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20 Japan-Exclusive Games That Need to Come to the West ASAP Because I Don’t Know Japanese

japan games

20 Japan-Exclusive Games That Need to Come to the West ASAP Because I Don’t Know Japanese


Fans of the Metal Gear franchise will know Policenauts as one of the first games from writer and director Hideo Kojima. Released in Japan in 1994, Policenauts is a hard sci-fi story following an ex-astronaut who’s rescued from cryosleep and becomes a detective in LA who is investigating the murder of his ex-wife. Interested? You should be. 

Kojima unfortunately cancelled the English translation, citing technical problems. However, luckily for us, the game has been localized by the Policenauts Translation Project, so it can be played in English. The game does look incredible, and it’s a crime that one of Kojima’s greatest masterpieces has yet to be officially released in the West. 

Valkyria Chronicles 3

Valkyria Chronicles was well-received upon its 2008 release in the West. Valkyria Chronicles 2 was moved to the PlayStation Portable in 2010. Valkyria Chronicles 4 was also well-loved in 2018. What about Valkyria Chronicles 3 , I hear you ask? Well, for some reason, it was never given a Western release. 

This is a shame, because it sounds awesome. Released for the PSP like its predecessor, the series’ third installment follows a black ops squad of criminals called “The Nameless” in a storyline that runs parallel to that of the first game. Which sounds awesome. Due to the series’ low sales in the West at the time, the third game was never localized.

Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

In a situation similar to Valkyria Chronicles, the Fatal Frame franchise has five main series games, but for some reason, the fourth title, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, has never been brought to the West. The game was the highest-selling Fatal Frame entry when it released in 2008, which likely has it’s unique Wii-mote gameplay to thank.

Fatal Frame 4 was the only game in the series to be released for the Wii, utilizing the motion controls and Wii-mote speakers to create a very intense horror experience. We will likely never get the Camera Obscura in our Wii-motes. 

Bahamut Lagoon

Developed by Square, Bahamut Lagoon was, at one point, Final Fantasy Tactics. Developed in Japan largely by Final Fantasy team, Bahamut Lagoon was released in 1996, and officially has nothing to do with the Final Fantasy franchise. 

The game featured the iconic turn-based RPG gameplay from the Final Fantasy franchise, but also features a giant dragon as a unit you actually have very little control over, shaking up the gameplay and the story in a really interesting way. 

This SNES gem was originally going to have a Western release, but as it was originally released at the end of the console’s life cycle, the translation was scrapped so Square could focus on development for the new PlayStation. And remember: it’s definitely not a Final Fantasy game. Wink wink.

Dragon Quest X

Dragon Quest X is a unique case. For starters, it’s a MMORPG in a series that has typically been story-driven RPGs, which may explain the lack of an English translation; MMO means more translation and servers and such.

The game (which was released in 2012) has been receiving sizeable expansions throughout its whole life cycle, even as recently as 2019. It’s on PS4, Switch, Wii U, PC, and 3DS, so we could all be playing it right now if it were localized.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner and Digital Devil Story I & II

The Shin Megami Tensei series is nowhere near as popular as Dragon Quest, but it’s popularity both in Japan and the West is growing steadily, due in part to the success of the spin-off series Persona. 

A lot of the Shin Megami Tensei games have been brought to the West, but there are a few key ones that have not. The Digital Devil Story games, released in 1987 and 1990 respectively, are the first two games in the series. They were never localized due to Nintendo’s policy of censoring religious references, though a fan translation does exist.  

The Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner sub-series contains four games, but the original game from 1995 has yet to reach the West, though its sequels and two prequels have.

The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki

Better known as the Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel series, The Legend of Heroes franchise has been around since 1989, but there are two games released only in Japan them. 

Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki compose the Crossbell duology, released in 2011 and 2014 respectively, that takes place three months after the finale of the Trails in the Sky trilogy.

If you like the other two series, you’ll probably like the middle series. Both games are reportedly receiving high-def remasters for the PS4 sometime in 2020, so it isn’t out of the question that we will see these games translated some time soon. 

Yakuza Ishin

Imagine this: A Yakuza game, set in 1850s-60s Japan, with a mini farming simulator and a battle dungeon for grinding. This game places many of our beloved Yakuza characters, i.e. Kiryu and Majima, in roles as actual historical figures. The game is essentially the same as a Yakuza game, with the setting as the primary difference.

It sounds amazing! It was released for the PS4 in 2014, however, and the unfortunate reality was that the Yakuza games did not perform well in the West at the time. So will we ever see a translation? Well, the Yakuza games have exploded in popularity in recent years with plenty or remasters, so it may be possible. 

City Shrouded in Shadow

Giant robot vs. monster battles in big cities are awesome, both to play and watch. What if you were a simple civilian in that city, though? That’s what one of the more bizarrely awesome entries on this list, City Shrouded In Shadow, is all about.

In the game, you play as a character whose objective is to escape a city besieged by giant monster, robot, kaiju, hero battles. The giants fighting around you are all from recognizable franchises as well, featuring appearances from Godzilla, Ultraman, Evangelion Unit-01, and Gamera. Yes, it sounds awesome, and no, it’s not available in the West.

Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, Genealogy of the Holy War, Thracia 776, and The Binding Blade

There are a few Fire Emblem games out there; you might recognize their characters from all of their Smash Bros. representation. There are 14 games in all, and joking aside, Fire Emblem’s representation in Smash really did help push the franchise outside of Japan, but many of the pre-Smash Fire Emblem games have yet to receive a Western release.

Mystery of the Emblem was a remake of the first game paired with a new, original sequel to it released for the Super Famicom in 1994. Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 are two games set with the same storyline, released for the Super Famicom in 1996 and 1999 respectively. The Binding Blade (the game that Roy, yes, the Roy from Smash, first appeared in) was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. 

Sakura Wars 1 – 4

Sakura Wars is a tactical role-playing game/dating sim/visual novel, which is a lot of different things. Each game follows Ichiro Ogami, the leader of the Flower Division, which is a secret group of women with magical abilities who fight demons in steam-powered armor. You’ve gotta play it to believe it.  

The fifth game in the series, Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love did release internationally, and the sixth entry will release internationally in Spring 2020, so the franchise is still relevant worldwide. Couple that with the success of the franchise, and people will soon be clamoring to play the games that started it all.

Tales of Innocence, Rebirth, & Destiny 2

Tales of Destiny 2 (not Tales of Eternia, which is also called Tales of Destiny 2), is a direct sequel to the game Tales of Destiny (obviously), which was localized. Currently, Western audiences are unable to continue the story of Tales of Destiny.

Tales of Rebirth, released for the PS2 in 2004, featured the linear motion battle system the games are known for, but shakes up the formula by adding character placement on three different planes of battle. Tales of Innocence features a story about people who suddenly gain mysterious powers, and are feared and ostracized for it. Someday, hopefully, the West will have all Tales games.

The Idolmaster Series

The Idolmaster series is the franchise with the most games that you probably have never heard of. There are 22 games in total, including 12 games on console. This series puts the player in control of a producer at a music production company that is in charge of helping the female idols rise to fame. 

The games are consistently well received and sell well, spawning multiple successful soundtracks, anime, and films. The newest installment, The Idolmaster: Starlit Season, is set to release in 2020. Now is the time to publish an international release! 

The Dai Gyakuten Saiban Games

Ace Attorney. Sherlock Holmes. The mashup we always needed. This Ace Attorney spin-off series takes place in the late 19th Century, across both Japan and England, with the aim being to solve the murder of one Dr. John Watson.

The game combines elements of previous Ace Attorney titles. The 3D graphical style of Dual Destinies are utilized, the multiple witness cross-examinations of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright make an appearance, the jury system from the fourth case of Apollo Justice is even fleshed out more. It also adds a whole new mechanic, Joint Reasoning, in which you must point out contradictions in Sherlock’s deductions.

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse + Schwarzesmarken

Muv-Luv is, according to the Wiki, “a light-hearted romantic comedy, but changes into an alternate timeline coming-of-age story, and finally evolves into an alien invasion war epic.” Awesome. First released in Japan on PC in 2006, the deceptively simple visual novel dating sim turns very serious in the onset of an alien invasion.

Three games in the series have been localized off of the back of a vastly-overfunded Kickstarter campaign. That said, the series is currently incomplete in the West, and a new game is currently on the way. Now is the time to fill the gaps, and localize games like Muv Luv Alternative Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken. 

LoveR Kiss

Nothing like a tried-and-true love simulator. In the creator’s own words, LoveR “is entirely about true and pure love.” The game, released for PS4 in 2019, focused on photography, allowing the player to use the gyro motion and microphone to take the best photos and fall in love with one of six girls. 

LoveR Kiss, on the other hand, is an improved version of the first game, coming to both PlayStation and Switch in Japan. Does the Switch port improve our chances at seeing this game grace the West? We hope so. 

Tokimeki Memorial series

Now for an iconic dating sim, the Tokimeki Memorial series is a dating sim noted for its non-linear storytelling and the ‘bomb’ feature in which, if you neglect a girl, there will be gossip that lowers your popularity and performance. 

The series consists of six main games and many, many spin-offs, and is very popular in Japan. There has yet to be an official Western release, but there are multiple fan translations out there for those of you who want love under the tree of legend.

Front Mission’s missing games

Square Enix’s tactical role-playing series, Front Mission, takes place in the 21st and 22nd centuries, following war and turmoil between supranational unions, and also there is mech combat, so that’s pretty cool. 

To date, only five Front Mission games have been localized, and only two were in the main series. The West is still missing the first two games as well as the fifth, and a handful of spin-offs. We can’t leave the story untold!

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Adventure Team 

There was one single Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game that was not released outside of Japan; Adventure Team is a series of three games (released at the same time) for the Wii in 2009. The three games changed your starting area, your companion Pokemon, legendaries, and the 15 unique dungeons in the game.

Unlike the other Mystery Dungeon games, you actually play as a real Pokemon, instead of a person turned into a ‘mon. This game introduced team attacks to the series, and utilized new tactics, like constructing a “Pokemon tower” for a strategic advantage and evolution in dungeons.

Mother 3

You knew it was coming! How can you not want Mother 3 at this point? Earthbound (being an objectively incredible game) was the last Mother game the West got to play, and that is a damn shame. Mother 3, the home game of Lucas from Smash, is an inventive, creative, gorgeous game with a deep and enthralling story about family. 

I can sing this game’s praises until the end of days, and I will be permanently unsatisfied until the game is officially released outside of Japan. 

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