You might have played some Yakuza in the past, but have you tried the best titles yet? Check out our list of the best Yakuza games and see what you might have missed.

The Yakuza franchise started in 2005 and is a part of a beat ‘em up action-adventure genre. It’s a crime drama inspired by classic Japanese crime movies and takes place primarily in places based on the real-life Tokyo red-light district, Kabukichō.

Familiarize yourself with the Japanese criminal underworld, master the martial arts, and experience top-tier cinema-like storytelling filled with thrilling action, charismatic characters, and exciting twists.

Here’s a list of the best Yakuza games, starting with the ones you can save for later, and ending with the ones you simply can’t afford to miss. Keep in mind that the list is not definitive and it could change according to everyone’s personal preferences.

Yakuza Kiwami

Release date:2019-02-19
Genre:Action
Developer:Sega

Starting with a remake of the first Yakuza game, Yakuza Kiwami can serve as a solid entry point into this famous Japanese criminal universe.

Yakuza Kiwami is the first Yakuza game, remade with the addition of certain elements known from Yakuza 0 to make gameplay more interesting. Switch between different fighting styles and deliver punishment and justice to those who cross your path. If you’ve never played the original game, getting a remake instead would be a great decision, as it makes the classic experience better suited to the modern gaming market.

Key features
  • A remake of the original Yakuza game from 2005
  • Open world and street battles with a number of different fighting styles to choose from
  • Various enhancements over the original, including better visuals and improved controls
  • Majima Everywhere – fight Majima Goro wherever you want

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Release date:2019-05-09
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Ryū Ga Gotoku Studios

Following the success of the first remake, the studio decided to give the original sequel a similar treatment; the final work was warmly welcomed by the community.

Rebuilt from scratch, Yakuza Kiwami 2 gives the sequel from 2006 a second life in the form of a remake that not only adds a variety of new gameplay features and graphical improvements but also makes some changes to the plot that appeared to be confusing at certain points. Now the flow of the story feels more logical and natural, making it much easier to fully immerse in the Japanese mafia setting.

Key features
  • An open-world environment that can be freely explored
  • Smooth and satisfying combat experience
  • New minigames, better visuals, and improved controls
  • Return of Goro Majima as a playable character in The Majima Saga scenario

Yakuza 4 Remastered

Release date:2021-01-28
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

The story of Kazuma Kiryu continues in the fourth installment in the Yakuza franchise, but this time he’s not the sole protagonist.

After the end of Yakuza 3, making Kiryu the main character again was a risky move, but thanks to the amazing work of the storytellers, the studio managed to pull it off with great success. 4 in the title can be considered symbolic, as this time the game features not one but four different protagonists with their own unique martial art fighting styles. If you’re worried that Kiryu must share screen time with other characters now, fret not; the other characters are just as likable and stand out in their own way.

Key features
  • Four playable protagonists, each with a unique playstyle and personality
  • Smooth combat experience focused on the use of martial arts
  • A variety of side activities to participate in
  • Great voice acting that brings characters to life

Yakuza 3 Remastered

Release date:2021-01-28
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Ryū Ga Gotoku Studios

The Kamurocho district welcomes you once more, but to make things more interesting, you’ll also be able to visit the island of Okinawa for the first time in the series.

The third installment in the series brought a lot of fresh air but with varying results. Some people weren’t satisfied with the changes made to the combat system that felt clunky. On top of that, some parts of the game had to be cut out to satisfy Western censorship standards, but overall, it’s a solid game to try, especially if you’re in for a great, dramatic story with some silly twists.

Key features
  • A serious story sprinkled with a bit of ridiculousness
  • 5 hours of cutscenes
  • A number of different minigames to try
  • Optional hard mode for those who are looking for an extra challenge

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Release date:2020-11-10
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

One of the most recent releases of Yakuza will introduce you to a new protagonist. Let’s give Kiryu a break, it’s time to try something new.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a new approach to the series. Not only did we get a completely new protagonist but the whole gameplay formula was changed as well. It’s no longer an action-adventure game. Instead, it’s an RPG with turn-based combat, which may tick some people off. However, once you give it a go, you’ll realize that there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Key features
  • Features a new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, supported by 6 other characters
  • Turn-based combat
  • Character classes, stats, and craftable equipment
  • Several new types of minigames to play and master

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Release date:2021-03-25
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryū Ga Gotoku Studios

Play through the final part of Kiryu’s story, visit Kamurochō once more, and explore new, stunning locations in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Yakuza 6 is the final game in the main pipeline to feature an action-adventure type of gameplay. As the game focuses on Kiryu, he’ll be the sole protagonist here. Some people criticized the absence of Goro Majima in the majority of the story, but besides that, the game met with favorable reviews. Being able to consistently keep such a high level of quality over the years in each game is truly a feat worth of praise.

Key features
  • The last action-adventure Yakuza game in the main series
  • Conclusion of Kiryu’s story
  • An improved battle system with ragdoll physics
  • Fully voiced Japanese audio

Lost Judgment

Release date:2021-09-21
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Not all spin-offs turn out to be a success. It’s a risky gamble, but thankfully, Lost Judgment did the franchise justice.

In Lost Judgment, you’ll be playing as a private detective tasked with investigating a certain case related to a series of murders and sexual harassment. Praised for a serious take on some heavy topics, the game provides great entertaining value for those who’d like to return to the famous Kamurochō.

Key features
  • Intriguing story focused on a certain criminal case investigation
  • Three fighting styles to switch between, including the new Snake style
  • The gameplay focused on action with stealth segments
  • A Shiba Inu dog companion that helps you with detective tasks

Yakuza 5 Remastered

Release date:2021-01-28
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

Dive into the biggest Yakuza game world created up to date.

Praised for its combat, thrilling story, freedom, and authentic environments, Yakuza 5 will take you for a ride full of surprises, where some form of entertainment awaits around every corner. Once more, the number 5 seems to serve a symbolic purpose, as the game features 5 protagonists, as well as a total of 5 unique cities where the story takes place, making it the biggest Yakuza game at the time of its original release.

Key features
  • Masterful writing that combines satire with a serious crime story
  • Features five unique protagonists
  • A number of new places to visit outside the usual Kamurochō
  • Intuitive and satisfying combat system

Judgment

Release date:2022-09-14
Genre:Action
Developer:Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio

A second spin-off on the list, and it’s ranked rather high, but it’s fully justified.

Following the story of a private detective, Takayuki Yagami, you will be tasked with solving a certain case that involves a series of murders. Encountered enemies can be taken care of with the use of one of the two available fighting styles, suited for dealing with single opponents or groups. The game also features brutal takedowns, combos, and elements of parkour, making action sequences feel more dynamic and fast-paced.

Key features
  • A refreshing story focused on solving a criminal case
  • A new cast of characters
  • Visually appealing combat sequences
  • Highly varied gameplay which makes the game more engaging

Yakuza 0

Release date:2018-08-01
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Ryū Ga Gotoku Studios

For the final game on the list, we chose the one that’s considered to be the reason behind the Yakuza series’ rise in popularity in the West.

Yakuza 0 is a sixth entry to the main series and serves as a prequel to the story, focusing on the most iconic characters of Kiryu and Majima, allowing players to learn about the events that shaped the story for the entire franchise. If you’re familiar with other Yakuza games, Yakuza 0 can be a bit tough to get into at first due to the various gameplay changes, but once it finally clicks, you’ll start to really appreciate its beauty.

Key features
  • A story that smoothly combines absurdity with seriousness
  • Multiple fighting styles that can be switched in the middle of battle
  • A number of fun minigames to try
  • Side business you need to take care of to make money

Conclusion

Even though some Yakuza games are vastly superior to the others, it’s strongly recommended to play them in chronological order anyway; this way you’ll get the most out of the story, which is one of the strongest points of the series. As such, Yakuza 0, being both a prequel and an outstanding game in general, is a no-brainer choice to start your Yakuza journey.