A Japanese video game

Japanese MMORPGs : The Most Popular Choices

Gaming has always been an integral part of Japanese culture and it has presented some of the most iconic games in popular culture. The country hasn’t been left far behind as the popularity wave of MMORPGs swept the world and there are quite a few anime/fantasy based games that have fascinated players.

In this article, we present six of the most popular MMORPG games that have their origins linked to Japan.

  1. Final Fantasy 14
  2. Phantasy Star Online 2
  3. Dragon Quest X
  4. Onigiri
  5. Dungeon Fighter Online
  6. Izanagi Online

The fact is, most of the MMORPGs originating in Japan has its roots in the anime and the manga genres.  Apart from the animations and the exciting storylines, the fun-factor arising from cooperation and competition between multiple players is one major reason behind their popularity. In addition, they are also a great tool for social interaction through textual and voice connections. So without much ado, let us take a look at the games.

Video games are often transformed to animes in Japan ( Image by Instacodez from https://www.flickr.com)
Video games are often transformed to animes in Japan ( Image by Instacodez from https://www.flickr.com)

This one is a genuine chart-topper and is often marked as one of the best MMORPG games that you can play. Period. Even after seven years, it is still one of the best games that new players can start with. It combines an interesting story with classic combat and the latest expansion pack called the Shadowbringers was released in 2019. In the same year, the total player count of the game crossed 18 million.

Actually, the original version of the game was a commercial failure. Then it was relaunched in 2013 and earned widespread positive reviews. It also won the Destructoid’s Gamescom Community Choice Award and the”Best Online Game” award at the Famitsu Dengeki Game Awards 2019. In fact, in Japan, 22,260 physical units for PS4 were sold within the first week after Shadowbringers was launched.

Release Year: 2013

Developing Studio: Square Enix Business Division 5

Language support: Japanese, English

Ratings: 4.5/5

Buy it here

This is definitely one of the most popular games arising from Japan. It combines the traditional anime style with a pulse-pounding combat oriented gameplay. It allows the player to seek a mission and team up with other players for a common objective. While the story is basic, this game is all about the fast-paced gameplay and the unique combat styles.

In spite of its popularity, the game took a long time to get released beyond Japan. It was finally released in Xbox One and Microsoft Windows a few months ago. However, there are still some differences between the version existing in Japan and the one released for North America. On the whole, if exciting combat is all you seek, this is a great choice from every aspect.

Release Year: 2013

Developing Studio: Online R&D

Language support: Japanese, English

Ratings: 7/10

Buy it here

The fact is, this is the only MMORPG in the popular Dragon Quest video game series and mixes a traditional setup with a solid combat style. The best part is, the combat system is a great combination of classic MMORPG style and active time battle system. The main aim of the developers was to integrate loyal series fans with the newcomers and the effort received a positive response from players.

The game was a chart-topper in Japan after it was released. Since its launch, the game has been upgraded by multiple expansion packs and other updates. However, despite the fan demands, the game never saw an official release in the west and remained localized in Japan. In addition, you will need to overcome the language barrier to enjoy it.

Release Year: 2012

Developing Studio: Square Enix

Language support: Japanese

Ratings: 3.76/5

Get it here

This game takes you into a fantasy world of ancient Japan where humans and mythical creatures co-exist. It was released for multiple platforms including Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. However, the gameplay remains the same in all the platforms. Even though it is anime-based, the game is highly customizable and that added level of creativity makes it even more enjoyable.

Basically, as a player, you take control of an Oni which is an ancient demon. However, while the character designs are superb, the graphics and music are average. Once you get over some of these minor issues, this is a highly enjoyable game for anime lovers. Another exciting feature- the game has an automatic targeting system.  Also, this one provides you with a deeper insight into the mythical world of Japanese folklore and fairy tales.

Release Year: 2014

Developing Studio: CyberStep

Language support: Japanese, English

Ratings: 3.49/5

Play it here

This is one of the highest-grossing multi-player games that has ever been released. The game was released in Japan with the name Arad Senki and is one of the rare games that was adopted as an anime as well as a manga. In 2019 the number of players was more than 600 million players across the world. Moreover, it was also the second-highest-grossing digital game for two consecutive years- 2018 and 2019.

While the gameplay has been kept simple, it is definitely a lot of fun. The player enters into a classic “beat ‘em up” setting that involves fighting a variety of monsters. Interestingly, the game was released in 2D instead of 3D as the developers felt that it was the best way to capture the look and feel of the characters. In fact, even with its retro styling, this is one of the most addictive games you will find.

Release Year: 2006

Developing Studio: Neople (Nexon)

Language support: Japanese, English

Ratings: 78/100

Get it here

Here is another great choice for mobile game players that combines ninja warfare with a fantasy theme. The gameplay boasts of high-quality graphics and tough boss battles that will challenge even the veteran players. Apart from the solid action, there is also a good storyline based on a fantasy world where monsters roam freely. With more than 100 different storylines, there is a lot of variety for you to try out.

The player can hose from four different classes, each with their own special set of skills. Note that the characters are designed by Takashi Okazaki, a renowned graphical and visual artist. The game uses the Unreal 3 Engine that supports top-notch graphics. Overall, if you like to fight your way out through a wide variety of monsters, this one is a good choice.

Release Year: 2015

Developing Studio: Asobimo

Language support: Japanese, English

Ratings: 3.61/5

Get it here

To Conclude

In reality, there were a few other favorites that remained at the top of the popularity charts after their release. But most of their game servers have been shut, much to the disappointment of the fans. The best thing about MMORPGs is the human aspect that consists of both rivals and teammates. This makes the gameplay more engaging than playing with any form of artificial intelligence.

A player enjoying video games
A player enjoying video games ( Image by https://pxhere.com)

However, there are still not that many MMORPGs arising from Japan as we would have liked to see. In addition, there are quite a few games that are exclusively available in Japan only. There are also some MMORPG games that have originated from South Korea and found a significant fan base in Japan.

We can surely hope that with the rapid rise in the rate of mobile gaming, the top gaming studios of Japan will surely come up with some exciting options in the coming years. The fact remains that Japanese RPGs have influenced the genre in various ways in the past and will keep doing so in the coming days.

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and Japanese culture enthusiast. I travel the world while working from my laptop and try to visit Japan as often as I can. About Eli Civil

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