Ever since Sega moved on to producing games for other consoles, Yakuza, or Ryu Ga Gotoku, became one of their main post-Dreamcast franchises. Seen as a spiritual successor to Shenmue, international players who wish to visit Japan can once again enjoy such an experience through Yakuza. Through this series, players can enjoy the pleasure districts of Tokyo, and explore other cities in its sequels. In addition to enjoying Japan’s nightlife, the franchise offers a spectacular soundtrack, featuring some of Japan’s greatest musicians. So, what are some of Yakuza’s best songs? Read our selections to find out!
5. As You Like by Castledoor from Ryu Ga Gotoku 0: Chikai no Basho (Yakuza 0)
In many installments, you can waste money be enjoying the kyabakura bars and talking to hostesses like you can in the real life Kabukicho. As opposed to wasting money, what if you could make money managing a club? As you recruit Japan’s hottest sexy actresses (the modern Japanese politically correct term for porn star) to work for you, you can customize how they dress and do their hair! As you dress them up, you can embrace your inner stylist through the background track to this part of the mini game, As You Like!
This soothing track will get players in touch with their feminine side through such this great novelty! The song is sung in English and heavily accented, but even so, it does feel authentically Japanese for the experience. The high pitch ooohs and wanting to get a girl ready for her night captures the highlight of working at a kyabakura of you can look and talk, but you can’t touch.
4. Bubble by Shounan no Kaze from Ryu Ga Gotoku 0: Chikai no Basho (Yazkua 0)
We understand this song doesn’t feel like a 1988 J-Rock song to compliment this installment’s setting, but its content masterfully captures it! The lyrics perfectly portray enjoying a night on the town at local bars, kicking ass and taking names. It also sings about how Japan was packing the big bucks in that era, and people just spent it like water. Even though it had its high points, it doesn’t mean it had its low points and consequences. For those that were able to experience Japan during its bubble period, this song will make you nostalgic for it. For those that weren’t able to, then the lyrics to this song and the intensity it comes with it will tell you what it was like.
3. Loser by Eikichi Yazawa from Ryu Ga Gotoku 3 (Yakuza 3)
If you want a mix of hard rock, jazz, and traditional enka, then Loser, the opening theme to the third game is exactly what you’re looking for. With all of those instrumental qualities, then you get a song that perfectly sums up on what it’s like to live the life of a yakuza. It’s the hard life, full of sorrows, and getting your ass kicked. However, the city can still be yours for the taking if you never give up and stay to your dreams. Yes, the song does feel like it’s glorifying the thug life, but the song still relates to making your dreams come true in the big city, and if you want to succeed, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles. The song goes well with the imagery of the game’s opening with the action, drama, and comedy that comes with this game for players to get a crazy preview of.
2. Soubou by Tatsuro Yamashita from Ryu Ga Gotoku 6: Inochi no Uta (Yakuza 6: The Song of Life)
By Japanese standards, getting Tatsuro Yamashita (husband of Plastic Love’s Mariya Takeuchi) to perform for a game is a big deal! If you love the emotional delivery given in Plastic Love, you get a taste of that style through Soubou. While most of Yamashita’s hits throughout the years are more about romance, what makes Soubou distinct is that it lives up to the subtitle of this game of being The Song of Life by singing about finding out what it truly means to live by first growing up in a small town, and then growing up to seeking out your dreams and never giving up. Since the 6th game is intended to be the last to star Kiryuu, it is fitting song for his ceremonial departure.
1. December 17 By Crazy Ken Band from Ryu Ga Gotoku 2 (Yakuza 2)
If there is any reason to play the original Yakuza 2 as opposed to Kiwami 2, it certainly for December 17 by Crazy Ken Band. If you want a Japanese version of lounge jazz, then this song is for you! As to the significance of the song title, Ken Yokoyama, the lead singer, said it represents the week before Christmas Eve. As opposed to being celebrated as a religious holiday in the West, the Japanese see Christmas more as a romantic holiday, and December 17 perfectly captures the tension of what players believe are Kiryuu and Kaoru’s final moments.
The opening keyboard chords with Ken singing wondering if the present moment is ok to confess your love just sucks you into the crazy atmosphere of the danger of an impending explosion, the emotion of Kiryuu and Kaoru professing their love, and that spark of hope of where everything is going to work out. In the end, the bomb was a dud but that song really captured all the intensity of what happened in the climax, which is why it was our number one pick.
Even if you can’t understand Japanese, we can all agree that music is universal and through the right hooks, melodies, and emotional content, we should be able to get a feel of that song. In addition to what we listed, we’d like to make some honorable mentions to Heartbreak Mermaid, 24jikan Cinderella, Kuroi Kizuato no Blues, So Much More, and Honjitsu wa Diamond. So for some of you fans, what are some of your personal favorites of this unique franchise? Leave your recommendations in the comments!