Shin Megami Tensei games - Which are the best to play?

I recently completed Persona 5, and I immediately went back to play 4 (I played vanilla as I do not have access to a vita) and am almost at the end with that one too now - I powered through it. I'm growing to like this series and have decided to play Persona 3 FES, both Persona 2 games and then do 1 (even though I hear 1 is really difficult to play these days).

However, I know now that Persona was originally a spin-off from the wider SMT series. After getting into this weird jrpg series, I want to try some SMT stuff but I know next to nothing about them or where to start. I am definitely going to give some of them a whirl but could do with some guidance from those who have more experience with the series. It seems that Atlus has done A LOT of spin-off series.

Can anyone advise which SMT games / series to try next and where to start with them? They all seem quite different from each other...

I'm guessing from your post that you have a PS2 or maybe PS3 with BC, so you have the option of SMT 3: Nocturne and SMT: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2.

If you have a 3DS a whole slew of options opens up, including SMT4, SMT4: Apocalypse, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, SMT: Strange Journey and Devil Survivor 1 & 2.

If you have a Switch, there's Tokyo Mirage Sessions.

Out of all these my picks would be Nocturne, SMT4: Apocalypse, Persona Q and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. If you want to try your hand at a main series game, Apocalypse is arguably the best entry point.

Don't bother with the (Super) Famicom games. They aren't much fun to play anymore. Also, you know, not legally available in anything other than Japanese.

Nocturne is the most iconic one, though you can't go wrong with any of them. There's legit no bad one. Also they mostly are self-contained with at most an easter egg type reference to older games so you don't need to worry about playing them in order.

There's "main series", which includes 1, 2, Nocturne, strange journey and the two smt4 3DS games and then there's the spinoff style stuff like DDS or devil survivor (tactical rpg) or devil summoner (arpg).

The main thing about Nocturne is that it encompasses all that makes SMT SMT in the best way possible...and also has Dante in it too for good measure haha.

Chimpzy:
I'm guessing from your post that you have a PS2 or maybe PS3 with BC, so you have the option of SMT 3: Nocturne and SMT: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2.

If you have a 3DS a whole slew of options opens up, including SMT4, SMT4: Apocalypse, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, SMT: Strange Journey and Devil Survivor 1 & 2.

If you have a Switch, there's Tokyo Mirage Sessions.

Out of all these my picks would be Nocturne, SMT4: Apocalypse, Persona Q and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. If you want to try your hand at a main series game, Apocalypse is arguably the best entry point.

Don't bother with the (Super) Famicom games. They aren't much fun to play anymore. Also, you know, not legally available in anything other than Japanese.

Not sure what you're on about, smt2 is amazing still. It's old, granted, but it lets you fight yaweh XD.

Chimpzy:

Out of all these my picks would be Nocturne, SMT4: Apocalypse, Persona Q and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. If you want to try your hand at a main series game, Apocalypse is arguably the best entry point.

Don't bother with the (Super) Famicom games. They aren't much fun to play anymore. Also, you know, not legally available in anything other than Japanese.

So you would go for Apocalypse, then Nocturne? Is the gameplay dramatically different than the later Persona games? I know the tone is very different and there isn't as much of an emphasis on story (although that could be a good or bad thing depending on how it's executed).

I tried SMT after playing Persona 3, and bounced hard. At least for the one I played (SMT 4 for the DS), it was an outright dungeoncrawler, and I put in a good 10-15 hours without feeling like I'd ever gotten out of the starting act. I also detested how the game made itself difficult by throwing monsters at you with no clue or pattern to their elemental makeup beforehand, and the game's battle system is extremely swingy.

I know folks who love the series but I threw it away after that. It had none of the good stuff from Persona, and put all its focus in the battle system, which I always found to be the least interesting and most repetitive bit of Persona.

While SMTIV got me into the series and has some good parts, the lack of a defensive stat turns many battles into rocket tag. I much preferred SMT Nocturne despite its having even higher difficulty and Devil Survivor: Overclocked is one of my all-time favorites. The former is a standard RPG format with a lot of interesting twists on to it and a lovely atmosphere, while the latter is isometric strategy set in Tokyo during a demon apocalypse.

I wouldn't recommend the first two games due to outdated mechanics and poor balancing, but if you're okay with that kind of stuff maybe try the remake of Soul Hackers on the 3DS. Some people like the Devil Summoner games for their unique setting but I haven't tried them and they are more action RPG. More recently we have SMTIV: Apocalypse, which fixes some of the mechanics problems the original had at the expense of a more cliched, friendship-focused story, closer to Persona than its original 'cosmic horror story' inspiration. Likewise, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker introduces something like Social Links but has a much weaker plot than the first. Strange Journey got a 3DS remake too, but it's Etrian Odyssey-style dungeon crawling at its grindiest, though I like that they responded to complaints that the alignments were far too extreme even for this series' standards by letting you 'redeem' both sides a bit in the new endings (the new final boss is insane though).

Phew... I think that's it. One common thread I feel a lot of these games have tackled without ever pulling off perfectly is creating interesting, likable friends so that it actually hurts when differing alignments have them at each other's throats later on.

I think the persona games re a good way to ease yourself into the basic mechanics, then go for 4 and apocalypse once you've gotten a good hang on it. When you're ready to take things up a notch, nocturne and devil survivor, maybe soul hackers.

SupahEwok:
I tried SMT after playing Persona 3, and bounced hard. At least for the one I played (SMT 4 for the DS), it was an outright dungeoncrawler, and I put in a good 10-15 hours without feeling like I'd ever gotten out of the starting act. I also detested how the game made itself difficult by throwing monsters at you with no clue or pattern to their elemental makeup beforehand, and the game's battle system is extremely swingy.

I know folks who love the series but I threw it away after that. It had none of the good stuff from Persona, and put all its focus in the battle system, which I always found to be the least interesting and most repetitive bit of Persona.

SMT4 is story-heavy compared to Nocturne too. That one is more "everyone's an asshole, you wanna go here, kill the asshole that's preventing you from going here, oh you're here, now you wanna go there, and what do you know, more assholes are in your way, and you know what we do with assholes here, right?" repeat x10. That's why the true true ending which is obtained by beating the super difficult series of dungeons and superbosses is what it is lol.

If you expect something like persona where the opening act is 8 hours and half of those is story cutscenes, yeah, that's not the main SMT series. Stuff like DDS are more like that but when you go main SMT you have a really good dungeon crawler with moral choices at key points. If you don't enjoy fusing demons and negotiating with demons and trial and erroring every enemy into submission then you'll prolly not like it as much as persona.

Where the fuck is SMT 5 Atlus? that games more dead than Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3

I haven't played many SMT games outside of the Persona series. I tried SMT 4, and while I got to one of the endings, I looked back at the overall experience and realized I didn't have nearly enough fun to warrant getting the neutral/true ending, so I took my half assed crappy "evil/bad" ending and left it be ever since.

However, I did play Devil Survivor Overclocked and Devil Survivor Record Breaker last year. Overclocked was absolutely one of my favourite 3DS titles and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's one of the few games I replayed 3 times after beating it once just to see the extra endings and content. It had me absolutely enthralled!

Record Breaker though... I thought was absolute anime stereotype garbage. It felt so at odds with itself, story ideas and plot elements simply not meshing well with others. DS1 is still an anime RPG, but it at least felt reasonably grounded in its characters and world building that it never went too whacky. DS2 just throws that out entirely and drenches the story with "typical anime bullshit" as some call it. I know many people like it more than DS1 due to the improved mechanics and soundtrack, but I couldn't get past the characters and story enough to finish it. Take that as you will.

I also played Persona Q and Q2. Q has its place, but I feel like Q2 just does everything a lot better than it in basically every aspect, save for no English localization and just English subtitles. If you're the type who can get over that and enjoy the game for what it is, it's a fantastic title and a great way to send off the 3DS.

Bout all I've got besides that! Hope it helped a little

Elvis Starburst:
I haven't played many SMT games outside of the Persona series. I tried SMT 4, and while I got to one of the endings, I looked back at the overall experience and realized I didn't have nearly enough fun to warrant getting the neutral/true ending, so I took my half assed crappy "evil/bad" ending and left it be ever since.

However, I did play Devil Survivor Overclocked and Devil Survivor Record Breaker last year. Overclocked was absolutely one of my favourite 3DS titles and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's one of the few games I replayed 3 times after beating it once just to see the extra endings and content. It had me absolutely enthralled!

Record Breaker though... I thought was absolute anime stereotype garbage. It felt so at odds with itself, story ideas and plot elements simply not meshing well with others. DS1 is still an anime RPG, but it at least felt reasonably grounded in its characters and world building that it never went too whacky. DS2 just throws that out entirely and drenches the story with "typical anime bullshit" as some call it. I know many people like it more than DS1 due to the improved mechanics and soundtrack, but I couldn't get past the characters and story enough to finish it. Take that as you will.

I also played Persona Q and Q2. Q has its place, but I feel like Q2 just does everything a lot better than it in basically every aspect, save for no English localization and just English subtitles. If you're the type who can get over that and enjoy the game for what it is, it's a fantastic title and a great way to send off the 3DS.

Bout all I've got besides that! Hope it helped a little

Persona is kind of just a spinoff from SMT, they just used the name in p3's case for marketing reasons and in the US only. P5 brings a lot of SMT elements like guns and demon negotiation into the mix but the whole dating sim aspect and emphasis on story is pretty unique to it.

And I have never played a persona game with english voices so that's actually one of the best features a game can have rather than something to get over, even with a chibi game like Q and Q2 they employ top notch seiyuu.

Elvis Starburst:
I haven't played many SMT games outside of the Persona series. I tried SMT 4, and while I got to one of the endings, I looked back at the overall experience and realized I didn't have nearly enough fun to warrant getting the neutral/true ending, so I took my half assed crappy "evil/bad" ending and left it be ever since.

However, I did play Devil Survivor Overclocked and Devil Survivor Record Breaker last year. Overclocked was absolutely one of my favourite 3DS titles and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It's one of the few games I replayed 3 times after beating it once just to see the extra endings and content. It had me absolutely enthralled!

Record Breaker though... I thought was absolute anime stereotype garbage. It felt so at odds with itself, story ideas and plot elements simply not meshing well with others. DS1 is still an anime RPG, but it at least felt reasonably grounded in its characters and world building that it never went too whacky. DS2 just throws that out entirely and drenches the story with "typical anime bullshit" as some call it. I know many people like it more than DS1 due to the improved mechanics and soundtrack, but I couldn't get past the characters and story enough to finish it. Take that as you will.

I also played Persona Q and Q2. Q has its place, but I feel like Q2 just does everything a lot better than it in basically every aspect, save for no English localization and just English subtitles. If you're the type who can get over that and enjoy the game for what it is, it's a fantastic title and a great way to send off the 3DS.

Bout all I've got besides that! Hope it helped a little

Why did you find the devil survivor games so enthralling? what was it about them?

dscross:
Why did you find the devil survivor games so enthralling? what was it about them?

Hoo boy, that's gonna be a lengthy post. Bare with me though~

I'm not usually a person that likes tactics style games, so I took a big chance on this one. With that in mind, the game combines tactics style gameplay with turn based combat, and it does it extremely well. Thinking smart on the map is only one half of the equation. When you get into battle, it turns into a classic 3v3 turn based combat battle. You gotta think smart with how you use your turns, finding ways to get extra turns and remove the enemies', exploit their weaknesses, and consider your team setup carefully. Since you have a main character and 2 demons on your team, you can mix and match ones that work well with each other, are opposites to fill an attack or defense/elemental weakness, etc. And since you can choose the main character's skills, you have a lot of leeway with how you want your team set up. Because of that, it did a lot more than what most tactics games do, which tend to just become a game of happy slaps. Positioning only goes so far if you don't play effectively in combat, so the depth to surviving is very well fleshed out in my opinion.

That's just the combat too. I liked a lot of the characters, and I found the story was rather gripping. I won't spoil anything for you, but a big draw of the game is a "death clock," which shows you when you and other important characters are destined to die. So it's up to you to extend your time, and/or act quickly to save others. And who you save can affect story moments and even endings. It has tons of replayability because of this, and it's why I replayed the game so many times. Since I couldn't save everyone my first time around, I wanted to see how their stories played out, so I focused on their story arcs the next time.

That, however, is just Devil Survivor 1, or "Overclocked" in the 3DS port (Which I recommend for the voice acting, there's a LOT of text and having voices help break up the rather minimal OST size).

DS 2, or "Record Breaker" for the 3DS, well... Its story was about an alien invasion and was kinda dumb, it was too anime trope-y and weird, the characters weren't as well rounded and interesting, the demons had no reason to be there, and I found it was a little too unforgiving with its ability to save important characters.

However, if you are up to the challenge there and don't mind big silly anime storytelling, there's some things to like in DS2. the more rounded out combat and skills and the really great soundtrack.

Hope that was what you were looking for in terms of an explanation!

Personally, I would start with Nocturne, but there is an argument to be made for SMT IV as well. Both game are awesome all around. However, despite its middling story SMT IV: Apocalypse probably has the best combat of the three. It polishes IV's fantastic combat system in a lot of fundamental ways. Beyond those three though, I still haven't played the others. I have tried Strange Journey but didn't like the dungeon crawl style (may revisit it eventually).

My general ranking: Nocturne = SMT IV > SMT IV Apocalypse

Any of the above three is a viable place to start though.

 

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