How to Play Video Games in Japanese

Learning all of these fancy words isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t have any games to read them in. Lucky for us, getting our hands on video games that we can play in Japanese has become easier in recent years, especially with the Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One not being region locked. A region locked console, such as the Nintendo 3DS, will not be able to play games from other regions which means you can’t just import a game from Japan and pop it into your North American system. Let’s start with the consoles listed above and follow that up with some other consoles that aren’t region locked. 

What We’re Working with Nowadays

We have it good these days. When I started studying Japanese, my dumb self just assumed I’d be able to go to the options of most games and switch the language settings. I quickly learned in most cases that wasn’t a thing. It was a disappointing afternoon… Anyway, I imported a New 3DS when it launched in Japan and the rest is history. I’ll go over the 3DS in another post, but we don’t want to mess with that right now. We want to talk about the easiest way to play video games in Japanese which means we’re going to talk about Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Switch

Not only is the Switch not region locked, it will change the language used in a game based off of the language settings of the system. So if you have it set to Japanese, even if you own a version from a different region, you’re all set to play in Japanese. There will be some exceptions for games that haven’t been localized or that have their language options built-in, but for the most part, that’s all it takes. As if you needed another excuse to play your copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild again. Just don’t forget to check the vocabulary list before jumping back in!

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are also region free so importing games isn’t a problem. You can also create accounts for other regions to download games from each system’s respective Japanese store. Language support for games is a bit more spotty though, so if you buy a game in your home region, it may not support Japanese. However, there are some heavy hitters like Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 that have language options available so even if you don’t want to import, you’re not totally out of luck. 

An important note for users that want to download games from a console’s Japanese store is that payment methods are tied to one’s region. An easy way to get around this is to buy a store’s respective gift card for the Japanese store. You can get eShop, PSN, and various other cards on sites like play-asia and have the codes sent to you so it’s not much of a hurdle.

As mentioned above, recent consoles have lightened up on region restrictions, but for those of you that want to go a little further into the past, there are a few other options you may want to consider. The advantage being that these systems already have full libraries of games that you may already be familiar with.

PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3 had a rocky start, but it ended up being success with a library that’s just waiting to be studied by eager Japanese learners. With the exception of a couple of region locked titles, everything should be fair game when it comes to importing. Just keep in mind that If there are any digital services still up, they probably won’t be much longer. The PlayStation 3 is getting pretty old at this point, so importing used titles hopefully won’t set you back too much.

Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance

These are two systems that are near and dear to my heart with the Game Boy Advance being one of my favorite consoles. There’s always a catch though, so keep in mind that DSi specific software is region locked. Regarding the GBA, I wouldn’t call games like Fire Emblem or Mother 3 cheap, but if you make the pilgrimage to a used game shop in Japan, you could fill a suitcase with RPG’s and Nintendo titles without your wallet taking too much damage. 

With the barrier to playing video games in Japanese being lower than ever, there’s no better time to jump in and immerse yourself in it!

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