Serving as a spin-off to Atlus’ long-running JRPG series Shin Megami Tensei, Persona has an extensive release history dating back to 1996.
Throughout the years, the franchise has seen numerous mainline and spin-off games as well as several remakes and enhanced ports released for handheld, console, and PC.
To make sense of the Persona timeline for new players, we’ve compiled all Persona games in order of release alongside a breakdown of each game’s story, gameplay, and critical reception.
We’ll be updating this list following any new Persona game announcements, so make sure to check back and let us know if we missed anything important!
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Release Date: September 20, 1996
Platforms: PS1, Windows
After the success of Shin Megami Tensei, Atlus decided to branch out and create an ambitious spin-off RPG focusing on the struggles of young adult life.
This manifested as the first game in the series, Revelations: Persona, which centers on a group of high school students with the power to summon supernatural beings known as Personas.
Upon release, the game received good reviews and sold well but failed to catch on immediately, deeming it a sleeper hit that would slip under the radar of many RPG fans.
Despite establishing the series’ core gameplay concepts, Revelations: Persona can be tough to get into for new players due to its dated combat.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Release Date: June 24, 1999
Development on Persona 2 started right after Revelations and would end up releasing in two parts: Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment.
Much of the original’s staff, story themes, and basic gameplay mechanics were retained alongside a host of new improvements and character designs.
In Persona 2: Innocent Sin, we follow a group of students from Seven Sisters High School as they confront a villain called the Joker who is spreading reality-warping rumors around the city.
The game was generally well-received and would go on to break the top 100 best-selling games in Japanese during the year of its release.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Release Date: June 29, 2000
Serving as a direct sequel to Innocent Sin, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment takes place a few months later and follows reporter Maya Amano as she investigates the Joker Curse.
This supernatural phenomenon causes people’s deepest desires and controversial rumors to come true, resulting in all-out chaos throughout Sumaru City.
Gameplay maintains the turn-based design of its predecessor, with Maya able to summon Personas to her fight against demons.
Reviews for Eternal Punishment were mostly positive, citing improvements over Innocent Sin’s plot, gameplay, Rumor system, and localization.
Release Date: July 13, 2006
Regarded as one of the best entries in the series, Persona 3 was released six years later for the PlayStation 2 console and incorporated many new ideas.
In it, players take on the role of a high school student who joins a special task force to investigate the Dark Hour, a time of day when creatures called Shadows are free to feed on the minds of humans.
The game introduces new Social Link and time-management systems that see the protagonist progressing through a school year day by day while making friends and forming relationships.
Persona 3 was very well received as critics enjoyed the addition of new social elements despite some finding its combat and environment designs repetitive.
Release Date: July 10, 2008
Whereas Persona 3 tells a thematically dark and sad story, Persona 4 keeps things light while maintaining the series’ core gameplay design with a few refinements.
The story centers on a high school student who relocates to the countryside for a year-long stay and becomes entangled in a murder mystery investigation.
New features include a weather forecast system that allows players to plan out certain events along with expanded party management granting full control over each member of your squad.
Following its release, Persona 4 was met with critical acclaim and has been given countless praise regarding its gameplay, story, characters, and soundtrack.
Release Date: September 15, 2016
Platforms: PS3, PS4
With Persona 5, Atlus decided to revamp Persona 3 and Persona 4’s art style with new cel-shaded graphics and a highly-stylized UI.
This desire for change bled over to gameplay, with Persona 5 expanding upon the series’ Social Link and time-management systems to create a more player-driven experience.
In it, players follow a transfer student attending high school in Japan that decides to team up with friends to become the Phantom Thieves of Hearts and end the tyranny of corrupt adults.
Persona 5 was a massive success both critically and commercially, exposing a new generation of fans to the JRPG series for the first time.
Megami Ibunroku Persona Digital Collection
Release Year: 1998
The first Persona spin-off game on our list is Megami Ibunroku Persona Digital Collection, a mini-game collection that takes place shortly after the events of the original.
Players are transported to a festival where students have gathered to participate in a series of carnival-like events that reward them with tickets.
There are a total of 12 mini-games included, each requiring the player to answer questions, solve puzzles, shoot targets, perform karaoke, etc.
Considering it was released exclusively in Japan and has long since been abandoned, it’s practically impossible to play in 2023 without a virtual machine emulator.
Persona 4 Arena
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Platforms: Arcade, PS3, Xbox 360
Next up is Persona 4 Arena, a 2D fighting game originally co-developed by Atlus and Arc System Works for arcades before being ported to home consoles.
In it, players follow a selection of the cast from Persona 4 and Persona 3 as they gather to investigate a new mystery involving the P-1 Grand Prix fighting tournament.
Along with a visual novel-inspired Story mode, the game includes Training, Challenge, Arcade, Score Attack, and Versus modes with support for both local and online multiplayer.
As the first non-RPG Persona game to release, Persona 4 Arena was met with glowing reviews praising its gameplay, graphics, and fighting system.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
Release Date: November 28, 2013
Platforms: Arcade, PS3, Xbox 360, Windows, Switch, PS4
The success of Persona 4 Arena prompted Atlus to release a sequel the following year under the title Persona 4 Arena Ultimax.
Set directly after the events of its predecessor, the game sees the Investigation team competing in another newly discovered tournament called P-1 Climax.
For the sequel, Arc System Works considered fan feedback to improve various aspects of combat and the story while delivering an overall better experience.
In the end, Persona 4 Ultimax turned out to be another success for the franchise and is considered one of the best Persona spin-offs.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Release Date: June 5, 2014
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Due to fans growing demand for more spin-offs, Atlus invested resources to develop another crossover series that combined two separate Persona games.
This would end up leading to the release of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, a handheld RPG and the first game in the franchise to be released on a Nintendo platform.
The story sees characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4 traveling through time and space to explore labyrinth-like dungeons and reunite with their friends.
While not as fondly remembered as its predecessors, Persona Q released to strong sales and positive reviews from gaming critics.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Release Date: June 25, 2015
Platforms: PS Vita, PS4
Initially released as a PlayStation Vita exclusive, Persona 4: Dancing All Night was later ported to the PlayStation 4 home console.
In it, players control various characters from Persona 4 as they dance to music tracks from throughout the series, including both original and rearranged songs.
Gameplay is split into two main modes: Story, which consists of several stages with an overarching plot, and Free Dance, where players can pick and perform any song to unlock more tracks.
Upon release, Dancing All Night ranked second on the Japanese software sales charts for that week and was met with positive reviews celebrating its memorable soundtrack and unique gameplay.
Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight
Release Date: May 24, 2018
Platforms: PS Vita, PS4
Much like with their other spin-offs, the success of Dancing All Night would encourage Atlus to create another spin-off in the same vein as Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight.
This time around, gameplay focused on Persona 3 characters taking part in rhythm-based gameplay challenges set to original and remixed tracks from Persona 3.
While the core idea was largely the same as Dancing All Night, Dancing in Moonlight included several improvements regarding its Story mode and gameplay.
Furthermore, the game received mixed reviews as critics were divided on the new gameplay changes and social event mechanics introduced.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
Release Date: May 24, 2018
Platforms: PS Vita, PS4
Releasing day and date with Dancing in Moonlight, Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight was practically identical aside from its music selection.
As you might expect, the game includes characters from Persona 5 participating in a series of rhythm-based challenges set to original and remixed tracks from Persona 5.
Additional improvements were implemented based on previous games, resulting in unique partner choreography during certain tracks and characters interacting between songs in the Velvet Room.
Unfortunately, critics were just as divided on Dancing in Starlight, with the game receiving mixed reviews from major gaming outlets.
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
Release Date: November 29, 2018
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Serving as a direct sequel to Persona Q, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is another handheld RPG spin-off released exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.
It features characters from Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 as they’re forced to travel through a series of films meeting allies and battling enemies.
Since the game was released hot off of the success of Persona 5, it prominently focuses on the Phantom Thieves of Hearts and their desire to escape from a twisted Hollywood movie nightmare.
Following its release, Persona Q2 received generally positive reviews and would end up nominated for “Best RPG” at the 2019 NAVGTR Awards.
Persona 5 Strikers
Release Date: February 20, 2020
Platforms: PS4, Switch, Windows
Combining elements of Dynasty Warriors with Persona’s distinct visual flair, Persona 5 Strikers is an action RPG spin-off that takes place several months after Persona 5’s story.
In it, we follow the Phantom Thieves during their summer vacation when a series of mysterious events begin taking place across Japan.
Teaming up once more, Joker and the Phantom Thieves set out to investigate the cause while battling enemies using real-time hack n’ slash combat.
Persona 5 Strikers received generally favorable reviews across PC and console and stands out as one of the more well-executed spin-offs.
Remakes and Enhanced Ports
Persona 3 FES
Release Date: April 19, 2007
There have been several Persona remakes and enhanced ports released throughout the years, including Persona 3 FES, also known as Episode Aegis.
This improved re-released of the original Persona 3 comes packed with 30 additional hours of gameplay stemming from a bonus epilogue called The Answer.
In addition, it introduces Aegis as a playable character and features a new hard mode difficulty option for players looking to put their skills to the ultimate test.
Persona 3 FES was seen as a welcomed expansion that helped provide answers to some of the fans’ lingering questions regarding the original’s story.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Release Date: April 29, 2009
Releasing thirteen years after the original, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona is a remake of Revelations: Persona for the PlayStation Portable.
It introduces new and improved visuals, soundtrack, FMVs, and more while maintaining the core combat mechanics of its predecessor.
While some critics reveled in the PSP port’s old-school RPG approach, others found the complexity of battles overwhelming at times.
As such, this remake is generally preferred by and recommended to newcomers looking to explore the earlier games in the series.
Persona 3 Portable
Release Date: November 1, 2009
The next Persona game to receive a PSP re-release would be Persona 3, which released as Persona 3 Portable in November 2009.
In stark contrast to the original, the game swaps out its 3D environments in favor of visual light novel-inspired title screens during social interactions.
Additionally, it features two main characters—one male, one female, along with two new Easy and Maniac difficulty modes.
Although the graphical changes were perceived negatively, Persona 3 Portable managed to skirt by with good reviews off of the strength of its story.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Innocent Sin
Release Date: April 14, 2011
Much like the first and third games in the series, both Persona 2 games received remakes for the PSP hardware.
The first to release was Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Innocent Sin, which carried over the original’s story, themes, and gameplay while improving on some of its mechanics.
This included adjusting the 4:3 screen ratio to 16:9, updating the UI, redesigning character artwork, and remastering the game’s voice work.
Despite Persona 2 being one of the more beloved entries in the series, the PSP remake of Innocent Sin was met with mixed reviews citing its dated appeal.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Eternal Punishment
Release Date: May 17, 2012
While the original goal was to release Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment remakes together as a single game, this had to be scrapped upon the realization that both could not fit onto a single UMD.
Instead, roughly a year later Atlus released a separate PSP remake under the title Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 – Eternal Punishment.
The gap in development gave the team time to implement features from the Innocent Sin remake, simplify mechanics, and add a new scenario focusing on Tatsuya’s activities before joining the party.
Unfortunately, the game was never released outside of Japan due to “unusual circumstances,” and is often cited as one of many great RPGs to be released too late in the PSP’s life cycle.
Persona 4 Golden
Release Date: June 14, 2012
Platforms: PS Vita, Windows
Going back to the franchise’s glory days, Atlus set out to rerelease the critically-acclaimed Persona 4 for the PlayStation Vita and PC as Persona 4 Golden.
The enhanced version includes a host of new content and features such as the character Marie appearing in the story, more Personas, character outfits, and expanded dialogue/cutscenes.
In addition, the game supports Vita’s wireless networking features, allowing players to call for help during dungeon battles.
The release of Persona 4: Golden resulted in a massive surge in Vita sales and is fondly remembered as one of the best titles for the PlayStation handheld.
Persona 5 Royal
Release Date: October 31, 2019
Platforms: PS4, PS5
No doubt looking to extend the hype surrounding Persona 5, Atlus put out an enhanced port of the original as Persona 5 Royal.
The new version expands the base game with a slew of content including characters Kasumi, Takuto, and Jose, as well as additional cutscenes and a third-semester storyline.
To unlock some of the new content, players must meet certain prerequisites by maxing out their Councillor Arcana Confidant before the in-game date of November 17th.
Upon release, Persona 5 Royal was met with universal acclaim by critics who became quite fond of its newer elements, garnering an even higher review score than the original.