Danganronpa is a game series that I knew virtually nothing about. This was great when it came to actually playing the game (this is one of the major games I’ve played without any spoilers beforehand), but now I know that it was a huge mistake to pass up on this gem.
I love games like the Ace Attorney series (and “Paradise Killer”, another favourite, was supposedly heavily inspired by Danganronpa), and people who’ve played those games have always recommended Danganronpa as an almost “no-brainer” series to fall in love with – and my goodness have I fallen in love with the crazy premise and the overall charm.
All 3 games in the series – Trigger Happy Havoc, Goodbye Despair and Killing Harmony – were all fantastic in their own right (that’s probably the order I’d rank them in if I had to choose favourites), which is a rarity for a series of this prestige. Almost every case was exceptionally entertaining, so how would I rank them all?
You can check out some other similar lists below (including plenty of Ace Attorney rankings):
18 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 5
I think the first thing that I have to bring up is that I found every single chapter in all 3 games to be at least somewhat enjoyable, and I had a varying degree of fun trying to solve each of the cases. Perhaps if I tried to re-play these games again and become more of a super-fan I would start to form some spicier opinions, but for now I’d say all of the chapters are at least playable.
That being said, there was definitely one case that was less enjoyable than the others. The investigation was absolutely top notch, and I thought the unidentifiable body reveal / explosion was completely left-field and enthralling, but it was the actual Class Trial itself that ruined this chapter.
First of all, this is probably the only case in any of the games where you don’t find the answers by the end of it, or at least some satisfying conclusions. We get little nuggets of information, but the case ends without any true developments or shocking twists.
On top of that, the good / bad ending part of this trial was very frustrating. You spend the whole game trying to uncover the harsh truths, and suddenly they expect us to lie about it in order to avoid the bad ending? It really annoyed me at the time of playing it, and it didn’t help that the execution was also one of the most underwhelming in the series.
17 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 1
In hindsight, I don’t think I gave this opening case its due diligence upon first playing it – we had to be introduced to the setting, tone, and 16 completely unique characters, as well as hooking us enough on the concept to keep playing.
This is definitely a good start to the game, and straight from the get go I was intrigued to see where this zany plot would go. I especially liked the unexpected victim of this case, and the execution of Leon is definitely one of my favourites.
I think what holds this chapter back is how easy / obvious it was – it really doesn’t take much brain-power to see “Leon” written upside-down, and once you uncover that mystery the rest of the intrigue is completely lost, and I just felt like a passenger mindlessly trudging my way through an easy tutorial.
16 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 2
If we don’t count the other two chapters (1-5 was a sort of intermediate case, and 1-1 was always going to be a simple tutorial), then this chapter is the one I dislike the most.
There are so many things that I rolled my eyes at when playing through this: the swimsuit / gravel murder weapon in the motive-game was far-fetched, the sword climbing twist was too unbelievable for me, and I thought the “serial killer” reveal was too predictable and ridiculous after the first game (even though this ended up being a diversion).
What I will give credit to this case for, however, is the unique and gripping concept. Having a videogame be both the murder motive and the tragic backstory of some of the main characters was an inspired creative decision, and that aspect of this chapter kept me hooked. Peko’s execution is also one of my favourites too, so this case earned its place in “Good” despite its flaws.
15 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 3
This case could have been truly fantastic, and had they ironed out a few of the creases, this would have easily been a top 10 chapter. I knew nothing about these games going in, so I was pleasantly surprised when case 3 ended up being a double murder once again – and the second body reveal is one of my favourite twists in the series. Also, the set-up with the suicide video was a great way to kickstart the case.
However, this is the case with the most fundamental flaws – especially when I think about it more in hindsight. There are so many, in fact, that I’ll need to list them out in bullet points:
- Hiyoko’s death is thrown under the rug quite a bit – she seems very secondary compared to Ibuki’s supposed suicide, and her murder weapon is never revealed.
- There’s a legitimate plot-hole with Mikan and the second body, as it wouldn’t be feasibly possible for her to tear down the sheet covering Hiyoko and then meet the gang at the hotel.
- The “Despair Disease” is a very convenient plot point that disappears instantly, and it feels cheap. Also, why did Hajime never contract it?
- Mikan’s execution is the worst in the series, and the implications of sexual assault are borderline offensive.
Quite a laundry list of problems, so I’m not surprised this is most people’s least favourite case. I still had a decent time with it, though, so I didn’t place it in last place.
14 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 1
After the cliff-hanger ending of Trigger Happy Havoc, I was excited to see where the story would go – what I wasn’t expecting was a hard reset, but I think that was actually the best thing the developers could have done.
This is quite standard as first cases go, apart from the crazy choice to have Byakuya (or at least an imposter) as the first victim. This was both an insanely enthralling plot twist, as well as being incredibly frustrating, as I knew that a lot of the answers from the first game would have to wait.
I also really liked what they did with Nagito here; I could tell something was up (I thought he might have even been the killer at first), but I had no idea how crazy this freak would become – his plan literally involved killing Hajime as far as I could tell! This sort of loose-cannon character made the entirety of “Goodbye Despair” an uneasy yet intriguing playthrough, and that bat-shit crazy dynamic worked really well in this case.
What I would say is that the actual murder itself was a little … undercooked (pun very much intended). The whole set-up with the murder – especially the logic leap of using the portable stove as a light – felt too far fetched, and Teruteru was an annoying culprit up until his tragic backstory was revealed. A decent start to the game, but I wanted a little bit more.
13 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 3
When I was doing a bit of research for this list, I found that almost every Danganronpa fan loathes the case 3’s (a bit like the case 3 curse from Ace Attorney). I can see why the Goodbye Despair double murder is bad to some people, but why does this one get so much hate?!? Sure, it’s not exactly perfect, but I still had a great time with it!
Let’s get the ridiculous out of the way first – it’s become a sort of legend within the Danganronpa community, but the “see-saw” effect murder method is admittedly a little ridiculous (but not the craziest murder method we’ve seen). The other silly aspect is the spinning gold sword technique that the killer uses to lock Angie’s room (also, her murder isn’t really touched on that much).
I think the reason most people actually hate this chapter so much is the wasted potential, and I think I’d have to agree. The idea is floated early on that there could be 2 murderers, and only the first would be punished. This was a fantastic concept, and it would have shaken up the case 3 double murder formula in an excellent way, but alas they went with the easy route and had Korekiyo be the killer for both. How crazy would it have been to have a certified murderer in our midst moving forwards!
There’s still a lot of good in this case, though – the second murder with the “Caged Child” ritual was chilling and mysterious, Kokichi’s fake-out death was hilarious and actually made me shout “you f*cker!” out loud while playing, and Korekiyo might just be the most perverted, horrific killer of the bunch.
One thing I will say about V3 is that it’s remarkably consistent; this case is my least favourite, and yet I still had a good time with it, which is better than my least favourite cases from the other games. Even though every case here is at least “Good”, it’s still my least favourite game for some reason. Is it the anticlimactic finale that ruined it? I’m not too sure, but I still had a blast while playing through it all.
12 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 2
Going straight from a case that fans loathe to a bona fide fan favourite, I can’t really see why people rank this chapter so high.
It does have a lot of individually great moments in fairness, from the awesome body reveal to the agonisingly brilliant execution. The body reveal in particular is one of the highlights of this game, and seeing Ryoma’s lifeless body being torn apart by some piranha’s was both horrendous and enthralling – even though I was devastated to see the character bow out so early. (Also, the reveal that Ryoma’s motive video was blank since there was nobody in his life was gut-wrenching, and made his untimely devise so much more painful).
There are, however, a few things that keep this case from being in the “Great” tier, and most of them have to do with the culprit herself. Kirumi wasn’t the most interesting killer of the bunch, and her method of using a ropeway to transport the body seemed a little to ridiculous to be feasible. Also, the twist reveal that she was actually the president was completely laughable, and ruined any sort of dramatic tension that the trial or her execution had.
This was still a really good case though, and it just goes to show how consistent V3 was with its storytelling.
11 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 3
I’ll never forget my experience playing this case – I’m a big Ace Attorney fan, and the murders there can be ridiculous yet still mostly conventional, so when the second body was revealed I practically soiled myself with excitement.
This is definitely the best double murder / case 3 of the bunch, and I really liked all of the twists along the way. Having Celeste and Hifumi actually be associates before Celeste’s betrayal was a pretty cool twist, and the red herrings with Hiro were lots of fun.
What I will say about this case is that the killer was a little odd – I knew pretty much straight away that Celeste was the killer (it made sense logistically and logically), and her motive is paper thin; she’s going to use the money to have a castle with vampire servants or some shit like that? I can’t remember exactly, but this was definitely one of the weakest motives / killers in all of Danganronpa.
10 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 4
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the premise of this chapter at first – sure, the virtual gimmick is a decent idea on paper, but it was just more frustrating than fun to navigate the virtual world. Credit where credit is due, the game developers managed to get the most out of this insane premise, and we ended up getting one of the most memorable cases in the series.
I think what a lot of people remember from this case is the tragic culprit; Gonta is such a pure soul through and through, and it took a very specific set of circumstances to get him disorientated enough to murder someone. This twist caught me completely off-guard, and it ended this chapter on a very sombre note.
My favourite aspect of this case, however, has to be Kokichi. He acts as the sort of Nagito-esque loose cannon throughout the entirety of V3, and I love the dynamic that his unpredictable actions add to the pot. His malevolence and shit-housery come to a head in this case, and he ends up being directly responsible for the murder. Having a known psychopath in our midst worked wonders for Goodbye Despair, and it made the second half of V3 a scintillating experience.
9 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 4
A trend that I’ve noticed across all of the Danganronpa games is that chapter 4 and 5 end up breaking the traditional murder mystery / detective visual novel rules, and provided us with easily some of the best cases as a result. This trend started with chapter 4 of the first game, and Sakura’s suicide caught me completely by surprise.
I love how the writing makes it seem like suicide is completely out of the question from the get go, as we already have three culprits that could have feasibly killed her, and some of them even think they did actually kill her. This locked room mystery was only ever going to end one way, though, and the sombre reveal of the truth and Sakura’s backstory spurred me and the classmates on in our fight against Monokuma.
8 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 2
After Chapter 1 of Trigger Happy Havoc, I was completely content with continuing my pursuit of the truth and uncovering all of the mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy. I wasn’t exactly gripped yet, though, until this bombshell of a case came knocking at the door.
This was a huge step up from Chapter 1 in every single aspect – the crime scenes and investigations were much more interesting, there was a genuine mystery and distrust within the group of characters, and the murder itself was far more horrific and grizzly than in the first case.
I think the main hook of this chapter is the endless supply of awesome twists: Chiriho actually being a boy came out of nowhere, Mondo being the killer was also a left-field twist, Toko’s split personality as Genocide Jill instantly turned her into a more memorable character, and Byakuya’s tampering of the crime scene was the sort of loose cannon shit-housery that became the blueprint for Nagito and Kokichi in later games.
When this case finished, I was hooked. I fell in love with the premise, the setting, the characters, just how insane the whole thing was, and I was desperate to keep playing 24/7 after this.
7 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 6
The crazy stakes are always ramped up to eleven in Danganronpa finales, and V3’s final case was no exception. So much happens in this case that I have to put it in “Great”, but I do have some gripes with it.
This is nowhere near the satisfying conclusion that the other games have – the initial investigation was probably the most interesting of the bunch, in all fairness, but the class trial and final twists left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
First things first, I never felt like I had a mystery to solve during this case; I always felt that the answers and plot were being force-fed at breakneck pace, and while this did feel amazing at the time, in hindsight I feel that this chapter didn’t really have any substance other than the final twist.
Speaking of the final twist, I’m not 100% sure I’m on board with what the developers were going for. Having the whole thing just be a fourth wall breaking TV show leads to some interesting implications, and a lot of the events in previous games start to make more sense, but it cheapened my entire experience with V3. It was one of those twists that made me think, “Did any of this even matter?”, and a game that makes me think that must have done something very wrong.
Still, this was a great experience overall, but it did feel a little bit anticlimactic in hindsight, and V3 is probably my least favourite game as a result of this chapter alone.
N.B. There is a theory that says this TV show twist was an elaborate lie, but it still cheapened my experience of playing this game.
6 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 1
Danganronpa opening cases felt a little bland to me. 1-1 is way too tutorial-y for my liking, and 2-1 was a mildly frustrating case on some levels, so when 3-1 rolled around I didn’t get my hopes up. It turns out the developers had me exactly where they wanted me.
This chapter starts off ordinarily enough (at least, school killing games are ordinary for this series), and Rantaro’s murder was instantly intriguing. This was the second time in a row that the devs have killed off the most mysterious character straight away, a trend I was very surprised they repeated, so I knew they had to knock it out the park if they were going to justify it again.
Most Danganronpa fans remember this case for one thing – the insane twist, and rightly so. This is one of, if not THE most balls-to-the-wall, awesome twist in the franchise, and I was genuinely stunned when it was revealed that Kaede, the girl we had been playing as for this chapter, was actually the killer(*cough* Chapter 6 *cough*). The sheer shock of this plot development makes it one of the best cases ever, and this was one of my favourite gaming experiences of the past few years.
5 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 4
It’s kinda weird how 2-3 is a stinker (most people would say that anyway), and all of a sudden it gets followed up and outshone by 2-4, which is considered one of the best chapters in the series.
The thing that sticks out straight away is the change of setting; Grape / Strawberry House was an awesome concept, and it was really cool having to uncover the mystery of the house itself. There’s also the fun Nagito escape room section, which made for a nice change of pace.
I think it’s the trial itself that is the reason for all of the plaudits and esteem, as it’s one of the strongest in the series. The murder of Nekomaru is already a nice setup, and having to solve the mystery of the murder / super death room / setting all at the same time makes for one of the most bat-shit crazy trials I’ve played.
Points deducted for making me re-evaluate the definition of an octagon, and making me re-think my entire life choices and purpose in this universe as a result.
4 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 5
From one fan favourite to another, I’m almost certain that this chapter is THE definitive chapter to most Danganronpa fans, and there’s a laundry list of reasons as to why.
This case has hands down the best body reveal, best execution, and the best plan by a killer. Nagito’s suicide is so meticulously crafted and fiendishly brilliant that I had to just stop and appreciate how ballsy this freak of nature was, and after chapter 6’s revelations I can completely understand his motives. He wanted to kill everyone other than Chiaki, and even though it didn’t work in the end I whole-heartedly commend his valiant effort.
His plan wasn’t without a couple of faults, though, and I felt that some of the logic leaps during the class trial were a little hard to follow (like, how was I supposed to figure out the knife was inside the teddy bear?!?).
All things considered, this is undoubtedly a highlight of the entire series, and I have to applaud the devs for making such a sensationally uncomfortable and jaw-dropping experience.
3 – Killing Harmony: Chapter 5
If we exclude the final chapters (since I do have a bit of a bias towards a show-stopping finale), this was my favourite of the “standard” cases. Everything about this was so pitch perfect, and the way they handled the developments and the twists couldn’t have been done any better.
First of all, this is the only case where the victim is unknown – I thought they would have to drop the façade at some point, but having Kokichi / Kaito in an Exisal to obscure their identities was a genius move, and it made the entire chapter ten times more interesting.
The individual character moments are also exemplary throughout this bombshell of a case: Kokichi gets a sort of redemption with a genius plan that rivalled Nagito’s, the distrust in the group (especially with Mai) never felt more palpable, and Kaito is just the best bro that a guy could ask for.
Now, speaking of Kaito – I was like 90% sure he was the mastermind all the way up this this chapter. Every action and inspirational quote he gave made me think the developers were going to pull the rug out, so I was on guard for the entire game. When it’s revealed that he was just being a complete bro the whole time, I felt soooo bad for ever doubting him – but I suppose that is the magic of the Danganronpa games.
2 – Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 6
It’s hard to sum up in words just how profound this final case had an impact on me – it contained my favourite plot developments and twists in the entire series, and it bookended the first game so brilliantly that I can’t help but look back fondly on the whole experience; because of this, Trigger Happy Havoc is probably my favourite game of the bunch from this case alone.
The writing is stellar from start to finish, and the devs did such an awesome job of tying up loose ends whilst still providing an immensely satisfying conclusion to the overarching story. The Junko reveal in particular is the stuff dreams are made of, and I loved how it was teased throughout the whole game so that it was theoretically possible to figure it out from chapter 1.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to write such a complete, unequivocally epic conclusion to a game like this, and for that the devs deserve all of the respect and good fortune that has come their way since.
1 – Goodbye Despair: Chapter 6
This finale felt almost like cheating, it was just that good.
We got this huge Infinity War level crossover that came out of nowhere, and the pure elation of seeing my favourite characters from the first game return was definitely my favourite moment of the series – it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
There are a couple of minor gripes; Junko coming back felt a little silly, and I wish they had come up with an original villain, but it was arguably a better Junko than what we had seen before. Also, the Super-Saiyan Hajime at the end was a bit too anime and ridiculous for my liking, but I can’t deny how awesome the spectacle was.
Even through all of its misfires, this case just boils down to one word – epic. The twists and reveals are sensational, the characters (and even voice acting this time!) were top notch, and it was exactly the satisfying conclusion I was looking for. This is where Danganronpa peaked, and I don’t think we’ll ever get to this level of epicness again.
Aaaaaand that’s my list. I really enjoyed this one, and I’m sure I’ll do some more Danganronpa lists in the future! Until then, you should check out my latest blog posts:
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