What does anything concerning Mafia in pop culture have in common? A good story. From literature to cinema to video games. The Godfather, Once Upon in America, Goodfellas, etc. are considered masterpieces of cinema. Mobster-themed video games are no exception. The Mafia series not only offered a fresh take on open-world games but also told gripping crime dramas with relatable and well-written characters. So did Yakuza games.

Japan as a setting in video games is rare and if the developers choose to travel to the country of the rising sun, it usually was feudal Japan. Until…

Yakuza games – risk that paid off

When the first Yakuza game was pitched to Sega, no one believed in its success. At the time Sega was focusing on more kid-friendly titles such as their flagship icon – Sonic. Meanwhile, Yakuza was tackling mature themes and audiences. However, the series producer and director Toshihiro Nagoshi fought against all odds and even put his career at the company on the line claiming to quit Sega and never come back to the company if the game wasn’t a success.

But should you play the Yakuza games? The short answer is – ABSOLUTELY! Here’s why:

A hero we all needed

Looking at Yakuza games without any prior knowledge, the series might look like another open-world crime action game, yet, the Yakuza games differ in their approach to violence.

Watchdogs 2 was criticized because its protagonist was a peaceful hero when it came to the story and his personality, yet as a player, you could kill everyone and blow everything in sight without any restrictions. This resulted in a paradox and broke the immersion.

Kiryu is the protagonist of the Yakuza games

The Yakuza games, on the other hand, restrict players from attacking civilians. Don’t get it wrong, Yakuza games have plenty of over-the-top violence and combat encounters, but its protagonist Kiryu will never attack civilians and go against his morals splitting his pre-determined personality. Kiryu is one of the greatest video game protagonists and in some cases could even be considered a role model.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better

Yakuza games has recreated the real districts of Kabukicho and Dotonbori.

The Yakuza games allow players to be whatever they want to be by offering a ton of side activities. The Kamurocho district is not a huge open world, but it is dense and instead of feeling empty and lifeless, it booms with activities. A small space contains a bunch of side quests, side activities, and mini-games and players can choose what kind of person they want their Kiryu to be. Does he love karaoke? Or maybe he’s a regular client of hostess bars. There are plenty of ridiculous activities that Japan is famous for. You can also skip the… activities and play as a kick-ass tough guy and only engage in bowling or batting cages.

A tasty cocktail

This is where Yakuza games shine: they combine the nitty-gritty underworld conspiracy plans and revenge plots of hard-boiled gangsters with outlandish side stories and activities that Japan is famous for. They will make you laugh out loud with how ridiculous a tough guy yakuza can look by fishing a toy from a vending machine, singing a love song in a karaoke bar, or like a boomer typing a message on a computer in a dating cafe. 

Managing a hostess club is only one of the activities in Yakuza games

The Yakuza games are not only a different kind of open-world game and take on the genre. It also is a glimpse into the world of yakuza and weird and hilarious Japanese culture.

Where to start with the Yakuza games?

The Yakuza games took a long time to reach Western audiences and when they did, they were only available on PlayStation. However, the interest and a newfound fanbase have resulted in two Yakuza games being remastered and others rereleased on the latest consoles and PC.

Yakuza games have many outlandish characters

Yakuza 0 is a great starting point for beginners as it is a prequel to everything that came after. You can also start from Yakuza Kiwami, a remastered first Yakuza game, and play the prequel after you’ve completed all of the other games. Follow with Yakuza Kiwami 2 as it was completely remade in the image of Yakuza 6 and save a bunch of money by getting Yakuza Remastered Collection where you’ll find Yakuza 3, 4, and 5.

Get all Yakuza games cheaper!