If you’re looking for some tasty JRPG action, then get a load of the best Shin Megami Tensei games ever made!
This series is so iconic that I’d be incredibly surprised if you haven’t heard of it before now. With some of the greatest demonic battles in the history of the genre and more danger-loving school kids that one institution can realistically cope with, these titles sure know how to draw you in and keep you hooked.
Though if Japan ever really got itself into any of these sticky situations, I’d probably run the other way as fast as possible.
If collecting, summoning, skill trees, and tactical battles are your bag, then start building your collection of the best Shin Megami Tensei games straight away!
10. Shin Megami Tensei If… (1994)
Shin Megami Tensei If… takes the 10th spot in our list of the best Shin Megami Tensei games. And yes, this could be the most mysterious title of any game we’ve ever played.
So, after a student starts poking around where his nose isn’t wanted and unearths a world swarming with demons, things get real very quickly
The new demon world that erupts within Japan has seven different areas relating to the seven deadly sins. You know the ones, from that movie with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in it…
This RPG features all the same demob summoning that we love from these games, though there’s a new feature that allows players to talk to enemies rather than just destroying them.
Who knows, you might find something useful. Maybe they’re just misunderstood?
When you die, a guardian persona will aid you in battle and allow you to carry on. It’s a cool feature and one that makes If… one of our favourite SMT games!
9. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2010)
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is up next, and it boasts more epic demon battles than that scene with John Snow and the White Walkers at Hardhome.
The game takes place in the Antarctic. A black spot has turned up and is slowly expanding, and scientists think it could swallow the whole world.
Enter the planets bravest soldiers who are sailing right into ‘the Schwarzwelt’ to see what’s on the other side…
… and it’s not going to be pretty!
Gameplay happens up on the top screen with stats and maps sitting on the touchscreen below. It’s not a hack and slash game y any stretch; you need to think about what moves to use and tactically approach battles Fire Emblem style.
Upgrade your soldier suit, unlock additional quests, and revel in the glory of the sixth SMT game in this epic series.
8. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (2013)
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax takes the 8th spot in this list of the best Shin Megami Tensei games.
If you’re a fan of the classic fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken, then you’ll be all over Arena Ultimax. It’s basically all of your favourite characters from the series battling it our with epic moves in a brutal tournament.
That got you interested, didn’t it.
This game takes place after Persona 3 and 4 and is the version of the original Arena that we all deserved. It’s fine tuned, works better, and is infinitely more badass.
If you loved ComixZone but wished it was more like SoulCalibur, then you’ll love the graphic novel-style gameplay in Arena Ultimax. Get on it; you won’t be disappointed!
7. Megami Tensei: Imagine (2007)
Imagine all the people that haven’t played this game… is what John Lennon would probably have said while playing our next SMT game if he were alive today.
This game revolving around the happenings of the world of Megaten occurs between the events of the first two Shin Megami Tensei games. It’s an online title for Windows… and we don’t tend to see many of those here on Retro Dodo!
That guy above might look like a Stormtrooper, but he’s a mercenary that you can send down a path of law and order or absolute pandemonium.
Or you can just be neutral and do a bit of both; that’s why I love SMT games!
Unlike a lot of the other RPGs that you might have played over the years. the battles in Imagine are all in real time as opposed to turn-based. Demon summoning and recruiting occurs (it wouldn’t be one of the best Shin Megami Tensei games without them!)
6. Shin Megami Tensei V (2021)
Shin Megami Tensei V is the newest game in our compendium, and man does it look incredible on the Switch.
So, what’s the score here then? Brutal murder, man getting lost and then buried…
… sounds like the start to an SMT game alright.
When gameplay truly begins and out main character opens his eyes to a now ransacked Tokyo that more resembles an apocalyptic world, he fuses with spirit to become the ultimate warrior.
These games are so cool!
There are demons everywhere, but armed with your new powers and life-force, they don’t stand a chance against you. Operate in the realm between light and dark, treading the fine line of the law and handing out your own demonic judgement.
I should have written the blurb for this one instead!
5. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (2016)
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse follows straight on from the events of SMT IV.
It’s far from just a sequel, however. There are so many cool improvements like a revitalised a partner system, better magic, improved demon attributes, and tonnes of amazing extras.
As is the case with most of these games, it takes place in a version of the future that I want nothing to do with. Tokyo is more like a colony these days after the gods declared war on each other, and the whole city is encased in stone.
The forces of good and evil, namely angels and demons (but not the Dan Brown book) are causing havoc throughout the world still, and after you’re almost killed but brought back by a friendly demon, you become a mighty warrior.
Enter the ‘Godslayer’. That’s even better than being called Dragonborn!
As always in the best Shin Megami Tensei games, the morality engine and your alignment plays a massive part. How you act determines how the game ends, giving you multiple ways to play!
4. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (2003)
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne takes the 4th spot amongst the best Shin Megami Tensei games ever made.
Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry games as a boss that players must battle, it’s almost the crossover title that we’ve all been dreaming of.
Oh, and once you defeat him, you can recruit him into you party… which is the coolest thing ever!
Nocturne will always have a special place in my heart for being the first SMT game that we ever got to play over here in the West.
2004 seems to be the year when a lot of the best JRPGs (or at least their series) came to light; maybe there was something in the air?
Defeat and coax a whole host of amazing demons into your party as you move through each of the dark and dingy levels. Conquer challenging obstacles, and try to figure out why you basically resemble the lovechild of Darth Maul and Smurfette.
3. Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight (2018)
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight takes the Bronze medal in today’s list, and it’s totally different to all of the other games that have come before it.
Fan of Just Dance and games like Amiga de Samba will be all over this. It’s a rhythm-based once game with all the cast of Persona 5 making an appearance.
Because even demon slayers need time to unwind!
If you’ve played Persona 4: Dancing all Night, then you’ll already know what to expect.
Groove down in epic locations from the original game, hitting buttons and busting out moves in time with the music.
Interact with other characters, do duet moves, and just generally see the whole series in a whole new light. It’s fun, a bit silly, and looks visually amazing.
What more could a person want from a game!
2. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (2004)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga blew me away the first time I played it. In a move away from the traditional JRPG feel, this game has a heavy Hindu mythology vibe running throughout which makes it incredibly unique.
As it’s an SMT game, we’re obviously dealing with a post-apocalyptic world, magical abilities, and dungeons that require the and of a Navy Seal to navigate.
In a twist, however, conversing and unleashing demons aren’t actions that are available to players.
What; one of the best Shin Megami Tensei games and you can’t use demons? What gives!
Don’t worry; instead of summoning demons, you can become a demon yourself…
… ok, all is forgiven!
Upgrade powers via the Mantra skill tree, learning new abilities for your demonic form to unleash on enemies.
Oh, and you can also eat them once you’ve defeated them… brutal, right?
1. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (2011)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is the best Shin Megami Tensei game of all time!
This sequel to the original Devil Survivor title for the DS boasts an exciting new storyline and the intensely deep question of ‘what if we know how and when we’re going to die’.
Yep, someone’s made a website that tells everyone how they’re going to snuff it, and the world has gone mad because of it.
No wonder the guy below looks so stressed out…
This game is huge. We’re talking more demons, collectibles, teamwork, characters, and danger than ever before.
That’s a lot to pack into a tiny little cartridge!
The game looks fantastic for a handheld title that came out 10 years ago too. It’s gripping, boasts multiple endings (what self respecting JRPG doesn’t?) and is an absolute joy to play – a thoroughly deserving victor!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.