The Japan only games we all wish we had.
There are too many amazing video games that never left Japan.
In a lot of cases, it’s understandable why some games remained Japan only. Maybe they’re too obscure to warrant the cost of localization. Or maybe their heavy reliance on Japanese culture would make them hard to localize. Still, there are a lot of Japan only games that gamers have been dying to get their hands on. In fact, some of these games are in such high demand that we’re baffled they’ve never seen an official release.
Below are 10 Japan only games that collectors would love to have in English… if ever given the chance.
10: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (1 and 2)
Osu! Tatakae! Oudendan is a game that technically did get localized… just not in the way anyone expected.
Although the quirky rhythm game was never intended for international audiences, it still sold a ton of copies through imports. The developers wanted to bring the game West, but were afraid that Ouendan relied too much on Japanese pop culture. Instead, they made an all new game specifically designed for Western markets: Elite Beat Agents.
Elite Beat Agents is a fantastic game, but international audiences still missed all the great content in Ouendan. Plus, when Osu! Tatake! Ouendan 2 was released, we never got an Elite Beat Agents 2 to match. Ouendan is import-friendly enough for English-speaking audiences, but it still would have been nice to see it officially in English. Even with all the Japanese music and pop culture references.
9: Shining Force III (Episodes 2 and 3)
Shining Force I and II are some of the most beloved Sega Genesis games of all time. With little to no other Strategy Role Playing Games available in English upon release, Shining Force gave western gamers a taste of a genre they had been mostly denied. Shining Force III, on the other hand, is a bittersweet pill for English speaking fans to swallow.
Released on the Sega Saturn, Shining Force III was an ambitious project that spanned three separate games. Unfortunately, only the first of these was localized in English. This was probably due to the poor sales of the Saturn at the time, and text heavy Role Playing Games are costly enough to translate as is. Still, with how beloved the Shining Force series was in the West, it was a crying shame we never got to experience the full story.
Even if it’s hard to begrudge Sega for cutting their support of the Saturn short, Shining Force III remains a prime candidate for a rerelease.
8: Tales of Phantasia (PS1)
Tales of Phantasia holds a special kind of clout among Japanese RPGs. Not only was it the genesis of the Tales Of series, it was one of the most technically impressive games on the Super Nintendo. It was eventually remade on the Playstation with new graphics, bonus content, and even an entirely new character.
Here’s the thing: We did eventually get Tales of Phantasia in the West. Except it was the Gameboy Advance port, arguably the worst version of the game. If there was one version of the game to localize in English, it was definitely the Playstation version. The PSP version would have also been acceptable.
7: Seiken Densetsu 3
Seiken Densetsu 3, sometimes referred to as Secret of Mana 2, would have been an absolute hit in the West. Secret Of Mana was a widely beloved title on the Super Nintendo, thanks to some loose comparisons to The Legend of Zelda at the time. Seiken Densetsu 3 basically takes everything that was great about Secret of Mana and mixes in deep character customization, tighter combat, and a sprawling branching story that could be played dozens of different ways.
Maybe Seiken Densetsu 3 was too ambitious of a title to localize on the Super Nintendo, but there’s still a good reason why it’s on this list. Japanese gamers recently got a Seiken Densetsu compilation of the first three Mana games for the Nintendo Switch. For English gamers, this would be Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3. There has never been a better time for Square Enix to bring Seiken Densetsu 3 to the West. Even with the availability of its fan translation, there’s no way Seiken Densetsu 3 wouldn’t sell tons of copies of the collection alone.
6: Monster Hunter: Double Cross (Switch)
What do you get when you combine a massively successful game series with a new, massively successful Nintendo system? Apparently not an English Localization.
Monster Hunter: Double Cross is an enhanced version of Monster Hunter: Cross, or Monster Hunter Generations in English. I’d guess Monster Hunter: Double Cross was never officially brought West so Capcom could focus on Monster Hunter: World. Still, English Switch owners are without a Monster Hunter game on their system of choice. Looks like Capcom really double crossed us, if you catch my drift.
5: Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem
Ever since Marth and Roy became fan favorite characters in Super Smash Bros, Nintendo has brought nearly every Fire Emblem game to the West. We say nearly because… well, there was one baffling exception.
Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem is a direct follow-up to Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. Hardcore fans would better know New Mystery of the Emblem as a remake of the third mainline Fire Emblem game. Despite continuing the story of series poster child Marth, Nintendo apparently felt New Mystery of the Emblem wasn’t worth an English release. Even more infuriating is how New Mystery of the Emblem fixes major sticking points from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, such as needing to kill off party members to access optional content.
If this were released in a post Fire Emblem: Heroes world, there’s no way this would stay a Japan only game.
4: Metal Wolf Chaos
Once upon a time, the creators of Dark Souls made an ultra patriotic action game about the President of the United States fighting a coup d’etat in a giant mech suit. And somehow, it never made it outside of Japan.
Metal Wolf Chaos has cult hit written all over it. Between the cheesy voice acting (all in English, by the way) and the ridiculous premise, B-movie camp has never been better. Some speculate that Metal Wolf Chaos didn’t come West in fear of stirring the tense political climate at the time (2004). In a way, the fact that a game with the American flag on the cover never left Japan just adds to the absurdity of Metal Wolf Chaos‘ existence.
3: Phantasy Star Online 2
Phantasy Star Online 2‘s non-existent English version has become a meme at this point. Phantasy Star Online was one of the first console MMO-style games to ever appear in English. It was big enough that even casual gamers knew of Phantasy Star Online‘s existence. However, despite Sega’s insistence that Phantasy Star Online 2 would eventually come West, we still have not seen an official English release. Despite originally releasing in 2013.
Dedicated fans have managed to fan translate Phantasy Star Online 2, a feat which is practically unheard of for an active MMO game. Yet as Phantasy Star Online 2 continues to get new and exciting console ports, fans are constantly reminded of everything they’re missing out on.
Note: To cover my bases, there was technically an English release of Phantasy Star Online 2 in Southeast Asia. However, the game quickly locked out foreign IP addresses, leaving western gamers back to square one. Furthermore, the Southeast Asia version of the game shut down in 2017.
2: Mother 3
As far as cult classics go, few have more dedicated fanbases than Earthbound. Known as Mother 2 in Japan, Earthbound is a crazy mix of strange, funny, and heartrending moments that was unlike anything else on the Super Nintndo. Mother 3, the direct successor of Earthbound, takes everything that was great about Earthbound and cranks it up to 11.
Look, we can understand why Mother 3 was never brought West when it originally released. Earthbound tragically undersold back in the day, and Mother 3 released on the Game Boy Advance near the end of its life. Still, even with a professional quality fan translation available, fans have still been asking for an official release of Mother 3. Heck, Nintendo themselves acknowledged the demand for Mother 3 during the 2014 E3 conference. Even if the Game Boy Advance has come and gone, the demand for Mother 3 will never die so long as it remains exclusive to Japan.
1: Soma Bringer
Soma Bringer is so good it makes me mad.
Picture this: A Nintendo published, Diablo-style action RPG from the makers of Xenoblade Chronicles. Despite being a Nintendo DS game, there’s a ton of content and a wide range of characters to customize however you want. And, best of all, up to three players can play co-operatively through almost the entire adventure.
Oh, and the guy who composed the Chrono Trigger soundtrack did the music here, no big deal.
Soma Bringer is technically nothing new, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun. Even today, its rare to see games like this on a portable system. With how successful anime-style role playing games were on the DS, I honestly can’t imagine why Soma Bringer never came West. On one hand, there was a notion that Japanese RPGs weren’t in demand, despite being famously proven wrong by Bravely Default years later. On the other hand, even if that were true, and even if it was a new IP, Soma Bringer occupies a powerful niche within the DS library. There’s no way a game this good would have gone without a lot of word of mouth.
The true tragedy of Soma Bringer is this: Like most games on this list, you can still experience it in English with a fan translation. However, Soma Bringer is at its best in co-op, and that takes a lot more effort than simple emulation to achieve. The vast majority of western gamers won’t experience Soma Bringer at its best, and that’s just a crying shame. Perhaps with the success of both the Nintendo Switch and Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade series, we could see at least a spiritual successor to Soma Bringer in the future. Even if it takes a long time, we’re used to waiting at this point.