Before I get started, this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but I have to warn you of two things. One, I am NOT the most widely versed individual in SMT. I’m a huge fan and have been for over a decade, but that’s not saying much considering how long the series has been running. And two, while I will be providing as much information as possible, it’s possible I may miss a few titles here and there or otherwise get stuff wrong as I’m mostly going to be referencing Wikipedia.
That said, again, I am a huge fan of SMT, MegaTen, Persona, and whatever. SMT is ever-changing, but one concept that usually remains the same is that of the occult. In many games you may communicate with demons, form demon contracts, recruit demons, fuse demons together, and all kinds of crazy stuff. At times it feels like Pokemon, but with demons, and other times it can operate more like Eye of the Beholder, but with demons.
Naturally, the key word is demons, but sometimes they’re referred to as persona, shadows, monsters, and whatever else, sometimes to get around the censors and other times because they’re not really demons within the SMT universe. Again, this will ATTEMPT to be a giant, canonical listing of all SMT titles, but it’s possible I may skip a few, so I implore you to investigate on your own time as well.
Before we get started, I will try to be as chronologically correct as possible. However, I will also try to present the original North American release date when possible as well. This may get confusing as games like Innocent Sin, originally released in 1999 on the PS1, but never released until the remake on the PSP far later in North America are always a possibility.
According to Wikipedia, the MegaTen series is the third most popular RPG series in Japan, just barely being inched out by Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Read on to find out why.
1987, NES – Digital Devil Monogatari – Megami Tensei
For most of these, I’m only going to be able to give a generalized description, especially when they’re Japanese only like this title. Sure, I’ve played a few of the Japanese only titles thanks to romhacked English translations, but keep in mind that is literally the only way to play a lot of these titles. That said, this is effectively a dungeon crawler like Arcana, Eye of the Beholder, or whatever, but with demons.
Based on the original horror novel by Aya Nishitani, there are both demon catching and fusing elements in this one, a staple of the series as a whole. The story is very basic. Essentially the main character is some kinda computer prodigy that wants revenge on a student he got in a fight with, so he enters the demon world for some reason. Again, translation’s a bit rough, but there you go.
1990, NES – Digital Devil Monogatari – Megami Tensei 2
For the most part it’s more of the same, but you can tell the visuals and sounds have been WAY improved. Further, there’s less emphasis on FPS dungeon crawling, allowing the ability to have a top down view for most of the game. This, in my opinion, makes it far more accessible. The plot is also a bit better. Apparently a major war forced most of the world’s population into fallout shelters.
A number of years later, a dimensional rift forces a bridge between the human and demon worlds. After playing a videogame for a bit, you’re approached by a demon that says you’re a savior. And that’s all I got. Again, very strange, but stick around…this isn’t as strange as it gets with the MegaTen games, trust me.
1992, SNES – Shin Megami Tensei
So yet again we go back to the old FPS dungeon style gameplay. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, what with the fact that the mapping system is very good, but it makes the game a touch more difficult and less accessible as a result. Yet again there’s another bridge to the demon world, but this time it gets a little more on the subject of war for a more interesting plot overall.
1993, Game Boy – Megami Tensei Gaiden – Last Bible 2
Now, you might be wondering what happened to the original Last Bible. Well, it was remade in 1997 for the GBC in North America, thus I shifted it ahead of the line for accuracy, especially since that means, oh hey, we actually got another MegaTen game in America! Seriously, far too many of these never made it and have never been localized to this day for an American audience, which would’ve made sense back then, but today…not so much.
The plot is kinda basic. Effectively the birth of a child brings about a sign of some sort of dark prophecy. 15 years later, that child goes off to fight an ancient evil. Yeah, that’s about it. I’m sure there’s more to it, but Wiki is very lacking, so I apologize.
1994, SNES – Shin Megami Tensei 2
Alright, now I’ve played this one for a bit and it goes in a direction you don’t expect fairly quickly. You’re a gladiator and upon winning a tournament, you’re promoted to a higher class citizen that will eventually bring about some sort of paradise to the world…through demons…I guess. Very odd stuff, but hey, that’s MegaTen for you.
1994, SNES – Shin Megami Tensei – if…
This is more or less a side story of the final events of the 1992 Shin Megami Tensei. Basically the Karukozaka High School gets sucked into the demon world that is apparently based on the seven deadly sins. And apparently the alleged main villain is a high schooler that wanted revenge. Fun stuff.
1994, SNES – Majin Tensei
So again, this one goes in another odd direction by making itself the first turn-based strategy game within the MegaTen universe. And that’s it. No really, neither Wiki or GameFAQs really have much on this game. It looks interesting enough…kinda has a setup similar to that of Fire Emblem…but I don’t think this even has a translation patch, so…yeah.
1995, Game Boy – Another Bible
So basically in this one humans and demons have co-existed in peace for a number of years until a demon cult arose and now they don’t wanna. Yeah, you can recruit demons and sadly, that’s all I’ve got.
1995, Game Gear – Last Bible Special
The only game gear MegaTen anything. It’s an FPS dungeon crawler. That’s all.
1995, Virtual Boy – Jack Bros.
What’s really sad is this is the first official, though not so much game featuring any character from the MegaTen series here in America. And good lord is it generic. It has absolutely nothing to do with the MegaTen series at all. There were a number of games that had the Jack Bros within them, especially Atlus titles, but this is nothing more than an action/puzzler. Meh. Still, you find one of these copies cheap, you better pick it up because it’s worth a SHITLOAD of cash due to rarity.
1995, SNES – Last Bible 3
So in this one you’re about to die in a frozen wasteland, but you’re saved at the last minute by a demon. And that’s about it. Honestly, I’m really going to have to try this one because it looks kinda badass from everything I’ve seen of it so far. Not so sure about the story, but I don’t care.
1995, SNES – Majin Tensei 2 – Spiral Nemesis
Yup, another turn-based strategy. This time it’s in 3/4 isometric view. Oh, and you’re defending Tokyo. That’s about it.
1995, Saturn – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Summoner
This is the only thing I could find for this game. Every time I try to find information for this title, I keep finding info for Soul Hackers. I guess ultimately I’m going to have to track down the game myself for a better synopsis, which will be tricky because it’s Japan only. Basically, you’re a highschooler that’s attacked by demons and saved at the last minute by a demon hunter.
Then the demon hunter dies and later you do, too. But you get better! And you eventually go on a quest of demon hunting under the guidance of the disembodied voice of the previous demon hunter. Good times.
1997, Saturn – Devil Summoner – Soul Hackers
So basically this is a computer controlled city that somehow becomes infested by demons and only you and your hacker buddies are able to stop them. Pretty basic, but it has great production values all around and hopefully will be translated shortly by online translation groups.
1997, Saturn – Ronde
Another turn-based strategy game with no real plot info or anything. Again, though, if it’s MegaTen, it’s probably worth checking out.
1997, PS1 – Revelations – Persona
So the first Persona in America is…a little rough. Yeah, rough both in terms of difficulty and presentation. Even still, as the first Persona game in America, it’s not that bad. Honestly though, I’d play the remake for the PSP if I was going to play it at all. Oh, you want to know the plot? Highschoolers, persona, demons. There. That’s a running theme for the Persona games, to be honest.
1999, GBC – Revelations – The Demon Slayer
So this follows a similar idea to that of most MegaTen games in that you must vanquish evil by communicating with demons, fighting demons, etc. It’s actually a fairly generic game, sadly, but that could be because they had to cut out a bunch of shit from the original version. Yes, this is the original Last Bible. I’d recommend finding a translated version of the original rather than playing the American version, just in case.
2000, GBC – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Children Black Book/Red Book/White Book
So it’s Shin Megami Tensei. For children. Children that wield guns, I guess.
2000, PS1 – Persona 2 – Eternal Punishment
Now this is some good shit. Granted, it’s not as stylish as the new Persona games, but you can tell what they’re shooting for all the same. There are combination techniques between different persona held by your characters, lots of negotiation stuffs you can do with persona, all kinds of fun stuff you can do in the velvet room, and rumors control the world.
Yes, that’s right…you have the ability to use rumors to shape the world around you. Granted, it’s not as expansive as it sounds, but there is quite a bit they allow that’s really fun. This would go on to be a cult classic of sorts until the new Persona games came out…and oddly, it would be 7 more years until we receive another true Persona game.
2002, Xbox – Shin Megami Tensei – NINE
There is absolutely no information for this game other than it was intended to be online and flopped miserably. Honestly, it looks pretty great to me, but it is what it is I suppose.
2003, GBA – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Children Book of Fire/Book of Ice
Yup, more children fighting demons with demons a la Pokemon, but with demons.
2003, GBA – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Children Puzzle de Call!
Another childrens’ game for the MegaTen universe…and this time it’s a puzzle game. I see what they’re trying to do, but honestly, it’s like trying to redesign a horror movie with an NC-17 rating to be more child friendly. I just don’t get it.
2003, GBA – DemiKids
So this is the first Devil Children game to officially hit American shores and the only one that’s listed. It’s not a terrible game, but it’s not as interesting as the main series and overall, again, I’m not 100% certain why you would gear a series like this toward children in the first place.
2004, GBA – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Children Messiah Riser
More Devil Children stuff, this time involving messiahs, time travel, and all kinds of wacky plot devices that are unnecessary in the MegaTen universe. I’m sorry if I seem so hard on this particular gaiden within the MegaTen universe, but seriously, it’s just so unnecessary.
2004, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei 3 – Nocturne
Ah ha ha…the first true Shin Megami Tensei game to hit American shores. Oh sure, we had the Persona games previously and they contain similar elements, but Atlus was able to go all out and pull no punches with this one. The world turns inside out and amidst the devastation and destruction you are turned into a demi-human in order to survive and recruit other demons so you can look for your human friends…assuming they’re still alive.
Overall a very dark and interesting entry in the MegaTen games.
2005, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Digital Devil Saga
Teams of humans have come to a stalemate in a struggle for dominance over a ruined world. A young female outsider is thrust upon them and shortly upon her arrival, everyone experiences an odd transformation that allows them to turn into cannibalistic demons who must eat or be eaten. Again, dark stuff rife with all kinds of symbolism and deliberately set up to be a two part series.
2005, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Digital Devil Saga 2
And I’ve not played this one. Oh, I popped it in my PS2 to ensure it worked, but beyond that, I chose not to spoil anything for myself and immediately ejected it. I’ll give you the basic run down from Wiki…okay, maybe I won’t. I don’t quite understand Wiki’s description, but I will say this: if it’s anything like the first one, it’s worth looking into and that sort of thing is exactly what drives me to beat the original.
2006, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army
Generic. I’m sorry. The intro is awesome. I mean, it really, REALLY is…but when you start playing the game and you see how…ehhh…it can be…it takes everything you have to play it. It doesn’t help that a lot of the game is spent figuring out which persona work best to investigate different things. It really is all over the place and just comes off as generic.
2007, Mobile Phone – Majin Tensei Blind Thinker
Again, sadly this is all I could find. Wiki’s not very forthcoming with info, either.
2007, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 3
Now, I think I’ve said all I can really say when it comes to Persona 3, so you may be wondering why I decided to throw in all three iterations of it. Well, here’s the thing. The original Persona 3 was great and honestly didn’t need any bonus material, but said bonus material affects how the game is played, allows for import data, and even adds enough new stuff that it really is worth picking up.
That said, for those that haven’t been paying attention, Persona 3 is a story about the dark hour, an hour that exists between days, that allows for all kinds of wicked shadows to come out. Most people don’t experience it, but those that do better hope they have the power of persona on their side or they are surely doomed. You and your team of highschoolers (here we go), venture out and search their school during this hour, which is transformed into a giant skyscraping labyrinth tower only known as Tartarus.
However, that’s just one aspect of the game. You also have to balance a social life, go to school, and all kinds of “normal” stuff a Japanese highschooler might encounter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a highly addictive formula that carries over into Persona 4 for something incredible that must be experienced by all gamers, in my opinion.
2008, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 3 FES
FES adds a whole new chapter to the game, all kinds of bonuses like new clothes and stuff, and even plays around with certain core gameplay elements like how the shrine operates. It really is the superior console experience as far as Persona 3 is concerned.
2008, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 4
Persona 4 capitalized and perfected so much that…well, wasn’t WRONG, per se with Persona 3…but could have been better. The characters are better, the presentation is top notch, there are more save points, the difficulty is adjusted quite a bit better, there’s more stuff to do…it’s like they redid the entire formula from the ground up with all possible faults in mind and executed such an incredible sequel in the process.
In this one there’s a spooky channel that allows you to see people before they die. You soon learn that it’s possible to alter these peoples’ fates by entering certain TVs to go to an entirely new and mysterious dimension that seems to revolve around the victims’ inner most secrets. Solving attempted murder mystery one after the other, your team of misfit highschoolers (…yeah) must live typical day to day life AND go to the TV realm on a regular basis in order to save lives and develop new friendships.
It’s not nearly as dark as Persona 3, but with all the features and updates, this is THE game I think of when it comes to Persona.
2008, PC – Shin Megami Tensei – Imagine
So it’s Shin Megami Tensei, but online. Looks fun, but I’m not a huge MMO fan.
2009, NDS – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Survivor
Ah yes, the original SMT turn-based strategy classic. Oh sure, they’d already had their fill of Majin Tensei by this point, but none of those came to America, so nyah! In this game, a lockdown occurs in Japan to prevent demons from spreading…but they effectively trap them in with a bunch of innocent people with absolutely no backup plan in mind.
Enter our heroes, a bunch of teenagers (whoda thunkit) wielding DSs that allow them to tap into a demon summoning program to fight demons. Obviously the plot gets more involved than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything and that’s honestly enough to get you going. This game is fantastic and its sequel is pretty badass, too.
2009, PS2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Summoner 2 – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this one. I really didn’t enjoy the last one, so I picked this up because…well, hey, it’s SMT…so it’s gotta be good, right? And I WAS RIGHT, HA HA! This one has way higher production values, much better characters and scenarios, and is way more interesting from the get-go with a streamlined battle engine and kickass music.
2010, PSP – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 3 Portable
So you can be a girl in this one, which alters a lot of events. That seems to be the only main addition. Even still, I would still recommend trying this one because come on, Persona 3…as a portable! Looks like they added a few interesting features from Persona 4 as well. Beyond that, it’s basically the same game.
2010, NDS – Shin Megami Tensei – Strange Journey
Atlus had some serious balls to go backwards and make a full on FPS dungeon crawler, but man I’m glad they did. This game is absolutely amazing. Sure, it can be really difficult and a bit repetitive at times, but if it wasn’t, would it really be SMT? Basically a phenomenon is occurring in the Antarctic and a special team of soldiers is sent to investigate…then shit goes down.
Eventually you end up with the ability to summon demons and such, but you have probably already guessed that. I really don’t want to ruin any of the game’s plot, but choosing such an interesting location for SMT…props, man. Atlus, you make my day.
2011, PSP – Persona 2 – Innocent Sin
The original Innocent Sin was released in Japan only for the PS1 in 1999. It was deemed too extreme for American audiences. Yeah, Atlus got cockblocked a lot back then, as you can guess from how few MegaTen titles reached American shores in the 90s. Innocent Sin is basically an additional chapter in the Persona 2 universe and honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I fully intend to buy this game when I get the chance.
If it’s anything at all like Eternal Punishment, it’ll totally be worth it.
2012, NDS – Shin Megami Tensei – Devil Survivor 2
In a way it’s not just Devil Survivor with a new skin…and in many ways it really is. Sure, the plot’s totally different, but that’s about it. Basically, there’s a website where you can see how people die before it actually happens…and it’s all thanks to demons. And yes, you get the ability to change peoples’ fates, yada yada…seriously, I’m just repeating myself by this point. You already know what’s up.
If you liked the original Devil Survivor, even by a remote, minute bit, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t own this game.
2012, PS Vita – Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 4 Golden
Basically it’s Persona 4 as a portable, but holy shit did they add a bunch of content. There are more characters, dungeons, story elements, music, and all kinds of bonus content. This is literally the only reason I would ever buy a Vita, but it’s a damn good one, I think.
2012, 360, PS3 – Persona 4 Arena
At first you may scoff and think this is a totally unnecessary title. Yeah, I had my misgivings at first, too. However, this was headed by the original Persona 4 team AND the Blazblue team. And look man, if you don’t know what Blazblue is, I just…I…I just don’t know you anymore, man. I don’t have a 360 right now, but when I get a new one, I’m totally checking this out.
41 titles. I seriously don’t feel like typing anymore. If you haven’t been convinced that this is an incredible series up to this point you’ve either not been paying attetnion, RPGs aren’t your thing (and if that’s the case, kudos to you for getting this far), or you’re a fuckdumb pantshitter. I seriously cannot stress enough how incredible the MegaTen series is and I’ll probably be hooked for life…or well, until they do the Square-Enix thing, but hopefully that will never happen…hopefully.