As Tokyo Game Show opens its doors, we feel inspired to look at 26 game-related things that come from Japan or are at least associated with Japan in some way. The reason there are specifically 26 game-related things in this list is because weve done it as an A to Z.
Let us begin...
A is for... A-button
The A-button was invented in Japan by Nintendo. And through the years weve done some pretty great things by applying downward thumb pressure to the button identified by the letter A. Things like jumping off Yoshis back in Super Mario World, shaking trees in Animal Crossing, laying bombs in Super Bomberman, changing weapons in Golden Eye 007, performing various context-sensitive actions in Ocarina of Time The list of great things weve done by pressing the A-button goes on. But well save that list for another list.
B is for... Barrel roll
As in do one. A barrel roll. Do a barrel roll. As every gamer knows these are the immortal words uttered by accomplished space pilot and talking rabbit Peppy Hare in N64 animal classic, Star Fox 64. The phrase became popular on the internet and is still in use today. While researching this feature we found a video of a dog jumping from a moving vehicle and doing several rolls as it impacts with the ground. Someone had edited Peppy Hare saying Do a barrel roll! on to the footage.
Were glad Japan made Star Fox 64 otherwise we wouldnt have anything funny to say when something rolls over.
C is for... Chicken cruelty
There is a long, well-documented culture of violence towards chickens in video games. This cruel and unsavoury practice was popularised in Japan. Chun-Lis stage in Street Fighter II features a man in the background who can clearly be seen throttling poultry in broad daylight. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past introduced the cucco - basically a chicken - which was treated inhumanely as a rudimentary means of temporary flight.
Since then chickens have featured heavily in games, normally serving no purpose other than the purpose of being shot or degraded.
D is for... Demons
Thanks to Japanese developers, these supernatural beings are among the most popular--and prevalent--types of video game enemy in existence today. Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, Final Fantasy, Onimusha, Demons Souls, and Okami are just some games from Japan that feature demon enemies. Common features of demon enemies are horns, red eyes, wings, and goat legs. However, because demons are just made up and not real there arent any hard and fast rules about what a demon should look like.
Terrorist and Nazi are also popular varieties of enemies but arent particularly associated with games made in Japan.
E is for... Effeminate heroes
If youre playing a game with a hero who is groomed of hair, exposed of chest, moisturized of face, and gentle of emotion, you are very probably playing a game made in Japan.
F is for... Fruit
A good source of fibre and vitamins, fruit is best known for being a popular food in real-life. Fruit also features heavily in Japanese gaming. The virtual on-screen version may lack any nutritional value or the ability to contribute towards healthy bowel movements owing to the fact its not real, but it does provide benefits in-game.
Pac-Man munches his way through a veritable fruit basket of high-scoring fruit in order to get a higher score. Mario steed Yoshi gobbles a selection of made-up fruit to be magically endowed with new powers. Super Monkey Balls primates collect bananas in return for extra lives. Theres also fruit to destroy, like melons in Time Crisis and Metal Gear Solid.
Thankfully, the future of fruit in Japanese games looks healthier than ever, with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance featuring advanced melon-slicing technology.
Fruit made headlines recently when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata held some bananas.
G is for... Gaia
As anyone who has studied God of War will tell you, the origins of Gaia lie in Greek mythology. But Gaia in games is all Japan. Its been a fictional world in the Final Fantasy series and a sort of magic type stuff in the Final Fantasy movie. It's also shared its name with a multitude of gaming characters, such as Gaia in Grandia, Gaia in Battle Arena Toshinden, Dark and Light Gaia in Sonic Unleashed, and Gaia in Illusion of Gaia. The Illusion of Gaia game name also contains the word Gaia.
H is for... Hair graphics
While Western developers generally prefer to give characters space helmets or bandanas or other types of head covering in order to save valuable development resource by not doing hair, Japanese developers have always loved doing hair graphics in a big way.
Marios iconic furry lip. Phoenix Wrights spiky wind-tunnel. Ganondorfs ginger helmet strap. Dantes mop fringe. Cloud Strifes David Bowie. Jinpachi Mishimas health and safety contravening configuration. Paul Phoenixs vertiginous flat top. Japanese game developers have been responsible for a lot of hair graphics.
However, the most hair graphics can be found in Bayonetta, in which the eponymous heroine is made almost entirely of hair.
I is for... Incredibly large swords
While games developed in the West have long favoured big effin guns, Japan is the home of big effin swords. Cloud Strifes enormous Buster Sword is so large and memorable it has appeared on many internet lists about video game weapons. Like these lists: Best video game weapons. Best fantasy swords. Most badass weapons in gaming history. Nine ridiculously oversized video game weapons.
Soul Caliburs troublesome Soul Edge sword is also incredibly large.
Mega Man 8 boss Sword Man has an arm that is a sword. Its such an incredibly large sword/arm that the upper part of Sword Mans body is fitted with an anti-gravitational device to assist balance. Mega Man antagonist Dr Wily doesnt have a sword. Although he is often seen with a screwdriver, which can look a bit like a small sword.
J is for... Japan
Many video games are made in Japan. There are also a lot of games either completely or partially set in Japan. However, not all games set in Japan are made in Japan. For example, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 features a Tokyo stage, but the game was actually developed in California, which is in America.
K is for... Kids at school
With the exception of Rockstars school-based adventure Bully, games not from Japan rarely feature kids at school. But games from Japan often do. Recent examples of this include Inazuma Eleven (an RPG football game set in a school), Lollipop Chainsaw (a zombie slasher set in and around the grounds of a school), Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (which has a Sakura Schoolyard stage) and Gal*Gun (in which a boy wanders through a school shooting adoring girls with his pheromones).
There are other Japanese games specifically focused around schoolgirls, although its unlikely any of them will be localized for a Western release.
L is for... Lots of bullets
Those really difficult games with all the bullets--they come from Japan.
M is for... Mario
Not only the most famous game character from Japan whose name begins with the letter M, but the most famous game character from Japan PERIOD. And probably the world. Other game characters from Japan whose names start with the letter M include Mega Man, Mai Shiranui, M.Bison, Mr. Game & Watch, Metapod, Meta Knight, Marshall Law, and Mei Ling.
Interestingly, the person who created Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, has a surname that begins with the letter M. And he comes from Japan. However, unlike Mario, Mr Miyamoto doesnt have a moustache. The word moustache also starts with the letter M.
N is for... Nightmares
No one more consistently makes horror games quite so disturbing, tense and flat-out weird as Japan. Like that bit in Silent Hill 2 when we catch a glimpse in the dirty gloom of Triangle Face violently thrusting away at some mannequins that have been put together all wrong.
Or that bit in Clock Tower 3 when were a schoolgirl being relentlessly pursued by a cackling madman in a gas mask who wants to give us a special wash in his acid bath.
Or that bit in Project Zero when were a schoolgirl and we witness a bunch of ghosts performing a blinding ritual which basically involves stabbing someones eyes out with big spikes.
Or that bit in Deadly Premonition when everyones talking about sandwich fillings.
O is for... Outfits
Costumes would probably be a more accurate description but weve already got Chicken cruelty for C. Never mind. What were talking about here is the Japanese affection for giving characters alternate--and usually unlockable--costumes. By which we mean outfits.
When Metroids normally power-suited Samus Aran changed into a pixellated space-leotard back in 1986, it gave gamers an appetite for seeing characters wearing different outfits. And Japanese developers saw the appetite and proceeded to feed the appetite. Not with food (thats an F, weve already done it), but with outfits.
Dead Rising is a good example of a game with many outfits.
P is for... Pantomime villains
Boooooo! And hisssssssssss! Etc.
Q is for... Quite a lot of important trees
Real trees are good because they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen. Human beings need oxygen to breathe so its one of the most important elements in the periodic table. While video game trees are not as fundamental to the survival of mankind as real trees, they also serve an important role in their own worlds for various reasons. Important trees are most commonly seen in games made in Japan.
The wise Deku Tree from the Legend of Zelda protects forest spirits, is a bit of a dungeon, and can talk. Secret of Manas important Tree of Mana and the World Trees from the Tales series all produce mana. Mana is like a type of magic oxygen. The tree at the end of Shenmue II is important because it reminds us there has never been a Shenmue III and so we cant fully understand the significance of the Shenmue tree.
R is for... Really long game names (and exclamation marks!)
Japanese games often have really long names, which we find amusing because were used to much shorter game names. Like Halo and FIFA and Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Three. Actually maybe not that last one so much.
However, Japanese game names definitely feature more exclamation marks. Here are just three examples of Japanese game names that are really long and also have more than one exclamation mark:
Doki! Doki! Yenchi: Crazy Land Daisakusen
Gekisou Sentai Carranger: Zenkai! Racer Senshi
Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2
You like really long game names? We have an article for that.
S is for... S-Rank
Rather than just making it harder to achieve an A-Rank, Japanese developers introduced the S-Rank to give gamers an even greater challenge. But even that hasnt always been enough. Crazy Taxi, for example, has two ranks higher than S-Rank. Which really is crazy. Despite the supposed difficulty attached to attaining an S-Rank, GamesRadar staff regularly achieve S-Rank grades.
Its not known what the S in S-Rank actually stands for. General consensus is the S stands for Special or Super. But it could also be Silly or Snowball or Sandwich because those words also begin with S.
T is for... Transforming
The ability to change from one thing to another is very popular in Japanese games. Our previously mentioned friend Mario is a great example of this. Not only can he go big and small, but he can also change from a plumber into a doctor, a golfer, a tennis pro, an Olympian and many more besides.
Interestingly, famous transforming robots the Transformers originated in Japan. There have been several Transformers video games, some of which were developed in Japan. In Transformer fiction, the Transformers dont come from Japan, but from a made-up planet called Cybertron.
U is for... Undressed lady-fighters
You might have noticed them. They are the ones with the breasts and an inappropriate absence of clothing.
V is for... Very few first-person shooters
So you know all those brilliant first-person shooters from Japan? No. Neither do we.
W is for... What the!?
Probably one of the best things to love about Japan is the weird games they make. We are shielded from much of the madness, although we are grateful whenever a Catherine (remember our Catherine FAP? It was a good one) or Killer 7 slips through the net.
The real weird stuff rarely makes it out of Japan, but we love reading about them on the internet. If youre looking for a game that involves wearing underpants on your head, looking up womens skirts, and becoming a pro baseball player, Japan has probably made it already. Actually, we know Japan has made it already which is why we said all that in the first place.
We could continue presenting unlikely gaming scenarios along with evidence of each unlikely games existence, but lets just agree that Japan has all the weird games covered and move on.
X is for... Xploding Towns
As with any A-Z list, coming up with a good X was pretty tough. Usual options X-ray and xylophone were out because they didnt really fit with the whole Japan thing. Or the gaming thing. Xbox was considered, but as the only current console not made in Japan we couldnt really justify its inclusion. Mr. X was a strong contender, seeing as though its been used as a name in many Japanese video games, like Elite Beat Agents, Mega Man 6, Streets of Rage, Kung-Fu Master and Metal Gear Solid 2.
But in the end we cheated and dropped the E so we could have Xploding Towns, mostly because it would give us an excuse to point you in the direction of our excellent Top 7 RPG towns that explode feature.
Y is for... Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is only present in males. And most famous Japanese game developers are male. Thats the link. Theres Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Shinji Mikami, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Goichi Suda, Hideki Kamiya, Fumito Ueda, Keiji Inafune, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Tomonobu Itagaki its a long list of Japanese men and they all make video games.
In summary: The overwhelming majority of famous Japanese game developers have the Y chromosome in their bodies.
Z is for... Zero
There are at least six video games made in Japan that contain the word zero. Some of them are a bit obscure but theres a high probability youve heard of at least three of them. They are: F-Zero, Resident Evil Zero and Mega Man Zero. Appropriately, zero is also the number that traditionally comes at the end of a countdown.
Are you a gamer? If so, what game-related things from Japan do you love or hate or are generally indifferent about? Please tell us in the comments. But dont try and phone us or anything.
If all this talk of Japan has got you hungry for more Japan, please allow us to steer you in the direction of the following GamesRadar articles: