The wild and wonderful Yakuza series can be difficult to get started with. Here's the first game you should play.
There's no better time than the present to get into the Yakuza series, especially since new English releases of the game are popping up here and there quicker than you can keep up. The most recent Western Yakuza release is Yakuza: Like A Dragon, which is actually the seventh entry in the main series, but it's a completely different, standalone tale all its own. That statement alone might have new players extremely confused about where exactly the game fits in, who it's for, and what it has to do with the main saga.
The answer to that question can be very complicated. The Yakuza series is one of the most exciting, heartfelt, and unique set of stories you'll see in the world of gaming, but figuring out where to start isn't always easy. That's because the action-adventure open-world titles are numerous, with seven main numbered entries and several spin-offs. But just like with the legendary RPG series Final Fantasy, there is no "set" starting point, as many of the games can be enjoyed with little to no knowledge of the games that came before. Still, there's plenty to reward players with if they go in knowing the series lore.
If you're looking to enter the Yakuza series now that the Yakuza Remastered Collection is available across multiple platforms, here's what you need to know about getting to know Kazuma Kiryu and the rest of the gang.
What Yakuza Game Should You Play First?
There are two different games many might proclaim are the "best" to get started with when it comes to Yakuza: Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. Yakuza Kiwami is a "complete" and updated version of the original title that's been upgraded with better visuals and a new engine. Yakuza 0 is a prequel story. While some might suggest playing Yakuza 0 first, it's better experienced as a prequel much the same way you'd watch movies after you see the "original" saga.
Yakuza Kiwami, as previously stated, is a complete remake of the original Yakuza that started it all back on the PlayStation 2 in 2005. Following the events that unfolded in the fantastic Yakuza 0, it's the first proper tale beyond Yakuza 0's prequel story of Kazuma Kiryu, one of the coolest and most exciting open-world adventures you’ll ever have the good fortune of playing.
Kiryu has just been released from prison after being framed for a certain event that took place in Yakuza 0, without spoiling too much for potential players. Upon getting out, Kiryu attempts to go back to life outside of prison, and it truly feels like the world is your oyster, especially if you started your playthrough with Yakuza 0 and are continuing on with Yakuza Kiwami.
Kiwami is rife with the sights and sounds of Kamurocho in Japan, with neon lights everywhere you look, businessmen walking the streets all hours of the day, lovers spending time together holding hands, students hanging out on street corners, and the hustle and bustle of the city permeating every inch of the city. It feels so true to life that you can’t help but want to visit, getting lost in the crime story that’s really taking place since you feel more like a tourist than a member of the yakuza.
The story unfolds as you make your way around the city, sometimes stopping to complete strangely poignant quests for students or break up fights that end in Kiryu mopping the floor with ne’er-do-wells who should never have messed with him. There’s a satisfying combination of weird and wonderful missions to complete as you’re gently nudged along the core story path which ends up in you stumbling across sometimes hilarious and oftentimes heartfelt objectives to complete.
But don’t be fooled by the occasional touching anecdote. Most of your time in Yakuza Kiwami is indeed comprised of fighting enemies. Kiryu has several fighting styles that he can use to take out the baddies, four to be exact, which you can level up as you make your way through the game. One style must be levelled up by facing off against the unstable and always hilarious Goro Majima, who will pop up at random throughout the game to challenge you. The Majima Everywhere system finds Majima dressed up as a police officer, dancer, and even a zombie at times, always ready to crack skulls.
There’s a swath of mini-games and various other tasks to complete while roaming the streets of Kamurocho, so if you’re not always interested in fighting you can head to an arcade, sing songs at a karaoke bar, and even play with miniature RC cars until you’re an out-and-out champion. The number of things you can do in-game is mind-boggling, but you’ll appreciate how much there is to tackle.
Yakuza Kiwami is a mixture of Japanese crime drama, dating sim, open-world title, and simulator. It deftly weaves all of these genres together to tell an engaging story that’ll grip you from the onset and make sure you don’t put the controller down until it’s shown you everything it has to offer. It’s an excellent beginning to the series, and a game that will likely ignite a lifelong love for the irreverent and always entertaining Yakuza series.
After you've finished Yakuza Kiwami, it's time to move on to Yakuza 0, and then continue playing them in cardinal order. You'll want to finish your "tour" with the most recent game, Yakuza: Like A Dragon. After that, you're ready and up to date to try whatever comes next. Just don't blame us if you get too attached to all of the characters.
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Images via Sega