22 Wonderfully Japanese AF Video Games

Voting Rules
Vote up the games that weren't simply developed in Japan, but are so quintessentially Japanese.

A lot of amazing video games (Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Final Fantasy, Contra, Resident Evil, etc.) were made in Japan. While those games were very accessible to a Western audience, there are some games that are, let's say, uniquely Japanese. These video games are either deeply Japanese in their style and story or they simply don't really translate to other cultures. These are some super Japanese video games here, people.

The most Japanese video games represent a difference in aesthetic, taste, and mindset that reflects the idiosyncrasy of the weird island nation that we all love. Many of these video games find niches in Western markets simply because they are so "Japan." Others make it because, hey, they are really good games. Whatever the case may be, these are some Japanese video games that are well worth checking out.

Photo: Namco / Fair Use

  • Katamari Damacy
    Video: YouTube

    Words cannot fully describe that which is Katamari Damacy for PS2. As the son of the rainbow-vomiting King of the Cosmos, it is your sole duty in life to take a sticky ball called a Katamari and roll up every item in the world into it. Naturally, most things in said world are as absurd as you are. While it starts out the size of a thumbtack, you gradually roll your ever-expanding ball until it is large enough to consume entire cities!

    As weirdly Japanese as the game is, it just works. It is a really fun game. There is something strangely comforting about it, just rolling everything up into the Katamari. The experience is very zen, despite the screams of children and old women as they are consumed by the ball.

    45 votes
  • 2
    35 VOTES


    Video: YouTube

    Ōkami is as Japanese as enjoying a glass of nihonshu while you watch the cherry blossoms bloom on a warm spring day. Bursting with Shinto (a traditional Japanese religion) symbolism, you play as the honorable (Ō) god (kami) Amaterasu, embodied as a wolf. The "celestial brush" tool evokes shodō, and the entire game is styled like a beautiful ukiyo-e print.

    Originally released for the PS2 and subsequently for the Wii and PS3, the game is as fun as it is beautiful. The gameplay is solid, and the story is enthralling. The dialogue is witty and engaging, really drawing the player in and giving personality and dimension to the characters. Simply put, this is a must-play.

    35 votes
  • 3
    12 VOTES
    Fatal Frame
    Video: YouTube

    The Fatal Frame series is absolutely terrifying. It isn't just that you are playing as a petite Japanese girl whose only weapon against malevolent spirits is a camera. This PS2 game manages to be as terrifyingly atmospheric as the best horror films. Named Zero in Japan, the game takes you through Japanese settings and lore as you use the "camera obscura" to exorcize the spirits of the dead.

    At times, the game struggles with the usual survival horror pitfalls, such as tricky camera angles and the sheer masochism of the genre. When your nerves are shot after several hours of creeping dread, you do start to question the "fun" level. Despite this, it is actually a really well-made game that shouldn't be overlooked by anyone who enjoys the style. It's immeasurably better than some of the Resident Evil games, at least, and if you want to get scared, this will do the trick.

    12 votes
  • 4
    11 VOTES

    Pocky & Rocky (Kiki Kaikai: Nazo no Kuro Manto)

    Pocky & Rocky (Kiki Kaikai: Nazo no Kuro Manto)
    Video: YouTube

    A Shinto shrine maiden and her tanuki (an Asian raccoon dog) friend team up to fight a variety of traditional Japanese Yokai in this old-school, cooperative two-person shooter for the SNES. While the Japanese title actually translates to "Mysterious Ghost World: The Enigmatic Black Mantle," the anglicized title allows the cleverly named "Manuke the Tanuki" to become "Rocky the Raccoon." 

    This is the first of the Kiki Kaikai series to be released outside of Japan. It is a top-down 2D game, but you can move at your own pace in all directions. The two-player arcade-style fun make this game widely regarded as the best in the Kiki Kaikai series. The game is difficult, but not so hard that it induces controller-throwing rage. Watch out for Kappa, though!

    11 votes
  • 5
    17 VOTES

    Taiko no Tatsujin

    Taiko no Tatsujin
    Video: YouTube

    A rhythm game that utilizes taiko drums, this is Japanese squared. The arcade game features two giant taiko drums that you hit in rhythm with the game. It is that simple, and yes, it is a ton of fun to play.

    17 votes
  • 6
    20 VOTES

    Hatoful Boyfriend

    Hatoful Boyfriend
    Video: YouTube

    Hatoful Boyfriend is a pigeon dating simulator. You are a human girl who dates pigeons because a normal high school dating simulator wasn't enough... not for Japan. There are eight datable birds and multiple endings, good, bad, and weird. Seriously, WTF Japan?

    20 votes