Here is the year that each Yakuza game takes place, how many chapters per game, and our recommendations on the order in which to play the games.
By Callum Archer
Updated 3 days ago
Although the Yakuza?crime series mostly takes place in the same region of Japan, each game is set in a different timeframe that allows the world to expand with each new title, despite the fact that nearly every game uses the same map. For the most part, each game is set during the year it was released, but since several games have been released, this is no longer the case.
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While the latest game in the series, Like a Dragon, takes place in an entirely new city as well as changing up several well-established aspects of the series as a whole, it is still connected to the world of Yakuza and its established timeline.
Updated June 23, 2021 by Meg Pelliccio: We’ve updated this list to include the year in which every chapter takes place, as some games begin in one year and then jump to another. We’ve also added in more titles, the number of chapters for each game, and our recommendations on what order to play the games in.
Yakuza 0 may have been the sixth game in the mainline series to be released, but it takes place long before the events of the first Yakuza game and is the beginning of the story in the world’s canon.
The story, centered around a young Kazuma Kiryu and?Goro Majima, takes place in the late ’80s and the period known as the “bubble era” in Japan that caused real estate prices to skyrocket. Although the player is able to control both Kiryu and Majima, the two characters don’t actually meet in person until the end of the game and this marks the first time the long-running characters meet one another.
Both the original Yakuza and its remake, Yakuza Kiwami, take place in 2005 for the most part, the same year that the original title was released. However, the first chapter is actually set in 1995, setting the scene before Kiryu’s incarceration.
Chapter two onwards?takes place after Kiryu has spent a solid decade in prison, only to be released to find that things in the grimy underworld of crime have changed significantly since he was last around. This origin story of sorts seems to be a favorite for the creators of the Yakuza series, as they brought it back to use again for Ichiban in Like A Dragon.
Both Yakuza 2 and its remake, Yakuza Kiwami 2, take place in 2006, a year after the events of the first game. The main story follows Kiryu as he tries his best to stop an all-out war between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance. However, Kiwami 2 also presents the player with three prequel chapters, taking place in February 2006?that follow Goro Majima as he vies for the open position of Clan captain that has?become available?since the events of the first Yakuza game.
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In the original Yakuza 2, this side story wasn’t present and Majima’s failed ascension to the position of the Clan chairman was left out, with him only appearing as he did in Kiwami 2 as the head of his new company, Majima Construction.
The first Yakuza title to be released on the PlayStation 3, Yakuza 3?is set four months after the events of Yakuza 2 in 2007, taking place not only in the Kamurocho District that had been the main setting of the first two games but also in Okinawa as well.
Unlike previous games, Yakuza 3 takes place over the course of?a few years, with the timeline skipping ahead between a handful of chapters in order to move the story forward. In this title, Kiryu?tries to retire as the Dragon of Dojima as he intends to spend his life running an orphanage. However, he is once again dragged into the life of crime he so desperately wants to escape after his former colleagues try to buy out his property for their own gain.
Yakuza 4 takes place one year after the conclusion of Yakuza 3, with?the player taking control of a new protagonist — a moneylender named Shun Akiyama who had lent money to the patriarch of the Shibata family, Hiroshi Kanemura.
Although Kiryu does return as a playable character later in the game, unlike previous entries in the series, the story doesn’t just surround the character as there are now four playable protagonists. Yakuza 4 is also the first game in the series since the original Yakuza to not feature an additional explorable location to Kamurocho, though it does expand the map to feature more explorable areas than in past iterations of the district.
Yakuza: Dead Souls is a spin-off game that is set in April of 2011, a year after the events of Yakuza 4. Kamurocho suffers a zombie outbreak and it’s up to Kiryu, Majima, Akiyama, and Ryuji from Yakuza Kiwami 2 to save the day.
The game released exclusively for PlayStation 3 in the same year that it was set in Japan, before releasing in the west in 2012. Though this hilarious spin-off is non-canonical, it’s absolutely worthwhile playing for the zombie-comedy mashup.
Although the Yakuza series hasn’t shied away from the story jumping around the timeline from time to time, Yakuza 5 decided to embrace this storytelling method wholeheartedly. The narrative?is split into five parts that each begins with a flashback event that takes place a few years?prior to the events of the game, though?the main story itself takes place during 2012.
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In this title, Kiryu is once again dragged into the Yakuza underworld following the apparent death of Goro Majima, with multiple characters looking for his help in preventing various skirmishes between rival gang leaders and their armies.
The final chapter in Kiryu’s storyline begins in 2012, immediately after the events of Yakuza 5. However, from chapter two onwards, Yakuza 6?skips forward four years to 2016 — the same year in which the game was released.
After serving yet another prison sentence, this time only taking three years, Kiryu returns to find that Haruka, his adoptive daughter, has abandoned the Morning Glory Orphanage. He later discovers that she was involved in an accident that put her in a coma. Although Yakuza 6 ends with Kiyru’s apparent death, he returns in the epilogue and tries to move on from his life of crime, though he later returns in Like A Dragon as a side character.
There have been a number of Yakuza?spin-off titles, but only?a few have actually released in the west. Judgment is one of these and it takes place two years after the events of Yakuza 6, though it follows a brand new protagonist.
The player takes on the role of the lawyer-turned-private detective — Takayuki Yagami. Tasked with clearing the name of a yakuza from the Matsugane Family,?Yagami stumbles across the case of the serial killer known as “The Mole”.
The prologue scenes are set in 1971, but the first playable chapter is set in 2000.?Similar to the original Yakuza, Like A Dragon follows the new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga who, much like Kiryu, takes the fall for murder for another gang member, returning 18 years after his imprisonment to find that the world he left behind has changed drastically.
From chapter two onwards, the game is set in 2019, and as well as featuring a new protagonist, Like A Dragon also takes place in a new setting, with the majority of gameplay occurring in Ijincho rather than Kamurocho. This is something of a reset for long-time fans and a solid entry for players wanting to get into the series.
The Yakuza games are arguably best played chronologically in the time in which they are set:
Yakuza 0Yakuza KiwamiYakuza Kiwami 2Yakuza 3Yakuza 4Yakuza 5Yakuza 6Yakuza: Like a Dragon
However, some fans prefer to play Kiwami first, then play Zero before Kiwami 2. Although this is out of chronological order, there is something to be said about meeting Kiryu and Majima for the first time in Kiwami?in the same way that they were?introduced to the fandom, before gaining more insight and perspective to them?during Zero, which unveils their backstory.
Yakuza 0:?17 chapters and an epilogueYakuza Kiwami: 13 chaptersYakuza Kiwami 2: 16 chapters and 3 optional Majima Saga chaptersYakuza 3: 12 chapters and an epilogueYakuza 4: 17 chapters split into five parts and an epilogueDead Souls:?17 chaptersYakuza 5: 21 chapters split into five partsYakuza 6: 13 chapters?with a prologue and epilogueJudgment: 13 chaptersYakuza: Like a Dragon: 15 chapters and a prologue
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About The Author
(266 Articles Published)
Callum Archer is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia. He is an avid gamer, Nintendo fanboy, and lover of weird sci-fi novels, who also dabbles in manga from time to time, usually dark and twisted work like Uzumaki and Death Note.
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Tag: Yakuza Kiwami