No other series is quite like Yakuza. The games are frequently compared to the Grand Theft Auto franchise because both feature outlaw protagonists in an open-world setting, but that’s where the similarities end. Yakuza is one part serious drama about crime, honor, and fighting to survive, and one part Japanese life simulator. It features some truly epic showdowns and some of the goofiest minigames you’ve ever seen. 

There are over a dozen titles in the series, spanning multiple console generations. We like them all, but which Yakuza game is best? We decided to help you find out by making a list of the best Yakuza games ranked!

Yakuza Games Ranked From Worst to Best

There are eight main-line Yakuza games, two remakes, and eight spin-off titles. Several of them were never released outside Japan. We’ve included most of them, but we decided to omit a few of the less noteworthy side stories and only included the best Yakuza games.

Are you ready to meet the Dragon of Dojima? It’s time to list the best Yakuza games ranked in order from worst to best!

12. Yakuza: Dead Souls

Yakuza Dead Souls
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PS3
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: June 9, 2011

We’re starting off our list of Yakuza games ranked with a bit of an odd one. Yakuza: Dead Souls is a non-canonical side story set one year after the Yakuza 4 and follows the story of a zombie apocalypse. It features several staple characters of the series, including protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.

Dead Souls is a good game with a production value that rivals the main-line series. The Resident Evil aesthetic works surprisingly well in the Kamurocho district, and the story is a fun “parallel universe” fantasy. We ranked it at the bottom of our list because the survival horror tone doesn’t really represent the rest of the series, but we would still recommend that fans of the Yakuza franchise give it a go.

11. Yakuza

Yakuza 1
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Wii U
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 8, 2005

Next up on our list is the one that started it all. Yakuza is an open-world RPG that stunned audiences both with its intense visuals and strong storytelling. It follows Kazuma Kiryu, a yakuza member recently released from a ten-year prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, only to be drawn into another criminal conspiracy involving a massive amount of money being stolen from the Tojo Clan.

The first Yakuza was ambitious and gives a strong first impression of the series as a whole. It has a solid narrative, but clunky controls make it difficult to recommend.

10. Yakuza 2

Yakuza 2
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Wii U
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 7, 2006

Yakuza 2 was released just one year after the first game, building the momentum of the series. Kiryu is back and forced to intercede when relationships between the Tojo Clan and the Omi alliance grow strained. Kiryu discovers ties between the Omi and a Korean mafia group, leading to a rivalry with the Omi’s Ryuji Goda, AKA the Dragon of Kansai — arguably one of the best antagonists in the series.

The game’s storytelling is on par with its predecessor, but it also features much more advanced battle mechanics that make it a far more enjoyable experience. All-in-all, it was a major step forward for the series.

9. Yakuza 4

Yakuza 4
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: March 18, 2010

Yakuza 4 has four protagonists. In addition to Kiryu, you also play as a loan shark named Shun Akiyama, an ex-con named Taiga Saejima, and a cop named Masayoshi Tanimura.

Yakuza 4 is a strong addition to the series. It builds on Majima’s backstory and offers a broader view of the Yakuza world, but splitting its time between Kiryu and a few less memorable characters weakens it a bit. You can play it as part of The Yakuza Remastered Collection along with Yakuza 3 and 5.

8. Judgment

Judgement
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PS4
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 13, 2018

Judgment isn’t technically a Yakuza game. It doesn’t bear the series name, and its protagonist isn’t a member of the illicit crime organization. However, it is set in the Yakuza universe and made by the series’ writer and executive director Toshihiro Nagoshi.

This spin-off takes place after the events of Yakuza 6 and follows Takayuki Yagami, a former-lawyer-turned-private-detective. Yagami is hired to investigate a series of murders. Yakuza members are being killed, and the victim’s eyes are being removed.

Judgment offers a rare peek at the other side of yakuza activity and has some enjoyable investigation mechanics that Ace Attorney fans are sure to love. You can also take on a number of side-cases that work similarly to the subplots of previous Yakuza games. It is an excellent side story, even if it doesn’t always feel like a Yakuza game.

7. Yakuza 3

Yakuza 3
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: February 26, 2009

Yakuza 3 got a big boost with the PS3’s upgraded hardware. It also marked a turning point in Kiryu’s story. After Yakuza 2, Kiryu left the Kamurocho district to run the struggling Sunshine Orphanage in Okinawa and raise his adopted daughter Haruka. There’s no peace for a yakuza, though. Corruption is everywhere, and Kiryu cannot escape his old life.

Yakuza 3 introduced several new game modes in the Japanese release — Event Mode, Adventure Mode, and Battle Mode. These allow players a greater level of control over how they want to play the game. Many of them didn’t make it to the initial western release, but all of the cut content has been restored in The Yakuza Remastered Collection.

Sadly, Yakuza 3 has the lowest graphical fidelity for new players entering the series. Yakuza and Yakuza 2 were remade entirely from the ground up in the Kiwami games, making even the remastered edition of 3 feel like a jarring step backward.

6. Yakuza Kiwami

Yakuza Kiwami
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One 
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: January 21, 2016

SEGA released Yakuza Kiwami in January 2016. It is a complete remake of the original Yakuza with improved graphics, better combat mechanics, and extra elements to enhance the story. Just like the original, Kiwami follows Kiryu as he leaves prison and joins the search for the Tojo Clan’s missing money. It also delves deeper into the growing corruption of Kiryu’s friend Nishikiyama and Kiryu’s relationship with Goro Majima. 

The Yakuza games feature a fairly linear story, but PS2 hardware is a big step back for most people these days. Yakuza Kiwami is an excellent way for new players to see where the story began as well as a brilliant opportunity for veteran fans to re-experience the game they loved.

5. Yakuza 5

Yakuza 5
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 5, 2012

Yakuza 5 has five main protagonists. Shun Akiyama and Taiga Saejima return from Yakuza 4 along with series newcomer Tatsuo Shinada. Then we have Kazama Kiryu and — for the first time ever — his daughter Haruka Sawamura. It’s set across five different regions in Japan. These stories are spliced together like Pulp Fiction, with the characters separate journeys intersecting and growing into each other.

The hunting and taxi driving minigames are especially detailed. Haruka’s side-story, where she tries to become a pop idol, is both fun and disturbing in equal measure. 

4. Yakuza Kiwami 2

Yakuza Kiwami 2
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 7, 2017

Next up on our list is the remake of the second Yakuza game, Yakuza Kiwami 2. This one works pretty much the same as the last Kiwami. It has improved graphics, better fighting, and a more complex story. One big addition is the “The Truth of Majima Goro,” in which fans get to play as the Mad Dog of Shimano and see what he was doing in the period between the first and second game.

Kiwami 2 has a bit of an advantage. The first Kiwami used the game engine from Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 0, while Kiwami 2 received an upgrade to the Dragon Engine designed for Yakuza 6. This allows the second game in the series to feel like one of the most modern and polished.

Also, fighting a pair of feral tigers barehanded is even more satisfying in HD.

3. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Yakuza 6 The Song of Life
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: December 8, 2016

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the final chapter in Kiryu’s story, and it’s a great one. Kiryu is once again attempting to leave his life as a yakuza behind him and start over with his daughter Haruka and her newborn child, but just like Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Yakuza 6 will lose points in some people’s eyes for doing away with the multiple-fighting-style mechanics we saw in 0 and later in Kiwami 2, but there’s more than enough to make up for that loss. It looks and feels like one of the most technically advanced games in the series, and it tells a heartbreaking story that is a worthy end to our stone-faced champion.

2. Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza Like a Dragon
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: January 16, 2020

Coming in second on our list of Yakuza games ranked is the newest addition to the series. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is the first main Yakuza game not to feature its original protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu. This new game follows Ichiban Kasuga, a much more outspoken and expressive lead. Ichiban has just been released from an eighteen-year prison sentence only to be betrayed by his former boss. 

Fans may be split on Like a Dragon’s new battle system. It’s no longer an old-school brawler but has adopted a turned-based RPG style of gameplay similar to that of the Persona series. We love the bold new direction that the series is taking and can’t wait to play more!

1. Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0
Image Credit: SEGA
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Release Date: March 12, 2015

And now we’ve finally reached our number one pick! Yakuza 0 is set twenty years before the events of the first game in the series. A young, fresh-faced Kiryu is framed for a murder that takes place in an abandoned lot multiple yakuza bigshots are vying for. You also get to play as Goro Majima as he tries to become re-instated in the yakuza after being kicked out. This game offers important backstory that explains how these characters grew into the legendary figures they are in the later games. 

It can be hard to get into a series with sixteen years of games spanning multiple generations of platforms, but Yakuza 0 is a great jumping-off point. It’s the best place for newcomers to start the series as it offers an introduction to the characters, some of the best combat, and some of the series’ best minigames. 0 is largely responsible for the series rise out of obscurity and into the mainstream in the west.

HighGroundGaming_highGroundView_br

Become a High Grounder

Thank you for reading our list of Yakuza games ranked worst to best. Be sure to follow High Ground Gaming for more reviews and lists like this one!

Happy gaming!

Related Reading