There are a lot of different kinds of Japanese RPGs. Shin Megami Tensei is a JRPG series that has been going since 1987 and still has new games coming out. Most JRPGs don’t have the same level of iconography as Final Fantasy, but Shin Megami Tensei does.
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Shin Megami Tensei’s spin-off series, Persona, has become very popular in recent years, and a remake of the fan-favorite Nocturne is set to come out later this year. Now is a great time to get into the series. The series definitely has its own voice and style, which is often described as a mix of demonic fantasy and modern city life. So, let’s look at the games in the series that got the best reviews and have the highest Metacritic scores right now.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga – 78 (PS2)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga came out for the PS2 in 2005. It is a JRPG with classic turn-based combat. Since the game puts a lot of emphasis on story and characters, it will sometimes feel like a visual novel. However, the game’s hard but rewarding combat will quickly remind players what kind of game they are playing.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked – 78 (DS)
Released for the DS in 2011, Devil Survivor Overclocked is an extended and enhanced version of the original Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. This version of Devil Survivor is the best way to play this unique tactical RPG because it adds brand new story content and improves the game in other ways, like with the compendium.
Shin Megami Tensei If… (1994)
Shin Megami Tensei If… is the tenth best Shin Megami Tensei game on our list. Yes, this game’s name might be the most mysterious one we’ve ever played.
So, when a student starts looking in places he shouldn’t and finds a world full of demons, things get very real very quickly.
The new demon world that appears in Japan is made up of seven different parts that all have something to do with the seven deadly sins. You know them from that movie with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman…
The demob summoning in this RPG is the same as in other games, but there is a new feature that lets players talk to enemies instead of just killing them.
Who knows? You might learn something. Maybe people just don’t get them?
After you die, a guardian persona will help you fight and let you keep going. If… is one of our favourite SMT games because of this cool feature.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2010)
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is up next, and it has more epic demon battles than that scene with John Snow and the White Walkers at Hardhome.
The game is set in the South Pole. Scientists think that a black spot that has appeared and is slowly getting bigger could swallow the whole world.
Join the bravest soldiers on the planet as they sail into “the Schwarzwelt” to find out what’s on the other side…
… and it won’t be a pretty sight!
The game is played on the top screen, while the touchscreen below shows stats and maps. It’s not a hack-and-slash game by any means; you have to think about what moves to use and how to fight like in Fire Emblem.
In the sixth SMT game in this epic series, you can improve your soldier suit, unlock more quests, and enjoy the glory of the game.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (2013)
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the eighth best Shin Megami Tensei game on this list.
If you like fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken, Arena Ultimax will be right up your alley. It’s basically a tournament where all of your favourite characters from the series fight each other with their best moves.
Did that get your attention?
This game takes place after Persona 3 and 4, and it’s the version of the original Arena that we all wanted. It works better, is better tuned, and is way more badass.
If you liked ComixZone but wanted it to be more like SoulCalibur, you’ll love how Arena Ultimax plays like a graphic novel. Get on it, and you won’t regret it!
Megami Tensei: Imagine (2007)
Think about how many people haven’t played this game… is probably what John Lennon would have said while playing our next SMT game if he were still alive today.
This Shin Megami Tensei game takes place between the first two. It’s about what’s going on in the world of Megaten. It is a Windows game you can play online… and we don’t see many of those on Retro Dodo!
This guy up there might look like a Stormtrooper, but he’s actually a mercenary you can send down a path of law and order or complete chaos.
You can also be neutral and do a little bit of both, which is why I love SMT games.
Unlike many other role-playing games you may have played in the past. In Imagine, there are no turn-based battles. Instead, all of the fights happen at once. Demons can be summoned and hired, which is why it’s one of the best Shin Megami Tensei games.
Shin Megami Tensei V (2021)
Shin Megami Tensei V is the most recent game in our collection, and it looks amazing on the Switch.
So then, what’s the score? Man was brutally killed, lost, and then buried…
…surely sounds like the beginning of an SMT game.
When the game really starts and our main character opens his eyes to a destroyed Tokyo that looks more like a post-apocalyptic world, he fuses with his spirit to become the best warrior ever.
These games are really fun.
There are demons everywhere, but with your new abilities and life-force, they don’t stand a chance against you. Work in the area between light and dark, walking the thin line of the law and handing out your own demon justice.
I should have written this one’s summary instead!
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (2016)
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse picks up right where SMT IV ended.
It’s not just a follow-up, though. There are so many cool new features, such as a revamped partner system, better magic, better demon stats, and a tonne of other great additions.
Like most of these games, it takes place in a version of the future I don’t want to live in. After the gods went to war with each other, the whole city of Tokyo turned into stone and became more like a colony.
Angels and demons (but not the Dan Brown book) are still wreaking havoc all over the world, and after you’re almost killed and a friendly demon brings you back to life, you become a powerful warrior.
Bring in the “Godslayer.” That’s even better than being called a Dragonborn!
As usual, the morality engine and your alignment play a big role in the best Shin Megami Tensei games. How the game ends depends on what you do, so there are many ways to play.