Yakuza has blown up in the West in recent years, but it’s hard to know where to begin with the series. Here’s how and where to start playing Yakuza.

Although it’s been going since 2005, the Yakuza series didn’t catch on in the West until recent years, starting with the release of Yakuza 0 in 2017. Since then the series has exploded in popularity, becoming a cult classic for Sega and encouraging Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to adopt a worldwide-oriented approach.

The Yakuza series is known for its combination of super dramatic crime-world storytelling and absurd off-the-wall humor. It’s a unique blend that can’t be found anywhere else in the video game industry.

Yakuza can be an intimidating series to start, however, with all the different names and numbering systems. Players wanting to jump in, especially with Yakuza: Like a Dragon coming in 2020, might have a tough time deciding where. Here’s a detailed breakdown of where to start playing the Yakuza game series.

There are a couple of different routes to take when starting the Yakuza series. Starting with the very first game on PS2 game is, of course, an option if players want to see how the franchise started. However, two options, in particular, are the best place to start.

The first is Yakuza 0, which functions as a prequel to the entire series by taking place in a 1980s Kamurocho. Yakuza 0 features many of the characters from the series and helps fill in plotholes that were present before. For someone looking to experience the intact timeline of the series’ story Yakuza 0 is a great introduction. It also happens to be one of the very best games in the series and gives fantastic character development for the two most important characters, series protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and antihero Goro Majima. Yakuza 0 greatly refines the overall gameplay and story pacing of the series, and it’s a pretty good indication of what players will find in the rest of the series.

The other option is to start with Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the very first Yakuza built from the ground-up on Yakuza 0’s engine. The story of Yakuza Kiwami feels limited compared to past entries, as Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio improved their storytelling and pacing drastically over the years. The best idea with this route is to go Yakuza Kiwami, Yakuza Kiwami 2, then Yakuza 3-6, slotting Yakuza 0 anywhere in between. This lets players see Kiryu’s story from the beginning, and how the character has grown and changed over the last fifteen years.