There’s never been a better time to play the Yakuza games. The series made its Western debut way back in 2006, and was previously exclusive to Sony’s platforms for a number of years. That all changed recently, though, as Yakuza’s unique brand of action-adventure is now available on a host of platforms, including PS4, PS5, Steam and Xbox Game Pass for console and PC.
The Yakuza games revolve around the steely protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, who you follow on a emotional journey through the heart of Japan’s seedy underworld. You’ll experience what life is like as a hard-nosed Yakuza, and although there’s plenty of moolah to be made (and people to shake down), it isn’t all work and no play. There’s a staggering amount of recreational activities on offer, from singing karaoke, eating at restaurants and playing Sega’s classics in the arcades – you’ll even end up running a cabaret club.
Combat is a mainstay, as you might expect in a world where disputes are often settled violently. You’ll brawl with all sorts of shady lowlifes, delivering devastating combos and bone-crushing ‘heat’ moves that will make even the most hardened of players wince a little.
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.
With Yakuza: Like A Dragon now available on Xbox Series X and PS5, which is the eighth mainline entry in the series, 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.
Ready to prove your devotion to the clan? It’s time to hit the streets of Kamurocho and find out what it means to be a Yakuza…
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: Like A Dragon gameplay and release date
The next mainline game in the Yakuza series, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, is a huge departure from the previous games due to its battle system. Instead of real-time brawling, Yakuza: Like A Dragon’s gameplay features turn-based RPG combat, which makes for some unique encounters. Characters also now have Jobs (think character classes), and you need to manage your party member’s appropriately to suit your playstyle.
Another change for the series is the fact that Yakuza: Like A Dragon takes place in the Yokohama district of Isezaki Ijincho, which is based on Yokohama’s real-life Isezakicho district. Previous Yakuza games have primarily focused on Tokyo, and its fictional recreation of Kubukicho, so it’s refreshing to see a new location. We also get to play as a brand new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, instead of the series stalwart, Kazuma Kiryu.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC. The PS4 version of the game will get a free upgrade to the PS5 version, however, your save file will not carry across.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon supports Xbox Smart Delivery, which means if you buy the Xbox One version, you’ll get the Xbox Series X version for free. It’s also an Xbox Series X launch title and one of the best Xbox Series X games.
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 is also coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and PC, and is a launch title for Microsoft’s new console.
Microsoft also revealed that the Yakuza Remastered Collection would be coming to Xbox Game Pass, which means you can play every Yakuza game on Xbox consoles for the very first time now that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life has released.
If you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, here are the Yakuza games you can download right now.
- Yakuza 0 (out now on Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami (out now on Xbox One, PC)
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (out now on Xbox One and PC)
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (out now on Xbox One and PC)
- Yakuza Remastered Collection (out now on Xbox One and PC)
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 is currently in development and is set to release on September 24, 2021.