Japan has given a lot to the gaming community. Some of the most iconic games and characters of all-time have come out of the island nation since the mid-80s. Japanese classics have shaped gaming as we know it today, and while a number of Western developers have risen to prominence since the golden age of Japanese gaming, many of the top dogs in the industry are Japanese. Localization has become more and more popular, and we Western gamers are getting way more titles from Japan than ever before. There are plenty of games that have been fantastic, but there are plenty of terrible games that release out of the Japan as well.
Famitsu is one of Japan’s most popular publications, having been around since 1986. The magazine is one of the most prominent in the video game industry and utilizes a unique scoring system that has four critics give a game a score out of 10, which is then added up to make a grand total out of 40. But many have questioned certain Famitsu review scores here in the West. While a difference in opinions is almost guaranteed to pop up when discussing video games, some of these final scores have been downright questionable when compared to what Western audiences and reviewers have to say.
It’s quite clear that while we share many of the same tastes, there are always going to be some things that appeal to Japanese gamers that don’t appeal to Western ones. With that in mind let’s look at 15 games beloved in Japan and hated in North America.
Assassin’s Creed games have received their fair share of flack from gamer’s in recent years. Most critics complain that the series is overly repetitive, while others find that the games have lost their appeal after multiple annual releases. Chronicles isn’t one of the most well-known games in the series, but the 2D side-scroller actually did pretty well overseas, scoring a respectable 32/40 from Famitsu. Comparatively, the game did not do nearly as well with Western critics – averaging low to subpar review scores. The game doesn’t necessarily engage the player all that much and plays out as a very basic, barebones stealth scroller. Not enough to win over Western audiences, but apparently great for the folks at Famitsu.
It might be strange to see a Mario game on here, but Mario Party 10 wasn’t exactly the best entry in the series now was it? In both Japan and the West, the Mario franchise is one of the biggest and most profitable. Beloved by many, you’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer who hasn’t played at least one Mario game in their lifetime. One of the more popular is the Mario Party series, well known for ruining the sturdiest of friendships. But Mario Party 10 wasn’t really doing much of anything for anyone – at least not in the West. The game got average reviews by most critics and is generally seen as one of the weakest in the series. While Japanese critics, on the other hand, had nothing but good things to say with Famitsu giving it a 33/40.
Here’s an example of an inferior adaptation trying to cash in on brand name recognition. Ju-On was one of the scariest movies released in the last twenty years, and unlike its American counterpart, was an incredible piece of horror cinema. However, the video game of the same name released on the Wii, did not share in that success. Aside from the haunting atmosphere and typical jump scares, Ju-On was a mess of a game. Although it received a middling, 22/40 from Famitsu, the game was much better accepted in Japan than in was in the West, where it received nearly universal disdain for its poor quality and bad gameplay. Making a horror game for a family friendly console like the Wii isn’t exactly great if you want to move units – especially if what you’re trying to move is a terrible game like this.
While this subpar entry in the Sonic series is universally hated in North America, the game actually did ok in Japan. Surprisingly enough, Sonic the Hedgehog received a much warmer welcome in its native Japan – despite the same technical issues that essentially ruined the title for Western audiences. Famitsu gave the game a healthy 30/40, which was nearly double what it averaged from Western reviewers. The game was considered by many to be a rushed product, which reflected in its long loading screens, clunky gameplay and game breaking glitches that made it more a test of patience than an actual game. But somehow, this was all ok for Japanese audiences. Maybe they love Sonic so much they were willing to overlook this monstrosity.
As we go through this list, we’re going to find games that appeal to a niche audience outside of Japan, but don’t necessarily appeal to the tastes of most mainstream gamers in North America. The Neptunia series is one with a long history, and one that’s typically done well in its native Japan. While the games have found a loyal fan base in North America, most mainstream critics and fans don’t necessarily see the appeal in such niche titles. Re;Birth 1 while better than the original, still suffered from the same stigmas that affected its predecessor. While it received low scores over here, Famitsu gave the game a strong 33/40. While some in the North American gaming community might agree with that assessment, it isn’t an opinion shared by all that many.
Rule of Rose is hands down the most controversial game you’ll see on this list. It isn’t even a bad game really, it’s only on here because of the major criticisms it received due to its explicit content. In terms of horror games, Rule of Rose is one of the better ones of its time. Most survival-horror fans have either played or at least heard of the title due to all the negative press it received. While it got pretty average reviews over here, it’s a must play if you’re interested in unsettling storytelling and old school survival horror. The game’s Famitsu review score reflected this with a 28/40 score. If it wasn’t for the controversy, this game might not have been as noteworthy as it is. It also might have sold more units.
Not many games have the designation of worst gamer ever made put on them by a multitude of critics and players alike, but Kabuki Warriors on the Xbox is one that has certainly earned that honor. The game did pretty well in Japan, though it didn’t fare that much better; comparatively, it did have more success over there than in the West. With a Famitsu score of 20/40, the game was considered average at best by Japanese publications. But if you looked at reviews from the West you’d see a shocking amount of scores that ranged between 1-3/10 with Game Informer giving it a ridiculously low score of 0.5. This is one of the more noticeable instances of a game in Japan doing much better than it did in the West, despite it being a deeply flawed product.
This is another game that gets flack from some gamers and because of this, appeals more to a niche audience. Lollipop Chainsaw is the kind of ridiculous, imaginative game you’d expect to come out of Japan. It’s unconventionally enjoyable, in part due to its intrinsically weird nature. Who else would think up a zombie hack and slash adventure featuring a beautiful blond cheerleader wearing her boyfriend’s talking head on her hip? The game was criticized for having bland gameplay in North America, and received pretty average or below average reviews. But in Japan, the game was a huge success – receiving a 36/40. There’s obviously a strong discrepancy there, but then again what’s new.
The basic premise of Gal*Gun is one that is strange to many Western audiences, though not so much to those who are familiar with certain aspects of Japanese pop culture. In short: the game basically sees you fending off hordes of lovesick girls by shooting something called a “pheromone shot.” Not exactly for everyone, but it definitely has an audience in the West. Because of the risqué nature of the game, Gal*Gun was criticized for its highly sexual content in North America. As a game, it’s nothing too special. Mechanically, it is a decent rail shooter with some entertaining dating sim aspects sprinkled throughout the game – encouraging multiple playthroughs. The PS4 version currently sports a 64/100 on Metacritic while the Famitsu review gave it a strong 31/40.
In terms of niche horror, there aren’t as many games that have the same following out in the West as the Corpse Party. The series has a long and interesting history back in Japan, as it started out as an independent project made by some college students using RPG Maker, and was later rebooted by 5pb, best known for their work on Steins;Gate and Chaos; Head. The first remake, Blood Covered, was followed by another enhanced remake, Blood Covered...Repeated Fear, which is the version that made its way to North America. While that one was generally well received, its successors weren’t so lucky. The following entry, Book of Shadows met lukewarm reviews due to it shifting from an 8-bit adventure to a visual novel. The third game in the series, Blood Drive, returned to its roots but was panned for its awkward controls, long loading times, and chibi (cutesy) art style which kind of took away from the horror. Nonetheless, the game did well in Japan, with Famitsu giving it a solid 29/40.
Final Fantasy XIII along with its subsequent sequels are some of the most polarizing games in the entire franchise. You either get people that liked them or absolutely loathed them. It’s a great case of a divided fan base. Critics in both Japan and North America mostly gave the game solid reviews. Famitsu gave the game 39/40. But a lot of the criticism has been towards lead character Lightning along with the rest of the game’s cast. The great characters in the Final Fantasy series have been compelling, relatable ones that evoke a wide array of emotions in the player. Lightning just seems to either draw out hatred or indifference. The gameplay was another thing that was criticized by some for being somewhat frustrating, due to the player only being able to control one character. But the moody Mary Sue is what really turned people off.
There have been plenty of JRPGs that have come overseas and left a lasting impact, earning praise from fans and critics alike. But some of the titles we’ve gotten in recent years haven’t stood up to the standard created by franchises like Final Fantasy, Tales and Persona. Conception II is one of those games that tries to implement the best elements of its predecessors but ends up as just another generic title. The game shares some elements with the Persona series in that it’s a dungeon crawler that sprinkles in some dating sim elements. Ultimately, it fell short for most Western reviewers, while Famitsu gave the game a fantastic 34/40. It seems a little bit too high for such a generic title, but hey, that’s the point of this list right?
Despite having only been released a year ago, Umbrella Corps has pretty much dropped off the map for most in the gaming community. It’s only really ever mentioned when talking about some of the worse games this generation has to offer. One of the many disappointing Resident Evil games to drop in recent years, Umbrella Corps separates itself from the mainline games. But it still never managed to catch on with Western gamers. Things looked promising when fans first caught a glimpse of the high 36/40 score given to the game by Famitsu. But Western critics were much more critical, citing its small maps and generic gameplay as some of the things that made it such a mediocre shooter.
Like Conception, Mind Zero was compared to the Persona series due to the similarities in gameplay. That’s a pretty hard comparison to live up to right off the bat. While there was some hype surrounding the game in smaller niche groups of the gaming community, it quickly died down after the game’s release and subsequent subpar performance both critically and financially. The Vita is a haven for JRPG lovers as it has a large number of them in its library along with other unconventional titles that cater to a wide range of audiences. But Mind Zero would soon slip from everyone’s memory. It was received incredibly well in Japan, with Famitsu giving it a 30/40 – but was almost universally panned over here. If they ever do release a sequel, don’t expect it to make its way here anytime soon.
And so we’ve arrived at the last game on our list, which is one you all undoubtedly are already familiar with. The Resident Evil series has been around for over twenty years now and helped change and mold the survival horror genre. But over the years the games have sort of lost their muster. Most diehard fans of the earlier entries to the series have taken issue with the shift from tactical survival horror to straightforward shooter most of the modern entries have adopted. While 7 has stepped back from that and tried to once again establish the series as traditional survival horror, Resident Evil 6 proved to be one of the most polarizing games in the series with critics singing its praises and fans being split on it. It had a much warmer reception in Japan, where Famitsu gave it a nearly perfect 39/40. This is perhaps one of the biggest and most notable examples of a differing opinion between Western and Japanese critics and audiences.