After years of neglect, more and more Japanese devs and publishers are realising that there’s a massive audience waiting to play their games on PC.
A few dodgy ports aside, this is excellent news.
Some of the most imaginative, inventive, interesting, and downright insane games come from the shores of Japan. But there are loads more that haven’t made it yet. So here are some of the best games from the Land of the Rising Sun that we’d love to make their way onto Steam.
Games chosen by Andy Kelly (AK), Phil Savage (PS), and PC Gamer UK editor Samuel Roberts (SR).
Ni No Kuni
What happens when you combine the talents of master RPG developers Level-5 with the legendary Studio Ghibli? Magic, that’s what. This lavish adventure is a vibrant, colourful feast for the eyes, like stepping inside a Miyazaki film. Not only that, but it’s a fun RPG in its own right, with tactical—and surprisingly challenging—combat. AK
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Part fantasy RPG, part awkward teenager simulator, Persona 4 is a bizarre, brilliant game from veteran developers Atlus with vivid anime visuals. By night you fight your way through randomly generated, monster-filled dungeons, and by day you go to school, make friends, and join clubs to develop power-boosting social links. AK
The most beautiful video game ever made, and I don’t say that lightly. Okami is a Zelda-inspired action RPG based on Japanese folklore, with elegant visuals in the style of ancient ink wash paintings. It’s a grand, sweeping adventure with real humour and heart, and lets you fight demons with a magical paintbrush. What’s not to like? AK
Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi left his famous RPG series behind to make Lost Odyssey exclusively for Xbox 360 in 2007. As Final Fantasy slowly drifted away from its glory days, this recalled the series when it was at its peak. It was published by Microsoft Game Studios, so a PC version doesn’t seem so far-fetched. AK
Often unfairly written off as ‘GTA in Japan’ (it really isn’t), this crime epic is brilliantly funny and lets you smash bicycles over peoples’ heads. Explore the streets of Tokyo, beat people up, play darts, and, in Yakuza 3, run an orphanage. Yes, really. Binary Domain is by the same team and came to PC, so fingers crossed this makes it too. AK
A strong match for a HD port in much the same way Okami is (and from the same team at Clover, notably), this French comic book art-infused 2D brawler was one of Capcom’s lesser commercial successes in the last decade but had a big enough player base to earn a sequel. Allowing players to speed up and slow down time, I broke the disc three times playing this on PS2, and would value having it rest safely in my Steam library where I can never destroy it again. SR
One of the oddest and most underrated games I’ve ever played, God Hand reinvented brawlers by allowing players to build and customise their own combos—thing is, nobody noticed, it sold horribly and the studio that made God Hand (again, Clover, which later formed Platinum Games) was shut down upon its release.
Alongside this radical combat system was a bizarre, violent and often hilarious story that I really can’t justify in any way, so here’s the theme song. If Capcom ported the Resi remake across, I really think they should consider doing God Hand next—it may finally find the audience it deserves on Steam. SR
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid V is coming to PC, which is great news, but for those unaware of the series’ nightmarishly complex narrative, Konami really would benefit from porting the HD Collection released on PS3 and 360 a couple of years ago. The highlight of the series is the relatively accessible prequel Metal Gear Solid 3, a Cold War-set military tale starring Big Boss, the ‘father’ (I won’t go into it) of iconic series protagonist Solid Snake.
With innovative boss battles—including one extended sniper battle where your enemy can die of old age during the conflict—and the only story in the series that makes any kind of real-world sense, it transforms into a surprisingly perceptive attack on patriotism and has one of the best endings of any videogame.
Plus, it has the series’ standard nuclear robots and reference-laden sense of humour. But the truth is, I could write 4000 words on why Metal Gear Solid deserves to be on PC. It’s Hideo Kojima’s greatest and most consistently inventive work, and I’d love to have it live forever in my Steam library alongside all the others. Make it happen, Konami. SR
It's all about The Legendary Theme. You've defeated the UFO with frenetic J-pop, and beat the robo-shark with some synth-heavy reggae. Now you're laying on the beach, serenading a girl with a simple, acoustic melody. Rhythm games rarely worrying about pacing, but Gitaroo Man's variety keeps it fresh throughout. A PC version could truly immortalise that weird, charming soundtrack. PS
We ♥ Katamari
Alternatively: Katamari Damacy, although that never made it to the UK. Either version works, because both wrap a perfectly executed core mechanic in silliness, surrealism and joy. You're the Prince of All Cosmos. Your father, the King of All Cosmos, has done something silly–like destroy all the stars in the universe. Your job is to roll up Earth's junk and turn it back into stars, all while accompanied by a beautiful, playful soundtrack. PS
Fighting games are becoming more and more prominent on PC, and notable series – from Street Fighter to Mortal Kombat – are now fully at home on the platform. So where's Soulcalibur? It's not just a great series, but a personal favourite of mine. In particular, Soulcalibur 2, which, for reasons beyond understanding was the last to feature Versus Team Battle—a brilliant challenge between two teams of eight fighters. Let's get it on PC, with some proper online support. PS
Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami teamed up under the Grasshopper Manufacture banner to make this surrealist noir horror. Its bizarre controls and weirdo story scared a lot of people away, but stick with it and you’ll uncover a dark and twisted tale of seven assassins fighting eerie, smiling demons. A totally unique experience. AK
The creator of Devil May Cry returned to the 3D fighter genre he created in 2009 to show Capcom how it’s done. Bayonetta is a combo-heavy hack-and-slasher that relies on muscle memory, instinct and razor-sharp timing, and for the specific subset of players who can handle the level of challenge, there’s no better game in that space. The second one just appeared exclusively on Wii U, funded by Nintendo, so it’s unlikely to ever appear on PC—I’d just settle for the first one. SR
Shinji Mikami looked at the lumbering, surly heroes of Western third-person shooters and went nah, that’s boring. And so he made Vanquish, a blistering shooter starring a guy in a robot suit who can slide around on his knees and do backflips. It’s Gears of War stripped of the grit and taken to the absolute extreme. AK
Zone of the Enders
Hideo Kojima’s other game. Between making Metal Gears, the mad auteur conjured up this gorgeous mech shooter. It featured lavish anime cutscenes, fast-paced melee and ranged combat, and lots of really cool-looking robots designed by long-time Metal Gear artist Yoji Shinkawa. An HD version was recently released on consoles. AK