10 best Japanese horror games that never had an official English localization

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Since October is a scary season, this is a great time to play horror games. As one of the most popular video game genres, there are plenty of amazing titles to choose from. While great horror games can come from anywhere, many of the best horror games, such as silent Hill and Resident Evil, originally from Japan.

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But among the long list of spooky masterpieces, some have never been officially translated into English. Despite this potential language barrier, these games have gained international followers and some have even gotten translations from fans which has helped make them playable for everyone.


ten Irisu Syndrome!

Split image of a young girl and colorful shapes on a screen in Irisu Syndrome!

While games like Doki Doki Literature Club popularized the idea of ​​games modifying the player’s computer files to create an immersive experience, many horror games did similar things years before it became mainstream. One of these games is Irisu Syndrome!, which is a free horror RPG Maker puzzle game with English translation by fans released in 2008. In this game, players use small white squares to knock shapes of the same color together to earn points. If the shapes touch the bottom of the screen, the player loses health and will have to earn points to recover it.

Although the game seems like a simple cute puzzle game at first, however, it is quickly revealed that there is a sinister story lurking inside. If the player’s health is depleted, they will slowly discover that the story centers on a group of four students and the possible murders of three of those students, which are transmitted through computer files that are added and changed as they go. as the game progresses.

9 Laplace no ma

A young man stands in front as overlapping faces float behind him in Laplace no Ma.

Released in 1987 for the NEC PC-8801 and NEC PC-9801 and later ported to Sharp X68000, MSX, SNES and TurboGrafx-CD, Laplace no ma is a turn-based survival horror RPG based on Lovecraftian horror themes and references. The game follows a male or female protagonist as they explore a spooky mansion with several other group members to find out what happened to three missing children in the fictional town of Newcam, Massachusetts.

While turn-based combat is pretty standard, the most interesting aspects being the class system and the fact that dead party members stay in the party as a moving body bag, the game is unique as players can investigate almost everything in the game in order to find clues. If gamers want an intriguing horror tale, then there’s a good SNES port fan translation to try.

8 Yuuyami Doori Tankentai

Three people watch the sunset at Yuuyami Doori Tankentai.

Before Spike merged with Chunsoft and became known to have developed the Danganronpa series, Spike has released many games including the 1999 PlayStation horror adventure game Yuuyami Doori Tankentai. Players control one of three middle school students as they roam the city freely to investigate the chilling rumors they hear about at school.

Although the game is relatively unknown, the game has been referred to in retrospect as a “masterpiece” for its realistic portrayal of the 1990’s economic recession in Japan and its unique roster of urban legends. There is no English patch for the game, but the “rabbit citrate” YouTube channel has made its own playthrough in English.

7 Kowloon Gate

A neon view with Japanese text is lit up at night in the VR remake of Kowloon's Gate.

Although this game is mostly unknown outside of Japan, the 1997 PlayStation FMV horror adventure game Kowloon Gate was such a success that a sequel, Kowloon Rhizome: A day of fire, coming soon to Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Microsoft Windows. The game is set in Hong Kong after the demolition of the walled city of Kowloon and follows a Super Feng Shui practitioner as he investigates the recent reappearance of this destroyed Chinese enclave.

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Kowloon Gate is known for his surreal visuals that reflect the actual historic city and various spiritual ideas and references. Although the original game never had an English translation, there is an English translation for the VR remake released years later.

6 LSD: dream emulator

A giant multi-colored face floats in the air in LSD: Dream Emulator.

Speaking of surreal, LSD: dream emulator is a 1998 PlayStation exploration game that involves moving around surreal environments. Based on artist Osamu Sato’s dream diary, this rare game allows the player to explore short dream sequences filled with various environments, NPCs, structures and textures that teleport the player to different locations. There are also FMV cutscenes that the player can unlock during the game.

While LSD: dream emulator is not officially a horror game, some players find the atmosphere weird and the weird events terrifying. Additionally, a character in the game known as Gray Man, who erases a player’s dream progression if they interact with it, is an ominous NPC who occasionally follows the player.

5 Sprouts: Nerawareta Machi

A soldier and a man stand in the lobby of a building in Germs: Nerawareta Machi.

Another surreal horror game is Sprouts: Nerawareta Machi, which is an open-world, first-person mystery game released in 1999 for PlayStation. The game follows a reporter who returns to his hometown to investigate rumors of strange mutated creatures. As the player explores the big city, they will talk to the NPCs, search for clues, and fight against the creatures.

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Even though the game has a plot and rules, it is unique because it has no endings and there is no way to truly fail. While the player can die, they simply transform into one of the mutated creatures, which can be reversed by going to the hospital.

4 Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

A girl approaches a dark temple in Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.

Released in 2008 for Wii, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a survival horror game that focuses on Ruka Minazuki as she explores the island of Rougetsu in order to recover her memories of her kidnapping on the island by a serial killer. Similar to other games in the Fatal frame series, the player must defeat the ghosts using the Camera Obscura.

This game is the fourth Fatal frame game, and the first in the series to be released for a Nintendo console. Although there is a fan translation and there were originally plans for a European release, this game was never officially released outside of Japan. Despite this, the game is very popular with fans, especially since Goichi Suda, an iconic video game director, worked on it.

3 Nanashi no game

A woman talks to the viewer in Nanashi no Game.

Considered one of the only good horror games on Nintendo DS, Nanashi no game is a 2008 first-person survival horror that has a similar plot to the original 1998 Japanese film Ringu. The player controls a college student who is cursed by an 8-bit RPG game. During seven days of play, the student will have to explore 3D environments while playing the old-fashioned RPG in order to solve the mystery surrounding the curse and avoid dying by the end of the week.

This game has a fan translation, and it is well received by gamers for its immersive gameplay and intriguing storyline. Although the graphics are dated, the game still creates a memorable and spooky atmosphere, perfect for fans looking to be scared. After the release of this game, there were several sequels with the last one in 2012.

2 Twilight Syndrome

Two schoolgirls are talking with text at the bottom of the screen in Twilight Syndrome.

Created by Human Entertainment, who also created the Forgotten Video Game Clock tower, Twilight Syndrome is a horror adventure game series about high school girls who investigate local urban legends. The first two games were released for PlayStation in 1996 and the last one in 2008 for Nintendo DS. Yuuyami Doori Tankentai was a spiritual sequel to the original games.

With the amazing atmosphere and sound design, the games have gained huge success. Furthermore, Twilight SyndromePolygonal retro graphics are expertly used to create the spooky setting of an economically depressed city plagued by paranormal activity. The popularity of the game was enough to spawn several live-action movies in the 2000s.

1 Mizzurne Falls

A man stands in a warehouse in Mizzurna Falls.

While Mizzurne Falls never had an official English translation, it’s an incredibly important title in video game history because it’s one of the first open world games ever made. Released in 1998 for PlayStation, this Twin peaks-esqe game follows high school student Matthew Williams as he tries to solve the mysterious disappearance of his classmate Emma Rowland.

With multiple endings, tons of small details, and NPCs moving around on their own, this game was extremely ahead of its time. Due to the large amount of text, the game hasn’t even had a fan translation for years. But in March 2021, a full English patch was finally released for all players to enjoy its groundbreaking gameplay and surreal story.

NEXT: 10 Most Influential Horror Games, Ranked

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