When it comes to mystery, puzzles, and character development, Professor Layton is at the top of the list regarding some of the best series in the Nintendo DS library. Level-5’s developer was previously known for making great RPGs such as Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy, and Dragon Quest VIII. The series was a significant departure from what fans were used to from the team, and the fact that it was released on a console primarily known for shovelware at the time was a mark that initially went against it as it was being released. The sheer number of puzzle-solving games alone made fans wary at first.
The Professor Layton games were a huge departure from the usual suspects that fans fell prey to, thanks to the amazing plot, characters, and gameplay. The addition of voice acting allowed the players to connect more to what was happening rather than wait for the challenging puzzle with no context. The series has lasted for almost twenty years—okay, maybe not quite twenty, but fifteen years—and although the series has taken a long hiatus, the team has recently announced a long-awaited sequel that will be released soon. Today, we’ll look at the Professor Layton games released in the series from start to finish.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
The first title in the series, “Professor Layton and the Curious Village,” was a revolution at the time it was published. As mentioned, the Nintendo DS was plagued with many outright boring puzzle games. This title upgraded the originals’ formula by inducing voices, a great soundtrack, and memorable characters to go along with great puzzles. It also introduced one of the best characters in gaming history, Professor Layton, the coolest and most intelligent detective since Sherlock Holmes.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box / Pandora’s Box
The sequel improves on everything that was lacking in the first game. From the repetitive puzzle music to the much improved main antagonist, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box helps launch the series further into the all-time classic category. It’s arguably the best in the series, and the fan reception reflects that. As the second in a planned trilogy, it does a great job of setting up expectations for the proposed third game. Fun fact: despite its greatness, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box was released only nine months after the previous title.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future / Lost Future
The final game in the first trilogy, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, tried hard to improve on the sequel, but it fell short of that despite still being a fantastic game. One of the most significant additions was the change in pencil sizes and the ability to choose different colors. It also added a bit to the soundtrack to help change up the now formulaic puzzle themes, and some of the mysteries were given more story, which helped integrate the gameplay more with what was going on plot-wise. Another exciting addition from the development team was the introduction of puzzle battles.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter / Spectre’s Call
Professor Layton and the Last Specter would mark the beginning of the prequel trilogy and was hotly anticipated by fans, hoping for more games after the original trilogy’s conclusion. The game was just as good as what came before it and featured many additions that made it great. Small things such as more animations and dialogue helped make the game feel like a game, and the addition of collections allowed players to keep survivors from their adventures.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
As the first title for the Nintendo 3DS, there were big expectations from fans of the series to deliver a next-generation Professor Layton game. Fortunately, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask did just that, introducing actual 3D graphics to go along with the 3D motif. Like many games on the system, the awe of having glasses-free 3D effects was amazingly well done. The story and gameplay were delivered as usual, with the addition of downloadable puzzles.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
The final chapter of the prequel trilogy, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, is also the last game that covers the story of Layton and Luke. For this one, it’s important to note that the series has been going strong for only five-ish years, so imagine the fatigue the team must have felt cranking out one title a year at that point. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy was still excellent, with a satisfying “sendoff” for the leading duo, a touching story, and a great conclusion to many mysteries. The lucky Japanese audience got free chocolate with the game as a promotion and unlockables in-game.
Layton’s Mystery Journey
Just when we thought it was over, the team released the next title in the series “Laytons Mystery Journey,” which featured the daughter of Professor Layton, Katrielle Layton, as she solved the mystery of her missing father. This title was later ported to the Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android. The gameplay was enhanced with the addition of revisiting older puzzles and solving puzzles in any order. Layton’s Mystery Journey would be the final mainline title for quite a while.
The Professor Layton series would receive a few spinoffs, including one with iconic Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, released in 2014. Other spinoffs would follow the adventures of other characters, such as Professor Layton’s son, Alfendi Layton, while others would resume the adventures of Layton and Luke in the form of mobile games. The series is considered a hallmark of the puzzle genre and is perfectly playable even to this day.