The Persona franchise is a game series focused on youthful intrigue and communication. Split between two realms, the protagonists of these games must navigate real life as well as a fantastical RPG world. Despite these cornerstones of the series, no two Persona games are quite alike. Most releases have different stories, different power, and many new characters. Keeping them all sorted is difficult, to say nothing of figuring out which games are even in the official franchise timeline. So, whether you’re brand new to the series or just wanting a refresher, we have you covered. Let’s look at the history of the Persona franchise.
How many Persona games are there total?
There are 21 games in the Persona series total. Six of them are considered the core Persona games, while the remaining games are either remakes, spinoffs, or modernized updates.
Specifically, six Persona games are generally considered to be part of the actual series. The “core” Persona genre is a turn-based JRPG with explorative elements, to put things immensely simply. These include the numbered five Persona games. However, Persona 2 is split into two different versions: Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment. These two Persona games are designed to be played one after the other, and are a direct continuation of the storyline of P2.
Then there are four remakes of Persona games. These are mostly to bring the older games, such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and P2 to more modern consoles. We are counting P3 Portable on this list, since it came out three years after the original version. However, this could easily be considered an update to the original P3.
There are three game updates to various games also on the market. These include Persona 3 FES, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal. These games add additional content to the original games while bringing them to a modern console generation.
Finally, there are eight total spinoff Persona titles. These include the popular P4 Arena, the fantastic Dancing series, and Persona Q. Persona 5 Strikers, the most recent release for the Persona series as of the writing of this article, is a spinoff game.
Which Persona game should I play first?
Considering the franchise’s mainline series, any Persona game is a good choice to play first, and all for different reasons.
Persona 5 is the most recent addition to the core franchise, and it has gotten a brand new update with P5: Royal. That makes it the most accessible on modern consoles and arguably the best looking.
Revelations: Persona is available on the original PlayStation, with the remake available on the PSP and PC. This is where the series started, and you can see a ton of the ideas that stayed around for the rest of the franchise. However, there are also quite a few elements that were removed, and the game can be frustrating for new players.
P2 has a long story that was split into two games, which can be nice. While the games are as long as P3, P4, and P5 when added together, they are much shorter when separate. It’s a good game to consider if you’re wanting a slightly shorter RPG experience with the chance to have a break in between.
P3 and P4 are both stellar, with inventive storylines and more JRPG combat. They are the ones to play after playing P5 or the original Persona, however; just to get a feel for the series before diving into the more strange and older games.
Spinoff Game Starters
While the spinoff games of the Persona series are fantastic, they aren’t considered the core of the franchise. If you want to start with a specific spinoff, you can choose any of them!
We would suggest playing games like Persona 4 Arena or Persona 5 Strikers after playing their original game. It can be hard to enjoy P5 Strikers without knowing more about Joker and the Phantom Thieves, after all.
However, if you want to play the Dancing series of games, please go right ahead! The music of Persona is legendary for a reason!
Is there a correct order to play Persona games?
There is no correct order to play the core Persona games. Each of the mainline entries take place in different areas with an entirely separate story.
However, if you’d like a recommended order to play the games, we suggest going in reverse order of release:
- Persona 5 (Royal) (PS3, PS4)
- Persona 4 (Golden) (PS2, PSV, PC)
- Persona 3 (PS2, PSP)
- Persona 2: Innocent Sin (PlayStation, PSP)
- Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PlayStation, PSP)
- Revelations: Persona (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona) (PlayStation, PC, PSP)
The only reason we recommend reverse order is because of how the games have aged. Not only are the older games harder to find, but they can be tricky to play through. Persona is an old franchise, after all!
Which Persona game is considered the best?
// reverse? >> segue into “luckily we can use metrics”
It is difficult to pin down exactly which Persona game is considered the best. Many of them resonate with people very differently, resulting in varied experiences or expectations. After all, everybody is going to come to the Persona series with different baggage. The games themselves deal with mental trauma, inner demons, and complex relationships between characters.
That being said, we can use Metacritic for points of comparison, as it has a huge number of reviews for a most modern Persona games. Going by Metacritic, and by a decent margin, the best main-series Persona game is Persona 5. P5 Royal is close with a score of 95 from critics and a still impressive 8.4 from audiences. That is not an easy feat, especially for a somewhat traditional JRPG.
Persona 4 also received remarkable praise: Golden has only a slightly smaller user review score and a 93 from critics! The game’s story is also significantly different from P5, so you may find you like the slightly darker tone a little bit better if you didn’t like P5. P4 is also available on PC, though the port is undeniably worse on there than on the Vita.
The other members of the mainline franchise also did acceptably, but the score do go down as the games get older and older. This is not to say that Revelations: Persona or P2 are bad games… But they definitely lack the visual style that makes P3, P4, and P5 the insane powerhouses that they are today.
Love the Persona series? Check out some of our other guides on it!
- How Long is Persona 5 Strikers?
- Persona 4 Golden | Best Party Members
- How to Get Bonus XP in Persona 5 Royal
Jason Toro-McCue has committed his schooling to the study of the connection between game design and narrative. When he's not working on this bond through writing articles or guides, he's playing Dungeons & Dragons, or just playing games themselves and looking at the story there.