i tried out a lot, but my priorities were clear from the start: i needed to understand spoken japanese, and i had to become able to speak, since i planned to move to japan, to be with my wife.
so what i did was pimsleur, then michel thomas, then japanesepod101. i used smart fm (now iknow) for hiragana, katakana. imabi was a reference guide for me.
i basically learned the absolute basics from michel thomas, while getting drilled by pimsleur was great to make me speak. pimsleur is also an SRS in audio format, which helped me remember a lot of things until i’d understand them later, after meeting them again on jpod.
japanesepod then took me to some very solid upper intermediate level.
i came to japan first on a student visa, enrolled in a japanese language school, but graduated the 2 year course in 1 year, since everything they could teach me, i’d already know (but it did it’s job of providing me with a visa, which is what i wanted out of it really).
i used other stuff, of course, like rikaikun, which enabled me to practice on lang-8, twitter, facebook. i tried out various resources to get the kanji into my head, found wk, did that for a while, then dropped out again and just started again relatively recently.
i didn’t use any traditional textbooks to learn myself.
my school then went with みんなの日本語, but that was all repetition for me.
i found michel thomas to be awesome to start out with, then japanesepod101 to take you to a level where you can listen/speak fairly well.
it would be a crime to not mention that, with all that prior knowledge and practice of 2 years, coming to and living in japan had a huge impact on my language abilities. i got to listen to japanese all day long, and to try out my fledgling speaking skill. my wife has been using japanese with me from the start, too. both listening and speaking are physical skills and require training. nothing gets you around that, and i had ample opportunity to practice.
i’m now working on reading and the kanji, after a few attempts in the past, including wk. wanikani provides guidance, a well trodden path. it’s not perfect, but the best there is for what it does.