It’s tricky to pick only a few of the best games like Persona. Different people come to the JRPG franchise for different things! Sometimes it’s the dating sim aspect; sometimes it’s the deep dungeon diving and turn-based combat. Or maybe you just like having an adventure set in the modern day — something not a lot of role-playing games offer. Well, we’ve done our best to summarize and organize some of our very favorite games like Persona that you can play right now. Whether you’re waiting for the next big release, or just can’t get enough of this kind of world, we’ve got you covered with a wide assortment of styles to choose from. Let’s take a look!
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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor & Devil Survivor 2
Despite dropping the name in recent years, Persona actually began as a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series of JRPGs. Its personas (or demons in the main franchise) and combat in particular share a ton of DNA. Sadly, the non-Persona games have slowed down considerably since the spin-off became so damn popular. That’s a shame, because the once prolific SMT series has a dark, unsettling tone all its own — plus some very challenging dungeons and superb battle design.
Most modern SMT games, plus the other spin-offs, are available on the Nintendo 3DS. Strange Journey Redux is an intense dungeon crawler, while SMT4 and SMT4: Apocalypse are sweeping adventures with gods and monsters. But the Devil Survivor games (remade as Overclocked and Record Breaker on the 3DS) probably fit the Persona mold best. You have a limited number of in-game days to do everything, and the setting involves high school students fighting in contemporary Japan.
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is another 3DS remake of a Sega Saturn game. It splits the difference between Persona and Shin Megami Tensei, with first-person dungeon crawling and a modern-day setting. Pretty much any game mentioned here is great, though, so you can’t go wrong!
- Perfect for… strategy and tactics game enthusiasts.
- Avoid if you… are only interested in the social aspect of Persona games over the combat.
- Start with… the first game. They both have 3DS ports at this point, so you might as well begin at the beginning!
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
Originally conceived as a Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ultimately struck on its own tone and style. Yes, some of the persona-like spirits that fight for you are interpretations of Fire Emblem characters. Members of the Awakening cast in particular (e.g. Chrom, Tharja, and Virion) make appearances. But the game is more like a lighthearted J-pop song come to life. In fact, your playable party of modern-day teens literally train as idols between dungeons. Learning to sing, dance, and act form the backbone of their day-to-day lives — striking a very Persona style balance of combat and daily life.
You can play the game now on Wii U, if you’re one of the six people in the world with theirs still hooked up. Otherwise the Encore edition just hit Nintendo Switch, as well. The enhanced port comes with extra songs, more playable characters, and new story content.
- Perfect for… anyone looking for a lighter take on Persona, from the same company that makes those games.
- Avoid if you… hate pastel colors.
- Start with… the Switch remake. You probably don’t have a Wii U still hooked up anyway.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth & Hacker’s Memory
If catching and breeding colorful creatures is your thing, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is among your best options. You can get both the first game and its side story successor in a double pack, the Complete Edition, which comes with extra Digimon and a few improvements. While it shares obvious DNA with Pokemon, Cyber Sleuth skews toward a slightly more mature audience.
The story is darker and tackles topics like managing your life online, queerness, and corporate negligence. It’s also set in modern-day Japan. You spend plenty of time diving into digital dungeons, but also get to know several NPC characters in your day-to-day life. The incredibly complex Digimon breeding system will also likely put players in mind of the Persona and demon fusion from Shin Megami Tensei games.
- Perfect for… those obsessed with engineering the perfect persona. The Digimon breeding system here is a lengthy and rewarding process.
- Avoid if you… are looking for a challenge. Neither Cyber Sleuth game is particularly difficult if you just stick to the main story. It’s more about the world and seeing how many creatures you can create.
- Start with… Cyber Sleuth. Hacker’s Memory has some quality-of-life improvements, but it’s very much a side story to the original game. You’ll be somewhat lost if you don’t play the original first.
The World Ends With You
A dark, alternate world lurking beneath the surface of contemporary Japan pits young people against each other in a game of life or death. The World Ends With You doesn’t play much like Persona, but its core premise scratches a lot of the same itches. As does its unforgettably poppy soundtrack. And while the gameplay isn’t typical turn-based fare, it’s fantastic and unique in its own right.
That is if you play the original Nintendo DS version… The Switch port, Final Remix, is basically the touch-based iPhone version on a more modern handheld. The story, music, and characters are just as good as ever. But the gameplay is severely compromised without a second screen. It’s downright boring, in fact. Play it on your DS or 3DS if you have one laying around!
- Perfect for… music lovers.
- Avoid if you… can only play the Switch or mobile phone versions. It’s just not the same without that back-and-forth gameplay that forces you to play on both DS screens at once.
- Start with… the DS version. Seriously.
Persona Q & Persona Q2
This one is a bit of a cheat, considering it literally has Persona right in the title. But unfamiliar players should know what make these games different from other Persona spin-offs. Unlike the Arena and Dancing All Night games, these offshoots more closely mirror the actual gameplay of their titular franchise. They’re turn-based JRPGs, in other words. Though they have much more in common with Etrian Odyssey (also by developer Atlus) than Persona — characters aside.
In each game, you traverse dungeons from a first-person perspective to meticulously map their hazards, paths, shortcuts, and secrets. I mean that literally. Players use the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS to draw maps and place special icons. This creates permanent layouts that persist even after death, and help you make more efficient dungeon crawls each time you reenter the a deadly labyrinth. Wandering mini-bosses called F.O.E.s (also pulled directly from Etrian Odyssey) further turn each level into puzzles you must solve to survive, or brute force your way through for better gear.
The major difference between Persona Q and Etrian Odyssey is that your pool of party members is fixed. The first game features the cast of Persona 3 and Persona 4. Whereas Persona Q2 includes characters from the third, fourth, and fifth games all at once. Sorry, Persona 2 fans… Atlus seems bound and determined to pretend those characters never existed. At least the weakness-based combat of both Persona and Etrian Odyssey blend well in these handheld adventures.
- Perfect for… if you really just want to spend more time with Persona characters (even the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable).
- Avoid if you… dislike dungeon crawlers. While not as difficult as the main series, this is an Etrian Odyssey game at heart — just with Persona characters. The early stages can be punishing if you don’t know what to expect.
- Start with… the first game. If you play the second one first, it’ll be hard to go back and give up all the nice quality-of-life features.
- Valkyria Chronicles: It features some of the dating sim-like elements of Persona, but ultimately has more in common with Fire Emblem. Start with either the remastered edition of the first game or Valkyria Chronicles 4 (which is set during the same period as the first game, but with a different cast).
- The Legend of Heroes: This complex and long-running series eventually features a “bonding” system quite similar to S. Links and Confidants in Persona — once you get to the Trails of Cold Steel games. Getting into this franchise is a massive investment, though, and not every game in the enormous narrative has been officially translated into English.
- Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana: This one is a bit of a stretch, but Ys 8 is a fantastic and underappreciated JPRG. You get lots of downtime to build up an in-game town, rescue villagers, and get to know about their lives.