Originally released as a PlayStation 2 game, Yakuza (known as Ryu ga Gotoku in Japan) spawns a lengthy series that follows the steps of Kiryu Kazuma, a member of one of the most important yakuza families (the Dojima family, under the Tojo Clan), in the game’s fictional city of Kamurocho, Tokyo. He and his multiple allies and friends try to avoid the conflicts and plans being schemed by other powerful mob groups.
It took years for the Yakuza franchise to start receiving the praise and popularity it currently has outside Japan. Its reputation only seems to increase thanks to the multiple localized re-releases and new games. In this article, you’ll find a chronology of the series if you’re interested in playing each entry from the very beginning.
The Yakuza Games In (Chronological) Order
How Many Yakuza Games Are There?
Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku studio have released 8 main Yakuza games and two remakes since the series’ debut in 2005. They were originally PlayStation-exclusive titles, but they were later ported to Xbox and PC, with every new game since Yakuza: Like a Dragon releasing simultaneously for every system with the exception of Nintendo Switch.
However, Yakuza is a series known for having multiple and widely different spin-offs. For example, Kurohyō: Ryu ga Gotoku Shinsho and its sequel Kurohyō 2: Ryu ga Gotoku Ashura henu are two titles exclusive to the PlayStation Portable, and they feature Tatsuya Ukyo, a completely new character. The Judgement series, which follows the story of detective Takayuki Yagami, is also set in Kamurocho but with other characters.
Then there’s the zombie-infested spin-off Yakuza: Dead Souls, which features the classic cast of characters in a dystopic setting. Yakuza Online is a free-to-play TCG available on mobile and PC in which you play as Ichiban Kasuga, the protagonist of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The popular Japanese series Fist of the North Star received the Yakuza treatment when the studio developed the video game Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, which shares Kiryu’s games’ structure and gameplay elements.
Finally, there are two spin-off games that are set in older Japanese eras and feature historic figures as their main protagonists. These are Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan! and Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin! The latter has been released in the West in 2023 as Like a Dragon: Ishin!
As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that after Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the series adopted ‘Like a Dragon’ as its new name, which is the English translation of ‘Ryu ga Gotoku’ (the original Japanese name).
Yakuza Games in Chronological Order
Beware of spoilers for the stories, characters, and relevant events of each game in the list below.
1. Yakuza 0 (2014)
The sixth released game is actually the first Yakuza when it comes to its chronology. In Yakuza 0, we play as a two protagonists. The first one is a young Kiryu Kazuma in the late 1980s, who is being framed for a murder set up by one of his lieutenants in the Dojima family. The reason behind this has to do with an ‘Empty Slot’, where the apparent murder took place. This is a piece of land that will be a key asset for the person and group who owns it.
As Kiryu becomes a target by his own yakuza family, former yakuza member Goro Majima is working in a cabaret as a punishment for being part of an assassination some years ago. He’s tasked by his ex-patriarch, Futoshi Shimano, to kill a blind woman named Makoto for unknown reasons — it’s later revealed that she’s the legitimate owner of the Empty Lot.
By the end of the game, Kiryu gets back to the Dojima family after defeating all the lieutenants, Majima leaves Makoto to live her life, and the Empty Slot is destroyed — here will be built the Millennium Tower, a key location in the series.
2. Yakuza (2005)
The first Yakuza game stars Kiryu Kazuma as its only protagonist after he goes to prison due to taking the blame for a murder he didn’t commit. The victim was Sohei Dojima, Kiryu’s boss, and he was murdered by Akira Nishikiyama, our protagonist’s best friend. The reason behind this crime was that Sohei tried to rape Yumi Sawamura, a friend of both Kiryu and Nishikiyama.
When Kiryu comes out of jail ten years later, he’s expelled from the Tojo Clan, someone has stolen ten billion yen from the clan’s account, and Yumi is nowhere to be found. In the middle of this, Kiryu meets Haruka, the daughter of a woman named Mizuki. Haruka has a pendant that seems to be a key element related to the lost money. Also, Nishikiyama shoots Kiryu’s former captain and adoptive father, becoming an antagonistic force.
During the climax, Kiryu finds Yumi, the lost money, and fights Nishikiyama. Kiryu is asked to be the Fourth Chairman of the Tojo Clan, which he accepts. However, moments later he names Yukio Terada, a former Omi Alliance yakuza, as the new chairman, and he decides to stop being a yakuza to raise Haruka as his adopted daughter.
3. Yakuza 2 (2006)
Yakuza 2 starts with Terada, the Fifth Chairman of the Tojo Clan, asking Kiryu to help him prevent a war between his clan and the Omi Alliance, their eternal rivals. After being shot in an ambush, Terada seems to be dead and Kiryu looks for Daigo Dojima, son of Sohei Dojima, to make him the new chairman of the clan.
While helping Daigo, Kiryu meets Ryuji Goda, the son of the Omi chairman, and they become enemies because Ryuji doesn’t want a truce with the Tojo Clan. Another character, detective Kaoru Sayama, comes into play and tries to help Kiryu while learning about her parents, who disappeared when she was young.
4. Yakuza 3 (2009)
The first entry released on PlayStation 3, Yakuza 3 presents an unusual beginning with Kiryu far away from the yakuza lifestyle. Instead, he’s taking care of an Orphanage in Okinawa called Morning Glory Orphanage. He’s assisted by Haruka, and he looks after many new kids living there.
Unfortunately, peace doesn’t last for long. Our protagonist has to face multiple troubles with different characters, involving new yakuza families, multiple assassinations, shootings, betrayals, an arms smuggling group, and even the CIA.
5. Yakuza 4 (2010)
One year after the events of the previous game, Yakuza 4 raises the stakes and brings another type of story to follow. This is still a tale of families, betrayals, and crimes, but on this opportunity, it is shown from the eyes of four protagonists.
Apart from our well-known Kiryu Kazyuma, three other new faces join the streets of Kamurocho. The first one, Shun Akiyama is a loan shark who works in his own firm, Sky Finance, and finds himself in the middle of a conflict between the Tojo Clan and the Ueno Seiwa Clan. He’s also asked for a 100 million yen loan from a mysterious woman named Lily.
Taiga Saejima, Goro Majima’s blood brother, went to prison after performing a hit against the Ueno Seiwa Clan in 1985. Twenty years later, after successfully escaping, he looks for Majima, who abandoned him when they had to perform the hit.
Detective Masayoshi Tanimura, another new protagonist, is investigating one of the recent murders in the Tojo Clan. While doing so, he meets Lily, who is actually Saejima’s sister, and she’s being attacked by the Shibata family. Tanimura later finds out that the patriarch of that family was related to the hit Saejima participated all those years ago.
Ultimately, Kiryu meets his new partners and finds out what happened to all the characters involved in the ongoing conflicts.
6. Yakuza 5 (2012)
If Yakuza 4’s story got complicated with the multiple protagonists’ points of view, Yakuza 5 went all-in in the same direction. This time, you play as five protagonists in different scenarios, making this one the biggest game in the series.
First you follow Kiryu, who left Kamurocho and moved to Fukuoka without Haruka, leaving his orphanage behind. As usual, he won’t be calm for long before he learns that Daigo is missing, and the peace between the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance is about to break.
Saejima is in prison once again, but he’s looking to escape with his cellmate Shigeki Baba when he hears that his blood brother Majima is dead. In the meantime, Haruka is already a teenager and she’s following her dream of becoming a J-Pop Idol. Things get complicated when the president of her talent agency, Mirei Park, is found dead, with what seems like a staged suicide. Returning protagonist Akiyama appears to help Haruka learn who was really behind Park’s death.
The last piece of the puzzle is the brand new character Tatsuo Shinada, a former professional baseball player who was banned after being framed for fixing an important match. A mysterious man, who’s actually Daigo, will meet Shinada and ask him to find out what really happened all those years ago.
7. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (2016)
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is presented as the final beat in Kiryu Kazuma’s life in the Yakuza series. Our protagonist spends some time in prison again, but on this occasion, it is for his past crimes and not by being framed by anyone. At the end of the previous game, Haruka revealed in a concert broadcast that Kiryu was her father and that he was an ex-yakuza member.
After getting out of prison, Kiryu returns to Kamurocho but only for a little while. He learns that Haruka is in a coma due to an apparent car accident, and she had a child named Haruto. Haruka was in Onomichi for a long time before the accident, so Kiryu goes there to investigate what happened and who’s Haruto’s father.
While finding clues, important characters like Daigo, Saejima, and Majima are imprisoned, and the rival groups of the Chinese Saio Triad and the Jingweon Mafia are looking to make their moves in Kamurocho.
8. Yakuza: Like a Dragon (2020)
A fresh new start, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a big turning point in the series. For the first time, the main protagonist is not Kiryu, but a Tojo Clan member named Ichiban Kasuga, who went to jail for 18 years to protect Jo Sawashiro, his captain. When he gets out, he finds out that nobody is looking for him because the Tojo Clan has finally been defeated by the Omi Alliance.
Masumi Arakawa, the patriarch of the Arawaka family and the man who asked Ichiban to take the blame and go to prison instead of Sawashiro, was scheming with the Omi and betrayed the Tojo Clan. He also shoots Ichiban when they meet after almost 20 years.
Ichiban wakes up in Ijincho, and a homeless man called Yu Nanba heals his wounds. This is the starting point for our new protagonist, who will meet multiple new faces for his party. The new group will try to uncover the reason behind Arakawa’s play, and they will face three criminal groups while doing so: the Yokohama Liumang, the Geomijul Mafia, and the Seiryu Clan.
How to Play the Yakuza Games By Release Date
- Yakuza (2005)
- Yakuza 2 (2006)
- Yakuza 3 (2009)
- Yakuza 4 (2010)
- Yakuza 5 (2012)
- Yakuza 0 (2015)
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life (2016)
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (2020)
What’s Next for Yakuza?
It seems like the Yakuza universe is far from over. Now retitled ‘Like a Dragon’, there are two new upcoming releases in the franchise: Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, which has a release date for sometime in 2023, and Like a Dragon 8, which is scheduled for 2024. The former will focus on Kiryu and what happened to him after Yakuza 6, while the latter will continue Ichiban’s story, but with Kiryu also having a major role in the plot.