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Top 5 Japan-only mobile games we wanna play

From rhythm to RPG to WTF?

Top 5 Japan-only mobile games we wanna play

Japan is the birthplace of some of the most iconic video game franchises ever released, such as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, or Final Fantasy and Pokémon.

In more recent years, Japanese studios have dominated the mobile games industry, despite a significant portion of games not being released outside of the country.

There are many reasons why this may be, for example, the cost of localisation may be too high or the developers believe that the game centres too heavily on Japanese culture that other countries would not understand.

The land of the rising mobile game revenue

It’s true, certain themes or cultural references in Japanese games can significantly differ from the ones Western audiences are accustomed to and from an outside perspective the country has received a reputation for producing "weird" media.

Whatever the reasons, Japan does not need to rely on the worldwide distribution of mobile games, with many titles performing exceptionally well despite their limited worldwide availability.

Here at PocketGamer.biz, we have taken a look at some of the most intriguing Japan-exclusive mobile games that we want to play!


Click here to view the list »
  • Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

    On the surface, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby looks like a standing racing sim, with schoolgirls competing against each other in track events. But in standard Japanese fashion, there is a twist - they are horse girls.

    Developed by Cygames, players take the role of trainer and help train their chosen horse girls to run track events the best they can. Training involves looking after the girl’s different stats before racing, such as

    Everyone needs a break once in a while and trainers can choose a horse girl to hang out with outside of the track, which can restore the girl’s stamina and mood.

    In the future, Cygames will add a PvP mode to the game, allowing players to compete against other players and chat, sharing horse-girl training tips.

    First revealed in March 2017, Uma Musume was pushed back several times to eventually be released in February 2021, an exceptionally long period for mobile game development. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be interested in a track game, however, Uma Musume has taken Japan by storm and as a testament to its popularity, it was the highest-grossing mobile game worldwide in September 2021, despite only being available in Japan.

    This success alone has piqued my curiosity and I am awaiting an international release to see what all the fuss is about.

    Let’s just hope that if the girls lose a race they aren’t sent to the big stable in the sky.


  • Beatmania IIDX Ultimate Mobile

    Beatmania IIDX Ultimate Mobile logo

    As previously stated, I love rhythm games, and who makes them better than the Japanese.

    Beginning as an arcade game in 1997, the Beatmania series contributed to the rise in music games and eventually branched into home consoles and mobile devices.

    Beatmania IIDX is a spinoff from the original series, featuring two additional keys, totalling seven keys, and higher difficulties.

    Alongside licensed artists, Beatmania IIDX features in-house created tracks, with Konami creating an original soundtrack for each game.

    Beatmania IIDX Ultimate Mobile features over 1,000 songs, however, only a fraction of songs, around 150, are available to play for free.

    When playing the free-to-play aspects of the game, players will have a limited amount of AP (stamina) which can be used to play songs, before waiting for it to recharge.

    After an initial free one month trial, players have the option of a "Standard" or "Ultimate" service, for a monthly fee of ¥480 (~$4.20) and ¥980 (~$8.60) respectively.

    In the paid versions of the game, players have an unlimited amount of AP, with standard subscribers having access to normal and hyper versions of the songs, and ultimate subscribers gaining access to further tiers.

    As part of the subscription, users will also be able to listen to the roster of songs from the Beatmania series. Standard subscribers gain access to most of the IIDX songs and ultimate subscribers will be able to listen to most of the songs from the entire franchise.

    To obtain a more authentic arcade experience, there is a turntable controller featuring all seven keys with can be connected to mobile devices via bluetooth and looks incredibly fun.

    We need (more specifically, I) an international release of Beatmania IIDX Ultimate Mobile to get a taste of the progenitor of rhythm games as we know them today.

    Even the free-to-play version of the game features a huge number of songs that could keep people entertained for years. Konami regularly updates Beatmania IIDX Ultimate Mobile with new songs and features, meaningly almost endless gameplay for rhythm junkies like me.


  • Dragon Quest Walk

    Dragon Quest Walk logo

    Dragon Quest Walk is Colopl and Square Enix’s answer to Pokémon Go.

    Dragon Quest Walk combines the two main components of Pokémon Go, augmented reality and walking.

    Unlike Pokémon Go, players are instead fighting the monsters instead of catching them. Another difference is that rather than walking where they please, players accept quests which makes a destination appear that has to be travelled to.

    Once at the destination players will battle the monsters or interact with in-game characters to raise their level and get rewards, such as equipment.

    Similar to Go, Walk includes battles of up to 12 people to defeat certain monsters.

    In Walk, players can establish a "home" location that can be customised and decorated, similar to Dragon Quest X (another DQ that didn’t reach the rest of the world).

    Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii served as general director to Walk, alongside DQ character designer Akira Toriyama and DQ composer Koichi Sugiyama.

    According to Sensor Tower, Dragon Quest Walk had the second most successful launch month of an AR game in Japan at $86 million, second only to Pokémon Go which earned $118 million.

    Two years on Dragon Quest Walk is still performing well, accumulating approximately $18 million for September 2021.

    My sedentary lifestyle desperately needs Dragon Quest Walk to be released outside of Japan to give me another reason to leave my house.

    Pokémon Go is one of the most recognised mobile games available and although Dragon Quest does not have as large a western audience it is still surprising that the game has not been launched elsewhere.

    Hopefully, Square Enix will come to its senses and publish the game elsewhere, especially with the recent release of the Pikmin Bloom inspiring us to once again leave the house.


  • The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage

    The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage logo

    The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage is a spin-off of The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, a free-to-play mobile simulation game launched in 2011.

    Another title developed by Cygames, co-developed with Bandai Namco, Starlight Stage is the oldest game on our list, launching on iOS and Android in September 2015.

    The game is part of the wider Idolmaster franchise that focuses on the career of producers who manage Japanese pop idols. The franchise began as an arcade game but has since released over 20 games and an anime series.

    In Starlight Stage, players take the role of a producer at the fictional 346 Production talent studio, coaching girls to be Japanese pop idol stars. Unlike its predecessor which focused on the management aspect only, Starlight Stage incorporates rhythm game play allowing users to perform songs with their idols.

    There are around 190 idols available in Starlight Stage, which each fall into one of three categories: cute, cool, and passion. Idols also have variants, separated by a rarity category, and are represented in-game as collectable cards.

    Each idol has four stats that the player is tasked with developing to achieve greater scores by sending the idols to lessons. Vocal, dance and visual stats contribute to the character’s appeal value, whereas life represents their health.

    Additionally, Idols can be sent to work (are we not paying them to be idols?) to gain experience, money, fans, and other rewards.

    The game’s rhythm game portion is known as "Live mode", where players must assemble a group of five idols with one main idol for the group.

    During Live mode, rhythm icons scroll from the top of the screen to the bottom towards one of five lanes that players must tap, hold, or flick in a direction. Players can select one of four difficultly levels to perform that drastically increase in difficulty. Certain songs include an additional fifth difficulty, Master+.

    Players can also create their own customisable office space which is frequently visited by the idols. In their office, players can chat with the idols or listen to songs featured in the game, and also visit other players’ offices.

    Despite its age, Starlight Stage has maintained a consistent presence in Japan. According to Sensor Tower, Starlight Stage generated the eighth-highest consumer spending between January 2016 and September 2020 and was the only rhythm game featured in the list.


  • Ni no Kuni Cross Worlds

    Ni no Kuni Cross Worlds logo

    Ni no Kuni Cross Worlds is the third mobile entry to Bandai Namco’s RPG series, Ni no Kuni, and the first to be developed by Netmarble.

    Cross Worlds was first revealed in November 2019 and was originally scheduled for a late 2020 release. The game was first launched on June 10th, 2021 in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

    The story of Cross Worlds followers a video game beta tester who when testing a new virtual reality fantasy game, Soul Divers, gets transported to the world of Ni no Kuni.

    Inside Soul Divers, the player encounters an artificial intelligence called Rania before a glitch crashes the game.

    Players familiar with the Ni no Kuni series will recognise that the world in Cross Worlds is similar to the original games in the main series, Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch.

    Additionally, unlike previous Ni no Kuni mobile games, the graphics in Cross Worlds are akin to the console releases, providing a more detailed and immersive experience.

    Furthermore, the characters resemble the art style of Japanese animation firm Studio Ghibli, one of the collaborators for the first entry in the franchise.

    Players can choose to play as one of five different classes: destroyer, engineer, rogue, swordsman, and witch.

    There are two game modes currently available, a cooperative multiplayer called Kingdom mode and a competitive multiplayer mode, named Team Arena.

    Cross Worlds had an astoundingly successful launch and generated $100 million within 11 days, faster than Pokémon Go which held the previous record. According to Sensor Tower, Cross Worlds was the third highest-grossing game worldwide in June 2021, following Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile.

    Fortunately, Ni no Kuni Cross Worlds is rumoured for a worldwide release sometime in the first half of next year.


News Editor

Aaron is the News Editor at PG.biz with a lifelong interest for the games industry and a penchant for mobile rhythm games.

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