The Yakuza series of video games contains about half a dozen main titles and approximately one dozen spin-offs. Often hailed as the GTA of the East, the Yakuza series has nailed the spot between serious emotional play tones, wacky side quests and over the top combat.
Until as recently as 2020, the Yakuza games were centred around Kiryu Kazuma, the legendary Yakuza, which made playing a new Yakuza game, without prior knowledge of previous titles, next to impossible. However, Yakuza Like a Dragon, released in 2020, introduced a new character named Ichiban Kasuga. Like a Dragon was a revamp of the entire franchise, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Since the debut of the Yakuza series, there have been numerous remakes and remasters, intertwinning with the chronology of Kiryu Kazuma's adventures.
Today, we're looking at the best play order for the Yakuza series. Please note that we will not be diving into any story components of the Yakuza series to keep this guide spoiler-free and make your Yakuza experience as good as it can get.
Kiryu's Life Order
Kiryu's Life play order is the best play order for those who want to follow Kiryu's journey all the way from the early days in the Yakuza up until the end.
Release Date: 2015
Yakuza 0, a prequel that came out just a year ahead of the grand finale of the game, goes over Kiryu's early days in the Yakuza. While playing Yakuza 0 before the Yakuza Kiwami ruins a few key plot points, it does make the story and motives of characters' clearer. Think of it as knowing that Vader was Luke's father before the New Hope came out.
Release Date: 2016
Yakuza Kiwami is a 10th-anniversary remake of the original Yakuza on PS2. It's the same story but remastered with modern graphics and mechanics.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
Release Date: 2017
Just like Yakuza Kiwami, Kiwami 2 is the modern-day remake of Yakuza 2 on PS2.
Yakuza Remastered Collection
Release Date: 2019-2020
Setting: 2009, 2010, 2012
Released through 2019 and 2020, the Yakuza Remastered Collection is a 3-in-1 deal, comprising of remastered versions of Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 all in one package. From a consumer standpoint, the Yakuza Remastered Collection is a steal of a deal, since you're getting 3 remastered games for the price of one.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
Release Date: 2016
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the ultimate conclusion to Kiryu's journey as a Yakuza. And, without any spoilers, the developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio did not let us down with a lukewarm conclusion. In fact, once you play through the game, the subtitle The Song of Lifewill sound much more sensible.
While that concludes the adventures of Kiryu in the Yakuza, there is another main series game that's still left.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Release Date: 2020
Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduces a new character named Ichiban Kasuga, who, though young and naive, is almost as charismatic as Kiryu. Since Yakuza: Like a Dragon is not a direct sequel to the previous titles, it can be played through without any prior knowledge of the series.
While rest of the game is pretty much the same as the others, which means lively streets and wacky side stories, the combat was shifted from live-action to a turn-based style, akin to classic JRPGs. I think the change in the combat was a major step back, especially given the fact that Yakuza series' combat was so well crafted and satisfying. However, the rest of the game almost makes up for it.
The Chronological Order
The chronological play order of the Yakuza series is almost the same as Kiryu's life path, with the only major difference being the placement of Yakuza 0. If you're following the chronological play order, the game will unfold just like how the devs originally decided, like you wouldn't know that Vader was Luke's father until The New Hope.
Here's our recommended chronological play order for the Yakuza series.
- Yakuza Kiwami
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
- Yakuza Remastered Collection (Yakuza 3, 4, 5)
- Yakuza 0
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
- Yakuza: Like A Dragon
Best Yakuza Game for New Players
If you've never played a Yakuza game and want to experience everything the series has to offer, we recommend you play the Yakuza series' Kiryu's Life play order. All the main games featuring Kiryu are at least 30 hours long, so the Kiryu's Life play order will get you a good 200+ hours of solid playtime.
However, if you don't have so much time or you're not yet sure if you want to sink 200+ hours in a video game series, then check out Yakuza: Like A Dragon, the latest title from the series than can be played as a standalone game. In some ways, like graphics, gameplay and side stories, it's better than the original Yakuza series and can prime you up for the rest of the game that you will definitely want to play.