San-X, like Sanrio, is one of the major mascot character companies out there. If someone likes a cute being, say like Mamegoma, Rilakkuma or Tarepanda, then there is a good chance San-X made it. Case in point, Sumikko Gurashi is one of the company’s more popular groups of critters. Which makes them a great lead-in to some Japanese games that can sometimes be rather import-friendly!
Wait, what? How did we go from mascots to games?
The thing about cute mascot characters is that they tend to often get their own games in Japan. It happens with San-X all the time. Since these tend to be attached to puzzle games, like the reskinned Wonderswan Gunpey game Tarepanda no Gunpey, or games made with kids in mind, they often aren’t too complicated. They can be easy to hop into and play, regardless of your familiarity with the language. (By the way, that Tarepanda game is very import-friendly!)
With Sumikko Gurashi, the titles tend to fall into two sorts of categories. One is a board game with lots of minigames to play. These tend to be very relaxed, with minigames that might not feel as critical and frantic as one in Mario Party. The others involve making a happy place, like a school or town, for the Sumikko Gurashi characters to inhabit. As you participate in activities, you make more money to get more items to make more elaborate spaces.
So what do I need to play a Sumikko Gurashi game?
Well, you need either a Japanese 3DS or a Nintendo Switch from any region. The 3DS is a region-locked device, so you can’t play an import game on one unless you get into custom firmware and such. Since the Switch is region-free, all you need is any model of the system.
All of the Sumikko Gurashi games available now are out both digitally and physically, so you don’t have to worry about making a Japanese eShop account. But, it is wise to do so if you’re interested in the Switch ones, as they have demos! These are brief, but let you go ahead and briefly try the board game and some of its minigames or start building a life for characters. Atsumare! Sumikko Town, Gakkou Seikatsu Hajimerun Desu and Sumikko Park he Youkoso all are ready for you to try them out.
How many Sumikko Gurashi games are there?
You have a lot to choose from! There are four 3DS games and three Switch ones out there. The older the game, the better the chance of finding a used copy from some place like eBay. They don’t tend to go on sale through the eShop very often, so getting a physical copy might be your best bet. (Especially since the first 3DS game has a Best Price version!) They also tend to come out every year so… well, if you don’t like this year’s game, then wait for next year’s.
Sumikko Gurashi: Koko ga Ochitsukundesu (3DS, 2014)
Want to take care of the Sumikko Gurashi characters, then walk them around a board to play minigames? You’ve got it! You do not need to know any Japanese to care for these characters and play their games.
Sumikko Gurashi: Omise Hajimerundesu (3DS, 2015)
This is one of those Sumikko Gurashi town simulations. You follow characters as they move to a new town and get settled. They will have little shops, and you go through minigames helping them care for customers.
Sumikko Gurashi: Mura o Tsukurundesu (3DS, 2016)
If there was a Sumikko Gurashi Bokujou Monogatari game, this would be close to it. They are in a rural environment and you arrange their living space, help them grow crops and take part in themed minigames with them.
Sumikko Gurashi: Koko, Dokonan Desu (3DS, 2017)
Okay. So, the 2015 entry had you in an urban environment. The 2016 one took them to a rural area. The 2017 brings them on expeditions to foreign lands, with minigames to match as they explore around the environment. That means hide and seek and rafting sorts of minigames.
Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso (Switch, 2017)
Remember when I talked about board games? This is one. It is very relaxed and simple, for people who want a more peaceful experience with friends. It also is super import-friendly, with very little text involved.
Sumikko Gurashi: Atsumare! Sumikko Town (Switch, 2018)
This entry is similar to a pet simulation. You build a town for the characters, shape their home and care for them. There are also eight minigames based on activities they might engage in around town. Since this does get into making things suitable for characters, it starts to need some language skills.
Sumikko Gurashi: Gakkou Seikatsu Hajimerun Desu (Switch, 2019)
This isn’t all that dissimilar from the previous installment. Here, your goal is to run a school for the characters. You also get to play minigames based on Japanese school life. Like the previous Switch entry, some language skills are necessary to appreciate and enjoy it.