Top 10 Games by NIS America [Best Recommendations]

Nippon Ichi Software, better known as NIS, is an entertainment software company that was originally founded in Gifu Prefecture in Japan in 1991. Since their founding, they have grown into an internationally known company that focuses primarily on creating quality video games across multiple platforms. In 2003 they established an American branch, NIS America, to operate as their base for localizing and marketing across North America. They’re known for creating quality role-playing games, including those based on anime licenses, and have even set the Guinness World Record for releasing the most strategy role-playing games of any gaming company.

Throughout the years, NIS America has developed an impressive library of critical hits and fan-favored darlings across multiple platforms. Their games are typically artfully animated, and create unique worlds populated by quirky denizens across multiple universes, offering fans hundreds of hours of immersion. We’re here to give you a rundown on our top 10 games by NIS America, so if you’re a fan of their brand, get ready to geek out!

10. Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome/Phantom Kingdom

  • System:PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Release Date: March 2005 (Japan)/July 2005 (NA)

A tactical role-playing game in the vein of those that helped build the company brand for NIS, Makai Kingdom was originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, before it was ported to PlayStation Portable as Phantom Kingdom Portable in 2011. The story follows the adventures of Lord Zetta, a self-professed “Badass Freakin’ Overlord” who is the only thing standing in the way of the prophesied destruction of his underworld. After discovering a magical book linked to the destruction of his realm called the “Sacred Tome,” Zetta immediately burns it in a fit of rage. Swamped with regret at the realization that the destruction of the Tome is the key to destroying his world, he binds his soul to the book, and restores his world by having other Overlords write their wishes inside.

The story of Makai Kingdom is as charming and quirky as fans have come to expect from NIS, and spans across multiple dimensions with several cameos from locales and characters from other games. The gameplay revolves around controlling a team of characters with unique classes, as they navigate around an isometric map and score points by succeeding in combat, or interacting with key objects in the environment. Because many of the maps feature randomly generated elements that change each time you participate in combat, it has tons of replayability, giving die-hard fans plenty to sink their teeth into.


9. Soul Nomad & the World Eaters/Soul Cradle: World Eaters

  • System: Playstation 2, Playstation Network
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Vanillaware
  • Release Date: February 2007 (Japan)/September 2007 (NA)

At the end of an exhausting period of war, one man brought all the countries of the continent of Prodesto together in the name of order. This man, Lord Median, established an empire that collapsed under its own weight, resulting in the death of his son, and himself. Fortunately, after an extended civil war, his daughter proved herself capable, and united the land once more for a fifty year period of peace. Everything changed with the arrival of Gig, the “Master of Death,” who quickly subjugated the continent. It was only thanks to the resourcefulness of a brave warrior, Layna, that the soul of Gig was sealed in an onyx blade at the cost of her own life. The player’s story begins when they create their character, and receive that cursed onyx blade.

Soul Nomad is another entry into the strategy franchise, but was noteworthy for several reasons when it came out. First, the player created their own character, and it could be either gender. The game also has two different paths for the story to take, depending on whether or not the player character embraces evil, or fights for the side of good. Both choices come with branching dialogue paths and multiple endings, as well as unique character classes that can’t be accessed in the other playthrough. Another perfect time-sink for strategy buffs.


8. Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis/ Mana Khemia: Gakuen no Renjutsushi-tachi

  • System: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.
  • Release Date: June 2007 (Japan)/April 2008 (NA)

Another role-playing game that was originally released on the PlayStation 2 before being ported to the PlayStation Portable, Mana Khemia is a spiritual successor to the Atelier Iris, and as such shares many characteristics. The plot tells the story of Vayne Aurelius, the son of a legendary alchemist who disappeared after Vayne was born. His life of hermitage is interrupted when he is invited to train at the Al-Revis Academy as an alchemist. There, he meets a quirky cast of characters, and finds himself embroiled in a quest to save the school, his friends, and maybe even the very world.

A key component of the game is alchemy, which allows the player to create unique items, weapons, and armor. By gathering materials through exploration and combat, the player can craft new recipes of increasing power, creating a nice feedback loop of risk and reward in favor of the standard allocation of experience points. Combat is turn-based, and features a unique “Burst Mode,” which allows party members to pull off epic finishing attacks. There’s also a nice slice of life element, since the game is set at a school, which means there’s tons of stuff for completionists to while away the hours with.


7. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love/ Sakura Taisen Faibu: Saraba, Itoshiki Hito Yo

  • System: PlayStation 2, Wii
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Red Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 2005 (Japan)/March 2010 (NA)

Sakura Wars is a media franchise of many iterations, the most iconic of which are videogames. So Long, My Love was originally published for PlayStation 2 before being ported to the Nintendo Wii, and blends elements of role-playing with a dating sim. It follows the adventure of a naval ensign named Shinjiro Taiga, who is sent from Japan to 1920s New York to command a fighting force of ensemble characters disguised as a performance troupe to prevent an evil warlord from conquering America.

The gameplay has two primary modes, the Adventure Mode and Battle Mode. In Adventure Mode, the character is controlled in third person as they travel around the city and interacts with characters in real-time, with conversation choices determining how your relationship with that character develops. The Battle Mode, as its name would imply, offers players the chance to lead a party member of six in combat against enemies. Players must choose their moves carefully, balancing aggressive tactics with defense and healing, and shift between ground form and flight form. With multiple endings based on player choice, it’s easy to see why this series has endured for so long.


6. La Pucelle: Tactics/La Pucelle: The Legend of the Maiden of Light

  • System: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Release Date: January 2002 (Japan)/May 2004 (NA)

Another strategy role-playing game that was originally released on the PlayStation 2 before being ported to the PlayStation Portable, La Pucelle takes place in the French-inspired fictional kingdom of Paprica. The story centers around the Church of the Holy Maiden in the city of Pot a Feu, which houses a bold group of demon hunters, the titular La Pucelle. Two of the group's newest members, the young girl Prier and her younger brother, Culotte, are integral in the fight against the Dark Prince, who is prophesied to rise and bring calamity to the world. The game is divided into multiple chapters, and has several endings depending on how successful the player is in gathering information regarding the Dark Prince’s plot.

Combat takes place on isometric maps, where player-controlled characters must battle agents of darkness, who spawn from dark portals that continue to spawn enemies unless they are destroyed. Players can use the same power, purification, to recruit monsters to their side, which can then be trained and used in future combat. Another interesting aspect of the game is the serious amount of editing it underwent before western release, where most crucifix imagery was removed in order to avoid potential controversy.


5. Hyperdimension Neptunia/Chojigen Geimu Neputyunu

  • System: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, MS Windows
  • Publisher: Idea Factory International (formerly Nippon Ichi Software)
  • Developer: Idea Factory
  • Release Date: August 2010 (JP)/June 2014 (NA)

Originally released on the PlayStation 3, before going on to spawn several sequels, as well as companion manga and anime, Hyperdimension Neptunia is a 4th wall-breaking roleplaying game. It takes place in the world of Gamindustri, which is divided into four unique regions, Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, and Leanbox. The player controls the goddess Neptune, who is embroiled in an epic conflict known as the Console Wars. After a battle with her sisters results in her losing her memories, she joins her companion, Compa, in hunting monsters and searching for treasure. The game has three endings, with one true ending, depending on whether or not the player has met the appropriate requirements.

Like the visual novels it has spawned, a lot of the gameplay is story-based, with much of the plot unfolding in on-screen text. This is interrupted by dungeon crawling, complete with combat, treasure hunting, and obstacles that must be cleared by character-specific skills in order to progress. The combat revolves around sword and gunplay actions, acted out by allocating ability points. It also features a unique Game Disc system, which allows players to perform special actions through complicated combos that can be accessed and edited through the game’s pause menu.


4. Cave Story 3D/Dokutsu Monogatari

  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Nicalis
  • Release Date: November 2011

Originally a freeware platform-adventure game released for PC, Cave Story 3D was created from the ground up for the Nintendo 3DS. The game focuses on an amnesiac protagonist who wakes up in a cave. While exploring, he discovers the sinister plot of a mad scientist who plans to force the inhabitants of the cave to do his bidding, so that he can conquer the world. The only thing standing between him and total domination are your heroic actions. Although it sounds bare bones, the story has a surprising amount of depth, and twists and turns throughout the adventure.

Gameplay is primarily exploration-based, as the player navigates platform puzzles, collects weapons, and battles enemies. Weapons can be cycled, since certain types are more effective against certain enemies, and can be leveled up by collecting orbs dropped by defeated creatures. Conversely, weapons can lose health and experience by taking damage, forcing players to balance risk and reward as they traverse the exotic cave, interacting with the colorful denizens that populate the world.


3. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc/Danganronpa: Kibo no Gakuen to Zetsubo no Kokosei

  • System: PlayStation Portable, iOS, Android, PlayStation Vita, MS Windows, OSX, Linux, PlayStation 4
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Spike
  • Release: November 2010 (Japan)/February 2014 (NA)

An adventure visual novel, Danganronpa was released on the PlayStation Portable, before being brought to mobile devices. The success of the series has spawned several sequels, as well as companion manga and anime series’, and a series of light novels. At Hope Peak’s Academy, only the highest caliber students in various fields are accepted to study. Which is puzzling for Makoto Naegi, an average student with a positive outlook and little else, who is selected to join the school as the “ultimate lucky student.” Once in the school, he finds himself surrounded by similar students, and a robotic bear explains that they are part of some sort of sadistic game; students will spend their lives at Hope’s Peak, and must abide by the rules under penalty of death. The only way out is to murder one of the other fourteen students, but there’s a catch – it doesn’t count if you’re caught.

Gameplay is similar to the Ace Attorney series, where players can explore the school and progress through the story while getting to know classmates. This is broken up by a series of Class Trials, where the player must help Makoto deduce who the culprit is, based on gathered evidence. The trials are carried out in a series of conversations where weak theories are highlighted, shooting puzzles where the player engages in shooting minigame to discover clues, one on one rhythmic debates with other characters, and closing arguments, where theories play out crimes like comic strips. With an intriguing, increasingly complicated descent into madness, Danganronpa is unlike anything else out there.


2. Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia/Ar Tonelico: The Girl Who Keeps Singing at the End of the World

  • System: Playstation 2
  • Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Developer: Gust Co. LTD
  • Release Date: January 2006 (Japan)/February 2006 (NA)

Set in the fantasy world of Sol Ciel, which consists of a living tower, the Tower of Ar Tonelico, and a landmass at the base of the tower referred to as the Wings of Horus. The tower is divided into several named sections, with the lower portions of the tower resembling small, rural villages, where the upper reaches are filled with wealth and technology. However, the tower functions somewhat like a computer, and is occasionally subject to viruses that can be devastating to both the lower and upper residents. The world is inhabited by humans and Reyvateils, manufactured female humanoids that were created to maintain Ar Tonelico.

The player takes control of Lyner, a brave knight who fell from the tower while trying to destroy one of its malignant viruses. Gameplay is focused primarily on exploration of the towers various sections, and combat, which is turn based and similar to the Atelier series. Combat is unique because human party members must defend the Reyvateil party member, and is able to execute devastatingly powerful attacks when they work in harmony. As well as experience, combat also rewards players with “Dive Points,” which allow players to enter the mind of their Reyvateils, get to know them better, and improve their combat proficiencies. It’s systems have plenty of depth, and really help set it apart from the rest of the pack.


1. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness/Makai Senki Disugaia

  • System: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, MS Windows
  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  • Release Date: January 2003 (Japan)/August 2003 (NA)

Perhaps the most iconic series in NIS America’s repertoire, Disgaea is so popular that it almost needs no introduction. Originally released on PlayStation 2, the Disgaea series has grown into a juggernaut franchise that spans multiple consoles, and has spawned spin-off manga and anime series’. The game takes place in the Netherworld, a parallel universe inhabited by quirky demons with moral compasses that are basically the opposite of decent human beings. There are multiple Netherworlds, each ruled by their own Overlords, as well as Celestial worlds inhabited by angels. Both angels and demons depend on energy from the human world, and realize their societies will crumble if there is ever a day when mankind fears itself more than them.

Players inhabit the role of a dark prince with a (usually) bad attitude. From a central hub, players manage their party of unique underworld denizens, and engage in missions that involve combat on isometric battlefields. Disgaea is particularly well-regarded for its insane amount of content, the ridiculously high level cap on player characters’ stats, and the goofy sense of humor established in its well-developed worlds. If fans of NIS America have somehow managed to miss out on this series, they should do themselves a favor, and pick up whichever iteration is supported on their favorite console.


Final Thoughts

NIS America has a staggering library of games, and it’s easy to see why they appeal to fans of anime and manga. Their dedicated fan base has shown undying support for many of their hallmark franchises, which means that they’ll continue to pump out the games we know and love for many years to come. Are there any games that weren’t mentioned in the list that die-hard fans absolutely must play? Let us know in the comments section, because there’s no such thing as too many games.

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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