PS3 Games

When I want to take a break from studying Japanese, I play my PS3. But, there's no sense in taking a break from Japanese completey; once you're at the intermediate level, you will find your language ability sufficient to enjoy Japanese games. Here are my recommendations.

I'm not really going to review these games. If you're a gamer, I assume you already know enough on your own. Here, I will write only about game features related to language pickup.

If you need help ordering from Amazon Japan (whether from within Japan or from abroad), check out my guide.


Thankfully, the PS3 is region-free for games. So, even if you have a US system and ilve in the US, you can import Japanese games and play them without any trouble.

Heavy Rain

This game is absolutely fantastic- although short (about ten hours), it feels like "playing a movie," which means the majority of the time is spent in conversation, listening to characters and asking questions.

This game should be great even for beginners, as the Japanese version allows you to choose any combination of Japanese/English voice and Japanese/English subtitles.

Since this is a game in which the story changes depending on how you play it, you can even go through it once in, say, Japanese voice with English subs, and then again all in Japanese and see if you can work your way through the differences on your own.

All text is subtitled and voiced, and English subs and voice are also available.

Final Fantasy XIII

I broke with tradition and wrote a full review for this one. Read my full FFXIII review.

Uncharted 1 and 2

If you have a PS3 you've probably played these already, as they are among the best action games on the system. The Japanese versions include both Japanese and English voices and subs, so you're free to mix and match to your ability level. Although this is an action game, there is a fair amount of dialog- comparable to your average action movie.

These two are also relatively cheap and a lot of fun, so they can be a great way to relax when you still want to study a little but not think too hard.

All text is subtitled and voiced, and English subs and voice are also available.

Yakuza 3 (Ryuu ga gotoku 3)

The Yakuza series is a great Japanese competitor to Grand Theft Auto, although I personally feel the Yakuza story is much deeper and more interesting. In this, the third volume does not disappoint; the story is split between Tokyo and Okinawa, and includes 100 sub stories, plus more than a dozen mini games (bowling, baseball, Japanese gambling, casino gambling, running your own cabaret, and much more).

All of the cut scenes include full voice. Unfortunately, you will have to read the in-game text on your own. For this, 2kyuu level is probably required, but if you are a fan of import games you will be happy to learn that this title includes an auto-highlight function on the map, so even if you're a little hazy about what's going on in the story you should be able to enjoy the game.

Most text can be paused, and cut-scenes (which can't) can be re-watched.

Metal Gear Solid 4

MGS4 is the top selling PS3 game in Japan, and probably the best PS3 game out now. If you haven't played the previous Metal Gear games it may be tough to recommend, but otherwise it's a great purchase. About half the game is cut scenes, which turns some people off, but hey, it's more Japanese practice.

All of the text in this game is subtitled and voiced.

If you're a Metal Gear fan, you may also be interested in the DVD movies of the first two games. The set features Metal Gear 1+2 as animated comic books. The comic balloons are in English and the voiceover is in Japanese. As a bonus, they are relatively cheap considering the price of Japanese DVDs.

Metal Gear Solid 2 DVD (Japanese)

Text can be paused, but you lose the voice. It's a little inconvenient.

Fallout 3

Bethesda's latest RPG has made it to Japan, although it has been censored slightly. (In short, no detonating atomic bombs in this game, and slighly less gore, although I doubt you'll notice.)

Unfortunately, for the Japanese Oblivion (Bethesda's other great PS3 RPG), the voiceovers were left in English and the Japanese subtitles were tiny. The great news about the Japanese Fallout 3 is that all of the voiceovers have been redone in Japanese, and everything is subtitled as well. In other words, tens of hours of language practice.

Text can be paused.

龍が如く見参! (Yakuza- The Edo Period Version)

Sega's first 龍が如く for the PS3 is a time-shifting game set in feudal Japan. I would have liked this game just for being able to explore the environments; fortunately, the game itself is decent too. Best of all, it's already in "The Best" series, which means you can pick a new copy up cheaply.

All of the cutscenes are subtitled and voiced in Japanese. Unfortunately, standard in-game dialog is text only, meaning that you need decent kanji-reading ability (this assumes you are actually using the game to study Japanese; if you aren't, the game does include a map with quest markers so you could play the game without knowing Japanese at all if you really wanted). One nice bonus is that for Edo slang, there is a dictionary feature that gives you the reading, a quick definition, and often some explanation of the cultural background behind the word. For me, this was the icing on the cake.

Most text can be paused, and cut-scenes (which can't) can be re-watched.