The Phrase “Game Set” in Japanese Video Games

24 Comments

A Legends of Localization reader asked about a phrase that often appears in Japanese video games: “Game Set”. Here are some examples from familiar games:

Ideas and Theories

I always just assumed this “Game Set” thing was related to the “game, set, match” phrase that you hear in some sports like tennis. But now that I think about it, “Game Set” by itself isn’t something I normally hear in English.

The reader pointed out that most of the examples above were made by or somehow involved Masahiro Sakurai, a famous Japanese game designer, and theorized that “Game Set” was a directorial signature of his. Still, I know I’ve seen the phrase in plenty of other Japanese games, so I don’t feel it’s a Sakurai-only thing.

So what’s the deal? Why is “Game Set” in so many Japanese games?

Japanese-Created English

First, it’s indeed possible that “Game Set” first came from the English phrase “game, set, match”. But regardless of its origin, “Game Set” eventually took hold in Japan as wasei eigo, a type of English phrase that was created in Japan.

Some other examples of wasei eigo in video games include:

Second, in Japanese, “Game Set” pretty much just means “the game is over” or “the match’s outcome has been decided”. The phrase has permeated the Japanese language and is used all the time when talking about competitive sports, primarily baseball:

In the first video above, the announcer even shouts “Game Set” like the announcer in the Super Smash Bros. series.

“Game Set” in Localization

I never found “Game Set” particularly awkward, but I’m guessing that’s because it’s been around in English games for so long. It appears that opinions about “Game Set” differ, though, as some Japanese-to-English localizers prefer to keep it as-is, while others prefer to change it slightly:

Final Thoughts

This has all pretty much been a long-winded way of saying that “Game Set” is a set phrase that’s used all the time in Japanese sports to indicate that a match is over, and that’s why it appears in so many Japanese video games. So “Game Set” isn’t particularly unique to Masahiro Sakurai’s games, he just happens to specialize in making games centered around competitive matches. Hopefully that makes sense.

Anyway, I know I’ve seen “Game Set” in a bunch of other games before, so if you can think of any, please let me know. And if you can think of any other silly phrases like “Goat In” or “Shine Get” that you’ve seen in video games, let me know that too. I think it’d be fun to look at more stuff like this in future articles!


If you liked this, check out my article about Japan's love of the word "LABO" or Japan's love of the word "let's". They're both interesting in their own unique ways, just like "Game Set"!

24 Comments
  1. Puzzle de Pon (Puzzle Bobble-like for Neo Geo) has “____ get!” for all the zodiac signs.

    Screenshot: http://www.zanyvideogamequotes.com/puzzledeponr/puzzledeponr-ariesget.jpg

    That’s the version I always think of when I say “___ get!”, though I think most people would think of “Shine get!” first.

    What do you call it when wasei eigo migrates back into English?

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    1. “What do you call it when wasei eigo migrates back into English?”
      Confusing. 😛

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    2. “What do you call it when wasei eigo migrates back into English?”

      Wasei-eigo level up?

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  2. Linkdude20002001

    I always felt that “Game set!” sounds more natural than just “Game!”, so I don’t understand the need to change it. Seems like unnecessary effort for some-thing that is potentially a downgrade in natural-sounding English.

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    1. With Smash Bros., the Japanese developers seem to think it’s natural enough for native English speakers to say it…

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    2. I think it’s because because a game and a set are two different things, so it’s weird for an announcer to say both words at the end of a game.

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  3. Pokemon Battle Revolution has the announcer say “Game, set and match!”

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  4. I used to wonder if “game over” was an example of wasai eigo, but the Wikipedia article seems to indicate that the phrase did originate from A US game (as early as a pinball game from the 1950s, I guess?)

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  5. All the episode titles of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger are in Wasei-Eigo, and the episode where they get SWAT mode is called “SWAT Mode On”. They also sometimes say “face on” when they morph.

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    1. That reminds me of a different sentai show with a different engrish-ism.
      The rangers in Gobuster shouted “LET’S MORPHING” every time they transformed.

      I loved Gobuster. This seems to be because I don’t actually like sentai shows, as every complaint the fandom had with it was something I liked. Oh well.

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  6. Japanese sure likes twisting English around to suit their own needs, huh? In general, the so-called ‘interface text’ tends to be in English in an otherwise Japanese game as detailed in my last reply. When they aren’t displayed like this, chances are it’s either a non-Japanese game or a game meant for a young audience. And even then, some of this text would be slightly changed anyway to be grammatically correct and the like once it’s time for localization. For instance, Personal 5 had ‘baton touch’ and ‘sword’ to be changed into ‘baton pass’ and ‘attack’ respectively. ‘Baton pass’ kinda sounds more natural in a way and since not every character even uses a sword for melee attacks in that game, it fits more closely. Do you have more example of this kind of localization in mind?

    Reply
    1. “Japanese sure likes twisting English around to suit their own needs, huh?”

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, and I find it annoying at times. But if we were to twist Japanese (or any language for that matter) to suit our needs, we’d be accused of being racist because we’re not respecting their culture’s language. Riiiiiight, so what do these politically correct snowflakes call what Japan is doing to the English language? Here’s a classics response I’ve seen:

      “They’re just being cute.”

      Just wow. XD

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      1. …but English DOES do that. As an example, the word “chef” comes from French, where it means “leader”, but when borrowed into English it was only used in the context of kitchens, and eventually had its meaning get changed from “the head of the kitchen” to “one of the guys in the kitchen that actually make the food”. That’s twisting the original French pretty badly.

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  7. Maybe it’s because I’m an ESL, but I never found anything wrong with “game set”, yet I can see why things like “goal in” and “shine get” sound awkward.

    Then again, maybe it’s because I’m not used to sports language; one comment here says that since “game” and “set” mean different things, having both in the same phrase is weird. Technically I know what both mean, but since I’m not that into sports or competitive video games, these words are not really part of my vocabulary when it comes to describing a match.

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  8. The closest native English equivalent for “Game Set!” in the baseball context I’ve heard was “That’s the game”, which did replace it in the localized versions of Wii Sports.

    In the Japanese version of Twilight Princess it actually says “Get in!” instead of “GOAT IN!” when you get a goat in, which is…even more awkward. In beta English versions it said “YEE-HAW!” Honestly, there really isn’t a good short phrase for that action that doesn’t sound silly.

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  9. I’ve seen examples of Japanese games using “Get!”, like a Smash Bros. game which the localization changed to “Got It!”. Are there any examples of games saying just “In!”?

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  10. FYI, the “Japan’s love of the word “let’s”.” link is broken and links to this article instead of the intended one.

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  11. League Bowling on NeoGeo also uses “Game Set”.

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  12. I happen to be looking at some disk messages for a Japanese game right now, and they use the word Englishish word “set” (as セットする) for the action of putting a disk into a drive. 「ドライブ0にユーザーディスクをセットして下さい」(“Please set the user disk into drive 0”), for example. I wondered if that usage might be related to “Game Set,” but the 三省堂 dictionary defines セット as referring to arranging or configuring something, rather than confirming or concluding it, so I guess not.

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  13. There’s also Japanese games that say “Time over” when you run out of time.

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    1. Capcom VS SNK 2 was the first game that came to mind, and there are probably plenty more fighting games that use the phrase.

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      1. The Sonic games with 10 minute per level time minutes (Sonic 1-3K and possibly Mania also) show this message as well.

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        1. *limits, sorry

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  14. I think this is actually *not* related to “Game, Set, Match”.

    I think this is due to a misunderstanding of English by Japan-based localizers in the early days. “Set” is a verb that has often been misused in game and app UIs, usually used where you might get a “Done” or “Continue to next phase” sort of button/message.

    Sometimes you get “Setting” instead. I once used a development tool that had a long process you could start, and then you’d get a popup window with text along the lines of “Doing the thing!” and a button in the lower right that said “Setting”. You’d sit there and wait ages and nothing would happen. Then, with no other option, you’d try clicking the button that seemed to be for options, but instead that button would actually finally start the process, because the person who translated it thought “setting” meant something like “set it in motion”, or something, I really dunno.

    Reply

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