Are you a fan of Persona? Have you been desperately awaiting any further news (or an American/European release date) for the latest title in the beloved series? I certainly have -- and the long wait has become more and more agonizing as the Japanese release date looms closer and closer. Yet, unbeknownst to many fans, there are already many Persona-like titles on the market waiting to be played, adored, and shared with fellow fans.
Persona is, after all, not a standalone series -- the games are part of a much larger franchise called Megami Tensei, commonly known as Shin Megami Tensei outside of Japan. Since 1987, more than 50 games in this series have been developed and published by Atlus, though not all have been brought to the West. The following slides list Megami Tensei titles that have made their way to American consoles following the Western release of Revelations: Persona on the PlayStation in 1997. Though varied in gameplay and story, each title features a similar demon compendium and action-packed, character-driven story that is sure to entertain and engross.
With the well-received release of Shin Megami Tensei IV in the West in July 2013, the mainline series of Megami Tensei finally made it onto the radar of mainstream Western gaming. With 600,000+ sales worldwide and an average Metacritic score of 83, the game has certainly made a splash in the gaming world, albeit without nearing the heights of Persona's fame. Still, fans of the latter would do well to check out Shin Megami Tensei IV; it retains a similar battle system that also lets you recruit and fight alongside demons (shadows in Persona), a complex cast of characters, and philosophical underpinnings. Titles in the Shin Megami Tensei series are also known for being quite a bit darker than Persona, with the Japanese high school setting swapped for a post-apocalyptic, demon-ravaged Japan. As such, in both IV and other games in the series, your character is faced with tough, and at times heartbreaking, choices between friends, political factions, and belief systems, while negotiating the balance between law and order, and chaos. If you're looking for a darker, more difficult gaming experience, then Shin Megami Tensei will be right up your alley.
Shin Megami Tensei IV can be played on the Nintendo 3DS. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, considered by many fans to be the best and deepest game in the series, was also released in the West, and can be played on the PlayStation 2. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is available on the Nintendo DS, while the first game, Shin Megami Tensei, was ported to the States on iOS in 2014.
Of course, what better games to play while waiting for Persona 5 then other Persona titles. Despite the immense popularity of 3 and 4, the first three Persona games remain unplayed by many fans. The first game in the series, Revelations: Persona, introduces the basic plot framework of the series: a group of high school students are confronted with a series of supernatural incidents in their hometown, and discover an ability to summon reflections of themselves, called "personas," in order to fight evil forces. Persona 2: Innocent Sin and its direct sequel, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment follow a similar formula with a new setting, new characters, and new dark forces to defeat. Though critics consider these first three titles enjoyable yet inferior to the later games in the series, Persona 2 is often considered the series' best game by hardcore fans. If you love Persona 3 and 4 and want to play excellent games that follow the same formula, or prefer your high school bildungsroman tales with fewer anime tropes, then give Persona and Persona 2 a try.
All three games can be found on the PlayStation and PlayStation Portable. Additionally, Revelations: Persona is available on Microsoft Windows.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor and its sequel, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 follow a group of high school students who discover the power to summon, and fight, with demons in order to defeat other demons who are trying to invade Japan and destroy the world. In the first game, our protagonists find themselves trapped in Tokyo after the government enforces a sudden quarantine. The characters must interact with others trapped in the lockdown in order to investigate the cause of the quarantine, as well as the appearance of demons in Tokyo, and try to find a way out before their "death clock" runs out and everyone trapped in the quarantine dies. In the sequel, new protagonists join a secret demon-fighting organization after surviving a demon attack. They must fight against a group of demons, hell-bent on invading and destroying the world, while also dealing with rival organizations and saving their friends from demon attacks. Both Devil Survivor games were received well by fans and critics alike for their tense story, difficult moral choices, and multiple ending paths based on character interactions and choices.
Devil Survivor and Devil Survivor 2 are available on the Nintendo DS. Expanded editions of both games, titled Devil Survivor: Overclocked and Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker respectively, can be played on the 3DS.
The Devil Summoner series exists comfortably within the mystery genre, following a cast of characters who must use demonic allies in order to investigate strange occurrences in their world. In order to win over demons to their side, players must answer questions correctly, give them gifts, and not force them to perform unwanted moves. Additionally, certain demons refuse to fight side-by-side, so one's team of demons must be constructed carefully.
Although the first Devil Summoner game has not yet made it across the ocean, the sequel, Soul Hackers, was brought over to America and Europe on the 3DS in 2013. Soul Hackers relies heavily on cyberpunk themes of the advancement of technology and the substance of the human soul, as its players navigate a virtual world alongside the real one and hack both networks and souls. Unfortunately, the port received mixed reviews in the West due to its bland dungeons and dated game mechanics, although other critics praised it as reminiscent of 1990s science fiction anime.
The other two games in the Devil Summoner series released in America, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, follow a detective agency from the Taisho period in the early 1930s. The historical setting provides a distinct flavor to these games as it explores Japanese society during one of its most controversial periods. Although criticized for their weak graphics, the games are largely celebrated, by critics and fans alike, for their dark and engrossing stories and unique battle system. Both Raidou Kuzunoha games were released on the PlayStation 2, and the first game is also available on the PlayStation Network.
Although one the lesser-known titles in the franchise, Digital Devil Saga and its direct sequel Digital Devil Saga 2 are some of Megami Tensei's most critically-praised and fan-beloved games due to their deep, dark plots and morally complex and troubled characters. Digital Devil Saga follows a tribe of humans stuck in a disaster-ravaged digital world, who become infected with a demon virus that grants them demonic powers. The characters must fight (and cannibalize) competing tribes in order to escape their dying world, despite their own personal aversions to violence. The sequel follows many of the characters from the original as they explore a new world with new villains, threatening organizations, apocalyptic disasters, secrets to uncover, and intense moral dilemmas. In 2011, the series was named the "Top RPG of the Last Decade" by RPGFan, an impressive accomplishment for an older and little-known title.
Both Digital Devil Saga and Digital Devil Saga 2 are available on the PlayStation 2
With so many Persona-like games you can't have played them all. Now you can go back and play some of the best games in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. The hard part is picking which you want to play while waiting for Persona 5.