The Yakuza series, aka the making of the ultimate dad

With the upcoming release of the remake Yakuza Kiwami, now is a good time to start a thread about the series as a whole

(Also known as Ryū ga Gotoku in Japan, or Like a Dragon)

Created by Toshihiro Nagoshi, of Daytona USA and Super Monkey Ball fame, it depicts the life of Kazuma Kiryu, a former gangster who doesn’t fit in the treacherous environment of today. The gist of his adventures are him trying to help holding together the clan that he once belonged from outside and inside attacks while finding inner peace to be able to live a new life. Kiryu is always seen as the dependable man of honor who strongly believes in the good of human nature even when he lost so much things. The cruel world of Yakuza is at the same time met with the absolute cheesiness of chivalrous gangsters atoning for their crimes.

Yakuza is an iterative series, you won’t see much change between episodes, but it constantly improves itself by adding more and more content on top at every entry. It’s a serial in which you follow Kiryu roaming the streets of Kamurucho, interacting with characters that he, and the player, have known for pretty much a decade.

This is what made Yakuza stick for so long for the Japanese audience. From 1 to 6, the games are following pretty much the same timeframe as our own, meaning that 11 years have passed since Yakuza 1 (set in 2005). Every part of its universe becomes a rewarding experience for the player. You see characters grow all throughout the series, some even going from mere kids to adults. They’re all living in the same space, meaning even random NPCs are not forgotten, and can take a stronger role in the next entry.

So, what to look for in this series ?

  • A solid base always further refined
  • An expansive story
  • A soundtrack helmed by Hidenori Shoji who is one of the finest composers of Sega
  • An exhilarating battle system with a progression system akin to a regular Japanese RPG
  • Lots of pocket tissues, don’t accept them !

Here’s an overview of all the Yakuza games :

Main series :

  • Yakuza 1 to 6
  • Yakuza 0 being a late prequel

Spin-offs :

  • Yakuza Ishin and Kenzan, set in period Japan but don’t follow each other
  • Yakuza Black Panther 1&2, a spin-off series on the PSP about a drop-out delinquent living a harsh life
  • Yakuza Dead Souls, an unfortunate non-canon game made during the Zombie boom

Upcoming games

Now is the best time to get into the Yakuza series as Yakuza 0 was already released to the west and acted as a good entry point. Here’s the two next game to be released :

Yakuza Kiwami


Kiwami is a faithful remake of Yakuza 1, and I really mean it. You could make a comparison video and the cutscenes would perfectly line up shot for shot. Kiwami was made with the idea that all the knowledge and expertise would serve to show that they are better at making a Yakuza game today that they were before and they clearly succeeded.

Kiwami also manages to give another spotlight to what can be considered still the strongest storyline of the franchise. The revenge story of a man who lost everything and more and yet still manages to keep on living pinched the heart of first-time players, and will probably cause a heartbreak for the players who started with 0.

Yet, be warned, as it is pretty much the game from 2005, it is a step backwards compared to the refinement seen in the series. There will be much less things to do compared to Yakuza 0, but it still remains a must-have in order to relive the original events that are very much worth experiencing. The game is also merely 30 dollars at launch.

It still remains the perfect starting point, even more than Yakuza 0.

Yakuza 6 : The Song of Life


Yakuza 6 is the culmination of Kiryu’s adventure. It is the final chapter. Don’t ask me, I know nothing and I don’t want to know anything until I get my hands on the game. All I know is that Kiryu Kazuma perfected the dad look, he’s Dad 6 Dad Returns. Just look at him :

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Recently announced, Yakuza 2 will get a full remake treatment with the same new engine as Yakuza 6. This entry is very independant from others but has a lot of incredible ideas that makes one of the strongest games of the franchise. This game is also known for incorporating the absolute best fights in the series, and pivoting to give more exposure to the most-liked characters like Majima and Haruka. There are two towns to explore, friendly NPCs can help you in fights, and a lot of very good minigames like the bar management. A solid entry that is going to be a must-play for Yakuza fans.

Yakuza 6 will sign the end of a series that has been cruelly overlooked to (maybe) be reborn anew. If you want to jump in before the final clap resonates, now is the best time to do so. If you have a PS3, you can still play most of the Yakuza games, the only issue is going to be Yakuza 2 that is still only a PS2 game and probably will not receive the same remake treatment as Yakuza 1.

Still, they’re all fun games to play, and hope everyone gives it a fair shot, it’s very much worth your time. Also let’s not forget the great music (have I mentioned it already ?)


I’m very excited to dig into Yakuza Kiwami when I have time. I didn’t realise how interesting this series could be until watching Yakuza 0 in action, and I definitely want to make time for both. Given that I’ve seen a little Yakuza 0 now, I might skip to Kiwami to have a fresh experience (unless 0 will be a good first entry).

When that’ll be might be a little questionable for me (moving is a pain), but I do want to make time for this series.

I so desperately want to get into this series but there are so many other things I’m trying to get into at the same time that I feel like it’s gonna be ages before I manage it and I’m distressed about it

Yakima Zero was one of the best things I’ve played in years, so I’m well up for grabbing another one at some point. Need to look into some of that limited edition stuff.

Love Yakuza and I’m glad it’s finally getting the hype it deserves. Playing Kiwami now and the localization is just chef’s kiss.

That said, holy shit the way this series treats women is SO BAD. Women are always either kidnapped, being harassed, unable to protect themselves, or seducing you with their feminine charms, gag me. And that doesn’t even get into the gross crossdressing hilarious antics!^TM

Great series, and it’s way worse in Kiwami than 0, but…damn.

That said, the Majima Everywhere system is simply perfection.


Obligatory, Jake Adelstein (of Tokyo Vice) gets some actual Yakuza to review a Yakuza game:

So utterly quotable:
K: …You used to work for them right.
A: I never worked for the CIA. Well, not directly.
M: The Mossad. You’re Jewish.
K: He’ll never admit it.
A: I’ll admit it. I’m Jewish.

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One thing that’s awesome about these games is that they understand how convoluted the story is. So each one has an extensive archive of clips/text blurbs and most have a relationship chart that updates as you get further in the game too about the previous games so you don’t have to play every single one in order to get it.

The down side is that each new installment is superior to the last from a quality of life standpoint, so it can be really hard to go back after playing newer ones depending on your tolerance for what could be considered outdated stuff in games.

If you read Japanese, an HD version of Yakuza 2 was released on the PS3 and Wii U but that’s its only appearance after the PS2. :frowning: It’s a shame since they got Hase Seishu (a popular Yakuza crime novelist) to pen the story for it, so it has the most expansive plot and a lot of stuff in it subtly sets the stage for where the rest of the series goes. I love the music in these games but you can make a case for Yakuza 2 having the best soundtrack too. :smiley:

Dead Souls is like, almost good? It served its purpose in that it was the team’s test run for running around and shooting stuff for them to develop ideas for Binary Domain. It’s a pretty fun game honestly, like an Onechanbara title but with a bigger budget and way better music. I liked the idea of how aiming works in it. When you first hold down the aim button you instantly lock on to an enemy’s head, and then the aim drifts to their center of mass. So it really emphasizes having a sense of rhythm, and it’s a shame that they did a horrible job of explaining this in the game’s demo since it made everyone think the aiming controls were broken.

After watching Giant Bomb play through Yakuza 0 I kind of regret not getting it myself, but it has given me a renewed interest in jumping into the series since I first watched Yakuza 3 being played on a stream a long time back.
Kiwami, being a remake of the original certainly seems like the best place to jump in, and I’m certainly interested in diving back into the earlier games once I’m done with that (although if I heard right there were talks they were also planning on remaking Yakuza 2?).
I’m excited to potentially become a fan.

I don’t think so since they moved on with a brand new engine for Yakuza 6, so I guess a 2 remake would take far much more time and effort than they did for 1. Also, sales are dwindling more and more for a variety of reasons so they might have even less incentive for this.

I dunno, I think a remake of 2 is pretty likely - it’ll probably be that or another spin-off before the next main game. Sales might be dropping a bit in Japan but they’ve been increasing elsewhere in Asia and Zero did fantastically well for the series in the West too.

I know it will never happen, but I’d love for them to localise Ishin.



Speaking of Ishin I think they missed an opportunity with Ishin. It was a launch title and would have probably done decently in the US if they got it out relatively soon after. For like a solid year Assassin’s Creed 4 and Shadow of Mordor were the only really good third person hacking stuff up kind of games. People would have been interested just from it being like the only other third person fantasy-ish game where you can run around and stab people.

My knowledge of Japanese history could definitely use some work, but which period is this meant to be set in (if it’s particular)? The inclusion of guns makes me think it would be in the nineteenth century (i.e. Bakumatsu), but that could just be my ignorance speaking.

It definitely takes place during the Bakumatsu period but I don’t think the game states an exact year beyond that. The PS3 spinoff (Kenzan) takes place earlier in 1605 during the Edo period.

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Yakuza 0 is an incredibly good first entry: it sets up a lot of the plot points that will unfold in Kiwami and does a great job establishing the main players.

It can be hard sometimes to keep track of all the different factions if you aren’t familiar with them from playing, like, 5 other games but if you stick with it I think it will make Yakuza Kiwami a lot more rewarding to play through.

You can also mainline the story if you want to get through it quicker.

I played Yakuza 0 this summer and I loved it. Maybe once 6 comes around I’ll feel differently, but right now I’m so full on this series. It took me 75 hours whilst still feeling like I rushed some bits? It sounds like a ridiculous complaint, but there is way too much stuff to do!! And basically all of it is fun.

Personally I could never mainline the story either. If I didn’t do the two big side activities and get all that money for upgrades I would’ve found all the late game fights much too frustrating. Even overpowered they were a little frustrating for me.

So yeah, set aside some hours, friends.

Disagree super hard about Yakuza 1 having the strongest story, tbh. The strongest plotline, maybe, but the weakest storytelling by far.

It’s also got some other issues, like, y’know, depictions of trans characters. It’s weird, 'cuz it’s clear that Kiryu doesn’t have an issue with trans people, but the game sure does.

Just, urgh.

That said, Yakuza 2, 4, 5 and 0 are some of my favourite games, and I’m keen as hell for Yakuza 0.


This is the case about every Yakuza though

I think my issue is 'cuz it’s way more noticeable/memorable in 1.

Yeaaah like Yakuza 0 it was bad in spots but it wasn’t something I took away from the game like I did going through Kiwami. Kiwami is SO BAD with that shit. Also it’s got some weird shit with black characters going on? Basically it feels like a game pulled out of 2005, heh.

Also @robowitch after finishing Kiwami I can say that you should probably play 0 first, to be honest. It ties back into it in ways Yakuza 1 didn’t (and couldn’t, of course), almost making it feel like an extended epilogue of 0. Things like Mr. Shakedown, Majima’s past, etc. come up in cutscenes that didn’t exist in Yakuza 1. Plus 0 is the better game, in my opinion. Kiwami is fine, but 0 is great, and a much better introduction to what makes the series awesome in later entries.

Kiwami also plays things so close to the original that it feels stale in comparison, with less side activities, and it doesn’t naturally lead you to all the available side activities like 0 does. Like, if you don’t explore, you could literally never know that Kareoke is an option in Kiwami, where as in 0 it’s a part of the plot.


I’ve had a different experience with the series, I thought the first one wasn’t so bad with those ugly stereotypes compared to some later installments like Y3 or 4. I haven’t played Kiwami yet so I don’t know if I’m missing a piece of the story that isn’t in the original game.

My opinion to start with Kiwami is mainly that you could enjoy 0 by knowing what happens next, which I think 0 plays a lot with that.