Top 10 Fan Translated Games That We Can Finally Play in English

Tags: #RetroGaming ,   #retrogamer ,   #videogames ,   #GamingLife

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-01-29 18:00:10

Did you know that almost a thousand SNES games (978, to be exact) are Japanese exclusives which is more than half of the console's library? The same story applies to Sega Saturn, Famicom, PlayStation, Dreamcast, and many other systems. Unfortunately, very few of these were eventually translated to English, including tons of terrific titles across all genres. While in some cases, the problem relates to licensing, mostly it's all about the massive work needed to do the translation. 

Luckily, fan communities are bringing these titles to the English-speaking crowd. That's why we'll highlight the top ten fan-translated games, ranking them based on their overall quality and importance. However, as is the case with Grandia, we'll skip games that already have the official English release. Yet, there are some exceptions if the Japanese version of the game is visibly superior. Though, these will be in the bottom half of the list. So, let's go!

10. Donald Duck no Mahou no Boushi (1995, Super Nintendo)

Donald Duck no Mahou no Boushi looks gorgeous while keeping the gameplay interesting

Disney characters are so well-recognized worldwide that it's shocking to learn that a SNES game starring Donald Duck was left in Japan! Translated as Donald Duck and the Magic Hat, this title came pretty late in the console's life. Despite being developed by the obscure SAS Sakata team, the game is one of the best about the famous character. One of the strengths of this title is that it's not your typical platformer. While there's plenty of that in the latter portion of the game, you'll also enjoy some mini-games. In them, Donald delivers newspapers, cleans windows, catches a canary, and participates in a game show. 

If you are successful, the adventure continues as your typical platformer, with many similarities to the excellent Magical Quest series. Yet, you won't be bored for a minute, thanks to brilliant level design and astonishing graphics and animation. Finally, the bosses are very unique, as you'll have to defeat them using various strategies. Unfortunately, the controls can be very imprecise, so it will take some time to adjust. Yet, this isn't a fatal flaw. The translation is excellent, to the point you won't even notice that it's not the official one!

9. Clock Tower: The First Fear (1997, PlayStation)

Clock Tower: The First Fear is all about the atmosphere

The highly-regarded Clock Tower series includes four games, with the first one released only on Japanese SNES (Super Famicom). In 1997, Human Entertainment ported it to PlayStation and Windows, but the game still lacked English translation. This enhanced edition added more content, mouse controls, better graphics, and full-motion video sequences, making it the ultimate version. Clock Tower is a survival horror that plays like a point-and-click game. This means you don't have direct control over the main character, which is still rather unusual on consoles.

As you can't fight the mysterious mass murderer known as Scissorman, you have to outsmart him by setting traps and hiding. Depending on your actions, surviving will take you to one of eight possible endings. To add further to replay value, items are in a different spot in each playthrough. While some gameplay elements are rather uninspiring, the atmosphere is fantastic. Despite the massive amount of text, the English translation is flawless, letting you enjoy this adventure to the end.

8. Akumajou Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku (1998, Sega Saturn)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for Saturn has an excellent English translation, but the gameplay improvements are also coming

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is among the best games for the original PlayStation. Yet, this title is also a timeless classic, as it features gorgeous two-dimensional graphics and one of the best soundtracks ever. Luckily, the gameplay is also on the highest level, letting you explore the massive European-style castle as Dracula's son, Alucard. As you fight large enemies, you'll also upgrade your abilities, learn new ones and gain better equipment. Hence, this makes the adventure exciting and continually evolving.

A year later, the game was surprisingly ported to Sega Saturn, but only in Japan. While this conversation had many slowdowns and lacked transparency effects, it also added more content, allowing us to play as another character. Luckily, the game finally got an English translation in 2021, making it completely playable. However, the author isn't stopping there, as he plans to add some gameplay enhancement, including fixing slowdowns! Finally, we'll add that some Saturn emulators like Kronos support transparencies, getting this version closer to the PlayStation original. As the Castlevania series is mostly forgotten by now, this is the best thing we have.

7. Bare Knuckle III (1994, Sega Mega Drive)

This patch makes Streets of Rage III obsolete!

While the Streets of Rage II is one of the finest games on Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, many people were disappointed with the third part of the series. The main problem is the incredible difficulty, to the point that game feels broken. This is a source of frustration, as the gameplay saw many improvements, such as running or performing special moves without affecting the life meter. Also, there is so much hidden content, including the unlockable characters. Finally, the game isn't linear, as it includes a bad ending.

Yet, many people don't know that the Japanese version has a much better balance and a completely different story. Also, the characters kept their original colors, and one of the bosses is out of the overseas edition. Ultimately, this translated version might even be the best Streets of Rage, with only the music not on the same level as in the previous two games. While this English patch is rather old, it's very professional and needs no improvement. Also, you can buy the original game on Steam, and then patch it to this fan version.

6. Valkyria Chronicles III (2011, PSP)

Valkyria Chronicles III is among the best games for PSP

PSP is a fantastic handheld console with many brilliant and exclusive software. This includes two highly-rated Valkyria Chronicle games, which are both among the best titles for the system. These original tactical RPGs feature excellent stories, lovable characters, and gameplay with high replay value. Yet, as Valkyria Chronicles II never sold well outside of Japan, Sega decided not to release Valkyria Chronicles III internationally. That was a massive shame, as the game improved over its predecessor, further tweaking the gameplay. 

Furthermore, this title stays exclusive to this day, as Sega didn't even do a simple remaster for PC or consoles. Yet, guys from VC Translation Project translated it less than three years after the game's release. Moreover, they transcribed the Extra Edition, which added seven more episodes. Unfortunately, while you can finish the main storyline, the postgame and DLC content isn't thoroughly done. There's another patch in the works, so it will hopefully replace this one. If that happens, Valkyria Chronicles III might end up in the higher position on our list.

5. Bulk Slash (1997, Sega Saturn)

Learn about the fascinating Bulk Slash translation straight from the team that did it!

In theory, you can translate any game to English, even if the scenario is over a thousand pages long, like with one title on our list. Yet, translating text isn't enough sometimes, as is the case with the Japanese Sega Saturn exclusive, Bulk Slash. The problem here is that there are so many spoken dialogues in the game, all in Japanese. This means that someone would also have to do the English synchro, which is another level of challenge. However, a small team did the impossible and even hired some experienced voice actors to help complete this project. Hence, this might be the best and the most ambitious fan translation until now!

This is important as Bulk Slash is one of the best games for the 32-bit console, with brilliant music, presentation, and gameplay that has tons of replay value. Finally, this is a prolific Saturn graphical showcase, proving that the platform can rival the original PlayStation in the right hands. If you have any love for action games with giant robots, you can't miss this one. Yet, even if you don't, you might be curious to check it out and see what it's all about. Playing a title deemed impossible to translate is an incredible experience!

4. Dragon Force II: Kamisarishi Daichi ni (1998, Sega Saturn)

Do play the first game before you boot up Dragon Force 2!

You can often hear arguments that Dragon Force is one of the best games for the Sega Saturn, and we agree with that. This title combines real-time strategy and role-playing as you take your armies into battles against other rulers. Yet, massive conflicts involving 200 units made Dragon Force so famous – something unheard of at the time! To win, you have to carefully plan your moves, choosing the right troops and the formation. During the battle, you can also make additional commands as you begin to understand your opponent's strategy.

Unfortunately, when Dragon Force II was released in Japan in 1998, the system was all but dead in the water elsewhere. While this sequel is more of the same, it had some significant improvements. For example, you can combine two types of units and improve them over time. Translating the game was a massive project, as it took almost a decade. That's even more impressive knowing that it involved over 30 people, including twenty translators! Play the original game first, and if you love it, come for this improved sequel!

3. Shining Force III Scenario 2/Scenario 3 (1998, Sega Saturn)

There isn't a better RPG on Sega's 32-bit console

None of Sega's consoles featured many RPGs, but there are still a few exceptional titles, including the Shining Force series. This is a traditional turn-based tactical RPG where you position your team before issuing them a single command. The goals are usually straightforward, as you either need to destroy all enemies or defeat their commander. However, there's also an exploration mode where you gather resources and prepare for further battles. Shining Force III was praised at the time and today is considered one of the platform's best games.

However, the game was released in 1998, shortly before Sega pulled the plug off the system in Europe and North America. This means that the second and third parts of the story (Scenario 2 and Scenario 3) were never published outside Japan! Yet, as these stories are all connected, they are essential to play. Fortunately, both received English translation, and while they are still not perfect, the games are playable, and the project is still alive. Moreover, even the additional Premium Disc is now available in English! 

2. Policenauts (1996, Sega Saturn)

Policenauts is another Hideo Kojima triumph!

Brilliant Hideo Kojima made some terrific games, but Policenauts is one of his best works. This title combines visual novels, point-and-click adventures, and interactive movies to tell an incredible sci-fi story. After being cryo-frozen for 25 years, a police officer Jonathan Ingram comes back to life, deciding to become a detective. Yet, as he works on the case of a missing person, it turns out that he is getting involved in something much larger.

Despite being available on four different platforms, the game never left Japan. While Konami initially wanted to translate the Saturn version, it was too much work for the company at the time. Yet, fans did for both PlayStation (in 2009) and Saturn (in 2016). The latter is our choice as it supports light guns and has some additional scenes and improved videos. Finally, the dialogue is improved, and there's a glossary of terms and bonus videos after you finish the game. The translation is perfect, without a single Japanese character left, even in the credits! It even improves the original game by sorting out glitches and crashes.

1. Mother 3 (Game Boy Advance, 2006)

It might not be the best game in the series, but Mother 3 is still worthy of your time

Nintendo's Mother series always causes frustration among fans. Unlike all other company's major franchises, these titles are rarely released outside of Japan. The first game, published in 1989, came to the West only in 2015, and while Mother 2, renamed EarthBound, arrived on American SNES, it was partially censored. Unfortunately, when Mother 3 was released, Nintendo made it clear that the game wouldn't be translated. Instead of waiting for years and hoping, fans decided to do it themselves, even though it was a massive task.

Only seven months after the game was introduced, they started translating over a thousand script pages using original tools to put it into the game. Yet, led by a professional translator, the project was ready for download only two years later! The final result is awe-inspiring, as even some character names and accents are changed to make it familiar to the rest of the world. What's even more amazing is that Nintendo never tried to shut down this project, even though the Nintendo of America knew about it. It was incredible that the corporation notorious for their intellectual property protection allowed such a thing, but maybe they felt ashamed that someone else did what they had to do.

While fan translations are nothing new, the popularity of these projects exploded in the last couple of years. This means that hundreds of games are now fully playable for the English-speaking crowd, while others like Princess Crown will follow. So while these top ten games are incredible to play, we also encourage you to explore further!

Have you ever played a fan-translated game? Which Japanese-only release would you like to get an official or fan translation?



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Vince Says:

Still waiting for Samurai Shodown RPG

December 14 at 03:51:35 PM

Delaney Says:

Sega Saturn translation scene is fascinating. I can't wait for the Princess Crown, but it seems that progress has really slowed down. I don't understand why Atlus won't do it officially.

September 02 at 09:29:18 AM

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