The weird and wonderful world of Japanese game titles and the brilliant games behind them

The weird and wonderful world of Japanese game titles and the brilliant games behind them

Japan is responsible for so many of the greatest gaming moments in history, but stretching as far back as Puck-Man the titles of the games have often raised eyebrows and sometimes made us wonder out loud, ‘But why is it called that?’

Puck Man, better known these days as Pac Man makes sense. The main character is a bit like a puck in terms of shape. In fact, it makes more sense than Pac-Man unless you know that there is a Japanese phrase for gobbling something that is paku-paku (パクパク).

History tells us that that Puck Man was changed in the West because of fears of cabinets being vandalized with the P being changed to an F to create a wholly different game title, so Pac-Man it is.

Lost in translation

This is just one of the first examples of language becoming an issue when it comes to games arriving on our shores from the East. Since then we have had such a veritable feast of weird and wonderful game titles, that we never really stop and think about, and if we did it would probably just blow our minds.

Take 1995’s Super Nintendo tactics classic Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together. An amazing game from the eventual makers of Final Fantasy Tactics. A game everybody should seek out on an emulator, but what is it with that title?

From Fairy Fencer F Advent Dark Force to Melty Blood: Type Lumina this stuff makes no sense to our Western brains, but in truth, it adds to the mystique and er, exoticness (good word Paul, you should do this for a living) and is it really any different to Baldur’s Gate or Red Dead Redemption if you think about it?

Can I interest you in some more delicacies? How about Super Long Nose Goblin from Taito? Or Getter Love!! Panda Love Unit?

All games you should seek out, and not just for the name alone.

If you are a collector of weird game names the Melty Blood games are rich pickings. We already mentioned one above but Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code beats it hands down.

Melty Blood

One of my favorites, mainly because to this day I can’t comprehend what it is supposed to mean is the 2008 Xbox classic Infinite Undiscovery, probably because it sounds like it should have some profound meaning but I am too stupid to get what it is. I have been trying for 16 years.

We often get name changes when a game crosses continents mainly for marketing reasons. Resident Evil’s original Japanese title is simply Biohazard, which there is nothing wrong with in the first place although Resident Evil is definitely cooler, while others you might expect to get a change such as Death Stranding or Metal Gear Solid become classics and nobody ever questions that the name sounds odd to Western ears. Solid Snake?

Some of this is down to translation but cultural differences make the most difference to titles. The way English as a language is used is perhaps a lot more flamboyant. In the west, we like to go for short, to-the-point titles that can easily be fit into conversion…”Have you played Skyrim?”

Skyrim, at face value, is a hugely boring title. It’s like calling your game Birmingham as it is just the name of the place where the game takes place, as was its predecessor Morrowind.

Western game titles tend to be straight to the point – Grand Theft Auto, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and so on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to add a little flair to those as well?

We don’t get many ‘Charles Barkley, Shut Up and Jam’ type game titles anymore unfortunately – check out the tremendous effort on the graphic design of the font use below.

Shut up and Jam

If you have spent any time in Japan titles such as all of the above start to make more sense. Once you get a feeling for how the language is used there it becomes fun, rather than just functional. And of course, translating any language word for word will always throw up unusual phrasing.

You can imagine the days of meetings when EA was prepping to change the name from FIFA to EAFC? The hours of focus groups and logo tweaks and changes, discussions about whether there should be a space between the EA and the FC – just Super Long Nose Goblin it mate. If it works it works. Go with it.

Ten of the strangest Japanese game titles

Here are ten games/game series worth seeking out for the ultimate gaming silly name

  • Bravely Default

  • Super Long Nose Goblin

  • Gravitational Dizziness: The Perturbation of Her Inner Space Caused by the Repatriation of the Upper Stratum

  • Getter Love!! Panda Love Unit

  • Infinite Undiscovery

  • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Familia Myth Infinite Combate

  • Violence Killer: Turok New Generation

  • G.A.S.P!! Fighters’ NEXTreme

  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Ten of the strangest Western game titles

Larry 3

And if you were fooled by all this into thinking it was just the Japanese that came up with crazy game names. Well, this list will fix that right up for you.

  • Fortnite

  • Player Unknown Battlegrounds

  • Charles Barkley Shut Up and Jame

  • Goat Simulator

  • If It Moves, Shoot It!

  • Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals

  • Ninja Hamster

  • GOLF Magazine Presents 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples

  • Big Mutha Truckers 2: Truck Me Harder

  • How To Be A Complete Bastard