What is the best Yakuza game in the series and where should you start?

What is the best Yakuza game in the series and where should you start?

Yakuza is a world-renowned Japanese media franchise owned by Sega. The Yakuza game series includes numerous videogames that combine various popular gameplay elements such as role-playing, turn-based strategy, open-world sequences, and 3D graphics. The storylines in most games in the series follow a character known as Kazuma Kiryu, a reformed gang member. What is the best Yakuza game so far, and how do others in the franchise rank?

best yakuza games
Some of the best Yakuza game posters. Photo: @SimplyGamesUK, @PlayStationAsia, @XboxJapan (modified by author)
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The Yakuza game series is set in the fictional Japanese district of Kamurocho, which is loosely based on an actual red-light district in Tokyo.

What is the best Yakuza game?

Here is a look at the best Yakuza games ranked from number 10 to number 1.

10. Yakuza 3 (2009)

yakuza games ranked
A promotional poster for yakuza 3. Photo: @IGNIndia
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This was the first title in the series to arrive on the PlayStation 3 platform. Its graphics and gameplay really showcased what the developer could achieve with additional computer processing power. Compared to its prequel, this game had more side content, a better storyline, and a city with more depth.

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The storyline revolves around Kiryu as he tries to leave his former gangster life behind and operate the Sunshine Orphanage. However, the government and the criminal underworld embark on a mission to acquire beachfront properties, Kiryu’s orphanage included.

Kiryu must then defend the orphanage since he cares about it so much, a decision that ultimately results in the chaos and combat synonymous with the series. The videogame was only held back by the less than stellar transition into new hardware with more processing power.

9. Yakuza: Dead Souls (2011)

While the Yakuza series has had several spinoffs, Yakuza: Dead Souls was the first one available outside Japan. Its events take place years after Yakuza 4. It is worth noting that this title is not canonical to others in the series.

The storyline is centred on a zombie outbreak, a significant departure from the renowned setting of Kamurocho . Unlike most titles in the series whose plots revolve around Kiryu, this one has four main playable characters; Ryuji, Majima, Akiyama, and Kiryu.

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8. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (2016)

What is considered the best Yakuza game?
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life poster. Photo: @PlayStation
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Most fans of the series will remember this one as the test game for the developer’s then-new Dragon Engine. The engine was designed to maximize the processing potential of the PlayStation 4 hardware.

The Dragon Engine introduced better visuals, fewer loading screens, seamless environments and higher definition animations, making it arguably the best looking Yakuza game in the entire series.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life merges Kiryu’s numerous fighting styles into a set of seamless moves. In addition, the developer opted for an RPG-inspired style when it comes to character progression and movement.

7. Yakuza 4 (2010)

This one was released on PlayStation 3 and featured a vastly improved city of Kamurocho. In addition, the amount of side content was greatly reduced, compared to its prequel.

The story is told from the perspective of four different people. Besides Kiryu, the developer added a dirty cop known as Masayoshi Tanimura, a high-tempered ex-convict called Taiga Saejima, and a loan shark known as Shun Akiyama.

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The departure from the one-person perspective to that of four people makes this videogame one of the best Yakuza games today.

6. Judgment (2019)

While Judgment might not sound like a part of the franchise from its name, it is actually canonical to the entire series. Judgment is set in Kamurocho, the same city where the rest of the numbered games in the series are set.

Players view everything from the perspective of a popular lawyer-turned-detective known as Takayuki Yagami as he looks into numerous gruesome crimes in the city. They then then encounter numerous criminals in a game that perfectly blends the worlds of crime and law enforcement.

5. Yakuza Kiwami (2016)

Is there a bad Yakuza game?
Yakuza Kiwami game poster. Photo: @PlayStationAsia
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This one is a reimagination of the very first instalment in the series. The developers redid it, retouched the visuals, made it more playable, and built it on the then-modern Dragon Engine. In addition, the less than stellar fighting mechanics in the original game were updated, and the localization improved greatly.

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One of the most significant additions was the side quest known as ‘Majima Everywhere’ that sees Goro Majima follow Kiryu throughout the gameplay. Goro uses hiding spots and disguises in a bid to start fights with Kiryu.

4. Yakuza Kiwami 2 (2017)

Yakuza Kiwami 2 was built on the Yakuza 6 engine. The developer then packed it with numerous sub-stories, a newly developed Majima section and countless bonus features.

Kazuma Kiryu and his young protégé, Haruka Sawamura, have built a peaceful life from the ashes of a life of conflict as part of the Tojo Clan. However, it only takes a single gunshot to shatter that peace. The current chairman of the Tojo Clan is assassinated.

With war on the horizon, Kiryu is pulled back into the criminal world he so desperately wanted to leave behind.

3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon (2020)

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best looking yakuza game
images of some of the characters in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Photo: @SimplyGamesUK
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This is the seventh instalment in the series. It marked the beginning of an era in which the developer focused more on turn-based battles as opposed to the RPG format. It also featured more explorable locations, such as Yokohama City.

The biggest change, however, was the introduction of Ichiban Kasuga as the main protagonist, a significant departure from other videogames in the series which follow Kazuma Kiryu.

2. Yakuza 5 (2012)

Whereas Yakuza 4 had a multi-layered storyline featuring four protagonists, its sequel goes a notch higher and tells the story from the perspective of five characters spread across five different cities. Players are free to choose among the five protagonists as they explore the game’s unbelievably well-written story.

The game also marked the first time gamers could engage in somewhat silly yet interesting combats. You can fight a bear, become a famous person, and even get a job as a cab driver to better understand the cities.

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1. Yakuza 0 (2015)

What is considered the best Yakuza game? The honours go to Yakuza 0. The game is a prequel to the events that take place in the entire series. The videogame takes the player to where it all began, making it the best yakuza game to start with.

The videogame is played from the perspective of Kazuma Kiryu and his long-time rival, Goro Majima. Unsurprisingly, this is also the best-rated Yakuza game, perhaps as a testament to its alluring visuals, smooth gameplay and deeply immersive storylines.

What Yakuza game has the best combat?

best yakuza game to start with
Yakuza 0, the best game in the series. Photo: @XboxJapan
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Yakuza 0 has the best combat system of all games in the series. The videogame blends the franchise’s numerous combat systems and gameplay experiments into a remarkable combat experience.

With some of the titles in the franchise, players would randomly get switched without the option of going back to a previous player, a problem that was addressed in this videogame.

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Is there a bad Yakuza game?

While there aren’t any particularly bad titles in the franchise, the first one on the PlayStation 3 platform was somewhat problematic. The game, known as Yakuza 3, shifted the story from Kamurocho to a rural orphanage, a change that did not go particularly well with most players.

Should I play Yakuza 0 First?

Yes, this is the best Yakuza game for beginners. The events in this videogame take place more than ten years before those of the first videogame in the series. This gives the player a chance to understand the characters’ backstories.

What is the bestselling Yakuza game?

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the bestselling game in the series. In November 2020, the series’ producer, Toshihiro Nagoshi, said the game had sold about 400,000 copies in Asia and Japan.

The competition for the best Yakuza game in the hugely popular series is quite stiff. Most of the games in the top five positions feature amazing gameplay, appealing graphics, and expansive storylines, all ingredients of the perfect videogame.

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