Sega’s Yakuza is one of the most compelling and distinct story-driven action-adventure series out there. At first, the series is far from modest, largely seeming like a simple action-crime movie. However, each game betrays this first impression, creating a wonderful blend of beat-up combat, gripping stories, memorable characters, absurd humor. and a vivid world to explore.
Yakuza comes from the mind of Toshihiro Nagoshi, who wanted to create a story-telling game based on Japanese criminal organizations. While the project struggled to get the green light due to perceived limited appeal, it eventually managed to get a 2005 release on the PlayStation 2 with its first entry.
While the series has long garnered a following, it achieved success in the West in 2017 with Yakuza 0, a compelling new prequel set at the top of the series’ timeline. Years later, thanks to continued localization from Sega, the help of memes, and the love of a long-standing cult audience, the Yakuza rose to fame and became one of Sega’s most successful IPs.
With more games in the series coming to PlayStation Plus*, now is the best time to become a Yakuza fan. Join us as we highlight each game and how it evolved the series.
Yakuza | Released in the United States: 2006 | PlayStation 2
Yakuza Kiwami | Released in the US: 2016 | Playstation 4
The Yakuza launches on PlayStation 2 and introduces us to the series’ longest-lived protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, a yakuza lieutenant on a mission to protect an orphan being targeted by a criminal organization Tojo Clan. The story unfolds in a gripping, emotional, and exciting way, setting the stage for the franchise’s decades-long crime story.
As expected, the first game laid the original foundation for what makes the series’ gameplay so memorable and iconic now. It takes place in a fictional version of Tokyo’s Kabukicho district, known as Kamurocho in the game. At the time, critics praised the Yakuza for its realistic portrayal of Japanese culture in its setting. While Kamurocho is a relatively small space to explore, it’s packed with side quests and activities that provide exp when completed, tied to the game’s role-playing mechanics. Everything in the world is thanks to the evolution of Kazuma Kiryu, allowing you to unlock more perks for the hero.
The Yakuza marks an exciting start to the then fledgling series, sure to leave a mark for those lucky enough to play it. The game left enough lasting legacy to receive an official PS4 remake called Yakuza Kiwami in 2016. It not only modernized the visuals and added more stories, but also fixed up the complicated battle system. than the original, making it a better fit for Yakuza 0 (more on that later).
Yakuza 2 | Released in the United States: 2008 | PlayStation 2
Yakuza Kiwami 2 | Released in the US: 2018 | Playstation 4
After two years, the Yakuza series will return exclusively on PlayStation 2 with Yakuza 2. The sequel seeks to address the negative qualities of its predecessor while improving on the well-received installments. Have a higher stake in the story with a yakuza clan war going on and
Kazuma Kiryu returns as the main character and has some new tricks up his sleeve. Brawling is the star of the show here, with a greater depth of combat than the first season. Battles are more engaging thanks to AI partners, weapon-sharing NPCs, more combinations, remote capture, and more powerful attacks.
Like its predecessor, Yakuza 2 also received a remake in the form of Yakuza Kiwami 2 in 2018. It both added and removed story content from Yakuza 2, completely changing Kiryu’s moves, and being reworked. built from scratch in the series’ modern Dragon Engine. . These changes have received mixed reception from fans, but overall the game is still well-reviewed.
Yakuza 3 | Released in the United States: 2010 | PlayStation 3
Yakuza 3 Remastered | Released in the US: 2020 | Playstation 4
Yakuza 3 is expected to receive a significant visual upgrade, not only because of the more powerful PS3 hardware it has released, but also because of Cyberware’s head and face scanning. Along with launching as the most graphically impressive game in the series to date, it also reinforced the sandbox structure the series uses to this day.
Other new features such as seamless transitions in the game into battles, fun photography-focused Revelations side activities, and first person view make this “next-generation” experience a real hit. new. Yakuza 3 also marks the first time that DLC has been offered, making an already feature-packed game even bigger.
Yakuza 4 | Released in the United States: 2011 | PlayStation 3
Yakuza 4 Remastered | Released in the US: 2019 | Playstation 4
Yakuza 4 introduced another recipe change. For the first time, you can now control a group of characters to explore Kamurocho. These four characters — Masayoshi Tanimura, Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and Kazuma Kiryu — can traverse this newly expanded neighborhood, which includes rooftops and underground areas, all while embarking on quests. separate services form a single complex story. Each character plays differently with their own unique fighting style and goals to complete. And as it will become a tradition of the series, Yakuza 4 also offers its cast special karaoke and dating minigames.
Yakuza 5 | Released in the US: 2015 | PlayStation 3
Yakuza 5 Remastered | Released in the US: 2020 | Playstation 4
Yakuza 5 continues the multi-character tradition by adding a fifth face to the game. It is also the first film in the series to use an entirely new graphics engine, giving it the internal moniker the “new Yakuza”. No longer limited to Tokyo, five new cities can also be explored, including Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo. Electronic classics such as Virtua Fighter 2 and Taiko no Tasujin were also added to the video game, along with a host of upgrades to the core combat system.
And for those of you familiar with the Baka Mitai or “Dame dane” memes, Yakuza 5 is the source!
Released in the US: 2017 | Playstation 4
If you ever asked a Yakuza fan for a recommended starting point in the franchise, they would probably say Yakuza 0. This game is intended as an entry point for fans who are completely new to the game. into the series. With the franchise’s massive rise upon its 2017 release, their plan clearly worked.
Yakuza 0 is a prequel set during Japan’s economic boom in the 1980s and marks a fresh start bringing the story back to basics. You control the stern and dependable Kazuma Kiryu and his always unpredictable partner, Goro Majima, who are both caught up in a conflict between rival factions for a land known as “Empty” Lot”.
The most welcome thing about the innovation coming from Yakuza 0 is the improved combat system. Now Kiryu and Majima have a variety of attack styles that they can switch between attacks quickly. This innovative and freestyle combat system has won the hearts of fans as well as new players.
Yakuza 6: Song of Life
Released in the US: 2018 | Playstation 4
Yakuza 6 brought another major visual upgrade to the franchise. While its recent entries at the time, Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, were launched on modern hardware, both were games tied to previous generation engines. As the first game built from the ground up on the PlayStation 4, Yakuza 6 uses the Dragon Engine, giving the action a much-needed facelift thanks to enhanced visuals and more dynamic physics.
With Yakuza 6 being the end of Kiryu’s story, it brings things back to basics once again, with him being the only playable character. As Kiryu, you’ll explore Kamurocho and now the additional city, Onomichi. Despite losing the ability to switch between multiple fighting styles, the old dog still has some new tricks up its sleeve. The Extreme Heat mode makes its debut here and gives your attacks greater resistance to attack while fierce Heat combos deal heavy damage to enemies. These new mechanics and more in the series’ signature storytelling ensured that Kiryu’s final chapter ended with a bang.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Released in the US: 2020 | PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5
As the sixth official entry in the franchise, Yakuza: Like a Dragon turns the script upside down with a new protagonist and gameplay style. The Dragon Quest-obsessed hero, Ichiban Kasuga, has fallen for a murder he didn’t commit to prove his loyalty to his clan – only to be deported 18 years after he got out of prison. the following year. Ichiban teams up with a group of outcasts to solve the mystery of his betrayal and become a “hero” to the others.
In keeping with our protagonist’s love for Dragon Quest, Like a Dragon utilizes turn-based JRPG combat for the first time in the series. This idea actually comes from an April Fools’ Day joke 2019, which is pretty funny, but it works to make this title feel incredibly unique. Such a radical departure makes this a great entry point to the Yakuza world, and it is now hailed as one of the best in the series.
Whether you’re a newbie curious about finally jumping into Sega’s gripping crime story, or an eager fan returning to the streets of Kamurocho, now is a great time to get in on the action. Yakuza blockbuster titles coming to PlayStation Plus in 2022.