Persona is well known for its slice of elements, most notably the Social Link mechanic– a system that allows players to befriend a few set NPCs with dialogue options & gameplay benefits– but Social Links weren’t introduced into the series until Persona 3. Persona 1 and the Persona 2 duology more or less played out like traditional RPGs, albeit with their own quirks.
With Social Links, Persona seems to have found an identity to settle on. Each main game since has featured them and they’ve only gotten more in-depth: which can make it surprising for some fans that Persona 3’s Social Links aren’t that in-depth. There are some excellent ones in the mix, but the actual Social Links themselves are light on content– it’s all about the personality.
A mandatory Social Link, but an incredibly important one and a Link that only gains more impact in hindsight. Throughout the game, Pharos will visit the player to deliver cryptic messages, all while slowly unraveling some semblance of humanity. It all culminates in Pharos being revealed as a subconscious manifestation of Death within the main character.
The Social Link itself also thrives from Pharos’ softer personality. He’s peaceful, isn’t aggressive, and isn’t actually that creepy in the grand scheme of things. He’s more lonely than anything else, which really helps with keeping the Dark Hour’s tone ominous and foreboding throughout.
9 Maiko Oohashi
A young girl representing the Hanged Man arcana, Maiko Oohashi’s parents are going through a divorce and she spends most of her time hanging out at the Shrine. Most Social Links tend to be grounded, but Maiko’s is actually relatable. She’s a young kid going through a hard time that she can’t quite understand.
The player and Maiko slowly bond together, with the player even being given the opportunity to give her advice. Maiko matures over the course of the Social Link and it serves as a nice reminder that Persona, while fantastical, does stick to its real-world setting.
8 Yukari Takeba
One of the game’s main characters, Yukari Takeba, is very hit or miss with fans. She’s pushed as the main character’s love interest alongside Aigis, but Yukari is far more aggressive. She acts more like a real teenage girl would, and while that often means she doesn’t act in the best interest of the group, who in the game does? These are teenagers and they act like teenagers.
Yukari’s Social Link gives her more depth, as players learn about her best and her own personal reservations. Romancing her smoothly means being patient, meeting her halfway, and not trying to rush things. There’s something very likable about a realistic character like Yukari.
7 Mitsuru Kirijo
On the other hand, there are characters like Mitsuru Kirijo who, while not that grounded, are just an immense pleasure to be around. Another main character, Mitsuru spends most of the game as SEES’ mature leader, but her Social Link reveals a much softer side, one that’s funny, charming, and endlessly endearing.
Mitsuru doesn’t often have the opportunity to goof off during the main plot, so her Social Link offers an opportunity to see her let loose. Of course, there’s still the typical Social Link drama, but the stakes aren’t too high and the romance that develops between the main character & Mitsuru is well handled.
6 President Tanaka
President Tanaka is a complete scumbag, but that’s exactly why he’s such an amazing Social Link. He’s a complete scumbag with no real moral compass. There’s pretty much nothing redeemable about Tanaka, but his Social Link is genuinely funny. Sure, players get swindled, but Tanaka warms up to the main character and even tries to connect in his own twisted way.
Tanaka’s Social Link also serves as a nice reminder that not everything has everyone else’s best interests in mind. He’s looking out for himself above all else, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t develop a weird soft spot for the main character.
5 Chihiro Fushimi
Of the main character’s non-playable love interests, Chihiro Fushimi is by far the best developed. A shy, timid girl who doesn’t want much to do with men, the player gradually build a genuine friendship with her, one that blossoms into genuine romance. Chihiro’s Social Link and her development are so well written, most players won’t even want to cheat on her once they’re Rank 10!
Chihiro even gets to come back in Persona 4, showing up in a very brief cameo, clearly changed thanks to her relationship with the main character. Persona 3’s best Social Links are the ones with the most development.
Maya’s a rather interesting Social Link. Players can’t even find out her identity until the epilogue, and from there it’s minutes until the credits start rolling. The Social Link is incredibly fun, though. A Social Link involving a teacher falling for a student is a fun thread that Persona 5 would double down on big time (for better or worse.)
Maya’s Social Link is well handled, though, and it never veers into too creepy territory. Maya lets loose and interacts with the player in a way no other character does. She’s incredibly chaotic, but she’s also clearly mature and gets her priorities straight before the end of the Link.
Representing the Aeon arcana, Aigis is a late-game Social Link who was added in the rerelease, Persona 3 FES, and she really helps ease players into a sense of finality. Through Aigis, players see life develop firsthand. She’s a robot, but there’s more humanity in her than the majority of Social Links.
Aigis already develops well enough over the course of the main story, but her Social Link gives her an extra nudge. She is, hands down, the best handled romance in the game. Her relationship with the main character is given more weight than with any other character in the game.
Best romance doesn’t mean best personality, though. While Aigis is incredibly likable, she doesn’t have much on Mutatsu, a Buddhist monk and the representative of the Tower Arcana. An unusual man with a rough manner of speaking, Mutatsu barely feels like a monk but he spouts some genuine wisdom from time to time.
Learning that he has abandoned his family and that he’s basically indulging in his vices to keep away from them is a heavy revelation, but it transitions into Mutatsu cleaning up his act and preparing to reconnect with those that he left behind. It’s just a great story overall.
1 Akinari Kamiki
But not anywhere near as great as Akinari Kamiki’s Social Link. A Tragic Link chronicling a young man at the end of his life, Akinari is one of the best representations of Persona 3’s main theme of death. He’s on his way out, but he’s leaving on his own terms, and hopefully at peace. His story is all he has, but it’s a poignant story that lingers with the audience.Naturally, he passes away, but it’s a reminder that while death may be the end, it’s not the end. Akinari lives on through his story, and through the memories he made with the player. He’s a kind man who only wants to share what little life he has left. It’s endearing, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s thought-provoking.