Games in Japanese


I started Japanese about 9 months ago when I moved to Tokyo for a year. I completed 6 months of courses at a language school in which I finished both Genki books. I mostly focused on becoming conversational and I’m currently working towards the N3 level.

Games seem like a good way of maintaining a decent level of exposure to Japanese once I leave the country. I’ve looked up a number of discussions online about this. They usually bring up some (J)RPGs, animal crossing or the pokemon series.

I was wondering if other learners could share their experience with regards to playing games:

  • how early in your studies did you start
  • was it actually beneficial
  • any learning advice

Bonus question: I’m working from an old macbook pro, so any mac compatible game suggestions would be very appreciated.

Thanks for your feedback,


I’ve never done this myself, but you could check out visual novels too if you’re interested in those kinds of games.

I started playing games just under a year after I started studying Japanese. It would have been just after I finished my first year of Japanese in the states and shortly after I had started focusing on improving my reading ability. Starting off, it wasn’t really that beneficial at the time, my reading ability was fairly bad at that point. Don’t really remember what game I played, just being really confused.

A couple months later I tried again after raising my reading level up a lot, I believe it was with Final Fantasy X, and that was enjoyable. I had fun and I believe I got a lot out of it. Since then, I’ve played a couple, but I prefer reading, so I do more of that. About a month and a half ago I finished up Biohazard 7. Now I’m either going to play through the New Game! game, or finish up I am Setsuna. Also reading through グリザイアの果実, and I’m really enjoying that. I think it’s beneficial if your reading level is high enough, but if it is to low it won’t be enjoyable and you won’t get anything out of it.

As for advice, the big one is get something at your level that you enjoy. If your kanji and is bad, don’t start with something like Persona, something like Zelda would be better. Additionally, play games where you have to read. If your not understanding the text and just skipping through it, it won’t have any benefit. I think it also helps to play games were there is audio to go with the subtitles, since it teaches you the pace of the text and the such, but that might also just be me.

I would definitely say that in terms of beginner friendly material, I think a Japanese 3DS is your best bet. Most of the games on the platform are aimed at kids, or all ages and so the vocabulary is easier, there’s an appropriate level of kanji, you can get games where you have furigana as a backup and so on.

Most games on the platform aren’t fully voiced though, so you do lose a bit of help there, but where you have furigana, you still know how it’s supposed to sound, even if you don’t know the kanji yet.

I’ve tried dabbling with the Visual Novel route, and it felt like a super steep learning curve to me. Sure, there’s generally a whole bunch of voice acting, but they seem to aimed at comparatively older audiences so the language level tends to be more difficult. Personally, I prefer playing easier games with a higher degree of comprehension over harder games with a lower degree of comprehension. It just feels like too much of a slog the other way around.

I don’t have much, but one thing I play for fun and reading practice on my computer is Granblue Fantasy, which is an rpg game available on the Japanese google play/app store. The fun thing about it, is that if you have google chrome, you can get it as a chrome app and play it on your computer (the size of the game window is similar to what it would be on a mobile device). If you have an OCR app such as kanjitomo ( you can easily read words and kanji you don’t know, make a in-app list and export to Anki if you’re into that! (I do love kanjitomo, I’ve mentioned it before, saves a lot of looking up frustration)

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