The release of Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy – Deluxe Edition on Nintendo Switch marked the belated debut of the Layton clan on Nintendo's current console. A clutch of excellent puzzle games came out for the Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds, but it took a while for the series to arrive on Switch. Rumours that further ports are in the pipeline persist, and with games of this quality, we'd be more than happy to revisit past Layton adventures on Switch.
Which Professor Layton game is the best, though? Picking an order is an exceptionally tough task, but fortunately Nintendo Life readers were up to the task and you all delivered the following verdict. The top two games in the ranking below were in front by a fair margin, although the others were packed incredibly close together.
The series arguably doesn't have a 'low point', but if you don't have time to enjoy every last one of Hershel Layton and Luke Triton's adventures, you can use the following ranked list to start with the best and go from there.
So, let's get down to it, shall we? Here are the very best Professor Layton games...
7. Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy - Deluxe Edition (Switch)
Originally released for 3DS, the 'Deluxe' Switch edition of Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy feels rather comforting, the video game equivalent of a warm blanket. For the most part it reverts to the core formula of the Professor Layton games, albeit with a new cast and by dividing the narrative into mostly lighthearted, charming 'cases'. All it lacks is the confidence to fully embrace its new setting, stopping short of expanding upon some of its ideas. That said, it still delivers the series' unique blend of storytelling and lots of puzzles with aplomb. It'll have fans and newcomers scratching their heads and smiling at the same time; here's hoping it's not Layton's final mystery.
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6. Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS)
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is another yet top-quality game in a truly brilliant series. Known as The Spectre's Call in Europe, this was the fourth entry in the series and a prequel to the previous trilogy of games. Kicking off the prequel trilogy, the fourth game combined a thrilling narrative with its trademark puzzles and challenges your mind in a way very few games seriously attempt to do. The feeling you get when you solve a particularly difficult puzzle is less one of relief than it is a desire to leap ahead in the game and find the next. With this entry - the last to appear on DS - the second trilogy got off to an assured start before migrating to 3DS for the remaining two instalments.
5. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS)
The final game of the prequel trilogy which began with Professor Layton and the Last Specter on DS, Hershel Layton’s daughter would take the limelight in the follow up. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy capped the story of the professor and apprentice Luke’s first meeting and exploits, taking them on a globe-trotting adventure and showcasing the best elements of the series. It would be a little odd to start your Layton experience with the last entry of a prequel trilogy, but if you've only got access to this one, Azran Legacy is a fine, fine game.
4. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (3DS)
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask achieved its goal of making a successful franchise transition to 3DS, retaining the charm of its predecessors and making subtle changes to improve the series standards. While solving wonderfully engineered puzzles is the meat of the experience, moments of variety and a few new ideas keeps the franchise from going stale. Its greatest strength, that takes it from a top-notch puzzle collection to something more, is its story-telling. The broad range of characters, the emotional tone of the narrative and the teasing promise of more makes for an utterly engrossing experience. Charmed, Professor.
3. Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
The second in the series, this one was known as Professor Layton and The Diabolical Box in North America, which is a closer translation of the Japanese title, so there's no Harry Potter-style dumbing down going on here. Whatever you care to call it, this sequel takes the template of the Professor's first puzzle-solving adventure and refines it to produce another excellent mystery that uses the console's features in subtle and brilliant ways. If you enjoyed the original release, there's absolutely no reason for you not to own this gem of a title.
2. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the first in the puzzle-solving detective series to introduce the world to the titular professor and his apprentice Luke, Layton's very own Watson. Level-5's series had a wide appeal from the off, bringing in a whole new audience of gamers with its particular brand of mystery, adventure, great characters and writing to match. It was DS titles like this and Nintendo's Touch Generation series that opened up video gaming to an audience who previously thought it wasn't for them. The franchise's continued success proves it wasn't a fluke-y one-off. It might not have topped our poll, and the sequels may have refined the template, but Level-5 nailed the basics right off the bat.
1. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)
The third entry of the mystery-solving DS trilogy is the top of our list. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future doesn't stray too far from the winning formula of the first two releases, and instead focuses its attention on offering up what is arguably the best storyline of the series on the console, not to mention some of the best minigames as well. It's no slouch when it comes to brain-twisting puzzles, either. It's safe to say that if you're a fan of the franchise, this is a must-play and thoroughly deserving of the 'Best Professor Layton Game' title. Bravo, Hershel.
It's tough to go wrong with this series - let's hope we see some more of the Professor's adventures come to Switch in the near future. Disagree with this ranking? Let us know your personal favourites below.
Just needed to make sure Unwound Future was at the top...we’re good.
I've heard it is better to try to play these in the order they were originally released, at least the first 3.
I know virtually nothing about Layton games, but I hear nothing but positive about it. Like Ace Attourney kinda. But I kinda cant get interested in it. Something about layton just irks me. Nothing wrong with him, Its just...strange? Maybe Im too scared to play a slow paced game. Why do people want him in smash, how does he fight? So many questions
Poor Spectre’s Call. Although we didn’t get London Life so Level-5 are dead to me 😒
Not entirely on board with how these are ranked, but Unwound Future is on top, and Layton's Mystery Journey is on the bottom, so I can't complain too much.
@nessisonett Honestly, Last Specter and Azran Legacy were both phenomenal experiences. I think the prequel trilogy was more consistently excellent than the original trilogy, personally.
I have to wonder why London Life didn't show up in the PAL version. It's such a major bit of side content.
wow it would be great if they remastered these in collections on the Switch they are such amazing games.
@PBandSmelly Well, he's an excellent fencer and fought people that way a number of times. He also made a machine gun out of nothing more than broken casino slot machines. There are a slew of puzzle-related gags they could do with the fighting.
However, there's no way you could release him this round of DLC. He HAS to be announced and released alongside Wright.
I really really can't choose a favorite. Every Professor Layton is the best Layton. Though I'm partial to Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright, easily top 5 on my 3DS games. Unwound Future does deliver a phenomenal story, a great way to go with Layton's final storyline (for now, I hope)
@PBandSmelly Regarding Smash, the professor knows fencing and is seen swordfighting more than once in the games, though that is very far from his overall theme. Maybe people imagine his fighting as a gag character like Phoenix Wright in Marvel Vs Capcom? I don't think it would work either. Professor Layton sure is a Nintendo iconic character well worth the Halls of Fame of Smash, but I would have a hard time imagining his fight.
This is a lost I completely agree with. The Katrielle game just took the anime-like inspiration a step too far and the general lack of Layton puts it at the bottom.
Spectre's Call whilst it was good will sadly always feel like a step backwards from Lost Future.
Azran Legacy I was rather disappointed, the bounds of reality were pushed too far for my limits, especially with the whole ancient futuristic civilisation.
Miracle Mask I think was pretty good. Lots of colour, nice setting. Good uses of 3D (the zooming feature). And whilst the 'twist' was super predictable it was handled fairly well.
Pandora's box, one of the greatest sequels I've ever played. Gameplay, puzzles, mini games, story were all updated/improved. The whole setting on a train works perfectly too.
Curious Village instant classic. So much of the character dynamic of Layton and Luke was nailed perfectly. Pretty tricky puzzles too with maybe a few too many maths puzzles. The story is quaint and the small English town cemented the setting.
Lost Future. Always the top on lists. The story was a perfect climax to the trilogy. The game mechanics were yet again improved. The mystery was intriguing all the way through. And the ending was deeply emotional and expertly written.
The only change I'd make to the list is maybe swap Pandora's Box and Curious Village, but great picks anyway.
The only one I've played is Last Specter.
@StableInvadeel you played one of the worst ones. It was boring as hell for me. Play any of the other ones, you’re gonna have a blast.
I'm not surprised with how the rankings turned out. Unwound Future especially is one of the best DS games I've played.
I was thinking of trying these games out. Should I wait and see if they're remastered on Switch?
@Ralizah I disagree that the prequel trilogy was better than the first 3. I was generally let down by them after the peak excellence of Unwound Future, and while measuring any of them vs. UF is unfair, I generally found the puzzles in the prequels extremely wanting compared to the first three. They felt stale to me.
@fafonio I actually liked it a lot.
@Maulbert I didn't really have any issues with the puzzles in the prequel games, personally. I liked the more interconnected plots, deeper characterization, prettier music, and more cinematic setpieces of the prequels. Also, London Life is the best bit of optional content in the series.
Definitely agree that Unwound Future was great, though. More in line with the quality of the prequels than the first two games, I'd say.
Either way, they're all good games, and all hugely superior to Mystery Journey.
Have beaten them all and Curious Village watched from Youtube.
E: Also Layton vs Wright beaten twice. ^^
@nessisonett Are you saying some markets didn’t get London Life? I didn’t realize that, but maybe that explains why Last Specter is not higher. For me with the extra games, it was tops in the series.
@XiaoShao Yeah, here in the UK at least, we didn’t get London Life. I remember the Nintendo Magazine previews as well all showing London Life and then we never got it. It was a major disappointment.
I have literally just started Lost Future (there doesn't seem to be much logic behind the use of US vs UK titles in the article, but never mind). I bought it when it came out, in 2010. It was still shrink-wrapped.
I'm a little over 5 hours in now, and my DSi XL only now needs charging, after I haven't touched it for years.
So it seems they've decided to port the weakest Professor Layton game to Switch according to players' opinions?
I haven't played all of them in the list, only Curious Village and Pandora's Box, both if which are excellent imo
Agreed that Unwound Future is the top. It's a great game. I'm still trying to get through Azran Legacy. I've been playing that game for about a year. Also, how about Layton vs. Wright?
I'd swap Curious village and Pandora's box but otherwise think this is spot on! The prequel series went rather off the wall into supernatural shenanigans which rather defeated the point of this series for me.
@StableInvadeel well actually saying boring as hell is comparing it to the others... in which any case ... being a Layton game it’s still pretty good
This is a good list but I would of put azran legacy higher up myself
Hey, my favorites also seem to be the communities favorites. Nice to see!
Miracle Mask deserves to be higher. An excellent setting, a fun dive in Layton’s past, great improvements to the format. A ton of content. Music was a notch above the rest.
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