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 Welcome to the /smtg/ Starter Guide! If you want to learn about the Shin Megami Tensei or Persona series of games, you've come to the right place. Don't be intimidated - absolutely no prior information is required before reading. This guide is designed to cover everything you need to know to start playing some Megaten games.

Otherwise, let's get right into it!


Table of Contents:


Megaten 101: What is Megami Tensei?


Starting back in 1987 on the Famicom, the Megami Tensei franchise is a long-standing series of video games encompassing a wide variety of genres and styles. Megami Tensei is Japanese for "Goddess Reincarnation", hinting at the series' more occultist nature. Indeed, most Megami Tensei ("Megaten") games are very japanese JRPGs wherein the player fights alongside demons from mythology to achieve their goal, similar to Pokemon. Megaten boasts a truly outrageous number of games in the series spread across all consoles; there's a Megaten game for everyone. To accommodate such a large catalog, the "Megami Tensei" series has been subdivided into different subseries to group games with similar gameplay styles and thematic elements. For now, we'll focus on the two biggest subseries: the "Mainline" and "Persona" series of games.


Mainline


The mainline series of games are also referred to as "Shin Megami Tensei" games, which translates to "True Goddess Reincarnation". In fact, most discussion on mainline will simply refer to it as "Shin Megami Tensei": however, for our purposes we will refer to this series of games as "Mainline". Mainline games tend to share a series of gameplay systems and story elements amongst each other:


As mentioned earlier, the main draw of mainline is doing battle alongside a hand-picked team of mythological demons. The protagonist of these games is always equipped to fight with swords, guns, and occasionally magic. However, the protagonist can also summon demons to aid in battle as active participants. Any demon encountered in a fight can be negotiated with - after forking over enough items and cash, a pact will be formed and that demon will be a permanent member of your party. A huge draw of mainline lies in recruiting demons and customizing their skills and magic to fit your team's needs. Any demon can become a force to be reckoned with if you leverage the following system to maximize a demon's potential:

megaten101_demons

Demons are able to perform skills that turn the tide of battle. Therefore, it is imperative that you get your demons in tip-top shape with powerful attacking, healing, and buffing skills. The main way to achieve this is through the Demon Fusion system. You can take any two demons and fuse them together to summon a stronger demon - the resulting fusion will inherit some of the skills you select to be passed down via fusion. By leveraging this system to its full potential, you can build a team that stomps once-tricky bosses with ease. In addition, most games contain a "Demon Compendium" that will allow you to resummon past demons for a fee, allowing dedicated planners to chain fusions and pass down excellent skills if they so choose. But what is the framework for how humans and demons do battle?

megaten101_skills

Older games in the series play out as traditional JRPGs: you select your moves, then watch them play out according to speed. However, newer entries in the series incorporate the Press Turn system: each party member gets one turn by default, but hitting a demon's elemental weakness grants you additional turns to deal more damage. Beware - enemy demons are capable of doing the same to you! Fights are fast and furious as each side scrambles to exploit the opponent's weaknesses while protecting theirs. This system allows the aforementioned Demon Fusion system to really shine: a team of Ice specialists will crush even the toughest of Fire demons with ease. Press Turn is a thrilling combat system that keeps friend and foe alike on the razor's edge until one side emerges victorious.

megaten101_press_turn

Most mainline games take place in entirely separate universes, usually set in a post-apocalyptic or otherwise ravaged Tokyo. We can occasionally get a glimpse of life before the apocalypse and feel lulled into a false sense of security. But inevitably, the world will soon find itself flooded by demonic invaders. You can expect to be roaming the wasteland, kicking ass, and taking names with your demons. But who's asses will you be kicking, and why?

megaten101_tokyo

In the world of mainline, faction lines are not divided upon meaningless terms such as "good" and "evil". Instead, the humans and demons tend to align themselves with one of three main ideologies: Law, Neutral, or Chaos.

megaten101_alignment_intro

The Law alignment priorities security above all else, including freedom. On the lighter end of the alignment, this manifests as the strong desire to protect the weak and keep them safe from harm. On the darker end of the alignment, this strong desire for security can manifest in lawful zealots who wish to control society and change the very nature of humankind. After all, nothing is safer than a human brainwashed to do no harm. This faction is typically lead by YHVH, the all-knowing Abrahamic God who may appear himself or be represented by one of his Archangels.

megaten101_law

The Chaos alignment priorities freedom above all else, including safety. On the lighter end of the alignment, this manifests as a group fighting back against the unjust laws that plague their society and hamper people's full potential. The idea of being born into a hierarchy that shapes the rest of your life is unacceptable. On the darker end of the alignment, this desire for freedom can manifest in chaotic tyrants who kill and maim without restraint. After all, the strongest demon can take as he pleases - who will stop him? This faction is typically lead by Lucifer, a powerful fallen angel who takes on crafty disguises and beguiles others to fight back against the tyranny of YHVH.

megaten101_chaos

The Neutral alignment strives for a balance of security and freedom, making sure not to fall victim to the dogmatic thinking of either alignment. Where Law favors angels and Chaos favors demons, the Neutral alignment typically carries a more human focus. Strong Neutral characters recognize the need for both ideals and push back against a black-and-white world to walk a third path. Weak Neutral characters find themselves drowning against the tide, unable to establish a new paradigm and ultimately dooming humanity to a life of angelic or demonic subserviance.

megaten101_neutral

This alignment war rages endlessly, and it's up to the protagonist to bring about a decisive end to the battle. As the player, you will shape the story by joining up with one of these alignments, a decision you fall into by making choices during the story. Will you fight to protect the world as a warrior of light? Will you liberate the world from the oppressive rule of the angels? Or will you find another path for humanity? These decisions are yours and yours alone to make, but others will help and hinder your journey.

megaten101_alignments

Some character archetypes are inevitable in a mainline game. These are the Law Hero, Chaos Hero, and Heroine. While these characters don't appear in every single game, they appear enough to keep an eye out for. In most games, one of the characters will find themselves more and more entralled with the virtues of Law. Likewise, another character may begin to covet freedom, strength, and the other benefits of Chaos. Finally, you may have a travelling companion to aid you on your quest. If they do show up, then expect these characters to play a major role in the story.

megaten101_heroine

To recap, the "Mainline" games see you interacting with the Law, Neutral, and Chaos factions of the game. By negotiating with and fusing demons, the player will progress the game's story to learn more about the world and complete their journey. If this all sounds exciting, then keep reading on for some mainline recommendations. But this is only one of Megaten's many subseries - let's take a look at what the "Persona" series has to offer.


Megaten 102: Persona And You


Mainline is the canonical main series from which all other spinoffs branch out. One of these spinoff series, "Persona", has blossomed into its own series of games with its own spinoffs. In contrast to the post-apocalyptic stories of mainline, Persona games take place in the modern day. You play as a high school student who finds himself balancing school life with a supernatural adventure. By day, you study and make friends like any other high schooler, but after school, you and your friends explore a shadow world reflective of society's collective anxieties. Where mainline explores themes of the occult, Persona derives its themes from Jungian psychology - indeed, the titular "Persona" is a manifestation of the user's personality, a mask with which they face the challenges of life. Persona games tend to share a series of gameplay systems and story elements amongst each other:


Your journey begins at the start of the Spring semester, and is shaped by the choices you make over the next year. After school each day, you decide what you want to do with your time. This calendar system elevates Persona to a new level of player choice: you play out every single day, choosing who to hang out with, what extracurricular activities to pursue, and when to venture out to the shadow world. Balancing these decisions is key to not only surviving the shadow world, but also having the most enjoyable year possible. The memories are yours to make.

megaten101_year_of_growth

During your school experience, you will meet a colorful cast of characters both in school and out. In accordance with the Jungian themes, your relationships with these characters are classified with a major arcana of the tarot deck. You might end up befriending a Star athelete, a Devilish prankster, or someone with very good Fortune, to give a few examples. These relationships, known as Social Links, are created and nurtured by choosing to spend some free time with the other person. You'll meet all sorts of people, not just high schoolers: chain-smoking monks, distressed stepmothers, and frisky teachers are just some of the more outlandish people you may form a Social Link with. Most importantly, the bonds you forge with others are extremely important for your night journeys into the other world - your Social Links empower your Persona, helping you survive another dangerous night.

megaten101_social_links

After school, you will find yourself delving deeper and deeper into an alternate world that reflects some of the uncomfortable truths about society. Each game focuses on its unique themes, but one thing is guaranteed: these worlds are full of dangerous Shadows, creatures born of collective fear and worry. To combat this, you and your friends can manifest your Persona, tamed shadows that represent the user's personality. With the help of your friends and the inhabitants of the mysterious "Velvet Room", you'll begin to understand the true nature of the shadow world - and its implications for society.

megaten101_shadow_world

The Demon Fusion system from before makes a return: in a mysterious location known as the "Velvet Room", you can fuse two of your personas to create a new one with inherited skills. Your friends will stick to their single Persona, but outfitting your character with powerful Personas will greatly aid in your survival. Don't be fooled by the intimidating nose - Igor and his assistants are eager to offer you services such as Persona fusion and resummoning. Mastering the services of the Velvet Room is a must. After preparing for a journey into the shadow world, you'll be able to try out your new Personas via the One More battle system.

megaten101_velvet_room

Persona uses its own battle system, known as One More. Similar to Press Turn, you'll want to exploit enemy shadows' weaknesses as soon as possible. However, instead of gaining additional turns, you'll knock the enemy shadows into a downed state. If you down all enemies, then your team will be able to utilize a technique known as the All-Out Attack: your whole team will jump in for an amazingly powerful AoE attack. Build a strong lineup and master One More to maneuver across the dungeon floors with ease.

megaten101_one_more

To recap, the "Persona" games see you living out a year as a high school student, interacting with others to create Social Links and summoning your Persona to traverse the shadow world after school. The fun is in trying new things, meeting fun characters, and managing your days while experiencing the story. This primer was purposefully light on context - Persona is best experienced for yourself! Speaking of which, let's move right along to recommendations: all this mainline and Persona stuff sounds great, but what do I play? And how can I play it? You can skip to Megaten 202: Which Persona Game Should I Play? for Persona recommendations, but otherwise, scroll down for some mainline recommendations!


Megaten 201: Which Mainline Game Should I Play?


You've read enough, you're onboard, and now you want to know what to play. Let's just jump right into it!


For mainline, you can't go wrong with any of the following options:


Shin Megami Tensei IV


One sentence hook: As a newly-annointed knight in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, your training in the nearby dungeon takes a turn for the worse when you stumble upon an ancient door, unopened for centuries...

You should play this if:

  • You want to get lost in a very engrossing atmosphere
  • Your RPGs need good music; this game's OST is top tier
  • You want a taste of Press Turn and the demon fusion gameplay loop
  • You enjoy portable gaming

Keep looking if:

  • Competently designed world maps and dungeons are a must
  • You enjoy RPGs for the engaging story and memorable characters
  • You feel demons should be more unique and not feel samey
megaten101_smt_iv

Playable on: Nintendo 3DS


Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey


One sentence hook: Commander Gore is debriefing his team of international super-soldiers, cobbled together as humanity's last ditch effort to enter and defuse the black hole threatening to swallow up the Earth, when the ship is suddenly swarmed by demons!

You should play this if:

  • You're down for a space soap opera
  • The sentence "everything going to shit and everyone loses their minds" is intriguing to you
  • You want meaty dungeons that will test your patience
  • You enjoy portable gaming

Keep looking if:

  • Obnoxious dungeons are a turnoff; Strange Journey gets downright nasty at times
  • You want a bit of variety in your soundtracks; this game is 100% orchestra
  • You really wanted to try out Press Turn - Strange Journey uses a unique "Demon Co-op" system instead
megaten101_strange_journey

Playable on: Nintendo DS

This game received a remake: "Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux", exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS. As it is a very contentious remake, here is our definitive suggestion:

Both are valid options. Don't get too hung up on this: just pick one up and play it!


Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne


One sentence hook: After a mysterious child drops a demonic bug in your eye, you wake up in a hospital with no clothes, super strength, and a mission to shape the formless new world as you see fit.

You should play this if:

  • You want to be challenged; Nocturne will beat you down until you git gud
  • Story and characters are "nice to haves" (you won't be getting much of either)
  • You just want to punch God in the face

Keep looking if:

  • You're looking for an epic plot and gripping characterization
  • You would prefer to be eased in with a gentler game - Nocturne is really hands-off
  • You can't stand tedium; this game will make you sit there and reroll for inherited skills (original version only)
megaten101_nocturne

Playable on: Playstation 2, Playstation 3 via the PS Store

This game received a remake: "Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster", for Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. It is generally agreed to be an upgrade, though a pricey one - play HD Remaster if you can but the Playstation 2 original will suffice.


Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor


One sentence hook: You're walking with your friends on the streets of Tokyo when you learn that the whole city has been quarantined due to a demon outbreak - peaceful days died, and you're left with no choice but to try and survive.

You should play this if:

  • You enjoy SRPGs like Fire Emblem, or feel like trying one out
  • The idea of shaping the story appeals to you - this game offers up to seven distinct endings
  • You want a game with bite that will challenge you until the very end

Keep looking if:

  • SRPGs are just not your thing
  • You like traversing the world - Devil Survivor is strictly battles and menus
  • Mild grinding is okay - it's recommended in the beginning and mandatory by the end
megaten101_devil_survivor

Playable on: Nintendo DS

This game received a remake: "Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked", exclusively for Nintendo 3DS. Overlocked is strictly better and easily gotten on the 3DS eShop, so make sure you pick it up at all costs. Also note that this game is assuredly NOT a mainline title, but it overlaps enough that it's worth a look if it seems appealing to you.


Hopefully one of these games caught your eye and you're enjoying your very first mainline game. But for the more discerning consumer, let's take a look at some recommendations from the Persona series of games.


Megaten 202: Which Persona Game Should I Play?


Unlike mainline, Persona is a much more structured series of games: every couple of years a core Persona game releases, establishing a new setting and cast for the spinoffs of that era to work with. Therefore, the latest three releases are all perfectly viable candidates to start with. We'll go through each game's updated rerelease in reverse chronological order, looking at some friendly faces, the thematic core, and the game's greatest strength - but you really can't go wrong with any of the following:


Persona 5 Royal


One-sentence hook: You play as the leader of the Phantom Thieves, a secret group of rebels who metaphorically "steal the hearts" of the unjust and corrupt while evading the law that seeks to subvert their moral quest.

megaten101_p5

Meet some of your classmates and fellow Phantom Thieves:


Ryuji is a hot-blooded "problem student", known for causing trouble in class. He's aggressive and straight to the point, but deep down, Ryuji just wants the best for his friends and to do the right thing. In the Metaverse, he's clobbering shadows left and right as the Phantom Thief "Skull", a position he enjoys much more then doing schoolwork. Ryuji represents the Chariot arcana - he's a guy who never stops charging forward, even when it wouldn't hurt for him to do so.

megaten101_ryuji

Ann is a kind and caring student, acting as the moral member of the Phantom Thieves. Although she struggles with feelings of isolation and being closed off, Ann does her best to connect with the group and keep spirits high. Once an innocent bystander, story events push Ann to become a woman of action. She is disgusted by those who abuse their power, causing her to don her whip as the Phantom Thief "Panther". Ann represents the Lovers arcana, befitting of the Phantom Thief with the biggest, most welcoming heart.

megaten101_ann

Thematic Core: Rebellion & Justice - when everyone is going left, let's go right!

Rebellion and the nature of justice are integral themes to Persona 5. Throughout the course of the game, the Phantom Thieves will be forced into difficult and potentially unpopular decisions as they crusade against corrupt officials and high-status individuals. The Thieves continously work towards the dismantling of unfair situations and rage against the oppressive forces keeping them down, no matter the situation. If they don't, then who will?

megaten101_rebellion

Greatest Strength: Sizzling, red-hot style!

Persona 5's greatest claim to fame is the style with which it presents itself. The game just oozes class, from the slick UI design and menus to the punchy one-button control scheme for battles. Every second of playing Persona 5 is a treat for the eyes, and certainly a reason to consider this as your first Persona game.

megaten101_p5ui

You can play Persona 5 Royal on Playstation 4. In a pinch, the original Persona 5 is on Playstation 3, but you're really going to want to play Royal for the added content and QoL features.


Persona 4 Golden


One-sentence hook: The sleepy town of Inaba is shocked awake by the murder of local TV announcer Mayumi Yamano - coincidentally, you and your friends decide to check out the fabled Midnight Channel after her passing...

megaten101_p4

Meet some of your classmates, with whom you form the Investigation Team:


Yosuke is a city slicker who moved to Inaba a couple of months before you did. He's a bit of a klutz and has a tendency to say things at the worst times, leading to many awkward moments. Despite this, Yosuke considers himself good with women as all characters of the Magician arcana do. He tries his hardest to woo the ladies with pitiful results. The most important lady of all is Saki Konishi: he's got a major crush, and he would literally kill to spend more time with her...

megaten101_yosuke

Chie has lived in Inaba all her life and gives you a warm welcome on your first day. She's energetic and loves kung fu, practicing her moves at every possible opportunity. Like all Chariot characters, she's always ready to go - on any given day, Chie is off in a field training to be strong and protect the weak. When she's not practicing her killer kicks, Chie can usually be found hanging out with her best friend Yukiko.

megaten101_chie

Yukiko is the introvert to balance out Chie's extroverted nature. Her family runs the historical Amagi Inn, which they have every intention of passing down to her. Her beauty, befitting of a High Priestess, cements Yukiko as the center of every student's eye. She spends her days hanging out with Chie and laughing at every corny joke. But don't you dare make Yukiko upset: if looks could kill, she would be a mass murderer.

megaten101_yukiko

Thematic Core: Truth & Deception - deep in the fog of deception, let's reach out to the truth!

The distortion of truth is an integral theme to Persona 4. As a murder mystery, the game primes the player to keep their eyes peeled for the truth. In a community so eager to be enveloped by the fog of lies, will you be able to tell fact form fiction? The Investigation Team makes it their mission to uncover the truths that Inaba itself seems to be hiding in a shroud of mystery...

megaten101_truth

Greatest Strength: Comfy hometown vibes, dreaming of Inaba...

For so many players over the years, Inaba feels like the sleepy countryside town you never knew you needed. Of the newer games, Persona 4 feels especially laid back and relaxed. You'll find yourself relaxing in the fields, fishing in the river, and planting vegetables with your family to pass the time. Life has never been so simple; it is this simplicity being challenged which helps motivate you to stop the killer and return peace of mind to Inaba.

megaten101_p4comfy

You can play Persona 4 Golden on Steam or Playstation Vita. There is an argument to be made for playing the original Persona 4 on Playstation 2 or Playstation 3 via the PS Store, so try it out if you want.


Persona 3 FES


One-sentence hook: By day, SEES is just another club at Gekkoukan High School - but by night, the Special Extracurricular Execution Squad climbs ever higher through Tartarus, the twisted tower that sprouts up from Gekkoukan during the darkest hour.

megaten101_p3

Meet some of your classmates, fellow members of SEES:


Representing the Lovers arcana, Yukari is your first dormmate and the one who helps you get accustomed to life at Gekkoukan. She can be a bit difficult at times, but ultimately Yukari means well and cares a lot for the people in her life. Events in her past have shaped who she is, and as you get to know her, you'll come to understand how hardship and tragedy have shaped her worldview.

megaten101_yukari

Representing the Magician arcana, Junpei immediately makes his presence known from your very first chat. When he isn't trying his luck with the ladies, Junpei is a dreamer: he's excited to join up with SEES and become a true hero by exploring Tartarus. Like Yukari, Junpei's past has factored into who he is today. He jumps headfirst towards the opportunity to be somebody for the first time in his life.

megaten101_junpei

Thematic Core: Life & Death - if the end is inevitable, then... can we really fight back?

Death and the celebration of life are integral themes to Persona 3. The spectre of death looms over the world of Tatsumi Port Island, and it seems everyone you meet has their own story about losing a loved one. Despite this, SEES can never lose hope - all focus lies on the mission to explore Tartarus and uncover its true nature. Persona 3 asks you to value the life you have while you still can: memento mori.

megaten101_death

Greatest Strength: Characters with a purpose.

Each member of the Special Extracurricular Execution Squad has their own life outside of the player. Squadmates frequently go off on their own adventures, missing Tartarus expeditions to study or fulfill personal obligations. Even during battle, Persona 3 has the guts to restrict control to your character only, all in service of a greater thematic truth. You can't control others: all you can do is put your faith in them and hope they come through. Though tricky to work around, this system does wonders towards making each member of SEES feel like a living, breathing human being.

megaten101_p3characters

Currently, you can only play Persona 3 FES on the Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 via the PS Store. The game does have a remake for the Playstation Portable, "Persona 3 Portable". Due to the removal of cutscenes and bonus content to fit the PSP UMD, it is highly recommended you skip over P3P, at least for your first playthrough. Checking it out for repeat playthroughs can work, but we cannot stress enough how much you will rob yourself of the full experience by selecting Persona 3 Portable for your first P3 playthrough.


Hopefully one of these games caught your eye and you're enjoying your very first Persona game. Again, you really can't go wrong - there are ardent supporters of each one of these titles. When you're done with the game, you can spend more time with the characters in that game's spinoffs! Speaking of which, did we mention there are many more branches of Megaten then just mainline and Persona?


Megaten 301: Feeling Out The Spinoffs


Welcome back! Whether you finished up a mainline game or two, beat your first Persona game, or just continued scrolling down, we've got a lot more to cover. Bust out the notebook, because we're going to rapid fire through some of the other subseries within Megami Tensei. Ready? Let's go!


Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon


Represented subseries: "Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha"

Quick comparison: It's like mainline, but an ARPG instead of a JRPG set in 1920's Japan

One sentence hook: You play as Raidou Kuzunoha, a member of the fabled Kuzunoha clan which exists to keep the peace in The Capital of Japan, when a mysterious woman shows up at the detective agency with a strange request...

You should play this if:

  • You enjoy ARPGs or feel like trying one out
  • You're interested in the setting of historical Japan
  • You want a game that puts heavy emphasis on your demons' abilities

Keep looking if:

  • ARPGs are just not your thing
  • The setting is unappealing
  • You aren't interested in sleuthing puzzles - Raidou is a detective, after all
megaten101_raidou

Playable on: Playstation 2, Playstation 3 via the PS Store


Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers


Represented subseries: "Devil Summoner" (the same series as the above game, but they're different enough that you should check both out)

Quick comparison: It's like mainline, but demons have a Loyalty meter you need to keep an eye on

One sentence hook: As a member of the hacker group "Spookies", you crack your way into the exclusive cybercity Paradigm X to investigate the mysterious Phantom Society...

You should play this if:

  • You're ready to experience pure, undiluted 90's cyberpunk soul - it's in the title, after all
  • You want a more gentle dungeoneering experience
  • You want a game with fun post-game bonuses to keep you around

Keep looking if:

  • The idea of slogging through a clunky 90's game is a drawback and not the appeal
  • You want a modernized battle system - there is no Press Turn to be found here
megaten101_soul_hackers

Playable on: Nintendo 3DS


Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker


Represented subseries: "Devil Survivor" (for more info on the first game, check out Megaten 201)

Quick comparison: It's like mainline, but an SRPG instead of a JRPG

One sentence hook: You've had the strangest day: first a program that shows you how you'll die, then a demon saves you from getting hit by a train, and you're sure the day can't get any stranger - until the aliens arive, that is.

You should play this if:

  • You enjoy SRPGs like Fire Emblem, or feel like trying one out
  • The idea of shaping the story appeals to you - this game offers up to seven distinct endings
  • You want a game that iterates on Devil Survivor's gameplay with nice QoL changes

Keep looking if:

  • You want a story as grounded and tense as Devil Survivor's story
  • You just don't like SRPGs!
megaten101_devil_survivor_2

Playable on: Nintendo 3DS, like Devil Survivor 1, via the completely superior rerelease "Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker"


Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner


Represented subseries: "Digital Devil Saga"

Quick comparison: It's like mainline, but you fight alongside controllable party members instead of demons ala Persona

One sentence hook: In the Junkyard, violence solves all problems - and your ability to transform into a demon just made things a whole lot more violent!

You should play this if:

  • The idea of turning into a hulking demon and consuming your foes is appealing
  • You want an interesting story
  • You want to try out a modified variant of Press Turn

Keep looking if:

  • You can't stand unreasonably high amounts of random encounters
  • The story doesn't seem to appeal to you
megaten101_dds

Playable on: Playstation 2, Playstation 3 via the PS Store



Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue


Represented subseries: Standalone game

Quick comparison: It's like mainline, but you play as demons in a metroidvania adventure

One sentence hook: Play as both Jack Frost and Pyro Jack traversing the Antarctic wastes in a short adventure, hee ho!

Note: Synchronicity Prologue isn't even a full game - rather, it is a short little metroidvania made to promote the release of Strange Journey Redux. Still though, it's fun and free, so there's no reason not to go on a Jackventure!

You should play this if:

  • "SMT Metroidvania" piques your interest
  • You have a free afternoon
  • You love Jack Frost and Pyro Jack!
megaten101_prologue

Playable on: PC for free!


At this point, we want to give a friendly reminder that you can deviate from the suggestions in this guide. Hopefully by now you've found something you want to play, but you can always go to the Game Data page and pick up anything that tickles your fancy. If you're still with us on the journey, then let's take a look at some deep cuts meant for only the most Elite Gamers.


Megaten 401: Classic Megaten Gaming


In this section, we'll highlight some classic games in the Megaten catalogue that you may want to check out with a bit of context. Come into these games with an open mind and you may find a new favorite!


Shin Megami Tensei


One sentence hook: For you, it's just another day in the life - until you get thrown into prison for a murder you didn't commit, unraveling a deeper tale about angels, demons, and the future of Japan.

Why this game is in the Megaten 401 curriculum: Shin Megami Tensei is the first mainline game (it's actually a spinoff from the older "DDS: Megami Tensei" series - it's spinoffs all the way down) and brings with it all the trappings of a game from 1992: clunky movement, sparse presentation, and an absolute assload of random encounters. But if you can push through the jank, you'll find that the first game in the series has a charm and atmosphere all its own.

You should play this if:

  • You want to be immersed in a surprisingly atmospheric dungeon crawler
  • You want to see where Shin Megami Tensei started
  • You're okay with using a walkthrough when necessary
megaten101_smt1

Playable on: SNES via a fan translation, GBA via a fan translation - both are totally playable, though SNES has the edge in music and GBA has the edge in QoL changes


Revelations: Persona


One sentence hook: All those rumors about the "Persona Game" were true: when you play it, you and your friends are gifted with the magical powers of Persona - just in time to defend your hometown from an unseen darkness...

Why this game is in the Megaten 401 curriculum: Between the infamously botched localization and the clunky menus, the first game in the Persona series challenges you from the get go. But if you can find a stepping stone into the dreamlike world of Mikage-cho, you'll be rewarded with one of the most experimental and atmospheric experiences in the series.

You should play this if:

  • You're looking for an entrancing world to get lost in
  • The phrase "contender for best OST in all of Megaten" floats your boat
  • You're ready to commit time to grapple with the game's many gameplay idiosyncrasies
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Kyuyaku Megami Tensei


One sentence hook: Nakajima and Yumiko, two students armed with the Demon Summoning Program, bring the fight to the demon king Lucifer before he can conquer the human world.

Why this game is in the Megaten 401 curriculum: This game is a remake of Digital Devil Saga: Megami Tensei 1 and 2, the very first games in the series. If you consider yourself a historian or just want to see where it all began, this is the place to start. But make no mistake, this game is from a different era - Lucifer and his minions won't make it easy for you!

You should play this if:

  • You want to experience the beginning of Megami Tensei as a whole
  • The phrase "epic dungeon crawling adventure" appeals to you
  • You love grinding, grinding, and grinding some more
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Playable on: SNES via a fan translation


Extra Credit: Megaten-adjacent Media


Finally, we'll highlight a few games that don't quite fall under the Megaten banner, but should definitely be on your radar if you've enjoyed what you've seen of the series thus far:


Catherine


One sentence hook: Every day with your girlfriend Katherine is an absolute nightmare, but Catherine is the girl of your dreams... and you woke up in bed together!?

Catherine has a very different tone to the Megaten series, ironically reaching some of the highest levels of tension and horror in comparison. Billed as a "romantic horror", it's also an intense puzzle game - no wastelands or demon fusion here. In any event: Catherine is not something to be described, but instead something to be experienced.

You should play this if:

  • The idea of a "romantic horror" is appealing
  • You're into puzzle games
  • You want to try something totally "out there"
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Catherine received an updated rerelease, "Catherine: Full Body". Opinions lean either way, but you can't go wrong with either version:


Maken X/Maken Shao


One sentence hook: You are a sword with the ability to brainjack people - time to journey across the globe and destablize world governments!

This action game is Megaten-adjacent at best, but Maken X carries so much of the Megami Tensei style and theming that it's worth a look if you enjoy the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 eras of SMT art.

You should play this if:

  • You're curious and want more of the Nocturne-era aesthetic
  • First-person action gameplay set to a banger OST works for you
  • You're interested in a globetrotting story with multiple endings
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Maken X received an updated rerelease, "Maken Shao: Demon Sword". Both should be fine, but they are different in one key way:


Graduation: Knowledge Is Power


That concludes the /smtg/ Starter Guide! We hope you got to understand a bit more about Megaten, Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, and some of the spinoffs in our great big series. The lore, art, and style of Megami Tensei is consistently in a league of its own, leading us to go crazy with information and fanart. So explore the rest of this site, check out the sister booru, and take it all in. While you're at it, why not tell us about your first experience over on /smtg/? We don't bite... well, unless you watched a game on Youtube instead of playing it. Until next time!




nakajimaPortrait

Nakajima says:

Contact the webmaster at smtgen@protonmail.com!
Last updated 5.17.22!

yumikoPortrait

Yumiko says:

Have fun!