Best Yakuza and Like a Dragon Games (Ranked)

The Yakuza and Like a Dragon series has seen monumental growth over the years. Starting from humble beginnings on PlayStation 2, the series saw a point of stagnation during the unfortunate PS3 era. However, its sudden resurgence and triumphant foothold in the video game market is a spectacle to behold. I have been a staunch Yakuza lover since its PS2 heydays. With several games already out and my recent obsession with Infinite Wealth, I decided to sit down and rank the best Yakuza games of all time. So, without further delay, let’s look at my favorites and see what takes your fancy.

Note We are excluding Yakuza spin-offs from this list and only focusing on main-line Yakuza/Like a Dragon games. This means we haven’t included Judgment, Like a Dragon: Dead Souls, and Like a Dragon: Ishin here. The only exception to this rule is Like a Dragon: Gaiden

12. Yakuza (2005)

An image of Kazuma Kiryu from the 2005 game
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza
  • Release Date: December 8, 2005 (JP), September 5, 2006 (NA)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U

We kick off our rankings with the game that started it all. Yakuza was the first title to grace the PlayStation 2 in 2005. A semi-open-world beat-em-up, the game had a star-studded cast of English voice actors, side activities, and a hard-boiled storyline.

While this game kickstarted the series, it has considerably aged. Be it the classic PS2 localization efforts by Japanese developers or the dated controls, some players might find getting into the original an issue. However, I still suggest playing it to relieve the nostalgia of those amazing PS2 days.

11. Yakuza 3

Yakuza 3 remastered
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza 3
  • Release Date: February 26, 2009 (JP), September 5, 2006 (NA), August 20, 2019 (Remastered Collection)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Remastered Collection)

One of my comfort games is Yakuza 3, which so happens to be the first PlayStation 3 launch for the series. Yakuza 3 continued the story of Kazuma Kiryu, albeit starting in a more grounded setting of taking care of the Sunshine Orphanage in Okinawa and changing its pace to the usual craziness in Kamurocho. While some consider Yakuza 3 to have the weakest story in the series, I feel Okinawa is one of the comfiest settings the game could have gone for.

However, on the other hand, the gameplay isn’t one of my favorites in the series. Furthermore, the original launch was infamous for cutting out content. While the recent remaster fixed this, the game still has that dated, clunky gameplay. Still, for what it’s worth, this is a good title that fleshes out the character and relationships between Kiryu and Haruka.

10. Yakuza 4

Yakuza 4 remastered
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza 4
  • Release Date: March 18, 2010 (JP), March 15, 2011 (NA), October 29, 2010 (Remastered Collection)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Remastered Collection)

Yakuza 4 was the first game in the series to introduce multiple protagonists. The game featured three new protagonists besides Kazuma Kiryu, with different stories for each. Ultimately, the four stories converged by the end, making an epic tale ending on a rooftop. Additionally, Yakuza 4 was the first game to introduce distinct fighting styles for each character.

Unfortunately, the game carried forward the clunkiness of previous games. Additionally, the story had pacing issues that were also prevalent in the older titles. Still, Yakuza 4 carries a rich legacy for the series, as many game mechanics from the game turned out to be a series staple down the line.

9. Yakuza 2 (2006)

Yakuza 2
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza 2
  • Release Date: December 7, 2006 (JP), September 5, 2008 (NA)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U

While Yakuza was a great attempt to start a brand-new series by Sega, it wasn’t before Yakuza 2 in 2006 that it elevated to its current status. The sequel to the 2005 Yakuza, the second game followed a similar tank control and the same map of Kamurocho.

However, the game massively improved in other avenues, including the storyline, side-activity, side-content, and more. Yakuza 2 also dropped the localized dubbing, opting to retain the voice-acting of the original cast alongside subs. Overall, this was one of the great games to end the PS2 life cycle, helping Sega kickstart the series.

8. Yakuza Kiwami

Best Yakuza and Like a Dragon Games (Ranked)
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza Kiwami
  • Release Date: January 21, 2016
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Yakuza Kiwami was the first remake in the long-running series that started the pattern of freshening up old games. The game was a ground-up recreation of the 2005 Yakuza on the Yakuza 0 engine. This meant the game carried the visuals introduced in Zero while introducing brand-new content. Players also got a fleshed story, giving more context to Nishikiyama’s downfall.

Kiwami also introduced a facelift to the beat-up gameplay where you had different fighting styles, similar to Yakuza 0, with a fun system called Majima everywhere. Overall, it is a good remake of a game that aged with time.

7. Yakuza Kiwami 2

Yakuza Like a Dragon Kiwami 2
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza Kiwami 2
  • Release Date: December 7, 2017 (JP), August 28, 2018 (WW)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

The second game in the series to be remastered from the ground up, Yakuza Kiwami 2, was another overhaul of the 2006 Yakuza 2 from PS2. As the players expected, the game improved on nearly everything the original featured, with many added modern features. Furthermore, Kiwami 2 ran on the Dragon engine, giving it the first combat system introduced in Yakuza 6 but with added polish.

Not only that but Kiwami 2 also added mini-games previously not featured in the original. This included the cabaret mini-game, clan creator battle, and a side story where we saw how the Majima Construction became a reality. If you’re a gamer who still hasn’t tried the original, give Kiwami 2 a try, and you’ll see what I mean.

6. Yakuza 5

Yakuza 5
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza 5
  • Release Date: December 5, 2012 (JP), December 8, 2015 (WW), February 11, 2020 (Remastered Collection)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Not only was Yakuza 5 one of the biggest games in the series, but it arguably was one of the polarizing ones, too. True to its name, Yakuza 5 introduced five protagonists. Apart from Taejima, Akiyama, and Kiryu returning to the game, the game gave us Haruka as a playable character and a new character called Shinada.

And because the game featured five main characters, the variety in side content was naturally also impressive. Each character had some unique side-activity exclusive to just them. Similarly, every character had a different fighting style. The only real problem this game had was story pacing that felt inconsistent to some, including me.

Nonetheless, Yakuza 5 remains a solid game worth revisiting with the remaster collection.

5. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Yakuza 6
Image Courtesy: SEGA/Yakuza 6
  • Release Date: December 8, 2016 (JP), April 17, 2018 (WW)
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Yakuza 6 remains a curious case in my books, for multiple reasons. The game introduced the awesome Dragon Engine to the masses, which graced us with some of the best visuals and gameplay the series ever got. Additionally, the Onomichi section is one of the most laidback locations the series visited.

On the flip side, Yakuza 6 had a notorious storyline, which even I agree with. While the game did a fine job of setting up the next two games, it weirdly did that. Furthermore, since this was the first Dragon Engine title, the game had its share of performance issues.

Regardless, the game never compromised on the aspects that mattered, which included combat and gameplay.

4. Like a Dragon: Gaiden

Yakuza Like a Dragon Gaiden
Image Courtesy: SEGA/ Like a Dragon: Gaiden
  • Release Date: November 9, 2023
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

This was one of the last Yakuza and Like A Dragon titles that featured long-time series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu. Like a Dragon: Gaiden was what I like to call a “filler episode” to the series, taking place after Yakuza 6 and in between Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. The game aimed to answer many questions after the ending of Yakuza 6 and one particular moment in Like a Dragon.

While smaller in scale, the game brought back the beat-up gameplay, which Kiryu has become synonymous with. However, even with its smaller gameplay scale, Like a Dragon: Gaiden managed to be choked full of content wrapped around one of the emotional stories in the series. Because of all that and more, the game earns its well-deserved position on my list.

3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza Like a Dragon
Image Courtesy: SEGA/ Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  • Release Date: January 16, 2020
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Coming on the third spot, Like a Dragon is the first major game that doesn’t feature Kazuma Kiryu as the protagonist. The game is the seventh entry in the long-running series, and it features a new protagonist called Ichiban Kasuga, an ex-Tojo clan member imprisoned in 2000. While the backdrop might sound dark and gritty, Yakuza: Like a Dragon has to be one of the most heart-filled stories in the franchise.

The game also dropped the beat-em-up gameplay the series was known for in favor of turn-based combat. While not everyone agreed with it, I believed the game made a solid transition. Equal parts wacky and equal parts emotional, Yakuza: Like a Dragon earns its spot as a solid addition for new and old gamers alike.

2. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

An image of Ichiban and Kiryu alongside two other people
Image Courtesy: SEGA/ Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
  • Release Date: January 26, 2024
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

The latest entry in the Yakuza and Like a Dragon series, Infinite Wealth, takes the years worth of evolution the series has gone through and adds even more to it. The story picks up from the ending of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Ichiban teams up with Kazuma Kiryu to search for his estranged mother. As an exciting addition, Ichiban can be seen frolicking through the brand-new map of Hawaii.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth improved every gameplay feature introduced in Yakuza: Like a Dragon and then some. Be it the side-quests, the story, the turn-based gameplay, and the full-fledged side activities, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth was a solid turn-up to the evolution and deserves its spot as the runner up on our list.

1. Yakuza 0

Kiryu dancing in the disco
Image Courtesy: SEGA/ Yakuza 0
  • Release Date: 12 March, 2015
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows

The game that elevated the series to the greatest heights for the Western audience. Yakuza 0 was canonically the prequel to the entire series. However, the game polished and progressively made everything perfect from previous titles. Players followed the turmoil of Kazuma Kiryu and series favorite Goro Majima. Both characters get entangled in a huge conspiracy theory and attempt to get out of it.

With a full plate of side content and an impressive storyline, Yakuza 0 remains a game you should play. The best part is that because of the game’s timeline, players don’t have to play any previous Yakuza games for context. For me and a lot of other Yakuza veterans, Yakuza 0 is undoubtedly the best Yakuza game of all time.

Yakuza and Like a Dragon Games: What Order to Play In

After scrolling through my ranked list, I won’t blame you if you suddenly feel like playing a Yakuza game. However, hold on a minute before you do that. With twelve games already available, knowing where to begin might be confusing and even overwhelming for some. To help you out with just that, here is the correct order to play the entire Kiryu-Ichiban saga in its entirety:

  • Yakuza 0
  • Yakuza Kiwami or Yakuza (2005)
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2 or Yakuza 2 (2006)
  • Yakuza 3
  • Yakuza 4
  • Yakuza 5
  • Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  • Like a Dragon: Gaiden – The Man Who Erased His Name
  • Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Playing the game from top to bottom will ensure you play the main-line Yakuza and Like a Dragon series in its entirety. However, you won’t lose much context if you switch out Like a Dragon: Gaiden with Yakuza: Like a Dragon in the above list.

These are the best Yakuza and Like a Dragon Games of all time. As it is with other lists, your opinion might be different. Would you make any changes to the ranking? Drop your opinion in the comment section below, and let’s talk it out!

comment Comments 0
Leave a Reply