Favorite English Game Translations of 2010-2019

40 Comments

In December 2019, I asked Twitter followers for their favorite English game translations/localizations from 2010 to 2019, whether official or fan-made. It was just a quick, informal survey with only about 150 responses, but I thought I’d share the results here for fun.

After tallying everything up, there were three clear winners that stood out from the rest. I’ve listed them below, along with a few others that did pretty well.

Of course, keep in mind that this is only a list of favorites and not necessarily a list of best ofs.

1. Yakuza series (2017+)

The Yakuza series premiered on the PS2 back in the 2000s, but Yakuza 0, remakes of Yakuza 1 through Yakuza 5, and Yakuza 6 were all released in the latter half of the 2010s.

These new Yakuza releases feature brand-new English scripts that take a different localization approach than before. Instead of glossing over or avoiding the Japanese-ness of the series (and sometimes removing content entirely), the new localizations embrace the Japanese-ness while balancing it with entertaining English writing.

Yakuza 0 is genuinely one of my favorite localizations of all time, and I’ve even written a few articles about its localization here.

2. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

Dragon Quest XI was released for the PlayStation 4 and Windows in 2018, and a Switch version was released a year later.

I haven’t played this game myself, but everything I’ve read online about Dragon Quest XI’s localization has been incredibly, overwhelmingly positive.

From what I can tell, the localization gives unique local accents and dialects to every region in the game – for example, everyone who lives in the Japanese-esque town of Hotto speaks in haiku, and mermaids from the underwater kingdom of Nautica speak in rhyme. The result is a script that helps the game feel large and full of life.

3. Final Fantasy XIV (2013)

I think this refers to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, because a moon fell on the original Final Fantasy XIV and wrecked everything. This MMORPG was released on several platforms in 2013, and it’s still going strong with multiple expansion packs and millions of dedicated players.

Because it’s such a massive online RPG, Final Fantasy XIV is constantly growing and changing. I’m sure this makes the game’s localization a unique and interesting challenge, as it too must grow and change to keep up with the Japanese game. Plus the sheer amount of never-ending text is probably mind-boggling.

Tied for 4th Place

There were a bunch of game translations that weren’t cited as often as the above three entries, but were still noteworthy enough to include here:

Note that I’ve lumped the Super Robot Wars games together because it’s hard to keep track of them all. Some were fan translations, while others were official English translations included in some Asia-exclusive releases.

Honorable Mentions

These games didn’t break into the Top 4, but they did receive multiple mentions:

  • Great Ace Attorney (2019, fan translation)
  • Kid Icarus Uprising (2012)
  • Trails of Cold Steel Trilogy (2015+)
  • 428: Shibuya Scramble (2018)
  • AI: The Somnium Files (2019)
  • Danganronpa Series (2010+)
  • Final Fantasy XV (2016)
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 (2019)
  • Magical Vacation (2016, fan translation)
  • Dark Souls Series (2011+)
  • Tengai Makyo Zero (2017, fan translation)
  • Trials of Mana (2019 version)

Final Thoughts

I haven’t played many of the games on this list, but it sounds like I should give them a try. I’d love to do some more live Wanderbar-based translation comparisons sometime, so maybe I’ll try that with some of these someday.

Again, this was just a super-informal survey and doesn’t really mean much. And since it’s based on my own Twitter followers, it’s certainly not representative of gamers in general. Still, I hope this was a fun look at something you might not have thought about before. And if you think anything else deserves to be be on this list, share in the comments!


If you like seeing what people think about Japanese/English stuff, check out these opinion articles too!

40 Comments
  1. I’m still playing through Dragon Quest XI (currently in the post-game section), and yeah, the localization is absolutely amazing. When I first noticed the Haikus, or the mermaids talking in Suess-style rhyme, I nearly bust a gut laughing. And major props must be given to the voice cast for bringing these regional dialects to life. The series really has come a long way from people whining about the dialects in DQ4.

    Reply
    1. and the accents are, in most cases actually accurate to the actor, from what I hear.
      Dragon Quest XI doesn’t feature the usual voice cast you’d hear from Texas, Canadian, or Los Angeles based studios (whom are great and I have the highest respect for, but you hear them in almost all video games and anime these days)
      Rather this is a big pool of relatively unknown but very talented European actors from various regions who bring to life many of their performances with reigons and accents they know inherently.

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      1. Wow, they actually got people from those various European regions? I’m impressed.

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      2. This is true, even the fake-sounding accents you hear in DQXI are real UK accents.

        I don’t know what’s going on with Erik though. Is he supposed to sound Danish? Cause he sounds like LittleKuriboh as Joey Wheeler.

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        1. Pretty sure it’s supposed to be a New York accent (as is Joey’s in the official Yu-Gi-Oh dub). Mia sounds American too.
          (Though they are from DQXI’s Scandanavian-ish country.)

          Reply
  2. My own pick across both this decade and the last one is perhaps a bit unconventional – the Mario games. Some of them (the RPGs come to mind) have TONS of text, and it’s always been translated with a specific, consistent, fun-to-read cadence that’s unique to the Mario franches and that feels so natural that it’s almost jarring to realize that the games were ever in a language other than English.

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  3. Recent Dragon Quest games (including Builders) and the Trails games under XSeed have consistently had excellent and loving localizations, where the translators are so confident they can afford to do things like DQ 11’s ‘local’ accents. We’re in a nice place between Working Design’s wholesale rewrites and fan translations that insisted on literal translations even if they read terribly. I think about the Asterix books, where Bell and Hockridge’s English translations were arguably better than the originals.

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  4. Best for me hands down would be the Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP, 2011) and Crimson Shroud (3DS, 2012). What Alexander O. Smith does with Yasumi Matsuno games is unmatched in my eyes. He adds a truly unique flair to the games.

    Also want to mention:
    The Last Story (Wii, 2012)
    Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS, 2013)
    Dungeon Travelers 2 (Vita, 2015)
    The Silver Case (PC/PS4, 2016/2017)
    Trails series (mentioned in the article)

    I find anything by Platinum Games and Grasshopper Manufacture to be done consistently well but I suspect that the English in those games is done side by side or sometimes first considering they often don’t even have Japanese dubs.

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  5. No Live-a-Live? The fan translators went to such an effort they gave all the different timeframes different fonts, which is cool. It’s way more obscure a game than it should be, gives me EarthBound vibes.

    It’d be neat to see something on that one day…

    Reply
    1. That’s before the cutoff date. Even the 2.0 version with multiple fonts you’re talking about is from 2008.

      Reply
  6. I know I’m gonna get flack for this, but…
    I still don’t like the Dragon Quest localization. I just don’t.
    I don’t like the accents, I don’t like the dialects, I don’t like all of the name changes.
    It’s just not faithful to the Japanese.
    I don’t mind if translators want to take a few liberties here and there,
    but the Dragon Quest localization is extreme.
    There, I said it. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

    Reply
    1. Yet the original Japanese scripts are just bland and quite snore-inducing fantasy stories that do really do nothing to establish themselves or stand out in any particularly unique way. You must enjoy dully told stories with flat and paper-thin characters.

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      1. Do you know Japanese? Or have you actually played any of the Dragon Quest games in their original Japanese? Are you familiar with the Japanese scripts? No? Then don’t pretend like you know what your talking about when you don’t.

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        1. Maybe you should have phrased your original post to sound less aggressive, NekoKnight. A lot of people really here enjoy Dragon Quest localizations and they really bring the different stories and worlds to life in charming ways with the dialects. I understand there are those who prefer them simple and to the point, but you basically set yourself up as a target with those remarks. Just understand that it’s simply a case of different strokes and respect that others like what they like.

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        2. I am fluent in Japanese and am here to say many games are better in English!

          In particular most all S-E games are boring and poorly written in Japanese except the newest ones. FF games are usually flavorless and without characterization. DQ games are better but are written for children for nostalgia reasons.

          Tales Of games are good in both languages btw.

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          1. Sometimes, being monolingual, I feel like I’m missing out by only having access to the English version. The way some people talk, the Japanese versions are grand masterpieces, and the English versions are pale shadows of that greatness. It’s comforting to know that the originals have their faults, too!

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    2. Well, i’m going to say it as well. Yes, you are wrong.
      You’re being a blind purist and your logic is that of ignorance and entitlement. Not of proper reasoning or legitimate criticism.

      Reply
      1. I’m not. All I want is a localization that is faithful to the Japanese. Is it unreasonable to want a translation to be faithful to the source material? Is criticizing such liberal departures from the Japanese script illegitimate? You called me a “blind purist”, but what about the opposite extreme – that of being a “blind liberalist”? Like I said in my previous post, I don’t mind if translators what to take a few liberties here and there. My problem is that the Dragon Quest localization is liberal to the extreme. So much so, that it calls into question what a localization is or should be. If you knew Japanese or are familiar with the Japanese scripts for Dragon Quest games, you would understand how I feel.

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    3. I don’t know Japanese and I’ve never played them in the original language, but I’m very interested to hear specific examples! I’ve been told that the original Japanese games have a lot of the dialects (although they are dialects from different parts of Japan instead of different parts of Europe) and that they are just as “punny,” but some games (mostly the DS localizations) seem to take it to an extreme level. I was a big fan of the DQ 1-2-3 translations for the GBC, they seemed to be straight-forward without being too… silly… I was not a fan of the localization of DQ7 for PS1. Which games do you think have had the most faithful localization when it comes to tone? What are some particularly egregious localization issues? (I just started XI so I’d appreciate examples from earlier games… or a spoiler warning)

      Reply
      1. It would take awhile to compile specific in-game examples, but I can give you some general examples. As you may or may not already know, there are different “ways” of talking in Japanese – a “way” that boys talk, a “way” that girls talk, a “way” that the elderly talk, a “way” that government officials talk, etc. I wouldn’t call these actual “dialects”, but they are very common in Japanese RPGs, including Dragon Quest. As for regional dialects, yes, they do exist in Japan. But most RPGs are written in the standard Tokyo dialect, although you may find some Kansai dialect thrown in here and there. Kansai is usually translated into English as a “southern accent.” I believe that there is an article on the site on this specific issue. As for Dragon Quest, the Japanese is basically the same as Zelda, Pokémon, Final Fantasy, etc., But with Yuji Horii’s own writing style. And yes, DQ in Japan does have some clever puns and cultural references, but it’s no where near as “goofy” as what you’ll find in the English localizations. The Japanese script is a lot more serious. Another thing I don’t like are all of the name changes, some of which make absolutely no sense. Here I will go you one example – there is an enemy in DQiV that’s a little hooded imp that holds a bow. In Japanese, he is called a “Lilliput”, which is a reference to “Gulliver’s Travels.” But they changed it’s name to “Bodkin Archer” in English, which destroys the cultural reference. Why would they do that? It’s one of several tiny changes that I find really annoying. I could go into much more detail about all of the useless changes that the localizers make, but that would require writing an entire article.

        Reply
        1. Oh, that’s weird :S I’ve asked others in the past and they said that the goofiness was a central part of the games in Japan, and that it was stripped out for some reason in the localisations before 8…

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    4. I’m actually of a similar opinion – I’m not fond of the super-heavy ye olde English used in modern translations of older DQ games, and I’m not really fond of the accent/dialect-heavy translations of more recent Square-Enix DQ, FF, Octopath, etc. releases either. But I can 100% understand why others would really like them.

      It’s kind of like food spices/condiments. Some people like their food with lots of spice, others like just a pinch of spice, and others like no added spice so they can enjoy the food by itself. This aspect of localization is similar – different people have different preferences, and it’s fine to not agree with others’ opinions. Similarly, it’s fine if they don’t agree with yours.

      Reply
      1. “This aspect of localization is similar – different people have different preferences, and it’s fine to not agree with others’ opinions. Similarly, it’s fine if they don’t agree with yours.”

        Yes, thank you for saying that, Clyde. That’s exactly how it is. I don’t see why people feel the need to start wars over this stuff. It’s not healthy. I think this comment section could use some cleaning up.

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      2. Just throwing this out there, but when DQ7 was remade for the 3DS, there was an E3 panel which featured both some of the Japanese Developers and the English localizers, and while Yuji Horii wasn’t there himeself, i think i remember a message from him being read in support of the English version. Also, when talking about the franchises localization history, they mentioned how the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata spearheaded the first game’s original localization, included decision to use the Olde English. While i totally understand that everybody is entitled to their opinions on the accents, I feel it’s important to realize that the Japanese developers are totally okay with it.

        Reply
  7. Both Romancing SaGa 3’s official translation and SaGa Scarlet Grace’s both have great, lively, and exceptional localization work done on them. At least no one needs to use that fan translation from 1995 anymore for RS3, and for good reason as it’s just not very good.

    Reply
    1. Is there a translated manual for Romancing SaGa 3? I’ve found answers to game mechanics in FAQs, but I’m disappointed that the official release did not include a translated manual (unless I somewhow missed accessing it).

      Reply
      1. Honestly, I have never seen a copy of the manual for RS3, printed or otherwise, so I’m not entirely sure. SaGa games don’t explain much, even in the manuals since they’re all “figure it out on your own” titles. So maybe they didn’t include one for just that reason.

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  8. Mr. Mandelin, I have a request: I would like to know if you would possibly consider comparing the English version of Dragon Quest XI with the Japanese. Not the whole game, you can download a free demo of DQXI from the Switch eshop. Of course, I understand if your too busy. But I would really like your professional opinion on the matter.

    Reply
  9. It probably doesn’t fit in the 2010-2020 timeframe, but the fan translation of Langrisser 2 is absolutely incredible. I didn’t see the repro cart available until around 2012, but I believe the ROM had been translated before that. The writing in the translation is excellent – and I’d assume in the same spirit of the original. I’m nearing the end of the game and I’ve only seen one very minor typo.

    Reply
  10. Just to clarify, your comment about Yakuza localisations only applies to 3. All the other localisations are perfectly good and don’t feature any strange edits like 3 did (though the dub in 1 is controversial, it still doesn’t try to “hide” anything.)

    Also IMO the recent localisations have gone way overboard with inserting jokes into the script that don’t need to be there and don’t add anything to the scenes they’re in, in fact much of the time they ruin the pacing or comedic timing of the scene. I’m pretty sure the 4 localisation is just a edit of the original PS3 translation, too.

    Reply
    1. Indeed, I agree with you about the recent games going overboard – I liked Yakuza 0 and felt it struck a really nice balance, but starting with Kiwami 1 I felt like the English scripts started trying “too hard” to be clever with all the extra jokes, references, etc.

      By “embracing Japaneseness”, I was referring more to things like honorifics, Japanese terms like “okama” and “aniki”, etc. but yeah, 3 was the only one to have content cut. Did they ever explain why they did that? I remember it being a big deal at the time.

      Reply
      1. Official statement from SEGA to IGN on the massive Yakuza 3 content cuts for the west:

        “The content between Yakuza 3 US/UK and Yakuza JP is a little different in that we took out certain bits in order to bring the game to the west in the time alloted [sic] for us to do so. The parts we ended up taking out were parts that we felt wouldn’t make sense (like a Japanese history quiz game) or wouldn’t resonate as much (such as the concept of a hostess club). We didn’t replace the parts we took out, but we made absolutely sure that the story continuity stayed intact so that the story experience was the same as the Japanese version and that it didn’t take away the human drama so inherent to the Yakuza series.”

        This is a bit of a crock because a lot of the stuff they cut breaks up character arcs between 2, 3, and 4.

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        1. “This is a bit of a crock because a lot of the stuff they cut breaks up character arcs between 2, 3, and 4.”

          Oh is it now?

          Reply
      2. Even having followed the series for so long, why Yakuza 3’s loc came out the way it did is still a mystery to me. I think it’s mostly a low budget + tight dev schedule leading to cuts that got PR spun in to “it’s weird foreign stuff people wouldn’t understand anyway”. The hostess bit is the most telling, with how the club itself and the minigame story associated with it were cut but the date scenes were left in since they would be easier to translate and put in the game.

        It gets even weirder when you read this article that claims there was going to be another English dub!
        http://www.ps3center.net/news/4221/yakuza-3-to-have-english-voice-acting-afterall/

        Reply
  11. Well yes. The story experience was absolutely not the same as the Japanese version – the stuff they cut is exactly the sorry if thing you play Yakuza for – which is directly opposed to the PR spin here. I understand about the crazy schedules meaning they had to cut stuff, but they cut like 5 minigames (and the hostess club stuff being cut was huge) and two dozen side quests. All you have to do is play the uncut remaster to see what a difference it makes. It would have been more honest to say the main questline stayed interact and leave it at that. But I guess being honest isn’t really a PR person’s thing.

    Reply
    1. Bah, this should have been a reply to Beggar about Yakuza 3’s cuts. When Reply isn’t Reply.

      Reply
      1. That’s okay, I saw your reply. Thank you for explaining it, as I was curious. I wonder if the studio was just on a really tight schedule or something.

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  12. The Ace Attorney: Investigation 2 translation was fantastic! I’m very glad fans put the time in to translate it.

    Sakura Wars for the Sega Saturn has been translated into English (http://www.romhacking.net/translations/5318/). Looking forward to trying this one out!

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  13. Part of the reason people love Final Fantasy XIV’s English localization so much is that said localization team spares no expense in their lifelong goal to put the most ridiculous puns, crazy references, and unique terminology in the most unexpected places. I will never forget the time I did a quest early on in Thanalan, the desert area in the Realm Reborn base game, and I ran past two NPCs near a campsite who were very clearly prostitutes, and then a second later I passed by another NPC a bit away who told me not to mess with them and that he’d gotten “crotch rot”.

    There’s another part in the Stormblood expansion where you see a very tall character of the Roegadyn race in the onsen of Kugane, wearing nothing but a towel, and another human character nearby facing the lockers who says something like “I see, here’s where the towels are stored” in Japanese, but makes a “…stupid sexy Roegadyn” crack in English.

    That said, the same localization team was behind the original release of FFXIV, before the Realm Reborn reboot, so even though that version of the game went badly, fans could still have been fond of its localization. Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, the game’s translation director and co-lead world/lore developer (along side Banji Oda), has a wealth of stories on this subject if you hunt down the various interviews he’s given over the years, and especially the panels he’s hosted at FFXIV FanFests and conventions like PAX.

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  14. As a FromSoft fan, I don’t understand what makes the Dark Souls series a notable English localization. I do think it’s good, but a bit of a strange choice, especially when all of the voiced lines are initially recorded in English anyway.

    Reply

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