In the days before the internet and emulation, getting a hold of a title that was declined a Western release was nearly impossible. There’s no feeling quite like that of reading a preview of a hotly anticipated game in some magazine only to find out an issue later that it would never leave Japan.
Thankfully, with the power of digital distribution and fan demand, there are many titles that players thought they’d never be able to play that found their way to Western shores – even it took literal decades.
10 Live A Live Was Released At A Time When JRPGs Hadn’t Taken Off In The West
Released on the Super Nintendo in Japan at a time when most gamers were focusing on the PlayStation, it’s little surprise that the JRPG Live A Live did not receive a Western release, especially at a time when the genre hadn’t quite taken off in English speaking territories.
While gamers would have to wait literal decades for an official English version, a fan translation of Live A Live circulated the web much like the criminally overlooked Mother 3. The Switch remaster is the first commercially sold version to come to the West and takes visual cues from the JRPG throwback Octopath Traveler by juxtaposing 2D sprites with 3D polygonal visuals.
9 Several Kunio-Kun Titles Would Take Years To Get Stateside
Predating even the original Double Dragon, Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun was one of the very first examples of the beat ’em up genre from Yoshihisa Kishimoto. Based on his high school years of getting into fistfights that were somewhat provoked by a break-up with his sweetheart, the game incorporated elements of martial arts films.
Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun spawned a series of titles, but while some of them such as River City Ransom would find their way stateside, many of them stayed in their country of origin for many years, until the 2020 release of Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle for the Nintendo Switch.
8 The Remaster Of The Silver Case Was Its First Official Release In The West
Suda 51 is one of the most notable gaming auteurs with a resume that includes quirky and ostentatious titles such as Killer 7, No More Heroes, and Shadows of the Damned. Grasshopper Manufacture’s debut title, The Silver Case, saw him taking up the role of writer and director.
The Silver Case was a hybrid of graphic adventure and visual novel, where two detectives try to solve a series of murders being committed in a city in Japan known as the 24 Districts. The game was released on the original PlayStation in 1999 but didn’t receive an official English release until it was remastered for the PlayStation 4 in 2017.
7 The Sega CD Version Of Snatcher Is Still The Only Western Release
Originally released on the NEC PC-8801, Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher is a cinematic text-based graphic adventure that put players in the trench coat of Gillian Seed, a man tasked with protecting the city from the eponymous Snatcher menace. Six years later, the Sega CD port handled by Jeremy Blaustein was fully voiced in English and sported some enhancements such as support for the Justifier light gun and an extended epilogue with dialogue choices not found in prior versions.
Unfortunately, low sales ensured that this port would be the only official Western release the game would see with the PlayStation and Saturn versions never leaving Japan.
6 Earthbound Beginnings Was A Top Seller On The Wii U Shop
While the first entry in the Mother series was given a full English translation and even saw new features such as a run button and cutscenes not found in its initial Japanese release, Nintendo declined to release the game. Presumably, the decision stemmed from the unpopularity of JRPGs in the West. With the launch of the Super Nintendo, its sequel, Mother 2, was given a full English translation and given the intended westernized name of its predecessor – Earthbound.
Fortunately, the first entry would eventually be granted a re-release on the Wii U and the Nintendo Switch as Earthbound Beginnings, topping the sales charts in the Wii U eShop.
5 Sin & Punishment Made It To Virtual Console
Known for their quirky style and punishing difficulty, Treasure’s pedigree of high octane action games such as Gunstar Heroes, Silhouette Mirage, and Radiant Silvergun made Sin & Punishment a hotly anticipated title for the aging Nintendo 64. Unfortunately, while the game was fully voiced in English, its original release was denied to Western gamers.
However, the third-person shoot ’em up would become a famous import title and eventually see an official re-release on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and as a digital download on subsequent platforms such as the Switch.
4 Trials Of Mana Is Another Example Of The Series’ Strange History
The Mana series has a strange history in the West. The first title was released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure while the UK version shared the name of the critically panned Super Nintendo title, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. The sequel, Secret of Mana, maintained the series name in all territories and was pretty much left intact.
However, its follow-up, Trials of Mana, would not see a release in English-speaking territories, with some erroneously speculating that the American developed title Secret of Evermore was meant as a replacement. Trails would eventually see releases in the West on the Game Boy Advance and PS4.
3 The DS Version Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Was The First Title To Make It To The West
Originally known as Turnabout Trial, the first Ace Attorney game was released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance to massive acclaim for its storyline, lively character animations, and engrossing questioning gameplay. While the series did manage to make its way to the West, gamers had to wait 4 years and purchase a new handheld to play the first entry.
Shifting the setting from Japan to Los Angeles and changing much of the names and jokes that depended on Japanese wordplay, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney was made available for Western players on the Nintendo DS, benefiting from some features not seen in the original.
2 Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood Is The Prequel To Symphony Of The Night
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood was a PC Engine exclusive title that put players in control of Richter Belmont and Maria Renard as they fought against Dracula and his evil cult to save the kidnapped maidens from becoming his undead slaves.
While the game wouldn’t see an official English release until a version on the PSP came out in 2007, a remake of the game called Dracula X was released on the SNES to a considerably more mixed response. While the game benefited from the console’s higher color palette, the number of branching levels were trimmed, and Maria was no longer a playable character.
1 Final Fantasy II, III, And V Didn’t Come To America Until Many Years Later
Final Fantasy I, IV, and VI made their way to Western territories as I, II, and III, respectively. Due to the lack of popularity of JRPGs had at the time, the other titles were simply left in Japan. By the time Final Fantasy VII rolled around, Square decided to just retain the name in all territories, provoking confusion among English-speaking gamers in a largely pre-internet world.
Each of these installments pushed the boundaries of storytelling and visuals in console games and made substantial additions to the format. Many of these titles would get official English releases on handhelds such as the Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, and PSP.