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 IPHONE Top List

The 25 best Japanese games for iPhone and iPad

Land of the rising thumbs
Product: Best iPhone games | Publisher: Steel Media Ltd | Format: iPhone, iPad
Updated May 31, 2018: New entries added

Japan: home to Nintendo, Sega, Square Enix, Capcom, Konami, and Taito. Or in other words, home to Mario, Sonic, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Metal Gear Solid, and Space Invaders.

It's pretty much the spiritual home of videogames.

While the smartphone gaming revolution of the past decade or so stems from America, Japan still plays its part with some excellent mobile game offerings.

Here are 25 excellent iOS games from the land of the rising sun.

Unfortunately, the iOS 11 appocalypse has claimed a few of our previous favourites. Thankfully, the App Store doesn't sit still for long, so there's a fresh batch of brilliant new Japanese games to take their place.


#1 Super Mario Run

Product: Super Mario RunFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: NintendoGenres: Platform

Super Mario Run
We still can't believe Super Mario Run exists. This is a genuine Nintendo-made platformer for your iPhone. It's the auto runner nigh-on perfected.

#2 Downwell

Product: DownwellFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, SteamDeveloper: MoppinGenres: Action, Platform

Downwell is a roguelike platform-shooter that borrows as many of its ideas from Spelunky as it does from Japan's arcade shooter past. The result is a uniquely intense and varied experience.

#3 Final Fantasy IX

Product: Final Fantasy IXFormats: Android, iPhone, PSP, iPadPublisher: Square Enix Genres: Adventure, RPG

Final Fantasy IX
Most fans will vouch for Final Fantasy VI or VII as the best entry to the series, but on mobile we have to go with IX. It's an undervalued JRPG in its own right, plus the iOS conversion is top drawer.

#4 Dragon Quest VIII

Product: Dragon Quest VIIIFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, 3DSPublisher: Square Enix Genres: RPG

Dragon Quest VIII
A worthy companion piece to Final Fantasy XI as a lesson in how to handle a JRPG conversion, Dragon Quest VIII bravely flips the view to portrait while retaining the same epic sense of adventure.

#5 Part Time UFO

Product: Part Time UFOFormats: iPhone, iPadPublisher: HAL Egg

Part Time UFO
Nintendo's best buddy HAL Laboratory switched its attention to mobile in Part Time UFO, with brilliant results. This is a wonderful take on arcade grabber games, with a range of inspired tasks and bags of charm.

#6 The World Ends with You: Solo Remix

Product: The World Ends with You: Solo RemixFormats: iPhone, iPadDeveloper: Jupiter CorporationPublisher: Square Enix Genres: Multiplayer, RPG

The World Ends with You: Solo Remix
The irreverent, oddball DS JRPG classic comes to mobile in sparkling form. Its dazzling Shibuya setting and experimental structure ensure that this Square Enix classic hasn't aged at all.

#7 Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

Product: Monster Hunter Freedom UniteFormats: iPhone, PSP, iPadPublisher: CapcomGenres: Action, RPG

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
An exquisite port of a dauntingly huge action RPG, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite isn't for those averse to a little grind. It is for those hunting for meat in their mobile games.

#8 Layton's Mystery Journey

Product: Layton's Mystery JourneyFormats: iPhone, iPad, 3DSPublisher: Level-5

Layton's Mystery Journey
This is the first of the Layton games to be made with mobile at least partially in mind from the start, and it shows. Layton's Mystery Journey offers a slick series of touchscreen puzzles, bound together with the usual Layton panache.

#9 Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition

Product: Final Fantasy XV Pocket EditionFormats: iPhone, iPadPublisher: Square Enix

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition
This extraordinary production offers the essence of the lavish Final Fantasy XV console game, story and all. However, the graphics engine and gameplay mechanics have been completely rebuilt and streamlined for mobile play. It's quite an achievement.

#10 Aka to Blue

Product: Aka to BlueFormats: iPhone, iPadGenres: Shooter

Aka to Blue
With legendary Japanese developer Cave no longer in the mobile shmup business, Aka to Blue is the next best thing. It's a faithfully Cave-esque bullet-hell shmup from a company headed up by a former Cave employee.

#11 Chrono Trigger

Product: Chrono TriggerFormats: Android, DS, iPhoneDeveloper: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Genres: RPG

Chrono Trigger
It's not a perfect port (though it was recently upgraded), but Chrono Trigger still deserves its place on this list for being one of the finest JRPGs of all time. Its crazy time-bending plot, in particular, is a thing of beauty.

#12 Sonic CD

Product: Sonic CDFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Xperia Play, Ouya, SteamPublisher: SegaGenres: Platform, Retro

Sonic CD
Forget Sonic 4. This port of arguably the finest Sonic game ever (though probably the least played) is all you need, with super-slick platformer gameplay and the same ambitious time-travel mechanic that made the original so special.

#13 Terra Battle

Product: Terra BattleFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadDeveloper: MistwalkerPublisher: MistwalkerGenres: RPG

Terra Battle
This neat blend of role-playing, action and puzzle elements comes from the genius behind Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. The result isn't as epic as that might suggest, but Terra Battle remains a compelling mobile concoction all the same.

#14 Raiden Legacy

Product: Raiden LegacyFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: DotEmuGenres: Arcade

Raiden Legacy
A generous mega-mix of brilliant 2D shmups. Raiden Legacy is like carrying a whole '90s arcade around in your pocket. Sort of.

#15 Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth

Product: Valkyrie Profile: LennethFormats: Android, iPhone, PSP, iPadPublisher: Square Enix Genres: Action, RPG

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
A port of one of Square Enix's almost-forgotten RPG gems, Valkyrie Profile is an oddball delight. Mixing side-scrolling platforming with deep combo-driven combat and a massive dose of Norse mythology, it's pretty unique.

#16 Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Product: Ghost Trick: Phantom DetectiveFormats: DS, iPhone, iPadPublisher: CapcomGenres: Adventure, Puzzle

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Possibly the most peculiar detective game you'll ever play, Ghost Trick has you solving your own murder from beyond the grave. It's another classic DS port, this time from Capcom.

#17 Ace Attorney Trilogy HD

Product: Ace Attorney Trilogy HDFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, 3DSDeveloper: Capcom MobileGenres: Puzzle, Simulation

Ace Attorney Trilogy HD
Talking of classic Capcom DS ports, Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Trilogy brings together three whimsical slices of handheld courtroom nonsense into one mobile package. No objection here.

#18 Fire Emblem: Heroes

Product: Fire Emblem: HeroesFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: NintendoGenres: Strategy

Fire Emblem: Heroes
Nintendo's second mobile game is full of zip and character. Given that it's a turn-based strategy game, it works remarkably well as a bite-sized mobile experience.

#19 Bullet Hell Monday

Product: Bullet Hell MondayFormats: iPhone, iPadPublisher: Masayuki ItoGenres: Action, Arcade, Shooter

Bullet Hell Monday
Bullet Hell Monday's gleeful excess makes even Cave's efforts look a little subdued. It's a kaleidoscopic rush of incoming projectiles.

#20 Final Fantasy VI (mobile)

Product: Final Fantasy VI (mobile)Formats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: Square Enix Genres: Adventure, Retro, RPG

Final Fantasy VI (mobile)
A JRPG that mixes the 2D charm of the early Final Fantasy games with the powerful plots and steampunk settings of the latter entries. Again, it loses marks for a sub-optimal port, but Final Fantasy VI itself remains an all-time great.

#21 KeroBlaster

Product: KeroBlasterFormats: iPhoneDeveloper: Studio PixelPublisher: NatsumeGenres: Action, Adventure, Platform, Retro

KeroBlaster feels like a lost action-platformer classic from the 8-bit era, but it also has a sense of fluidity and a novel control system that tells you it's an iOS original.

#22 Dokuro

Product: DokuroFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, PS Vita, SteamDeveloper: Game ArtsPublisher: GungHo Online EntertainmentGenres: Platform

This stylish puzzle-platform hybrid from GungHo gives a new lease of life to the PS Vita original. Guide a princess through a series of levels by pushing boxes, flipping switches, and generally acting like a supernatural bodyguard.

#23 Missile Dancer

Product: Missile DancerFormats: iPhone, iPadGenres: Arcade, Hardcore, Shooter

Missile Dancer
Missile Dancer might look like another arcade shmup, but there's a a neat twist in the form of an automated short-range super-weapon that requires you to get right in the grille of your opponents.

#24 Arkanoid vs Space Invaders

Product: Arkanoid vs Space InvadersFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: Square Enix

Arkanoid vs Space Invaders
Another inspired revamp of the Space Invaders concept - this time folding in the mechanics of Arkanoid as you literally bat the aliens' bullets back at them.

#25 Puzzle & Dragons

Product: Puzzle & DragonsFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadPublisher: GungHo Online EntertainmentGenres: Puzzle, RPG

Puzzle & Dragons
A game that took its native Japan by storm, Puzzle & Dragons is an almighty mash-up of Pokemon and Bejewelled, with the kind of compulsion loop that hooks you in for tens of hours.


Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 31 May 2018
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