The Yakuza series (Like a Dragon in Japan and in the west now too due to a name change) has been going for nearly twenty years, starting life on the PlayStation 2. Including remakes, there are ten games in the core Yakuza series with more on the way — as well as a number of spin-offs. But with so many Yakuza games around, where do you start? What is the best order to play the Yakuza series? Here’s the answer.
Starting with Yakuza 0, here’s the best order to play the Yakuza series.
There are several spin-offs, including Like a Dragon: Ishin!, Judgement, Lost Judgement, and the non-canon Yakuza: Dead Souls which sees protagonist Kazuma Kiryu (and friends) take on zombies. No, really.
But we’re going to concentrate on the main series. Here’s the order to play them in, as well as a little information about each game. All these titles are available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC and, except for Yakuza: Like a Dragon, they all feature real-time beat-’em-up combat.
Yakuza 0: This game came out ten years after the original Yakuza but it features a younger Kazuma Kiryu, still a member of the Japanese yakuza. It also has you play as Kiryu’s rival and sometimes ally Goro Majima and we see how he became the maniac fans know and love.
Yakuza Kiwami: This is a 2016 remake of the original Yakuza, featuring gangster Kazuma Kiryu. Aside from being a lot prettier than the 2005 release, it features enough extra material to be a new experience.
Yakuza Kiwami 2: This is a remake of Yakuza 2. You mostly play as Kiryu but there’s an unlockable side chapter where you play as Majima. It also ties up a plot thread or two from Yakuza 0.
Yakuza 3 Remastered: As the name suggests, this is a remaster — not a remake — of Yakuza 3. Kiryu is again the sole protagonist, though as the game starts he’s no longer (officially) in the yakuza.
Yakuza 4 Remastered: Aside from Kiryu, this game introduces three new playable protagonists, Shun Akiyama (owner of Sky Finance), Taiga Saejima (an ex-yakuza who’s escaped from prison), and police officer Masayoshi Tanimura.
Yakuza 5 Remastered: This remaster features a grand total of five protagonists, all with their own mysteries to solve. There’s Kazuma Kiryu, Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, writer Tatsuo Shinada (a new character for this game) and Haruka Sawamura who is… well, we won’t spoil it for you.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life: This game goes back to having Kiryu as its sole protagonist, though he does end up in charge of a baby which makes for some entertaining encounters. And no, you can’t use the baby as a weapon — we absolutely know that was what you were thinking.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: This entry introduces an all new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, who takes the fall for a murder and gets out of prison to find his yakuza clan has disappeared. There are still plenty of side quests to take on, but combat is now turn-based, due in part to Ichiban’s JRPG obsession.
Those are all the currently available mainline Yakuza games. Judgment and Lost Judgment, which take place in the Yakuza universe, are also worth picking up, casting you as a lawyer turned private detective. Their stories don’t cross over the mainling games, so they can sit outside the play order, although they do sit nicely between Yakuza 6 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Like a Dragon: Ishin! is likewise a spin-off, and, as a distant prequel, does not sit in the series’ core narrative. As such, feel free to play it whenever you want.
You don’t have to play the original PS2 Yakuza and Yakuza 2, not least because they’re going for silly prices. But it is worth at least dabbling in the western release of Yakuza 1 because it has an English voice over with Mark Hamill as Goro Majima. Yakuza 2-6, on the other hand, all have Japanese voice overs with subtitles.
And that’s the best order to play the Yakuza series.