Japan is just as famous for its video games as it is for its anime and manga. In fact, these different media are inextricably linked. Creative professionals in Japan will move between anime, game development, and manga as the work requires. Some studios do both anime and games. Some artists and directors are equally well known for both as well.

As you might expect, there’s a massive number of Japanese game studios of various sizes. As a Westerner looking for anime-infused games that have some sort of pedigree, it can be hard when you don’t have much brand recognition to rely on. This is especially true now. With the increase in anime’s global popularity, Japanese games that aren’t Super Mario or Zelda are now also getting attention. That means it’s worth translating games that might not have the sort of quality one would hope.

Here I’ve listed some of the most prominent names in Japanese game development. If these companies develop or publish a game, it’s more often than not a sign of quality.



Atlus is one of the biggest names in the Japanese RPG industry. They don’t just develop their own games, but also act as a publisher and distributor of talented smaller studios. Atlus has been around since 1986. The game series they are probably best known for today is Persona; rather, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona.

Persona itself is a spinoff of the much more hardcore and niche Shin Megami Tensei games, the first of which was released for the NES in 1987. The last two Persona games, numbers 4 and 5, have been absolute smash hits globally. Atlus continues to make popular niche games such as the Etrian Odyssey dungeon crawlers. It has also published amazing games from studios like Vanillaware and Arc System Works. Odin Sphere, Dragon’s Crown, and the Persona Arena games are examples of these.

If a game has the Atlus logo on it, you know it’s at least worth looking at.

Bandai Namco

bandai namco

As you might tell from the name, Bandai Namco is actually a company that came from the merger of Bandai and Namco. The merger happened in 2005, but even before then each company was a legend in its own right.

Bandai was actually known primarily for making excellent toys such as plastic model kits. It was founded all the way back in 1950. Bandai owns the Sunrise anime studio responsible for Cowboy Bepop and is still a big influence in the industry. Predictably, it’s best known for games related to the Gundam franchise, given that Bandai is also the maker of Gundam toys.

Namco has a much more game-affiliated reputation and was founded in 1955. Its list of games is truly staggering, both in arcades and on home systems. We’re talking Galaxian, Pac man, Rally X, Galaga, Tekken, Soul Edge, Ridge Racer, and much more. You’ve probably played something by Namco without even knowing it.

Since the merger, Bandai Namco has released several notable games. There’s a whole range of Gundam and Dragon Ball Z games that have dedicated followings. The Naruto games too have entries from Bandai Namco. On the JRPG front you can count the Legend of Heroes games, Tales games, and Xenosaga games as those which have entries under the Bandai Namco Banner.



Capcom, another huge name in the gaming business, has been around since 1979. It is responsible for an unbelievably long list of AAA franchises. The top ones that most people have probably heard of include Street Fighter and Resident Evil. The company is named “Capcom” because they called their arcade machines “capsule computers”. Yes, Capcom started as an arcade darling, but today their console and PC gaming catalog is extensive.

Capcom is probably my favorite non-JRPG Japanese studio, but they do have some great role playing games too. Breath of Fire is a notable example, as is Dragon’s Dogma. This is also the company responsible for Mega Man, Monster Hunter, Ace Attorney, and Ghost Trick. The Capcom badge is definitely one that immediately gets my attention.

Square Enix

Square Enix

Like Bandai Namco, the Square Enix imprint is the result of Square and Enix merging. Individually, these companies are responsible for some of the most beloved JRPGs in history.

Square’s most famous franchise is hands-down the Final Fantasy games. In the West, people who have no idea what a JRPG is will have heard the name Final Fantasy. The mainline titles have reached number 15 at the time of writing and there are even more spin-off titles.

There’s more to Square than just Final Fantasy games, though. Romancing SaGa and Secret of Mana (which started out as an FF game) are both excellent in their own right. Square also developed what is widely considered to be the greatest JRPG of all time – Chrono Trigger. I should know, since somehow I own several copies of the game for various platforms and I’m still not sure why.

Enix was the publisher of Dragon Quests games and was also responsible for manga and toys. It wasn’t a developer, but a publisher that became known as an excellent curator of Japanese games. One of my most beloved games of all time, Valkyrie Profile, was published by Enix.

Since the birth of Square Enix the company has become a true juggernaut as both a developer and a publisher. It has developed games such as Front Mission and published games by beloved developers such as tri-Ace and Platinum games. Heck, they’ve even published a few titles made by Western developers. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on Square Enix’s publishing schedule since they tend to have far more hits than misses.



GAINAX is the same studio responsible for the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime, but it is also a game developer with a fair following. Apart from quite a few Evangelion games, it is probably best known for the Princess Maker series and also Evangelion games made in the Princess Maker mold. Why is it noteworthy? Well, it might now be a prolific publisher, but a few of its games have been influential. Also, I love Princess Maker and this is my website – so there.

Koei Tecmo

koei tecmo

Koei Tecmo is yet another merged company built from the reanimated parts of Koei and Tecmo.

Koei was founded in 1978 and has an absolutely massive list of video games tied to its brand. The Dynasty Warrior games belong to it, which is a whole industry in itself. Ni-Oh was its answer to FromSoftware’s Souls games. It also has several strategy and simulation games too.

Tecmo is a name you might recognize from the legendary Tecmo Bowl football arcade game. Team Ninja is a subsidiary, which means all of the Dead or Alive fighting games are a Tecmo property.

The most prominent franchises from each company are still being developed and published under the new merged name today. That includes Fatal Frame, Ninja Gaiden, and the Atelier series, which now has some anime too.



Konami is probably the most divisive name on this list. Many of the studio’s games are fervently adored by legions of fans, but the company itself has been in the doghouse for years now. It isn’t really even a game developer anymore. The company shut down most of its video game development division in order to focus on Japanese pachinko machines (a sort of gambling pinball), so most Konami games you see now are from the past.

What a library, though. This is the company that brought us Policenauts, which really needs a modern remake or at least a remaster. Ever heard of Castlevania? That’s Konami. Double Dribble lead to much sibling rivalry on our NES back in the day, as did Track and Field. Konami is actually quite well known for its sports games, and the Konami soccer games are some of the few titles the company still works on. On the JRPG front they made the amazing Suikoden games on the first Playstation. Silent Hill is also a Konami property.

Why do people hate Konami these days? It has to do with famous game developer Hideo Kojima and how the company allegedly treated him. Kojima was the brightest star at Konami and is responsible for the ultra-popular Metal Gear franchise. He also created cult classic like Policenauts, Snatcher, and Zone of the Enders. Konami made a series of weird decisions that lead to people like Kojima and several other prominent talents leaving for greener pastures. Right now Konami really isn’t likely to ever bring out anything good again, but their back catalog is filled with masterpieces.


Level 5

It took me a while to catch on to the Level-5 hype – mainly because I didn’t play on their preferred platforms until recently – but this is a developer worth watching. Founded in 1998, it is definitely a relative newcomer but has some of the most unique and delightful games I’ve seen.

Its Professor Layton series is a set of adventure games with amazing artwork, imaginative puzzles, and wonderful stories. This is also possibly the first company to challenge Pokemon’s dominance with Yokai Watch. It started eating into both the Pokemon anime and games in terms of popularity. It’s also notable for the game Ni No Kuni on the DS and PS3. These games were done in collaboration with Studio Ghibli and, on the PS3 in particular, represent a landmark JRPG. At the time of writing, we’re all waiting for Ni No Kuni II to land on the PS4.

These games are pretty recent, however. Level-5 has had some great content all the way back to the days of the PS2. Dark Cloud is a cult-classic and the company has recently re-released it on the PS4 along with its other early hit, Rogue Galaxy. It has also co-developed one of the most popular Dragon Quest games, Journey of the Cursed King, with Square Enix. That’s been ported to iOS, of all things, recently. There’s also the quirky yet incredibly addictive Fantasy Life on the 3DS. Level-5 is going to do great things, mark my words.



While this list is alphabetical, if it were arranged by notability Nintendo would probably go straight to the top. It’s almost 100% unlikely that you don’t know what Nintendo is, since the NES single-handedly broke the great video game crash in North America back in the late 80s.

Nintendo is not only a major player in both home and handheld consoles, it is an AAA developer to boot. Many of the developers on this page got their break because Nintendo let them make stuff for the NES and SNES.

Nintendo actually predates video gaming itself by decades. The company was founded in 1889 as a playing card company. In the 70s it started to dabble in electronic entertainment and had great success with its single-game LCD handheld products. These “Game and Watch” toys would become the precursor to its dominant handheld systems.

Where do I even begin with their franchises? Everyone knows Mario, the Italian plumber who is as famous as Mickey Mouse. They also have Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Punch Out, F-Zero, Star Fox, Splatoon, and so much more. Nintendo games are innovative, family friendly, and, more often than not, blockbusters. If you’re a true gamer and not somehow blinded against “kid’s games”, there’s a lot to love in the Nintendo stable.

Platinum Games

platinum games

Platinum Games is pretty new to the scene, being founded in 2007. Since then it has managed to cement itself as one of the finest action game developers in the world. It’s known for fast and frenetic third-person action games that are like poetry in motion. This is the closest any of us will ever be to taking part in a slick anime-style battle.

Its first game, MadWorld, was for the Wii and really turned heads with its black and white cell-shaded graphics. What made players stay was the pitch-perfect hack and slash action that would become the Platinum Games trademark. The company followed this up with the smash-hit Bayonetta, which I personally didn’t like but which is a really good action game.

Platinum applies its formula to both original IP and licensed content. It made a Metal Gear Solid spin off called Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, which is an amazing game and fits perfectly into the Metal Gear Universe. Transformers Devastation is the Transformers game that fans had been waiting for, even if they didn’t know it.

Then in 2017, under the guidance of genius developer Yoko Taro, Platinum released Nier: Automata, which might very well be one of the greatest games ever made. Seriously.



Who doesn’t know SEGA? The name originally stood for “Service Games”, reflecting the fact that it built slot machines for sale to army bases. Funnily enough, SEGA wasn’t originally a Japanese company, but was forced to move from Hawaii when the slot machines it made became illegal. Today it is known as SEGA of Japan and is a Japanese business through and through.

In the 8-bit and 16-bit home console era SEGA and Nintendo were locked in a bitter battle for supremacy. Their consoles ruled the market and on both sides there were some excellent games and franchises. SEGA made a few wrong turns after its massively successful Genesis/Mega Drive console, and had to bow out of the hardware game permanently. Today it is strictly a developer and publisher. While SEGA might not be the giant it once was, it still has plenty of great properties.

Its most recognizable franchise has to be Sonic the Hedgehog. This blurry little blue guy was SEGA’s answer to Mario and also a way to show off the strengths of the Mega Drive. It also created the Alex Kidd games, Altered Beast, After Burner, Hatsune Miku, SEGA Rally, Shenmue, Yakuza, and so many more. Thanks to their abandonment of the hardware business you can play Sega games on just about anything – even Nintendo systems. Now that’s ironic.



The only reason Sony even entered the video game business was because of Nintendo. The story is now the stuff of legends. Basically, Nintendo wanted to create a CD-ROM add-on for the Nintendo SNES which would be called the Nintendo Playstation.

The hardware was complete and in testing when Nintendo decided to ditch Sony and switch over to Philips. Sony was making plenty of money manufacturing TVs, CD players, and other high-end electronics, so it could have easily ditched the thing after the deal went sour. Instead, a few key individuals advocated for Sony to finish the job and make its own console.

The result was the first Playstation, released in the mid-90s. This console completely took over the home video game market. The PS1 made gaming cool and mainstream. This was the first time that Nintendo got a bloody nose, and Sony Playstations have been going from strength to strength since. Nintendo is essentially a bit-player in a world where the PS2 and now PS4 dominate sales charts. Even the PS3 was a strong seller, although not the clear champ of its generation. OK, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Sony fanboy. I have owned every generation of console and currently have three Playstations. That doesn’t take anything away from its success. Hey Nintendo, karma is a cold mistress.

One of the reasons the Playstations have done so well is because Sony is such an excellent first-party developer. This is a page taken straight from the Nintendo playbook. Sony owns a number of studios completely and so those games are still Sony-developed, despite also having the name of the subsidiary on them. Games like Little Big Planet, God of War, Uncharted, Crash Bandicoot, and The Last of Us were all paid for by Sony and are exclusive to other consoles.



The SNK corporation is one of the most revered names in gaming, thanks to its games back in the late 80s and early 90s that pushed the envelope of what was possible. This was due to its proprietary NEO GEO hardware, which had some of the most advanced 2D graphics capabilities of the time. The expense of the hardware meant that its games were confined to the arcade for awhile, but eventually it released a full-fat home version, albeit at a massive price.

The games were something to behold, however. Metal Slug, King of Fighters, and Magician Lord looked too good to be true. They also played like nothing else. SNK didn’t just develop great games for its own hardware either. I remember spending hours playing Guevara with my little brother on our NES. While the company hasn’t really made anything new in a long time, you can still play its games on many modern consoles. There’s even a new King of Fighters game on the PS4!



You can’t have a list that mentions the likes of Atlus or Enix and then leave out tri-Ace. This is another developer known for making some great JRPGs. It created Valkyrie Profile (with Enix as the publisher) as well as the amazing Star Ocean games. It also made some Final Fantasy games under license. Square Enix likes to lean on tri-Ace when it is short-handed, so that tells you something about the quality of its work.

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