Popular Games in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Popular Games in Japan

By Hannah Packard Jun 12, 2019

Different Kinds of Games in Japan


If there’s one thing that you can believe when it comes to stereotypes about Japan; it’s that Japan loves it’s video games. Although it may seem like a wild exaggeration considering how popular video games are around the world; Japan’s advertising on the matter is on an entirely different level. It’s no surprise considering how often you’ll also see anime-like motifs depicted on everything from clothing to buildings. We’ve seen advertisements for video games on billboards, the side of tractor trailers, and both the inside and outside of entire trains plastered with promotions for the next big video game release. Not only that; but you can literally feel the excitement in the air around you whenever there is a new game release no matter the platform. In this article, we’ll cover some of your options when it comes to gaming and give you a detailed look at some of the most popular ways people like to game in Japan.





Dragon Quest


This is a popular RPG which was released in 1986 by game developer Yuji Horii. However, despite being over 30 years old now, it’s wasn’t fully released into the American market until 2006. It’s possible that the reason for this was that popular western video games like Super Mario were more arcade style. This meant that the player could play the game and get a quick reward in the form of coins or new items. We can see tons of popular arcade-style games like this flooding the western game market and it wasn’t until games like Zelda were released that westerners got a taste of a different perspective on modern gaming. On the other hand; Japanese games like Dragon Quest required players to sacrifice hours training and killing monsters before they were able to advance to certain levels or fight the big boss in a particular dungeon. Hardcore players call it “Grinding” but for those of us who don’t want to spend so much time building a character; the series took a while to catch on.  One of the hot debates about this game is all about the character design. Any fans of watching anime will know that the characters are designed exactly like characters from the mega-popular series Dragon Ball Z and also Chrono Trigger. This is due to the fact that the character concepts were designed by Akira Toriyama, a legendary anime artist and pioneer in the craft. The gameplay is similar to that of other RPG games but upon death; the player only loses half his/her gold and keeps all of the experience points gained in the battle. This means the player will never fight without their character growing up a bit during the process. We also thought it was quite useful that you’re able to take existing armor, items, or weapons, and craft them into something new to suit your purpose.


Fun Fact:

Dragon quest created a cultural phenomenon with its wildly popular success in Japan. The series was an instant hit with those living in Japan and so much so that it’s actually birthed some common knowledge. Most Japanese people who were invested in the “Golden Age” of video games and anime; are familiar with the term slime. Slime is a jelly creature that looks like a round colored blob usually with facial features. This was the first enemy players would encounter during the game and it was easy to defeat in order to teach the player the battle system. Most modern RPG video games that involve fighting monsters make the player battle some version of the slime as a first challenge. When you visit Japan; try asking about the meaning of the word slime and you may be surprised at the answers you get.



Final Fantasy


Final Fantasy is franchise created in 1987 by Square Enix that’s known for its unique character design and intricate storyline which successfully creates in-depth profiles for each character. Final Fantasy is a semi-open-world RPG (Role Playing Game) set in a post-apocalyptic sort of world where everyone wears boots and dresses slightly Goth. Final Fantasy does a great job of explaining it’s logic and why the player must play through the game. All of the lore from Final Fantasy is memorable and each version has brought an increasingly detailed level of customization. The player can outfit their character with tons of different items, upgradable skills, and even deploy legendary monsters to fight on their behalf. The player also has the option to have the fights on autopilot if they so wish. This makes for a unique experience as the graphics are always cutting edge and the game makes use of beautiful cut scenes often. Final Fantasy was a pioneer in the open world games market as it gave you endless options and side quests to keep busy inside of the game whereas many titles only force you to stay close to the storyline. Some people don’t even play with winning in mind. They simply play through the game to enjoy it for the quests and other activities playable. You’re also able to replay the game afterward to unlock extra content such as harder modes or new equipment. Square Enix struck gold with this series as it has over 20 versions of the game to choose from; each is set in different eras with the most famous being Final Fantasy 7. Each version of the game has its own cult following spawning a wave of cosplayers, fan art, fan movies, and so much more. There have even been movie adaptations made about this game series and the same creators of Final Fantasy were later renowned for another series called Kingdom Hearts which has recently seen a hit release. If you’re interested in an engaging game with a great story and a customizable experience then Final Fantasy is for you.


Fun Fact: Each version of the game to date has featured a character named Cid. Cid is always some sort of mechanic or engineer and is always involved with you eventually getting air transport in the form of airships. Cid has also been featured in most if not all of the movie adaptations about Final Fantasy.


Mobile Games in Japan


Mobile Games, Android Games


With today’s mobile devices capable of more and more powerful functions; mobile games are quickly arriving which can take full advantage of those capabilities. In the past ten years, there has been an exponential increase as to what we can do on our phones. One of the reasons for this rapid growth in the mobile gaming industry is the fact that we’re sort of witnessing a proverbial arms race between app developers. As a result, our devices are more capable than ever. In particular, the newest Apple and Android devices are capable of running graphics better than systems such as the PS2. This is super important in Japan due to the fact that many people have to make long commutes especially in the bigger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. For those living in metropolitan areas the train rides to and from work can be as long as two hours so having something to do on the ride back home is essential. Even those living in the more rural areas of Japan must deal with a disconnect from the big cities and Japan’s App Store has created some solutions in the form of innovative games that put a twist on what we’re already familiar with. One popular series is called Puzzles & Dragons by Gungho Inc. This game is a tile-swapping game similar to Candy Crush where the player matches gems of the same color to score points. But in this game; matching gems means making an attack. The player can become stronger by collecting stronger monster cards. Players can add one another as friends in the game and use each other’s monsters. Players can even combine monsters and share skills. The developers didn’t stop there either; they gave us the added twist of having virtually unlimited monsters which you can use to defeat dungeons or simply collect where other games give us a sparse selection with lackluster character design. The game even features special collaborations with series such as Dragon Ball Z, Street Fighter, and even DC Universe. Another popular game series is one that’s famous throughout the world called Clash of Clans. It’s a sort of tower defense game where you build a village and defend against attackers by building your defenses and making attacks of your own. We chose this game due to the fact that not only could we see people playing these sorts of games on the train, but there were also advertisements on billboards, on television, and even on actual trains themselves. One thing we noticed about the Japanese mobile game market is that the games seem to be more in-depth than their western counterparts. A personal favorite on the app store is also pokemon go.

People living in Tokyo especially enjoy the benefits of this as most people catch the train to get to work. There are tons of Pokemon gyms scattered around each stop on a train line and people can be seen milling around at strange hours of the night attempting to catch rare pokemon.


What’s Trending in Japan?


In 2018 we’ve seen the hype build for the 2019 releases and there are some big names on the list! In particular, Square Enix released the third issue of Kingdom Hearts (which we mentioned earlier) for the PS4 and the Xbox One. Kingdom hearts is fun for the whole family as it takes Disney characters and Final Fantasy characters (plus its own originals) then plops them down in a monster-filled world. Another hot release is Devil May Cry 5 by Capcom. If you’re not familiar with the series; it features plenty of hacks and slashes vampire action all illustrated in a stylish and iconic way. And the options don’t stop at video games. Arcades are also super popular amongst people of all ages in Japan. You can find old school classics such as Tekken and Street Fighter, or simply play Mario Kart; the options are endless. Many arcades allow adult beverages and bring something different to the meaning of “Arcade” as we know it. But be cautious as most of them also allow smoking indoors as well. They usually have two floors or designated areas for gameplay. One section houses the games like basketball or the “Gotcha ball” games. The other houses fighting games and games more similar to gambling. Japan even gives us options for the elderly. There are parlours similar to casinos called Pachinkos. At a Japan gambling is illegal and so the next closest thing to it is a Pachinko parlour. Players are able to play slot machines that use small metal balls as currency. The player collects his or her balls in a container and at the end of the gaming, the player can exchange his or her haul for prizes or cash vouchers. In addition, Virtual Reality centers are rapidly becoming…reality and you can experience the theme in tons of ways. In particular, we liked the “VR Zone” in Shinjuku. Although It’s located in the biggest red light district in Japan; it’s also Japan’s largest VR center. This makes for an interesting contrast for gamers looking for an experience on the wild side!


Games in Japan, Akihabara


Now You’re in the Know!


Impress your friends with your knowledge of the game scene in Japan! In a country where there is a game advertisement on the windows of the trains; it is hard to miss the hype about popular games and word travels quickly. We would even venture to say that it is worth the effort to log into the Japanese app store if possible and check out some of the games. You’ll find tons of great games each better than the last. If you’re a gamer yourself; let us know in the comments what games you think are trending and we’ll include it in our next article.