How to Play Japanese Games on Steam

Today I wanted to go over the idea of playing Japanese video games. More specifically, I’ll show you how to play Japanese games on Steam since it’s the easiest and most effective way that I’ve found.

Playing video games in Japanese is a lot of fun, but hard to do when you’re first starting off. One reason is because there’s not an easy way to look up new words. Another reason is because it’s not always easy to get a hold of good Japanese games.

Playing Japanese games on your computer through Steam can help alleviate both of these problems. Let me show you how.

Games Designed To Teach Japanese

The first thing that I wanted to mention is that there are a number of games on Steam that are designed to teach you Japanese. These games are really aimed at beginners, so I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on them.

However, if you’re just starting out with Japanese and would like to get better through a fun method, then it might be worth it for you to check them out.

There is a “Learn Japanese to Survive” series that teaches the writing system:

There is also a dating-sim type of game that helps you to learn Japanese through lessons and mini games. Based on the pictures and description, this looks like an 18+ type of game, but if you’re interested then check out Love Language Japanese.

I think it’s pretty cool that people are making video games that teach you Japanese, but what I really wanted to cover today was how to play video games that are completely in Japanese so that you can get more of an immersion experience.

Checking for the Japanese Language

The first thing that you have to do is find games that have Japanese as a supported language. What I always do is look for games in the Steam Store that I find interesting and would want to play even if they were only in English.

Then I scroll down the sales page a little and on the right-hand side there is a language section that shows you what all languages are supported in the game. If there are a lot of languages available, then you’ll have to click on the “see all supported language” button to find Japanese.

There are three sections that can have language support:

  • Interface: Things like the in-game menus, item names, etc.
  • Full Audio: The voice acting, narration, etc.
  • Subtitles: The dialog when characters talk.

Sometimes a game will have all three supported in Japanese, and sometimes it’ll only be one or two. You’ll have to decide on which ones you want based on your own preferences.

One of the things that can get annoying is trying to find these games. After all, you have to click on the game and scroll down to languages one at a time to see if each one has what you’re looking for or not.

But thankfully you can actually filter your search by language when checking out steam games.

Simply check out the Steam store’s search page on a web browser and then scroll down to the bottom. On the right-hand side you should see a language filter. Usually it only displays English, so you have to expand the box by clicking “see all.”

Just choose Japanese and you’re good to go.

I’ve done all that work for you already, so you can just click here to search Steam for Japanese games.

Adjusting the Language in the Game

Once you’ve found a game you want to play in Japanese and downloaded it, the next step is to turn on the Japanese language in game.

This will be a little different for each game depending on which of the three sections is supported by the language and how the game’s developer set it up.

If only the audio is supported in Japanese, then you’ll probably have to start the game and then go to the in-game settings, go to the AUDIO part, and then change the audio language to Japanese or 日本語.

This is a pretty common situation for JRPGs like Tales of Berseria or Valkyria Chronicles. If you have one of those games or ones like it, then you can play the game with English menus/subtitles and then listen to the spoken Japanese to improve your listening comprehension.

I’ve talked about this concept before where you compromise between English and Japanese to get more exposure than you normally would if you didn’t.

On the other hand, if the game supports all three areas in Japanese (or even just interface and subtitles) then you will most likely have to change the language an alternative way.

For the most part, Steam will launch games in your standard language (English for Americans). The way to get around this is to change the game’s language before you start playing it.

Let’s take it step by step for my game Disgaea PC. Right click on the game and select “Properties…”

This will bring up a window where you can select settings of the game. You will see a number of tabs at the top of the window. Go to the one titled “Language” and then choose 日本語 (Japanese) from the menu.

This changes the language of the game from English to Japanese for all files in that game. A lot of times when you do this, Steam will start downloading the Japanese specific files so that it can run properly.

Once the download is finished, you can launch the game and it will be all in Japanese!

There is one other way to change the language in games. Every now and then you’ll run into a game like VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action that has you select the games interface and subtitle language right at the beginning of the game. This means that you have to launch it like normal, and then you get to choose the language before you start playing.

Since the way to change a game’s language varies depending on the how it was setup by the programmers, I would recommend that you launch the game normally the first time and check the in-game settings to see if you can switch it to Japanese there.

If that doesn’t work, then I would recommend that you exit the game and then use the “right-click, properties” method I explained.

Putting the Game in Windowed Mode

When you start playing a new video game, it usually defaults to full-screen mode since it is the most aesthetically pleasing for most people. However, if you’re playing a game in Japanese to learn new words and phrases, then you are going to need to look up any new words you encounter.

Full screen mode is actually kind of a pain to deal with when you’re constantly switching between the game and an online dictionary, so what I recommend you do is change the game to “windowed mode.”

This can be done by going to the settings in the game, choose VIDEO and then change the mode to windowed.

This will allow you to play the game and then switch to an online dictionary quickly and easily while you play. It will also let you leave the game screen up in the background so that you can refer back to it while searching for the new word or kanji.

When I play Japanese games to learn new words, I typically use three things:

  1. The Japanese video game
  2. An online dictionary
  3. A word document (notes works too)

Here’s my typical process: I play the game normally until I see a new word. Then I pull up the dictionary and find that new word so that I understand its meaning. Then I like to type in the whole sentence (with the new word) from the game into the word document so that I can go back over it later and reinforce my memory.

If you use a flashcard program, then you could copy the sentence from the game into a new card in order to learn and remember the new word.

How to Look Up New Kanji

When it comes to looking up new kanji, I recommend that you use the online dictionary jisho.org.

It has several different ways that you can search for new kanji that include drawing it, looking it up by radical, searching for compound kanji that begin or end with one you already know, and more.

Here is an awesome video on how to look up kanji this way. Not only do you get to see how it’s done, but you also get to enjoy the charming personality of George Trombley, one of the coolest dudes in the language learning community!

Let Me Know What You Think

That’s how I do it. I recommend giving it a try if playing Japanese video games on Steam is something that you’re interested in.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments on any part of this process.

Or if you know of any Japanese game on Steam that are really good, then let me know which ones they are! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and I’m sure the other readers would as well. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “How to Play Japanese Games on Steam”

  1. Hi Nick

    I enjoy playing games in general but I have not yet played any in Japanese. This is probably because of the fear of the language barrier, where you have the perception that you will not understand what is going on. I had to have a double take when you said there is a game which could teach you basic Japanese. Sounds like it is the best way of learning!

    Reading your article made me what to give some of the games a try. My question is what is the main difference between western games and Japanese games?

    Thanks

    Antonio

    Reply
    • Yeah, there’s actually a lot of Japanese games that have been translated into English and have done very well in The States, so I’m sure you’re already familiar with them. Games like Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, etc. 

      I guess that’s mostly Nintendo games… 

      Anyway, one of the most notable differences between Japanese games and Western games is in regards to their role playing games. Japanese tends to have anime-looking characters and does turn based battles, where as western ones have been more influenced by Dungeons & Dragons and tend to use its rule-set, or a variant. 

      Reply

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