Top 25 best Japanese games for iPhone and iPad (iOS)
Land of the rising thumbs
Updated on: August 9, 2021: Updated the list of best Japanese mobile games with download links
Where would our beloved hobby of video games be without the influence of Japan? We have no doubt that it would exist in some form, but it would probably be drabber, less popular, and less fun.
Imagine: no Nintendo, no Sega, no Square Enix, no Taito. Or, to put it another way, no Mario or Zelda, no Sonic, no Final Fantasy, no Space Invaders. That sound you just heard was the sound of a million nerds all crying out at once.
Japan pretty much bailed out the video games industry in the '80s, with the legendary Nintendo Entertainment System (aka the Famicom) single-handedly kickstarting a moribund market.
And that market would look very different in 2021 without the Sony PlayStation. On the positive side, you might actually be able to buy a console without some scalper yoinking it out of your virtual basket. But imagine what you'd have to let go...
These are the best Japanese mobile games for iPhoneWe've been skirting around a rather awkward point here. Japanese developers and manufacturers haven't played as big a role in the smartphone gaming industry as they did in the console industry. While it kind of missed the boat in the early days of the influential iPhone (made by an American company, of course), it's certainly come through with some dazzling mobile games in recent years.
From ports to original efforts, the following games cover some solid ground. And most have that hard-to define Japanese magic about them.Original list by Jon Mundy, updated by Pocket Gamer Staff.
Super Mario Run
We still can't believe Super Mario Run exists. This is a genuine Nintendo-made platformer for your iPhone, which is all that we could've hoped for. While it has been cleverly adjusted for touch controls, it doesn't make the screen any more clumped, which we've often seen in other games that have been adjusted to mobile.
To put it plainly, it's the auto-runner nigh-on perfected! Curious to learn more? Read our Super Mario Run review!Download Super Mario Run
Downwell is a roguelike platform-shooter that borrows as many of its ideas from Spelunky as it does from Japan's arcade shooter past. The game resembles many of the old-school games that we could often see in Japan's famous Arcades. The result is a uniquely intense and varied experience.
Read our Downwell review to find out why we love this roguelike so much!Download Downwell
Final Fantasy IX
Most fans will vouch for other games from the FF series as the best Japanese mobile game, but we'll go with IX. It's an undervalued JRPG in its own right, plus the iOS conversion is top drawer. We can really delve into that true "Final Fantasy experience" that we clearly know from the previous titles, and the fact that it's on mobile doesn't change it one bit.
From the graphics aspect down to the gameplay, there is nothing that feels out of place. Want to have an authentic Japanese game experience? Then look no further than Final Fantasy! You should also read our Final Fantasy IX review!Download Final Fantasy IX
Dragon Quest VIII
A worthy companion piece to Final Fantasy IX as a lesson in how to handle a JRPG conversion, Dragon Quest VIII bravely flips the view to portrait while retaining the same epic sense of adventure. You'll find all the classic elements of a RPG, but elevated to the tenth level.
And for all of you wondering if it's any good in the era of so many new games, the answer is a swift YES. It's never too late to start playing a seriously good JRPG! Just read our Dragon Quest VIII review - it'll give you all the answers you need.Download Dragon Quest VIII
Part Time UFO
Nintendo's best buddy HAL Laboratory switched its attention to mobile in Part Time UFO, with brilliant results. This is a wonderful take on arcade grabber games, with a range of inspired tasks and bags of charm.
Adorable graphics in a typical Japanese fashion spice this game up even more, making you always do your best - or better said - Gambate! And if you're not convinced just yet, give our Part Time UFO review a read. It should tell you clearly how amazing this game is.Download Part Time UFO
The World Ends with You: Solo Remix
The irreverent, oddball DS JRPG classic comes to mobile in sparkling form. Its dazzling Shibuya setting and experimental structure ensure that this Square Enix classic hasn't aged at all. The energy that this creation emanates is close to none, and once you play it you'll see exactly what I mean.
The particular style and animation is exactly what you might expect from a Japanese RPG with such a saga. You can also check out our review for The World Ends With You: Solo Remix.Download The World Ends with You: Solo Remix
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The game that put the 'vania' in Metroidvania (alongside Super Metroid), now playable on iOS courtesy of Konami. This is one of the finest, most ambitious, and just plain meatiest action-platformers ever made.
There's never a shortage of enemies to slay or bosses to defeat, and if you've been dabbling into the Netflix series and can't get enough, here's the game to fill that void!Download Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Layton's Mystery Journey
This is the first of the Layton games to be made with mobile at least partially in mind from the start, and it shows. Layton's Mystery Journey offers a slick series of touchscreen puzzles, bound together with the usual Layton panache.
While it might not look like it, the game's unique style and character building is made extremely witty. There will be tons of dialogues, and the game is oddly slow-paced, especially when you put it next to Super Mario Run or even Castlevania. So, it's not for everyone. However, it's worth a shot if you're into complex puzzle games. You should check our Layton's Mystery Journey review if you want to find out more.Download Layton's Mystery Journey
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition
This extraordinary production offers the essence of the lavish Final Fantasy XV console game, story and all. However, the graphics engine and gameplay mechanics have been completely rebuilt and streamlined for mobile play.
You won't encounter other FF games that give off the same feeling that FFXV Pocket Edition does. It almost feels like an entirely different game, but it's still very much Final Fantasy. It's quite an achievement. Want to learn more about the game? Read our Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition review.Download Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition
Aka to Blue
With legendary Japanese developer Cave no longer in the mobile shmup business, Aka to Blue is the next best thing. It's a faithfully Cave-esque bullet-hell shmup from a company headed up by a former Cave employee.
If you love the genre, this is one game that will take home the trophy. Simple, well-made and packed full of everything you need. Nothing feels out of place. Read our Aka to Blue review if you're curious to learn more about the game and why we appreciate it as much as we do.Download Aka to Blue
It's not a perfect port (though it was recently upgraded), but Chrono Trigger still deserves its place on this list for being one of the finest JRPGs of all time. Its crazy time-bending plot, in particular, is a thing of beauty.
From the title alone you know that this game is a star amongst Japanese mobile games - with a solid history on other platforms, the iOS transition makes it even more appealing to JRPG aficionados. Did you know we also have a Chrono Trigger review?Download Chrono Trigger
Do you remember that time you were eagerly waiting for Mario Kart? What about that time you thought to give Kartrider Rush+ a shot and came to a very, very... surprising conclusion.
This must be awkward for Nintendo. KartRider Rush+ from South Korean-Japanese publisher NEXON arguably plays a better, more fully featured game of Mario Kart than Mario Kart Tour. Oops.Download Kartrider Rush+
Disgaea 1 Complete
Arguably one of the finest strategy RPGs of all time, we gave the first Disgaea game a full 10/10 Platinum award in one of its earlier pocket gaming guises. Now this complete (re)package comes to iOS, and it's still ruddy lovely. You can't argue that the graphics are quite... outdated for 2021, but it's still charming as ever.
The JRPG fans will play this gem every now and again, without much concern for its date of release. A good game is a good game regardless of age.Download Disgaea 1 Complete
We can't have a complete list of Japanese games without even mentioning the Fate/ series. Actually, it's quite difficult to pick a single one, especially if you are familiar with the anime or manga. From the graphics to the story, every aspect of the game is well-polished, to reflect exactly what's needed.
Just make sure you keep up with the story, because the game has an original one, which closely ties with the others in the series.Download Fate/Grand Order
A refreshing title on the list, Neko Atsume is the embodiment of kawaii Japanese games. It is a kitty collector game, where you basically hoard tons of cats and learn something about each and every one of them. You'll have an album where you collect various memories with them, and so it begins.
It's a relaxing game, so it's nothing like many of the other names on the list. A fresh breath of air if you wanted a different genre other than the typical JRPG.Download Neko Atsume
Shinsekai Into the Depths
This high-grade riff on the Clash Royale formula adds JRPG trappings to some familiar real time multiplayer battles. It's a far more involving - and technically impressive - experience than your average card-based MOBA. You will have unexpectedly amazing graphics and some elements that feel... weird (at times).
However, that's part of the game's unique charm. It's definitely worth a shot!Download Shinsekai Into the Depths
Ace Attorney Trilogy HD
Talking of classic Capcom DS ports, Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy brings together three whimsical slices of handheld courtroom nonsense into one mobile package. No objection here.
You'll have your occasional piece of drama cake and sneaky detective work to keep you on your toes, and you'll also get your attention to details tested from time to time. Sounds like fun? You bet it is! Make sure to read our Ace Attorney Trilogy HD review - it'll show you why this is such a brilliant game.Download Ace Attorney Trilogy HD
Fire Emblem: Heroes
Nintendo's second mobile game is full of zip and character. Given that it's a turn-based strategy game, it works remarkably well as a bite-sized mobile experience. Just make sure that you don't let that character list wear your down, in case you want to stay on top of your game with the "best characters".
With hundreds of heroes, you'll have quite a challenge ahead of you! Don't let that discourage you though. Check our Fire Emblem Heroes review instead!Download Fire Emblem: Heroes
Forget Sonic 4. This port of arguably the finest Sonic game ever (though probably the least played) is all you need, with super-slick platformer gameplay and the same ambitious time-travel mechanic that made the original so special.
And if you're not sure how you could maneuver your way in one of the most speedy Japanese app store games, then you should check out our list of tips! It'll definitely come in handy. Otherwise.... just read our Sonic CD review to understand why we love this game so much.Download Sonic CD
Dragon Quest Tact
This is no safe port of a traditional JRPG. Rather, Dragon Quest Tact is an impeccable tactical RPG with a laser-like mobile focus and bags of gacha. Better yet, it's one of those Japanese role-playing game that will stick with you for a veeery long time.
Yes, yes, there is never a shortage of good RPGs, but when it comes to one of the best Japanese mobile games, Dragon Quest Tact cannot go overlooked. Alternatively, read our Dragon Quest Tact review to get a better insight on why this game is both good and... nightmarish at the same time.Download Dragon Quest Tact
Football Manager 2021 Touch
Football Manager 2021 Touch is very much a British-made game, but it's published by Japanese titan Sega. And any chance to squeeze this comprehensive footy sim into a list is gratefully received.
You can choose your favorite team, sign your favorite players to the team, and implement whatever tactics you see fit for those players. There's no limit to what you could do, as long as you have a plan! (and that plan should include you winning all the matches). It's easily one of the best Japanese mobile games, and some consider it one of the best mobile games in general!Download Football Manager 2021 Touch
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
Should we overlook one of the all-time best? Definitely not! Why the best, you might ask? Find out in our Animal Crossing Pocket Camp review.
If you thought Nintendo pulled every ace from under their sleeve in the past, you'd be wrong. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is not only super addictive but also tons of fun especially if you play with friends. With thousands of different unique furniture pieces and more than enough characters, each with a different personality, likes and dislikes, and more, you'll have a mountain of tasks ahead.Download Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
Tales of Crestoria
A story of morality and much more, Tales of Crestoria is probably one of the best JRPGs you'll find. It was released back in 2020, so it's fairly new compared to the other JRPGs on the list, but that only means there's been plenty of time to come up with new and improved features for the game.
The graphics of the game are top-notch, the gameplay feels smooth and the character voices are exactly what you might expect. To put it plainly, Tales of Crestoria feels perfect. It's exactly how a well-made (fairly) realistic RPG should feel like. We also have a Tales of Crestoria review - don't miss it!Download Tales of Crestoria
Shin Megami Tensei Liberation
A finely judged mobile spin-off from the beloved Shin Megami series. You get the same demon-collection impetus and anime-inflected presentation as the core series, but achieved with a striking sense of immediacy.
A beautiful UI and engaging character dialogues, interlocked with immersive combat, the Japanese mobile game doesn't deliver anything short of the expectation - and the anime already set the bar for it quite high! We've reviewed Shin Megami Tensei Liberation Dx2, so give it a read if you're curious how it plays out!
Food Truck Pup: Cooking Chef
We'll close the list with a most adorable game, a Shiba Inu that loves to cook. Yes, you heard it right. It's exactly what you might expect, an adorably relaxing contraption where a kawaii Shiba makes pancakes and more. It's a wholesome experience, and if you are tired of all the intense fighting games, here's one of the best Japanese mobile games to kick off and relax.Download Food Truck Pup: Cooking Chef