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 Sophie 2 (released February 2022).
Why Atelier Sophie 2?
Atelier Sophie 2 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.
Atelier Sophie 2 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.
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 Sophie or even the first in any given trilogy.
Every game is self-contained with an all-new adventure.
The Atelier trilogies are grouped by theme and recurring character — not by an overarching story. There may have been events that happened prior, but those events bring little concern to the current game.
To test this very premise, I am streaming Atelier Sophie 2 on Twitch. I had no problem introducing this title to a brand-new audience. I played Atelier Sophie so long ago, in 2015, that I hardly recalled the previous events.
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?
If you play Atelier Sophie 2 and you like the characters, then you can go back to Atelier Sophie. But as far as ‘Mysterious Trilogy’ goes, where Atelier Sophie is the first game of the trilogy, the games are so loosely connected that you get little-to-no benefit traversing the sub-series.
Instead, this is the order I recommend:
First, play Atelier Sophie 2 (2022)
If you liked Atelier Sophie 2 for its characters and its grid synthesis system, play Atelier Sophie (2015)
If you liked Atelier Sophie 2 for its more modern polish, simply go back to the next-latest title, Atelier Ryza 2
Note: Atelier Ryza (2020) and Atelier Ryza 2 (2021) come out in such close sequence (unlike Sophie) that it makes sense to play Atelier Ryza and then Atelier Ryza 2 if you want.
In other words, I recommend that you play the latest game you haven’t played yet. So start with Atelier Sophie 2, and then play Atelier Ryza 2, and then Atelier Ryza. All of the games are solid titles and you won’t miss that you aren’t following a ‘trilogy’.
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.
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.
One game that got more criticism than others was Atelier Firis for its ambitious open-world exploration. Atelier Firis had my favorite story and characters than any Atelier series game, but Atelier Firis takes a departure and so might be the only more-recent title that is largely not recommended.
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. 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.