The Man Who Erased His Name

Look, I’m just going to say it clearly for everyone: Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is the worst game to start your Yakuza journey with.


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It’s not because it’s a bad game — I absolutely raved about it in my review. However, if you play Gaiden first, then enjoy it so much you want to check out the rest of the series, you’ve already done yourself the disservice of ruining the last two games in a big, big way.

I’m not going to spill the details here as that would defeat the purpose of this PSA, but Gaiden reveals the biggest twists and turns of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life and Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon in a condensed way that doesn’t do the incredible storytelling any justice. That’s not a dig at Gaiden, as these throwback scenes are simply providing context — but that’s the problem with this idea of Gaiden being “the perfect entry point”. It’s too context-heavy for this to ever be true.

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After Like A Dragon Gaiden, We Need More Classic Yakuza Stories

Like a Dragon Gaiden has proven these smaller episodes work well, and there are plenty of Yakuza stories we could revisit in the same way.

Gaiden is set between the end of Yakuza 6 and the beginning of Yakuza 8: Infinite Wealth, overlapping with the events of Yakuza 7 entirely. It’s a game where you need to know the details of the past titles to appreciate it or even understand what the heck is happening, and that’s why RGG Studio had to throw in a CliffsNotes version of Yakuza 6’s ending and the whole of Yakuza 7 at regular intervals.

Yakuza 8: Infinite Wealth is actually called Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, as the series is changing its Western name to match its Japanese one.

Like A Dragon Gaiden - Kiryu sitting on a throne

Yakuza 6 and 7 are two of its best titles, and both take great care and attention to tell their stories, allowing players to appreciate every moment and share in the characters’ joy, surprise, and heartache. Gaiden squashes all that into a montage, because they’re not the focal point here – Kiryu’s adventures as Agent Joryu are. You’re expected to know that as the player, which is literally impossible for newcomers.

If the hype for Gaiden has you tempted to dive into Yakuza for the first time, please reconsider your choice of starting point. The ‘which Yakuza game should you start with’ debate happens at least once a year amongst the TheGamer team, as there are quite a few fans in our ranks, as well as in the wider world as new players scramble for a foothold. There always seems to be a general consensus that three viable options exist.

Yakuza 0

Kiryu walks through the streets of Kamurocho smoking a cigarette

Go back to the very beginning with the prequel and play through chronologically. Yakuza 0 is often lauded as the best, so it’s most likely to make you fall in love with the series and want to keep playing. Like Gaiden though, it relies on some knowledge of the previous games with some deep cut references, even though it comes first chronologically. It’s a good entry point, but playing this game as your first is a different experience to playing it once you know the cast.

Yakuza Kiwami

Kiryu facing down a wave of goons in Yakuza Kiwami

A remaster of the first game released, this lets you start the series as it was meant to be started, but you know, with the benefit of it looking all nice and shiny. Plus, there’s more Majima. Bonus points. I prefer this entry point as I feel you appreciate Yakuza 0 a little more, having already met the characters as they are in the present and seeing the difference in their personalities and how far they’ve grown. The best place to start is the start, right? If you played every Yakuza game in release order, this is the story you’d kick things off with..

Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon

Ichiban Kasuga in Yakuza: Like a Dragon

My least favourite viable entry point to suggest is Like a Dragons. The switch to turn-based combat that Infinite Wealth (and presumably future games) will use makes this great for players who don’t want to master several different combat stances, and the new cast and location mean it’s a fresh start in many ways. Whereas other Yakuza games are led by Kiryu, Like a Dragon stars Ichiban, who will be the face of the series moving forward, although Kiryu stays in the picture.

If you plan to backtrack after starting Yakuza 7, you have ruined a couple of things plot-wise for yourself, but it’s still an understandable option as a turning point for the series that you can move forward from without then wading through several more titles.

Kazuma Kiryu in Yakuza

I’d recommend Yakuza to anyone and can talk about it all day, but I do appreciate it’s not for everyone. If you’re keen to dive into Kamurocho, the Yakuza Collection on Steam is a great bundle that includes every main title from Yakuza 0 to Yakuza 6, so you’re already encompassing the two best entry points right there, plus giving yourself plenty more to play if you enjoy it.

If you want to play Yakuza, there’s no wrong way to do it. Each game has a self-contained story and colourful characters with eccentric side quests. But if you want to appreciate the series as a whole, be careful where you start from, or you might ruin the experience before it even starts.

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