The Ultimate Challenge: Ranking the 6 Toughest Shin Megami Tensei Games

The Ultimate Challenge: Ranking the 6 Toughest Shin Megami Tensei Games

The Shin Megami Tensei series, often dubbed “Pokemon for adults,” debuted on the Famicom in 1987 before the Pokemon games. Initially a Japanese exclusive, it has gained a reputation for its challenging gameplay. The franchise and its spin-offs depict apocalyptic futures and have posed significant challenges to players for over three decades. Shin Megami Tensei stands out as one of the toughest RPG series, whether battling hordes of demons or facing formidable bosses. Atlus, the developer, has crafted challenging experiences, solidifying its position among top RPG creators. Over 35 years, Atlus has evolved and refined the series, showcasing its enduring excellence.

Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse

Source: Polygon

Set in a distinct timeline from Shin Megami Tensei 4, Apocalypse hit shelves three years after its predecessor. The game unfolds in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo teeming with the series’ trademark demons and a convoluted narrative. Players face off against some of the franchise’s most formidable bosses and battles.

SMT4: Apocalypse employs the Press Turn system in combat, allowing players to earn more turns and actions by exploiting demon weaknesses. This intuitive yet intricate system gradually grows in complexity. While SMT games from this era are scarce on modern platforms, Apocalypse remains a worthy challenge for fans of the series.

Shin Megami Tensei 5

Source: Nintendo

Despite an eight-year hiatus between the fourth installment and Shin Megami Tensei 5, this Switch exclusive preserves the franchise’s notorious difficulty and offers a perilous world to navigate. Among the initial titles announced for Nintendo’s console, SMT5 follows a Japanese high school student transformed into the Nahobino, journeying through the post-apocalyptic Tokyo of Da’at. Da’at teems with demons of all sizes, from tiny Pixies to towering Metatrons. Demon negotiations, a hallmark of the series, return, with some of these mischievous creatures proving difficult to recruit. Whether they abscond with your money or drain your HP, negotiations add depth to the world and entail a gamble. SMT5 stands as one of the most challenging RPGs on the Switch and one of the franchise’s most formidable endeavors.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Source: Metacritic

Originally titled New Goddess during development, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga aimed to expand the audience of the then-niche franchise. Despite this goal, Atlus ensured the game remained challenging, pushing players to their limits.

Among several SMT titles on the PS2, Digital Devil Saga competed with Nocturne and Devil Summoner but held its ground. Atlus departed from the apocalyptic setting, focusing on a smaller-scale story of warring factions. However, intense boss battles and labyrinthine dungeons, integral to the SMT series, persisted in this iteration.

Shin Megami Tensei 4

Source: IGN

Between Nocturne’s PS2 release and Shin Megami Tensei 4’s debut on the Nintendo 3DS, Atlus was immersed in the development of various unrelated titles. However, when it was time for a new numbered installment, they didn’t disappoint longtime SMT fans. Shin Megami Tensei 4 maintains the series’ intense reputation.

Regarded as one of the most challenging RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS, SMT4 features a vast roster of classic demons, some with fresh designs. The return of Press Turn intensifies demon and boss encounters, fitting seamlessly on the 3DS with its bite-sized gameplay chunks, ideal for surviving the apocalyptic journey.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey


Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was a collaboration between Atlus and Lancarse, known for the Etrian Odyssey series. This partnership brings a unique feel to Strange Journey while maintaining the brilliance and complexity of the series.

The game’s surreal and almost horror-like atmosphere complements the challenging demons players encounter. Recruiting demons is tougher here due to the alignment system, where their decision to join depends on player choices. Strange Journey is a bizarre yet fantastic entry, renowned for its difficulty, setting it apart from others in the series.

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne

Source: Polygon

In the late 1990s, Atlus contemplated retiring the SMT series but changed course after testing the impressive PlayStation 2 hardware and internal encouragement. The result was what many consider the best and most challenging entry in the franchise, SMT3: Nocturne. Renowned for its punishing difficulty, Nocturne introduced the Press Turn system, which shaped the series’ difficulty in later years. Its reputation for being unforgiving, often costing players hours of progress, is well-deserved. The recent remaster offers a great opportunity to revisit this ultimate challenge in the SMT series.

Shin Megami Tensei series, renowned for its challenging gameplay, reached new heights with SMT3: Nocturne. Despite initial contemplations to retire the franchise, Atlus delivered a masterpiece. For more such posts please visit our Tech section.