One of the most exciting things about traveling the world is getting the chance to experience new cultures. The world is filled with interesting people, places, and cultural differences to explore!
For me, Japan is the number one country on my list of places to visit. The culture of Japan seems so incredible and fascinating, at least from the bits I’ve experienced through pop culture.
Yes, I admit, most of my exposure to and perception of Japanese culture comes from video games and movies (I’m looking at you, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift).
What are the best video games set in Japan? The ones that make me want to visit, and will probably make you want to visit if you were to play them?
Well, I’ll tell you! Check out the following video games to experience a taste of what Japan is like.
1. Persona 5
When it comes to getting a taste of Japanese culture, there’s no better series of games than the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series.
Specifically, you should play Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5, as they hold up pretty well in terms of gameplay, and they offer a more modern look at life in Japan. (If you can only play one, make it Persona 5!)
The series has a bit of a formula that it follows: A group of high school students are given the power to enter an alternate world to fight monsters, all in turn-based RPG fashion.
But in between all of that, you live out the day-to-day life of a Japanese high school student, and it’s this aspect of the series that will have you itching to visit (and the reason why the series has so many fans).
2. Yakuza 0
Whereas the Persona series follows the life of a Japanese high school student, the Yakuza series goes in the opposite direction and follows the life of a Japanese gangster: Kazuma Kiryu, a (fictional) Yakuza member who’s caught up in crime, conspiracy, and politics.
Don’t expect a gritty tone, though. Unlike most crime games (e.g. Grand Theft Auto), the Yakuza games are far more lighthearted.
As a result, the series doesn’t paint a completely realistic picture of Japanese culture—but it feels authentic enough that it’ll make you want to go to Japan, if just to see how much Yakuza gets right. Plus, it’s a fun series!
Start with Yakuza 0, which came out as a prequel to the main series and ended up being an awesome entry point for new players.
Then Yakuza and Yakuza 2 (but make sure you play the Kawami remakes for PS4). Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4, and Yakuza 5 are available on PS3 whiile Yakuza 6 is available on PS4.
If you prefer your video games to come with that retro feel, Shenmue might be the perfect series for dipping your toe into the world of Japanese culture.
Shenmue follows the story of Ryo Hazuki as he seeks revenge in Yokosuka during the 1980s.
While the gameplay is rudimentary compared to modern games, the narrative holds up pretty well—plus it’s interesting to get a feel for what “open world” games were like back before open-world games blew up.
Like most video games, it takes some liberties with the setting, but it’ll still give you a feel for Japan through the eyes of the game’s creator, Yu Suzuki
Even for as old as the game is, it really does make you feel like you’re living in its world, which is exactly what we’re looking for when it comes to games set in Japan.
Note that while Shenmue takes place in Japan, Shenmue 2 shifts the story to Hong Kong.
4. The World Ends With You
The World Ends With You is a crazy RPG set in a modern version of the Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo, a location you’ll most definitely want to visit should you ever venture into Japan proper.
In the game, the player experiences much of the fictionalized version of Shibuya through the Underground (UG). However, while you’re battling for survival in the UG, the Realground (RG) is happening all around you, letting you see the world of Japan.
If you’re into RPGs and you want something that really steps outside of the box, this game is perfect for you. It’s fun, and it really does give an interesting look at what Japan is like, though it’s slightly less realistic than the other games on the list.
Another Way to Taste Japan
Traveling to Japan may not be possible for you, at least for quite some time—but until then, you can always load up these games and visit in virtual fashion.
There’s also another way to take in Japanese culture without actually being able to go there…
TokyoTreat lets you have a genuine taste of Japan by sending you a box of unique Japanese snacks, drinks, and candies every month.
Check out this month’s TokyoTreat box!