Where To Get Started With The Yakuza Game Franchise

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Where To Get Started With The Yakuza Game Franchise
Screenshot: Yakuza: Like A Dragon

The Yakuza franchise began in 2005 and has since received multiple sequels, prequels, spin-offs and remasters. If you’re looking to get into the games, there’s several important entry points (and naming conventions) you’ll need to know.

The first thing you should be aware of is multiple versions of some games exist due to remastering. Yakuza and its sequelwhich first appeared on PlayStation 2, have been remastered for PS3 and PS4 under the Yakuza Kiwami name. You’ve also got 0, which is a prequel to the original games and Like a Dragon, the latest entry for current and next gen consoles.

If it’s all a bit confusing, here’s how the franchise shapes up.

Yakuza Games in Chronological Order

Image: Yakuza 0

Let’s say you want to experience the whole story from start to finish. If you’ve got a PS4 or PS5, you’re in luck — every game from the mainline franchise is available on either console.

If you’ve got an Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S or gaming PC, you won’t be able to purchase games 3-6. While Kiwami, Kiwami 2 and have made their way to Xbox, the others in the franchise are yet to make the leap.

With that in mind, here’s how chronological order plays out for the series in 2020:

*Not available on Xbox or PC yet

There’s also spin-offs you can play at any time like the non-canon survival horror Dead Souls and Judgment, which only has very loose ties to the franchise.

What Yakuza game should I play first?

Image: Yakuza 0

You’ve got a couple of options here. The easiest and most cost effective entry point is Like a Dragon. It’s a soft reboot of the series following new character Ichiban Kasuga, a loyal clan member sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. While it’s a classic Yakuza game at its core, it features its own insular story and rarely references the events from past games.

Newcomers can easily jump in and get started with the game.

If you want to start from the beginning and get the whole story, including the origins of mainline protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, you’ll want to start with Yakuza 0. This covers Kiryu’s early beginnings and dives deep into his friendship with Goro Majima, but it was released after the mainline games and isn’t essential outside of it being a great game.

You can easily skip and head straight to Kiwami, the remaster of the first game. Then, you should work your way up to Kiwami 2 and beyond. No matter where you start, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a blast with the franchise.

While it took a short while before the West discovered Yakuza‘s charms, the wait was absolutely worth it.

Comments

  • Its unfortunate that it took folks a while to discover it, although we’d always gotten the mainlines but missed out on several spinoffs. Mark Hamill voicing Goro Majima in the original PS2 game was something else entirely.

    I’d honestly suggest 1 – 4, Dead Souls, 5, 0, 6

    I’m not sure if it’d be a case of going to the PS2 duology or the Kiwami games. 0 containers spoilers for the later games, as theres several sidequests that reference what is going to happen down the track. And one character has a running joke about something that became a recurring event after it happened in Yakuza 2 – 5. Which pretty much cheapens the drama in the games it happens in.

    0 before 6 as theres a character you meet in 6 whose origins in 0 are extensively referenced.

    Dead Souls also wraps up the story of Yakuza 1 – 4 in an alternate manner. Its better than folks tend to say, and its worth it simply for a clearly disinterested Majima taking women to Karaoke bars simply so he has an excuse to belt out ‘Lets Get to the Top!’

    Also has an absolutely badass title drop of the Japanese title. (Yakuza of the End)

    • Speaking as someone who started with 0 and just recently finished 2, I don’t think the spoilers are really that obvious without the knowledge of future games.
      I only vaguely recall a few substories where the game made it obvious that a character would be important later, but as a new player it meant nothing to me.
      I guess the main one is the fortune teller substory, but it made little to no sense to me at the time. I definitely don’t think it spoiled anything for me.

      • Its mainly for the later ones, since the fortune teller spoils some of the setups for 3 and 5 especially. Majima’s portions of 0 contain cutscenes taken from 4 (I’m certain its 4 and not 5) that could lessen the impact when you finally get to see them in 4 because you’ve already seen abridged versions of the scenes in 0. Things like that.

        Of course, thats just my opinion of having played them in release order as they came out.

  • It’s a tricky one. I went from 0 to Kiwami 1 and that’s a pretty jarring transition even though that’s the chronolgical order. I’m guessing the quality of story telling improves quite a bit over the various games and because 0 was made well after, Kiwami doesn’t hold up quite as well.

    It’s not bad by any means, it’s more that Yakuza 0 is exceptional.

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