If you are here, you likely already know that you should be playing Persona 5 and/or Royal. That part is the apparent one. But the tricky part when starting any modern Persona game is the fact that it generally has at least one or two versions that you have to contend with.
It happened with Persona 3 and 4, and it happens again with 5. So which is the best? Find out as duel it out with a battle of Persona 5 vs Persona 5 Royal.
Before we even begin, I already have the definitive answer for you after having played both versions of these games and completing them. I know the ins and outs of both these games, more than most games in existence, even though you are looking at more than 100 hours of gameplay for each of them.
There are distinct differences between the two that have a clear winner with no contest. If you’re ready to find out which game that is, let’s begin the battle Persona 5 vs Persona 5 Royal right now.
Bottom Line Up Front
Persona 5 is the original JRPG that was released in 2016 (Japan) and 2017 (worldwide). A few years later, the expanded version came out of this game known as Persona 5 Royal.
The two have stark differences since Royal features many more platforms you can play on, more content to check out, and some general gameplay changes. At the end of the day, though, the best game of the bunch has to be Persona 5 Royal for everything that it brings to the table.
Main Differences Between Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal
Before we start, let’s compare these two JRPG giants with some of the core changes and differences that you should know about if you didn’t already. These are the differences that might determine which game version is the right one for you.
- Persona 5 is the original version of the sixth mainline Persona game (I know it has a 5, but yeah), whereas Persona 5 Royal is the expanded version that came after.
- Persona 5 is only available on PS3 and PS4, whereas Persona 5 Royal is on PS4, Xbox One (including Game Pass!), Nintendo Switch, and PC.
- Persona 5 features only two semesters of gameplay, whereas Royal adds a third semester on top of the existing storyline.
- Persona 5 has nine members of the Phantom Thieves, whereas Royal adds the 10th member.
- Persona 5 has a somewhat incomplete storyline for Phantom Thieves member Goro Akechi, whereas Persona 5 Royal fills in the blanks for his tale and does his story the justice he deserves.
Starting off with the story, this is one of the weaker parts of both games since the focus is mainly on the characters. That said, Persona 5’s story centers around the Phantom Thieves. They are a group of outcast teenagers who are hellbent on taking down the evil people in the world by stealing their hearts in the Metaverse.
It is a noble premise and a fun one that is generally pretty predictable and does nothing too crazy in terms of twists and surprises. Even some of the more spoilery events that happen are foretold way too much beforehand, rendering them not so impactful.
The story is serviceable and good in Persona 5, but it is undoubtedly the weakest part of an otherwise near-masterpiece of a JRPG.
What I do appreciate is the tone of the game, which strikes an impressive balance between the dark moments of Persona 3 and the goofier, lighthearted scenes from Persona 4. This gives a classic feel to the game that is, hopefully, what future games in the series aim for.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal is the expanded base game version, so it follows the exact same story as the original. However, there are a few fundamental changes in the base story, like some new characters and a couple of different scenes.
These add to the story, but they don’t necessarily fix what is already one of the weaker parts. However, where Royal soars over its original in the story department is the new content in the third semester. This is by far the best part of the entire plot and the only section where the story seems to be firing on all cylinders.
It leads to one of the most robust story sections in any Persona game to date, but it takes a lot of time to get there. And having pretty much the same story for the other 75-80% of the game leaves it with many of the same issues that the original has in this area.
Persona 5 Royal is the clear winner in this first category. It takes the weakest part of the original game and tries to give it some pizzazz with extra story content, scenes, and characters to flesh it out more.
While the initial story in Royal is still not the best part of the game, it massively improves in the new content in the third semester to some of the best story devices in any Persona game.
Persona 5 revolutionized the JRPG genre with the best turn-based combat ever created. It is flashy, fluid, surprisingly fast for a strategic game like this, and always keeps you on your toes. There is so much to love about the combat in Persona 5 that you almost forget at times that you’re playing a turn-based game.
It improved upon everything in the Persona and SMT series before it, nailing the best version of the press turn system and mixing and matching Persona skills to dominate the battlefield. It helps that exploring the various Palace dungeons is generally pretty fun to do and going to school is a welcome side activity.
There are puzzles to complete, various dungeon environments to explore, and negotiations are back in the series for persuading Personas to join your team. Persona 5 hasn’t just the best gameplay in the series, but the best turn-based combat you’ll find in any game.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal is, by and large, the exact same game as the original Persona 5 in terms of gameplay. There are a couple of critical changes, like the addition of the partner attacks where two party members do a duo attack that is a much flashier version of an All-Out Attack.
In addition, there are some significant changes to the dungeons and boss battles in the game’s story, which mainly help with the difficulty curve and make it a bit easier to play. This is controversial for some purists, but I generally appreciated these changes myself.
In the end, Persona 5 Royal adds little to the gameplay department, with one of the most minorly different areas of the JRPG in this version. Even playing the game for the first time, I immediately took some of the quality-of-life changes for granted, assuming they were there, to begin with.
Persona 5 is the game that started it all with tremendous gameplay that is as close to a masterpiece of turn-based combat as you can get. Persona 5 Royal, on the other hand, only made slight refinements and changes that are felt but easily forgettable. Outside of the duo attacks, there weren’t many noticeable changes that seem apparent.
Though I prefer the difficulty curve in Royal, I acknowledge that the original Persona 5 started it all and, perhaps controversially, have to give it this category.
Persona 5 boasts one of the most memorable sets of characters in any game ever. There is a reason that merch sells out for the fans of characters like Morgana, Ann, Makoto, Ryuji, and many more. The Persona series has always been about its characters, and the sixth mainline entry doesn’t stop.
Many would argue that Persona 5 has the best characters in the series, which is an argument to be made. There is something to be said about the uniqueness of these characters and the path that some of them go on. There are plenty of surprises about these characters and even some trope-breaking for some of them.
Then there is the romance area where Joker, the main character, can cuddle up to one of the ladies in the cast, including among the terrific Confidant side characters. This is the weakest part of the cast for me, as there are no standout romantic partners, unlike in previous games.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal takes the same cast of characters and revitalizes some of them while introducing a couple of new members to the cast. The most significant change is the addition of Kasumi, the final member of the Phantom Thieves (at least for this story).
She is the best female cast member and the only one who feels like she is meant for Joker. It is a shame that it took this long for her to arrive, but she is welcome alongside the new Confidant, Dr. Maruki. The school’s counselor is an outstanding and peaceful addition to the cast, adding a nice element to the characters.
But the most important and best change of them all is fixing Goro Akechi’s missing storyline. His plot happens too late in the story in the original, and Persona 5 Royal gives you more time to spend with him and to fully grasp the best Persona character ever made.
Persona 5 Royal’s characters and changes are everything that Persona 5 should have been from the start. It almost feels like fixing some mistakes that the developers knew were there or adding in characters that they had to cut sadly from the base game.
It is a shame that it took this long for these changes, but Persona 5 Royal perfects the cast, easily triumphing over its predecessor with every character.
Persona 5 has graphics and a presentation that is full of style and substance. It oozes this rich, colorful, almost manga-style aesthetic from top to bottom throughout the game. Everything from the menus to the UI to even the selection screen during battles is so rich with detail and intrigue.
You can feel that the developers spent a lot of time creating this almost anime-punk aesthetic for the characters and world of Persona 5, and it is dripping with it throughout every inch of the universe. I also adore the almost cel-shaded style of the characters and environments that give this comic book feel.
However, where Persona 5’s presentation falls a little short is in the PS3 being a platform. While I understand there never was a mainline game in the series on that console, it still feels too little, too late for it to arrive there. In turn, this held back the graphics of Persona 5 some from being what it could have indeed been.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal didn’t do much to change the aesthetic and look of the base game. Sure, it removed the PS3 platform for this version, but that didn’t exactly turn out with some significant changes. The resolution is sharper, and the colors were certainly richer with HDR, but that’s about it.
It runs slightly smoother, but it was already a reasonably fast game. Royal’s changes aren’t that intriguing, except for the release on Switch. This is a game that was made for handhelds, and it looks quite good and runs pretty well on the hybrid system.
The addition of the Thieves Den is another fun part, giving players a colorful area to mess around in this playground.
Persona 5 Royal wins in this category but only just barely. The newer platforms and minor improvements in performance and graphics give it the edge, but it honestly does very little to warrant the PS3 dropping.
There is an overwhelming amount of content in Persona 5; almost too much for some players to even want to give it a chance. You have several in-game months that you play nearly every single day in-game with so much that you are able to do.
You go to school, can explore dungeons after school and take down bad guys, complete optional requests from NPCs, work a part-time job, spend time with your Confidants, buy items, make money, and fuse together Personas.
And even then, that is still just touching upon the intense amount of content for you to enjoy in Persona 5. There are still minigames and so much more that I haven’t dived into.
If you’re playing the game for the first time, you’re looking at a lengthy story, too, that will possibly take you over the 100-hour mark even without engaging in everything there is in Persona 5.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal takes everything that was in the original game and amps it up a notch. Do you like Confidants? Great, there are two more for you to complete now and a fully realized one for Goro Akechi that isn’t completely automatic.
Like the minigames and activities to spend time with friends? Fantastic, there is even more of that to do. And that is all before talking about the third semester that brings with it a new dungeon. There is a new part of Tokyo to explore in Kichijoji and so much more.
If you somehow thought the game was long in the original, Persona 5 Royal makes it even longer. This can be welcome or off-putting, depending on your playstyle. But, for me, at least, this made Persona 5 Royal one of the best games I’ve ever played.
Persona 5 Royal wins hands down, for taking the already explosive amount of content in the base game and kicking it up a notch.
The best part is that all of the additions in Royal are some of the best pieces of content on their own, like the new Confidants, areas, and the third semester. Altogether, it includes the best content you’ll find in the JRPG.
Which Version Should You Play?
When it comes to the overall winner between Persona 5 vs. Persona 5 Royal, there is only one true answer. Persona 5 Royal is by far the better game on almost every single front.
The gameplay is pretty much the same, the characters are better than ever with new additions, the new content is impressive, and the story in the third semester is some of the best in the series.
Persona 5 was a near-masterpiece that was just a little bit incomplete-feeling in a way. Royal took that and doubled down, creating a true masterpiece JRPG. It isn’t just the best game in the series but one of the best games ever made. It is somewhat challenging for Persona 5 to take that down.
If you have to pick one to play, always go with Persona 5 Royal since it offers everything the main game had and so much more if you want to enjoy that, too. Plus, it is available on all modern consoles and PCs, letting you explore Tokyo on your computer, on the go with Switch, or even for “free” through Xbox Game Pass.
If for some reason, the overwhelming amount of content in Persona 5 and its Royal expanded version isn’t enough for you, there are still some other games to check out. Here are some of the best alternatives that you’ll find out there for Persona 5 and Royal, including one game that I genuinely think is possibly better than both.
Persona 3 and 4
This might be a no-brainer for some fans, but if you haven’t played Persona 3 and 4, this is your time to do it. I know that a lot of players got into the Persona series for the first time with 5, so it is high time that you go back and check out the games that brought it to this place.
Don’t expect such smooth gameplay or as much content to do in these games, but they are still some of the best JRPGs ever made. If you like the darker parts of 5 and the characters, check out 3, which has the best story, twists, and atmosphere out of any of the games.
If you prefer the lighter side of things, check out the relaxing and peaceful 4. It has possibly the best soundtrack in the series and a tight-knit set of characters that feel like family in this small-town environment. I prefer 3 over 4, but you should check out both since they are fantastic games.
Soul Hackers 2
Soul Hackers 2 may be part of the parent Shin Megami Tensei series from Atlus, but the Persona influences are all there. It might as well be a spin-off Persona game at this point. Taking place in the near future, this is a cyberpunk Persona game essentially.
You explore many of the same parts of Tokyo with a cast of characters who can wield Personas or demons, in this case. They are outcasts trying to save the world while completing plenty of side quests and fusing together plenty of monsters to join the party.
The combat is almost entirely the same, except for eliminating the press turn system in favor of more damage. While I’m not too fond of this change, it is almost entirely the same as Persona 5’s gameplay and a nice alternative while we wait for the inevitable Persona 6.
SMT IV: Apocalypse
Also from Atlus is Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. The mainline SMT series tries to differentiate itself from Persona, focusing more on the demons and story rather than the characters. However, Apocalypse is the exception, being a character-driven adventure that is my favorite in the series.
The characters are some of the best, with some surprising twists and rich development that have them rivaling the main cast in even Persona 5 Royal. Plus, like Persona 5 Royal, even the English dub is one of the finest I’ve heard for a Japanese-developed game.
That is all while keeping some of the franchise tropes like fusing together demons, exploring dungeons, and all of that. If you want to see the core SMT series in action, this is the portable game to do it with.
Fire Emblem Three Houses
Fire Emblem Three Houses is by far the most different game on this list from the gameplay and style of Persona 5 Royal, but there are some shocking similarities. It is turn-based, sure, but it is more of a tactical RPG in the sense of moving troops around a grid-based system.
Despite this significant gameplay shift, Fire Emblem Three Houses seems to take a lot of inspiration from the Persona series. You are a teacher at school and can spend some of your days however you like, fishing and spending time with your students or even teaching classes.
These all feel like the school life moments from the Persona series but twisted in a way to work in the medieval Fire Emblem universe. These gameplay loops helped to grab me in a way that no other Fire Emblem game has, all the while giving a dark story about former classmates murdering one another on the battlefield.
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Pokemon will always be compared to Persona and SMT due to both being about collecting monsters and battling them in turn-based settings. However, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet finally feels like the games that were truly modeled after the Persona series.
The core of the franchise is here with collecting new Pokemon in a new open-world environment, but you are a student at school. You can attend class, build relationships with teachers, and do everything you expect from Persona.
These mechanics are some of the most surprising parts of Scarlet & Violet. They give off such a Persona feel, even with the undertones of possible romance you can have with your teachers, even if there are no traditional Confidant ranks.
It feels like these two games are laying the groundwork for future Pokemon titles with even deeper Persona-style gimmicks.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Series
The Legend of Heroes franchise is so underrated, and I recommend every series here. However, for Persona fans in particular, the Trails of Cold Steel series is terrific. It has trappings of the Persona series, like going to school, turn-based battles, having relationships with friends, and all that.
But the best game in the series is Trails of Cold Steel III, which is even better to me than Persona 5 Royal. It is one of my top three favorite games of all time and a masterpiece that every Persona fan should experience.
The success of this game comes from the characters, story, gameplay, and locations you visit. Similar to Persona 5, its cast is the heart of the game and has some of the best characters.
Plus, it manages to balance its cast with the overall plot to offer one of the most complex and politically-driven stories I’ve ever seen. This is all while providing superbly strategic gameplay like Persona 5 in some of the best cities in gaming.
Question: Is Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal Better?
Answer: Persona 5 Royal is the better game, hands down, with more content, new characters, a better story, and so much more. There is almost no reason to play the original Persona 5 unless you have no other option.
Question: Is Persona 5 Royal a Remake of Persona 5?
Answer: Persona 5 Royal isn’t necessarily a remake of Persona 5. It’s more like the true, completed version of it. The graphics are only slightly enhanced in Royal. However, your save file from one game doesn’t carry over to the other, even on the same platform.
Question: Is Persona 5 Worth Playing Over Royal?
Answer: No, Persona 5 isn’t worth playing over Royal. Your save doesn’t carry over, and you miss out on all of the changes and new content that Royal has.
More Games to Check Out if You Like Persona 5
At the end of the day, Persona 5 Royal is the best game for you. There is no reason for you to pick up Persona 5 unless you only have a PS3 for some reason.
Or, alternatively, you have PlayStation Plus and got Persona 5 for free, so you don’t want to spend unnecessary cash on buying Royal, too. That is understandable, but Royal is much better overall in terms of the expanded storyline, new characters, and third-semester content.
But when you are finally done with this massive JRPG, no matter which version you decide to play, there are other games to play. Find out more about Persona 3 and Persona 4 from us, as these are games every Persona 5 fan should check out.
While they may not have the quality-of-life features and graphics of the more recent Persona title, they are still some of the greatest ever made. And they are, thankfully, available on most modern platforms these days for you to play.
- Persona 5 Manga Guide: Where to Find All Persona 5 Manga - April 2, 2023
- Persona Tarot Cards Guide: Where and How to Buy Persona-Themed Tarot Cards - April 2, 2023
- Ishtar Persona 5 Guide: How to Unlock Ishtar in Persona 5 - March 29, 2023