5 best games like Shogun to keep the historical Japan vibes going

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Shōgun, the limited TV series based on the historical-fiction novel by James Clavell, quickly asserted itself as one of this year’s best new series, thanks to a captivating cast of characters and a stirring performance by lead Hiroyuki Sanada as Lord Toranaga.

If you’re still devastated by this week’s series finale and are looking for a game to sate your desire for more great storytelling set in historical Japan, we’ve got you covered. We’ve hand-selected some of our favorite games to help ease the transition into a post-Shōgun world. Let’s dive in!

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Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

An overhead shot of a level in Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, showing the player’s character highlighted in blue while hiding in the shadows.

Image: Mimimi Productions/Daedalic Entertainment

Where to play: PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One

Sometimes, a veiled knife in the dark is worth more than a hundred swords on the battlefield. Case in point: The end of Shōgun’s second episode, when a shinobi disguised as a longtime house servant tears through guards and bystanders alike, leaving blood in his wake, before being cut down by Lord Toranaga. So, if you’re looking for a stealthy action game where strategy and patience are king, Mimimi Productions’ 2016 real-time tactics game is a must-play.

Set in feudal Japan shortly after the reigning shogun has unified the country, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun follows a group of unlikely allies who band together in their common quest to take down a mysterious warlord that threatens the shogunate. It’s an excellent and thoroughly underrated stealth game that puts emphasis on making the most of each skill your party of playable characters brings to every challenge. —Toussaint Egan

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Total War: Shogun 2

An overhead user interface view of a battlefield in Total War: Shogun 2.

Image: Creative Assembly/Sega

Where to play: Windows PC

Shōgun takes place during the end of the Sengoku period, a time in which incessant civil warfare has divided the country into countless domains overseen by warlords looking to expand their territories. The series’ finale ends on the cusp of war, with Toranaga reflecting on what will be known as the Battle of Sekigahara. If you were disappointed by the lack of a huge battle at the end of Shōgun, this classic RTS is the perfect way to experience that.

Creative Assembly’s path to strategy-gaming dominance began in 2000 with the original Shogun: Total War. After a decade-long romp through ancient Rome and Europe, the developer returned to Japan in 2011 for Total War: Shogun 2. The result was a BAFTA award for best strategy game, and the crystallization of a high-concept multimodal format that would go on to become the beloved trilogy Total War: Warhammer.

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In Total War: Shogun 2, you will send thousands of soldiers, archers, and cavalry into pitched real-time tactical battles. From your bird’s-eye view over the battlefield, you can order them to flank, fire at, and charge the enemy. Then, in the turn-based overworld map, you will maneuver your forces to take advantage of the terrain, using it to unseat your AI-controlled opponents to dominate all of Japan. The timeline is a perfect match for the TV show, with units pulled from historical accounts of the 16th century.

To get the most bang for your buck, pick up the Total War: Shogun 2 collection on Steam, which includes the base game and its most essential expansions. —Charlie Hall

Rise of the Ronin

A player facing off against a group of enemies along the shore of a beach.

Image: Team Ninja/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Where to play: PlayStation 5

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If you’re looking for a game where you can explore the beautiful plains and rolling hills of 19th-century Japan that Shogun only briefly teased throughout the series, Team Ninja’s first open-world action adventure is just the game to satiate your wanderlust. As a former anti-shogunate assassin turned ronin, players must traverse the countryside of 19th-century Japan after their village is destroyed and their lifelong partner goes missing. You’ll battle against ruthless bandits, surly American soldiers, and even ravenous dogs as you attempt to carve out a new life for yourself. Not only that, but players are given the choice to forge bonds with important characters and ally with clashing factions to decide the fate of Japan. If that doesn’t resonate with the themes of Shōgun, I don’t know what does. —TE

Nioh

William Adams, the player’s character, brandishing a katana against a glowing horned demon in Nioh.

Image: Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo

Where to play: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC

While loosely based on true events, Shōgun is technically a work of historical fiction, with John Blackthorne and Lord Yoshii Toranaga as fictional analogs for the real-life English sailor turned samurai William Adams and daimyo turned shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. If you’re looking for another, albeit more violently exaggerated, take on the events covered in the show, you should definitely give Team Ninja’s 2017 Soulslike Nioh a shot.

Set in a dark fantasy version of 1600s Japan, players assume the role of an Irish sailor named William who arrives in Japan on a quest of vengeance against Edward Kelley, an occult alchemist who seeks to perpetuate conflict using an army of oni. William quickly allies himself with Ieyasu and his ninja servant Hanzo Hattori, who agree to aid him in his mission to take down Kelley in their own quest to bring peace to Japan. It’s a wild and ridiculous action RPG filled with intense swordplay and frightening bosses. It’s not exactly the equivalent of a slow-paced, emotionally rich prestige TV series, but it is a blast to play. —TE

Like a Dragon: Ishin!

Ryoma Sakamoto locks katanas with an enemy in Like a Dragon: Ishin!

Image: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio/Sega

Where to play: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

The Like a Dragon (formerly known as Yakuza) series has always had a reputation for outlandish scenarios involving gold-hearted gangsters and over-the-top minigames. In 2014, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio took one of the most radical steps in the franchise to date, recasting the series’ mechanics and ideas for an action-adventure spinoff set in 19th-century Japan. Like a Dragon: Ishin! puts players in the role of the legendary samurai Sakamoto Ryōma (modeled after regular series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu) as he fights to clear his name after his adoptive father is murdered by an assassin.

If you were captivated by Shōgun’s meticulous rendition of Osaka Castle, you’ll love exploring the game’s vast and beautiful version of the castle town of Tosa and Kyo, Japan’s capital city during the Bakumatsu era. It’s a fantastic game with compelling characters and great combat, and with the recent remake that allows players to get it on PC and current-gen consoles, there’s never been a better time to try it out. —TE



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