Suikoden Games Ranked From Worst To Best

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a JRPG guy. While I understand the allure of famous games such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, I’ve always spent way more time in western RPGs. Think Elder Scrolls, Baldur’s Gate, Ultima, etc. However, there is one JRPG that despite being forgotten by its developer way back in the mid-2000s, is still talked about today by its ardent fanbase. It is a little series called Suikoden. Maybe you’ve heard of it, especially if you were a kid back in the 90s and early 2000s on your PlayStation.

Konami ditched the franchise due to declining sales figures and mismanagement. Plus, the guy responsible for developing the first 3 games suddenly up and left after his contract expired. This is why the last 2 entries feel very different from the first few Suikoden games. Still, every single one of the 5 mainline games is enjoyable. These games hold up well, even today. Some of the Suikoden games are pretty rare since there weren’t many prints, to begin with. This is why you’ll often see some original copies of Suikoden II selling for two to three hundred dollars on eBay. That’s the price of a used console, for just one old JRPG that most gamers today don’t even remember.

Related Read: 17 Role-Playing Games Like Suikoden

Anyways, there’s a reason the Suikoden series managed to stand tall in a market overwhelmed by giants such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. It offered a unique form of gameplay and storytelling that separated it from other JRPGs of its time. Suikoden presents well-written three-dimensional characters and a world filled with mystery. There’s even an official encyclopedia on the fictional world of Suikoden, which is a cool thing in itself. How many other games can claim to have an encyclopedia of themselves? Plus, in Suikoden, you can control up to 6 different characters in your party. At least you could, until the 4th and 5th entries which dropped that down to 4. The high number of controllable party members is one unique aspect of Suikoden, then there’s also the innovative combat system and engaging quests.

There’s plenty to celebrate and remember about this forgotten series, but that’s not why I’m here today. I want to rank the five mainline Suikoden games produced between 1995 and 2006, from worst to best. Keep in mind, this is totally my personal opinion based on what I like within each installment of the series. And while I haven’t played all these games on their native console, I’ve got some emulator experience on me. So I feel fairly qualified to provide an objective assessment of where each game stands within the hierarchy. Now, let’s get started with the rankings.

Ranking Suikoden Games From Worst To Best

Starting off at number 5 is…. drumroll please- the 4th entry in the Suikoden franchise!

5. Suikoden IV

DeveloperKonami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date August 19, 2004, in Japan and January 11, 2005, in NA
PlatformsPlayStation 2

The Suikoden games have always had 3 primary battle elements. First is the basic mode in which you and your party members duke it out against all types of enemy groups in turn-based combat. Then, there are one-on-one duels that signify special events within the storyline. You also get dialogue within each duel that gives you clues on what the enemy will do next. Finally, there’s war which is a strategic turn-based affair in which your army fights the enemy’s army. 

Now, every game up until Suikoden IV had a pretty standard and somewhat similar interpretation of these 3 battle types. However, Suikoden IV introduced a new sea-based war mode which many players didn’t really like. On top of that, it had this super tedious ship-based navigation and traveling system which got boring real fast. But the most egregious flaw in my opinion is you getting a party of 4. All the other Suikoden titles until this point had a 6-person party. Reducing the party member count decreased gameplay depth and took away part of what made Suikoden different from all the other JRPGs. 

Don’t get me wrong, Suikoden IV is still a fun game. And it has some good characters within an interesting plot. But the removal of certain core features from the gameplay and the addition of unnecessary things that felt tedious made this the worst entry of the series. But hey, that’s my opinion. And there are plenty who love this game. 

4. Suikoden 

Developer Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release DateDecember 15, 1995, in Japan and the same time next year in North America
Platforms PlayStation (with a Sega Saturn port 3 years later)

The one that started it all, and released for the original PlayStation. Konami originally came up with the idea for this game right after they abandoned their own console project, and that’s when the PS1 was introduced. So they wanted to come up with a revolutionary new RPG for this console. The first Suikoden isn’t a very polished game and its combat feels janky at times. However, just a couple of hours within this game is enough to convey a sense of adventure and curiosity. You can tell it’s filled with innovative concepts and built around a good vision.

If this is your very first Suikoden, you’re in for an experience like no other. The massive war mode in which armies fight it out to the last man standing, it’s both exhilarating and tactical at the same time. Then there’s the turn-based combat of basic mode in which you can issue unique commands to each individual party member before their turn. Fights feel fair and everyone has their share of interesting abilities. Plus, you get to recruit a total of 108 members which gives this game tons of replayability value. Granted the adventure doesn’t last for long since it ends at just around 20 hours of total playtime for the campaign. 

But so what? Those 20 hours are some of the most fun you’ll ever have in a JRPG, let alone one from the 90s. Plus, each new playthrough is a different experience. Depending on who you recruit and the choices you make, your story will play out differently. Talking of the story, it feels more grounded than other JRPGs. Suikoden focuses on politics, the war between kingdoms, friendship, etc. It explores more mature themes and has some excellent side characters.

3. Suikoden III

Developer Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date July 11, 2002, in Japan and October 24, 2002, in NA
Platforms PlayStation 2

This one is the 3rd Suikoden on my list and also the third game of the series. It is the first Suikoden game to use full 3D characters and environments. That’s a lot of threes, right? But that’s not all, Suikoden III also introduces 3 main protagonists. You can switch between these 3 characters at certain points within the narrative. Suikoden III introduced a lot of new mechanics and characters.

Storytelling sees an overhaul with the introduction of multiple protagonists that you can switch between to view the world from different perspectives. Plus, the protagonist isn’t silent anymore. Oh, and you can even unlock a 4th protagonist halfway through the story which is amazing. The basic battle mode has been overhauled, now you control pairs of characters instead of individuals. And the new duel system uses a gauge that adds some extra excitement to each fight.

Many Suikoden fans hated the new pairing system for battles which took away individual control. And it did introduce some issues. For example, if you have one pair getting low on health you can’t use another pair to heal them up. Plus if there’s a boss who is weak to a specific type of damage (say magic) you can’t have both characters in the pair cast their spells. Only one member of the pair casts spells. Apart from the battle system, Suikoden III does have some pacing issues. It drags on for a bit too long, and the plot takes a long time to really unfold. Nevertheless, I feel it’s a very entertaining experience. 

2. Suikoden V

Developer Konami and Hudson Soft
Release DateFebruary 23, 2006, in Japan and March 21, 2006, in NA
Platforms PlayStation 2

Some believe this is the ultimate blend of everything leading up to the point where the game was released, it combines all the best elements from each Suikoden. The result is excellent gameplay combined with gripping storytelling. If I’m being honest, V feels like a spiritual successor to the 2nd game. It is a prequel to the events of the first Suikoden.

In Suikoden V, you fight to resolve the political struggle going on in the Queendom of Falena. Playing as the Prince of Falena, you travel around the world gathering allies and dealing with enemies of the nation. You can recruit characters, which usually puts you through a short side quest. Visiting different towns lets you sharpen your weapons, buy new gear, upgrade items, etc. You also learn and upgrade skills, typical of RPGs. This is also the first 3D Suikoden to use a top-down camera perspective similar to the first 2 games. 

And I was pleased to see the return of Suikoden’s signature 6-man battle party. What Suikoden IV removed, Suikoden V reintroduced. Plus, each character can be individually controlled unlike in III where you had 3 pairs instead of 6 individuals. Finally, war is a true RTS mode instead of a turn-based affair which is a welcome change and introduces an entirely new genre of gameplay. Duels are as fun as ever, and the new basic battle mode has positioning-based combat. This lets you improvise and adapt new strategies/ combos depending on how your party members are positioned in the battle grid. 

I’m really impressed by how well Suikoden V turned out despite the original creator of Suikoden (Yoshitaka Murayama) not being at the helm of this project. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell as well as its direct predecessor which might have been the final nail in the coffin for Suikoden.

1. Suikoden II

Developer Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date December 17, 1998, in Japan and August 31, 1999, in NA
Platforms PlayStation (a Japan-only Windows 95 port was released later)

With one of the most memorable cast of characters in any JRPG ever, Suikoden II takes what Suikoden starter and applies a nice coat of polish on top. Not only that, but it also introduces new characters and game mechanics that make the world feel a lot more fleshed out compared to the first game. The antagonist Luca in Suikoden II is a truly despicable person and really motivates you to beat the game and put an end to his plans. However, instead of just being there for the sake of looking evil, Luca has a detailed backstory that tells you how he became the monster that he is. 

Plus, the game tells a touching tale of two friends separated by war who find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict. The game explores mature themes and isn’t scared to bring up discussions on how differences in ideology results in massive destruction through war. People willing to die in order to uphold their cause, childhood friends fighting each other over differences in politics. This game is a blast to play through, and most Suikoden fans consider it to be the best in the entire series. 

Suikoden II is a game that you can’t put away once you’ve started it, you’ll feel like you need to see the story through to its end. The game is old, and its graphics aren’t exactly good. After all, this is a PS1 title from the 90s. It’s a 2D game for the most part. However, that doesn’t take away from the excellent storytelling and engaging gameplay which in my opinion holds a lot more value than graphics. The proof is in the prices- even today, a 2nd hand copy of this game’s disk will set you back at least 100 dollars. That’s twice as much as any modern AAA title. Suikoden II isn’t just the best Suikoden, it’s one of the all-time best JRPGs, period.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: I don’t own a PS1 or PS2, can I still enjoy the Suikoden games?

A: Yep, all you have to do is download a PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 emulator. Then you can play every single Suikoden from 1 through 5 without having to buy several hundred dollars worth of consoles and game disks.

Q: Does the Suikoden franchise have any additional content like comics, novels, etc.?

A: Suikoden III was adapted into a manga by Aki Shimizu, while Suikoden and Suikoden II have light novel adaptations written by Shinjiro Hori (Japan-only release).

Q: Are any of the Suikoden spinoffs worth playing?

A: Not really, with one exception- Suikoden Tierkreis (released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS) which is a proper RPG, unlike the other spinoffs that are designed to be visual novels.

Q: Why hasn’t Konami made a new Suikoden game since 2006?

A: It comes down to a lack of enthusiasm within the company and the original creator leaving right before the release of Suikoden III. Plus, Suikoden V underperformed in sales figures despite being a far superior game compared to the 4th Suikoden. This really put the brakes on any future Suikoden plans. And Konami really doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to reviving old game franchises. I mean, they have pretty much abandoned Metal Gear which is their primary cash cow and most popular modern game franchise.

Q: What inspired the Suikoden game series?

A: A classic Chinese folklore based novel called Water Margin, whose title is adapted to “Suikoden” in Japanese. The story draws from Water Margin, you go on an adventure to recruit 108 warriors who will help you save your kingdom and unite your people. Suikoden focuses on themes of war, politics, corruption, and revolution.