Accidental Innuendo: Jack Frost's Verbal Tic of "Hee-ho!" often comes in the form of ending a sentence with "ho!" Meaning he keeps calling people whores, much to the amusement of players. It's gone on for so long that it's probably no longer accidental at this point.
In the West, the games that do get released and aren't Persona 3, 4, 5, or any of their spinoffs are under-the-radar Cult Classics at best and bashed for not being Persona at worst. Shin Megami Tensei IV was hit hard, as it was released around the time that Persona really started to skyrocket in popularity outside of Japan; see Broken Base below. As for the franchise as a whole, many Westerners are put off by the intense difficulty that borders on requiring sheer luck and excessive amounts of preparation at times.
The Law-alignment from SMT proper is this for its belief in a World of Silence where all worships YHVH for eternity, getting tons of controversy coming from America. That said, it's actually considered a reasonable option in Japan, largely because their values system promotes social harmony, cooperation and compromise, and ideas such as destabilizing said social harmony for the sake of freedom are widely considered selfish and wrong there. It helps that Christianity isn't as big in Japan; had the original games been released in the US in the 90's, cartridge-burning protests would've likely ensued from Moral Guardian parents. This link really sums it up nicely.
The Persona sub-series. Many of its fans are unaware of the main series, and some of the few that do bash the games for not being more like Persona, much to the ire of the main series fans. There are some people that even love the games but still hate the fact that they've vastly overshadowed the other sub-franchises in popularity. An excellent way to start a fight is to discuss the topic of whether or not said popularity has influenced other branches of the franchise, most commonly Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse and the Devil Survivor duology, and whether this is a bad thing or not.
The way fusion is handled in Devil Survivor, Devil Survivor 2, Persona 4 Golden, and Shin Megami Tensei IV. Some complain that part of the fun of fusion is unpredictable RNG result and that being able to choose exactly which skills to pass on to the fusion result makes for a boring and excessively forgiving gameplay experience. Others see it as a great Anti-Frustration Feature and point out that in practice, random skill inheritance boils down to tediously rerolling fusions over and over just to get the skills the player wants.
Whether or not the quality of the games in the series Atlus has put out ever since Cozy Okada leftnote His last game with the company was Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. are up to snuff to the series standard or if the series is able to handle itself even without him. The seemingly shrinking involvement of Kazuma Kanekonote He did the first draft for Shin Megami Tensei IV along with other misc. things and had no involvement at all with Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. has only added more fuel to the discussion.
The general quality of the localization's done by Atlus USA in recent years has become something of a topic of discussion. This has been primarily a result of numerous cases Cut-and-Paste Translation, poor text formatting or outright untranslated text being left in the English versions. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse and Persona 5 are commonly used as examples of this.
The franchise moving from Playstation home consoles to Nintendo handhelds (Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS) after the PlayStation 2 era. This frustrated many PlayStation 3 owners which predicted the console getting new titles. Not only PS3 didn't get any new SMT game outside of re-releases of PS2 games but only got Persona 5 at the very end of the generation, which was released for the more popular PlayStation 4 too. Nintendo fans, especially handheld owners, loved it considering the low third party support outside of Atlus, Square-Enix and Capcom trio.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. First, for being a huge Audience-Alienating Premise. Many fans were expecting something like Devil Survivor, considering Fire Emblem is a turn-based strategy game, or at least a SMT game with FE elements. And second, for looking more a "Persona" game rather than a SMT or FE game. While some fans consider it a good title despite not resembling SMT at all, other think this was another average Moe game and a wasted opportunity to make a crossover of two acclaimed franchises.
Cash Cow Franchise: The Persona Spinoffs, more specifically Persona 3 and Persona 4 have become some of Atlus' most popular properties. They got so popular they even started to drop the "Shin Megami Tensei" label.
Creator Worship: The series' creator and first director, Kouji "Cozy" Okada, and its iconic artist, Kazuma Kaneko, get this. Some fans even feel that later games following Okada's departure from Atlus and Kaneko reducing his involvement simply aren't the same.
Crosses the Line Twice: Many things, but Mara stands out. A Gag Penis in a golden chariot is one thing. However, the games have made a habit of spewing out puns whenever Mara's around. And then there are the times where Mara's stats contain puns...
Cult Classic: Outside of Japan, the non-Persona games tend to be this. They may not have the explosive worldwide popularity of Persona 3, 4, and their spinoffs, but they still have their share of dedicated fans.
Draco in Leather Pants: A lot of players advocate for Chaos as the good ideology. Let's review: in nearly all mainline games save for II and Nocturne, Chaos' objective is to bring about either a Social Darwinist hell where the strong brutalize the weak, or Multiversal Metaphysical Annihilation. While Law's responsible for some undisputedly nasty things, that doesn't mean that Chaos isn't equally nightmarish.
Mara has never had a major story role, yet is one of the most popular demons alongside the Frost family due to his infamous Gag Penis appearance and all of the Double Entendres he makes in his dialogue.
Matador, as a result of Nocturne's rerelease, went from an average Fiend to one of the most infamous bosses in any Atlus game. There's a VERY good reason he's the picture of Atlus's That One Boss page.
In the Japanese fandom, Alice and Moh Shuvuu appears to have quite the following as well.
The Celtic demon Cu Chulainn ranks among the series most popular demons despite of the fact that he never has had any sort of mayor role in any game.
Mothman tends to be a fairly popular demon, usually for often being a solid mid-game demon and its Ugly Cute design.
Fandom-Enraging Misconception: Fans refer to the franchise as Megami Tensei, so calling it Shin Megami Tensei will often get you corrected to the former.
Fandom Heresy: This is how fans view the individual alignments: "Chaos = total freedom (never mind its drawbacks), Neutral = a balance between freedom and a sense of order, Law = horrible iron-fist theocratic dictatorship with no redeeming qualities and you should feel bad if you side with it." The merits of Chaos and Neutrality can be debated, but supporting Law will get you mocked.
While the original two games certainly haven't aged well in terms of gameplay, the plot and tone of the games are generally well respected among fans. While all of the later games would have at least a vocal minority dislike the plot, the only common debate concerning these two is which one is better, and opinions that either plot is bad are very rare.
Nocturne, the first mainline game to get localized, is beloved among Western fans and generally held up as one of the best games in the franchise.
Friendly Fandoms: There's a good amount of fandom overlap with Fire Emblem for their tough as nails, yet satisfying gameplay and simple yet dark stories. This was helped further after the announcement of the crossover between the two series. And even after the back-draft that resulted from the full reveal of the crossover game, the friendliness between the fanbases endured, perhaps even stronger than ever.
Fridge Horror: It's been explained that God is not the source of all evil in the series, and that something in the Universe is causing God to be Evil. Okay, um, what could be soevil that it makes God (y'know, the guy who made everything) evil?
Even worse. According to Christianity, God's very nature is love itself. What in the name of everything holy could possibly have corrupted love incarnate?
However, this could also be a reflection of exactly what's wrong with him creating Knight Templar Angels as well. As SMTII makes it clear that the Archangels' own psychotic belief can give rise to a fake YHVH. If their own belief can create a fake one, then doesn't it stand to reason that angels in general can make God fit their view of their creator?
Ho Yay: Meet Persona. Meet Nocturne. If it's MegaTen, there's porn of it. Usually in this variety.
It Was His Sled: If a game lets you fight YHVH and defeat Him, it's a safe bet that it'll be one of the most well-known twists of the game. His appearance in Shin Megami Tensei II is one of the most famous parts of the entire franchise even including Persona, and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse uses His return as a selling point. Satan appearing in a mainline game falls into this as well, being closely related to YHVH in all of their appearances, though given that he's not God, it's a bit more downplayed.
Persona gets this treatment by longstanding fans of the main series, as do installments of other sub-series, most commonly Devil Survivor 2 and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, which these fans see as including Persona-esque elements to boost sales to the detriment of the game's overall quality.
Nocturne, as the most well-regarded mainline game, has gotten this on occasion. While not the fault of the game itself, a subset of the fandom compares every later game to Nocturne and dislikes drastic changes from what that game did, turning off some others who don't mind the changes.
One of the highlights for many players in some of the games, especially II and IV: Apocalypse, is being able to challenge God and killHim.
For that matter, this is how the fandom sees Law factions and representatives, at best; being able to rip the big four Archangels a new one is part of the appeal for many fans. At worst, said Law followers are collective Scrappies.
Rated M for MaraExplanation Games featuring the Gag Penis demon Mara tend to receive an automatic ESRB "M" (Mature) rating when exported to North America, even if the rest of the game content only warrants a "T" (Teen) rating. For example, Devil Survivor and Devil Survivor 2 feature characters getting killed on-screen with pools of blood, or being murdered in other brutal ways, like getting blown up or knocked down a flight of stairs, but Mara is not present. Both games are rated "T". Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth features a Super-Deformed visual style and your typical dungeon crawler fare, and features Mara. It is rated "M".
SMT BullshitExplanation A phrase coined by the Let's Player Sirlionhart regarding the games' often unforgiving difficulty often leading to moments that can leave the player (as he described it) "salty".
Kaneko in his field of flowers.Explanation As a result of Kaneko's seemingly shrinking involvement in the series, it leads to a lot of people giving the answer when asked where he has gone off to that he is now spending time in his flower-field that was shown in the Persona 2 guide book. A variation of the meme is that he instead is locked in Atlus' secret bunker, only allowed out to smoke once a year.
Use buffs, retard. Explanation A common notion that players of other JRPGs carry is that buff and debuff skills are all Useless Useful Spells. The series averts this hard, where buffs and debuffs can determine whether you barely survive an attack or suffer a Total Party Kill. This is one of the first pieces of advice to be given to anyone inexperienced with SMT.
Play a real Shin Megami Tensei/Shin Megoomi Tensay game! Explanation A rather infamous video has two men stage a debate embodying the countless Mainline vs Persona arguments in the fanbase. The one arguing for mainline says this partway in, and both sides of the fanbase have run wild with it. The franchise name is sometimes butchered like the original video. What does or doesn't qualify as a real Shin Megami Tensei game, other than actual mainline games and modern Persona, is up to debate.
The video game series as a whole is much more popular than the original Digital Devil Story that the series initially used as source material.
My Real Daddy: Kazuma Kaneko and his artwork. The series just wouldn't have been the same without it. The series actually received some fire for the announcement that Masayuki Doi, who has done art/coloring/other work for Atlus games would be doing character art. Several Sentai plus other artists would be doing new demon art for Shin Megami Tensei IV.
MST3K Mantra: Satan is based on the Jewish view of Satan, the Quirky Miniboss Squad has the Catholic Raphael and non-canonical Uriel, and only a few people will be allowed into the Millennium Kingdom in Shin Megami Tensei II, which mirrors (the Hollywood version of) Jehovah's Witness teachings and those of far-right American Protestants. Thor, Mikazuchi, and various other thunder gods co-exist and move on.
Never Live It Down: The series has the reputation as the game where you kill God, when the truth is only a handful of games did that.
Older Than They Think: The series started using the 3D models of the demons in the lesser known title Shin Megami Tensei NINE and not Nocturne as it's commonly believed.
Sequel Displacement: The series is called Shin Megami Tensei, ignoring the first two games (Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei and Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II).
Before Shin Megami Tensei, there were two games for the Famicom called Megami Tensei (the first was adapted from the first novel of the Digital Devil Story series of novels). Few outside of Japan have heard of them, and even in Japan the number of gamers who came of age during the 90s and 00s who've actually played those games (or read the novel) are increasingly few in number.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne was not the first game released with the Shin Megami Tensei supertitle in the west. The largely forgotten Demi Kids games also had it (in small text) and predate Nocturne's release in the west by a year.
This being a Nintendo Hard franchise, there are many players who, while being experienced and proficient with the series, fail to see why the games are so hard and dismiss anyone complaining about xboss or ydungeon to be an idiot.
In games that have an easy difficulty, playing on those easy modes is disliked by some fans, and is often met with responses along the lines of "Atlus games are supposed to be unfair!" Never mind that easy modes are entirely optional.
Any spell with the "Megido-" prefix. It must mean "fuck your life" in some other language. This goes double for other Almighty attacks. The Megido are the main line for Almighty spells, but there are others that tend to have nasty side effects like causing Debilitate (reduce Attack, Defense, Accuracy and Evasion).
Devil Survivor takes it Up to Eleven by adding the -dyne suffix. As if Megidolaon wasn't bad enough, Bonus Boss Lucifer can drop Megidoladyne on the entire map. And it gets 50% more powerful with each hit, effectively making the fight a timed battle because it's Almighty and can't be blocked, so even with maxed magic and vitality it'll eventually do more damage than you've got hp.
Then others like Strange Journey throws fuel on the fire by planting new spells in that are of the same type. Thought Megidolaon was awesome? Add in Big Bang which is even more powerful by a good 200 points. Then we have Babylon Goblet which has a chance to charm. Good luck recovering from that. And god forbid you get the eponymous JIHAD because not only is it one of the strongest spells in the game, but it also LOWERS THEIR STATS TOO. But to be fair while you have those, you can bet your opponent has even better shit than you.
In games with the Press Turn system, many enemies, and enemies only, have moves that grant them additional half-turns, such as Beast Eye and Dragon Eye in III and Psycho-Rage in Digital Devil Saga, making one enemy feel like several. IV lets you get Guardian's Eye, but it requires defeating the hardest DLC boss in the game and it costs an outrageous 255 MP.
That One Boss: Matador and Mot in Nocturne, the golden metal trio in Persona 2, Intrepid Knight in Persona 3, anyone in Digital Devil Saga with the second boss theme and probably a few more. Of course, if you don't use all of the options that are available to you like ailment inducing ammo, buff and debuff skills, buff and debuff cancelling skill, healing skills, elemental and ailments immunity to at least some of the bosses attacks, then expect lot of bosses to suddenly turn into Nintendo HardThat One Boss. You know what, let's just tell you we have ThatOneBoss/Atlus (where Shin Megami Tensei makes up a good chunk of the article) and leave it at that.
Uncanny Valley: Part of the series' aesthetic. While it remains distinctly manga, the characters tend to share the same grayish skin color and nearly all share the distinctive eye design.
This was noticeably absent in Devil Survivor and the later installments of the Persona series, both of which used a more manga, cartoony style, that severely contrasted with all the Nightmare Fuel of the game.
Both of those series had different character designers for the human characters, while keeping Kazuma Kaneko's demon/persona designs. Kaneko is responsible for the human character designs in all the main series Shin Megami Tensei games except IV, as well as DDS and the Raidou games.
Values Dissonance: The ratings for each game vary greatly by the region. Nocturne (Lucifers Call) and vanilla Persona 3 have significant gaps between the PEGI (12+ ) and ESRB (17+ ) rating alone.
Nocturne even got an A in Japan, which basically means suitable for everyone. Note that this game is considerably more difficult than the already difficult Digital Devil Saga and Persona sub-series, you get turned into a demon by having a snake-like parasite get dropped into your eyein first-person perspective and you can become the literal anti-Christ as you become the new General for the legions of Hell/Darkness to wage war against God.
Many speculate that the only reason many of the games—even the less violent ones such as Persona 3 and 4—have M-ratings in the United States is because of Mara, who is absent in Devil Survivor games, one of the few series in the franchise to carry a T-rating despite showing several graphic on-screen deaths.