The mainline Yakuza series has some truly awesome entries. These are all of them, ranked according to their Metacritic scores!
Fans are hotly anticipating the forthcoming release of Yakuza: Like A Dragon, the seventh numbered title to release for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s most popular franchise. This new entry to the Yakuza timeline is a fresh take in that it removes itself not only from the usual Tokyo setting, but it also moves away from the main protagonist that until now has been Kiryu Kazuma. Fans will instead be stepping into the role of the new character Ichiban Kasuga.
With the release only weeks away, it’s the perfect time to take a look back at the main numbered titles of the franchise and see how the Japanese-only titles fared when it came to Metacritic scores.
Yakuza first kicked its way onto the PlayStation 2 in 2006, having released in Japan the year prior to this. The game was critically acclaimed in Japan, and while it received favorable reviews in the west, it didn’t quite hit the same highs over here, with some critics claiming the gameplay to be “tedious”.
The game offered up an open-world area to explore, with arcade-style combat that everyone fell in love with. The combat featured ragdoll physics and you could use items from the environment to beat the hell out of your opponents. Fans also loved the insight into the yakuza lifestyle of Japan, as well as the heavy dose of Japanese quirkiness.
Given the popularity of the first title, it was no surprise to fans that Yakuza received a sequel, with Yakuza 2 releasing for the PlayStation 2 in 2008. Once again, fans step into the role of Kiryu Kazuma, but this time the game opened up a whole new area based in Osaka for players to explore, alongside the pre-existing setting of Kamurocho.
For the first time in the series, western audiences could switch between the Japanese and English audio. Sega went all out to improve the combat system, the gameplay – including new mini-games, and the story, even adding in a brand-new love interest for Kiryu.
Yakuza 4 was the second title in the franchise to release for PlayStation 3, with it hitting western shores in 2011. It was the first Yakuza title that Daisuke Sato did not work on, the chief designer of the original Yakuza game. Although he skipped Yakuza 4, he returned for Yakuza 5 and has since become a producer for the franchise.
This new installment allowed players to follow four different characters as the story progressed, each with their own fighting styles. However, some critics and fans felt that the storyline was not as in-depth or engaging as a result of the focus being spread across multiple protagonists.
Yakuza 3 released in 2010 and was the first title in the franchise to release on PlayStation 3. Because of the more powerful console, the game featured a lot of additional features and enhanced gameplay, such as seamless battles, chase battles, and optional first-person view.
While this next title added a host of new content and delivered more of the quirky, amusing humor mixed with gritty yakuza lifestyle that players loved, fans in the west were disappointed that a lot of content was cut as part of the localization process.
Fans were delighted when Sega released a remake of the original Yakuza titled Yakuza Kiwami. It released in the west in 2017 and it was highly praised for the improvements that were made on the original and helped solidify the franchise’s increase in popularity worldwide.
As well as getting a much-needed glow up in its visuals, the game featured new cutscenes that made the plot all the more in-depth and fleshed the characters out a great deal. Additionally, Kiwami borrowed a lot from the previously released Yakuza 0, such as utilizing the improved combat mechanics.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life released in the west in 2018 and it was the first title in the franchise to be developed exclusively for the PlayStation 4, as well as being the first to use the brand-new Dragon Engine. As such, the game looks phenomenally beautiful and fans loved the detail in the characters and environments. This title was highly praised and it won both “Best Storytelling” and “PlayStation Game of the Year” awards at the Golden Joystick Awards.
It is the last game chronologically, until the release of Yakuza 7, and as such Kiryu and other characters are much older than in earlier titles. This is the last game where Kiryu is the protagonist, as Yakuza 7 will have Ichiban as the lead character, though familiar characters from past titles are set to feature in some way.
Yakuza 5 released in 2015 for PlayStation 3 and was the only localized title in the franchise that didn’t get a physical release over here. Sega decided to celebrate the fifth title in the franchise by having this game feature not only five protagonists, but also have five areas across Japan that players could visit and explore.
Interestingly, Yakuza 5 was given double the development time of its predecessors and was developed on a brand new graphics engine. The developers wanted this new installment to be a fresh look at the franchise and aimed the bar at having the best storyline and script to date. It was critically acclaimed on release in Japan, and also received very favorable reviews in the west.
After the massive success of Kiwami, it was no surprise that Sega followed this up with another remake that focused on the franchise’s sequel with Yakuza Kiwami 2 releasing in the west in 2018, the same year as Yakuza 6.
Much like it’s remade predecessor, Kiwami 2 not only had a visually uphaul but enhanced gameplay features and added brand new story content. This not only cleared up some of the more confusing plot points of the original, but also fleshed out characters, relationships, and story arcs that the other titles had since added to the franchise, most notably borrowing from Yakuza 0. The “Majima Saga” story content was also added, allowing players to step into the role of fan-favorite anti-hero Majima Goro once more.
Sega added a new beginning to the franchise by releasing the prequel title Yakuza 0 for PlayStation 4 in 2017. Yakuza 0 is attributed as raising the popularity of the franchise in the west and is undeniably the fan-favorite game so far. As well as having a younger version Kiryu as the protagonist, the spotlight was also shared with a younger version of Majima, with the player alternating between the two characters.
Yakuza 0 gave fans a much-needed glimpse behind the mask when it came to Majima and showed how his quirky character came to be. Additionally, this title added in a host of fun and interesting gameplay features, story arcs, and side quests.
Meg appreciates gaming on all formats, but primarily spends her time achievement hunting to the extreme. Her passion for gaming began as a child, when first introduced to the Amstrad. A collector of gaming consoles past and present, Meg spends as much of her time rediscovering old classics as she does playing the latest releases.
Yakuza, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, Xbox One
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