The PlayStation 4 took a bit to get settled in Japan, but now that it has, its predecessor is getting its chance to ride into the sunset. Of course, that’s a really great time to import some of its games for cheap! Read on for our guide to the best titles to grab for the platform.
Before we continue, a rundown of the PS3 importing process:
The system’s region-free and digital-friendly. You can play (virtually) any disc on any system, and unlike the Vita, the PS3 can handle multiple accounts per system. Even if you don’t want to buy games that way, setting up a Japanese PSN account will let you check out demos of some games, and it’s generally worth it. There is that weirdness with mapping the cross and circle buttons differently between regions, but that’s not a big enough deal to bother importing a Japanese PS3.
Your credit cards won’t work on Japanese PSN. Thankfully, sites like Nippon-Yasan have easily-purchasable PSN credit codes, but… yeah, you’ll have to go through that process, and it’ll cost a bit more than the exchange rate. (That said, the exchange rate’s super-good these days, so it’s not that painful.)
The PS3 flourished in its home market. That means there are a lot of cool imports, but it also means that many of those imports were never destined for worldwide release regardless of success. They can be text-heavy. They can be about mahjong. They can be text-heavy games about mahjong.
Now, to the games!
Designed to make the Lost Planet formula more appealing to Japanese players, E.X. Troopers builds an manga-inspired setting in these environs and ends up looking very stylish. It uses halftones and comic frames to give it a specific style, and… well, Lost Planet didnt have much of a style at all, so anything was an improvement! It’s best if you just watch us play the game, though.
Aquanaut’s Holiday: Hidden Memories
It’s a bit tough to get these days for a decent price, but Aquanaut’s Holiday is one of those rare import games with English releases in the nebulous “Asia” region. A relaxing underwater exploration game in the vein of Endless Ocean, you study and venture around in the water and the result is a game that is just so relaxing. It’s a good way to wind down after a long day at the second job you had to take to pay for it.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Full Boost
The Extreme Vs. series is a phenomenon in Japan, an arcade hit with a devoted following for its head-to-head play. In the West, we’ve seen… a pared-down Vita release. To check out the full thing, grab this expanded entry, with tons of Gundam to pilot and some extra features. The game plays like if Virtual On were developed to its logical modern conclusion, with weapons and loadouts to manage in arenas with various terrain.
Boku no Natsuyasumi 3
Nothing’s quite as relaxing as an idyllic childhood summer vacation. The Boku no Natsuyasumi (literally My Summer Vacation) series does just that, with intentionally low stakes and rustic environments. There’s a language barrier to all the game’s conversations, but the experience of a lazy season in the country transcends cultural barriers.
Initial D Extreme Stage
Initial D as a franchise hasn’t had much success outside Japan, but its racing games are fun enough to be played anyway. This was the final release, and since it’s been almost a decade, it’s safe to assume it will stay that way. It’s very much arcade-style racing, with time attack being the focus and building out any worlds or gimmicks like modern driving titles.
Super Hero Generation
While the Super Robot Wars games are becoming available in English and on many platforms, there’s still a ton of games in the wider franchise that are left in Japan, and Super Hero Generation is weird enough to warrant a look. Rather than simply featuring big robots, this game combines Gundam with Ultraman and Kamen Rider for a sentai-flavored take on the flashy, high-numbers tactics formula. Its quirk is a big enough selling point even if you’re not into those shows, but it certainly doesn’t hurt if you are.
Toro! Let’s Party
Another Asia English release, Let’s Party is a quirky series of challenges starring Sony’s Japanese mascot, Toro the white cat. If you’re into imports, you may already know about Toro, and he’s even made a few cameo appearances in Western releases, but suffice to say that he embodies the import spirit: quirky, bright and sometimes inscrutable.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
This game’s available on lots of platforms including current ones, but get it on whatever you have, because the combination of the two falling-block puzzle games is enjoyable, accessible and likely never reaching the West for dumb legal reasons. Combining the familiar-to-the-West fun of Tetris with the really-very-fun combo-heavy action of Puyo Puyo in really all of the ways, it’s a robust package that justifies its retail standing and is a heck of a lot of fun with friends. That all stacks up to a choice import!
Phantom Breaker Extra
A great 2D fighting game that deserved a Western appearance, it almost got one but was tied up in various release issues until its localization was canceled entirely. At this point, you may have seen the game’s characters in a spinoff that was localized, Phantom Breaker Battle Grounds, but if you want to experience the core fighter series, this updated edition of that is the way to go.
Check out the Game Archives!
One advantage of jumping into PlayStation imports is exploring the Game Archives, the Japanese equivalent of the PSOne Classics program and a treasure trove of weirdness. How about the minigame madness of Bishi Bashi Special? Or Robbit mon Dieu, the third Jumping Flash game? Maybe even Rakugaki Showtime, a Treasure-developed fighting game with a cult following and a distinctive hand-drawn look? There are a few PS2 titles in there too that are worth a play.
For more helpful advice for budding importers, check out our Guides section.