Where to Start
The Yakuza series has always been something of a cult hit in the West, but the last couple years have seen it rapidly accrue many more fans. It’s a long-running series though, and when you just look at all the different games it can be a bit daunting knowing how and where to get started. No doubt you’ve heard people talk about how strange and interesting these games can be, so we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know on the series and how to get into it, especially if you’re interested in picking up Yakuza 6: The Song of Life when it releases in April.
There’re a few different options for getting into the series at this point, although one is definitely the best way. Yakuza Zero released in January 2017 on PS4, and it functions as a prequel to the entire series. Set in 1980s Japan, you get to see some of the history of series’ protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, as well as a major recurring character named Goro Majima. Zero requires absolutely no knowledge of the series to play or understand, and it weaves a dramatic tale of organized crime and conspiracies. As Yakuza Zero is also one of the most recent entries in the series, it also stands above the others gameplay-wise with one of the tightest combat systems and tons of mini-games and side activities.
Zero is also designed to lead directly into Yakuza Kiwami, the full remake of the original PS2 game on PS4. Kiwami applies a fresh coat of paint onto the original, while adapting the combat from Zero and adding in a bunch of new features. Realistically, you could actually start with Kiwami just to see where the series started, and you’d be just fine. There are steps taken to improve the story, however, that will be far more meaningful if you’ve played through Yakuza Zero.
Considering Zero is a 70-hour game though, you may not have the time to see it through if you’re just wanting to play Yakuza 6. While my recommendation would be to at least start with Zero and complete it, having played the first hour or so of Yakuza 6, I can say it at least does a decent job of bringing you up to speed. The story is designed in a way to introduce players to the key event that leads to 6, while also providing a brief background on important characters. It won’t mean nearly as much to you if you haven’t played through other Yakuza games, but you won’t find yourself completely lost.