Yakuza is one of the most beloved and memeable video game franchises in the world, but newcomers to the series might not know what order to play the games in. We can help.
After years of flying under the radar in Europe and North America, many have latched onto the Yakuza series for its fun gameplay and absolute absurdity. After a long while as PlayStation exclusives, the franchise is now functionally available in its entirety on Xbox and PC as well. This lets gamers of all types experience the joys of billiards, underground cage fighting, mahjong, and racketeering.
But with the series now 17 years old, many games being lost to the passage of time and numerous re-releases, it’s difficult to know how to approach the series. Luckily, it’s not as hard as it might seem.
How many Yakuza games are there?
In total, there are eight games in the main Yakuza series. All eight games are available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC in one form or another. Remakes and remasters allow fans to play all the Yakuza games in order to get the full story to this point. A ninth title, likely to be Yakuza 8, is also in development as of this writing.
The series also has a long list of spin-offs, many of which never saw an official release outside Japan. The good news is that fans can just focus on the mainline titles and not miss out on anything important.
The best order to play the Yakuza games
The Yakuza video game series is 17 years old now and technically has 19 installments including a number of spin-offs. This includes faithful side stories, non-canonical zombie shoot ‘em ups, and beat ‘em ups based on classic anime series Fist of the North Star. Many of these never actually got released outside Japan, but there is still a best order in which to play the Yakuza games for fans beyond the shores of Japan.
The good news is that all of the most important Yakuza games have landed on western shores. All the main entries in the series can be played on modern consoles and PC thanks to a combination of remakes and remasters. Here’s the best order to play the Yakuza series today, from first to last.
Yakuza Kiwami is a full remake of the original Yakuza game for the PlayStation 2. It introduces protagonist Kiryu Kazuma, a hot up-and-comer in the Tojo Clan yakuza group. The Tojo Clan runs the fictional red light district of Kamurocho, which is based on the real-life Kabukicho.
Kiryu’s rise is stifled when he takes the fall for the murder of Sohei Dojima, one of the commanders of the Tojo Clan, to save his longtime friend Akira Nishikiyama. This lands him in prison for 10 years, and his former confidants are not the same people they once were when is released a decade later.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Yakuza 2 for the PlayStation 2 also received a full remake with Yakuza Kiwami 2. The Tojo Clan is in a weakened state after the events of the first Yakuza game, something some leaders of the rival Omi Alliance seek to take advantage of. Kiryu finds himself at the center of this conflict, needing to protect the Tojo Clan in Kamurocho and new city Dotonbori, restore order to the Omi Alliance, and solve a mystery related to his father figure.
Yakuza 3 Remastered
Yakuza 3 was the first PlayStation 3 installment of the Yakuza series, which led to some major changes to the gameplay and overworld design. Kiryu returns as the lead protagonist, but after multiple conflicts he decides it’s time to move away from Tokyo in order to completely shed his yakuza past. This results in him taking a job taking over an orphanage in Okinawa, but events that unfold once again see Kiryu dragged into his past life.
Yakuza 4 Remastered
Kiryu returns in Yakuza 4, but he has a lot of company this time. Yakuza 4 lives up to its namesake on both fronts by focusing in on Japanese organized crime and looking at it through the lens of four different characters. Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and Masayoshi Tanimura all share the spotlight with Kiryu Kazuma in this game.
After visits to Osaka and Okinawa in previous games, the bulk of Yakuza 4 is set in Kamurocho, which is expanded in Yakuza 4 with underground and connected rooftop areas.
Yakuza 5 Remastered
After Yakuza 4 featured four playable characters, Yakuza 5 continued the trend by featuring five. Tanimura is dropped in favor of new character Tatsuo Shinada and is joined by recurring NPC Haruka Sawamura becoming a playable character for the first time. Alongside this, it had five cities the player can visit across Japan. The series revisits the events of Yakuza 2, centering around renewed tensions between the Tojo Clan and Omi Alliance.
Yakuza 0 was the final PlayStation 3 game in the Yakuza series. Or at least, it was in Japan. The game was only released on PlayStation 4 in other regions.
The game takes players back to the 1980s to introduce fans to a younger version of Kiryu as he beats up and pals around with familiar characters from the franchise. It’s the most critically successful game in the franchise and helped ignite interest in the series in western markets after largely being a cult hit prior.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
The Yakuza games finally made the proper jump to PlayStation 4 with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. After juggling multiple playable characters, Yakuza 6 puts the spotlight firmly back on Kiryu, who has found himself back in prison. A fire in Kamurocho results in several major characters from previous games being arrested, opening the door for a number of villains from the past to fill the void left in their absence.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a hard reboot on the Yakuza series in many ways. It moves away from the beat-em-up gameplay the series had traditionally used and drops Kiryu as its main character in favor of Ichiban Kasuga. Despite some frustration from longtime fans, the complete overhaul of the Yakuza series was met with significant critical and commercial success.
Yakuza 8 has not been released yet, but a leak that showed developers working on new models of existing characters confirmed that a sequel is in the works. The game will feature Ichiban Kasuga and other characters from Yakuza: Like a Dragon. No other details are yet known about the game and it’s unclear when it will come out.
Do I have to play the Yakuza games in order?
Though it’s a daunting task, fans should look to play the Yakuza games in order if they care about following the entire story.
The Yakuza series features yakuza groups that have tall hierarchies. A singular leader is flanked by lieutenants who have families and officers of their own. New characters are introduced in each game, and without context for where they come from and who they work for, things can become confusing quickly.
For those who don’t want to sink dozens of hours into each game, fan-made movie edits can cover the major plot points in a much shorter time. Those who don’t care about the story and just want a solid beat ‘em up can jump into Yakuza 0 or Yakuza 6 without issue.