Kairosoft is one of those game development companies that have been doing their own thing for over two decades now, slipping underneath the radar of “real gamers”. Think mobile gaming/ casual gaming, but before it became mainstream. These guys make simulation games for handheld consoles and mobile phones. And all of their games carry a similar theme- say you’re a football team manager or a magazine editor, and your job is to climb up the ladder in whichever industry you are.
It is hard to lose in a Kairosoft game, and I’m not even sure you can lose. Because at worst, your efforts within the game will turn up a lower score than usual. There is no “game over” screen, nor is the gameplay conventional. You essentially pass through certain motions, repeating them in a loop, improving the “stats” or coming up with new strategies to get better scores. Despite a lot of their games feeling similar in terms of the gameplay loop, Kairosoft games are weirdly addicting if you’re in the mood for a chill, laid-back experience.
These are games anyone can play- kids, grandparents, retro enthusiasts, and even hardcore gamers who want something to pass the time. What really made them popular in the west is Game Dev Story, an iPhone game released in 2010 that let you play as the manager of a game development company. The game contained references and parodies of the real-world gaming industry. For instance, you have to choose which console you want to make games for. The early game has two options- “Intendro” and “Senga”. These names are parodies of Nintendo and Sega if it wasn’t obvious. Anyways, if you’re searching for casual sim games that you can play on your phone or Nintendo Switch, I’ve got a list of the 8 best Kairosoft games. Sit back, relax, and let’s get started.
Ranking Kairosoft Games From Worst To Best
There are far too many Kairosoft games for me to put in one article. But a lot of them have similar gameplay elements, and these are the best games that Kairosoft has made. Coming in at number 8 is a game that lets you run your own sushi parlor.
8. The Sushi Spinnery
|Release Date||July 3, 2012|
|Platforms||Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, PlayStation 4|
Ever wondered what it would be like to manage your very own sushi restaurant? Well, imagine no more because Kairosoft has got exactly that packaged into a handy mobile experience you can carry anywhere. This is back before free-to-play gaming took the mobile world by storm, one of the few games you can actually enjoy because it was designed with fun in mind. Not microtransactions and “player engagement”.
In the sushi spinnery, you start out as a small joint in the corner of a street. With the goal of becoming Japan’s number one sushi place within the next 12 years, you toil away every day to improve on your dishes and staff members. Early on, you just have one part-time chef and not much in the way of decorations. But you recruit professionals as you draw more customers. The game even lets you add stuff like pinball machines, chef stations, etc. Eventually, you can hire consultants to advise your chefs or draw new types of customers. There are lots of little fun mechanics in this game, and you’ll easily find yourself dropping an hour or more each day.
7. Hot Springs Story
|Release Date||December 16, 2010|
|Platforms||Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|
As you can infer from the name, this game has you managing a hot spring resort. Specifically, a hot spring resort in the Japanese Alps. Fire up your inner businessman, because this game gives you plenty of tools to make money. Like other Kairosoft games, your business starts out small but eventually becomes a global giant. You take suggestions from guests and make improvements to the facilities, which brings in even more people.
Plus, guests eventually build a relationship with you and feel comfortable sharing details they only talk about with close friends. There is a popularity system within the game, and tons of side activities. Interiors can be customized- you can choose between traditional tatami rooms or western style rooms. You also get to influence guidebook publishers who will include the name of your resort in Japan’s most popular guidebooks.
6. Ninja Village
|Release Date||March 25, 2013|
|Platforms||Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|
The leader of a ninja clan in the Sengoku era of Japan, it’s your job to build up your village and protect it from outside threats. There are different types of ninja units in the game- infantry, archers, gunners, cavalry. You can unlock these units as you progress through the game, and purchase them with the gold you earn from missions. Your village has 3 types of structures- environment, industry, and shops. Industry makes goods, shops sell them. Both industry and shops boost the economy of your village. Environment improves the effectiveness of the other two building types. And not everyone in the village is a ninja, most are regular civilians. They have stats like attack, defense, strength, etc.
5. Silver Screen Story
|Release Date||February 21, 2019|
|Platforms||Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch|
This is a game about managing a film studio, finding new stars, and making the best blockbusters. Silver screen story actually isn’t as shallow as some of the other mobile simulation games. It has plenty of fun mechanics and a lot of stuff that will pull you in right from the start. Plus, it’s pretty reasonably priced for 6 to 10 hours of gameplay. You can mix and match movie genres to create fresh new films that defy all logic.
It’s always fun to see if this experimentation results in something successful or a complete flop. And as long as you level up your talent by training them, you rarely run out of cash to spend. You can set filming locations and actually travel there to see the movie getting shot which is a lot of fun.
4. Magician’s Saga
|Release Date||February 24, 2017, on Android and March 2, 2017, on iOS|
|Platforms||Android and iOS|
This one is pretty unique in the sense that it’s a casual RPG rather than a simulation-style game, very rare deviance from the tried and true formula of Kairosoft. In Magician’s Saga, you play as a mage fighting your way through the game world, defeating all sorts of monsters and leveling up your character. Think of it as an extremely barebones RPG that has elements of classic RPG games, but with very little depth or variety. There is little room for stratification since battles boil down to a rock/paper/scissor choice. You have 3 elements- water, fire, and electric. Electric types are weak against fire, fire types are weak against water, and water types are weak against electric. The health bar color of a monster gives away what element it’s weak against.
3. Pocket Academy
|Release Date||June 29, 2011|
|Platforms||Android, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4|
With a colorful and upbeat theme complemented by pixelated 2D sprites, Pocket Academy sets a very cheerful and lighthearted tone as soon as you boot up the game. It has generic-sounding music tracks which are pleasing at first but can become boring after a while. The premise is like any other Kairosoft game, except this time you’re managing a Japanese school. With the goal of turning your academy into the best, you set out to recruit teachers and create new facilities. Restrooms, nurses, faculty, libraries, classrooms, etc. can all be researched and upgraded over time. You can turn the educational system into a social experience or a strict totalitarian institution. Student spirit and career paths will change depending on the choices you make.
2. High Sea Saga
|Release Date||February 10, 2015, for Android and March 31, 2016, for iOS|
|Platforms||Android and iOS|
Want to play pirate and lay waste to merchant ships with your very own ship and crew? Well, High Sea Saga certainly scratches that itch. Or at least it does to the best extent that a casual sim mobile game can. There are faint traces of RPG elements, what with the equipment and crew upgrades. Oh, and just so you know it’s a pirate game, you can “dismiss” crew members. Whether that means walking them off a plank into shark-filled waters or cutting their contract short at a port, well… that’s up to your imagination.
Music is generic but upbeat, the visuals are nothing to write home about, and the mechanics are watered-down versions of systems taken from far more successful games. Nevertheless, High Sea Saga is a fun experience. If only the pacing wasn’t glacially slow, but that’s mobile gaming in a nutshell.
1. Game Dev Story
|Release Date||April 1997|
|Platforms||Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone|
You knew this would be number one, anyone who’s familiar with Kairosoft will acknowledge that Game Dev Story is what really put them in everyone’s sights. In the game, you assume the role of a CEO for a startup game dev company. You can name the studio, hire your beginner staff, and choose which console to develop for. There are plenty of things you can select before you actually start developing your game. For instance, which genre will it be? How many resources do you want to put behind each aspect of the game?
Graphics, creativity, sound, etc. are like attributes, you can choose to place more or less dev time and money on each of these areas. There are a variety of gamer demographics, and they all have their own unique tastes. The game constantly takes shots at real-life people and consoles. There is the “Sonny PlayStatus” and “PlayStatus 2”, “Intendro Whoops”, etc. You can even hire Bill Gates, oops I mean “Gilly Bates”.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Why doesn’t Kairosoft make Windows versions of their games?
A: They did use to make games for Windows, Game Dev Story is one of the earliest examples. However, when the Japanese market started swaying towards handhelds in the early 2000s, Kairosoft decided they had found their niche. Back then, Japanese phones had better hardware compared to the phones used in the west, which meant they could actually run games. This resulted in a booming mobile game market within Japan.
Q: Can I play Kairosoft games on my PC?
A: Sure you can, there are Nintendo and Android emulators out there. You can download the .apk file for whichever game you want, then load it up in the emulator of your choice.
Q: Are all Kairosoft games really similar?
A: Well, most of them follow the trend of “manage your own business/ organization and grow it into the number 1 within its industry”. And they all have basic RPG elements built-in like leveling up characters and equipment. However, they all provide unique stories and dialogue. Plus, the settings vary a ton- you have everything from pirate sims to restaurant management.
Q: What other Kairosoft games are worth playing apart from the 8 on this list?
A: Honestly, if you’re a fan of these types of games you can play pretty much any Kairosoft title. There are over 20 of them on the Nintendo Switch, and a lot of the older titles have been ported to Android or iOS. Unlike modern mobile games, these are free from grindy in-app purchases and microtransactions. I recommend The Manga Works and Café Nipponica.
Q: How can I get English translations of Kairosoft games that were never released outside Japan?
A: You might get lucky and find fan-made translations online. So use Google and see if there are downloadable files with the English translations for your favorite Japan-exclusive games.