Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is set to make its debut on PC, Playstation and Xbox consoles and at day one on Game Pass on the November 9, 2023 (here the first part of November 2023 games coming to Game Pass) and to celebrate its release, we decided to compile the list of the best games in the saga Yakuza.
The series, conceived by Toshihiro Nagoshi, landed on the Japanese market back in 2005 with the first episode, Like a Dragon, while in Europe the game was introduced as Yakuza. In eighteen years, so many episodes have been published, including main chapters and spin-offs. This number is set to increase again thanks to the imminent arrival of the aforementioned Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth scheduled for 2024.
Yakuza 5 is not the best game in the saga but the biggest one of all, content-wise: five characters-each with unique abilities-and as many districts to explore not counting an almost infinite amount of mini-games.
The fifth installment of the saga arrived in Japan in 2012 as a Playstation 3 exclusive while in Europe it made its debut in 2015. If you are interested in recovering the title, you can find its remastered version, Yakuza 5 HD Remastered, available in the Playstation and Xbox stores.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
We have already covered Yakuza: Like a Dragon on these pages, when we compiled our list of the Best JRPGs available on Xbox Game Pass: we are talking about a unicum in the games of the saga, typically action, since it is, in fact, a JRPG that prefers the turn-based combat typical of Japanese RPGs.
In Yakuza: Like a Dragon therefore, you have to build your party by choosing four of eight selectable characters, each with their own distinctive moveset, and make your way through the dangerous streets of Yokohama (a location unseen in the series), carrying out a narrative of excellent quality.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the remake of Yakuza 2 – the second installment in the series released in 2006 – and is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Basically, we are looking at the same gameplay and storytelling as the original title (we impersonate Kazuma Kiryu, the protagonist of the saga), enriched, however, from the point of view of content and mechanics, here improved and refined.
Another important new feature, in addition to the use of the Dragon Engine graphics engine, is the possibility of also stepping into the shoes of Goro Majima, Yakuza’s anti-hero, in an additional story chapter titled “The Truth of Goro Majima“.
We do not want to intend this article as an actual ranking (and in fact we still hold one last title before closing) but if it were, we would most likely put Yakuza 0 in first place. We are talking about the prequel to the entire saga, so if you are ever interested in starting the series, you cannot help but start with this name.
In Yakuza 0 we will play the role of both Kazuma Kiryu in his early days as an official member of the Japanese criminal organization and the aforementioned Goro Majima, whose narrative background we will also delve into. Both characters can then select three different fighting styles, which will become four once the first run is over.
Yakuza Kiwami is the 2016 remake of the historic first episode that, as explained at the beginning of the article, debuted in Japan in 2005. This SEGA production, as you can imagine, traces the story of Kazuma Kiryu as he grapples with the infighting of the Japanese mafia.
In addition to the graphical improvements, Yakuza Kiwami aims to further enrich the narrative of the original video game and create a bridge with the prequel Yakuza 0. To achieve this goal, this remake adds as much as thirty minutes of never-before-seen footage and new side quests.
Honorable Mention: Like a Dragon: Ishin!
As happened with the best Super Mario games on Nintendo Switch, we close this review with an honorable mention, Like a Dragon: Ishin!, a spin-off of the Yakuza saga developed by SEGA and released on February21, 2023. We are talking about a true remake of a work, Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin!, released only in Japan in February 2014 on both Playstation 3 and Playstation 4.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is an action set in the late Edo period (1853 – 1867) and features Sakamoto Ryōma, a real-life samurai and leader of the movement intent on overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate during the Bakumatsu period in Japan (if interested in learning more about the historical figure, I refer you to his Wikipedia page).