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.
Games like Metal Gear Rising, Dynasty Warriors, Binary Domain, Deadly Premonition, and even Dark Souls have found a welcome home on PC, in addition to Metal Gear Solid V, Valkyria Chronicles and Bayonetta. 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.
Despite the questionable Prepare to Die Edition port and slightly lacklustre second series instalment, Dark Souls 3 appeared to elevate Hidetaka Miyazaki's brutally unforgiving action role-player to mainstream status on PC. It could be argued this was down to the success of From Software's PlayStation-exclusive Bloodborne the previous year—a similarly-styled ARPG whose gothic nightmare influence and faster-paced conflict was felt in last year's latest Souls. Besides its twisted yet gorgeous Yharnam Victorian era setting, Bloodborne's quick-firing combat, lack of defensive shields, and ensemble of ghastly bosses make it one of the memorable games I've ever played—and its The Old Hunters DLC is a masterstroke in extending a game's lore and difficulty while remaining true to its source material. Bloodborne doesn't have the same level of armour and weapon customisation as its Souls counterparts, however when everything else is so good it hardly needs it.—Joe Donnelly
A fascinating, gloriously stylish meld of RPG and interactive fiction. You and your high school pals team up to raid the subconscious realms of corrupt adults, stealing their heart and changing their ways in the real world. Half of the game is set in an authentic recreation of Tokyo, where you spend your time making friends, studying, watching movies and going to school. By night, all of these activities feed into JRPG dungeon raids where you summon demonic persona to defeat figments of your target’s corruption in turn-based encounters. You can capture almost everything you fight and use them in future battles, and even fuse persona together to create more powerful tools in combat. It’s a deep RPG with a decent story and peerless presentation.—Tom Senior
The Last Guardian
A beautiful tale about a boy and a huge dangerous dog-bird thing. Your enormous pal barfs you into a dungeon at the start of the game, as you unchain the creature and heal its wounds, you start to form a wary alliance that, in time, blossoms into a sweet friendship. You gradually work your way out of the dark dungeons onto the crumbling spires in an effort to escape the ancient city. There are a few twists to the story, but the real star is the extraordinary creature, an astonishing feat of art and animation design. I wish it was on PC because the Playstation 4 can barely handle it. A smooth framerate would help the game a lot.—Tom Senior
Dark Souls is a genre now, and that’s a good thing if Nioh is anything to go by. Nioh is set in japan in the 1600s, during a time of civil war. As European samurai William you battle demons and enemy soldiers with a complex and punishing combat system. Weapons play very differently from one another, plus stances and a clever ‘ki pulse’ makes it more than a straightforward Souls rehash. Nioh is structurally different too. You replay missions from a selection menu, growing in power and collecting Amrita stones in an effort to sway the outcome of the war.—Tom Senior
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In his review for our sister site , Matthew Castle said this of Zelda's latest incarnation: "It has taken 18 years, but Nintendo has done it again: this is the adventure game to beat." Matthew is of course referring to 1998's Ocarina of Time—a game which is to this day considered one of the greatest of all time. It speaks volumes for Breath of the Wild, then, when after just over one month since release it's being viewed in the same light. And it absolutely deserves the praise—everything from naming and riding a horse, to reuniting with the Gorons and the Zorra; from wandering around in its gorgeous open world and overcoming its flurry of teasers, and, of course, battling its baddies is an absolute joy. I must admit: there are only a few games which make me truly jealous of our console cousins. Breath of the Wild is definitely one of them.—Joe Donnelly
The Suikoden JRPGs are, in my opinion, among the most underrated videogames of all time. Any one of its five main series entries could feasibly feature on this list—as could its spin offs Suikoden Tactics and Suikoden Tierkreis—however number two is my best of show. Telling a heartening tale of friendship, corruption, political unrest, war and revolution, players are tasked with scouring its sprawling and spritely two-dimensional world in search of all 108 recruitable—and playable—characters before toppling central antagonist Luca Blight and his unscrupulous subordinates. Add this to the fact players can lead squads of six into battle, each with different fighting styles and sorcery prowess, and you've got one of the most experimental and sophisticated JRPG combat systems to date—a feat made all the more impressive given Suikoden 2 landed in North America in late 1999, and in Europe in mid-2000.—Joe Donnelly
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.—Andy Kelly
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.—Andy Kelly
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.—Andy Kelly
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?—Andy Kelly
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.—Andy Kelly
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 . 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.—Samuel Roberts
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.—Samuel Roberts
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid V came 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.—Samuel Roberts
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.—Phil Savage
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.—Phil Savage
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.—Phil Savage
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.—Andy Kelly
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.—Andy Kelly
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.—Andy Kelly