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The Yakuza series has found a new level of success over the past few years. As of 2021, it was reported the franchise hit 17 million total sales. This success begs the question of just how the series managed to reach such numbers, a question that can be answered by looking at the sales of each game.
Rather, that would be the case. But the Yakuza franchise only gained recent popularity in English-speaking countries, and sales data on the series is scarce at best. It’s hard to say which games even broke a million.
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This list will be a little different as a result. Using data from steamspy and reports across the series’s lifetime, each game’s placement on this list will be estimated. As a result, this list might not be accurate - the numbers certainly won’t add up to 17 million - but it will still offer valuable insight on more successful titles in the franchise.
Disclaimer: Remakes and remasters, like the “Kiwami” games, will be merged with the original titles due to the lack of official sales data on them. Spinoffs like Judgement and Ishin will be considered in the ranking as well, but not Lost Judgement due to its very recent release.
As a Japan-only spinoff, Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin! barely makes it into the top 10. It’s possible this spot might belong to another spinoff, Yakuza: Dead Souls, but that game has even less sales data, only covering the first week. Ishin features major Yakuza characters in Japan’s Edo period, reenacting history in creative and over-the-top ways. It’s been rumored that this game might get a remake, with the series director expressing interest in making one, but it’s hard to say whether this game about the past truly has any future.
Yakuza 4 was the first game in the series to have multiple playable characters. It brought a new level of variety to the gameplay, allowing the player to use different techniques depending on who they played as. It also introduced fan-favorite characters like Akiyama and Saejima to the franchise. The systems introduced by this title would still require further refinement, something that would be achieved by its sequel.
Yakuza 5 takes the multiple characters from Yakuza 4 and gives them countless new additions, with each one even getting their own major sidequest. Combine that with a far more intricate story and a gameplay flow that rivals the best games in the series, and you have a true gem in the Yakuza franchise. It might not have been the most successful title, but it laid many of the foundations that would allow the games to achieve true popularity in western markets.
It is the belief of this writer that Yakuza: Like a Dragon definitely sold more than what this list states. The number of around 700,000 comes from official reports and data collected from steamspy. Despite how low this number seems, the series grew from 14 million total sales to 17 million after this title was released. It’s no wonder this game garnered so much attention - Like a Dragon featured brand-new characters and a new turn-based combat system. The protagonist of this game, Ichiban, is confirmed to return in the next main Yakuza installment, surely bringing a great deal of joy to fans of this new style.
Riding off the successful coattails of the previous games, Yakuza 3 managed very high sales numbers. It acts as more of a slice of life than other entries, having players enjoy day-to-day life at an orphanage owned by the protagonist. It received high reviews when it first came out, but its gameplay is noticeably lacking - especially after the release of the Kiwami remakes for Yakuza and Yakuza 2. It might be too late for a similar remake, but fans of the series will likely still enjoy playing through Yakuza 3 for its ever-emotional story.
As a game meant to wrap up the saga of the main protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life delivered some of the most emotional stories the franchise has seen. Being created in a brand-new engine, The Song of Life comes with better graphics and more fluid action than ever. Based on what limited data it has, it might have even surpassed Judgement’s sales...but it also might have just fallen short.
Judgement, while only truly related to Yakuza in setting and gameplay, is one of the few titles to have been reported as selling a million copies. Featuring unique detective work and numerous fighting styles used by the protagonist, Judgement provided a deep story alongside varied and fun gameplay. Unfortunately, the possibility of future games might be less certain than ever, according to reports by Kotaku. The success of this title can’t be denied, though, and it makes one wonder whether future Judgement titles will never truly see the light of day.
As the second title to ever be released, and the only game besides the original to get a Kiwami remake, Yakuza 2 takes firm hold of this list’s number 3 spot. It brought new locales and villains that would have prominent roles in future games, and its remake added massive new features and even minigames. It’s a fantastic addition to the series, and a must-play for anyone that loved the original or the prequel.
Of course, the original Yakuza had to be here somewhere. Yakuza and its eventual remake, Yakuza Kiwami, introduced thousands of new fans to the series. Featuring the unique heat action system and a large-scale city with hundreds of inhabitants, the original Yakuza was groundbreaking for its time. Combine that with Kiwami’s enhanced gameplay and additional challenges, and you have one of the best story-heavy action games out there.
Quite possibly the best-selling title of the franchise, Yakuza 0 acts as a prequel to the rest of the series. Players control series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and the fan-favorite rival Goro Majima as they uncover monetary mysteries and high-stakes plots. Featuring refinements of systems from previous titles, as well as droves of side content and heart-wrenching storytelling, Yakuza 0 deserves its spot at number 1.
As mentioned, these sales numbers are most likely inaccurate - especially with the release of remastered titles and the newfound success of the franchise. Still, it’s plain to see why certain games are where they are. One can only wonder where the series might go from here, and whether a new title will overtake 0’s success.
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