it’s only for a short while, you get to play as Majima again. You also get a conclusion to his story from Yakuza 0. This is why you shouldn’t play Kiwami 2 until you finish Yakuza 0. Don’t ruin the moment for yourself.
- Darts Mini-Game is highly improved. But enjoy it now, because you’ll get the previous system again in Yakuza 3, 4, and 5. Unfortunately, they removed the pool mini-game here as well. Sadnu.
- Holding Haruka’s hand in high definition!
- The new Dragon Engine is smooth, but sometimes it can get too smooth. Sometimes you can overshoot your movement and controlling Kiryu feels like he’s walking on butter. Not really the worst thing that can happen, but I missed the snappy controls of the older games when it comes to movement. They might have been basic, but they were much more inuitive.
- Combat is basic. Kiryu only gets one fighting style, a sharp downgrade from Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. I love the new ragdoll system where enemies turn into mush when they die, but the moves can get repetitive in the long run, even with the different heat actions.
Content and story-wise, a very fun game to play. Sadly, the final game with the Cabaret Club Mini-Game. I dearly miss it so.
Yakuza 3 Remastered
Released February 2009 (Remaster August 2019)
This is the oldest game in the series so I readied myself with a lot of patience and understanding before starting it. But it wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be. This game still has the same soul as the other games. Yakuza 3 is proof that even the (technologically) weakest Yakuza game is still a hella good game.
- The story parts of Kazuma Kiryu as a dad are my favorite. Okinawa is a beautiful place and the entire district and the substories are a breath of fresh air from Kamurocho and all the Yakuza stuff. This is a divisive opinion, but I love the slow moments in Okinawa and the orphanage. It felt like a literal vacation.
- So many hostesses to enjoy. I love these mini-games. Trying to find the right responses can be fun or frustrating, but it’s an interesting way to spend the time. The developers put a lot of thought into giving different personalities to each of the girls. You get to take them out on dates and do karaoke, bowling, and pool (my favorite) together.
- As is the usual Yakuza fare, there is so much to do and so many silly substories to discover. I recommend you go fishing and take on the true final boss, the Tuna.
- Of course we have to mention the elephant in the room. Yakuza 3 is notorious for having the worst combat system in all the games. Enemies tend to block 95% of the time so you’re going to have to utilize your grabbing skills to get past them. There’s also a huge difference in difficulty between fodder enemies and boss fights. A literal chasm of difference, so be prepared. I didn’t have a really hard time because I was playing on normal mode, but there were moments where the combat stressed me out.
- Leveling up your character can get grindy and with the aforementioned combat system, it can be a chore. This is why I recommend doing all the substories and hostesses because they give out lots of experience. Basically, don’t skip out on any of the side content and you will be able to level up quickly instead of fighting your way to get max abilities.
- The Yakuza part of the plot can get convoluted. Once again, there will be moments where you have to call bullshit. Even the final villain, cool as he is, didn’t get my sympathy. But of course, you can’t take it out of the game or else there wouldn’t be any conflict. Though its not a dealbreaker, the whole plotline with the Yakuza is definitely the weak part of the game for me.
- The hostess maker mini-game is a legitimate downgrade if you’re coming from Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami 2. Bruh. I had to slog through this for the XP and to see what happens next.
Despite the negative feedback from the online Yakuza community, this is one of the most fun I’ve had playing a Yakuza game. Downtown Ryukyu is one of the best maps RGG Studio has created and contains the best characters. Rikiya, Mikio, and Saki are just some of my favorites. The playtime I’ve sunk into this game is proof that I enjoyed it a lot.
Yakuza 4 Remastered
Released March 2010 (Remaster October 2019)
RGG Studios made a bold move as it changes its usual formula and lets us play as FOUR characters in this game. Aside from Kiryu (a daddy), you get to play as Akiyama (a monylender), Tanimura (a cop), and Saejima (a prison escapee). While it’s not a big jump from Yakuza 3 in terms of graphics and gameplay, all this added content just makes the game so much more fun to play. Definitely a game you should play as soon as you finish Yakuza 3.
- Combat has been tweaked to be much more enjoyable than the previous game. Each of the FOUR protagonists have their own fighting style that you get to learn. I loved all of them and they each have their own appeal. From Akiyama’s kicks, Saejima’s charged attacks, to Tanimura’s parries, and Kiryu’s Tiger Drop, I enjoyed the variety a lot.
- If you think that they had to shave off some content to make room for three extra people, you’re wrong. They took everything from Yakuza 3 and added so much more to it. Content galore! Although this game is limited only to Kamurocho, the city changes depending on the current character you’re controlling. I love how the developers managed to make the character switching seamless in the final chapter and post-game.
- The plot is much better than in Yakuza 3. The way you follow the FOUR paths until they converge is quite engaging and you do get to like all the characters eventually. It’s hard not to spoil, but the final boss fight(s) is done so well. There are still some parts where you want to call bullshit on the things that happen(ed), but at this point in the series, you should have gotten used to them already.
- YOU GET TO FIGHT KIRYU. One of the best parts of the game for me was facing off against Kiryu. The perks of playing as a different character is that you get to see the Dragon of Dojima from an outside perspective. After 5 entire games playing as him, you get to try and beat the shit out of him. And it is scary af. I was smiling the whole time because of the hype, but my character’s life bar was already flashing red. Receiving a Tiger Drop isn’t as cool as giving one.
- You are introduced to Shun Akiyama, the man with the golden voice. You will love him and forgive all the game’s flaws because of him.
- The hostess maker mini-game from Yakuza 3 is still here. Ugh. And I don’t know if it’s a bug, but no matter how many tries I did, my 2nd hostess can’t reach the top position, and so this substory can’t progress. After 10+ tries, I just gave up on it because I had other Yakuza games to play.
- Every time you switch characters for the first time, they’re at their lowest level. So imagine the whiplash when I already max-leveled Akiyama and suddenly had to fight using a level 1 Tanimura. Again, not a dealbreaker, just a frustrating thing. Especially when Kiryu uses a Tiger Drop on you when he’s your enemy, but when it’s your turn to use him, you have to grind to unlock it again.
Yakuza 5 Remastered
Released December 2012 (Remaster February 2020)
This is the final game in the Kiryu Saga that I played and what a way to end it all. The only term that comes to mind when playing this is “BALLS OUT” because there’s so much to do here.
- This game is PACKED. You play as FIVE different people throughout the game, across FIVE different places in Japan. Aside from Kamurocho, you get to go to Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Osaka, and Nagoya. Each of these characters have their own sub-stories and side missions. There is a boatload of mini-games and other stuff to discover. It literally has a little something for everyone.
- Just like in the previous game, the switching between characters is easy to do in the final chapter and the different fighting styles of each character are still just as good to experiment with.
- After the combat system of Y3 and Y4, this one feels the most fun to play with. It’s on the same game engine as Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami which I’ve praised for the solid combat. You can see the seeds of greatness being cultivated in this game.
- Haruka’s journey to becoming a pop idol is my favorite storyline. Handshake events, dance battles, rivals being bullies, etc. All the good shit is here. “So Much More” is my jam now and forever.
- YOU CAN CHOOSE TO FIGHT KIRYU. Just like in Y4, the plot somehow leads to you getting the chance to fight the Dragon of Dojima himself. It’s an optional choice, but it is still a very cool moment.
- But honestly, the sheer amount of content in this game is crazy. It’s like no one told the developers “NO” when they were pitching ideas. Rhythm game? Yes. Taxi Driving game? Yes. Racing game? Yes. Shooting game? Yes. Dating Sim? Yes. Baseball game? There’s two types! Air Hockey with a beautiful girl? Yes. Cooking ramen noodles? Hell yeah. The only thing it’s missing is the cabaret club management and this would’ve been my favorite Yakuza game of all time.
- The plot is actually pretty interesting. The payoff with the villain at the end is a little weak, but where Yakuza shines is not in making sense, but in making hype. And hype up every single fight it does.
- It’s not Yakuza if its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. This series isn’t for everyone, and even this game isn’t for every Yakuza fan. Having to keep jumping between characters can be a bit jarring and just like in Y4, switching to a low-level character after having just maxed out a previous one can be a bit jarring since most of the moves are level-locked.
- The leveling system is horrendous. You’re capped off at level 20 which you can achieve easily, but then you have to pass an insanely difficult combat challenge to increase the cap to level 25 (per character). But thankfully, the game included an easier way to achieve soul orbs (ability points) with the IF8 mini-game.
- Some parts of the story can get a bit dragging, even for Yakuza standards. Since most of the side-stories are required, it can be distracting and you will end up forgetting the plot if you don’t pay attention well enough. There were times that I had to google who the character on the screen was because I had completely forgotten about them.
- Because of the amount of content, completionists are either going to love this game or hate it. This is the only Yakuza game where I didn’t bother with Haruka’s Requests or eating all the meals in all the restaurants. There were just too many.
Having played Yakuza 6 before this one, I had to watch Y6’s opening sequences once again in order to connect the two because some important plot events happen right after Y5 ends. So I suggest to just play the games according to their numbers. Don’t be a game skipper like me.
Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life
Released December 2016
I played this game right after Yakuza Kiwami 2 because I purchased it before the Remastered Collection was available on Steam. Since the plot of this one focuses more on Kiryu and about bringing his story to a close, I thought I would be able to understand the story despite not having played the middle games (Yakuza 3, 4, and 5). I was obviously wrong because some parts of this game hit harder when you’ve experienced Y3, Y4, and Y5.
- The game is gorgeous because it uses the same Dragon Engine as Yakuza Kiwami 2. Seeing Kiryu in high definition is always a joy. I loved taking screenshots of this game.
- Substories, Characters, and cinematography are simply top-tier. Aside from the aesthetics brought about by the dragon engine, RGG studios really put a lot of effort into making this a hype game.
- Clan creator mini-game is actually a lot better than in YK2. I loved the Majima Construction aspect in YK2, but the gameplay itself wasn’t my kind of flavor. This one is much easier to stomach and the accompanying story is pretty fun.
- You get to chat with Anri Okita and Yua Mikami.
- Ono-Michio is one of the greatest video game characters ever created.
- Still the same Dragon Engine problems. This game actually came before YK2, so it was even less-optimized. There was a bit of pop-in with the video game assets (I am playing from an HDD, not an SSD, but no other Yakuza game had pop-ins as big as entire buildings). Movement is still a bit slip-and-slidey and the combat is trimmed down. This game really feels like a dry-run for the Dragon Engine.
- Probably my least favorite game in terms of side-content and post-game content. Once you finish the main story, there isn’t much else to do in this game. There’s no pool mini-game. No cabaret club mini-game. You can only play as Kiryu so I already maxed out his stats before I finished the main plot. This game really shaves off a lot of content from the previous games despite being in a better game engine.
- I know it’s a staple of the series, but this game really has an absurd plot. Who knew that having sex could lead to pregnancy?! Whaaaa?!
- Considering it’s an end to the Kiryu saga, a lot of characters built up over the games are forgotten and delegated to EXTREMELY minor roles. Sad to see, but I heard they have bigger roles in Yakuza: Like A Dragon so I can’t wait to play it.
This is my least-liked game in the series overall. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, but if I had to choose between playing Yakuza 3 or yakuza 6, I would choose Okinawa Daddy Kiryu any day. Plot-wise a very solid game, but it just lacks a bit of the side-stuff that I really enjoy from the series.
And that’s about it for these 7 amazing games. It’s painfully obvious that I had a lot of fun playing these and I wholeheartedly recommend each and every one of them. If you’re looking for something to play on your PC, Yakuza 0 is right there waiting for you.
I just had to get my thoughts together regarding this series, and this post serves as just that. If you do decide to try out any of the games here because of this blog, that would be a big bonus for me.
If you have played (or want to paly) any of these games and have any additional inputs or comments, let me know down below. That’s about it from my side, kyoudai.
Stay safe and keep on grinding!
Of course, I couldn’t help making a tier list for this series. So without any elaboration, here it is.
And just for reference, here are the games’ file sizes upon completion (from Steam):
- Yakuza 0 – 24.67GB
- Yakuza Kiwami – 20.29GB
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 – 40.98GB
- Yakuza 3 Remastered – 25.15GB
- Yakuza 4 Remastered – 34.15GB
- Yakuza 5 Remastered – 31.35GB
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – 38.92GB
For a grand total of 215.51GB of space on my hard drive.