Best Shin Megami Tensei Games
Image: Nintendo Life

Megami Tensei — also known as Shin Megami Tensei — is one of the longest-running RPG franchises in the world. But most of us wouldn't know it. Making its debut in 1987 on the Famicom, it wouldn't be until the Virtual Boy that Nintendo gamers (well, a few of them) would find out about the demon-summoning series. And now, the series boasts multiple sub-series, revivals, remakes, and enhanced editions. It's a pretty big hole to dive down.

Since gaining popularity in the West — thanks to Shin Megami Tensei III and Persona 3 on the PS2 — Atlus' star has only risen, with the latter sub-series becoming its own beast. But in terms of the more traditional, hardcore, and games you can get in the West, what is the best Shin Megami Tensei game?

We've left it up to you lovely readers to vote for your favourite SMT games. With the recent release of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, we're certain lots of people are interested in jumping into this sometimes brutally difficult franchise. But there's nothing else quite like the moody, philosophical, and heavy nature of SMT, so we're ready to help you jump in.

We'll be excluding Persona from this ranking as, despite still sharing many of the same demons and mechanics, it's basically its own thing at this point (don't worry, we'll poll the best Persona games sometime soon) - this list is to shed light on the name that started it all.

Other spin-offs, like Devil Survivor and Tokyo Mirage Sessions, are game, however, alongside remakes, ports, and the base and enhanced editions of certain games. We'll also only be including games that are available in the West and only on Nintendo systems — so yes, while Shin Megami Tensei is available on mobile in the West, its Super Famicom version has never been playable in the West with an official English localisation.

Remember: This ranking is not set in stone. Registered Nintendo Life users can click on the stars below and rate the games out of 10. The list order is created from NL User Ratings and is therefore subject to change, even after publication. You can change or add your score to any of the games below by clicking on the star next to the title.

Make a pact, start negotiating, and check out your ranking of the best Shin Megami Tensei games on Switch and Nintendo systems. We start at the bottom...

15. Jack Bros. (VB)

Once you’ve got the hang of it Jack Bros. is a short game and it’s a shame that there aren’t more puzzles on offer. However multiple characters and two difficulty settings extend the life of a game that is a lot of fun to play already. It features great music and looks good too – though it doesn’t really gain anything from being on the Virtual Boy. Overall the game’s strengths help to make up for any weaknesses, making Jack Bros. an essential Virtual Boy purchase.

14. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (3DS)

For Shin Megami Tensei or Persona fans, this is a no brainer — Soul Hackers is a fantastic entry in the series and you won't be disappointed. Even better, it's an excellent place for newcomers to jump in, with a relatively smooth difficulty curve and user-friendly hacks to help you out of tight spots. If you're a hardened SMT fan then you might find the dungeons a little bland, but if you're looking for a good place to start, or are a fan of deep, dark, story-driven dungeon crawlers with soul, the Spookies await your call.

13. Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster (Switch)

Shin Megami Tensei III HD Remaster is indisputably the best way to play this RPG classic, but it’s also rather clear that this nearly two-decade-old game is showing its age. An interesting story, enjoyable combat system, and engaging demon recruitment and fusion mechanics make Shin Megami Tensei III well worth your time, but the dated visuals, poor quality music, and occasionally unforgiving mechanics are hold it back from being excellent. We’d give this a recommendation to both longtime fans and newcomers, but with the caveat that you might want to wait for a sale.

12. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)

If you already own or played the Devil Survivor on DS, then Overclocked may not be the new version you were hoping for. For those coming to the title fresh, however, prepare to be impressed. Even though the game doesn't offer up much of an overhaul, it still remains a stellar, stylish RPG that handily melds strategy and turn-based battle. It's definitely one of the heftier 3DS games out there too, with multiple endings and tons of content to explore.

11. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (3DS)

With fun, strategic battles, a roller-coaster narrative that never lets up, and a fantastic sense of upbeat, apocalyptic style, Devil Survivor 2 is a full-on blast from start to finish. If you missed out on the original release, you're in for a treat, and the Triangulum scenario adds another immediately accessible full-length adventure to the experience. It's a more lighthearted experience than most other games in the series, too. Whether you're a longtime MegaTen fan or just enjoy deep, strategic RPGs, summon up your courage and sign in to Nicaea; you won't regret it.

10. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (3DS)

As a sequel, we think Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is just about perfect, but we're aware it has a more controversial reputation among die-hard fans. It lets players revisit a familiar world from a new perspective and adds in several small but significant mechanical improvements that make for a smoother game throughout. We recommend playing through SMTIV first to get the most out of Apocalypse and to experience one of the 3DS' finest JRPGs, but Apocalypse is still a delightfully dark adventure dripping with dystopian charm. Between the personable demons, deeply satisfying combat and killer aesthetic, we couldn't get enough — the end times have never been so good.

9. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (3DS)

From its demon collecting and killer combat to its sci-fi South Pole setting, Strange Journey Redux is a fantastically engrossing adventure, and an excellent reason to get lost in your 3DS once again. As a remake of a DS classic, Redux adds in enough new content to make a replay worth your time, along with plenty of welcome accessibility tweaks to help let newcomers in on one of Shin Megami Tensei’s best-kept secrets. Many consider this to be inferior to the original DS game, but we think Strange Journey — Redux or otherwise — is a can’t-miss trip for JRPG fans.

8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is roughly 85% Shin Megami Tensei, and 15% Fire Emblem, but somehow ends up feeling like something completely separate from both. It strikes a middle ground and boasts an energetic and dynamic combat system wrapped in a setting that takes J-Pop cheesiness to astral heights. There's a remarkably lengthy and enjoyable experience to be found here for anyone who doesn't already have stage fright from its relatively niche proposition. The Switch 'Encore' port makes it easy to catch up with these days, but just as so many quirky (and excellent!) games did, it was originally part of Wii U's wonderfully diverse and underrated library.