Top 10 Games by Level 5 [Best Recommendations]

Level 5 Games is a Japanese video game developer based in Fukuoka, Japan. It was established in 1998 by Hino Akihiro, and got their legs developing games for Sony Entertainment on the PlayStation 2 with a small, core team. Within four years of publishing its first critical hit, Dark Cloud, Level 5 went from a relatively unknown property in Japan to a studio known around the globe, completing the self-fulfilling prophecy of its name, which is the best score on the Japanese report card.

Although their creative partnership with Sony helped put them on the map, they developed a professional relationship with Nintendo, which helped cement their status as one of the premier role-playing gaming developers worldwide. With a spin-off company based in the U.S., and a mobile-gaming platform in Japan, Level 5 hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Join us, won’t you, as we discuss our top 10 games by Level 5!

10. Inazuma Eleven

  • System: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Level 5
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release Date: August 2008 (Japan)/February 2014 (NA)

We’ll start our countdown with one of Level 5’s least known franchises outside Japan, Inazuma Eleven. Developed as a sports/role-playing game hybrid, Inazuma Eleven follows the story of Mark Evans, the goalie and captain of the soccer team at Raimon Junior High School. However, the club is on the verge of disbanding, until the arrival of transfer student Axel Blaze, a top striker at his old school. Axel’s arrival brings some unwanted attention in the form of a match by the prestigious Royal Academy, which leads him to join Mark in the club, and quest to become the best in the league.

Gameplay is a mix of classic RPG elements and head to head soccer matches. Players explore the town of Inazuma as an overworld, where they can run into random encounters (in the form of 4 v 4 soccer matches), find treasure chests with loot, recruit new team members, and power up existing members of the team. The soccer matches see the player passing the ball between teammates, and engaging in rock-paper-scissor scuffles when they run into players on the opposing team. In addition to the small, 4 v 4 skirmishes, there are also full team matches, with 11 players on each side going head to head. Victories reward players with experience points that they can use to get new play formations, special abilities, and more. With several follow-up games, there’s plenty for fans of both genres to love.


9. Fantasy Life

  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release Date: December 2012 (Japan), October 2014 (NA)

Set in the fantasy world of Reveria, Fantasy Life is (you guessed it!) a fantasy role-playing game for the 3DS. The world of Reveria is made of several large cities, towering mountains, and sweeping plains. While time passes relatively peacefully in Reveria, things begin to shake up when a meteorite falls, setting off a chain of prophesized events involving an ancient goddess, and the planet’s moon. Following these events, the player is asked to investigate by the benevolent King Erik of Castele, accompanied by a butterfly with the mysterious ability to speak.

Although a rather simple RPG, Fantasy Life offers players a wealth of choices in terms of how to spend their time in Reveria. From character creation, players are able to choose between twelve unique Life Classes, such as Hunter, Chef, and more, with unique abilities in and out of combat. The gameplay mostly revolves around receiving tasks from various parties throughout the world. Completing the quests rewards players with experience, gold, loot, and access to new areas. If players ever get tired of the class they’ve chosen, they can swap to another class at almost any time. On top of a customizable character, players will also gain the ability to own unique pets, decorate houses, and more. Fantasy Life has a little bit to offer almost every type of player, and is a perfect intro to gaming for a younger audience.


8. Yo-Kai Watch (Youkai Watch)

  • System: Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release Date: July 2013 (Japan), November 2016 (NA)

Perhaps a franchise that needs no introduction, Yo-Kai Watch started out as a simple role-playing game developed by Level 5, before spawning the multitude of media spin-offs that have gained immense popularity in Japan and abroad. Based off of the youkai of Japanese folklore, players take the role of Nate Adams or Katie Forester, and receive the titular watch that allows them to see and communicate with the monsters that populate the world. Players are tasked with exploring Springdale, befriending yokai while battling aggressive monsters, and solving various mysteries.

Taming the world’s monsters is relatively simple; players must feed them their preferred food before defeating them in battle. They can also be acquired through an in-game coin system, and as rewards for completing various tasks. You can utilize your friendly yokai in combat, which gives them experience, and allows them to transform into more powerful forms. There are eight different tribes with their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to the player to create a balanced team to help them get through their adventures. It’s an addictive rift on the monster capturing formula made popular by Pokémon, with cute monsters and an insight into Japan’s fascinating mythology.


7. White Knight Chronicles International Edition (Shirokishi Monogatari: Inishie no Kodou)

  • System: PlayStation 3
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release Date: December 2008 (Japan), February 2010 (NA)

A third person fantasy action role-playing game released for the PlayStation 3, White Knight Chronicles follows the story of Leonard. Tasked with delivering wine for the celebration of the coming of age of the princess of Balandor, the party is attacked by a group of evil magi, who kill the king in the ensuing chaos. Leonard rescues the princess, Cisna, and escapes to the castle’s basement, where he finds a powerful suit of armor he can bond with, giving him the power to fight back against the power of the magi. To reveal more of the plot would spoil the story.

Players control Leonard and his party, they travel to various areas around the fantasy world solving quests and gaining experience. Combat takes place in real-time, from the third person perspective. Before a battle, players can customize the classes of party members, and assign them AI-controlled strategies. Players can switch between party members at will, and utilize class synergy to create devastating combos. As well as experience, battles reward players with raw materials that they can use to upgrade the Georama, a customizable town that functions as a lobby for the game’s online components. The game boasts dozens of hours of quests, and has a sequel, which means new players won’t come to the end of their own chronicle anytime soon!


6. Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Layton Kyouju vs Gyakuten Saiban)

  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Level 5, Capcom
  • Release Date: November 2012 (Japan), August 2014 (NA)

A game that finally brought together the fan-favorite protagonists of two heavy-hitting franchises, Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a visual novel puzzle game for the 3DS. The story focuses on the titular characters and their respective sidekicks working together to solve the mystery they both find themselves involved in independently when they are pulled into a strange world. The story is split in two, with players controlling both Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright at different stages throughout the journey.

As well as the split narrative, the gameplay is split as well. When players control the professor, they explore various environments and speak with different characters, interacting with the objects around them and solving puzzles in the mysterious world of Labyrinthia. When in control of Phoenix Wright, players defend clients during literal Witch Trials! By finding contradictions in the statements of those who take the stand to testify, and introducing evidence at the correct point throughout the trial, players must discover the truth, and prove the innocence of their client. With fully-voiced cutscenes, a sprawling story, and a variety of puzzles and gameplay, PL VS PW are essential gaming for fans of either franchise.


5. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi)

  • System: PlayStation 2, iOS, Android, Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Developer: Level 5, Square Enix
  • Release: November 2004 (Japan), November 2005 (NA)

The eighth entry in the insanely popular Dragon Quest franchise, Journey of the Cursed King was the first game in the series to feature 3D environments and character models, beautifully rendered in colorful, cartoony cel-shading. The game follows the silent, player-controlled protagonist, and his party of companions on their quest to save the world from the evil, powerful Dhoulmagus, who has transformed the King and his daughter into beasts.

The game maintains many of the staples the series is known for, such as turn-based combat and the experience level system. While heroes can explore the world and its town in full, combat encounters occur randomly and are turn-based. Although the battles take place from the first-person perspective like previous entries in the franchise, after commands are input, it switches the action to third-person, so that players can watch the battles unfold. Battles include a tension system that allows players to psyche-up their party members and cause even more mayhem, and party members have secondary features for even greater player customization.


4. Rogue Galaxy

  • System: PlayStation 2
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release: December 2005 (Japan), January 2007 (NA)

Rogue Galaxy is an action role-playing game that tells a story that spans the entire galaxy. Players control the garishly-named Jaster Rogue, a young farmer on an isolated planet, who becomes involved in an intergalactic conflict between the Longardian Federation and the Draxian Empire. His dull life changes forever when he has a chance encounter with the colorful pirates of the spaceship, Dorgenark. To tell more would take far too much time, and spoil the surprise.

Players explore the world from a third-person perspective, and for such an early game, Rogue Galaxy boasted seamless transition from overworld to combat. In combat, players control one of three characters, with the other controlled by a customizable AI. Combat takes place in real-time, but actions are limited through the use of the Action Gauge, which can be refilled by blocking enemy attacks or not attacking. Leveling up is done through an unlockable grid called the Revelation Flow, which increases character stats and unlocks new abilities. The game also boasts the ability to customize and synthesize weapons, and an impressive array of expansive side quests. A version with improved localization was released for the PlayStation 4, which means gamers can still pick up a gem that was passed over by many at the time of its release without having to go out of their way!


3. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Ninokuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joou)

  • System: PlayStation 3
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release: November 2011 (Japan), January 2013 (NA)

While technically an unbelievably upgraded port of a Nintendo DS game, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was famously animated by the world renowned Japanese studio, Studio Ghibli. Players control Oliver, a young boy from Motorville who sets out on a journey in a fantastical world to save his mother. There, he is joined by a colorful cast of broken-hearted misfits who want to restore order to their world, and help him along on his journey.

Players explore the world in 3D, and can freely interact with characters in towns and other environments. Battles take place on a small, open field, where Oliver is joined by human allies or magical familiars. While the world can be explored freely from the outset of the game, unlockable modes of fast-travel are tied to the story and act as a means of guiding players along. Leveling up is based on experience, and improves the stats of party members while rewarding them with money to buy increasingly powerful equipment. The game tells a surprisingly poignant tale, and the strength of its narrative combined with the quality of its animation makes up for the simplicity of its systems.


2. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Layton Kyouju to Fushigi na Machi)

  • System: Nintendo DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release: February 2007 (Japan), February 2008 (NA)

The puzzle-adventure game that would spawn one of the most successful franchises in Level 5’s repertoire, Professor Layton, and the Curious Village, is where it all began. The game follows Professor Hershel Layton and his eager apprentice, Luke, as they find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving a magical artifact in a town that isn’t quite what it seems, following the death of a baron who left a large inheritance. There’s more to the story than meets the eye, and it’s up to the shrewd mind of the Professor and his ward to get to the bottom of it.

Players travel around St. Mystere, the game’s titular curious village, solving brain teasers given by the town’s residents in exchange for information about important events and characters. New areas are unlocked by solving a certain number of puzzles in available areas, which means the story doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion, even if the story’s conclusion is relatively unchanged. Players are awarded and in-game currency for solving puzzles, as well unlockable in-game rewards, such as character portraits and puzzle pieces. Although the puzzles start off rather simply, the difficulty ramps up rather quickly, but the satisfaction of solving a head scratcher proves how the series grew into the beloved franchise it is today.


1. Dark Cloud

  • System: PlayStation 2
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Release: December 2000 (Japan), May 2001 (NA)

Perhaps no surprise to die-hard fans of Level 5, our number one spot is snagged by the game that started their illustrious legacy in the industry, Dark Cloud. Combining elements of role-playing and city building, Dark Cloud follows a young man, Toan, who is gifted a powerful magic stone with the ability to rebuild the lands destroyed by the evil Dark Genie. Toan sets off on a journey after his town is destroyed, and is joined by like-minded adventurers in order to put a stop to the Dark Genie once and for all.

The meat of the game is an exploration of randomly-generated dungeons from a third-person perspective. Players battle the monsters that populate dungeons in a mix of real-time hack-and-slash, as well as quick-time duels. Unlike other entries on the list, where players level up via experience, players become stronger by enhancing their weapons, which gain experience with each enemy killed. In addition to managing health in combat, players must also manage their level of thirst, which rapidly depletes health once exhausted, by drinking throughout the dungeon. As well as dungeon crawling, civilization building is an important part of the game, and players utilize special items called Atla to create their own unique town in the game’s Georama mode. The story may be simple, but the blend of mechanics created a game that was greater than the sum of its parts.


Final Thoughts

What a journey it’s been! In the years since its creation, Level 5 has proven itself as a big name player in the video game industry, blasting out fan-favorite role-playing games year after year, for a wide variety of consoles. If a gamer were to try to play their way through the list, it would take hundreds of hours, if not months of gameplay! Are there any games that are your personal favorite that didn’t make our list? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

Nick Rich

Writer

Author: Nick Rich

Nick is, first and foremost, a nerd. Netflix on in the background, a drink in one hand, and a book in the other is how you'll find him most days after work. He currently works as an English teacher in Kawasaki, where he lives next to a graveyard with his girlfriend and his unnamed flying squirrel. He hopes to run into Kitaro, late one night.

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