I had Googled this very topic when I wanted to pick up a new Atelier. I was not satisfied with the answer.
Just tell me, I thought.
I don’t want a long list of each game with the pros and cons. I don’t want to read an article that will make me more confused.
So, in this article, I cut to the chase and tell you exactly which Atelier title to start with.
No ambiguity, no “if you’re a beginner,” or whatever. I assume you want one thing: the definitive Atelier experience. I feel like I’ve played enough Atelier games to have an opinion.
Here’s the short answer to “which Atelier game to start with”:
It doesn’t matter what Atelier game you start with. You play one Atelier game; you play them all.
But, if you were to start somewhere, I recommend the latest Atelier game to date, Atelier Ryza 3 (released March 2023).
Why Atelier Ryza 3?
Atelier Ryza 3 offers the latest that Gust has to offer: detailed character designs, cinematic cut-scenes, the latest RPG and synthesis mechanics, and a classic Atelier storyline.
This Atelier game encapsulates everything that is in the Atelier series and adds to it. Because Gust comes out with a game a year, you are now in the series moving forward rather than backward.
Atelier games have a formula. They are feel-good titles with serviceable stories around mastering your craft as an alchemist. Synthesis is where the game really shines, and each game has its own slightly-altered synthesis system.
Here’s a list of reasons why someone might want to buy Atelier Ryza 3 (or any Atelier):
- Engaging storyline with well-developed characters.
- Stunning visuals and an immersive world.
- Intricate crafting system that allows for creating unique items and weapons.
- Vast open world filled with challenging quests and enemies to defeat.
- Hours of exciting gameplay.
- Continues the story and expands upon the world and its characters for fans of the Atelier Ryza series.
- A must-play game for fans of the RPG genre, offering a rich and rewarding experience.
But truly — Atelier games are mostly all the same and the Atelier series is good.
Does it Matter If I Play an Atelier Sequel First?
It must be said: it doesn’t matter if you play an Atelier sequel first. You absolutely don’t need to play the first Atelier in one of their many trilogies.
Every game is self-contained with an all-new adventure.
The Atelier trilogies are grouped by theme and recurring character — not by typically an overarching story. There are events that happened prior, but the Atelier series gives background and is designed to allow you to play any game.
But while it’s not strictly necessary to have played the first two Atelier Ryza games to enjoy Atelier Ryza 3, it may enhance your understanding of the world and the characters.
Atelier Ryza 3 continues the story of Ryza and her friends, but the game does provide some context and background information for newcomers. However, playing the first two games will give you a deeper appreciation of the characters and their journeys. Additionally, the crafting system and gameplay mechanics have been refined and improved upon in each installment, so playing the previous games may also help you understand and appreciate the evolution of the series.
Why Play the Latest Game in the Series?
There’s a simple reason you should pick up the latest game in an Atelier series rather than going back to earlier titles:
Getting the latest game means that you are the most up-to-date on what the series has to offer.
Gust is continually innovating and improving their games from the same engine. The latest game, therefore, gives you the most definitive Atelier game to date. It sets the stage for games going forward.
Playing the latest Atelier game makes you the most informed on the series since you don’t have to painstakingly witness the innovations made over time.
What Order Should I Play the Games In?
Truly, if you play one Atelier game, you have played them all. But the Atelier games are forever improving graphically. Because a game comes out once a year, you will fall quickly behind if you decide to backtrack.
It’s also important to consider: each game takes dozens of hours to complete. It’s understandable that you don’t have time for a whole trilogy, so you do not have to think that far.
If it stresses you out to think you must play Ryza 1 and 2 to get to 3, just play the third game.
What’s the Oldest Game I Should Play?
Because of all of the ports to the Switch, you can go all the way back to Atelier Rorona from 2009. Atelier Rorona just recently had a 2019 sequel, Atelier Lulua, where Lulua is the daughter of Rorona.
If the Atelier bug bites, you can play every game going back to the PlayStation 3 era. However, I still recommend starting with newer titles.
If you want to go really old-school, you can find used games of Atelier Iris for the PlayStation 2, which goes back to where it all began. These are very different games.
Atelier Iris is a sub-series of the Atelier games that was released for the PlayStation 2 in the mid-2000s. Compared to modern Atelier games, Atelier Iris features a more traditional turn-based battle system, where players control a party of characters and take turns attacking enemies. The game also has a more linear storyline and a smaller world to explore than the newer Atelier games.
In contrast, modern Atelier games feature a more action-oriented battle system, where players can move their characters in real-time and dodge attacks. The games also have a more open-world structure, with a larger emphasis on exploration and gathering materials for crafting.
However, Atelier Iris does share some similarities with modern Atelier games, such as the emphasis on alchemy and crafting, and the use of time management mechanics to balance exploration, gathering, and battle. The Atelier Iris series also features a charming cast of characters, and a strong focus on character development and relationships, which is a hallmark of the entire Atelier franchise.
Overall, while Atelier Iris may feel more dated compared to the newer Atelier games, it still offers a fun and engaging RPG experience, and fans of the series may enjoy revisiting this classic entry in the Atelier franchise.
Are There Any Bad Atelier Games?
I have loved every Atelier game I’ve played, but most of all, I admire how the series continues to grow and get better with each release.
While Atelier games have generally received positive reviews from critics, there have been a few entries in the series that received mixed reviews.
For example, Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, which was released in 2006, received mixed reviews for its storyline and gameplay mechanics. Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, released in 2009, also received mixed reviews due to its time management system and the high difficulty level of its bosses. Atelier Firis pushed the limits of its console, creating bugginess in its more open-world format.
However, it’s worth noting that even the Atelier games that received more mixed reviews still have their fans (I’m particularly a fan of Firis) and are generally considered to be solid RPGs with charming characters and enjoyable gameplay mechanics. As with any game, it’s ultimately up to personal preference whether or not a particular Atelier game is enjoyable or not.
If You’re Still Undecided, Join a Stream
If you still don’t know what Atelier game to start with, you don’t have to commit (or part with your hard-earned money). You can simply enjoy a free stream so that you can get the feel for these games.
I invite you to jump into one of my streams on YouTube. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about the series. My streams are JRPG focused and are all about cultivating a late-night talk vibe.