Do you actually prefer Japanese subtitles in games?

This might be more of a personal issue and a rant post, so take this with a grain of salt.

But the more I play, the less I like it.

I generally like kanji and hiragana, I think they’re pretty and all. But katakana mixed with roman letters? No… And there seems to be a lot of that in games.

Also katakanized names sound ridiculous and are hard to spell. English counterparts are much better, for example in Pokemon and Monster Hunter. I’ve been playing Pokemon for 2 days now and still can’t remember my starter’s name. チョロネコ stuck with me though.

This is more of a skill issue probably, but whenever I see katakana my brain takes a second or so to actually process what I’m reading. This does not happen with hiragana. Maybe it’s due to lack of practice, because you generally don’t see much katakana in normal text, but it’s annoying and breaks the flow.

There’re also the complex kanji compounds to save screen space and made up words. I try to look up every unknown word in a dictionary. When I played a certain game of Chinese origin there seemed to be many such words - place and character names especially used weird kanji, but then there were special made up items with made up names and a lot of hard to look up kanji compounds. Sometimes I felt like it was just Chinese text not translated to Japanese. I wasted more time googling than playing.

Anyone has any tips for that or similar feelings? Does it get better with practice? When I watch shows or read proper Japanese text I love it, I love how the 国語 sounds and even the Chinese loan words are fine, but when I play games and see katakana upon katakana I don’t love it and sometimes I even hate it. Now the obvious answer would be to not play, but I feel like this will hinder my progress too much. I wanna learn the way I learned English.


for games I haven’t started playing them in japanese yet.

I plan to start with boku no natsu yasumi, it looks simple for dialogues and I like its art style.

for japanese subtitles I am using for immersion anime, because I can increase my reading speed since I have to follow what is going on screen,

the problem is finding updated subtitles for the anime I watch since kitsunekko is not updating the ones I watch and I dont know any alternative to it.


I can understand where you are coming from…
Initially I could only play in Japanese for like 5 minutes before getting a headache / tired… haha

Initially as its a new experience, playing games in Japanese can be difficult and frustrating. The main thing is to have fun! If that is not happening, my advice would be to try to consider why that is and what can be changed to make it more enjoyable for you!

One of my favourite game series is Disgaea and yeah… lots of katakana in these games. Soo I got really used to it and in a way I think its great! My katakana reading speed shot up :smiley: !!!
If I don’t enjoy the game, I would just drop it. If the game seems difficult, same thing: I would stop playing that game and move on.

Also, I hardly ever check new words or stuff. Why? Because I don’t enjoy it while playing games.
Sometimes I would write certain kanji or a word like 出撃 ( sortie; sally; attack) on a piece of paper to check later. Only the words / kanji that really repeat and seem crucial to play.

There were times when I would write on paper or check most unknown kanji / vocab. However during those times, I was specifically concentrating on the new stuff, not actually trying to play the game. Ie I was mining new words / kanji.

Edit: Just remembered, some games eg some RPGs have the spoken text or dialog saved to be checked up later. (That way it makes it easier to re-read things and look up unknown words at a time when its more convinient)

Edit 2: Another thing is that I may watch game guides (eg battle mechanics ) for some games in English to have a better idea what to do

Thanks to YouTube and watching Lets Plays in Japanese, its possible to see if I would like a certain game. There is also GamePass / XCloud to for a quick experiment.

Hope some of this helps :slight_smile:


@evandcs Oh can’t help you with subtitles sadly. I only watch subtitled anime on Animelon and it has a pretty lackluster library, but still a great learning tool in my opinion. I never was into downloading subs for any language. Too much hassle :smiley:

@zerohbeat Writing down some words instead of looking up everything seems like something a sane person would do :smiley: Definitely doesn’t disturb the flow as much. I will try playing this way the next time. Pokemon Black 2 seems to be the ideal level for me right now. It is one of the first if not the first Pokemon game with an option to turn on kanji, which is great. I can’t imagine playing with just hiragana. I understand a lot and still learn a lot. Seems honestly like a sweet spot and can’t wait to play some more, but switching to the dreaded katakana pokemon names after 15 years of being acquainted with English names is super unnatural.


The thing with Pokemon is that some of the Pokemon mosters have different names compared to the rest of the World! Its actually quite interesting when I looked it up one time haha
Congrats for finding a game that you are enjoying and good luck :smiley:


Just want to butt in to say I hate playing retro games with japanese subtitles. The resolution is really low, so the kana are hard to read and most of the time kana are all there is and personally i find it really difficult to understand written text without any kanji as the meaning of the syllables are super unclear. Games with audio dialouge would be best.
But all in all I don’t really play that many games in japanese, its still a bit too frustrating.

Netflix has some good anime (Recommend Hi-Score Girl) and you can use any subtitle you want including japanese of course.


I think most NDS and up games have kanji. It’s GBA and down that had almost none (I think?), probably due to the resolution limitations. But yeah some kanji are super hard to read due to the low resolution of NDS, although it’s not as frequent and the text in Pokemon Black 2 is most of the time very readable. I saw like 2 kanji or so that were so tightly packed they became a blob, but with enough context this is a non issue. I think 3DS would be much better in this regard. Give it a thought some time in the future! :smiley:

As for Netlifx, yeah I have been considering either it or Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll should have a much better anime library but there are no Japanse subs as far as I know. So it’s either English subs or no subs. No subs doesn’t sound too bad, but when watching anime to study subs are always better.

Yeah, I definitely need to do some more japanese immersion, but maybe not on Super Famicom and the likes. :wink:
I tend to buy some japanese retro games every now and then, either because they are exclusive or cheaper than their western counterpart. In some cases for the Boxart even. (As happened recently with Tetris Attack)

You are completely on point. I have both, but if money is an issue I’d lean towards Crunchyroll.

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I like them the least aswell. There are often times used for strange names or foreighn names. Also for english words converted to japanese, which imo, doesnt have the japanese crisp that lets it sound. Maybe they are convinient for people like me, since there are easy vocables to learn since its basically english like パスポート、アイスクリーム、マクドナルドetc. I can imagine the sheer horror of katana importet words from games who are new and have alot of new vocabs to descibe some words. I played Fatal Frame-Maiden of Black water. Its very japanese like[place and character playing in japan] so it has fewer of those foreighn words coming from that. When i play this game, i m also translating 80 % of the playtime, since its my first literally 100 % playthrough by just japanese. But thats fine, since its a horror kinda like game, i m happy to have some breath here and there from the gameplay, even if its not that scary.[i couldnt play pokemon in japanese because i wouldnt find the story engaging since i played pokemon just for the gameplay itself].If you like horror and dont mind a wanky control[since the launch was originaly on console] you can look it up and maybe give it a shot.


One thing I noted is that it’s really varied from one game to another? Like, I think the newer ones have way more of it. Or those that have modern, non-fantasy-ish setting. I was playing 7th Dragon 2020 II and I think half of the equipment / skill names are in katakana lol (but it also has that “modern Tokyo” kind of setting, so). Meanwhile FF IX that I played in JP had considerably less katakana and more fancy fantasy-ish names in kanji.

I can relate to struggling with katakana-zed names though, like the first time I looked at ファイナルファンタジー I was like, “the hell is that?? do they really write the game title just like that???” :sweat_smile:

On a side note,

I also tried Fate / Extra CCC, one of my sub-goals for stuff to check out in JP. And wow, I was overwhelmed with the purple prose, very difficult to read :sweat_smile: I don’t know what I was expecting though? lol Guess I’ll have to give it another try in half a year. That being said, hasn’t it been around a year since the last try? :thinking:

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@Gabrielkarrer The story might not be engaging but I find the ability to actually read most of the dialogue without a dictionary refreshing. And then I enter the menus and read Pokemon descriptions and see a ton of new words. A nice balance between studying and playing. It’s also my first game in Japanese. I had other attempts like MHW and Higurashi, but I can’t go on for too long if every other word is unknown.

@Ceuteum Yes it definitely varies. And I am also aware of how FF games use a lot of archaic words, but in English only. I was always curious how does that look in Japanese, but that’s way above my level for sure :smiley:

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I’m not an expert on that (I kinda struggle with guessing what sounds normal and what sounds like fancy literary language) but I found some bits like, Freya likes to refer to the main hero as おぬし, which is (as I understand it) an archaic fantasy-ish “you” that’s nowadays pretty much fantasy speak (maybe like “thou” if it wasn’t such a meme). I guess it’s common in fantasy settings to use some archaic pronouns and stuff like that for stylization.

Yeah speaking on topic, I just loaded my end game save and realized there’s way, way more katakana namings in FF IX than I thought :sweat_smile: Like, all of the names, and about a half of inventory. I guess I just got used by that point and stopped noticing? But there’s still stuff like 源氏のこて (literally Genji’s gauntlets) or 黒装束 (“Black attire”, but Google Images for 装束 seem to be showing some sort of Heian robe but that’s 平安装束. I guess the word itself has some archaic/ceremonial connotations? Beats me! :sweat_smile:)

It’s different in speech of course as they tend to use fantasy-speak, but can’t give much examples here, I’ve beat the game some months ago :sweat_smile:

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For Pokemon, I completely understand. I’ve beaten two Pokemon games in Japanese, and I’m still not very good at knowing the Japanese Pokemon names, and the moves as well. But I think that’s just a result of playing several Pokemon games in English when I was younger. When I see Charizard, I still think Charizard and not ラザードン、even though I played through the entire game as リザードン。Same thing with moves. Thunderwave is stuck in my head, although I’ve warmed up to 10万ボルト。

On the other hand, if I play a new franchise for the first time in Japanese, I generally do a lot better since I don’t have that English association. Still, for some reason Katakana names don’t stick as much. Maybe my brain doesn’t process it as important enough. It does get better with time, but me personally, I still struggle with it.


Yes it does, but it does take a lot of practice. By now I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing text adventure games, while also using my phone in Japanese for a few years, and I no longer dread katakana. Just recently I noticed I’m not getting annoyed by them and realized it’s because I can read them with much less effort.

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@Ceuteum One thing that comes to my mind is “My Liege”, though don’t know the Japanese counterpart.

@Edo9 Glad I’m not the only one :smiley: Let’s hope this aversion wears off with time.

@Haruka I’m thinking about switching my phone to Japanese, but I fear that sometime I will need to do something quickly and will not know how because of unknown words. But with the amount of exposure the daily usage of phone gives you, maybe I finally should do this.

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Ha! It’s way above my level…but since it’s my favorite game of all time, I currently have a Japanese play-through going on. Since I’m still such a new learner, and this game is so text heavy…I’ve put in like 10 hours and only reached the Evil Forest! :stuck_out_tongue: There’s definitely a lot of unique words in this game. Did you do a full play in JP? Also, random question, do you know of any vocab decks for it? Cheers! :smiley:

Edit: sorry, just saw you already beat it! Although I’m curious if you know of any language resources for it, as I’d love to have this as fun “time killing” JP game to periodically play through (and struggle through! :laughing:)


It depends on the game. I played some of the most recent Pokemon games in Japanese and in the beginning it was fun to enjoy them in Japanese. But as I played I noticed I didn’t really have the patience to read all that text. I was just skipping most dialogues, so I decided that for the future games I’m gonna play them in English.

In the other hand, I’ve played the first Professor Layton in Japanese and it was a great experience. The difference is that it is a slow paced game, and I’m fully interested in the story and the setting. The puzzles are also fun and a nice way to practice reading comprehension, since understanding the text is vital to complete the puzzles. With Pokemon I feel like I’m always kind of rushing. My main focus is on exploring and catching the monsters. The dialogues are kinda weak and at the same time there is way too much text. So I’m fine with playing the games in English and just skimming over the text instead of carefully reading everything.

I’ve also played Animal Crossing in Japanese a lot back in 2020 and it was a super enjoyable experience. They did a great job of expressing the characters’ personalities through the way they speak.


@HeyDuda32 A bit off-topic but I guess it counts, I started reading very early, perhaps too early, I think I was level 10-15 on WK and roughly at the end of N5 on Bunpro, I was like “yeah why not read stuff” lol Obviously I didn’t understand much if anything at first, but somehow the idea of understanding at least something, at least a tiny bit in Japanese, was very rewarding on it’s own.

Can’t say I can recommend this route as it was very painful at first, but after 2-3 games I somehow noticed that I’m pretty accustomed to the idea of lots of Japanese text. I think I started with PSP edition of FF1? It’s pretty mindless fun & the text isn’t too hard. I still encounter a lot of unknown things from time to time but I guess the general understanding is usually there, I just got used to ignoring / guessing the unknown bits as looking things up every so often kinda ruins the flow. I just remembered how I learned English some 8-10 years ago (it’s not my native language!), I was too lazy to look things up too often, but somehow I kept the content coming whether I understand 10%, 20%, 50% or 70% of it, and after some time it just kinda clicked. I hope to repeat it with Japanese!

With Japanese I started playing things I already beat in English, like the childhood classics (I also love FF IX!!!). It has that benefit that you roughly know what’s going on (especially if you used to play it a lot), so if you don’t undestand the Japanese wording as much, you can still learn the unknown words easier and piece stuff together by guessing.

Nah : D But as a fantasy game, it uses a lot of magic vocab like 魔術師、黒魔法、白魔法、青魔法。I guess some common RPG words like 宝箱 and 剣 would help too. 霧 comes often as “the mist” is integral to the story, but I haven’t yet unlocked it on WK, so I just remembered it visually :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Also a lot of “summoning” words as Eidolons are integral to the story, like 召喚 and it’s combinations with “magic” and “person” and such. 大陸 gets used often too, because these things in the story with “outer continent”, “mist continent” and such. Also Iifa and Cleyra trees as イーファの樹 and クレイラの幹. Honestly, just with that I think you can understand roughly what’s going on :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Damn, I keep derailing the topic :rofl:


It depends on the game for me.

With FFXIV, I actually prefer it in English. The localisation is just so good (Koji Fox, my man!), and also for actually doing content it’s much much more useful to have English because I play with English speakers. A lot easier to dodge mechanics when you’re reading and calling them out in the same language. I do go back and watch some cutscenes in Japanese though. It’s pretty heavy on the katakana in some aspects.

Sonic games, I often play in Japanese. I’ve played them all to date in English already, and it’s not like many of them have very convoluted difficult-to-follow plots. I also like his Japanese voice actor, so that’s a big plus. I find there’s not much katakana going on there too, aside from everyone’s names.

I’m replaying Metal Gear Solid 2 in Japanese too. Which does have a convoluted difficult-to-follow plot, but it’s one I’ve internalised enough that it’s not too much of a bother.

For me, if I’m playing something in Japanese, it’s probably gonna be something I’ve played before. Aside from Animal Crossing or something. When I play games, I do it to relax and have fun, so I don’t necessarily wanna stress myself out trying to understand a whole new game - how it works, the plot, how the characters interact etc. - in Japanese. I just wanna get in and have a good time, without the anxiety of “oh god I have to read this text bubble fast enough before it disappears aaaaa oh god what’s attacking me aughhhhh oh nooooo I died alreadyyyy” :sweat_smile:


@Raffael Is Professor Layton on the harder side? I have it on my to-do list, but since Pokemon feel perfect to me I doubt any other game will be as easy. At least from the games I’m interested in.

@severian Yeah, I get the last part completely :smiley: The bad, or maybe good thing is that I have not played any of the Nintendo games yet. So even if I wanted to use your approach, I couldn’t.

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