Which Yakuza series game should you start with? Answered

Yakuza newcomers have a game to start the series on with no strings attached.

Image via Sega

The Yakuza series is expansive, comprising eight mainline games, a survival-horror spinoff, a two-game crime drama spinoff, and countless other crossovers and tie-ins. The games of this series have gained a reputation as incredibly lore-heavy and content-dense, making first-time players more than a little apprehensive when picking a game to start with. Fortunately, one such Yakuza game encapsulates the essential gameplay of the series while shedding some important light on some of the series’ most important characters.

Which Yakuza game to play first?

Screenshot by Gmaepur

Despite the original Yakuza or its Kiwami remake being the de facto start to the series, on the whole, Yakuza 0 is the best possible game for a complete newcomer to start the franchise. As a prequel game to the rest of the series, very little of Yakuza 0’s established plot and characters need to be familiar in order for its own events to be compelling and carry significant implications on the story of later games.

Yakuza 0 centers itself around the series’ two most iconic protagonists — Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima — acting as origin stories for the two mainstay characters. Its plot highlights the foundation of Kiryu’s idealistic sense of honor and stoicism and the tragic events that led Majima to become the crazy and unpredictable “Mad Dog” deuteragonist. Completing Yakuza 0 can provide players new to the franchise with insight into the values of these two characters when moving forward to later installments, or at least provide context as to why Majima keeps popping out of manholes.

Related: How to play the Yakuza games in order

From a gameplay perspective, Yakuza 0 offers arguably the exciting and varied combat mechanics that the series as a whole can muster. Kiryu and Majima each use three different fighting styles that are unique to their character, swapping between them on the fly to manage different situational encounters. Notably absent from the list of unlockable abilities in Yakuza 0 is the heavily relied-upon, invincibility-frame-producing Tiger Drop, encouraging newer players to experiment and get more heavily involved with the available styles.