The Ten Best Ace Attorney Cases, Ranked - Lead Image
Image: Nintendo Life / Capcom

It's been a long time since we've last seen Phoenix Wright's pointy-haired shadow darken our door — six years, in fact — and although we do love the old-timey antics of his predecessor Ryunosuke Naruhodo, we have to wonder if we'll ever get another new Ace Attorney... and if we do, how it'll hold up to the rest of the games.

In the hopes of enticing Capcom into making, announcing, and releasing a new instalment in the Ace Attorney series, we've ranked the top ten of our favourite cases from the games so far.

Some notes before we call this court into session:

  1. We won't be including Ace Attorney Investigations 2 on this list, since an official release has failed to materialise, but we gather that its cases are very, very good. So, if we ever do get an English translation of AAI2, we'll probably have to revisit this whole list.
  2. We're also not including Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, even though it's a good game.
  3. We've really tried to mix things up in this list, so if you're expecting nothing but cases from the original trilogy of Ace Attorney games, you'll most likely be disappointed.
  4. SPOILERS ABOUND. By the very nature of this list, we will be discussing some of the biggest twists in the Ace Attorney games. Be very careful.

Here are the games titles and our abbreviations for your reference:

  1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (1)
  2. Justice For All (2)
  3. Trials & Tribulations (3)
  4. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (AJ)
  5. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (AA:I)
  6. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies (DD)
  7. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit Of Justice (SOJ)
  8. The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures (GAA)
  9. The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve (GAA2)

With all that housekeeping out of the way, let's find out which games and which cases took our breath away!

10. Turnabout Time Traveler (SOJ-DLC)

Ace Attorney Top Ten Cases

Spirit of Justice had a rather convoluted and gimmicky court system, thanks to its new setting in the Khura'inese kingdom, where the law is dominated by religion, so it was a bit of a relief to return to the comfort of a "traditional" court in the DLC case after an entire game of having to tussle with the stupidity of Khura'in's Divination Séance (a mechanic that is acknowledged as being stupid in the game several times).

But also, Turnabout Time Traveler is just a good old-fashioned romp through the weird magical realism that Ace Attorney cases sometimes bring to the table, with the added pomp of a wedding, a bunch of steampunk weirdos, a pterodactyl, and time travel. It's almost like Phoenix's crossover with Professor Layton had an effect on the kind of cases he gets!

9. Turnabout Serenade (AJ-3)

Ace Attorney Top Ten Cases

Love or hate Apollo Justice, you can't deny that this middle case is a bombastic one. A murder at a concert unearths truths about smuggling, hidden identities, and an Interpol investigation, and if you play through the game a second time — knowing more about Apollo, Trucy, and Lamiroir — there's also an extra layer of dramatic irony and pathos surrounding the whole case.

It's always nice when the murderer is someone you least expect, and finding out that it was a member of the police and the prosecutor's close friend is a pleasingly unexpected discovery.

However, the real reason this case is on here is because of the titular serenade — "The Guitar's Serenade" — which is the lynchpin of the story. Comparing the lyrics and the music to the performance on the night reveals several inconsistencies, and the mechanics of being able to isolate the individual music tracks brings a welcome change to the usual way these court cases play out. Bravo. Encore. Etc.

8. Turnabout Goodbyes (1-4)

Ace Attorney Top Ten Cases

This OG Ace Attorney case is packed with bangers, including the BANG of the gunshot that gets Miles Edgeworth accused of murder. And you've only just met the guy! Plus, he's a bit of a jerk... so isn't it okay to let him go down for murder? Of course not! You're the lawyer who always believes in his clients, even if said client is a jerk.

Set during "almost Christmas", Turnabout Goodbyes is full of the delicious twisties and turnies that you would expect from an Ace Attorney case, plus a terrifying Manfred von Karma as a prosecutor, and the Ace Attorney house special: A case that's intimately tied to a different case that happened years before. In this one, it's the DL-6 incident, in which Miles Edgeworth's attorney father was shot to death, the Fey family's reputation was ruined, and poor little Miles was traumatised.

The best part of this case? The realisation that you can use an innocuous piece of evidence — the metal detector — to prove that Manfred von Karma was the killer, because he still has the bullet in his shoulder. Brilliant stuff.

7. Turnabout Trump (AJ-1)

Ace Attorney Top Ten Cases

Knowing that Phoenix Wright wouldn't be the protagonist of the fourth game in the Ace Attorney series was one thing. Finding out that he's aged into a scruffy, jaded dad who's had his attorney license revoked is another. And defending him in your very first case as the greenhorn lawyer, Apollo Justice, is a shock twist worthy of an end-of-game case — and yet, here it is, in the very first one!

This case also serves as a gentle-ish welcome into a Phoenix-less courtroom, because, of course, it's not a Phoenix-less courtroom. He's right there the whole time, coaxing you out of your Ace Attorney comfort zone and into an Apollo Justice world. Just that one twist makes this the only intro case on this list, because typically they're quite dull and usually involve Phoenix forgetting how to be a lawyer, but instead Turnabout Trump sets the stakes high from the very beginning.

Little did players know that this case would end up developing into a tangled knot of familial ties that would have lasting effects on the entire series...

6. The Adventure of the Runaway Room (GAA-3)

Ace Attorney Top Ten Cases

After a sedate and distinctly Japanese experience in court at the start of The Great Ace Attorney, Ryunosuke Naruhodo is finally in England, and finally in a British courtroom to boot. For players, this feels like a long time coming, especially if you know the premise of the game (all the promotional stuff went heavy on the London setting, after all), but for Ryunosuke, it's an overwhelming and confusing new legal system to get used to.

The jury system is quite obviously corrupt and broken from the start, but the novel mechanic mixes things up nicely for veteran Ace Attorney fans, allowing you to meet a wider range of weird characters in quick succession, as well as having a slight spin on the usual way the court cases play out. After all, who doesn't like proving people wrong with clever application of logic and evidence? Isn't it more fun to get to do that with six easily-swayed idiots members of the public?

The most delicious part of this case comes near the end, once you realise that your client, Magnus McGilded, is pretty obviously guilty. However, in defending him, you've basically made him untouchable, and he gets off scot-free...

...only to get his just deserts in a mysterious arson accident immediately after the end of the trial.

Continue on to page two for our top five...