It's been TWENTY YEARS since Ace Attorney was unleashed upon the world (in Japan, at least — the English version wouldn't come out until 2005, so you're not quite as old as this news makes you feel). Ten-ish games later, the series has spawned an anime, a movie, a musical, and legions of Edgeworth-hungry fans.
In honour of everyone's favourite scrappy lawyer, Phoenix Wright, having existed for two decades, we asked you lovely readers, "What's the best Ace Attorney Game?" With your votes, we've put together this list to settle the matter once and for all.
Do you like the classics, such as the original trilogy? Perhaps you're a purist, and you think it doesn't get better than the first game? Are you more of a fan of the updated graphics of the 3DS games, like Spirit of Justice and Dual Destinies? Or maybe, do you buck convention, preferring the spin-offs like Investigations and Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright? (And, of course, there's the secret answer: that Ghost Trick, by the same director, Shu Takumi, is the best Ace Attorney game...)
Remember: the order below is updated in real time according the each game's corresponding User Rating in the Nintendo Life game database. Even as you read this, it's entirely possible to influence the ranking below. If you haven't rated your favourites yet, simply click the 'star' of the game you wish to rate below and assign a score right now.
Of course, we on staff have our own favourites, and they differ wildly person-to-person, so it'll be interesting to see how that works out in the User Ratings and the overall ranking. Let's check it out!
Phoenix and Apollo have been hogging the limelight for long enough, and now it's everyone's favourite grump, Miles Edgeworth's turn to grab the microphone. In Investigations, you'll be using Edgeworth's strengths to solve the cases, but you won't be in the court this time — you'll be out on the streets, actively investigating the crime scene, the witnesses, and the potential perpetrators.
Investigations is full of heartbreaking stories and tragic outcomes, marking a very adult, emotionally deep new direction for the series. It's not everyone's favourite, due to its differences from the original series, but it's those same differences that other people love.
The fourth game in the Ace Attorney series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney puts you in the shoes of a new titular young lawyer, and soft-reboots the series with a seven-year time skip, a ton of familial mysteries, and a scandal concerning one Mister Phoenix Wright. As a marked departure from the Phoenix-focused story so far, Apollo's first appearance is divisive, but a few extremely cool twists in the cases that he defends make this experimental entry one to remember.
Spirit of Justice is every bit as brilliant as Wright's earlier escapades, with phenomenal writing, satisfying gameplay, and tons of irresistibly clever courtroom drama. The high-altitude Himalayan setting is fresh and fun, and much more than just window dressing; the thrilling Divination Séances are a wonderful on-theme addition, the new characters are as memorable as any in the series, and Khura'in's customs makes for both enjoyable virtual tourism and a constant source of plot-twisting courtroom culture-shock. Whether you're a longtime fan or a first-time offender, no further deliberation is required — this is a court date you shouldn't miss.
Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney delivers an utterly charming, enjoyable experience to satisfy fans of both franchises; it's a crossover that, when experienced, seems entirely natural. The individual parts are pleasurable and entertaining, as always, though perhaps fall a little below the exceptional standards of their main-series contemporaries, and there's a lingering sense that more gameplay innovation to blend the two brands could have been explored. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of a lengthy adventure, but Level-5 and Capcom have done a commendable job. The end result is another 3DS title that exemplifies much of what sets Nintendo's portable hardware and supporting software apart; it provides heart-warming, accessible fun, and entertainment to last for many hours.
Wonderfully witty as ever, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies is another excellent entry into the Ace Attorney series. Bursting with humour and new extravagant personalities, Phoenix Wright fans will find much to enjoy, thanks largely to the excellent skills of the localisation and script-writing team at Capcom. The few minor gameplay additions do somewhat polish the investigation and courtroom experience, but — as with any visual novel — it's the story, character developments and gob-smacking plot twists that you really play for, and this one will keep you screaming 'OBJECTION' until the gavel drops.
Also, this is the one where you get to defend an orca.
The second in the DS trilogy of Ace Attorney games (that originally appeared on Game Boy Advance in Japan), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All takes the baton from the first game and simply runs with it. A new psyche-lock mechanic was the only real addition — the player can unlock these mental barriers by finding clues relating to the secret they contain while questioning witnesses.
This is the middle part of an overall story — one that's collected together as a whole in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on 3DS and Switch — but as a short and sweet courtroom visual novel, this second chapter is still one of the best.
The first in the GBA/DS trilogy, this is a game of wit and humour that appreciates the player’s intelligence and greatly rewards their accomplishments. It is full of moments where you will marvel at your achievements or cringe as your case starts to fall down around you, and these moments are what makes Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney such a delight to play all these years later. Nothing beats the feeling of pride and accomplishment you get with a “Not Guilty” verdict and the Ace Attorney series is great enough to make starting at the beginning the only logical course of action. To the courtroom with you!
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is two brilliant games for the price of one, and it not only gives us more of what we love, but gives us something that is visually, narratively, and historically deeper than ever before. There's a bit of a learning curve that you'll have to get on top of to meet the game where it's at, but honestly, we couldn't have asked for a better version of the game we've been wanting for years.
The third game in the Ace Attorney series was originally released on GBA in Japan, but found its way to the west via the DS in 2007 (and the series has since graced most other platforms you care to mention). The culmination of the original trilogy, Trials and Tribulations puts you back in the shoes of the plucky defence lawyer for another round of convoluted cases and supernatural shenanigans.
Sure, you can play these games on Switch now, but the titular attorney's visual novels hold up well on virtually any platform (except for, perhaps, WiiWare, although you'll have a job getting your hands on that version these days) and if you fancy going through them on DS, you'll get no objection from us.
Surprised by the result? Let us know if you think we've missed something; it's never too late to adjust things. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the ranking above and share a comment about your personal favourites below.