There is just something so overtly romantic about Japan's history. Their isolationism preserved a culture that is so different from the ones that fell prey to western imperialism. Instead of fighting other countries, they fought within their own county for years until united under one central government. It was a chaotic time full of honorable and skilled warriors, corrupt or noble lords, and epic battles that were made so much more involved without (for the most part) the use of gunpowder. It is not surprising that this period in history transfers well into video games. There is so much you can do with it, whether it is telling the true history, perverting it for entertainment, or just focusing on a lone samurai or ninja.
The Onimusha Series
Probably my personal favorite Feudal Japanese video game series. The Onimusha series includes Onimusha: Warlords (PS2), Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny (PS2), Onimusha Tactics (GBA), Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (PS2), and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams (PS2). Most of the series takes place in Fuedal Japan except for bits of Onimusha 3 that takes place in modern France. Throughout the series, the heroes are either descendants of a demon slaying clan or a just and average samurai. In this version of Feudal Japan, Nobunaga and Hideyoshi are demons that are trying to destroy the Earth with their army from hell.
The game play is in its essence a simple hack-and-slash. You hero can equip different weapons like a swords, a spear, or a hammer and upgrade them with souls of the demons you slay. The weapons grow more powerful and change in appearance. In the simplest terms, the Onimusha series is like the Resident Evil series without the zombies or the guns. It is a fantastic series, even Onimusha Tactics which is a turned based strategy. The story is a colorful and inventive look at Japanese history, but sadly because they are primarily on the PS2, the graphics are severely dated.
The Samurai Warriors Series
The Samurai Warriors series includes Samurai Warriors 1 through 3 as well as the strategy-based Samurai Warriors: Empires games. For anyone who has ever played any of Dynasty Warriors games that play out moments in China's Romance of the Three Kingdoms, then you know exactly how Samurai Warriors works. You pick a character to play and you commence to be a one man (or woman) army throughout their parts in history. Essentially the Samurai Warriors series is just a clone of the Dynasty Warriors series. However, it takes place in Feudal Japan and uses characters from that period.
What is so addicting about this game is just the sheer amount of playable characters, there are at very least 50 characters you can play as. They are all so flamboyantly dressed in order to look cool. You know how cool looking characters are, you just sort of fall in love with them no matter how repetitive the game play is. In the Empires version you can focus on conquering Japan with you favorite character at the helm, though it still incorporates the hack-and-slash element in battles. Though it is refreshing to create a dream team and just decimate everyone else.
Total War: Shogun Series
Shogun: Total War and its sequel is a fantastic real time strategy game for those that like the genre. If you recognize the Total War brand from Rome: Total War, then you are in for a similar treat. Though instead of Rome this is the changeable history of Feudal Japan.
Like with the other games, you can assume the guise of your favorite clan at the time and try your hardest to conquer Japan. Unlike Rome: Total War, Japan is thankfully smaller so you can finish a game in less than two years. What I have always liked about the Total War games is that sometimes, actual names from the history books pops up. When that happens, it is just a simple little happiness to feel that much closer to history, even if it is such a small thing.
Way of the Samurai Series
The Way of the Samurai series jumps around in time periods and focuses on different characters throughout Japan's history. For example, the first game is set right before the Meiji period, which marked the end of the Feudal era. However the second and 3rd game happen during the warring states. The fourth jumps forward again to 1855. Sadly, they do not use actual locations of characters. If they do, it is sparingly. Most of the settings are fictional regions of Japan. However, they are all fantastic games with very involving stories. The first three games are available for the PS2, but the fourth game is a PS3 affair.
What turns people off about the Way of the Samurai games is that the combat feels so clunky at the beginning. This is actually by design. The developers wanted to immerse you in the game further by making the character appear clunky at first but become more fluid as he gains experience. It is a bold gameplay design, as it could have—and did—turn players off the game. The story may not be true to history, but if you are a fan of modern games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age where your decisions effect the story, they also do a decision system like that in Way of the Samurai, though it is fairly basic.
All the previous games have been primarily about samurai. However, Japan's iconic warrior class cannot be mentioned without also saying something about ninjas. Tenchu is about just that—ninjas. The Tenchu series includes a variety of games that contain a continued storyline, but also has some games that are unrelated, but still fun.
The story follows two ninjas—Rikimaru and Ayame—who are part of the same ninja clan and serve the same lord. The evil demonic sorcerer Mei-Oh seeks to destroy their lord by using a demon warrior called Onikage. These two ninjas must use their stealthy assassination ways to defeat this evil lord and his warrior demon. If you dislike stealth games, this is not for you. The more stealthily you complete the levels of the game, the higher rating you will receive. So thus, you cannot go in with you ninja stars and kunai a-blazin' if you want to survive.
That's right. Pokemon set in the Feudal Era of Japan's history. Have you ever heard of a greater concept? Instead of trainers you fight warriors and warlords from Japanese history who have their own kind of Pokemon based on nation they are from. You know, grass nation, fire nation, ect. Ultimately you fight against Nobunaga and his Pokemon who has been ravaging the nation through war. I have never been a fan of Pokemon, but this game was definitely something I could get behind and it turned out absolutely amazing. Though it is only available for the Nintendo DS.