Yakuza is many things. Compelling crime stories filled with fantastic characters, bizzare sub-stories and a multitude of distractions. Despite the changes that come each year, Yakuza 3 introduced perhaps one of Yakuza’s most important features. Watching hard-boiled Japense gangsters sing their hearts out in a karaoke booth has become on the franchise’s most popular minigames. Hell, they even found some way to sneak the Karaoke minigame in to the Bakumatsu period spin off game, Ishin. So join me as I countdown the 10 best performances from the franchise’s long, musical history.
10. Machine Gun Kiss – Kiryu (Yakuza 5)
Not just 1 kiss, not 2 kisses, not 100
I’ve got a full clip of love for you, baby
Hold on to me and I swear I won’t let go
I’ll never, let you slip away from me
Machine gun kiss, let’s just
Fall in love
“Machine Gun Kiss” has three different versions. Yakuza 5’s Tatsuo Shinada and Like a Dragon‘s Adachi have their own versions but I have to go with Kiryu’s version. That man has just fantastic deep vocals that work perfectly for this sort of rock-love song that’s about trying to rapidly kiss a girl at the speed of a machine gun firing bullets, I guess?
9. Like a Butterfly – Kiryu/Riona (Yakuza 6: The Song of Life)
(A butterfly with no wings is a moth in the flame!)
(Just a rat on the floor with another name!)
The venomous fangs sink into the soul
(The world is dead, no light left to find)
(It’s too late)
In Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, there’s two different people Kiryu can sing this song with depending on which one you take out on a date. Either way, what your treated to is an total delight. While the female singer cuts loose with some fantastic vocals, Kiryu dons a weird pair of futuristic glasses and raps about flying high like a butterfly. You can also find this song in Yakuza: Like a Dragon with Eri and Ichiban taking over the vocals.
8. Otometal MY LIFE – Haruka (Yakuza Kiwami 1/2)
I tried really hard To
find english lyrics for this one
but I can’t find any
Sorry I guess
Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2 are complete remakes of the first two Yakuza games that came out on PlayStation 2 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. In these fantastic remakes, they added Karaoke minigame and included a new version of song that had already appeared in previous Yakuza. However, the “MY LIFE” version of this song is way more like a babymetal style track, with a nine or ten year old girl singing it to boot. Its also one of the more difficult songs in the franchise’s history, being much faster and featuring a lot more button presses than the usual karaoke minigame.
7. Hell Stew – Ichiban (Yakuza: Like a Dragon)
Made of you worthless humans cooked into a roux
Shit posters, hot takes, all you trolls, you little fish
You’re all in tonight’s main dish
Ichiban’s version of “Hell Stew” is one of my favorite performances from Like a Dragon. The song seems to be about making some kind of demonic stew made from various humans such as shitposters and trolls. This song overall is a weird metal inspired number that also seems the men of LIke a Dragon don spiked armor, face paint and wield various foods to aid the making of their stew in what might Like A Dragon’s best performance. Beside Nanba’s version of “Baka Mitai” anyway.
6. Today is a Diamond – Kiryu (Yakuza 6: The Song of Life)
I guess you’re dreaming about the sea around now
Never mind age, have fun
We could charter a boat
and stare into the sunset
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life can be pretty dark at times. From the start, Kiryu’s caught in a tight spot, he just did three years in jail, then when he’s released he discovers his adopted daughter, Haruka, went missing for a few years, then when she finally resurfaces she gets hit by a car and ends up in a coma. Oh, and also she’s had a baby and the father’s identity is a mystery. To top it all off, the Yakuza and Korean mafia are trying to kidnap this young child for reasons unknown, so seeing Kiryu cut loose in this full video sequence is a neat change of pace.
5. So Much More – Haruka (Yakuza 5)
Are you ready? Go!
Just start running!
Come on! Start!
On the double!
Keep your chin up!
Yakuza is serious franchise featuring Japanese crime stories. Yakuza 5 however features a story following Haruka chasing her dream of becoming an idol. This involves guiding her through the life of an idol and performing live on stage as her in this otherwise very serious Japanese crime drama franchise. There’s three different songs Haruka performs, but I have to pick this one as my favorite. It’s catchy, cheery and just very happy which is something I think we all need right now. This edited version that includes all the backing vocals from the rest of the Yakuza 5 protagonists just makes it even better. But remember folks. Yakuza is a serious game about Japanese gangsters with intense crime stories.
4. GET to the Top! – Majima (Yakuza: Dead Souls)
Until the dim light turns bright, I go
Wake up again, even if you fall
Solving the ever-increasing problem
Where is the end, is there an answer from this tower?
Yakuza: Dead Souls is a non-canon spin-off in the long-running, very serious franchise that features Japanese gangsters fighting a zombie outbreak. Yes, you read that right. It got a mixed reception upon release, but no one can deny it gave us the incredible gift of Goro Majima singing “GET to the Top!” This song is seen in Yakuza 4 and 5 as performed by Haruka, but Majima’s version with his crazed vocals, and dance routine of guys in suits is just unbeatable and perhaps one of the funniest visuals in Yakuza history.
3. Judgment – Kiryu (Yakuza Zero)
Wow, breakin’ the law
Breakin’ the world, destroy it!
Tear apart the tenderness!
Ahh, my first experience of Yakuza karaoke. I picked up Yakuza Zero back in 2017 with almost no knowledge or experience of it. The first thing that started to make me think I might like this game was when I started up the Karaoke minigame and half-way through it suddenly cut to Kiryu and his good friend Nishikyama taking to the stage and playing guitar while singing. While you’ll do this song early in the game, if you come back and perform it again after you’ve met Osamu Kashiwagi, then he’ll also appear in the video rockin’ out on the keyboard.
2. Baka Mitai – Akiyama (Yakuza 5)
it’s no use, no use, no use at all
I love you, I love you far too much
no matter how strong the drink
the memories never fade
such a fool
Perhaps the most famous Yakuza Karaoke song thanks to its use in the deep fake meme from a while ago, where people would make random images sing the song. Four different characters have sung “Baka Mitai” across the history of Yakuza. While I love Nanba, Saejima and Kiryu’s versions of this song, I have to give Akiyama’s version first place. His smooth vocals are just perfect for it. In the video, we see our troubled player sat at a bar staring at a picture of something that’s important to them. In Akiyama’s case, its a picture of him when he was homeless for some reason.
1. 24-Hour Cinderella – Majima (Yakuza Zero)
I honestly love you! let me tell this to you
and I’m sure you love me! it’s going to get through
let’s look for a glass slipper that fits you
I think some people would disagree with “Baka Mitai” not getting first, but for me at least, “24 Hour Cinderella” is just the greatest karaoke performance of all time. It features a pre-mad dog Majima singing a joyful song about how much he loves someone. Then it cuts to Majima and his back-up dancers performing a dance routine on roller skates in some kind of set, when I try to convince people to play Yakuza I usually send them this video because its just so much fun to me.
Did I miss your favorite Yakuza song of this list? Why not tell me I’m an idiot and leave a link to your favorite Karaoke performances in the comments?