Games for beginners to learn basic Japanese


The Japanese language isn’t easy for newbies. From its unique grammar rules to the 3 writing systems in one language – katakana, hiragana, and kanji – these are but the tip of the iceberg for Japanese learners.

That said, the learning process doesn’t have to be painful. We’ve gathered 10 basic Japanese learning games for you to become a Japanese wordsmith and conversationalist while having a smashing good time.


– For beginners with zero knowledge –


1. kawaiiNihongo


Basic Japanese Language Games kawaiinihongo
Image adapted from:
kawaiiNihongoApp and kawaiiNihongoApp

kawaiiNihongo churns out interactive flashcards and mnemonics games in kawaii anime-style. The game teaches you katakana and hiragana, grammar, native pronunciation, and stroke order so you can fully grasp the basics. If you’re struggling or getting ahead of the game, you can also customise flashcards to match your learning pace.

Pros: Beginner-friendly, able to customise your learning lessons.
Cons: Graphic-intensive, may be distracting for players.

Download it on the App Store.


2. Japanese Dungeon: Learn J-Word


Basic Japanese Language Games dungeonImage adapted from: Japanese Dungeon: Learn J-Word

Japanese Dungeon looks like it came right out of an old-school arcade game – think 2D pixelated graphics, retro 8-bit music from the 90s, and a simple interface. Players take on the role of a warrior and conquer each dungeon by learning basic hiragana.

Win coins with every completed round and collect different hero figurines as you progress to the next dungeon. The nostalgic game also keeps tabs on what you’ve learned by collating a word bank in a separate ‘dungeon’ so you can refresh your memory and track your progress.

Pros: Has an in-built word bank function to keep tabs on the Japanese words you’ve learned.
Cons: Players can only learn hiragana.

Download it on Google Play.


3. Drops: Language Learning


Basic Japanese Language Games dropsImage adapted from: appsliced.co

If you learn best with visual cues, Drops may suit your learning style. The language app hosts more than 33 languages, including Japanese, with clear graphics and an interactive interface. 

What sets it apart from other Japanese language games is its 5-minute lesson plan – players can only use the language app for just 5 minutes each day. The limited-time span is said to motivate players to focus better, which leads to better memorisation and word recognition.

Pros: Visual intensive – effective for visual learners.
Cons: Players can only use the app for 5 minutes per day. In-app purchase is required to unlock unlimited usage of the app.

Download it on the App Store.


4. My Japanese Coach


Basic Japanese Learning Games My Japanese Coach
Image adapted from: My Japanese Coach


Image adapted from:
neoseeker.com

My Japanese Coach will appeal to avid Japanese learners with a Nintendo DS. It is a full-fledged digital boot camp with useful features such as Japanese romanisation and native pronunciation in audio clips. Discover the correct stroke orders of each of the writing systems – katakana, hiragana, and kanjiwith clear illustrations.

There are also minigames to add fun to learning. From word search puzzles to Hit-a-Word, a Whack-a-Mole-style speed round testing on how fast you can recognise a Japanese character, the video game will fast track your linguistic progress. 

Pros: Learn to pronounce like a native Japanese instead of just memorising and identifying Japanese characters.
Cons: Only accessible if you have a Nintendo DS.


5. Mindsnacks


Basic Japanese Language Games mindsnacks
Image adapted from:
Mindsnacks

Mindsnacks is useful for anyone who lacks motivation in nailing their basics. The educational app consists of illustrations and complex exercises to keep you engaged. Apart from 8 different games on spelling, word and image recognition, visual processing, and more, you can also toggle between katakana, kanji, and romaji to expedite your learning progress. 

The language app was also vouched by USA Today and Apple iTunes for its quality content and effective learning pedagogy.

Pros: Consists of a variety of challenges suitable for kids and grown-ups.
Cons: Only available for IOS users.

Download it on the App Store.


6. Kids YAY – Learn Japanese


Basic Japanese Language Games kids yay
Image adapted from:
Kids YAY – Learn Japanese

Basic Japanese Language Games kids yay
Image adapted from:
Kids YAY – Learn Japanese

Kids YAY is the answer to every parents’ prayers. The kid-centric language app is designed for kiddos from age 2 to 8. You can safely hand over your phone as the app is free of ads – no accidental tapping on dubious links or incurring extra costs.

Grown-ups starting from scratch are free to capitalise on the language app too. Unlike most language apps that use a lot of mobile data, Kids YAY relies on offline learning. 

Pros: Kid-centric, no internet required.
Cons: Grown-ups may find the interface childish.

Download it on the App Store and Google Play


7. Slime Forest Adventure


Basic Japanese Language Games slime forest
Image credit: Slime Forest Adventure

If you prefer using a computer rather than playing on your mobile phone, check out Slime Forest Adventure. It is a video game tailored for a PC. Eliminate monsters and gain battle experience points by decoding characters in katakana, hiragana, and kanji. 

The video game makes up for its amateur graphics by expediting your language growth through reinforced learning. It identifies the Japanese characters you’ve failed to recognise in the previous rounds and show up subsequently until you get it right. 

Basic Japanese Language Games slime forestImage adapted from: lutris.net

Tip: Newcomers can test waters with the Demo version for free before registering for a full version, which costs USD15.

Pros: Reinforce each Japanese character until the player can identify it easily.
Cons: Graphics are not the most appealing. Players may get bored with playing the same rounds if they can’t learn fast enough. 

For Windows and Mac computers. Download here.


– For beginners with some Japanese knowledge –


8. Learn Japanese Yami


Basic Japanese Language Games yami
Image adapted from:
Learn Japanese Yami

Here’s an effective vocabulary speed quiz that goes beyond the usual flashcards – Learn Japanese Yami. Learners who have a grasp of basic Japanese can shore up their existing vocabulary at the same time. Plus, players cramming for the JLPT exams will find learning a breeze with 5 different learning levels available from N5 to N1.

Pros: No internet required.
Cons: Only focuses on vocabulary.

Download it on the App Store or Google Play.


9. Japanese Word Search Game


Japanese word search game
Image adapted from:
Japanese Word Search Game

Learn Japanese Yami is best followed up with Japanese Word Search Game, a classic puzzle available in romaji, hiragana, and katakana. The time-sensitive challenge is sorted into categories like ‘eating out’, ‘essentials’, and ‘dates’, and is an apt platform to recap your newly acquired vocabulary.

Pros: Reinforces character and phrase recognition.
Cons: Only focuses on vocabulary. 

Download it on Google Play.


10. Studystack


study stack hangman
Hangman
Image adapted from: Studystack

study stack hungry bug
Hungry Bug
Image adapted from: Studystack

Studystack boasts 14 games of varying intensities and challenges to speed up your learning curve. Expect games such as the iconic Hangman, crossword puzzles, and Hungry Bug – a Pac-Man-esque game where you’ll have to munch on the items, listed in Japanese, in the correct order. If you have a short attention span, feel free to explore other language games on the website.

Pros: Free online website with 14 different types of games and assessment.
Cons: Graphics are not the most appealing. Vocabulary tests can get repetitive after several rounds.

Website


Learn basic Japanese while gaming


Mastering a new language is no easy feat, but that doesn’t mean it has to be no pain no gain. From fending off slimes to upgrading your avatar, here’s how you can level up from noob to pro without giving up on fun.

Cover image adapted from: Mindsnacks and neoseeker.com

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