In a world of corruption in positions of power, those who belong to the Phantom Thieves of Hearts lurk in the shadows. Their mission is to steal and reform the hearts of the evil adults, making them atone for their sins and stopping their schemes. However, the thieves don’t live the luxurious life only depicted in fantasies. They are real-life teenagers, living a daily normal life beneath their masks. You are the hero.
This is the world of Persona 5. One of the most anticipated games of 2017, the next installment in the niche series has become one of the best JRPGs of this generation. With reviews reaching 10/10 and an impressive Persona 5 Metacritic score of 94, there is something to be said about this game: it is a masterpiece.
However, there are always reasons why something becomes one of the best games of all time, and we got you covered with our massive list of the best things about Persona 5.
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1. The concept, execution, and connection to literature
There’s something inticing about being a thief. Sneaking behind corners to complete a successful heist just gives us this awesome feeling of freedom and emancipation. Thieves in popular culture and literature tend to make strong political statements with a call to action, and Persona 5 is no exception. The treasures in this game are far more valuable to steal that a bag of money or an intricate painting. Each target has a story, and is symbolic to “steal” and reform. The concept of the thief in the game also draws from classic literature and transcends into the characters and their personas. Akira Kurusu, the main character, has the persona Arsene Lupin, who is based on the famous gentleman thief. Ryuji, his best bro, has the persona Captain Kidd, who is a famous pirate. Every persona user has an entity tied to their specific personalities and stories, making for an interesting comparison to timeless tales of thievery.
2. The main character and his backstory
Many main characters have something about them that makes us fall in love with them, and our Akira is no exception. While many protagonists have instant popularity and love, Akira faces the reality of being an outcast. The first day of school, teachers treat him like a piece of trash. Students spread rumors about him due to his past. Falsely accused of physically harming an “evil adult”, he has quite the reputation, despite being from a smaller town. He isn’t outgoing either and is very shy. However, his other self-awakens as the mastermind behind the phantom thieves, and he becomes confident, cocky, and ready to steal hearts. It’s also worth mentioning that his dialogue and lines are absolutely hilarious, and carry over nicely into the English version. He truly is a relatable protagonist, especially for all the introverts out there.
3. Refined, addicting battle system
Describing the intricate battle system of Persona isn’t the easiest, but the short version is this beautiful meshing of turn-based Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Using your “personas”, you fight and try to obtain additional personas/creatures based on mythological entities. You also have a party of 3 other than yourself and addicting turn-based gameplay where you use your personas specific elements such as agi (fire attacks) and bufu (ice attacks) with the goal of knocking down your opponents. This type of gameplay has been here since Persona 1, but is extremely refined, even from Persona 4. Gameplay has several additional features that make it much more enjoyable to play and extremely addicting. The sneak feature is also fun and gives an added bonus especially against those tougher ones.
4. The INTENSE battle music
So you’ve encountered an enemy, and the fight is on. No JRPG is complete without epic battle music, especially in the Persona series. When Last Surprise blares through the speakers of my television screen, my heart races as I plan my strategy it. “You’ll never see it coming!” as this battle theme is one of the best in the entire series and can be listened to for hundreds of hours without it ever getting old.
5. All Out Attack Finishers
So once all of the enemies have been knocked down and put in their place, what’s next? The finisher. An all out attack is a feature where the entire team engages in a powerful blow that deals massive damage…with style. The character who did the most damage to knock down the enemies gets the spotlight in a signature move and ending card. It is so cool to see your favorite character engage in a Jojo Bizarre Adventure like pose and take you to the battle result screen (which also has epic music).
6. Befriending and talking with the enemies
Don’t ask Bicorn about his girl. If you ever played Shin Megami Tensei or the earlier Personas, you may be familar with demon negotiation. Instead of mindlessly bashing your enemies, you get the opportunity to talk it out when they are all knocked down, hopefully getting either their companionship, some money, or even an item or two. It’s a feature many fans wanted to return, and its back better than ever. However, it isn’t always easy trying to get a new persona on your side, as each enemy has a distinct personality. This is part of the charm of the experience. Sick of them getting angry? Defeat them and gain that EXP!
7. Going to school and impressing the class (or making them even more disappointed in you)
As stated before, you are so hated as the protagonist, that even the teachers bash you. However, you still must maintain your role as a student. Nearly every day, you are called in on class and are forced to answer several questions that will gain your knowledge stat…if you answer them correctly, that is. Impress your class by paying attention and answering questions you may not use ever again, just like the authentic high school experience. Sometimes, the teacher might even try to throw chalk at you, and maybe you will dodge it with that undeniable charm.
8. Becoming a “phantom thief”, sending out your first notice, and hearing “Life Will Change” blare in the background.
It’s been established that the thief theme of the game is intriguing, but nothing is better than experiencing it for the first time. In the game, you have targets, and like most thief stories, you have to give out your calling card. This is called the thieves notice, and alerts your real life target that you are coming to steal their heart. When they receive your little note, they become infuriated and you must fight them in a boss battle the next day. Once you go back to the dungeon, a new track plays as you sprint to the room, ready to take on the ultimate enemy. The entire experience is so epic and an adrenaline rush at its finest.
9. Taking your cat everywhere you go, even to school.
Morgana, the cute mascot character you met in the other world also has a real life feline form, and follows you everywhere. Whether it be under your desk or a night on the town, you can expect your pet to be with you anywhere you go. Cats are adorable, and this is a plus on its own. And yes, you get the chance to meow as well.
10. Ann Takamaki and her backstory as a perfect introduction to the game.
You may recognize the beautiful blonde twin-tailed girl from early trailers, but her story is one of best introductions to a game about a corrupt world. Longed after by her inappropriate teacher Kamoshida, Ann is put in an extremely difficult position that involves her friend and herself. Rumors are spread about her that are completely untrue, and must fight being sexualized and seen as an “easy girl”. Her awakening is amazing and truly is symbolic of her struggle. It is her that puts the thieves together on their first mission, and she becomes one of the strongest female characters in the game.
11. Naming your thief squad
Not only do you get to name your character literally anything you’d like, you also get the opportunity to name your squad. Wanna just be the Phantom Thieves of Hearts? That’s cool. But you could also be the Hamburglars, a name I decided on months ago. Either way, you get to personalize your group as your own, which is a fun little feature in this game.
12. Stealing the hearts of villains you will LOVE to HATE
A well-done villain is someone you will undoubtedly dislike but will be so satisfying to take down and watch as they beg for mercy. In Persona 5, the villains are seriously evil in everything that they do. From stealing work of their pupils, treating students like slaves, or manipulating the vote, there is plenty to hate about the bad guys. The best part is that you are the one to stop them and reform their hearts, making them confess to everyone who they really are. Although not every boss battle deals with someone who is inherently evil, it is so satisfying to resolve things on your own terms.
13. Exploring a virtual Tokyo
Unlike the small town of Inaba in the previous entry, Persona 5 is set in one of the most well known and heavily populated cities in Japan. Although you live in a small district, you are not limited to there. Feel like exploring the nightlife in Shinjuku? Or maybe you want to hit up the arcade in Akiba? There are several map locations with plenty of life and activities to explore. One of the best parts about it is that there is SO much to do and many locations to roam around in during your free time, after school, and at night. Even if you can’t travel to Japan, Persona 5 gives you a little preview to enjoy.
14. Texting your friends
If you ever played Atlus’s original title Catherine, you may have noticed a SNS feature in which you can send texts with interactive responses. Persona 5 takes this to an entirely new level with your own personal cell phone. Not only can you choose responses in a group chat setting, you have the option to use texting for plans and even during class. Sure, it isn’t a major feature, but it is a little something that adds to the immersive world and setting.
15. Going on a school trip to Hawaii (and spending time with your lover there!)
Imagine taking an airplane to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, only to spend 3 days with your friends in an interactive event. The newer Persona games feature school events that allows you to see what the characters are like outside of normal gameplay, adding to their development. The Hawaii trip is hands down one of the greatest events in this game, especially when you get to hang out with your girlfriend for a one on one beach date. Ann and I watched the sunset together, and it was glorious.
16. Unique dungeon setups that make dungeon crawling fun and boss battles intense
No longer having dungeons with streamlined paths and halls, Persona 5 takes it to the next level. For the first time in this series, you can crawl around, jump on platforms, sneak behind corners, and explore the environments. It’s bigger, better, and keeps things interesting. There are also puzzles that make the experience, and are never too annoying to complete. For example, you will have to find some codes to make it through a bank vault or maybe even turn into a mouse to navigate through halls. These elements are well thought out and make the game so fun to navigate. Boss battles are also revamped, with the option to allow party members to distract them to level the playing field.
17. Epic character designs and costumes
As phantom thieves, you can’t go in a dungeon in your normal clothes. You have to have a stylish design so people will remember who you are, and will never forget it. From Joker’s trenchcoat to Haru’s musketeer inspired outfit, the costumes in this game are so cool, you’ll never want to change. That is, unless you get the DLC. For the special 20th anniversary, ATLUS made a wide selection of DLC from the other games including uniforms from Persona 1-4, Catherine outfits, maid/butler wear, and more! It will cost you some extra money, but is worth it to support future releases.
18. The Casino Dungeon and the “Whims of Fate”
During the prologue of the game, you are thrown onto a colorful world full of lights, high platforms, and bustling music. This is the world of the casino, probably the best dungeon in the game. Although it will take you awhile to get to that point, when you finally do it is very rewarding. The music “Whims of Fate” is so catchy, and the dungeon is full of fun areas to explore in a world that symbolizes corruption in the government. Without saying much more, look forward to it both gameplay wise and to experience a full party.
19. Taking your girl of choice on multiple dates (even after rank 10!) or hanging out with your friends
The recent games in the Persona series are known for their social and romantic elements that allow you to date and befriend characters through “confidants” or social links. In these, you get to hang out and experience a separate story line related to that character, whether you choose to spend time with them during the day, after school, or when nighttime falls. Each confidant has additional perks to be used in and out of battle, as well as the satisfaction of advancing your relationship with a specific person. Unlike the past games, however, there is more to do after you “max” out their rank at 10, such as go on dates to their favorite locations, buy them gifts, and more. It’s really refreshing and almost makes the relationship feel real.
20. Every confidant/”social link” has a connection to standing out in the corrupted world
Speaking of hanging with friends, one of the coolest things about the social elements of the game is that each character fits into “breaking free” of the chains that bring them down. The main cast’s struggles will become obvious, but the side characters also have an important role. For example, Tae Takemi, a doctor who owns her own clinic, deals with malpractice charges and will use the protagonist as a test subject. Another example is a politician who is trying to change views. It’s interesting how all of these characters fit in and benefit the cause of the thieves.
21. Ryuji Sakamoto, Yusuke Kitagawa, and Yuki Mishima being your bros (even on Valentine’s Day!)
Your best bros are always there for you. Ryuji, one of the first characters you meet, is a funny character who breaks the mold of the “best friend” archetype and is much different that Yosuke from Persona 4 or Junpei from Persona 3. Yuki Mishima, another outcast, runs the social media behind the thieves and is a fellow classmate. Yusuke Kitagawa, on the other hand, goes to another school, but is alienated in other ways. Together, you can hang out with your guy friends, even if you choose not to have a date on Valentine’s Day.
22. Your cat can shapeshift into a car, which YES, you can drive
Morgana the all-shapeshifting being, can transform into a car, which is useful both in the story and for the sidequest dungeon Mementos. The best part? You get to drive him. In Mementos, you control the Morgana-mobile and can even approach enemies with it. It makes for a fun time.
23. The Burger Challenge
Remember the Mega Beef Bowl in Persona 4? Replace that with a giant burger and you have your challenge. Your protagonist will try and devour the multi-level burger in hopes for some stat bonuses. If nothing else, you may get a little bit of courage. However, if you finish the monster, you get points increased to all of your stats as the customers stare at you in awe.
24. Your teacher is a maid, and she gives really good confidant perks
Despite being your homeroom teacher, Kawakami-sensei has another life she’d like to hide, the life of a maid. After a certain event and the discovery of her identity (and level 3 courage), you can call her up, pay some yen, and spend some quality time. Even if that sounds a bit weird for you, you’ll want to do her confidant ranks. Offering perks such as making SP regenerating coffee and curry and allowing you to goof off in class, she also has a major perk . Once you get to rank 10, she can come over and allow you to do an additional activity at night, which is perfect for a first playthrough.
25. Using fortune telling to increase your relationships
Like P3 and P4, P5 has a fortune telling element. In the summer when Shinjuku is unlocked, make sure to start a rank with Chihaya Mifune, a corrupted fortune teller. Once you get far enough in the ranks, she offers perks that allow you to increase affinity with ANY of your comrades. Sure, you may have to pay some yen, but it makes for an easier experience when trying to complete multiple social ranks.
26. Futaba Sakura’s mad hacking skills and personality
As soon as Futaba’s character was released, most of the fandom fell for her, which is understandable. Going under the master hacker name Alibaba, Futaba Sakura becomes the analyst of the thieves after the events of the Pyramid dungeon. Not only will her backstory and struggles make you tear up, her character is funny, adds comic relief, and overall is enjoyable to be around. Her banter with the other group members is hilarious and her shyness is relatable. She also loves to mess with Morgana a bit too much because she is a cat lover like a lot of us.
27. Safe rooms in dungeons
Saving in the middle of a dungeon?? A few years back, saving in the dungeon wasn’t an option, as you had to go to specific areas in order to save progress. This resulted in a lot of backtracking and many times lost progress. However, in this game, there is a beautiful thing called safe rooms. Here, players can “take a rest” and save their progress in the middle of the dungeon. Another great feature with this is that you can teleport from safe room to safe room, making for easy transportation for level grinding or treasure hunting.
28. Personas in HD quality (King Frost and Mara in PS4 graphics anyone?)
For years, Shin Megami Tensei and Persona have been stuck in the PS2 era of graphics. Although it wasn’t a problem, graphics needed to be updated. Seeing King Frost hee-hoing in crisp PS3/PS4 graphics is a fantastic sight to see. All of the personas look beautiful. Not to mention, their persona users look amazing too, as they are finally in full body sprites rather than chibis.
29. Fusing and executing your personas to get the edge in battle
One of the signature elements of SMT and Persona is taking the demons/personas you gain in battle and combining them to make even better ones with skills from the ones in the past. In this game, the system is even more elaborate and fits in with the “prison theme”. Personas can be executed in hope for a better one. You can even send them to solitary confinement to level up and gain additional skills. The possibilities are nearly endless.
30. Goro Akechi and his love for pancakes
What is a thief story without a detective chasing them? Known as the second coming of the detective price, Goro Akechi is the one on the thieves tail. Using his genius detective abilities, he longs to stop the thieves, saying that forcibly reforming people is wrong. His character is cunning, charming and strong. Without spoiling, he has a definite impact on the story, from the moment he walks in talking about pancakes.
31. Working part time to make that yen (even though you get a lot of money from stealing stuff)
After school, there’s a lot you can do. One of the very useful aspects of the games (especially in the beginning) is part-time jobs. Whether it be in a flower shop, a family restaurant, or a convenience store, there are plenty of options that result in both a stat boost and a pocket full of cash for weapons, items, and more. Although work may be tough at times, you will earn that cash!
32. Summer days when your friends want to hang
When the sun is blazing and school is on break, your friends will be looking to hang out with you. Ryuji and Yusuke seem to want to hang with you nearly all of the time, sitting in the booth of Cafe Leblanc. Talk to them to get special scenes exclusive to the summer, and maybe even make them a “yosh” worthy cup of coffee.
33. Increasing that charm at the maid cafe or going to the bathhouse
Charm is a stat that shouldn’t be ignored, especially if you want to woo all the ladies. It’s great going to the maid cafe and dealing with maids who mess up your order from time to time. Play nice and be even more smooth. Since that’s not available right away, make sure to visit the bathhouse right next to your home in Cafe LeBlanc, where the water is always too hot, but you must endure. It’s a great way to get a quick boost when you need it.
34. Movie dates with friends…or your cat
We saw movie theaters in nearly all of the Persona games, and Persona 5 takes it to the next level. Sometimes, late at night, your friends or girlfriend will hit your phone up and ask to go to the movies. Movies increase certain stats, as well as relationship affinities. Or, if you have no friends, go with Morgana, who magically sneaks himself a seat.
35. Anime cutscenes that bring the characters to life
With a lot of work but into animated cutscenes and events, there are several sprinkled throughout the game. You’ll see some cutscenes in the beginning, as well as some for school/summer events and more. The animated scenes and endings are beautiful and intense, making for a great break in between parts of the game.
36. Fantastic Japanese AND English voice acting
With an all-star Japanese voice cast and new but talented English voice actors, Persona 5 can be heard anyway you want it thanks to dual audio. The Japanese cast has several well-known seiyuus that have several roles within the industry. The English voices also bring the characters to life and are great fits for their personalities. Whichever you prefer, there are good choices.
37. Finding surprises and new parts of the game even 100 hours in
It wasn’t until I hit 130 hours that I discovered a new follow-up attack in battle. In fact, 90 hours in, I was still getting tutorials for new things I was finding. Persona 5 is so immense and packed full of content that it is easy to miss things at first glance. Maybe you missed the fishing location or even the gym where you can workout. You will find things 100 hours in, keeping you surprised and even more prepared for future playthroughs. It’s one of the many charms this game has to offer.
38. Playing video games in a video game
If you check the junk shop by your house, you’ll find a certain classic video game console.For your entertainment, pick up games and play minigames within a video game. If that isn’t meta enough, nothing is. There are also added perks and bonuses for completing the games as well. Plus, it’s pretty fun.
39. RANDOM FIRE! and other random character attacks that make each battle a “Last Surprise”
You’ll never see it coming! There are many ways to take advantage of the enemy, from random character attacks to special features unlocked within the confidant ranks. For example, if you are about to take a blow that would kill you, your friend might step in and sacrifice themselves for you to avoid a game over. Maybe you are having fun with Futaba and, eventually, she will randomly knock the enemies down before you have to fight. There are so many possibilities and surprises that keep the battles from being too repetitive.
40. The incredibly amazing menu screens
When PV01 hit the internet, one thing that wowed everyone was the incredibly sexy menu screens. Inspired by pop art and a distinct red/black themes, the menus are even detailed. From looking up your social ranks to equipping items, the aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. Never has anyone been excited about loading up a save…in style!
41. Realism in the setting that depicts severe problems in today’s society
Let’s get deep. Realism in Persona 5 can hit home for a lot of us. The high school is a prime example, showing that those in power treat the students like slaves. There is also quite a bit of corruption in law enforcement and politics, which is something we are dealing with in the real world. It is not just generalized, as personal struggles are also explored. Everything from abusive relationships, the rich controlling the poor, and having to follow along with those in power are explored. It does it in an intriguing and heartfelt way that makes us realize how true these problems are.
42. The incredible style and art
As stated before, the menu screens are amazing, but that’s not the only stylish thing about this game. Persona 5 is full of style, from the dungeon designs, characters, and the presentation of the storyline. The art is beautiful and refines the Persona feel we have all been longing for.
43. Literally everything about the acid-jazz inspired soundtrack
The musical mastermind Shoji Meguro is behind the unique and blended genres of the Persona series. With the thief theme in mind, Persona 5 developed an acid jazz soundtrack with catchy tunes. Arguably, it is one of, if not the best Persona soundracks I’ve ever heard. From “Tokyo Daylight” to the battle themes during the heists. The soundtrack is outstanding, using the talented singer Lyn’s voice to get that jazzy feel.
44. The thieves and their online presence
Once you develop your thief group, you begin your journey to become known throughout the city. Yuki Mishima, a classmate, “joins” your group by developing the online database for the thieves. Here, people can request the help of the Kaito group in their everyday lives, which is where sidequests come in. There is also a daily poll shown throughout the week that gauges the presence of the group. It’s sweet to see your progress throughout the game and help when you want to and need it.
45. Events with friends and girlfriends throughout the year
Although there are scripted events, you will also have many opportunities throughout your journey to spend certain holidays with your loved ones. Take Makoto out on Christmas Eve. Maybe ask Ann to go to the school festival with you. Like Persona 4: Golden, there are opportunities for special dates with characters you decide to max out. Or you can just hang with Ryuji!
46. Symbolism everywhere, firrom the dungeons to the thieves, to even the side characters
As stated before, Persona 5 is very symbolic, offering an educational perspective on the theme and story. The dungeons aren’t simply rooms, they are structures based upon the heart of the target. The evil teacher Kamoshida, for example, has a castle where he believes he is the “king”. Gangster Kaneshiro has a bank where he owns all the money he needs. A certain owner of a burger company has a factory where “time is money” and the boss battle is timed to symbolize how he treats his workers. Every inch of this game has some form of advanced symbolism that shows the corruption of this messed up world. The thieves are there to make them realize their ways, which is an extremely cool concept.
47. Serving as an inspiration for players to wake up, get out, and get up there to make a difference in their world
The theme song that plays whenever you start up the disc “Wake Up, Get Out, Get Up There!” has a message for the players. We are inspired to make a change, no matter what hardships we go through. If we struggle with depression, conflicts, or chains that hold us down, we can break through it. The game has a strong, inspirational message that promotes positive change. We see through the entire main story, characters, and more.
48. The fandom and memes (Yosh!)
The community makes Persona even more enjoyable. Whether it be hilarious delayed from Valentine’s memes or naming the protagonist silly things like “Chair-kun”, the fandom is fun. Meeting other cosplayers at conventions and around the nation/world to share theories, fangirl, and hype about the games has been nothing short of special. There is plenty of material for posts for years to come, and the fandom is ever-growing.
49. Revamping the JRPG genre
In many reviews, sites have dubbed Persona 5 as the best JRPG in the last decade. Although JRPGs have been around for several years, they often repeat the same formula. However, Persona has a life of its own. It meshes social elements and addicting gameplay while revamping a common style of gameplay. Due to adding so many additional features, Persona 5 has stood out as a JRPG and refined the genre as a whole, especially when it comes to turn-based games.
50. A timeless masterpiece with nearly endless replayability
Due to everything that was mentioned on this list and even more left unmentioned, Persona 5 truly is a masterpiece. It is not just a video game. It’s not just a story; it’s an experience where you take on your role, and escape into a world you create. For many, the Persona series has been there through depression, breakups, and real life struggles. Playing it helps us realize the positives in life and hope for change. It can be replayed again and again for years to come. Persona 5 will still be my favorite game years from now. It has changed my life and it can change yours too.