Note: In the early days of video games (before the fifth generation and the introduction of CDs) this was quite common because the high cost of cartridges prevented publishers from taking risks with unproven genres or series. In places where such games weren't as popular, publishers hesitated to release them or produced them in extremely limited quantities at high prices (The two SNES Final Fantasies that made it stateside cost $80). When CDs came along, the cost of manufacturing games and therefore the risk in releasing them dropped dramatically. As a result, publishers became much more experimental and could push new genres like the Eastern RPG onto foreign consumers.
It's extremely unlikely that any of Key's works will be licenced outside Japan. Their publisher, Visual Art's (yes with the apostrophe), has stated they have no interest in the overseas market, and would only reconsider if it seemed profitable.
Like AliceSoft, Visual Art's main page is blocked for foreigners.
Takehiro Baba, the executive director of Visual Art's, has told consumers who import their games legally to "go fuck yourself and play your own games".
There is no Atlus Europe so any game they make or translate has a hard time coming there. Their in-house games aren't TOO bad off, as other companies pick them up sometimes (Like Nintendo with Trauma Center). The games they license for translation from other companies though, like the Summon Night or Super Robot Taisen for the Game Boy Advance? Yeah, that Europe never gets.
Any Bemani series that isn't Dance Dance Revolution or beatmania; an American installment of beatmania IIDX didn't sell too well (releasing it shortly after the release of Guitar Hero didn't help), and the less said about Beat'n Groovy, the better.
A Wii version of pop'n music was produced and even got an American release ... but it was turned into a motion controlled game using just the Wii Remote and nunchuck. Thankfully, it did share a similar art style to the actual series. But even worse, it even spawned an arcade version; the American version was only tested as a redemption game (and had a very unfitting logo), but a Japanese version was released under the name "HELLO! POP'N MUSIC"
There's an iOS version of jubeat released internationally as jukebeat, if you like playing these games on handhelds with tiny controls.
Oblivion also follows First Installment Wins over in Japan, as it is the installment where most Japanese started playing. Westerners usually exercize this trope over Morrowind or Daggerfall. Because of this, Oblivion was sometimes less well received in the West.
Of course, after playing the localization of Oblivion, and what will likely happen after the Japanese release of Skyrim, a war broke out among the fandom over Subbing versus Dubbing sure to entertain any English-speaking fan of Japanese video games and/or anime.
Skyrim also managed to get a perfect score from Famitsu, THE only western game to do so.
Japan has managed to invert this when it comes to game mods. All Elder Scrolls games have a strong modding community, however many Japanese modders are notoriously xenophobic and like to flaunt their admittedly brilliant creations to the west then deny any access to them, to the great frustration of many.
Ace Attorney Investigations was never released in any language other than Japanese and English. A German group of fans is rebelling against this and currently doing a fantranslation, similar to the English one that was done for Mother 3. As of August 2012, the French and Spanish fans have gotten into the mix. The first episode has been fully fan-translated into Spanish.
And now the worst has come to pass: nobody outside of Japan is getting Ace Attorney Investigations 2, at least not on DS. Capcom has kept the door open for a release some other way, but it seems more a token gesture than anything else. (However, if they turned out to have intentions to change the system, it wouldn't be the first time a company did so — Rising Star Games, the European publisher of the Harvest Moon series, didn't get around to releasing the Nintendo GameCube game Harvest Moon: Magical Melody in its region until its system's successor, the Wii, had already replaced it, resulting in a port to the latter for that region and later in North America by the publisher there, Natsume.) Still, fans are not really convinced if they are going to go through with their promises. Fan translation, here we come.
Every Cave shoot-em-up after DoDonPachi has gotten an Asia-only release; if you want, say, Mushihime-sama or Espgaluda on the PS2, and live outside of there, expect to shell out at least the equivalent of US$70 (unless you are an extremely good bargain hunter). Then again, shoot-em-ups are a niche genre here in the United States.
There were plans to bring a couple of the games to XBLA, but Microsoft rejected.
Cave has been trying to avert this, as they've given some of their games some form of English release (Deathsmiles, Guwange), or at the very least have made them region-free (Mushihime-sama Futari, EspGaluda II Black Label), making importing them much easier.
This continued even in the face of Aksys (who published the US version of Deathsmiles) saying they're not interested in publishing additional shooters for the US. Deathsmiles IIX actually received a US release - in the form of the unedited Japanese game (Japanese Achievements left intact) available over Games on Demand.
Even when Cave could find no willing publishers for an American release of DoDonPachi Resurrection, Rising Star Games made their European release of the game compatible with American consoles, in a bizarre inversion of the usual situation (usually, Europe's the one importing from America).
Subverted with visual novel producer minori, who were very adamant about not releasing anything outside Japan, openly berating fan translators, filing C&D forms, blocking foreign IPs and throwing in some xenophobic remarks along the way. In September 2010 the company enlisted their former nemesis, the fansubbing group No Name Losers (known for translating many minori titles) as their official localization team. minori's current homepage
Monolith Soft. The three Xenosaga and two Baten Kaitos games released in North America aside (the former of which, as mentioned earlier got screwed in Europe in particular). This means Americans will probably never get to see the Xenosaga side games/DS remake, Disaster, and Soma Bringer among things, even when there's been some pleading by the fans for them to release SOMETHING.
Nintendo often withholds things from America. The original Super Mario Bros. 2, which was deemed too hard for Americans; we were instead given a retooled version of Doki Doki Panic. Fortunately, it eventually became available in the SNES game collection Super Mario All-Stars, and eventually anyone who wanted to play the original 8-bit version ended up able to do so on the Wii using the Virtual Console. However this was partially a decision by Nintendo of America because the then chairman disliked it and thought it added little to the series. (Though, it really didn't — it was basically a Mission Pack Sequel made by people who didn't think that the original was hard enough.)
And if Americans think they've got it bad, consider the number of games that have never been released in Europe.
Nintendo also chose not to import Rhythm Tengoku, a fun, original Rhythm Game from from creators of the Wario Ware series, seeing as the GBA was dead in the water by the time it came out. The DS version got localized, though, and can be found as Rhythm Heaven.
Flipped around when Elite Beat Agents became popular for importers in Japan due to that game having similar problems with importing and localizing certain concepts. The trade-off was that the Agents became unlockable in the second Ouendan game.
The Fire Emblem series, for 13 years and 6 installments, was released only in Japan, until Marth Debuted in Smash Bros. and proved there might be a market for the series after all. They still cancelled plans to localize the first Game Boy Advance title, Fuuin no Tsurugi (Sword of Seals, aka "The One With Roy"), which was still in development when Melee was released.
What plans to localize Fuuin no Tsurugi? They didn't even plan to let Marth and Roy into the international release of Melee! Nintendo of Japan originally intended the two protagonists to only be playable in the Japanese version (which they were included in to promote Fuuin no Tsurugi), but they were popular enough during the localization process that Nintendo of America decided to leave them in. Had they not, Americans might still not have Fire Emblem over in the United States.
It's a good thing they waited —- their notorious censorship board would have had a field day with the series had Nintendo brought the earlier Family Computer and Super Famicom installments over when they were still new in Japan. In particular, the latter two SFC games featured incest as a recurring theme.
This causes a bit of confusion with some of the nods to Sword of Seals and Mystery of the Emblem present in Blazing Sword and Shadow Dragon respectively, to say nothing of the notorious newbie question "Are Marth and Roy in this game?"*
They're not even in the same 'verse due to the series making liberal use of Non-Linear Sequels
Everyone also wondered what would happen next - Because Fuuin no Tsurugi wasn't ever localized, people thought that the next Fire Emblem game would be about Zephiel being the antagonist thanks to the ending showing Zephiel being approached by Yahn. For those who weren't aware that the first english game was a prequel to Fuuin, part of the backlash about Sacred Stones was "...WHERE'S ZEPHIEL?! WHERE'S ROY?!"
And it happened again. New Mystery of the Emblem for DS came out in Japan in 2010, and stayed there. Nintendo has yet to explain why this game in particular got skipped for localization, though being released right at the tail end of the DS's lifespan (and the beginning of the 3DS's) might have contributed to it. At any rate, fan translators to the rescue once again...
After the above incident, many fans were on pins and needles for some time that the 3DS installment Fire Emblem: Awakening would suffer a similar fate, but it's been triumphantly averted.
Three out of the four Clock Tower games have been exported. The one that wasn't was the very first game, which was released on the Super Famicom.
Almost any Nintendo exclusive 3rd-party game that is not a huge pillar will not cross the sea. Almost the same for co-produced new titles.
Part of what makes the Kingdom Hearts example so notable is that much of the plot doesn't make any sense without having played each game's Final Mix version. For example, Terra's final battle with Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep only makes sense if you've played the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts II and fought the Lingering Sentiment, while the extra scenes in the Final Mix version of the first game foreshadows the existence of Xemnas and the Nobodies. The Final Mix version of Birth By Sleep includes an extended final level that ends with Aqua finding the Castle of Dreams in the world of darkness. Since the next game isn't out yet, it's unclear what the significance of the new ending is, but it's pretty much a given that it'll be vital to the plot.
It's not necessarily that the plot becomes incomprehensible (though there is a plot hole in "Days"' opening because of this.) It's mainly that the full significance of some scenes gets lost on the people who never got to play the FMs, such as the above example, or Xemnas seeking out the Chamber of Waking.
Worst of all, the superspecial happy-extra-stuff Japan-only versions of Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII are subtitled "International + Final Mission" and "International Zodiac Job System", respectively. Yes, it's Japan-only, and titled International. The intent is to give Japanese players the features of the American and European versions (with some additional changes), hence the name; but still, it rankles.
They aren't the only ones to get this subtitle, as other games of the series also did. Still, these ones are by far the worst offenders, since they include a lot (And we mean a whole fucking lot) of extra stuff the other versions didn't have.
In an unusual case of Europe getting things that North America doesn't, many of the features of Final Fantasy X International, such as the Dark Aeons, appeared in the European release of the game.
It should be noted, however, that almost all of these above-listed games were released for the PlayStation 2. So this may have more to do with Sony's licensing policy, which, for an Updated Rerelease, requires a certain amount of new content before it can be given an international release.
Fortunately, America and Europe is going to see some of this extra content thanks to Updated Rereleases like Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX, which includes the Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix content, and Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster, which remakes the International versions of both titles.
And in the era before the mergers, it was very rough to be an Enix fan. Enix of America was their localization firm in the United States that abruptly closed shop in 1995, simply because Enix of Japan had no interest in localizing their titles in the US anymore. One particularly odd case was the Enix game Terranigma, which got swallowed up in the aftermath. Enix allowed Nintendo of America to publish Terranigma's predecessor, Illusion of Gaia, stateside, but when it came time to release Terranigma, they wouldn't allow it. Clearly this took Nintendo by surprise, as they had been running previews of the game in the company-owned Nintendo Power before the closure. The game was still translated to English for a European release via Nintendo, who localized it for the rest of Europe as well...just not in the United States. Pretty much every American that's played this game did so running a ROM of the PAL English version. Enix left a few more games stranded in Japan until they got a clue and started up another publishing house in America just to get Dragon Quest VII out the door.
A lesser theory about Terranigma not being released outside of Japan and PAL was because it would have come at a rather awkward time - it was released in 1995, and by the time it would have been translated and released in America, it would have either been a) hampered by a short run because the Nintendo 64 would be released in a couple months or b) had to compete against the Nintendo 64 and probably wouldn't have had as much advertising as previous SNES-titles have. Even when Terranigma was released in PAL territories, the Nintendo 64 was right around the corner.
On the upside, Dragon Quest has gotten a new lease on life in the United States later on; not only was Dragon Quest VIII released in the U.S. with its original Japanese title (as opposed to "Dragon Warrior", which was really something that was because of trademark issues with a pen-and-paper game named "Dragon Quest"), but the DS remakes of Dragon Quest IV, V and VI have all been announced for the U.S., with VI being announced for the U.S. before it was even announced for Japan, and the best news of all is that Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VI were indeed never before released in English. Considering Enix's previous track record of crappy localizations and generally being incapable of recognizing the United States as a viable market, the merger with Square is probably the best thing that ever happened to them.
However, the Square-Enix merger led to the translations for Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart and the PS2 Dragon Quest V remake being lost in the shuffle, which some of us are still bitter about.
The Dragon Quest IV localization also inexplicably excised the additional 'party talk' available in the game which was added to give much needed characterization.
Also, certain titles like Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2: Professional probably won't see release outside of Japan.
Before Crisis Final Fantasy VII - it's been almost five years, no word at all about an international release. It's particularly annoying since an ad for this game was included in the North American DVD of Advent Children, and there was promise of it being released sometime in 2006. So even a spin-off to one of the most successful games of all time is not immune to getting the No Export treatment. So as for you Turks fans... sorry about your mistake of not being born Japanese.
And finally, one of the company's most infamous oversights in this regard: Seiken Densetsu 3. It is the one and only World of Mana game not to be released outside of Japan[[hottip:* Well, unless you count that cellphone game]]; unfortunately, many fans of the series who have played it via emulation or importing believe it to be the best of the series. As Square-Enix doesn't seem to be in a hurry to remake it, it doesn't seem like it'll ever have a chance to come over any time soon.
Romancing Sa Ga series aside from the remake was never released outside of Japan. Square-Enix has already released a remake of SaGa 2 (Final Fantasy Legend 2) but it has yet to reach US shores for some reason despite being out for a while now. And with SaGa 3 remake already released, there's still no signs of overseas release. Either Square Enix thinks the SaGa series is killing the company, or sees Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy as bigger cash cows that they wouldn't bother translating.
It's more likely due to the fact that the SaGa series games that were released in North America are well known for their inconsistent reception. Add in the general popularity of other franchises, and it is unlikely to happen. Then again, Square-Enix has changed its mind before...
Nintendo drew more ire over its non-localizations of Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandoras Tower in North America leading to an Internet Counterattack known as Operation Rainfall.Xenoblade was particularly ridiculous, as it has not only come out in Europe and Australia, but it was fully translated and dubbed for Xenoblade Chronicles! Thankfully, Xenoblade Chronicles came to North America in April 2012 with a limited print run, and The Last Story and Pandoras Tower made their way to North American shores thanks to publishing from XSEED Games.
Namco Bandai, thanks in large parts for their treatment of English-speakers with the massive Tales Series (more details further down) and plenty of their lesser intellectual properties, also has clear shades of this.
When Telenet Japan's subsidiary Renovation Products was bought out by Sega in 1993, the planned North American releases of several SNES games were canceled: Neugier (as The Journey Home), Psycho Dream (as Dream Probe), and a port of Arcus Odyssey.
Game Series Specific Examples
These examples are sorted by series name.
Another Centurys Episode, a game series that is basically an action-based variation of Super Robot Wars, faces far too many roadblocks for licensing here, not least of which is the whole Macross thing...
Four of the Ape Escape games (Million Monkeys, SaruSaru Daisakusen, Pipo Saru 2001 and Pipo Saru Racer) are only available in Japan, while one minigame compilation (Pumped & Primed) made it to America but not Europe. However, Spike's cuteseyed-up appearance from Million Monkeys appears in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, an American-made game.
For over half a decade, the Atelier series was completely unable to leave Japan, despite the first two games handily breaking six-figure sales volume and becoming a cult hit in Japan that inspired nearly every JPRG that followed to have some form of Item Crafting. Reportedly, despite its success in Japan Sony has never had any faith that the series will appeal to American gamers, despite titles such as Harvest Moon doing well here. Only when the series made some changes to be more like a standard JPRG with Atelier Iris did it finally manage to cross the Pacific courtesy of Nippon Ichi Software of America - in 2005, eight years after the series debut in Japan. America has gotten (almost) all Atelier releases since, but even with a PS2 re-issue of the first two games, none of the first five, Item Crafting-based Atelier games have ever crossed the Pacific.
It's been nearly two years since Atelier Lise was released in Japan and it shows no signs of coming over as well. There are, however, probably rather good reasons for this and nobody is complaining too loudly about this one.
And it appears as though the "proper Atelier" curse is at last being broken. Whether or not Americans see the earlier games outside of Japan, however, remains an open question.
Probably not. But anyway, with reasons that are quite obvious, some fans of the series are pretty unsure about the localization; mainly because of the various issues regarding the translation. It's probably a sort of emotional unsettling due to variants appearing in what society has accepted as the norm eg. Name changes, term changes, etc. But at least we're getting a localization, right?
When the first Alterier Iris game left Japan, it caused an interesting case of Seinfeld Is Unfunny - we had already seen the sequels that developed the Item Crafting stuff more - obviously the first game that did that would look like "Just another JRPG".
Baten Kaitos Origins, the prequel to a cult classic Gamecube JRPG, was never released in Europe.
Big Bang Pro Wrestling was released only in Japan, despite having a full English translation.
What's that? You want a Bleach game for the PlayStation? Sorry, the company has released a total of thirteen Bleach games, with plans for a fourteenth, and not one of them has been released in the United States.
In yet another Capcom example of this trope, the Breath of Fire series has had this in practically every flavour listed:
Breath Of Fire III's re-release for PSP never made it Stateside due to Sony Entertainment USA rules requiring a minimum of 20% new content. Europe got it, though, and fortunately the PSP is NOT region-locked. For identical reasons, the game is not available via Playstation Network in North America.
It has been rumoured, in fact, that it's precisely this reason why Breath of Fire IV has never been re-released.
No less than four spin-off games based on Breath Of Fire IV, including two complete side-stories, are Japan-only due to being released only on the BREW smartphone platform.
The Windows port of Breath Of Fire IV not only was never released in the US (being Europe, Japan and China only) but was based on the severely Bowdlerized international version—yes, even in Japan, where the original Playstation version of the game had been released uncensored.
In addition, in the international release of Breath Of Fire IV one of Scias' abilities (a "scan" ability) was dropped from international versions under the rationale it'd take too long to translate from Japanese.
Pretty much allExpanded Universe material for Breath of Fire fits under this trope, including not only the soundtracks but the official artbooks, no less than two Novelizations , four separate ComicBookAdaptations, and no less than four other anthology and/or 4-koma collections.
The Comic Book Adaptation—a manga adaptation of Breath Of Fire IV published by Mag Garden—is the sole example that has ever made it outside Japan officially (there are licensed Chinese and French translations). Still nothing in English, though, aside from a Fan Translation and no official announcements that an English-language licensee might be interested...
The Sega Saturn port of Castlevania Symphony Of The Night was never released outside of Japan. Enhance improvements and many new features were added in the Saturn version. Unfortunetely, the Saturn version suffered from Porting Disaster since the system couldn't be properly coded which results include long loading times along with other problems which may be why this wasn't exported. Another reason was because the Saturn was nearing its end in Western territories during this time.
Even though Chibi Robo for the Game Cube and the DS sequel Chibi Robo: Park Patrol have been released worldwide, the New Play Control edition for Wii and the other DS game Okaeri Chibi Robo Happy Richie Osouji have never seen the light of day outside Japan.
Chocobo's Dungeon never came out in the United States, butChocobo's Dungeon II kept its numbering.
Three Contra titles were released in North America but not in Japan. The Stinger? Said games are Contra Force, a game which had no reason to haveContra in its title to begin with (and was even planned as an unrelated game titled Arc Hound), and the two Appaloosa-developed games, Contra: Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure, which were considered bad to begin with.
Contra 4 was not released anywhere in Europe. The reason given was that, apparently, European gamers are unaware of the Contra brand, due to the previous games being released as Probotector and Super Probotector. So, in that case, why was the game not released over here as Probotector 4 or something? Doubly ironic since the Probotector is actually a hidden playable character in Contra 4.
The Densha De Go! games have not seen release outside Japan. There are some possible cultural reasons why a simulation of driving Japanese commuter trains wouldn't translate, but try telling that to some people.
Not quite. The developer released the PSP games in Hong Kong and Taiwan... Untranslated, with the only Chinese-language material being a simplified manual. Also, its spiritual successor, Railfan got a release in Taiwan with the installment featuring the new Taiwan High-speed Rail. On the other hand, though the first Railfan game featured the Chicago L Brown Line, it was never released there. Or anywhere else in America, for that matter.
The first DJ MAX Portable game was a Korea-only release. But when people outside of Korea started importing the game, Pentavision took notice and released an "International" version with English text, though that version was met with some negative receiption due to its poor attempts to censor songs and its replacement of one song with a completely different song, and it was still a Korea-only release. DJ MAX Portable 2, too had English- and Japanese-language options, and its internet ranking site acknowledges countries outside of South Korea. Despite this, the game was still Korea-only, which suggests that Pentavision wanted to release the game overseas but just didn't have the budget for it yet. However, they have been working with PM Studios on DJ MAX Fever, an American release, and DJ MAX Technika, an arcade Gaiden Game that will also be getting an American release, in their efforts to recognize their non-Korean fans as well as to keep American arcades in business.
DJMAX Fever, unlike its Korea-only predecessors, was released in the US only. Somewhat negated by Fever being a carbon copy of Portable 2, with its playlist being a mix of Portable 1 and 2's.
The Eggerland series (made by Hal Laboratory, of Kirby and Super Smash Bros fame) is mostly Japan-exclusive. The original two MSX games were released in Europe, but once the series moved to the Famicom they lost it. Eventually a game called Adventures of Lolo, a compilation of puzzles from previous games in the Eggerland series, was released in America and Europe (but not Japan), seemingly as an introduction to the series. Adventures of Lolo got two similarly international sequels (which were also released in Japan with different puzzles) and a Game Boy installment released in Europe (with a lot of extra puzzles over the Japanese version), but later PC games were once again Japan-only.
A good three-eights of the Front Mission series never made it out of Japan. (Two-fifths not counting Gun Hazard, roughly half counting Online and 2089 [either the two cell phone games or the one DS compilation thereof].) What's even worse is the Continuity Lock-Out from not being familiar with all the games...
Due to being a violently Japanese game series having risqué gags (Ebisumaru, anyone?) in its Super Famicom entries, almost none of the Ganbare Goemon games were ever brought to America except for the first SNES game, one of the Game Boy games and two of the Nintendo 64 sequels, with another of the GB games appearing in a Game Boy Color collection in Europe. Even though the N64 entries became cult classics thanks to creative changes made to the dialogue, an offbeat sense of humor and foreign charm(having Goemon Impact certainly helped), the series failed to catch on.
Long before that, New Ghostbusters II for the NES was only released in Europe and Japan, skipping North America entirely.
For a long time Gothic 2's expansion pack (Night of the Raven) looked like it would never see the light of day in the United States, the same goes for the various Spell Force expansions. Aspyre later picked up the US distribution rights and released gold versions of both games with their expansions.
Also, the first Gothic had a Easter Egg-ish rock concert, which was cut from export versions due to copyright problems.
The first Growlanser game, allegedly the best of the series, have not seen release outside Japan. The sixth game hasn't been released, either.
Like Gundam? Too bad. The most fluid and action-packed Gundam games never make it out of Japan. This includes the Gundam Battle series (Royale, Chronicle, Universe), and alternate-universe What If? games like Ghiren's Greed. The SD Gundam G Generation games, essentially an all-Gundam Super Robot Wars, have never been localized, even though licensing issues wouldn't be a problem. The line of unreleased Gundam games goes back to Zeta Gundam for the NES (most likely a localization of the Famicom game Hot Scramble), which Bandai America advertised but failed to release.
THE iDOLM@STER, despite having something a cult following among North American gamers, is unlikely to be released outside Japan in any form (occasional cameos excluded), since the foreign fanbase for Raising Sims and J-pop Idol Singers is just not massive enough to justify the insane cost of localizing (with or without translating the songs) and publishing it. There's actually an extensive forum post on why the series is never coming to America.
Similar to Super Robot Wars, it is highly unlikely that the DS game Jump Super Stars and its sequel, Jump Ultimate Stars, will ever see the light of day outside of Japan due to the sheer amount of licensing that would have to be done to cover every single series represented. Thankfully, the DS is region-free, so importing it to play isn't too big of a hurdle. (Same with Super Robot Wars W and K).
The kicker in all this? It seems like Viz is using appearances in Jump Ultimate Stars to justify translating the original manga. It's one thing when hot properties like Black Cat start appearing in America. But when series like I''s and Ichigo 100% made it over? It's now pretty much down to everything that isn't old (Space Adventure Cobra) or too culturally particular (KochiKame) as to what doesn't get translated.
Continuing with Namco's spree of fan disdain, American gamers probably wouldn't know much of anything about the Klonoa series if it weren't for the internet. While the first game Door to Phantomile received nice reviews and was considered one of the better PS1 games, and its sequel Lunatea's Veil for the PS2 was also well-received, the games remained cult hits and were largely under-appreciated. Consequently, four handheld spinoffs - Empire of Dreams, Dream Champ Tournament, Beach Volleyball, and Klonoa Heroes - were released thereafter, but of the four, only Empire of Dreams and Dream Champ Tournament saw an American release with Dream Champ being released three years after it came out in Japan, meanwhile Beach Volleyball was exported to Europe only, and Heroes never made it out of Japan at all. Before Lunatea's Veil, Moonlight Museum also suffered from this, but instead due to it being on the WonderSwan, which itself did not make it to America. Since 2005, the series became orphaned for some time until a remake of Door to Phantomile for the Wii was announced for 2009, and did indeed come stateside complete with English voice acting for the first time ever in the series.
Medabots, several games in the series did not leave Japan, the ones which did was it because the then current anime boom in the west; Medarot 2 Core was released as Medabots for GBA, Medabots AX also for GBA and Medabots Infinity for GameCube, that's all for the games released outside Japan. Currently, in Japan, the series has more than a dozen of games and still lives with Medarot 7 on the Nintendo 3DS.
As big as Mega Man is in the West, Rockman's bigger in Japan. Here are some of the things we never got:
Super Adventure Rockman, a PS1 visual novel of sorts.
Rockboard, a collection of Mega Man-themed board games for NES.
Rockman and Forte: Challenger from the Future, which was never released, due to the Wonderswan not coming stateside.
The SNES game it was based on, Megaman and Bass, was never released in America either until the GBA port in 2003.
Rockman EXE 4.5: Real Operation, where the GBA becomes as much like a PET as possible via the BattleChip Gate accessory (we never got that either).
Since Boktai 3 was never localized, a lot of crossover material in Battle Network 6 was removed for the international version.
Rockman Megaworld, a Mega Drive compilation of the first three Famicom games with 16-bit graphics and sound, was in fact released in Europe as Mega Man: The Wily Wars. The American version was only available via the now-defunct Sega Channel, meaning that the game was Lost Forever once the service was discontinued.
Europeans, however, never got Mega Man 6, and the compilations for the original and X series were only released in America.
Rockman Strategy, an officially licensed PC game featuring Zodiac-themed Robot Masters was only released in China and Taiwan.
Luckily, UDON is bringing over the original Mega Man (Rockman Megamix, to be specific) and ZX manga, as well as the Rockman Complete Works art book (split into a book for the classic series and one for Mega Man X).
They've also brought over the Kubrick figures of Mega Man and Proto Man from Japan, complete with the accompanying Be@rbrick figures.
Japan and Europe got Battle and chase, a racing game with Mega Man characters tacked into it. There were ads in gaming magazines for it in the US! The game was ported in the Mega Man X collection, though.
An official (but partially translated) English version of the original Metal Gear for the MSX2 was available in parts of Europe (particularly in the Netherlands), but not in America (which only got the NES port), because the MSX2 was never released there. The original MSX2 release of Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake, on the other hand, was only released in Japan. Both games were later remade and ported to the PS2 and included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:Subsistence, where they finally got proper English translations.
In contrast, Snakes Revenge, the NES sequel to the first Metal Gear, was released in North America and Europe, but not in Japan.
The Nintendo 3DS's eShop is a booming service in Japan, but Mighty Switch Force! (one of the highest selling and most well received eShop games in the West) is not available in Japan and there are no plans to release it there.
Capcom just doesn't like localizing games much... the Monster Hunter series is another good example. There's about a 50% chance that they won't port a given game in the series. Monster Hunter 2 never saw the light of day overseas, though they have localized all the PSP games, which are generally just remakes of previous titles with a lot added/changed, including the second game (though, the PSP versions don't have online play, and they pulled the plug on the original game's servers, leaving Tri as the only online option for westerners). By far the most painful for MH fans, however, is the refusal to localize Monster Hunter Frontier, the MMO of the series.
More proof that Namco/Bandai loathes you: the Mr Driller games. Three of them (Mr. Driller Ace, Great and Drill Land) never saw the light of day outside of Japan. On top of this, these were arguable the best games in the series.
Jaleco made two failed attempts at international versions of their Ninja Jajamaru-kun games: Jajamaru Ninpou Chou as Taro's Quest, and Ninja Jajamaru: Ginga Daisakusen as Squashed. Neither made it past prototype stage, and only Maru's Mission for the Game Boy was exported until the original Ninja Jajamaru-kun was released on the Wii Virtual Console.
Like its cousin Fire Emblem, Intelligent Systems' Wars series dates back to the original Famicom Wars for the Family Computer in 1988, followed by Game Boy Wars in 1991 and Super Famicom Wars in 1998, none which saw official English releases. Ironically enough this was inverted starting with Advance Wars for the GBA, which marked the series' English debut. The North American version was released in 2001, but the Japanese version, Game Boy Wars Advance, was canceled due to the unfortunate timing of the 9/11 attacks and was not released in Japan until 2004, when it was included in a two-in-one bundle with its sequel Game Boy Wars Advance 2. This seems to have killed the series in its home country - the first DS game, Famicom Wars DS, bombed hard in Japan, so they didn't even bother to release Advance Wars: Days of Ruin there, even though it contains a complete Japanese translation hardcoded in.
The One Piece Wii fighter, Unlimited Cruise episodes 1 and 2 have currently been released pretty much everywhere, except for America. Europe has both eps and even Australia has the first ep, but no such luck for America yet. America got the immediate prequel, Unlimited Adventure, for the same system, which makes this just weird.
Pokémon has a few of these, most notably the original Pokémon Red & Green due to the fact they couldn't change the Japanese text into English because the source code was fragile, dolling up Blue due to it being an Updated Rerelease and having a newer code. But, they are usually due to a betterversion coming out. That still doesn't explain why the sequel to Pokémon Trading Card Game didn't come out outside of Japan; it even introduced a female playable character.
Additionally, My Pokémon Ranch, while available in the US, is locked out of the Japan-only update which makes it compatible with Platinum. The update also adds a slew of new features, none of which stateside fans will probably ever see.
The WiiWare versions of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. Especially irksome because, for once, in these games, you can evolve in the middle of a dungeon. Yep, you don't have to beat the game (or in Time/Darkness's case, essentially beat the game TWICE and recruit really hard legendaries) to evolve, you can evolve right in the middle of a mission! ...If you live in Japan, that is.
Hey You Pikachu didn't get a European release. One UK source speculated that it could have been because localising the software to recognise the myriad British accents was unfeasible.
For some weird reason, Pokémon Conquest was never released in France. Why it was released in all European countries except France is a mystery.
Pokémon Stadium, the first one. The game released in the USA as Pokemon Stadium is Pokemon Stadium 2 in Japan. The game released in America as Pokemon Stadium 2 is Pokemon Stadium Gold and Silver in Japan. Confused yet?
Japan also has a Pokemon version of the arcade game Battrio and now Pokemon Tretta that can be played there, but haven't come out in other countries. Battrio was retired, and replaced by Tretta in 2012. However, it isn't as popular in the US, which is probably why it hasn't gone overseas.
Celebi was a Pokemon that wasn't exported worldwide until Gen IV (its first appearance in America was on one of the Pokemon anime movies). It was available to Japanese players of Pokémon Gold and Silver in Gen II, and was on a bonus disc with the Japanese Pokemon Colosseum, but US games couldn't get it until the remakes of Gold and Silver in Gen IV.
The "Sakura Taisen World Project," announced in 2002, was an official effort to bring the Sakura Taisen dating sim/mecha strategy games to international audiences. The first part of the plan was to have the original game Remade for the Export on the PlayStation 2, but the remake was only released in Japan. The fifth installment received a very belated localization as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, which flopped in the U.S., making it unlikely Westerners will see more of the franchise besides one game and some of the tie-in anime (which came out earlier).
A Shadowrun game for the Sega CD was released in Japan only, probably because in 1996 the system was already fading fast.
If you're a fan of old-school Shin Megami Tensei, you might as well just give up and learn Japanese. Very few of the older titles have made it out of Japan, most likely because of its cult status overseas and mature subject matter (part one of Persona 2 involves the resurrection of Hitler. No, really). For a long time, non-Japanese fans were distraught over never getting to see official releases of games like Persona 2: Innocent Sin, half of the Devil Summoner games, Shin Megami Tensei If..., all but one of the Devil Children games, Shin Megami Tensei I and II, and a host of mobile phone games (though thankfully the fan translations are thriving).
However, after the success of the 2004 North American release of Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne, pretty much new MegaTen gamenote except the mobile phone ones released since then has come out stateside, so fans at least have that much solace, unlike many of the above examples. (I'm looking at you Tales!)
However, if you live in Europe, you will feel privileged for getting your games much later than everyone else... if you get them at all (I'm looking at you, Raidou Kuzunoha Vs King Abaddon and Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey). Devil Survivor, which was originally released in Japan and North America for the DS in 2009 and the 3DS in 2011, didn't officially come to Europe until an incredibly buggy localization was released in 2013. At least the DS was region free...
The original Persona 3 was released in Japan in 2006 and America in 2007. Europe got it 2008, just a little over half a year before FES got released there too, rendering the original version obsolete. At least Europe only had to wait a year for Persona 4.
The very region-locked Persona 4 Arena, however, had its European release date continually moved back. Fans were displeased.note It was finally released May 10, 2013, and Atlus was unusually open about the localization problems behind the Schedule Slip.
The PSP remake of Innocent Sin finally got North American and European releases in 2011, though the new version changed Hitler, Nazis, swastikas, and 'Gay student council member' to Fuhrer, Imperial Soldiers, Iron Crosses, and 'Student council member that sounds like a girl'. But Atlus still says that the original version was Japan-only simply because of the Christmas sales season...
However, Atlus has said that the PSP remake of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, which came with such nifty new features like a bonus storyline, will not be released anywhere outside of Japan.
On the plus side, the 3DS remake of Devil Summoner:Soul Hackers finally came out in North America in 2013, with a planned European localization to follow.
The Silent Hill franchise has numerous spin offs that haven't been released in the US, including an arcade game that was released in Europe, but not the US. Thankfully, most of the products aren't important, with the exception of The Book of Lost Memories, a trivia book that answers many questions about the series. The arcade game has been seen in Australia however.
Star Tropics, Which was never released in Japan, and the sequel Zoda's Revenge was North American-exclusive.
Most Summon Night games have never, and will never, be released outside of Japan despite their popularity. Notably this includes the 3rd Swordcraft Story game, as the first two were among the few to get released.
Hardly a surprise. It's another Namco series, afterall.
The majority of the Super Robot Wars series will never be seen outside of Japan, other than through Fan Translations, due to the multitude of trademark/copyright issues involved. Indeed, that's the reason the Original Generation games were made: to produce something with the flavor of the series which can actually be exported without an army of lawyers covering its rear.
Yet half of those aren't coming out in the US, either, because Sony Computer Entertainment America requires all games for their consoles to have an English voice track. Namco Bandai is unwilling to put the games out with a dub of low enough quality that they'd be financially viable, and Sony Computer Entertainment America is apparently unwilling to buckle on this rule. So we're further limited to handheld games only, which just leave Original Generation, Original Generation 2, and Endless Frontier.
Which by the way, was the reason why One Piece Pirate Warriors 1 and 2 and Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 are download only in the States. The fans are not amused, because they wanted to play a retail copy of it...
As ever, however, the fans are taking care of it, slowly but surely. Aeon Genesis has released translation patches for 'SRW 1, SRW 3, and Alpha Gaiden with patches for Alpha, Judgment and Lord of the Elementals (Masaki's story) in the not too distant future.
Also, due to general lack of region encoding, games released on Handheld systems (Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, or PlayStation Portable for example, with a total of 14 games between them (4 each on GBA and DS, 6 on PSP)) can be imported and played on local versions.
Hopefully it would be averted with the upcoming The 2nd Super Robot Wars Original Generations (if it can be localized), since SCEA got the English voice track requirement lightened.
If you are a fan of the Tales Series, Namco hates you. It's always a total crapshoot over whether any given title will ever be localized. For starters, out of 4 versions of the series' first game, Tales of Phantasia, only the GBA port came overseas, and that version was widely considered the worst technically and the translation muchdisputed (and partially Misblamed by people who have never actually read the original script). The worst part is that other companies (such as Atlus) have in fact offered to localize Tales games for Namco, but Namco, with the sole exception of the aforemention GBA Tales of Phantasia and NGC Tales Of Symphonia, adamantly refuses.
Namco has released six cell-phone Tales games, but, of course, they haven't seen the light of day outside Japan.
There's also the Playstation 2 special edition of Tales Of Symphonia, which was similarly abandoned in Japan. Symphonia, we should point out, is by far the most popular and best-known Tales game in the US, beating out a series of Playstation and Playstation 2 releases despite being on the less-successful Gamecube. This may have something to do with one of the exceptions to the "Namco doesn't let other companies help them bring Tales games over" rule- apparently Nintendo funded the localization of the GCN version. Presumably this included an exclusivity deal (which would only apply in Europe and America).
The real Tales Of Destiny 2, both in its PS2 and PSP incarnations, also never came over, partly due to sales of the two previous games, and partly because it was in 2D and Namco was dead set against releasing 2D Tales games in North America. The PS2 remake of Tales Of Destiny didn't come over for the same reason.
Tales Of Vesperia's PS3 port also doesn't seem to be coming. The reason is very unclear: at first voice actor Troy Baker announced being called to record some new Artes, increasing hope, only for Namco to announce that Vesperia had an exclusivity contract with Microsoft. Later it was announced that the contract was only temporary and had already expired, so there was another reason for keeping Vesperia PS3 in Japan. As of August 2011, there is lots of speculation about why is that so, but no solid reason.
The Smash Bros. clone/competitor Tales of Versus has been released in Japan as of July 2009. And despite filling a trademark in the West soon after the release, there was no English release announcement ever since.
Other lesser known titles, such as the rest of the Tales of the World series (including the Radiant Mythology series, which only had its first game localized), the Phantasia sequel Summoner's Lineage and the Tales of Fandom series, are also restricted to the land of the rising sun.
Mother 3, and the fact that Nintendo somehow thinks that people don't likeEarthBound (the fact that Earthbound was a financial disaster probably did little to help that). Sadly, while many have thought this might change with the release of Super Smash Bros Brawl (after all, Melee finally got Fire Emblem to start coming over), Nintendo has mysteriously never localized Mother 3, repeatedly denied any work or interest in it, and never even offered a reason why. That, of course, didn't stop the fans from taking care of it.
Fans of the Super Smash Bros series outside North America and Japan (and a large amount in North America) don't really know who the two characters from the Mother series are. Mostly because, of the three games, only EarthBound ever made it to the US, and no further.
To the point where Nintendo Power has joked about it. One preview jokingly refers to the cover game as being Mother 3 (ignoring the fact that the ball on the picture is coloured a lot like Sonic, the glowing sword embedded in it resembles a Dragon Needle), but immediatly says that they're just kidding.
The most reasonable hypothesis for why Mother 3 won't be officially localized is because the game is a landmine of licensing issues (see an excerpt of the changes needed to localize Earthbound for a comparison), particularly in its use of musical excerpts and audio samples of everything from the Adam West Batman TV show to Space Invaders. Since author/producer Shigesato Itoi refuses to alter the game to remove those references and Nintendo refuses to override him due to Itoi's fame, they're left with either trying to placate dozens of license holders... or just block the title from leaving Japan. Many viewed it as a slap in the face when Nintendo officially released Mother 3's soundtrack on iTunes, though it was later removed.
The long-missing first game in the series was even localized, but never released because it was near the end of the lifespan of the NES. The compilation, Mother 1+ 2, also wasn't localized, because of the unpopularity of the second game in the US and the trouble of rereleasing the third one.
When a Japanese Nintendo Direct regarding the Wii U Virtual Console was released, fans were delighted to find out that Mother 2 was among the games to be released for it. Come the English translation of the video, and... it was exactly the same, but with no EarthBound in sight. Hmmm. Shigesato Itoi has tweeted that he does want Western fans to be able to play the game, however, so anything could happen. And then, finally, on April 17, 2013, Earthboundwas finally announced to be coming to the Virtual Console in North America and, yes, Europe.
Fans of Wrestling Games have long lamented the lack of such games that make the transition from Japan to the U.S., which leaves WWE's licensed games as very nearly the genre's sole representatives in North America. In particular, Spike Entertainment's Fire Pro Wrestling and King of Colosseum franchises have garnered very vocal cults of Import Gamers, but the former has only seen very limited North American release of only the later games, and the latter has yet to cross the pond at all. To be fair, with those two series in particular, there are a few licensing issues; King of Colosseum is a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of several prominent Japanese wrestling federations, while Fire Pro Wrestling is... the same, with international promotions thrown in too, only with theSerial Numbers Filed Off.
The problem is the vast bulk of the roster is Japanese wrestlers with only a handful of American wrestlers. Since Japanese wrestling has a very small audience in the west, most companies feel it's not worth the effort. Heck, Agetec only managed to port Fire Pro Returns by waiting two years after the game's Japanese release and releasing it in the US and Europe as a budget title. It also should be noted the GBA games sported a larger number of western wrestlers than usual, and the US version of Final Fire Pro added even more (at the expense of the Manager Mode).
More proof that Namco utterly hates you: Xenosaga I&II for the DS never saw release outside of Japan.
Xenosaga: A Missing Year was promised to be translated and released by Namco... but wasn't. No big loss though, since it only explains why Shion didn't just quit Vector but joined a terrorist organization actively working to cripple the company, where Doctus comes from and who/what she really is, and why Shion's suddenly developed an intense disgust for her father, you know minor plot points. Much like Pied Piper, a fan-based translation is available online.
Furthermore, in Europe, only Episode II was released. A low-quality 4 hour long DVD comprised of the games key cutscenes from Episode I was packaged with Episode II as a recap, while Episode III was not released at all.
Rumors have cropped up about talks that the third installment in the Playstation Portable Yu Gi Oh GX Tag Force series would not be released overseas...despite the curious phenomenon of the series to come out in the west several weeks before it hits Japan. Some speculate that, if true, this decision was made to correspond to other rumors that 4Kids has refused to translate the fourth GX season, instead jumping straight to the next series Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the commoners...
Luckily, it seems that Tag Force 3 will, at the least, be released in Europe. And since the PSP is region-free... well, it's not the best solution for the North American fans, but it's there.
It's also finally been all but confirmed to be released in North America, as well...but with no release date, unfortunately. The rumor about GX Season 4 being dumped for 5D's is pretty obviously confirmed, by now.
Falcom's Ys RPG series went through a long spell of this. By the time Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys was released for the PC Engine CD, NEC was no longer supporting the format outside Japan. Ys IV: Mask of the Sun and Ys V: Kefin, the Lost City of Sand also remained in Japan, even when they were both remade for the PlayStation 2. By the time Konami localized Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim for PS2 and PSP, enough opportunities had been missed that the sequel number was dropped. Fortunately, Atlus and X Seed localized most of the subsequent games and remakes; Ys: The Oath in Felghana was Remade for the Export, and Ys Seven, Ys I and II Chronicles, and Ys Origin have all been localized as of June 11, 2012.
Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes had a North American release on the Turbo CD, but its first sequel was only released in Japan. This messed up the sequencing of the series when the Gargarv trilogy of Legend of Heroes III, IV, and V was Remade for the Export.
In 2009, XSEED Games announced they would be bringing the Sora no Kiseki trilogy to North America as The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. The first game of the trilogy was released in English for the PSP in 2011. Nothing whatsoever has been said about the remaining games in the trilogy, and fans doubt the trilogy will continue in English on the PSP due to the release of the Play Station Vita.
Unfortunately Valkyria Chronicles III will never see the light outside Japan as a PSP game. There is a slim chance it may be available as a download for the Vita, however.
Over half of the Kunio Kun games for the NES/SNES/Game Boy were never released outside Japan, a fact disguised to a good extent by divergent localizations. American Technos did, however, decide on a series title: Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge (the localization of the Kunio Kun game Bikkuri Nekketsu Shinkiroku! Harukanaru Kin Medal) threw in a teaser for Crash 'n the Boys: Ice Challenge (Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey Bu: Subette Koronde Dai Rantō). American Technos also planned, but failed, to release Soccer Challenge (Nekketsu Soccer League) and Diamond Challenge (Downtown Nekketsu Baseball Monogatari).
Infogrames' series of Smurfs videogames for the 8-bit and 16-bit game systems hardly saw a release outside Europe, with only a few exceptions.
The Starfy series until 5 (The Legendary Starfy) was never released outside of Japan for apparently being ''Too Japanese''. Even then, The Legendary Starfy was never released in Europe.
The original Spyro The Dragon trilogy, despite having been released as a whole in the Northern American Playstation Storewithin a single month (that is, one game per week), have yet to be released on the European one. The situation with the PS One Classics in Europe is so bad, the high request actually caused Ross Mc Grath of the European PS Blog to write a post entirely devoted to the Classics alone and how long it takes before one of them is released on the European store, mostly blaming it on technical issues and legal reasons. He also once commented that, on that regard, "there has been some progress [with the Spyro games] but it's not that notable". We could assume that the "legal reasons" have something to do with the music composed by Stewart Copeland, but even then, the fact the (thankfully) entirely re-released Crash Bandicoot trilogy still includes the Spyro demos - with music and all - instantly josses that option entirely.
In Japan, all four Valis games were released on the PC Engine in one form or another. But North America didn't get the original Valis IV or the superior remake of the first game on the TurboGrafx-16; only the inferior SNES and Genesis versions came over.
If you are a fan of Phantasy Star in any of its iterations and you don't live in Japan, then Sega hates you and feeds on your delicious tears. First, the spinoffs Phantasy Star Adventure and Phantasy Star Gaiden for the Game Gear and the Phantasy Star II text adventures were never released outside Japan; players wouldn't have to make do with Fan Translations of any of these if just one Compilation Rerelease had been fully localized. Then came the much improved PS2 remakes of Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star 2 which we missed out on. Then there were the various ways Sega jerked Western players of Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe around by witholding content released for the Japanese servers (before shutting the western servers down entirely as a final screw you). Finally, Sega outright refused to translate Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity despite being a much improved version of the original that many were interested in.
None of the Hanjuku Hero series of Real Time Strategy games have ever left Japan. The closest the USA has ever gotten to an English release (barring a few failed fan translation attempts of Aa, Sekaiyo Hanjukunare...!) was Egg Monster Hero for the DS, which ended up getting screwed over by focus groups.
Tengai Makyou: Far East of Eden, a long-running RPG series by Hudson Soft which started in 1989, has practically never appeared outside Japan, partly on account of being a Widget Series, partly because most of the original games were released on the PC Engine CD and Sega Saturn, which were not so popular outside Japan. The only English release was the Neo Geo fighting spinoff Tengai Makyou Shinden (translated as Kabuki Klash), and even this didn't get an AES release.
Cliff Hanger and Treasure of the Sorcerer King are the only Lupin III games to get an English language release, and even those weren't released outside of North America.
None of the Umihara Kawase games have been released outside Japan, though Natsume at one time had plans to release Umihara Kawase Portable in the U.S. as Yumi's Odd Odyssey.
The Toro series has never been released outside of Japan, although Toro himself has appeared in America a few times (such as a PSN avatar, and a playable character in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale).
Game Specific Examples
These examples are sorted by game name.
For most of us, the puzzle game Wario's Woods was the final NES game. But Japan released another NES game that never saw release outside of Japan: the fourth and final installment of the Adventure Island series.
Adventure Time game, Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! was only released in the USA. Too bad 3DS is region blocked, so the only way for other people to play it, is using NDS edition.
All Points Bulletin will not be available in Australia. The reason for this, however, is not Moral Guardians, but cost of renting local servers from a company that has effective monopoly on it.
Altered Beast got an In Name Only remake for the PS2, which never got released in North America but did get released in Europe.
Aquanaut's Holiday: Hidden Memories was fully translated into English, but the translated version was only released in China and Korea.
Arcana Heart 2 never saw the light of day outside of Japan. This may be more due to the fact that the PS2 version of said game wasn't a very good port, however. Arcana Heart 3, on the other hand, does subvert this trope...unless you're an Xbox 360 owner in North America. To be fair, Aksys pushed for a 360 release for that region, but ultimately couldn't get approval for a physical disc release. Making it download-only in North America was also out of the question because the game weighed in at over twice the size limit for a 360 downloadable title (The game's at least 2GB. XBLA titles usually don't exceed 800MB).
As the page quote mentions, the one decent Back to the Future game, Super Back To The Future II was Super Famicom only. Seriously, what? A game based on an American movie doesn't come to any English-speaking country? Instead, we got the shitstorm of LJN garbage that so infuriated The Angry Video Game Nerd. Maybe they thought western audiences wouldn't go for the Super-Deformed look the game had.
BattleTanx seems to be a gloriously fun romp around a post-apocalyptic wasteland blowing things up. OK, so it was ignored upon release, but it would still make sense to release it outside America to drum up sales, right? If you believe that, you're not a manager to 3DO.
The sequel Global Assault got an Australian release, with reference to the first game's storyline and characters that were completely unexplained.
Blaster Master 2 for the Genesis/Megadrive was produced by European developer Software Creations, and never released in Japan.
Blood of Bahamut for NDS published by Square Enix.
Boktai had a third GBA game in Japan. English-speakers have to settle for the ROM and the fan translation patch.
Buriki One has only been at Japanese arcades.
Captain Rainbow (probably thanks to Birdo, who's particularly flaming in this one), thus blocking Panel De Pon characters from receiving Western exposure for a third time.
Clock Tower: The First Fear was never released outside of Japan (probably because of the violence. It was a pretty scary game, especially for the SNES). However, its sequels all made it over. This made certain lines in the second game, the only direct sequel, a bit confusing. Nobody knows why Dan is a significant name because the game only shows him briefly in the opening and doesn't say his name.
Crash Bandicoot was an extremely popular series in Japan; being one of the few popular western game series there. However when the characters got a full-on redesign for the seventh gen games, those games did not release there. It's an odd case, since they could have made specific models for them like they did with many of the other games. Crash continues to have games in Japan (mostly on mobile devices), albeit in the style of the Playstation games.
Dead or Alive Dimensions won't be released in Sweden, Norway, or Denmark due to concerns about the game's Figure Mode raised by a blogger who "aimed for [Nintendo's] heart, and by accident... hit [Nintendo] in the stomach." They could have edited Figure Mode out of the localized version, but they panicked and decided not to release the game in those three countries at all.
Poor Ryo Akiyama, who appeared in Digimon Tamers, has gotten some flack from the western fanbase because he doesn't seem to make any sense as a character without his backstory... Which comes from a series of games on the Wonderswan. The Wonderswan never went anywhere beyond Asia, and the only offical English version of the first in this series of games was only released in Hong Kong and other English-speaking asian countries. The same applies for the other Digimon games on that system and the AU mangas.
Disaster: Day of Crisis was localized to Europe. Not to America, though. It seems Reggie doesn't appreciate the campy nature of the game.
"Doctor Who: The Adventure Games" were not initially available outside of the UK until a commercial version was issued in July 2010. However, the company chosen to distribute the commercial version has said they will not be making the Mac version of the games available outside the UK.
Donkey Kong Land 3 was originally released only in America and Europe. A few years later it finally got a release in Japan, but it was a Game Boy Color version, which other countries didn't get.
Dr. Mario 64, a massively Updated Rerelease of Dr Mario, was initially only released in America despite its predecessor being a pretty popular game all over the world. It was later included on the collection Nintendo Puzzle Collection for the GameCube—which was only released in Japan (more info on that below).
On April 2, 2013, Nexon announced that they are officially shutting down Dungeon Fighter Online in the west, making it a Korea-only MMO.
In the Earth Defense Force series, the first two games were only released in Japan as Chikyuu Boueigun, and Europe as Monster Attack and Global Defense Force.
Earth Defense Forces 2 Portable, the PSP version of Chikyuu Boueigun 2 / Global Defense Force, was only released in Japan but contained more content than it's PS2 versions, 4-player co-op and even had some hidden files on the UMD hinting at a US release that never happened. Earth Defense Forces 3 Portable for the PlayStation Vita made it over under the moniker Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable however.
Despite having four major versions, being massively popular in its home country, and even making a showing as a featured tournament at the Evolution 2010 World Fighting Game Championships in Las Vegas, Melty Blood remains a Japan-only item.
Fatal Frame 4 was released in Japan with a counterintuitive control scheme (on the Wii, no less) and some game-breaking bugs. The game remains in Japan because Nintendo refuses to release the game worldwide without changes, but Tecmo refuses to make said changes without additional pay. The fact that the previous game reviewed and sold only slightly better than the plague overseas probably isn't helping matters, either.
Fatal Frame 5, a remake of the best-selling second game in the series, has been announced for European and Australian releases... but not American.
Unless Squeenix is playing it very close to the vest, the DS remake of Sa Ga 2 (Final Fantasy Legend II) outside Japan, is this.
The vast majority of games based on the manga series Fist of the North Star never saw release outside of Japan. The only games released outside of Japan were the second NES game which was called simply Fist of the North Star, a fighting game for the Game Boy, the Fighting Mania arcade game, two games for the Master System and Genesis that were stripped of the license and rebranded for sale on the international market, and of course, Fist Of The North Star Kens Rage. The Other Wiki has many, many others, including three Dragon Quest-style RPGs (two of them for the NES), a line of typing games, a line of fighting games, and finally a line of pachinko games.
Forbidden Siren - First game was released in Europe first, then released in America with the british voicework. The second game never made it to America and stopped in Europe.
Forbidden Siren 2 saw Japanese, Australian and European release, but never made it to North America, probably because sales for the first game were, to say the least, abysmal.
Despite being released in Japan, the third Fullmetal Alchemist game, Fullmetal Alchemist 3: The Girl Who Succeeds God ((鋼の錬金術師3: 神を継ぐ少女, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 3: Kami wo Tsugu Shōjo) was never released in North America. At the time, short sales of the other two games' caused this. However, there doesn't seem to be a lot of reason to keep it from coming out as of Brotherhood's release in 2010/2011, since it was considered to be the best game of the three Role Playing Games.
Genocide 2, originally for the Sharp X68000, had a port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System which ended up being released in Japan only despite being developed by a British studio. There was also a DOS port exclusive to South Korea.
Three Godzilla console fighting games have been made by Atari/Infogrames, and the third one especially, Godzilla Unleashed, is regarded by fans as the best Godzilla game of all time. So it's a bit of a puzzle why only the third game was not released in Japan, Godzilla's home. The Japanese fans are a bit pissed off about this, especially as it contained several of the films' Ensemble Darkhorses who have never been playable before.
On the other side of the pond, the second Super NES Godzilla game and Street Fighter clone (Kaiju Daikessen) never left Japan, and even worse, it was actually set to be released in North America as Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee, but wasn't mentioned afterwards. Which is unfortunate, since it was the first truly good Godzilla game on a mainstream console.
Guilty Gear is well known for having a few revisions of one of its games. At least two of them did not make it over seas though: Guilty Gear X Plus (Yes, GGX got an Updated Rerelease as well) and Guilty Gear XX Slash, which introduced A.B.A and Order-Sol. Since their overseas debut was Accent Core, a slight Marth Debuted in Smash Bros. effect ensured.
Actually, A.B.A. debuted in Isuka, which DID get released overseas.
Also of note is Guilty Gear XX #Reload which was only released in the US on the XBox.
Another game in limbo is Mobile Ops(or Gundam: Operation Troy). Namco/Bandai still have it as TBA for American release but have not said a word about it. Truly a bizare case since the game was desgined with Western audiences in mind.
After the poor sales in Japan and general dislike by even Gundam Fans in general, they decide it would only ruin sales.
A few Hamtaro games fell into this category as well: The first Hamtaro game (which is little more than a virtual pet game with a love meter and mate compatibility meter built in) is only available in Japanese. Likewise, the first Hamtaro DS game got a Japan-only release as well. To a lesser extent of things, fourth Hamtaro game, Rainbow Rescue, got an European and Japanese release, but no North American release.
Harvest Moon Back to Nature For Girl will never be released outside of Japan in its original formnote Due in no small part to the rage-inducing fact the game ends once you get married. You don't even get the series-standard Playable Epilogue. More Friends of Mineral Town is essentially an enhanced 2D port of this game, and the PSP release Boy and Girl combined both versions of Back To Nature.
Surprisingly there are several games made for the overseas audience that were never released in Japan, including the two DS puzzle games and the 3DS version of A Tale of Two Towns.
The Itadaki Street video game series published by Square Enix is also in this same boat. While the latest title has the excuse of being a cell phone title, the others are on systems perfectly accessible to Square Enix fans outside Japan.
Square Enix finally started breaking this with the Command Board in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, which is essentially Itadaki Street with the game's characters, and they're finally localizing a full standalone game for the Wii in the form of Fortune Street.
The sound novel version of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, called Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl The First Summer Story may be released outside of Japan despite the fact that too many people don't like sound novels (a problem Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni also has with their "much better then the anime" sound novels) and due to the fact that the anime wasn't even dubbed. It was just translated with English subtitles onto DVDs.
The 2 sequels of Kid Niki were only released in Japan.
The NES version of Legendary Wings was planned to be released in Japan, but only came out in America.
Namco's Legend of Valkyrie, originally released in Japanese arcades in 1989 and on the PC Engine in 1990, finally got a US localization in 1997 on Namco Museum Vol. 5. The franchise also had several other installments that were never exported at all.
In Japan and Korea, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures came with a bonus game, called Navi Trackers, (Early versions were called Tetra's Trackers) set in the Timeline ofThe Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The game was about Tetra, using ancient Hylian magic to split Link into four and play a game with him. The game was a Multiplayer, using the Gameboy Advance as the controller and screen for the individual players, and the TV-screen as a status-check. In order to not have the players permanently look at the TV-screen and lose time, Tetra, The King of Red Lions and Sue-Belle were fully voiced (This was before Midna) and would tell the players what was going on right now. Presumably because of said Japanese voice-acting, the game was never released outside Japan and Korea, much to the dismay of Tetra Fans who wanted to hear her talk.
It was because she voiced the players' names based on their input. It was apparently too hard to do with English, with its myriad of phonemes, so they scrapped it. The Korean version keeps the Japanese voice acting. Perhaps the only reason why Navi Trackers was even included in the Korean release is because many Koreans do know how to understand Japanese.
Martian Successor Nadesico has an interesting spin on this trope. The series came out in America and Europe, as did The Movie. However, the video game detailing the passage of time between the series and the movie (as well as three other Martian Successor Nadesico games) was never released outside Japan, meaning that for many people, it was a little jarring to find that the series' war had ended offscreen, and Ruri was suddenly the main character.
Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge was never released in Japan because the Super Scope was even less successful there than in America.
Cultural sensitivity might account for that, seeing as how the game is practically an over-the-top parody of militant Eagle Land, some Americans might not appreciate it. Of coure, the rest would think it was Crazy Awesome.
Moon Crystal was advertised for a forthcoming U.S. release that never happened.
Mortal Kombat 9 isn't being released in Australia due to the Moral Guardians not giving it a rating and not allowing it to be sold, or even imported. However, they are planning to introduce an R-18+ rating for games, so this could end up being averted... we shall see. But not before Netherrealm Studios got the last laugh.
Also, the game has not been released in Japan, and there are no plans to do so.
The Movies expansion Stunts and Effects was only available in certain markets, notably Australia and Asia. Because Microsoft bought Lionhead Studios up before they could launch the games in other regions.
Musou Orochi Z is explicitly never being released outside of Japan, despite the two games it's derived from making it to the US and Europe. As something of a compensation, they added some of the features of it to the overseas PSP version of Warriors Orochi 2. Which is great for everyone who has a PSP, and doesn't mind playing a game that was designed for next-gen systems on it.
Speaking of Capcom crossovers, Namco refuses to export Namco X Capcom for no apparent reason because they're pricks (again) but unless you're a sucker for repetitive gameplay, you may agree. The main reason seems to be that they believe most Western players won't recognise half the cast, because their games weren't released here (somewhat ironic considering Tatsunoko vs. Capcom)... Oh well, at least there's a (somewhat too accurate) translation patch.
In another prime case of Capcom giving its Western fans the proverbial middle finger: remember that awesome Professor Layton/Phoenix Wrightcrossover the internet exploded about? Well, unless Level 5 pulls something out of its ass, yeah, we're not getting that, either.
Level 5 DID take over localization and they ran a poll about which (of ten current Japan only games) were people most interested in. Not only did PW vs PL win by a landslide, they had to beg people to vote for something else. Not confirmation, but they at least know people are interested. They then went and announced two of the other games on the list as getting international releases.
There are vehement argumentsall over the web over whether or not Bandai/Namco is going to pull this with Ultimate Ninja 5 or not; the amount of people saying we (the USA) will get it and those who say we won't are equal in number, with no official clarification in sight.
The Playstation 2 remake of Nights Into Dreams was only released in Japan. Considering the reception and sales of its sequel, Journey of Dreams, a release in other territories does not look likely. However, it did get an HD version in America and Europe, with some of the bonuses that the PS2 version had.
Nintendo Puzzle Collection for the Nintendo GameCube was intended to be given an international release if one circa-2003 Nintendo "upcoming releases" pamphlet is to be trusted. The ESRB also rated the game too. While it wasn't a huge loss in the case of Dr Mario, which was released in America (but only in America) on the Nintendo 64, a fairly big deal was made of the fact that this would be the first time Western audiences would get to experience Panel De Pon in its unedited form (the Nintendo 64 version had been Dolled Up as Pokémon Puzzle League and stripped of its 4-player mode), and its version of Yoshi's Cookie isn't available anywhere else.
Japanese Inversion: Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (mostly because it's a sprite-swapped Puyo Puyo), the Vectorman games (the second even being North American-exclusive), and the Genesis version of Sonic 3D Blast (Japan only got the Saturn version) weren't originally released in Japan; they have all since appeared in the Compilation RereleasesSonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection (in the Japanese versions of both compilations as well).
Sonic Gems Collection itself is a GameCube-exclusive in the States. Both Japan and Europe got a PS2 version.
Psycho Fox, a Japanese-made game openly based on Japanese mythology, was never released in Japan, owing to the Sega Master System's early discontinuation there.
While Sonic Generations is available world-wide, SEGA has announced that there is a Collector's Edition set that contains DLC, a "History of Sonic" Documentary, an art book with never before seen artwork, a ring replica, a 20th Anniversary Soundtrack compilation, and a statue featuring both Modern and Classic Sonic. The kicker? It's exclusive to Europe and Australia. What makes this more infuriating is that the Sonic franchise was primarily inspired by and influenced by American and Japanese Pop Culture.
Parodius Da (tr. It's Parodius), a parody of the wildly popular Gradius, was released in Japan and Europe, but for some reason, not America. The Europeans changed some of the bosses to be more kid friendly, so there was no reason they couldn't do the same in America. It might have been the fact that one of the bosses was a giant bald eagle wearing a red, white, and blue hat (The developers were Japanese nationalists? I had no idea!), but there was no reason they couldn't have changed it like the Europeans did.
Princess Crown is one ugly case. Created by an early Atlus team who would evolve to become Vanillaware (of Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade fame), the game saw two releases (a Sega Saturn one and a PlayStation Portable one), none ever released outside of its home country. The game is also somewhat the spiritual antecessor of the fairly succesful Odin Sphere (having a similar gameplay structure and themes), making the fact that no one localized the PSP version particularly annoying.
Otomedius seemed like it would go the road of Parodius. But Otomedius Excellent has broken the trend by announcing a US release some time in 2010 (although it's been delayed to 2011).
The second Puyo Puyo game was given twoDolled Up Installments for non-Japanese players. Other than that, only Puyo Pop Fever and the GBA game Puyo Pop have been released outside Japan.
Ever heard of Rendering Ranger? It's a SNES action game developed by Manfred Trenz (of Turrican fame) and Rainbow Arts, and a really great one for the matter, with stages alternating between on-foot action and shmup, so well programmed that there's no slowdown even in the most crowded situations. A definitely "western" game that found a publisher only in the Japanese division of Virgin Games - and to add insult to injury, they produced it only in limited quantities.
Resident Evil Code Veronica rerelease, Code Veronica X never made it to the Dreamcast outside of Japan. Only the Playstation 2 and Gamecube versions made it overseas.
Rolling Thunder 3 is an inversion. It was released only in North America...despite being an IP by Namco and being developed by Nowpro, both of which are Japanese companies. So...No Domestic Release For You?
Rolling Thunder 3 wasn't released in Europe or Australia either.
Australia, for what seems to be no reason at all, hasn't, and seemingly will never get Rock Band 2. Of course, it's importable, but remember you need instuments. This is particularly dumb on Harmonix's part, as the market here is being eaten up by their direct competitors, Guitar Hero.
Thanks to Ascaron going bankrupt, the expansion to Sacred 2 may never be localized in the U.S.
There is a way around it though, thankfully. The International version is easily bought online and it does allow the expansion, or the International "Gold" edition with everything is now out as well. All perfectly legal.
Secret of Evermore never came in Japan, probably because it was, too, uh... too "westerner"?
Shienryu Explosion, aka Steel Dragon EX in Europe, never saw and probably never will see the light of day in the US, although its predecessor was exported as Geki-oh: Shooting King on the PSX.
The Shining Series is pretty infamous for this, with around half of it's 30 games never making an appearance outside of Japan.
Shining Force III is a particularly cruel example. The game is composed of three separate discs or Scenarios, following a different protagonist in each one, culminating in all three teaming up to defeat the game's Big Bad in the third Scenario. But only the first Scenario ever received a localisation; the players from Europe and America basically only ever got to see one third of the story. The localization at least changed the Cliff Hanger ending of the first disc to prevent players being explicitly left hanging forever in the middle of a fight.
Sigma Harmonics (Nintendo DS) published by Square Enix. Never saw the light of day outside of Japan. Hackers who tried to translate the game blame the game's complex encrypting that involves the oriental reading way, that is, from right to left.
Soma Bringer, created by Monolith Soft (of Xenosaga fame) was very hyped when announced, but never saw a release anywhere outside of Japan. A good fan translation is around the internet, though.
The one English-language version of Sorcerian was an IBM PC port that seems to have been largely ignored when Sierra released it way back in 1990. Since then the game has been repeatedly remade for a host of platforms in Japan. The remake for iOS was erroneously listed on iTunes as having English text.
Neither were any of the new trilogy (A New Beginning, The Eternal Night, and Dawn Of The Dragon), for that matter.
Certain Strawberry Shortcake games fall oddly into this category. The Game Boy Advance game Ice Cream Island Riding Camp and the PC Port of The Sweet Dreams Game for the PS2 received Europe-only launches. Also, The PS2 release of The Sweet Dreams Game never got a NTSC/J release dispite the show's extreme popularity in Asia- Sony assigned the NTSC/J block to the region dispite the fact that much of the population can't speak Japanese. The latest case of the franchise is the iPhone game. For some reason it is only sold in North American iTunes Stores and nowhere else.
The NES version of Strider was planned to be released in Japan, but only came out in America. It was actually developed before the arcade version and even had a tie-in manga in Japan that more or less followed the same story (as opposed to that of its arcade counterpart).
The American NES version of Star Force (which was a different port than the Japanese Famicom version) advertised both in the manual and on the game's ending screen that Super Star Force was "Coming Soon!" In spite of this, Super Star Force was never released outside Japan.
In typical Smilesoft fashion, no game in the Telefang series has ever been officially released outside of Japan, much to the dismay of non-Japanese fans of the games.
They were to include Phoenix Wright and Franziska von Karma, but localizing issues with some of their special moves prevented them from appearing in any version. Not entirely sure, but I believe it had to do with the "Objection!" move being impossible to localize. Specifically, in Japanese that "Objection!" is only a few characters long, but in English, at ten characters long, the move became nearly impossible to dodge (since collision with with word itself does the damage). Took Phoenix Wright from being a run of the mill character to being incredibly overpowered. They ultimately found a solution to Phoenix Wright's "Objection!" problem after the game's release, earning him a spot in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Many fans consider this excuse to be complete bull, suggesting that syllabes could've been used instead of the letters. Ob-jec-ti-on-! Or even something like "Object-it-on!" even if that sounds more like something Viewtiful Joe would say.
Tenchi Muyo!! Ryo-Ohki has in-continuity novels and doujinshi that are not available outside Japan. Consequently, many non-Japanese fans disliked the third OVA series for introducing lots of "new" characters (who actually had appeared earlier in those novels/doujinshi), leaving less screentime for the characters from the first two parts of the OVA.
The Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven PSP port, featuring many extras, seems to never get out of Japan as well. Which is odd, considering how Wrath of Heaven is one of the most popular Tenchu titles.
Tobal 2 was released in Japan only, since No. 1 flopped in the US. Rumor also has it that Square had problems with translation and formatting the English text.
Wario Ware Twisted, due to some unknown health and safety controversy got a release literally every other major region in the world except Europe. Then, since the Mona Pizza video toy in Wario Ware Touched requires the usage of said game to unlock, it also meant that unlockable (which was apparently music from Wario Ware Twisted) also couldn't be gotten in Europe.
For a while, Wolfenstein 3D could not be legally obtained or even owned in Germany. Later Wolfenstein games manage to avert this by removing Nazi references during localisation.
Aerobiz: the third installment of the game series (called Air Management in Japan) was only released in Japan. This could be due to it being a Sega Saturn console game and thus meeting the fate of many others for that console.
Devil World was one of the few early first-party NES titles not to be released in North America. Back in the day, Nintendo of America not only banned the word "devil", but they also had a policy against showing crucifixes (though they didn't consistently enforce it: literally every grave in the first two Zelda game was marked by a cross-shaped gravestone), and this game is practically based around them.
Naughty Bear was released only in Europe and North America. If you live in Asia and have a Xbox360, you are out of luck. To add insult to injury, both the North American and European releases of the game are actually cross-compatible with the other region's consoles... just not with Asian region consoles.
You like Harvest Moons Awesome Music? You want to buy soundtracks for it? Too bad, Japan keeps them all. Back to Nature: For Girl was released only in Japan however thankfully it was updated and released on the GBA and later straight up ported to the PSP, it's since became one of the more popular titles in the franchise.
Mario Super Sluggers for Wii was never released in Europe or Australia.
Crash Bash was rereleased on the PSN Store... But only in Japan, and for every other country it remains the only Crash Bandicoot game on the PlayStation that hasn't been rereleased. Maybe it was because it wasn't made by Naughty Dog or that it wasn't as popular or good, but that doesn't explain why it was still released in Japan.
Even though Pac-Man is a Japanese franchise, the Pac-Man World trilogy was developed in the United States and United Kingdom. Pac-Man World 1 and 2 were released in Japan but Pac-Man World 3 wasn't, and 3 included an interview video with Tōru Iwatani in Japanese (it had subtitles though).
Namco Bandai also has no plans to bring the newly announced Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures game to Japan either.
Final Fantasy VII gotten a digital re-release in 2012, but only for people living in Europe. Trying to access Square's online store to buy the game outside of Europe gets you a message telling you that your country isn't serviced.
Dragon Ball Heroes is a card based arcade game released in 2010 which has yet to recieve any form of release outside of Japan, despite possessing a great many of the features fans have been clamoring for for some time. Recently, it also got an Enhanced Remake port to the 3DS, and there isn't even of whisper indicating a release outside Japan either.
While Parodius hasn't made it yet, two other entrants in the genre, Fantasy Zone and Twinbee do have entries available on the Virtual Console. So there's hope yet that the series will leave this page.
Game being refused entry into the U.S. due to being Cute 'em Up, was subverted with Kirby games. It's whole purpose is to be cute. In one or two cases, the game box was "decutified", but otherwise the game characters remain ridiculously overly cute.
Good luck trying to find any side-scrolling shooters in the US.
Bullet Hell shooters are even rarer in the US, some of the few to make it were of course Ikaruga(Gamecube and XBLA), Chaos Field(Gamecube), Giga Wing and Mars Matrix(both Dreamcast), and the Castle of Shikigami series(the first game was renamed Mobile Light Force 2; Mobile Light Force 1 was the name of the US PSX version of Gunbird).
Side scrolling shooters being unavailable in the U.S. was subverted with R-Type, Gradius, several of the Cotton games, and Magical Chase. Also vertical scrolling shooter (aka Bullet Hell) games not being released in the U.S. was subverted by the American made game Tyrian (you have an upgradeable spaceship, and as you progress through the game to harder levels, you can find your screen filled with significant amounts of firepower from both your ship and enemy ships).
And the countless doujin shmups, which are nearly impossible to get outside japan unless you pirate.
Rockin' Android and Nyu Media are trying their best in bringing as many doujin shmups over as possible. On digital services, no less.
No importing RapeLay for you! Despite being a rather under-the-radar sandbox-style 3D-ero (a.k.a. "Hentai") game from 2006, It was imported intentionally by several American feminist organizations specifically to be offended by it — groups that are now working with far right protesters in Japan to pressure the Japanese government to ban "Abuse Games". Amazon and other importer-friendly stores have banned the sale of the game, retail markets in Japan are working at pulling it from shelves, and even the maker has purged their website of all mention of it.
The bigger catch? Much like the proposed anti-Lolicon rules that would plant an automatic R-18 rating (read: no one under 18 admitted) on certain works (thankfully, Doraemon won't be among them), the preliminary proposed regulations about "abuse games" are vague enough that they would ban about 30-40% of the ero market. A complete accident, of course.
Illusion doesn't release any of their games outside of Japan — they even have an apology on their website. Many of their more mainstream Dating Sim games are actually kinda fun to play and have huge modding communities outside of Japan. Even games like RapeLay or Biko (a "stalker game") are interestingly bizarre (bizarrely interesting?) examples of that piece of Japanese culture. They have even released a couple of RPG and Brawler style H-Games. (Not to mention the company's mastery of the art of Jiggle Physics.) Regardless of title, if you want to play them, outside of travelling to Japan to buy them, you have to rely on either ambiguously legal imports or torrents to get them. In fact, you can be charged with a felony for possessing it.
Note that the last sentence applies still in a variety of countries, but not the US or Japan. Certain aspects of the game Rapelay (namely that the youngest rapeable character is supposed to be just 10, though she looks more about 16 in the game) mean the game is illegal in a number of European and even Asian (with the exception of Japan) countries. It also would have been illegal in the US if those 2 laws back in the George W Bush administration had actually stayed. However the US Supreme court struck down these laws (that amounted to "anti lolicon hentai" laws) in favor of free speech (as playing this game or others like it in fact does not actually harm anyone). While at the time of me writing this, there is no entry in Ebay for the game, it is potentially possible to purchase it on Ebay, if anyone has a copy they are selling. This also remains the only legal way (no piracy needed) to acquire a copy of the game.
AnyDating Sim or dating-based Visual Novel. So many successful anime have been based off of these games that Americans will never see (e.g. ''Fate/Stay Night, Tsukihime, etc.) However, J List has already translated a few of the series that saw a dub. But a series with english voice acting is without a doubt out of the question
J-List and Peach Princess sell the games, JAST and G-Collections translate/port the games. They have to be picky about their selections since neither company could conceivably handle even a fraction of the total number of games out there, having to limit themselves to only a small selection of the most popular titles. Those of us who do like these games can only cross our fingers that either of those companies has the resources for our favorites and be thankful for the handful we get, sometimes years after their Japan releases. So far, only a couple of Type-Moon or Key Visual Arts game have seen partial fanlated versions, with no official translations in sight, causing many a tear to be shed.
J-List only carries porn it seems. Try this: the next time you see them at a convention, ask them for a title. If they ask you to be more specific, tell them "it's not porn". The answer you will most likely get is "nope, don't have it".
Dating Sim fans can rejoice with the rise of MangaGamer, a company dedicated to doing right by them by releasing not only cheap H-games but also some of the better and more well known titles, including SHUFFLE!, Da Capo and even Higurashi no Naku Koro ni! Still no sign of Tsukihime, Fate or any Key games yet, but Type-Moon and Key both demand a LOT of money for those licenses and MangaGamer aren't yet big enough to afford properties of that level.
THE founder of the non-H Dating Sim genre, Tokimeki Memorial, is a notorious case of this, Konami having always refused to release the series outside of Japan (except for the Chinese market) on the (not that unreasonable, especially in The Nineties; less so nowadays) grounds that it's too Japanese culture-based and a Widget Series : case in point, their attempt in 2007 at an American-based adaptation of sorts, Brooktown High, bombed royally (although one could say they missed the point by using ugly 3D models instead of anime graphics and uninspired script and characters; the lack of promotion didn't help either).
On a similar topic as above, any Visual Novel game based off Anime. Although a vast amount of anime is dubbed and localised and becomes extremely popular in the Western world, visual novels games based off them almost never see the light of the Western day. The few exceptions to this rule include Ai Yori Aoshi.
Many great Famicom/NES Shoot Em Ups, including Recca, Crisis Force, and Over Horizon failed to make it out of Japan. Recca wasn't even commercially released, as it was made exclusively for Naxat's Summer Carnival '92 shmup competition, although pirate cartridges of it have been circulated.
Over Horizon was also released in Europe through,only not in North America.
Many Korea-only massively-multiplayer online games require you to enter a South Korean residential registration number to register and play. Want to brute-force a number or get a friend living in South Korea to register for you? Don't. Using someone else's number is a felony; you can end up paying the equivalent of 8,000 USD or serve 3 years in prison, so you're sore out of luck.
Using SOMEONE ELSE'S number, yes. If you make your own that doesn't correspond to anyone else's (The Other Wiki tells you (almost) all you need to know to do that) nothing will probably happen if you're not actually in Korea. And even if you do use someone else's, enforcement is ridiculously lax; their president's registration number is said to have been used at least once on just about every site that requires this number (even ones that a president... isn't expected to frequent).
Ditto for some European ones as well, this one is due to region license. You cannot play any European-based MMORPG in Asia and Oceania. No worries though, since for many of them there is usually a US or local based publisher with their equivalent servers (I am not counting private servers mind you).
The Korean version of each game usually gets the cool new content first (being the core version). Whether each area, class or item set then percolates to other other regions eventually is up to the developer, which is extremely frustrating when said content includes balance changes that players of foreign versions have been howling for since launch day. On the flipside, regional providers (particularly in Japan, China and Taiwan) may develop a ton of original content that never returns to Korea. 'course, it never gets anywhere else either.
For some reason, many Role Playing Games on just about every console are never released in Europe. The MOTHER trilogy, Chrono Cross, and many others, never see the light of day there. And if they do make it to Europe, it's usually many years later : Chrono Trigger, for example, was only released in Europe when the DS version came about, FOURTEEN YEARS after its original release date.
Platform Specific Examples
A lot of Sega Saturn games were only released in Japan due to the poor reception of the console at the time. This is actually due to Bernie Stolar screwing things up with his Five Star Policy (aka Sports Fanatic Policy). In fact, it's not surprising if all the Sega Saturn games mentioned on this page are No Export for You because of him.
Europeans like actually do receive PSOne Classics on a regular basis... Disney licensed games. It's quite like SCEE refuses to rerelease the games that made their fortune back in the nineties.
iTunes not only does not sell music, movies and TV shows to people in most countries outside the US, Europe and Japan, but certain apps also do not see release in those same markets. Epic Citadel is not available to most Asian iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch owners, and neither is a handful of other apps. The developers and Apple all cite piracy as an excuse.
Towards the end of the SNES lifespan, Squaresoft didn't believe it would be worth the time to localize their games onto a dying system. Thus, if you live outside of Japan you'll have to settle for a Fan Translation of Bahamut Lagoon or Treasure of the Rudra. Western audiences also got screwed out of the spiritual predecessor to Chrono Trigger, Live A Live, which was released in Japan over six months before Chrono Trigger. Of course, Europe also got screwed out of Chrono Trigger, or anything Square pulled out in the SNES, until those games got ports years later.
In addition to the Windows Marketplace example mentioned above, Xbox Live and Zune are not available outside of the 1/3 of the world they've launched in. Thankfully, Microsoft turns a blind eye to import gamers on Xbox Live by not bothering stores that sell point cards online and not requiring users to set a billing address if paying for content by point cards. However, sadly the same can't be said about Zune, thanks to Executive Meddling by the RIAA and MPAA and their European and Japanese counterparts.
Owning a TurboGrafx-CD or Turbo Duo was a great incentive to import games from Japan, since PC Engine CD-ROM2 and Super CD-ROM2 games (unlike HuCards) were compatible across regions and many of the titles that were supposed to be released in North America never were. Perhaps the most notorious is Castlevania Rondo Of Blood, which finally saw international release in 2007 as Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, and was also later released in the US and Europe on the Wii Virtual Console (using the dub from the PSP version). The PC Engine Super CD version of Gradius II also found belated international distribution on the Virtual Console; Gradius Collection for the PSP was the first North American release of any version of that game. Other Turbo CD games whose NA releases were not to be, besides those mentioned above, included Far East of Eden 2, Image Fight II, Military Madness 2 (i.e. Neo Nectaris), Rayxanber III, and the Compile shooter Spriggan. There were even plans to bring the Arcade Card to the U.S.
Many earlier third-party titles for the Famicom were only officially released in Japan, though their relative simplicity and lack of a language barrier made them common on bootleg NES multicarts. Those that to this day lack a proper international release on any platform include Battle City and Nuts And Milk.
Sonic CD, when it was being released in the United States, gained a "Special Edition" soundtrack composed by Spencer Nilsen that completely excised the original one by Naofumi Hataya (Europe, meanwhile, got Hataya's soundtrack). Sounds fine, right? Except this is the only soundtrack America has gotten ever since then. The PC version used Nilsen's soundtrack in all three regions, and the version in Sonic Gems Collection only uses Hataya's soundtrack in Japan (Unless you're using the PS2 version and you're still able to change your PS2's language to Japanese). Crossovers are odder in the issue: Although hacking has hinted that both soundtracks would have their theme songs usable on Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Green Hill Zone, only Nilsen's soundtrack is represented in the the final release (though there is an explanation for that one; see the point below); meanwhile, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (which itself seems to be No Export For The Japanese so far in spite of its roster) only have Hataya's soundtrack represented (For the latter, there is the justification that Sumo Digital is a British developer.). The 2011 rerelease finally breaks this down with the option of choosing either soundtrack in all three regions (although the JPN soundtrack is the default one).
That being said, the Japanese soundtrack in the 2011 release had its lyrics removed, supposedly due to copyright issues according to the rerelease's lead developer Christian Whitehead (the opening movie is set to "You Can Do Anything", but without words, for instance). The US soundtrack still has its lyrics intact. This is also most likely why "You Can Do Anything" was Dummied Out on the Super Smash Bros. Brawl disc.
Gaming-Related Bonus Items
This trope can also apply to franchise that generates cool trinkets later on (posters, cards, etc.) Generally, Japan usually gets all the good stuff (examples like a SNES shaped classic controller for the Wii, the official soundtrack to Super Mario Galaxy, etc.) while no one else gets it unless they manage to import it.
And speaking of the sweet trinkets, Club Nintendo, a club from Nintendo, allows its Nintendo fans to register their games on Nintendo's website to earn points. Saving up for enough points earns them free gifts and if the people save up a certain amount of points, they can reach gold or platinum status, which earns them a free gift at the end of the club's year. Even though Club Nintendo finally came to North America at the end of 2008, Japan generally still has the cooler stuff, such as a golden Wii Wheel.
To be fair, the European version wasn't much good — everything you could redeem from Club Nintendo Europe was a download of some description. Feelies would only happen rarely. Games even more so.
And for Europe, theirs is the only Stars Catalogue so far to allow you to convert your Stars to Wii Points.
If you live in Asia outside Japan, Australia, New Zealand or South Korea, No Club Nintendo For You!
Operation Darkness had a Mini OST sold via Amazon Japan only if you reserve the game through the website. Atlus didn't include the OST in its North American release.
The WonderSwan was a Japan-only console. There were rumors that it would get an American release before the new millennium, but those rumors proved to be false. To add insult to injury, its creator, ex-Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi, was killed in a hit and run accident shortly after its release.
The e-Reader and cards for Game Boy Advance. The e-Reader itself was released in only Japan and North America, was quickly discontinued in the latter due to bad sales, and therefore many of the cards for it only came out in Japan, including:
Additional levels for Super Mario Advance 4, out of which 12 out of 38 got a US release, and even the Japanese version has lots of unused level features hich hint at more unreleased levels. There are also special cards which would affect the difficulty, or restore some features from previous games (the vegetables from 'Mario 2 USA', and the extra item slot from 'World') and even items (a 100-Up mushroom (!), a Blue Boomerang which wouldn't make its way outside Japan until the 3DS titles, and a usable-anywhere Goomba Shoe !)
Rockman (a.k.a Megaman) Zero 3: There is a plethora of special cards enabling changes to Zero's attacks (7 Combo Saber, anyone?) and to other aspects of gameplay. It is translated but Dummied Out on the US GBA copies. It took the Updated Rerelease for the Nintendo DS to finally have them properly accessible, from the main menu. As for Rockman.EXE e-reader content, though...
The Pokémon Battle-e Cards, when scanned into Pokémon Ruby or Sapphire Japanese or US copies, allowed the player to load up special trainers to battle or to get special berries. There is another set for for Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green, and Pokémon Emerald, and Pokémon Colloseum, but only for the Japanese versions. Even when hacked, the US version will yield you only one Trainer.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong for the GBA has a limited run of 1000 cards available worldwide for the game, of which the E-reader support is unknown. Fortunately, they are of the kind of the On-disc DLC, and ARE accessible through some Game Shark tricks.
Mario Party-e: A whopping 64 cards were released for this, as well.
Pikmin 2,believe it or not, in its Japanese version, has cards which includes (crappy) minigames for the GBA.
Many other Japanese-only games, as well as a complete set for self contained NES games.
Nintendo seems to have a very bad habit of making add ons or other features that never see the light of day outside Japan. Just look on the bottom of any console and you'll likely find some kind of expansion port on it. The GameCube had a DVD add on that would let people play DVD movies for example.
Japan had an addon for the Super Famicom, the Satellaview. It allowed downloadable content over a decade before this became common. Nothing for it ever got to the States. Notable games that were released for it include :
Two sequels for the Action-adventure Super Famicom game MARVELOUS, better known for being the game that promoted Eiji Aounuma to direct The Legend of Zelda series, since its N64 outings.
The third and final game for the Famicom Detective Club series, involving the female protagonist from the previous games investigating to clear her mother's name from a murder accusation.
Additional maps for F-Zero, Excitebike, Dragon Quest, and Fire Emblem III (Which got incorporated within the DS Remake, Fire Emblem 12).
The Super Mario Collection for the SNES was also re-released partially, notably the Mario 2 USA title, and some world maps from Mario 3, including one exclusive map with Mario 1 maps on it using the 3's engine.
Because of the Virtual Boy's failure and shame in Japan and North America, the console was never released in Europe.
Many different console looks are Japanese only, such as the orange Gamecube (oddly, the matching controllers were released in the US).
The Super Game Boy 2 peripheral was released only in Japan which features link cable connections.
The Pocket Station was a hand-held console produced by Sony which never seen the light of day outside of Japan and was planned to be released overseas. Upon playing it, you can transfer data from the memory card slot to a designated game and receive useful items, features, and 100% completion. One notable game with the PocketStation function is Final Fantasy VIII which has Chocobo World. It was referenced in the localized versions, but was Dummied Out unless you import a PocketStation from Japan. Fortunately, the PC version included the program. Another example was the Pocket-Ray game hidden in RayCrisis.
The Amiga CD32. All of it. And all because of an injunction that blocked all imports to the United States of Commodore products over failure to pay a patent royalty. This injunction turned out to be the Creator Killer for Commodore, as the United States would've been a key market in selling the Amiga CD32 to put the company back in the black.
The Nintendo 64DD, delayed for years and finally got a release in Japan in which the games and consoles were shipped with a subscription mail order. While it was a major failure, it did mean players received things like "Mario Artist" (a new version of Mario Paint) and an F-Zero X expansion pack.
The MSX never caught on in North America, and many MSX games weren't released even in Europe.
When Rock Band 3 was released, Canadian airwaves were bombarded with ads and reviews praising the pro mode that lets you learn guitar for real. Unless you were one of the few people lucky enough to snap one of the ultra rare pro mode controllers sent to a western Canada store, you are still flat out of luck getting anything BUT the game disc as eastern game stores were denied all but a small handful of Wii version keyboards. To this day, guitars and drum kits are still unseen on shelves and cannot be obtained outside of making an international postal order.
The Wii does not get Gamecube backwards compatibility in Korea. Nintendo decides to reimburse Korean Wii owners with reduced prices at the Wii shop.
This is happening with newer release consoles also have the compatibility removed, the best way to identify them is the fact they are designed to be run sitting horizontally rather than vertically, with the printing of the logo matching this.
Even that goes with the trope itself because the newer horizontal version of the Wii without GC compatibility was not released in Japan despite Nintendo being based in Japan. All Japanese Wiis are compatible with Gamecube games.
The Japanese Sega Master System got an FM synth card that was never available with Western models, even though most of the same cartridges were released internationally with the FM soundtracks intact. However, some Master System games that supported FM sound weren't even released in Japan, since Sega discontinued the console so soon and abruptly in its native country. Wonder Boy III The Dragons Trap was one of these games; while Japanese players did receive a Game Gear port and the altered PC Engine version, they could get the FM synth music only by importing cartridges until the Compilation Rerelease came out much later.
Most later Master System games came out in Europe and Brazil only; the ports of Fire And Ice and Battlemaniacs were developed in Europe but released only in Brazil.
The Master System's paddle controller only came out in Japan, as did the few games requiring it (with the exception of Woody Pop, which saw international release on the Game Gear).
The Famicom Data Recorder was only released in Japan, which is why Excitebike, Lode Runner, Mach Rider and Wrecking Crew for the Nintendo Entertainment System have nonfunctional "Save" and "Load" features. Manuals hinted that "potential product developments" might enable these features, but they never happened. They were ultimately added into the Virtual Console releases of those games though.
A number of Sega Genesis games supposedly never released in the U.S. were brought there only on the Sega Channel, an early attempt at streaming games on demand. Most of these have since received international Virtual Console releases, thus no longer fitting this category.
SCEE got console colors for the PS3 (Red, Blue and White like JP and Asia) and PSP. The US? Didn't even have a Blue or RedPS3 color model! People who wanted color choices were not amused, and there's a high chance it'll repeat again with the Playstation Vita... save for the white one that came as a bundle for Assassins' Creed 3 Vita game. The US will be finally having White and Red models (The Red one as part of the God Of War legacy bundle)... a few years after the Japanese release way back in the 1st slim model. (In short: The White and Red models will be available in the US for the Super Slim model, not the 1st Slim one the Asians and Europeans had)
The Wii in Japan also has gotten a channel or two that has never been released anywhere else, such as the Fortune Channel TV Listings channel, possibly due to technical or logistical differences between Japan and western nations.
There's even a channel where you can order food!
Which is justified in that in Japan it's piggybacking off of an existing centralized ordering system. In America or any European country they'd have to set one up from scratch or try to unify existing systems.
And it continues with The BBC iPlayer Channel, which is available in the UK and nowhere else (as is the case with every platform it is on —- this is because of British TV license laws).
Similarly, the Netflix channel is only available in North America.
The Wii Shop is still unavailable in a handful of countries. Thankfully, Nintendo turns a blind eye to import gamers by not bothering stores that sell point cards online.
Guide Books/Tie-in Materials
While guide books are released for most popular games, Japanese guidebooks can give phonebooks a run for their money in terms of page count. Best example would be the Ultimanias released by Square for their games, new and old, from Final Fantasy to Tactics Orge - Bradygames' guide book for Final Fantasy X is a lightweight compared to the THREE Ultimanias released for the same game in Japan (NOT including the International version). And there are art books that which concept art, production team notes, interviews...
Tie-in materials also tend to frequently get left behind, namely Light Novels, CD dramas, and manga. Canoncity issues aside (e.g. Retcons, Executive Meddling), most tend to either help further flesh out the worlds and character backgrounds or be the artists/writers' takes of the games are set in. Occasionally, some of them do make it out, but not all - Devil May Cry had a total of four light novels, two CD dramas for the anime, and two manga volumes, but neither the two-volume novelization for DMC4 that had details that aren't in the final release nor the CD dramas were ever released outside Japan.
The Japanese version of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle came with a variety of bonuses including a mini-soundtrack, a book of official artwork, a short comic book, and a ten minute animated movie. These bonuses have yet to be released anywhere else. What makes this a particularly infuriating example is that the game in question is far more popular in the west than in Japan.
In an inversion of the way things usually go, action-RPG Terranigma actually had an English translation which was released internationally... but only in Europe. For some reason it never reached the United States.
While most Europeans and North Americans lament the non-export of various Japanese titles, think of the South-East Asians stuck with Japanese/Asian consoles who lament the non-release of North American and European titles in their region.