Now that we’ve entered the final few days of 2023, the year’s bumper crop of new game releases has slowed to a trickle. With long, lazy days looming ahead, it’s a lovely time to cuddle up with one of the biggest, beefiest games in your backlog. And if you’re looking for beef, RPGs are the way to go. On December 15, Atlus announced that Persona 5 crossed a major sales landmark. The modern fantasy RPG and its spinoffs have now sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Nowadays, the Persona series seems like a sure bet. But just a few years ago, itwas a niche fascination for a few devoted weebs. If you haven’t checked it out already, now’s your chance.
Back in 2017, when Persona 5 first debuted outside Japan, critics and audiences had largely soured on turn-based role-playing games, waving them off as dated and passé. The previous year, Final Fantasy XV ditched menu-driven gameplay for rapid-fire action combat that was flashier and faster than the venerable Square Enix series had ever been. It seemed like turn-based RPGs were a thing of the past—until Persona 5 set the world on fire.
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The game takes place in modern-day Tokyo, and follows a group of teen vigilantes known as the Phantom Thieves. By day, they’re just conspicuously attractive high school students. By night, they summon demonic Pokémon known as Personas to fight crime and corruption in supernatural dungeons known as Palaces. P5’s stylish, anime-inflected presentation stood out in the late PlayStation 4 era, which skewed heavily toward realism. Innovative combo mechanics kept enemy encounters feeling snappy and unique. The game drew sky-high review scores and currently sits at an enviable 93 on Metacritic. Not too bad for a genre past its prime, right?
An expanded and enhanced edition, Persona 5 Royal, was launched worldwide in March 2020. Royal came to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PC, and Xbox consoles in October 2022. And like any good video game phenomenon, Persona 5 spawned a heap of crossovers and spinoffs. In addition to a dedicated anime series, the cast appeared in a rhythm game (2018’s Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight), a Switch-exclusive action RPG (2021’s Persona 5 Strikers), and this year’s strategy RPG, Persona 5 Tactica. Oh, and protagonist Joker also joined the roster of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Persona 5 isn’t without flaws. Okumura’s palace, which you’ll encounter late in the game, is an absolute chore. And the game’s portrayal of same-sex relationships is about as subtle as a sack of hammers. Oh, and it easily takes more than 100 hours to beat. If you can forgive those shortcomings, it’s an excellent way to wile away the final hours of 2023—whether you play the vanilla version or Royal.
Persona 5 Royal is available on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch, and is often on sale for $30 or less. (Used copies of vanilla P5 on PlayStation 4 are even cheaper!)