2017 saw Japanese video games rise to a level of quality that hasn’t been seen in years. Games like Persona 5, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, NieR: Automata, and Tales of Berseria not only represent some of the best entries in each of their respective franchises, but have broadened Japanese games to gamers who normally wouldn’t touch them.
The Switch’s insanely great first year library and the PS4’s finest year of exclusives have caused countless accolades and tons of popularity for Japanese games. Despite all of this, one could argue about the lack of variety in 2017’s lineup of Japanese games.
The same can’t be said for 2018, though, as there are highly anticipated titles for every genre from fighting to role-playing in store for fans of Japanese games. 2018 is looking to be a stronger and much more well-rounded year, offering something for everyone. Without further ado, here are just 10 of the hottest games you can look forward to in 2018 from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Marvel vs Capcom Infinite was underwhelming at best last year, but fighting fans have some exciting Japanese games to look forward to in 2018. Kicking off the year right is Dragon Ball FighterZ. This high octane fighter takes the Dragon Ball game series back to its 2D roots with visuals that look exactly like the beloved anime series it’s based on.
Dragon Ball FighterZ allows you to select three of your favorite DBZ characters new and old like Gohan, Goku Black, and Cell to battle it out in classic combo-based fashion. In addition, Dragon Ball FighterZ introduces some exciting new mechanics like gathering up the seven dragon balls during fights and using them to summon Shenron in order to grant you game-changing wishes.
Monster Hunter World
Coming out the same day as Dragon Ball FighterZ is Monster Hunter World. This next entry in the massive monster hunting series is set to extend the insane popularity of the franchise to the West. There hasn’t been a proper console entry in the series here since the third game, but Capcom is changing that with World.
Monster Hunter World will be the most accessible game yet, bringing the series to PS4, Xbox One, and PC for the first time ever. With a massive, gorgeous world to explore and a refined online component, this looks to be the culmination of everything that has come before in the franchise.
Dynasty Warriors 9
Dynasty Warriors 9 represents the largest departure for the Japanese hack-and-slash series ever. The Dynasty Warriors franchise has been relatively unchanged since its inception, but the newest entry modernizes it in a way that is sure to appeal to a much broader audience than ever before.
While previous Musou games had you transition from level to level, everything in Dynasty Warriors 9 takes place in a seamless open world version of China. Not only is the map completely changed, but the graphics and gameplay have been revamped from the ground up, too. With a Western release just a few days after the Japanese launch, you don’t have to wait long to play it.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
After many delays and nearly three years since its initial announcement, Ni no Kuni II is almost here. The long-awaited sequel to the 2011 cult hit Wrath of the White Witch, Ni no Kuni II has you play as a deposed young king attempting to reclaim his country.
Though this sequel lacks the direct involvement of the famed Studio Ghibli, it still has all of the right ingredients for a bigger and better sequel. The charming aesthetic remains alongside a brand new action-based combat system. You’ll also be able to develop the world in your own way through building and managing your kingdom.
If you were saddened by the end of the Dark Soul series, Code Vein is just for you. This challenging action Japanese RPG features all of the challenge and gameplay that you love from the Souls franchise, but with some truly unique twists.
In Code Vein, you play as a vampire with supernatural powers and the ability to consume your enemies. The setting is post-apocalyptic, featuring an anime-inspired visual style that is different from other Souls-like games.
Dragon Quest XI
Dragon Quest XI will finally make it West sometime later this year. Japan has had its hands on this turn-based JRPG for awhile now, but we will have our chance to play it soon. Unlike its sister series Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest XI offers something more traditional by refining the traditional turn-based combat of previous entries into its best iteration yet.
That isn’t to say it’s completely without change, as the PS4 version uses the Unreal Engine 4 to create a beautiful world that still respects the art-style of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Did we mention you’ll be able to play it all on-the-go on Switch?
Granblue Fantasy Project Re: Link
Despite being the dark horse on this list, Granblue Fantasy needs to be on your radar if you are a fan of Japanese games. A console, action RPG version of the extremely popular free-to-play mobile game, Granblue Fantasy features a collaboration between some major gaming giants.
Developed by the studio behind the award-winning Nier: Automata, this project brings together a powerhouse of talent for a gorgeous Final Fantasy-like game. Granblue Fantasy Project Re: Link reunites the fabled duo of composer Nobuo Uematsu and art director Hideo Minaba, best known for their work on classics like Final Fantasy VI and Lost Odyssey.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Ah, Kingdom Hearts 3. Square Enix has kept us waiting for more than a decade to resolve the events of Kingdom Hearts 2 and it finally arrives this year. After numerous spin-offs and prequels, we will get the supposed conclusion to one of the most convoluted video game plots to ever be written.
We already know that we’ll get to visit the Disney worlds of Tangled and Big Hero 6, but what about Marvel or Star Wars? The anticipation is killing us, and no Japanese fan will want to miss one of the biggest video games of this entire generation when it launches later this year.
Mega Man 11
After some mediocre last few years for Capcom, it seems this year is set to be the return of the major Japanese publisher. Besides the already mentioned Monster Hunter World, gamers everywhere were surprised when the announcement of Mega Man 11 was made last month.
The blue bomber is set to return this year in classic side-scrolling fashion for a brand new game that isn’t one of the many recent re-releases. Despite being the same 2D style as previous entries, Mega Man 11 takes a page from failed spiritual successor Mighty No. 9 for a more modern 2.5D look. Time will tell how it stacks up, but this could signal the return of Mega Man for good.
Project Octopath Traveler
Don’t let the terrible name fool you, Project Octopath Traveler transports you right back to the golden era of JRPG’s like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. You can select from eight very different protagonists, each of which have their own unique gameplay feature like seduction or dueling.
No matter which you choose, you’ll still be able to enjoy the nigh-flawless turn-based gameplay. Being that it’s developed by the team behind Bravely Default, combat revolves around a strong risk-and-reward system. Do you save up attacks for one major assault or use them as you gain them? Nintendo Switch owners can look forward to this exclusive Japanese RPG gem sometime this year.
What are some Japanese video games that you are looking forward to this year?