Can’t wait for Assassin’s Creed Shadows? Play these games instead

Ubisoft

Ubisoft unveiled Assassin’s Creed Shadows last week, giving us our first real glimpse at the first Assassin’s Creed game to be set in Japan. Its Feudal Japan setting is something that fans of Assassin’s Creed have craved for a long time, and while it’s awesome that Ubisoft is finally delivering that concept, some other games did beat it to the punch. Many other developers have noticed how fruitful a historical Japan setting can be, from its feudal era all the way until the West started to intervene in the Edo period. As a result, there are quite a few games that I can recommend you check out while you’re waiting for Assassin’s Creed Shadows‘ November 15 launch.

The five games I’m recommending all range in size. Three of them are AAA action games, all set in different eras of Japanese history that immerse players in different ways. Meanwhile, the other two games I’m spotlighting are more experimental titles that, while not directly comparable to Assassin’s Creed Shadows from a gameplay perspective, are still well worth your time if Japanese history and culture intrigue you.

Ghost of Tsushima

The PC version of Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Getting the most obvious recommendation out of the way first, Ghost of Tsushima essentially beat Assassin’s Creed Shadows to the punch by being an open-world stealth-action game set in Japan. Sucker Punch Productions and Sony Interactive Entertainment’s game takes place hundreds of years before Assassin’s Creed Shadows will and follows a Samurai defending the titular island from a Mongol invasion. Like many of Sony’s single-player offerings, it’s a cinematic and story-driven action game with cutting-edge visuals and AAA polish.

The environments in Ghost of Tsushima are particularly beautiful. While they are quite colorful, an included Kurosawa mode also makes the game black-and-white, giving it the same feel as the samurai films it’s based on. From a gameplay standpoint, it follows the Assassin’s Creed formula fairly closely, so those who enjoy a good mixture of open-world exploration, sneaking around enemy encampments, and engaging in tense melee battles will find lots to enjoy with Ghost of Tsushima.

For console players, Ghost of Tsushima is a PlayStation 4 and PS5 exclusive. A Director’s Cut version of the game just launched on PC too.

Trek to Yomi

Hiroki holds his sword in front of his face in Trek to Yomi
Devolver Digital

While Ghost of Tsushima is a more obvious pick, Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital’s Trek to Yomi is a title that you might not have heard of. It’s a side-scrolling action game telling a classic revenge tale as a samurai fights his way through the underworld in order to resurrect himself and avenge his burnt-down village and dead master and lover. Trek to Yomi’s story and combat isn’t the most polished out there, but this game more than makes up for it in terms of style.

Trek to Yomi doesn’t look like most side-scrollers; it goes for a very cinematic feel with black-and-white visuals and delicately crafted cinematography for certain gameplay moments. It’s a fairly short adventure you can beat within a few hours, so you can squeeze in a full playthrough over the course of the weekend. While it’s not a direct replacement for Assassin’s Creed Shadows, playing through Trek to Yomi could certainly be a good primer that will get you in the mood to play Ubisoft’s biggest release of the year.

Trek to Yomi is available for $20 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch. A one-hour game trial of Trek to Yomi is also available for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers.

Rise of the Ronin

Combat in Rise of the Ronin.
Team Ninja

Assassin’s Creed Shadows isn’t the only AAA game set in a historical era of Japan to come out this year. In March, Team Ninja and Sony Interactive Entertainment released Rise of the Ronin, an open-world Soulslike game set during the Bakumatsu period, which is the point in time when the West’s influence really started to be felt in Japan. Although it’s set a couple of centuries after Assassin’s Creed Shadows, it features a comprehensive encyclopedia that can give you a crash course on many relevant aspects of Japanese culture and history.

Rise of the Ronin lacks the visual polish of a Ghost of Tsushima or Assassin’s Creed Shadows, but its intense swordfight and RPG systems will present a meaningful challenge for you to overcome in the coming months. Rise of the Ronin is available now exclusively on PS5.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun screenshot.
Mimimi Productions

While all the other titles on this list are action games, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a strategy game about samurai, ninja, and thieves fighting an evil warlord in feudal Japan. Stealth still plays a big part in Shadow Tactics, but rather than having direct control of a single character, players are commanding a group of fighters in real time from an isometric perspective. This game is by Mimimi Productions, so if you played some of its later works like Desperados 3 or last year’s underrated Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, then you’ll know what to expect here.

If the fact that Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a strategy game isn’t that intimidating to you, then I’d really recommend checking it out. While it’s easy to just play clones of the games you like, it’s also rewarding to venture out into different genres through games that have connective tissue with the ones you enjoy most. While Assassin’s Creed Shadows can potentially replace many games on this list for you, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun will continue to stand as a peer to it rather than a direct competitor.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. If you like what you played, a standalone DLC called Aiko’s Choice is available as well.

Like a Dragon: Ishin!

A samurai swipes a sword in Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Sega

Finally, we have Like a Dragon: Ishin!, a 2023 remaster of a Like a Dragon spinoff that previously had only been released in Japan. It tells the story of real-life samurai Sakamoto Ryoma and is set in a similar era to Rise of the Ronin. That said, all of the characters in this game look like people from the mainline Like a Dragon games, which are all set in the modern day. As is the case with most Like a Dragon titles, Ishin’s narrative is an enthralling soap opera-like adventure full of political maneuvering and surprise twists that will keep you engaged through its whole runtime.

From a gameplay standpoint, it’s similar in structure to other Like a Dragon games. That means it’s a little more linear than Assassin’s Creed Shadows will likely be, but you’ll be intimately familiar with its setting of Kyo by the end of the adventure. Its action gameplay also has unique flair as players can use swords and guns in battles, not just their fists. Any Like a Dragon game can give you a good time, and Ishin is a surprisingly solid entry point as you wait for Assassin’s Creed Shadows.

Like a Dragon: Ishin! is available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It’s part of the Xbox Game Pass catalog as well.

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