If you’ve been looking at the Yakuza games with growing interest but aren’t totally sure where to dive in, then we’re here to help. Really, there’s never been a better time to get into the series as it’s available to play on more platforms than ever before, including PS4, PS5, Steam and Xbox Game Pass for console and PC.
In the Yakuza games, you’ll follow protagonist Kazuma Kiryu on an emotional journey through the heart of Japan’s seedy underworld. This means plenty of violent combat and money-making, of course, but the world of Yakuza has some fun to offer too, with a staggering amount of recreational activities that range from singing karaoke and eating at restaurants to playing Sega’s classics in the arcades.
Yakuza is definitely a mature series at heart, then, but it can also be downright hilarious. It’s surprising how it manages to strike such a fine balance between being absolutely brutal and totally bonkers at the same time.
That makes it hard to define, too. Yakuza is often called the “Japanese Grand Theft Auto” or a spiritual successor to Sega’s Shenmue series, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a mish-mash of so many systems and different mechanics – from RPG progression to rhythm-based mini-games – and it’s also much more story-focused than Rockstar’s GTA. It meshes everything together so wonderfully, too, that there’s nothing quite like it.
More than ready to jump in and prove your devotion to the clan? Good. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to play the Yakuza games in order, how they rank with critics, and list every Yakuza game released to date.
How to play the Yakuza games in order: chronological order
Even if you’re familiar with Sega’s long-running series, the Yakuza timeline can be a little confusing. To play the games in chronological order, you’ll need to start with Yakuza 0, where a young, fresh-faced Kazuma Kiryu is beginning to make his mark. Next up is Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 (excellent remakes of Yakuza and Yakuza 2), and then… well, it’s pretty self-explanatory from there. Here’s how to play them all in chronological order:
- Yakuza 0 (takes place in 1988)
- Yakuza Kiwami (a remake of Yakuza on PS2, takes place in 2005)
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (a remake of Yakuza 2 on PS2, takes place in 2006)
- Yakuza 3 (takes place in 2009)
- Yakuza 4 (takes place in 2010)
- Yakuza 5 (takes place in 2012)
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (takes place in 2016)
- Yakuza: Like A Dragon (takes place in 2019)
How to play the Yakuza games in order: release date and platform
Want to play the Yakuza games in order of release? Well, you’ll need to dust off your old PlayStation 2 to play the first game in all its standard-definition glory. However, we’d advise against that, as you can play Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 instead on both PS4, Xbox One and PC, which are modern remakes of the first two games. It should also save you a trip to the attic.
- Yakuza (2006, PS2)
- Yakuza 2 (2008, PS2)
- Yakuza 3 (2010, PS3)
- Yakuza 4 (2011, PS3)
- Yakuza: Dead Souls (2012, PS3)
- Yakuza 5 (2015, PS3, PS4)
- Yakuza 0 (2017, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami (2016, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (2018, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza 6 (2018, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- The Yakuza Remastered Collection (2019, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza: Like A Dragon (2020, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC)
Yakuza games on Xbox Game Pass for console and PC
One of the biggest surprises at Microsoft’s X019 event was the announcement that the Yakuza series was finally coming to Xbox, and even more importantly, Xbox Game Pass.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has also made its way to the service which means that if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, you can now play the every mainline Yakuza game on the service.
Best Yakuza games ranked
While reviews of any game are entirely subjective, we’ve listed the best Yakuza games based on their Metacritic rating. We would strongly recommend playing Yakuza 0 first if you’re new to the series, though, as it’s the most accomplished version of the game and it serves as a great introduction. It’s also the highest-rated game according to critics, alongside Yakuza Kiwami 2.
What’s next for the Yakuza games?
The Yakuza games will stick with the turn-based RPG gameplay of Yakuza: Like a Dragon moving forward, according to developer Ryu ga Gotoku.
Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi and producer Kazuki Hosokawa told IGN that the Yakuza series signature action gameplay has “been transformed into a turn-based RPG” and that Lost Judgement, a spin-off to the Yakuza games, will instead focus more on action, like previous entries in the series did.
Is Judgment a Yakuza game?
Judgment is a spin off game from developer Ryu ga Gotoku that sees players follow a detective named Takayuki Yagami. It features a similar gameplay structure to the Yakuza games, with a combat system that is reminiscent of Yakuza 0, side missions to complete alongside the main story and an investigation mode that sees players search a scene for clues and evidence of crime.
Judgment Remastered released on Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and Stadia on April 23, 2021, and a sequel called Lost Judgment released in September 2021.