Learning Japanese to play JRPG's, am I wasting time using WK?

My main objective is to play video games, mainly JRPGs, and I’ve noticed that quite a lot of words I’m learning I can’t see my self coming across frequently in video games.

I found an Anki deck list for video games (HERE) but for FF7 for example it only shows a portion of the game, no menu’s or anything past disc 1.

I also found a list of commonly used words for anime/video games (HERE - In the GameFrequencyList tab) but not sure how I could utilize this list to batch create and prioritise an Anki deck.

I would love to start playing games now but it would be far too slow and would put me off of it. If I could pre-study a larger portion of the words I’m likely to find then I would be able to start sooner.

Would there be a more efficient way of getting started playing games sooner at a smoother pace?


I’d say that the vocabulary in Wanikani is there to reinforce the kanji, so what you should be considering is whether the kanji you learn in WK will show up in your video games or not.

For a more efficient way to go about it I’d combine WK with an appropriate Anki deck + grammar studies. That’s what I’m doing.


If your only goal is to be able to play games as soon as possible, with language set to Japanese and with just enough comprehension that you get a general idea what the dialogue is about, then, yes, you’d be better off to just memorize vocabulary lists for the specific game you’re planning to play.
And if the game has furigana or kana-only modes, you indeed would not need to learn kanji.

But at that point, I’d re-evaluate why it has to be in Japanese in the first place. Nuances, phrases and word plays are what make dialogue fun (at least for me), and you’d likely not be able to comprehend those unless you properly study the language from the ground up.


My goal isn’t to only play games in Japanese and barely understand them. My goal is to fully comprehend what is going on.

The problem is that I feel I could be learning more specific vocab for the types of games I want to play (Not the exact game like FF7 flashcard translations) instead of learning just kanji in WK.


My problem is that if I start now I would be starting and stopping more than I would if I had pre-learned more relevant vocab.

Can I ask what you are currently using to study with?

Mainly Wanikani, a 1K frequency based Anki deck based on slice of life anime/dramas, Bunpro, Satori Reader, and Yotsuba&!

Then you’ll have to try (or estimate) whether systems other than WaniKani work for you.

If you prioritize learning specific vocabulary, you’ll be missing out on two things, primarily:

  • being able to guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word by combining context with the meaning of each kanji
  • creating a gradual increase in difficulty

The first is a general effect of focusing on kanji before vocabulary, the second is what WK is designed for, by having each level build upon things you’ve learned before.

You’ll have to decide if that’s a tradeoff you’re willing to make.


Not really a waste, because I don’t think playing rpgs is very efficient as well. At least that’s my experience with it so far. It takes a while to play through and gain enough progress both in language and in terms of the game.

They’re long term projects in my eyes. Same for wanikani. With or without wanikani you’ll still have to look up a lot on your first game, but you’ll have seen most kanji with wanikani. That said kanji and vocabulary is just one aspect of the language. You’ll need grammar as well. And most importantly, you’ll need to familiarize with reading on a regular basis.

There are no wrong roads, but eventually you’ll have to cross another road anyway.


I would place a wager that at least 80% of the kanji found on wk are in any given jrpg…?
also keep in mind that jrpgs are in full blown japanese.
if you want to fully comprehend a game you just picked up,
you’re probably gonna have to just fully comprehend japanese…
I’m not exactly sure what I’d recommend other than just shifting your perspective from “learn enough japanese to play any jrpg” to “get comfortable enough with japanese so that playing jrpgs is fun and comprehensible”
if studying video game scripts is fun for you though, I would definitely recommend reading as many as possible - you’re gonna want to do a lot of reading - start now and just skip over sentences that are way beyond you - you want to start consuming the content you want to start consuming lol - start getting your brain used to how things are phrased - don’t get caught in an “I just need to know all the vocab in this game” mindset -


I don’t even understand the question. Of course Wanikani (or other Kanji learning tools) is important, Kanji are part of the written language and most JRPGs are targeted to older audiences and won’t come with Furigana.


not sure what your level is, but a couple clutch things to know about japanese:

you can have like a whole sentence modifying a noun - if there’s a random noun in the middle of a sentence, odds are, all this sh*t before that noun are describing that noun - kinda like “walking man”, but it can be “walked to the store and got some groceries man” - anyway, happens a lot

also a good thing to keep in mind is the frequent use of passive form verbs - this really takes an english native’s brain a hot minute to get used to -
the difference = “John hit me” (english) vs “I was hit by John” (japanese) - it’s really a difference between “doing something” and “something being done”
seems pretty simple, sure, but it’s really a fundamental difference in the way things are communicated

anyway, these are just a couple things to keep in mind that might help you with reading comprehension :blush:


Yes. While learning vocabulary from Wanikani is fine, it’s mostly for learning kanji and the vocabulary you learn is mostly there to reinforce the kanji. And i promise you’ll see these kanji in your games. You should search elsewhere for vocabulary and grammar though.

If you want to play a game, I’d say jump right in. If you’ve played it before you should have a general idea of what’s going on. You’ll be waiting a long time if you want to sit down and play with full comprehension.

When you start playing a game in Japanese, there are two schools of thought:

“I will translate every single line of dialog that appears and flashcard every word and grammar point.” I tried that when I decided I wanted to play Breath of the Wild as my first game in Japanese. That was an unbelievable amount of work. After a week I had not even made it through ten minutes of gameplay and I had over 500 new flashcards. Yikes. Then I decided I wanted to master those before moving on. It took weeks. I finally gave up.

Then there’s: “I will play this game and not sweat it if I don’t understand everything.” I picked up a Japanese 3DS with Ocarina of Time, a game I’m super familiar with, and tried again. This time I looked up words in the dictionary (which was made easier by having furigana) and moved on without flashcarding them. Some days I didn’t even feel like looking things up but I at least tried to read everything and talked to npcs and read signs and stuff. I understood a good bit, and I remembered a lot of what was said in my previous native language play throughs. I made it through and felt super accomplished to have played through my first game in Japanese.

So yeah, I’d say making it through WaniKani is only going to help in the long run, and learning Japanese is just that: a long run. There’s no greater service for learning the essential kanji, at least not that I’ve found. There’s also a great YouTube series from Game Gengo that goes over N5 and N4 grammar using examples from video games. And I found a dictionary app called Shirabe Jisho that works a whole lot better than google translate.



I’ve tried that first school of thought twice in the past, omg is that painful or what?!
I tried fire emblem 8 first - wow, archaic af words, basically only useful for playing fire emblem lol
then I had a run at persona 5, I ripped the sentence audio for my cards and everything…
played it for ~4 hours in english a few weeks prior - took me over 60 hours to get back to the same part of the game…
learned a lot for sure, but I wasn’t playing the game, I was sentence mining the game -


I wanna add to my previous post and the topic in general that rpgs are definitely a great tool to learn with. They do test you a lot and it kinda varies from type and developer/publisher, but they’re also not hard to get into. For language learners they provide a good challenge, with clear and concise goals. They come with nice features like furigana, being able to pause dialogue and advance text on your own, voice acting, recap, npc’s that help you. I think visual novels are maybe even better, but they’re more difficult and contain more text in general.

What always helps is get a feel for how things look at the moment. Start that game and play for 15 minutes or more. I find a hour is usually a good average time I spend on a session. How much do you you have to look up, how much do you understand of any line and how much progress did you make in the time you played. The start will always be rough, but with repeated practice you’ll get better over time. Anyway if you found out it is way too tough for your level, then you should stop and do something else for a while, come back to it later when you’ve gained more knowledge/experience.


Lol yeah, you don’t even realize how little you actually know until you sit down and spend 60 hours on the intro of a game! I’d be interested to see anki decks of specific video games minus the words I know just to see how far away I would be from full vocabulary comprehension. Even if I know all the words though, sometimes I find I still can’t understand the sentence which is super annoying :angry:


A lot of the WK vocab you probably won’t see in JRPGs, though you’ll definitely see some. But the kanji you definitely will, and WK will also help you get a feel for on’yomi patterns which is useful when you’re playing a game without furigana and come across a compound you need to look up—it’s much quicker if you can guess the reading than if you gotta draw it or use a radical search.

I started playing Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and Dragon Quest Heroes I recently, and the kanji and vocab I learned on WK, as well as in other things I’ve read, have definitely helped me get a feel for what’s going on even without looking up every word I don’t 100% know. (I’m definitely in the camp where if I can at least get the gist of it, I’m happy, and then if I feel like figuring out what exactly a certain sentence or section is saying, then I’ll go deeper. Yeah, I’m here to learn, but I’m also here to have fun. And that means actually getting to play the game lol) Also, grammar. You definitely need at the very least a good grasp of the basics if you don’t already, or else you’ll be lost even if you know all the words.


after 1,5 years into WK

today i can say I can watch anime with japanese subtitles and play games with jp text.

But vocab only is not enough, you need grammar, and I am almost finishing N3 on bunpro. Also without grammar points you can’t understand dialogues IMO.

if you can memorize compound words/separate kanji in vocabular words well then probably yes. Pure exposure always beats any study methods.

You should get acquintated with basic grammar though. Ussualy tae kims is nuff for that.

Wanikani is primary there to learn kanji, and the vocab is there to reinforce the readings. Learning kanji through it is very useful and it’s not a waste of time. It’s so much easier to memorize words if you know the reading of the kanji and what that kanji means. Trying to just straight up memorize a vocab list without that information is a exercise in pain.

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