The best Sega arcade games, as featured in ‘Yakuza’

RGG Studios’ series has always celebrated Sega’s arcade heritage

Growing up as a hardcore Sega fanboy, it was a sad day when I learned that the Japanese company would be exiting the console market to become a third-party publisher after the failures of the Saturn and the Dreamcast. But the news that it’s now quitting the arcade business that made its name 56 years ago feels even more profound – the true end of a golden era.

Ultimately, the impact of this news will be far more visible in Japan where the big blue Sega logo has adorned arcade centres across the country for decades, which are all set to be renamed to GiGO – at least whichever ones new owners Genda intend to keep open.

Nonetheless, if that’s got you pining for Sega’s arcade yesteryear, those times fortunately live on through Yakuza series, as well as its spin-off Judgment. Besides being known for its gritty melodrama, bone-crunching action and wacky humour, these games have always offered an authentic slice of Japanese culture for virtual tourists, the streets of Kamurocho evolving with the times as much as its real-life counterpart of Kabukicho. By also including Club Sega arcades, I guess you could say they’re also preserving that history.

While we don’t know what these new developments mean for future Yakuza games, here are just some of the best arcade games you should play in the Yakuza series, if only to get a taste of Sega’s good old blue-sky coin-op days. Also, a fun fact: the big Club Sega in Kamurocho’s Theatre Square (pictured above) is actually the site of the Humax Pavilion Shinjuku complex in real life, so who’s to say Club Sega can’t live on in virtual fiction?

Out Run

Out Run
Out Run from Yakuza. Credit: Sega

Select your tune of choice on the radio (I’ll have ‘Magical Sound Shower’) and take off in Yu Suzuki’s sun-kissed masterpiece. Out Run was less a racing game and more a driving game that wants you to bask in the experience with luxurious style as you get behind the wheel of a Ferrari Testarossa Spider with your infamous blonde passenger in the seat next to you. Even if you fail to reach the end before the timer runs out and make a fool of yourself crashing the car, ultimately it’s all about the journey, with multiple routes to take for each drive. A classic that defined the 80s, it’s no surprise it featured in Yakuza 0.

Playable in Yakuza 0, Yakuza 6, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and Judgment (PS5/Xbox Series X|S).

Virtua Fighter 2

Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter 2 from Yakuza. Credit: Sega

While Club Sega centers have been in every Yakuza title since the beginning, the early entries were quite light on mini-game content. It was only with the development of Yakuza 5 that Sega started including real playable arcade games. One of these was Bandai Namco’s popular Japanese drumming arcade fixture Taiko No Tatsujin, the other was another Yu Suzuki masterpiece, Virtua Fighter 2.

The first Virtual Fighter may have been the pioneer in 3D polygonal fighting games, but its sequel was far superior: far more graphically impressive than its low-poly predecessor running at double the framerate at 60FPS, one of the first games to use advanced motion capture techniques, and just a technically deeper game than rivals like Tekken. Fighting games dominated Japanese arcades in the 90s and Virtua Fighter 2 was the apex predator.

Playable in Yakuza Kiwami 2, Yakuza 5, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and Judgment (PS5/Xbox Series X|S).

Puyo Puyo

Puyo Puyo
Puyo Puyo. Credit: Sega

Tetris may be the puzzler known the world over but in Japan, Puyo Puyo is king, a drop puzzler built with competition at its heart as you aim to pop as many of the titular bean-shaped things, setting off a dizzying chain of combos that sends more garbage Puyo over to your opponent’s screen. Its inclusion in Yakuza 6 was just shortly after the puzzler began gaining more international attention after the release of puzzle mash-up Puyo Puyo Tetris, and so features the same modern visuals rather than the classic look of the Puyo Puyo 2 cabinets you’re more likely to find in a Japanese arcade. Nonetheless that addictive Puyo gameplay remains intact.

Playable in Yakuza 6 and Judgment (PS4).

Motor Raid

Motor Raid
Motor Raid from Judgement. Credit: Sega

Think Road Rash with a Tron aesthetic and you’ve got Motor Raid, a futuristic neon-soaked racer quite unlike Sega’s more realistic racers like Sega Rally and Manx TT Superbike, not to mention the fact that you can smash into opponents or knock them out of your way with melee weapons. Besides racing against the clock, where you finish also affects where you end up racing, with only the very best able to race on a secret planet under the eyes of a large Sonic statue.

You’d be forgiven for only just hearing of Motor Raid since it never got a home port when it released in arcades back in the late 90s, so thank goodness Sega chose to preserve it and delight new audiences, not to mention let detective Yagami blow off some steam.

Playable in Judgment and Lost Judgment.

ToyLets

ToyLets from Yakuza
ToyLets from Yakuza. Credit: Sega

On the subject of Sega mining its history, here’s one of its weirdest. Around 2011, the company trialled ToyLets, a collection of interactive mini-games installed in public urinals – in other words lads, a game that’s controlled by the power of your piss.

Obviously Yakuza Kiwami 2 only simulates this via QTE-style controls but it still incorporates two real mini-games. One has you competing against the previous player’s score (ghost pisser?), represented on screen as two players blowing milk out of their nose and seeing who will get blown out of a sumo ring, and the other uses the force of your urine to mimic the force of a naughty wind attempting to blow off a woman’s dress. Oh, and before you wave it off as something that’s just “bizarre Japan”, the UK apparently has a few similar interactive urinals, and the whole concept was actually introduced in a British online magazine called Yanko Design

Playable in Yakuza Kiwami 2.

Sonic The Fighters

Sonic The Fighters
Sonic The Fighters from Judgement. Credit: Sega

Did you know the blue blur had his own fighting game? Preceding Super Smash Bros by a few years, Sonic The Fighters (also known as Sonic Championship) was a cartoony low-poly fighting spin-off pitched by none other than arcade maestro Yu Suzuki himself, though this was far from hitting the bar of Virtua Fighter.

Nonetheless, it was significant in some ways as it was the first game to feature Sonic properly modelled in 3D, and even much of his moveset was implemented for his character in Super Smash Bros Brawl and subsequent entries. Whether or not you’d consider it a lost gem (or emerald), its inclusion in Lost Judgment coincided with the hedgehog’s 30th anniversary.

Playable in Lost Judgment.

Kamuro Of The Dead

This one’s a bit of a cheat as it’s not a real arcade game, nor is it the first fictional arcade game in the Yakuza series – that honour goes to sci-fi shoot-em-up Boxcelios from Yakuza 3. Nonetheless, Kamuro Of The Dead is a rail shooter in the style of the classic The House Of The Dead series (a game I frittered many coins away after school) but using the assets from naff zombie spin-off Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Sure, you have to play with a cursor rather than a real light gun – a technology that all but disappeared once CRT displays disappeared – but it still nails the spirit of those games as you’re swamped by hordes and bosses where you’re wrestling with accuracy and a shaky camera. Heck, it was enough of a hit to warrant a sequel, Hama Of The Dead.

Playable in Judgment.

All of these Yakuza (and Judgment) games are available now. 

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