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The 10 best Yakuza substories

The weirdest and most touching of the bunch

Picking out the best Yakuza substories is no easy task. Hundreds of stories across eight Yakuza games and several spinoffs run the gamut of human emotion and experience, including some experiences no human will (probably) ever have. 

You've got sad match girls and broken families if you want something sentimental and diapered old men and dancing weirdos if humor is more your thing. Yakuza 3’s substories have some of the best character development in the series, and Yakuza 5 has whole side stories that are just substories following the main characters more closely than the primary narrative does.

There’s a lot going on in every game, but we've managed to sort our 10 best Yakuza substories anyway, with preference for those that don't require knowledge of the series or other characters.

Miracle on Tenkaichi Street – Yakuza 0

An animated man meant to look like Stephen Spielberg is sitting on a chair in a dimly lit cafe

Nice to meet you, Uncanny Spielberg.

Somebody’s not seeing heaven for this one. Miracle on Tenkaichi Street introduces Kiryu to famous film director Stephen Spining and internationally renowned singer-actor Miracle Johnson. Miracle is working on a stylish horror music video featuring moonwalking and zombies.

It’s Thriller. This is Thriller, and he’s Michael Jackson. Your job is keeping Mich – er, Miracle – safe from “zombie” thugs, a task more challenging than you might expect. It’s one of Yakuza 0’s most tongue-in-cheek substories, which is saying something in a game that gets as outlandish as this one.

Death of the Author – Like A Dragon: Ishin!

An animated man meant to represent novelist Natsumi Soseki is sitting on a tatami floor

Who was Natsumi Soseki? You'll have a better idea after finishing this quest.

Death of the Author makes excellent use of Like A Dragon Ishin’s historical setting. It centers on Japanese author Natsume Soseki, a renowned 19th-century writer and a pioneer in international literature studies. Ishin carefully balances the history so it’s approachable for people who’ve never heard of Soseki before and, in the series’ characteristic fashion, lets the stranger moments – Kiryu-Ryoma fixating on animal narrators, for example – pick up the slack.

Be My Baby – Yakuza Kiwami 2 and Like A Dragon

A large animated Japanese man wearing nothing but a diaper is sitting in a brightly colored nursery

No, not really.

Imagine you’re going about your day like normal, and some old man beats you up ‘cause you don’t want to wear a diaper. Kiryu doesn’t have to imagine it in Kiwami 2’s Be My Baby substory. Fellow yakuza Susumu Gondawara tries enticing Kiryu to wear a diaper and act like a baby so an employee at the Be My Baby center – an attractive young woman – takes care of him. The situation turns violent, as you’d expect from a Yakuza game, and Kiryu eventually comes out with a very Yakuza moral: Don’t force your kinks on someone else.

Gondawara turns up again in Like A Dragon, attacks Ichiban, and then becomes a battle summon where his piercing baby cry damages all foes – but only at night.

Who’s That Sujimon? – Yakuza: Like A Dragon

An animated Japanese man wearing a white coat is standing over an unconscious man holding a phone

Good one, Professor Sujimon.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon’s Who’s That Sujimon substory is the kind of idea you come up with at 3 a.m. out of sheer desperation, and then when you’re cogent enough to think about what you’ve done, you realize it’s pretty darn good after all. A wild man appears and flashes Ichiban and friends before attacking them.

He calls himself a Sujimon Sensei and explains that Sujimon are strange men who behave in even stranger ways. Ichiban gets a Sujidex installed on his phone and travels around Yokohama, collecting data on every Sujimon for the professor. 

Yakuza LAD is so wild that by the time this one unlocks, it just seems natural. Sure, why not go attack some random half-dressed men in the streets? Just a normal afternoon.

The Girl Who Leapt through Time – Yakuza 6

An animated young woman in a school uniform is standing on a rooftop speaking to a man in a suit.

No Daleks, just mind powers.

RGG borrowed from an anime by the same name for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and like a lot of Yakuza 6’s substories, this one’s a bit more serious. Kiryu meets a girl who claims to come from the future on a mission to save her family. 

He, understandably, doesn’t believe her stories of mind powers and quests to change the course of time, but after beating up a few thugs and learning what drove her to the past – or distraction, depending on whether you believe her story – he leaves her with some wise words, advice that he learned the hard way.

You can’t change the past or know what the future holds, but you can influence what happens now. It’s poignant stuff, especially considering what Kiryu chooses at the game’s end.

Kazuma Kiryu, Professional Voice Actor – Yakuza Kiwami 2

An animated Japanese man wearing a tan windbreaker is standing in a recording studio explaining the type of project he's working on

I bet they're just really good friends who happen to be roommates.

This quirky substory in Yakuza Kiwami 2 has a lot of layers. Kiryu finds himself roped into a voice acting role for a video game, and it turns out to be a yaoi video game – that’s boys’ love or gay romance. This is one of Yakuza’s substories where things go wildly wrong if Kiryu picks the incorrect choices, and it’s actually worth saving beforehand just to mess up and see the result.

It’s also another example of why so many people admire Kiryu as a character. He’s surprised when he finds out what’s actually going on, but he’s also open to it and makes no judgments.

RGG had a bit of fourth-wall-breaking fun here. Takaya Kuroda, Kiryu’s Japanese voice actor, has starred in a few yaoi projects in the past as well. 

Lasting Thirst for Peace – Like A Dragon Ishin

An animated white man and an animated Japanese man sit at a table and discuss how close they've grown

Underneath the politics and betrayal is the simple desire to just live in quiet peace.

Lasting Thirst for Peace takes some effort to unlock, but it’s one of the more thoughtful substories in the series and reflects on one of the more interesting Like A Dragon Ishin relationships. Nationalism, the threat of “the other,” and the prospect of international conflict loom over Ishin and drive its narrative. Lasting Thirst for Peace proposes a quiet solution to the fear and angst – getting along with each other. It shows a world where people accept each other’s differences and form lasting relationships in spite of them – sometimes even because of them.

It’s also one of the most challenging to complete. You have to finish all of Ishin’s substories before Lasting Thirst unlocks, and the fights in it are the toughest in the game.

Forget Me Not – Yakuza: Like A Dragon

An animated Japanese woman is standing near a stone wall covered in ivy

RGG gets existential with this one.

Ichiban’s story has no shortage of off-the-wall, bonkers moments, but Forget Me Not is different. It’s touching and sentimental, and it even delves into some rare material for the series. 

Ichiban encounters someone who says she knew him from the past. Events unfold, a date happens, and some thugs crash the party before things wrap up in a wholly unexpected way. This is one that’s better to experience unspoiled, so if you haven’t done it yet, head to Carriage Highway in Yokohama to start.

Disciple of the New Order – Yakuza 0

Two men stand in a large room full of people kneeling and performing odd movements.

Shooreh Pippi, a totally normal and not-at-all deranged ritual.

Majima infiltrates a cult during one of his first substories in Yakuza 0 in a bid to help a desperate mother reach her brainwashed daughter. It sounds serious, and the leader is the scumbag everyone suspects he is. Before Majima can reach him, though, he has to undergo initiation and memorize the utterly ridiculous Shooreh Pippi ritual, while everyone in the building is repeating Shooreh Pippi and acting unhinged. 

Few fights are as satisfying as New Order’s, when you finally let loose and pummel the sleazy fool who came up with all this nonsense.

The Offering to the Gods – Yakuza Kenzan

An animated Japanese man is brandishing two large swords

Not sure if good swordsmanship's gonna help against aliens, Kiryu.

“What’s a game about historical Japan without aliens and UFOs?” RGG apparently asked when they made Yakuza Kenzan, a precursor to Ishin that never launched officially outside Japan. Kiryu gets wrapped up in an elaborate prank during The Offering to the Gods, where a farmer believes aliens, or maybe the gods, are demanding his prize cow.

Events unfold, and Kiryu comes face to face with a UFO while the theme from 2001’s Space Odyssey plays. Is it proof of life on other planets or just a terrible neighbor? Who knows, but what it definitely is, is the core of the series condensed into one bovine misadventure. 

Like A Dragon Gaiden is available now, and RGG Studio is releasing Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth in January 2024.