How to play the Yakuza games in order: release date, chronological order and ranked

Yakuza games
(Image credit: SEGA)
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Keen to try the Yakuza games but not sure where to begin? We’re here to help. The series is now available to play on more platforms than ever before, including the PS4, PS5, Steam and Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. This means there’s never been a better time to get into the popular action adventure game. 

In the Yakuza series of games, you’ll follow protagonist Kazuma Kiryu as he takes an emotional journey through the heart of Japan's seedy underworld. This means plenty of violent combat and money-making, of course, but the world of Yakuza has some fun to offer too, with all kinds of recreational activities that range from singing karaoke and eating at restaurants to playing Sega's classics in the arcades.

At its heart, Yakuza is quite a mature series. But at times it can be downright hilarious. We’re always surprised that it manages to strike such a fine balance between being absolutely brutal and totally bonkers at the same time. 

This makes the games difficult to define. Yakuza is often referred to as the "Japanese Grand Theft Auto" or even a spiritual successor to Sega's Shenmue series. But both of those labels don't really do it justice. Instead, it's a mish-mash of so many systems and different mechanics – from RPG progression to rhythm-based mini-games – and it's also much more story-focused than Rockstar's GTA. It meshes all of these different threads and influences together so wonderfully, too, that there's truly nothing quite like it. 

Read to jump in and prove your devotion to the clan? In our guide below we’ll show you how to play the Yakuza games in order, what critics think of them, and list every Yakuza game released to date.

How to play the Yakuza games in order: chronological order

(Image credit: SEGA)

Even those who have played Sega's long-running Yakuza series might be confused by its timeline. 

To play the games in chronological order, you’ll need to start with Yakuza. This is where a young, fresh-faced Kazuma Kiryu is beginning to make his mark. 

Next up is Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 (excellent remakes of Yakuza and Yakuza 2), and then… well, it’s pretty self-explanatory from there. Here’s how to play them all in chronological order:

  • Yakuza 0 (takes place in 1988)
  • Yakuza Kiwami (a remake of Yakuza on PS2, takes place in 2005)
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2 (a remake of Yakuza 2 on PS2, takes place in 2006)
  • Yakuza 3 (takes place in 2009)
  • Yakuza 4 (takes place in 2010)
  • Yakuza 5 (takes place in 2012)
  • Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (takes place in 2016)
  • Yakuza: Like A Dragon (takes place in 2019)

How to play the Yakuza games in order: release date and platform

(Image credit: SEGA)

We've covered how to play the Yakuza games in chronological order, following Kazuma Kiryu from younger to older. But it might also be fun to play the games in order of release. 

To do that, you’d need to dust off your old PlayStation 2 to play the first game in all its standard-definition glory. However, we’d advise against it, as you can play Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 instead on both PS4, Xbox One and PC, which are modern remakes of the first two games. It should also save you a trip to the attic.

  • Yakuza (2006, PS2) 
  • Yakuza 2 (2008, PS2) 
  • Yakuza 3 (2010, PS3) 
  • Yakuza 4 (2011, PS3) 
  • Yakuza: Dead Souls (2012, PS3) 
  • Yakuza 5 (2015, PS3, PS4) 
  • Yakuza 0 (2017, PS4, Xbox One, PC) 
  • Yakuza Kiwami (2016, PS4, Xbox One, PC) 
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2 (2018, PS4, Xbox One, PC) 
  • Yakuza 6 (2018, PS4, Xbox One, PC) 
  • The Yakuza Remastered Collection (2019, PS4, Xbox One, PC) 
  • Yakuza: Like A Dragon (2020, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC) 

Yakuza games: Yakuza: Like a Dragon

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Yakuza games on Xbox Game Pass for console and PC

(Image credit: SEGA)

One of the biggest surprises at Microsoft’s X019 event was the announcement that the Yakuza series was finally coming to Xbox, and even more importantly, Xbox Game Pass. 

Yakuza: Like a Dragon has also made its way to the service which means that if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, you can now play the every mainline Yakuza game on the service. 

Best Yakuza games ranked 

(Image credit: SEGA)

While reviews of any game are entirely subjective, we’ve listed the best Yakuza games based on their Metacritic rating below. We'd strongly recommend playing Yakuza 0 first if you’re new to the series, though, as it's the most accomplished version of the game and it serves as a great introduction. It’s also the highest-rated game according to critics, alongside Yakuza Kiwami 2.

What's next for the Yakuza games?

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

(Image credit: Sega)

The Yakuza games will stick with the turn-based RPG gameplay of Yakuza: Like a Dragon moving forward, according to developer Ryu ga Gotoku.

Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi and producer Kazuki Hosokawa told IGN (opens in new tab) that the Yakuza series signature action gameplay has "been transformed into a turn-based RPG" and that Lost Judgement, a spin-off to the Yakuza games, will instead focus more on action, like previous entries in the series did.

Is Judgment a Yakuza game?

Judgment

(Image credit: Sega)

Judgment is a spin off game from developer Ryu ga Gotoku that sees players follow a detective named Takayuki Yagami. It features a similar gameplay structure to the Yakuza games, with a combat system that is reminiscent of Yakuza 0, side missions to complete alongside the main story and an investigation mode that sees players search a scene for clues and evidence of crime. 

Judgment Remastered released on Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and Stadia on April 23, 2021, and a sequel called Lost Judgment released in September 2021.

Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.