I think it’s safe to say that Karaoke has become Yakuza‘s identity. The majority of newcomers most likely think of the series that started the Baka Mitai meme. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Karaoke is arguably the best recurring minigame in Yakuza. A fun time sink that offers some amazing songs that you can’t stop playing on repeat. These tracks also act as a device to characterize the setting of Yakuza and its characters in a clever way.
This list ranks 7 of the most iconic songs in the Karaoke minigame. I’m only looking into pieces that are part of the main series, so, unfortunately, no spin-offs. I’m ranking them based on their presentation, how their lyrics reflect the main story, setting, and characters, and its overall appeal.
This article will also go into minor spoilers for some of the Yakuza games, so proceed with caution. With that out of the way, let’s hit the karaoke bars!
7. Tonight -restart from this night-
A song that debuted in Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the first Yakuza game. It’s a sad track that focuses on the series’ protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, and his nostalgia for good times shared with his childhood friend and sworn brother, Nishiki. A fitting melody that ties into the first game’s narrative with Kiryu longing for the good times before Nishiki betrayed him. The cinematic is a slideshow of events from Yakuza 0 where the two used to be close friends. I’m personally not a fan of this style of cinematics, which is why I struggle to rate it higher.
It’s a depressing tune that perfectly shows off Kiryu’s feelings over Nishiki’s betrayal. During Yakuza 1 and Kiwami, we hardly have time to see him lament over losing his friends and loved ones after returning from prison. This song rectifies that issue and further connects it to the plot more than others. It’s also a nice little easter egg to those who played Yakuza 0, a throwback to events of the beloved prequel.
The translated lyrics offer more to the character that can’t be shown during cutscenes and gameplay, which adds to its charm.
Seasons change, time ticks away, two people lost their way.
6. As Long As You’re Happy
Another sad song, but this time it’s sung by fan-favorite Goro Majima! It’s pretty much the same as “Tonight” where it characterizes a character’s sorrow over someone they cared about. As shown in the cinematic, it’s another slideshow but this time with scenes of Majima protecting a woman he fell for in Yakuza 0. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rank it higher due to the lazy cinematic that held back the previous entry. However, I consider it a very powerful song even without a good cinematic.
This song benefits Majima’s characters greatly as we’re hardly shown his thoughts and feelings after Yakuza 0 for the obvious reason of it being a prequel. Yakuza Kiwami 2 managed to perfectly tie in his character arc with Makoto and offer a satisfying conclusion. We’re able to see the vulnerability that couldn’t be shown through cutscenes. It’s a shame that we don’t get more karaoke songs from the Mad Dog, but at least the ones we get are iconic.
5. Today is a Diamond
One of the few karaoke songs introduced in Yakuza 6. It’s fairly memorable with an amazing cinematic. It shows Kazuma Kiryu singing a seemingly light-hearted melody with a cheerful beat. He’s even smiling, which is a rarity in the series. It’s one of the few moments where the series’ protagonist is having a good time and playing the guitar in front of a smiling audience. To non-Japanese speakers, it appears to be a happy song until they read the translation of the lyrics.
REM sleep so deep it’s like death
so Please, Get up my baby!
(Come on, please get up)
(Please! Please wake up)
(You’re never going to wake up)
(I guess I’ll go to sleep too … )
The lyrics heavily imply that Kiryu would commit suicide if his baby doesn’t get up from their coma. Without going into spoilers, it ties into the premise of Yakuza 6, which is the last game with the Dragon of Dojima as its protagonist. It might very well be one of, if not the most depressing song in the series, and it has such a catchy tune!
4. Baka Mitai (I’ve been a fool)
Of course, I couldn’t leave out “Baka Mitai.” A song that became a meme nearly a year ago, increasing the popularity of the series. Everyone who knows about Yakuza knows about this gem that was introduced in Yakuza 5. It’s one of the most reused tracks in the series, sung by a fair amount of the cast. Thanks to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, we were also given an English dub which is a first for Yakuza karaoke.
It’s easy to tell the appeal of “Baka Mitai.” The absurdity of watching a tough character like Kiryu or Saejima singing a sad melody about a break-up and drinking away their sorrows. It shows a vulnerability that adds to the charm and humor that fans love.
It’s an amazing song and I enjoy listening to it occasionally, but it’s probably one of the more overhyped ones. The cinematic is memorable but it’s pretty tame compared to the later entries in this list. The overexposure of memes didn’t help either as it made others such as myself not as fond. However, it still deserves its spot on the list.
3. Machine Gun Kiss
A killer rock song that’s one of the more common and reused tracks in the series. There are many things to love about “Machine Gun Kiss,” including its amazing cinematic and themes of love. There are many songs about romance in Yakuza 4, but this is the only one that does it in such an epic fashion. The lyrics perfectly convey the feeling of expressing that epic love, and you can’t help but swoon when hearing Kiryu or the other characters sing this.
Not just 1 kiss, not 2 kisses, not 100
I’ve got a full clip of love for you, baby
The karaoke cinematic is a personal favorite of mine, with just the solo on stage followed by a sick mic twirl and pose. It’s reminiscent of ’80s rock concerts, an aesthetic that will be used for future Karaoke songs. You could tell that the characters that sing this are actually having fun in this minigame and you can’t help but join that fun.
2. Judgement -Shinpan-
Speaking of ’80s rock, let’s head back to the year 1988 for this classic. “Judgement” is a Yakuza 0 exclusive song sung by Kazuma Kiryu and his sworn brother, Nishiki. It’s a heavily underrated tune especially when it has “Baka Mitai” to compete with. I consider it much better just from how the cinematic goes above and beyond with outfits along with its tie to the Yakuza 0‘s plot. We’ve seen Kiryu perform on stage but this time we have a rock band with his close friends playing along with him.
Kiryu’s story in the prequel focuses on him rebelling against the Dojima family to protect his adoptive father. The lyrics tie into that rebelling, showing how the young Dragon of Dojima is going against his superiors to do what is right. In Yakuza 0, we’re shown to a younger and less restrained Kiryu that is characterized through his gameplay, which also includes Karaoke. I consider it one of the best songs that capture his character, and manages to be entertaining from beginning to end.
Wow, breakin’ the law
Breakin’ the world, destroy it!
Tear apart the tenderness!
1. 24-hour Cinderella
I would have said “Judgement” captured the ’80s the best, but unfortunately, this gem exists. Seeing Goro Majima performing with roller skates is just so absurd that I can’t take my eyes off of it. It’s there that we see just how Yakuza doesn’t take its side content all too seriously. It makes Karaoke a refreshing break from the heavy crime drama and Majima should be the one to perform it. In Yakuza 0, Majima’s story is a depressing one that goes into how he became the Mad Dog. It’s ironic in a way that he gets the happiest song in the game.
A romantic piece where the singer treats the girl they love as their Cinderella, even when it’s past 12 a.m. Like Kiryu, it mirrors his own plot during the game. He goes out of his way to protect Makoto, the girl he was hired to kill. He wants her to live a happy life which is expressed in this melody. It also compliments Majima’s karaoke song from Kiwami 2, supplementing his arc surrounding the woman he loved and the lengths he would go to give her a happy life.
Just because it’s past 12am-midnight
Our love magic will never disappear
Overall, it’s an absurd but charming song that is packed with character and adds to a fan favorite’s character arc. There’s so much to love about this piece and it rightly deserves to be #1.
What are your favorite Karaoke songs? Is there some I forgot to mention? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!
(Youtube videos by IosonoOtakuman)