Persona’s popularity has exploded in the last several years thanks to the mainstream success of Persona 5 and its enhanced re-release, Persona 5 Royal. However, the series has been around long before the Phantom Thieves were taking hearts, and the series saw several fantastic entries and spin-offs. Now seems like a good time for us to make a list of all Persona games ranked.
After the success of 1994’s Shin Megami Tensei If…, Atlus dove more fully into a high school setting that helped make that game popular and created Persona. The series’s first entry, Revelations: Persona, was released in 1996 on the PlayStation. It featured the foundations that make the Persona series popular today, including Personas, students as the main cast, and a silent protagonist.
It wouldn’t be until Persona 3 that social links, now a key component of the games, were included. Social links allow you to build relationships with party members and other important NPCs. In exchange, party members grow stronger as well as Personas of the same Arcana.
Now the Persona series has sold over 15 million units worldwide. While that number is smaller than more popular series, it’s remarkable for a JRPG whose newer entries usually require 100+ hours of gameplay.
With Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, now seems as good a time as any to list the best Persona games. There are, of course, the core games in the series, but the series is notorious for spin-offs. Thanks to these entries, the series has hit a stride in various markets, from fighting to rhythm-based dancing games.
For this ranking, we’ll cover all the main entries, with a preference for the base games. While the definitive entries are almost always better, we will include ranking all of the Persona 3 releases as those offer up some of the most differences from the original release. We’ll also have the Persona Q games but not the dancing or fighting games. While those are fun in their own right, we want to rank the games that retain that JRPG spirit.
So here we go: our list of Persona games ranked!
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona kicks off our list of Persona games ranked
The very first Persona is more Shin Megami Tensei than it is Persona. Considering Shin Megami Tensei directly inspired it If…, that checks out. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona is a remake of the 1996 PlayStation game. The remake was released on PSP in 2009 and improved the original in every way. It is also worth mentioning that just because this falls at the bottom of the list of all Persona games5 doesn’t mean it’s bad.
The original PlayStation release renamed characters, changed the race of some, and had some major plot elements removed due to time constraints. Thankfully, the PSP version is much more faithful to the original, though the soundtrack differs from its first iteration.
In terms of content, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona doesn’t feature many of the hallmarks that make a Persona game what it is today. While it includes a high school setting and teenagers, it doesn’t feature social links. It also relies much more heavily on the darkness and horror found in the Shin Megami Tensei series.
Persona 5 Strikers is satisfying but not one of the best Persona games
Persona 5 Strikers is a curious follow-up to the Persona 5 series. It follows the original Persona 5 game and pretends that the narrative events in Persona 5 Royal don’t exist. It also features Musou-inspired gameplay with real-time battles against large swathes of enemies. Thankfully the game does add some turn-based elements and, of course, features Personas.
In a fun twist, you can play any of your party members, with each playing vastly different from one another. Battles feel frantic and thrilling. Because of the scale of the battlefield, boss battles feel grander than in the base game.
And while Persona 5’s Confidant system isn’t there, you can use the game’s BOND system to unlock new skills through side quests for your party members. It doesn’t offer the same level of story content as Persona 5, but it’s satisfying enough. Strikers is also much shorter than Persona 5 Royal, clocking in at an average of 35 to 45 hours depending on how many side quests you tackle.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin improves from the franchise’s original release
Persona 2 took quite a while to get to the United States. When the game was first released in Japan, it didn’t get a localization like the original Persona. This was because of staff shortages and concerns over culturally specific content. The game features many references to Japanese culture they feared audiences in the West wouldn’t understand, as well as characters like Hitler (yes, Hiter) in the game.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin follows a group of high school students from Seven Sisters High School. The students are dealing with reality-changing rumors fueled by the villainous Joker (no, not the same one from Persona 5). The Rumor system plays a huge part in the game. If the party hears a rumor from an NPC, it can be spread through the Kuzunoha detective agency. The rumor becomes real and affects the world.
Persona 2’s PSP version, like the original, improves upon it in every way, making it easy to place as the eighth entry in our list of Persona games ranked. Battles are faster, players can listen to the original or remixed tracks, and a lower difficulty due to the stats of enemies and bosses being lowered. Unfortunately, it contains no social aspects found in Persona 3 onward.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment doesn’t do enough to move up our list of Persona games
Before Persona 5 Royal came along with its extra content acting as a sort of sequel, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was the first game in the series to get a direct sequel. The game takes place a few months after Persona 2: Innocent Sin ends. It follows reporter Maya Amano as she investigates the Joker Curse, the same issue that plagued the students in the first game.
The game also lets you transfer your save over from Innocent Sin. Doing so alters a few things in the sequel. This includes transferring of levels for some characters, money invested at the Detective Agency, extra tarot cards, and Tatsuya’s level.
The game was remade for the PSP but never made its way to the US. Instead, the original PlayStation version was released for PSP, Vita, and PS3. There are English fan translations of the PSP versions out there, but no official version exists at this time, which puts this on the lower end of our list of persona games ranked.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
As we’ve mentioned, Persona has had several spin-off games. While the fighting and dance/rhythm entries offer a lot of fun, they lack the turn-based JRPG qualities so many love about the games. This makes it hard to compare them in our list of Persona games ranked. The Persona Q brings beloved characters from all Persona games into an Etrian Odyssey-inspired world on the 3DS.
For those unfamiliar, Etrian Odyssey is another Atlus game that features first-person-based dungeon crawling and turn-based battles. As you explore, you’ll need to craft your map on the bottom screen and select where doors and other landmarks are. If you want an easier time, though, there is an automatic mapping mode.
While fun, the game is long and features a bit of backtracking that can be tedious. It’s also notoriously difficult. If you’re able to get past that, each game offers a fun experience. Q2 is a bit easier and doesn’t require the first to be played. With Multiverse media being all the rage right now, it seems like a good time to jump in.
Persona 3 Fes Is the First of the \”Holy Trinity\” on Our List of Persona Games
Persona 3 took the series into a 3D world and implemented series staples like social links. Persona 3 FES is the Golden or Royal of Persona 3 and improves upon the main game in many ways. FES also includes the epilogue titled “The Answer,” which provides more than thirty additional hours of content plus several new Personas.
Besides those things, the game is still very similar to the original. Persona 3 does contain one frustrating feature that was later changed in Persona 3 Portable. You can only control the main character – all other party members function via AI. Personally, this keeps me from enjoying FES as much as Portable and keeps it out of the top three of our list of Persona games ranked.
Persona 3 features a dark story focused on a set of students investigating the Dark Hour, a time period between one day and the next that few people are aware of. During this time, you can climb Tartarus, the game’s dungeon, and defeat shadows that prey on the minds of humans. The way party members summon their Personas is also fairly dark – they point a gun, called an Evoker, at their head and fire.
Persona 3 Portable is the best version of Persona 3
Atlus has released three iterations of Persona 3. Portable is the very best and ranks highest on our list of Persona games ranked. While it departs quite a bit from the original game, those departures only improve the Persona 3 experience. In P3P, you can choose either a male or female protagonist. While it doesn’t feature anime cutscenes, it does include the extra chapter titled The Journey.
In the game, you don’t walk around on the map. Instead, map navigation turns into a more point-and-click style or visual novel experience. While some may fault this, it helps streamline the game. Dungeons, however, are still 3D.
Mechanically, you can control all your party members, unlike in Persona 3 FES. There are also several improvements to the battle system, including co-op attacks after critical hits. You can also trigger a “1 More” if you strike an enemy’s weakness.
It is an interesting choice that Persona 3 Portable is the game Atlus is porting to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Though, ultimately, it makes sense. The biggest part of the game is the battles, where the most improvements exist.
Persona 4 Golden is one of the best Persona games ever
Golden is a great entry point into the series because of its narrative and characters. In fact, Persona 4 Golden features my personal favorite story and cast of the series. It’s easily one of the best Persona games. Persona 4’s dungeon system lets you dive deep into the psyche of your party members. These dungeons make it hard not to love each character (yes, even Teddie!).
Persona 4 Golden takes the classic murder mystery trope and amps it up to ten. Its small-town vibe is full of life and fully realized characters – from your party members to those you build social links. Atlus does a great show of building a life for your character that feels authentic to the place you’re exploring.
The game improves upon Persona 4 in several ways, including new social links, story content, and areas to explore. Small improvements to the game’s battle system also help breathe new life into it.
Unfortunately, Golden was initially only released on the PlayStation Vita, meaning its audience was limited. The release of Golden on the Vita, while a smaller system at the time, gave the handheld console a surge in sales. It has since been released for PC via Steam. Like Persona 3 Portable and Persona 5 Royal, the game will be making its way everywhere else, eventually allowing people to play one of the best Persona games.
Persona 5 Royal tops our list of Persona games ranked
Persona 5 and its definitive edition, Persona 5 Royal, helped bring the series into the mainstream more than any other entries. Its popularity grew so big that even the game’s main protagonist, Joker, ended up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Much of this success was intentional by the developers, who wanted to appeal to an even larger audience through its design, art style, and systems.
Persona 5 Royal takes the best parts of the previous games and ramps everything up. After randomized dungeons in Persona 3 and 4, Persona 5 introduces unique dungeons called Palaces. The game’s cast also quickly embraces the odd events surrounding them rather than fight against them like in previous games. The story in the game is touching, exciting, and full of twists and turns.
Battles feel smoother, quicker, and more fun than previous entries, thanks to several improvements to the battle system. The Baton Pass system lets you pass a turn to another character after a critical hit. I also must comment on the game’s stylish design. Every part of the game, from the UI to maps to character designs, is dripping with style.
Royal, the enhanced game version, features dozens of hours of new content, including a new Palace, characters, Personas, a new semester, and more. It’s truly the definitive edition of Persona 5. It’s one of the best JRPGs out there.