Though the spin-off Persona series is undoubtedly the more popular, the Shin Megami Tensei games served as the foundation years before many of us ever even played a Persona game. A storied franchise with a good amount of games in its catalog along with a healthy amount of spin-offs, the SMT games are known for their engaging narratives and challenging level of difficulty.
Despite being overshadowed by the successes of the aforementioned spin-off games, there are still tons of dedicated SMT fans. Being a fairly old franchise, some titles are not only hard to get a hold of, but simply not available in English – as not everything can be localized. Still, there are ways around that. While not all classics, these are all the SMT games, ranked.
9 Shin Megami Tensei NINE
This first entry is notable for a couple of reasons. Aside from having never received an official English release, SMT NINE was released as an Xbox exclusive back in 2002. The console never really took off in Japan, so seeing it get such a big name property to itself is a little weird.
The game’s sales started out pretty lukewarm and only got worse from there. Reception was mixed and though its visuals were praised, the combat was confusing and made battling feel like more of a task than it should have.
8 Shin Megami Tensei II
In some cases, the sequel does it better and in others, it just fails to hold a candle to the original. You can chalk Shin Megami Tensei II up as belonging to the latter category. Though it did do some things right, this title is lacking in almost every aspect.
While the original SMT was notable for its unforgiving level of difficulty, its successor toned those elements down. Too much in fact, as it just seemed like all the challenge had been taken out of it. It was just too similar to its predecessor while lacking in several key areas.
7 Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
One of the more modern mainline SMT games, Strange Journey may have very well sparked interest in the series here in the west once again. It’s a solid effort, but not the best the series has to offer.
The game’s battle mechanics are solid and well balanced. It doesn’t overwhelm the player but also allows them to be challenged. However, the demon fusion doesn’t feel as in depth as it has in previous entries.
6 Shin Megami Tensei
The game that started it all, the original Shin Megami Tensei never actually got a release in the west. Unless you count the iOS version that released back in 2014 – which you may as well not.
The game is a great introduction to the series, and though there may not be any (good) official releases you can play, there are ways around that. It has its faults and does look like a product of its time for the most part, but can still be a fun and challenging adventure.
5 Shin Megami Tensei: if...
Another title that was never brought over from Japan, SMT fans have been begging for an official if… localization for a good long while. Though that’ll probably never happen, the game can still be played if you’re dedicated enough and is worth the effort.
The game is probably most notable for its high school setting, something Atlus would take notice of and apply to the very first Persona game. Though the series has changed considerably, all you Persona fans should check this title out.
4 Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse
The SMT games have always gone for a higher stakes, apocalyptic setting that’s generally gone over well with fans and really given the series its identity. Apocalypse gained favorable reviews from critics and fans alike, and sold very well.
The game is one of the best JRPG experiences you can have on the 3DS. It’s got a solid narrative and ads in a ton of great features and improvements. It’s a game that you should play regardless of your interest in the SMT franchise.
3 Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
Atlus has really taken a liking to releasing enhanced versions of their games, usually not all too long after their initial release. It happens a lot with Persona and it seems as though they took that formula and applied it to SMT as well.
Released nearly a decade after the original, Redux proved to be every bit as its predecessor with some quality content added in. The new content only bolsters what made the original so great, and is as accessible to newcomers as it is veterans of the series.
2 Shin Megami Tensei IV
Another 3DS title, SMT IV proved that the series was still alive and kicking, and while overshadowed some by the ever popular Persona spin-offs, could hold their own and even do some things better.
The game received rave reviews upon its release. The battle system, in particular, was praised and though there are times where the game’s difficulty spikes, it’s still challenging without being too unbearably hard. It’s a must-play for any 3DS owner.
1 Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
The one game that most people think of when talking about Shin Megami Tensei is Nocturne. The game received universal praise upon its release and has come to be one of the most iconic games in Atlus’ catalog.
Everything in this game is outstanding. The music is great, the atmosphere is fitting, and the narrative engaging while the battle system is one of the most enjoyable in the series that also proves to be just enough of a challenge.