Atlus is a Japanese video game developer, publisher and distributor based in Tokyo, founded on April 7, 1986 and a subsidiary of Sega since 2013. While not necessarily having the name-recognition of some larger companies, they have a huge number of quality products, both as a developer and a publisher, and often both at once. The Japanese HQ portion of the company is both a publisher (since 1989) and developer, the North American branch serves as a publisher and localization company that publishes more games than just what its parent company Index Corporation develops and publishes; in the list of games below said games are listed with Atlus being the North American publisher. Atlus is probably most notable for developing and publishing the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games.
Many of their internally developed 21st-century games are really freaking HARD.note Though good design means they usually avoid Fake Difficulty. Their American branch is also famous for the translation of their games: Woolseyism and Superlative Dubbing abound in games they publish. Atlus is also famous for first exposing North America to Nippon Ichi Software, having published Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure back in the PlayStation 1 era, and later Disgaea: Hour of Darkness game for PlayStation 2. This led to NIS eventually branching out on their own, and to this day the companies share many staff amongst their translation and dubbing teams, as well as an amicable business relationship. In fact, NIS America is responsible for publishing Persona -trinity soul-, the anime based on the Atlus game.
Currently holds the dubious title of "That One Company", due to their joy at making gamers suffer. And we like it, dammit. Funnily enough, even some games they merely published and not developed can be Nintendo Hard, like Demon's Souls and the Disgaea games.
Also note the number of Widget Series below.
Atlus Japan is co-creator (with Sega) of "Print Club".
In June 2013, Atlus' parent company Index Corporation was convicted of corporate fraud, leading to them declaring bankruptcy. Sega eventually stepped in and purchased Atlus for 14 billion yen (approximately $141 million US).
Quite a few Atlus alumni became major players in the game industry after their tenures at the company ended. Kazuya Niinō, Kouji Okada and Range Murata began their gaming careers at the studio.
Tropes associated with Atlus:
- Badass Boast: Its forum staff goes as far as to declare, "We get off on your tears."
- Friendly Rival: With Nippon Ichi, in North America at least. The fact that many die-hard fans buy most of both companies' games probably helps them getting along.
- Frivolous Lawsuit / Disney Owns This Trope: Narrowly averted thanks to a resulting backlash. Atlus started it by issuing a DMCA takedown at RPCS3, a PlayStation 3 emulator, and their Patreon page, in late September 2017. Backlash from both the Open Source community and Freedom of Information non-profit organizations quickly ensued. They quickly backed down of their threat and clarified that it was only targeted at the mention of Persona 5 on the site and they weren't actually targeting the emulator itself, and threw in a couple of other thinly justifiable reasons why they don't want Persona 5 emulated. But more than a few feathers have already been ruffled, especially those at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who really loathe the DMCA (Cory Doctrow, one of the most prominent figures of the foundation and the most vocal opponent against the DMCA, was the first to post about it).
- Also, they threatened to issue DMCA takedowns against people who stream Persona 5 past a certain point in the game...
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Prior to being bought out by Sega, the other thing Atlus was well known for in the west was small release runs. If it wasn't Persona, (and even that wasn't a guarantee, as the first two games in the series prove!) it got maybe a few thousand copies and that was it. It was actually a BIG deal when Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne got a second printing, for example. This makes Atlus games highly sought after items for game collectors.
- Poke the Poodle: The Late Export for You case of Persona 4: Arena. A lot of Europeans were rubbed the wrong way when they became the first company to (ab)use region coding on the PlayStation 3 and then settle Europeans with a 10 months delay for a game that's more expensive than the US release. After the ensuing backdraft, Atlus made very sure it didn't happen with Ultimax.
- Nintendo Hard: Atlus Japan-developed games have a tendency to be quite hard, to the point the trope could be called "Atlus Hard" instead.
- Not so much when it comes to Atlus USA, as this doesn't always apply to games from other companies that it picks up for a Western release (not that Atlus USA hasn't localized hard games from other companies, which they definitely have).
- No Port For You: Along with small print runs, Atlus is also infamous for continuing to produce games on single platforms even as Multi-Platform becomes increasingly standard across the industry. They have started to get better about this around the start of The New Twenties, beginning with the PC ports of Catherine in 2019, Persona 4 Golden in 2020, and of Persona 5 Strikers and Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster in 2021note . Still, many of their most high profile games remain exclusive to single platforms, such as Persona 5 on PlayStation 4 and Shin Megami Tensei V on Nintendo Switch.
- That One Boss: We. Can't. Stress. Enough. that they have their own page for it.
Some of their titles (including externally developed games localized by Atlus USA) include:
- 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Publisher)
- Cannon Dancer (Publisher for Japan only)
- Bonk (Co-developer, with Red Co.)
- Catherine (Publisher/Developer)
- Dept. Heaven series (Publisher)2
- Dungeon Explorer (1989)
- DonPachi (Publisher)3
- DoDonPachi (Publisher)3
- Dragon's Crown (Publisher)
- ESP Ra.De. (Publisher)3
- Eternal Poison (Publisher)4
- Etrian Odyssey (Publisher/Developer)
- Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard
- Etrian Odyssey 3: The Drowned City
- Etrian Odyssey 4: Legends of the Titan
- Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (Remake of the first game)
- Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (Remake of the second game)
- Etrian Odyssey 5: Beyond the Myth
- Growlanser (Publisher; acquired original developer Career Soft)
- Gunbird (Publisher; Dreamcast port)8
- Hell Night or Dark Messiah in Japan. (Publisher in Japan/Developer, Konami published it in Europe)
- Hexyz Force (Publisher)2
- Kartia: The Word of Fate
- Maken X
- Major League Baseball (NES) (Developer)7
- Ogre Battle (Publisher, PlayStation version)
- Odin Sphere (Publisher)
- Power Instinct (Publisher and developer for most games; Matrimelee was published by SNK Playmore)
- Princess Crown (Publisher/Developer, the team that created this game would later become Vanillaware)
- Radiant Historia (Publisher/Developer)
- River City Ransom EX (Publisher)
- Rockin Kats
- Rollers Of The Realm (Publisher)
- R-Type Command (Publisher)6
- Run Saber (Publisher)
- Shin Megami Tensei series (Publisher/Developer)
- Sengoku Blade (Publisher; Dreamcast port)8
- Snowboard Kids (Publisher)
- Sol Divide - Sword of Darkness (Publisher; Dreamcast port)8
- Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity (Publisher)
- Strikers 1945 (Publisher; Dreamcast port)8
- Super Dodge Ball Advance (Publisher)
- Thousand Arms (Publisher)
- Trap Gunner (Publisher for Japan (and Asia)/North America)
- Trauma Center series (Publisher/Developer)
- Xexyz (developer; published by Hudson Soft in the U.S.)
- Abyss Odyssey (Publisher)
- Citizens of Earth (Publisher)
- Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (Publisher)
- The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (North American Publisher)
- The Karate Kid (Developer)7
- Wacky Races (1991) (NES version)
- Widget The World Watcher
Published/Localized by Atlus USA
- 3D Dot Game Heroes (North American Publisher)1
- The Alliance Alive (North American Publisher)
- Aquapazza (North American Publisher)
- Arcana Heart (North American Publisher)
- Baroque (North American Publisher)2
- Choro Q HG 4 (Publisher)
- Choro Q Works (Publisher)
- Class of Heroes (North American Publisher)
- Code of Princess (North American Publisher)
- Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (North American Publisher)
- Contact (North American Publisher)
- Crusader of Centy (North American Publisher)
- Cubivore (North American Publisher)
- The Dark Spire (North American Publisher)
- Demon's Souls (North American Publisher)1
- Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Published the first game in North America before NIS America was formed)
- Dokapon (North American Publisher)2
- Dokapon Kingdom
- Dokapon Journey
- Drone Tactics (North American Publisher)
- Hammerin' Hero (North American Publisher)
- Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja (North American Publisher)
- Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns
- The King of Fighters XIII (North American Publisher)5
- Lost Dimension (North American Publisher)
- Lufia and the Ruins of Lore (North American Publisher)
- Luminous Arc (North American Publisher)
- Luminous Arc 2 (North American Publisher)
- Magna Carta (North American Publisher)
- Master of the Monster Lair (North American Publisher)
- My World, My Way (North American Publisher)
- Operation Darkness (North American Publisher)
- Robopon (North American Publisher)
- Rondo of Swords (North American Publisher)
- Rule of Rose (North American Publisher)
- Shiren the Wanderer 3 (North American Publisher, Nintendo Wii version)
- SkyGunner (North American Publisher)
- Steambot Chronicles (North American Publisher)6
- Stella Glow (North American Publisher)
- Summon Night series (Published Swordcraft Story 1, 2 and Twin Age in North America)4
- Super Robot Wars (Published Original Generation 1, 2, and Endless Frontier in North America)
- Super Valis IV (North American Publisher)
- Tail Concerto (North American Publisher)
- Touch Detective (Publisher, Nintendo DS version)
- Touch Detective 2 1/2
- Virtual Hydlide (North American Publisher)
- Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land (North American Publisher)
1 - developed by FromSoftware
2 - developed by Sting Entertainment
3 - developed by Cave
4 - developed by Flight-Plan
5 - developed by SNK Playmore
6 - developed by Irem
7 - published by LJN Toys in the US
8 - developed by Psikyo