Which Danganronpa Game Is The Best?

I’ve made plenty of Danganronpa rankings on my blog, and I’ve also done a few game reviews recently as well. You would think, then, that it would make sense to review each of the three Danganronpa games – but you’d be wrong! I’m going to review all three at once!

I’ll be rating each of the three games (Trigger Happy Havoc, Goodbye Despair, and V3: Killing Harmony) in various categories out of ten, and explaining my reasoning for each one. Once I’ve given each of them a score, I can work out which Danganronpa title truly reigns supreme.

Just as a disclaimer – if a score seems low or high to what you’d expect, that’s probably because I’m rating it in comparison to the other Danganronpa games, and a little on other detective / mystery games I’ve played as well. Also, SPOILERS … more than you could possibly imagine.

If you want, you can check out some of my other Danganronpa-related lists:

Plot

BEST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [10]

One of the best plots to a mystery game I’ve ever played, I was instantly hooked by the premise of the school killing game. I knew nothing about the Danganronpa series going into it, and that ended up being a great thing – all of the twists and turns were completely fresh to me, and I enjoyed every moment.

Trigger Happy Havoc’s story is quite underrated compared to its sequels, as I think it tells the most concise, intense tale of the lot. Since I knew absolutely nothing, all of the teases and twists along the way blew my mind, and it all concluded in the most satisfying way possible.

RUNNER-UP: GOODBYE DESPAIR [9]

An almost faultless plot, much like Trigger Happy Havoc, but Goodbye Despair misses out on the perfect ten score simply because it’s a direct sequel, and it rehashes most of the same ideas from the original.

The developers still don’t really tell you what’s going on, instead opting to tease and drop hints much like the first game, and that annoyed me at first. It was frustrating to have nearly none of the mysteries from the first game resolved, but as I eased into the new plot I fell in love much as I did with Trigger Happy Havoc.

If anything, there’s an argument to be made that Goodbye Despair’s plot is even more bonkers and unpredictable than the original – and that’s saying something.

WORST: KILLING HARMONY [7]

More of the same, which is fine as that’s all I could have wanted when I first started playing “Killing Harmony”.

Amazingly, the plot is just as twisty and zany as the previous two games, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time (which is partly why I love this series so much).

Unfortunately, it ultimately fails to stick the landing, and in the process it managed to be even more vague than its predecessors. I’m all for some vague, mysterious storytelling, but Killing Harmony overdoes it massively.

Characters / Cast

BEST: GOODBYE DESPAIR [9]

This category is one of the most contentious of the lot, and I had to think long and hard to decide who my favourite cast of characters were. After a lot of deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that Goodbye Despair had the best cast of killing game participants – an opinion I probably share with most fans in fairness.

Besides Teruteru (and maybe Hiyoko), I either tolerate or really like every character. The developers knew what they were doing when they made the sequel, and ironed out any off-putting character traits for a more rounded group (again, apart from Teruteru … what a weird little man).

RUNNER-UP: KILLING HARMONY [8]

Surprisingly, I actually think Killing Harmony had a better cast than the original. While it may not have the stand-out players of the first cast, I think V3 is more consistent across the board.

They’re not all zingers, and characters like Angie and Tenko really got on my nerves from time to time, but this cast might just have the most heart of them all. The three-way friendship of Shuichi / Maki / Kaito was so much fun, and other characters like Kokicki added just enough tension to the group so that they all had moments to shine.

I almost docked Killing Harmony down a few points because of the Monokubs, but I don’t think they really count as part of the cast of core characters, so I’ll let it slide. I still shudder just thinking about them though.

WORST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [7]

Blasphemy! The cast that started it all! How could I possibly put Makoto, Kyoko and Byakuya at the bottom?

Well, other than those main three there aren’t many key individuals that left an impression on me. The other survivors are all quite annoying (and arguably undeserving to live … but that’s a hot take for another day) so it was a shame we were stuck with them for the whole runtime.

Unfortunately, there’s a laundry list of other characters I don’t particularly care for – Leon was forgettable, Taka was a bit OTT, and Hifumi was the worst character in the series. If it wasn’t for the three great characters, and Byakuya being the best character of them all, Trigger Happy Havoc would have been rated even lower (and the series probably wouldn’t have taken off like it did).

Cases

Just for a bit of clarification – I’m talking about the general setups to the murder cases, not the actual resolution / trial parts. They have their own category, so I’m just looking at how the writers got me hooked in each chapter.

BEST: KILLING HARMONY [10]

A perfect ten! You might think that’s a bit rash, and that Killing Harmony is far from a perfect game, and you’d be right – I’m only looking at how the writers set up each mystery, and V3 had some of the best intrigue of any detective game I’ve ever played.

Every case – and I mean EVERY case – is set up sublimely, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to work out how the killer could have possibly gotten away with it. Murder at a magic show, a mysterious virtual world, a corpse crushed beyond recognition, the possibility of a resurrected killer running amok … I was so hyped for the class trials every time – even if they didn’t quite pan out the way I expected in the end.

RUNNER-UP: GOODBYE DESPAIR [9]

Goodbye Despair is considered the gold standard of the series for good reason – it ups the ante with every subsequent murder, and some of the setups are godly.

The cast being whisked away to the Funhouse, Nagito going absolutely berserk, and even another double murder to keep me on my toes; much like with V3, I was hooked with almost every case.

If anything, the start of the game is a little slow, with the first two cases being a simple murder in a gathering and a strange videogame motive that I was a little confused about at the time. Not bad setups at all, but not on the same level as Killing Harmony.

WORST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [7]

The benefit of hindsight is what lets Trigger Happy Havoc down, as nearly every setup pales in comparison to the insanity of the later games.

I think the only setups that really got me going were Chapter 3 (as it was the first double murder), Chapter 5 (as the chaos surrounding it was phenomenal) and to a lesser extent Chapter 2 (as the killing was so brutal).

Even so, other than Chapter 5 it felt like the writers were holding back a bit. It’s good for the theme of the game, as the whole killing game seems more grounded with the more gritty, realistic crimes, but they aren’t as fun to replay as a result.

Trials

Again, just to clarify – I’ll just be looking at the payoffs to each murder case in this category, and how the trial managed to resolve everything. You may think they’re one and the same, but they’re actually very different things.

BEST: GOODBYE DESPAIR [9]

Not only does Goodbye Despair set the mysteries up brilliantly, it also has the best payoffs of the bunch – which is why it may just be my favourite game in the series.

Every trial has so many twists and turns that my mind was boggled every time (apart from Chapter 3 maybe, but it was still a fun trial to play). Some of my favourite Danganronpa memories stem from events that transpired during this game’s trials, like Nagito’s suicide in Chapter 5 and the mystery of the funhouse in Chapter 4. If it wasn’t for Chapter 3 being so underdeveloped, this would have been a perfect ten.

RUNNER-UP: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [8]

While the original game might not have the best setups to the crimes, the way it pays off is pretty legendary, and part of the reason I love these games so much.

Straight from the get-go (excluding the mind-numbing first tutorial trial), there are so many trademark twists and shocking revelations that turned Danganronpa into the powerhouse series it still is today, and more often than not my mind was blown in each trial.

Unfortunately, since Chapter 1 is the worst trial of them all, I have to dock some serious points. I’m also on the fence as to whether Chapter 5 was a good “trial” even though it was an intriguing chapter, so those two issues combined knock Trigger Happy Havoc down into second place.

WORST: KILLING HARMONY [6]

Killing Harmony had the best setups to the cases, yet also the worst payoffs. That’s part of the reason why I consider it to be the “worst” in the series, as I feel they don’t quite stick the landing with a few of the cases.

Chapters 1, 4 and 5 have some of my favourite Danganronpa trials ever, but 2, 3 and 6 were lacking (you might not count Chapter 6 as a proper class trial, but I do.). Either the culprits were weak, or the cases didn’t unfold the way I wanted them to, but in 3 out of 6 trials I was mildly disappointed.

Luckily, the other chapters are so great that it stops Killing Harmony from being a complete dud. Chapter 1’s revelation of the killer is jaw-dropping, the whole mystery of what transpired in the virtual world in Chapter 4 is great, and Chapter 5 may just be my favourite trial in the whole series. Half of the trials were sub-par, though, so I can’t rate Killing Harmony higher than 6/10.

Gameplay

BEST: KILLING HARMONY [8]

I mean … you’d hope that the most recent game in the series would have the most refined gameplay, and luckily that’s exactly what happened.

The exploration of the academy is the best it’s ever been, and I really liked how each chapter unlocked a new segment of the existing area rather than a new floor entirely.

Also, the trial gimmicks are at their best in V3, from the Improved Hangman’s Gambit and Logic Dive to the new additions like the Debate Scrum and multiple testimonies at once.

This is Danganronpa, though, and it’s far from the best gameplay I’ve ever played in a mystery / detective game – that’s not why I play this series, though, so I don’t mind it.

RUNNER-UP: GOODBYE DESPAIR [7]

Again, you’d expect the sequel to build off of what made the original so great, and Goodbye Despair manages to iron out most of the issues I had with the original’s gameplay.

For starters, the island setting is a lot more inviting and refreshing than the cramped school, but it’s a shame the first-person exploration isn’t utilised more often.

The trial gimmicks are a lot better this time around, and Logic Dive is a personal favourite of mine. Hangman’s Gambit is still a little iffy, and the sword rebuttal thingy is a little counterintuitive at first, but you can tell a lot more polish went into it.

WORST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [6]

As much as I loved the first game in the series, I’ll be the first to admit that the gameplay was a little clunky sometimes – and that got even worse after I played the sequels and realised just how unpolished this was.

The exploration is cool, but it’s very surface-level. Hope’s Peak Academy isn’t that interesting, and the amount of back-tracking and searching you have to do during investigations and free-time events can be quite annoying.

The trials also have some fun gimmicks, but they aren’t great. Hangman’s Gambit is at its worst, and everything else is so forgettable that I can’t even remember them.

I do have to give props to the original for introducing the format that we’d expect in the rest of the series, and shooting truth bullets are just as satisfying here as they’d ever be. The Closing Arguments are also good right out of the gate – one of the only trial gimmicks that I can still tolerate in retrospect.

Culprits

This segment is all about the people who did the deed, and a little bit about their motivations as well. I’ll be looking at whether they made a big impact on the story, how shocking the reveal was, and why they did it in the first place.

BEST: KILLING HARMONY [8]

This section was one of the trickiest ones to rank, but I reckon Killing Harmony handles its culprits the best. The developers have learned what makes a good culprit, from their motivations to the climactic reveal, and they’ve gotten really good at shocking us.

There isn’t a single “easy” case to solve, and while I certainly had my presumptions as to who the murderers were I could never be 100% certain. That’s Killing Harmony’s biggest strength as a whole, as I could never tell where the story and trial would end up.

While Kirumi and Korekiyo weren’t my favourite villains, they still did a good job of adding some tension and emotion to the trials. The other culprits, however – Kaede, Gonta and Kaito – were some of my favourite murderers in the series as their crimes were shocking yet understandable, and their trials were some of the best we’ve ever seen.

RUNNER-UP: GOODBYE DESPAIR [7]

As awesome as Goodbye Despair’s trials are, more often then not I wasn’t blown away by the culprit reveals. The first half of the game especially was a little underwhelming, with Teruteru, Peko and Mikan serving as obvious or outright strange culprit choices.

Goodbye Despair is a game that gets better as it goes on, though, and the same goes for its culprit reveals too. Chapter 4’s revelation that it was Gundham all along blew my socks off, and I’m still in shock at the events of Chapter 5 to this day.

WORST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [6]

It’s kinda funny in hindsight how underdeveloped all of the culprits are in the original game, and I think they’ve definitely gotten a lot better at giving a bit more gravity and emotional weight to the murderer reveal.

Leon and Celeste are two of the worst culprits ever, and Mondo is hardly an in-depth killer – I’m glad they’ve steered away from the “random outburst / crime of passion” murders for the rest of the series.

The final two culprits are pretty great though – Sakura’s suicide is moving, and the reveal that Junko was Chapter 5’s killer (and the mastermind, but I won’t count that reveal in this section) was mind-blowing to me.

Ending

BEST: GOODBYE DESPAIR [10]

Now THAT is how you bring it all together!

If the simulation twist ending wasn’t cool enough (and set up well, unlike a certain other twist ending in the series), having the famous trio return again filled me with more euphoria than I could describe.

There’s an argument to be made that it’s a little disappointing to have Junko back as the villain again, but the rest of the twists and turns in Chapter 6 more than made up for it. Goodbye Despair, out of all the games in the series, was the one I was saddest to see come to a close.

RUNNER-UP: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [9]

Sure, maybe you sussed out that Junko was the mastermind all along, but it absolutely blew my damn mind when the twist of Chapter 6 rolled around.

It was set up so brilliantly throughout the game, with little hints like the diary you find and the morgue lights not adding up, and it all came together in one of my favourite trials of the series.

The only thing holding Trigger Happy Havoc back behind Goodbye Despair is that the original doesn’t have that Infinity War-level crossover that the sequel has, which is hardly its fault (but I have to pick a winner somehow!).

WORST: KILLING HARMONY [5]

Since I’m so mixed on Killing Harmony’s ending, I’m going to give it a middle-of-the-road score of 5/10.

It’s an abysmal twist ending, and I was left with a hollow feeling in my chest when the credits rolled. It was all fake? Even the first two games in the series? I couldn’t believe just how badly they were trying to destroy the legacy of an entire franchise.

The only possible universe in which this is a good ending is if they were lying about the whole “Danganronpa was never real” thing, and that it was all a misdirect to confuse the main cast. It’s way too confusing either way, and diminished my experience with Killing Harmony as a whole.

Fun

It’s all well and good to review some of the individual aspects like characters and plot, but we still haven’t talked about arguably the most important thing – how fun the games were to play!

BEST: GOODBYE DESPAIR [9]

My spirits were riding high after the original, and the developers managed to knock it out of the park again in the sequel.

I had the time of my life navigating Jabberwock island, and the twists and turns that Goodbye Despair threw at me meant there was never a dull moment.

ALSO BEST: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [9]

I couldn’t feasibly pick a winner between Goodbye Despair and Trigger Happy Havoc, as they both entertained me considerably.

I’ll always have a soft spot for the original and how it created my love for the franchise in the first place, and I’ll always look back on my playthroughs of both games with a strong fondness.

LEAST BEST: KILLING HARMONY [8]

Yes, the controversial ending very nearly ruined my entire experience, but I can’t let the final 5% of the game destroy the fun I had with the previous 95%.

It’s just as fun as ever to play, and the updated graphics and gameplay mean a lot of the annoying aspects of the original two were ironed out into a smoother game. The ending knocked it down a peg, but all three games were equally entertaining to me.

Final Scores:

Let’s look at the Total Score from tallying up all of my ratings:

  • Trigger Happy Havoc: 62
  • Goodbye Despair: 69
  • Killing Harmony: 60

Every game did exceptionally well, considering the maximum mark was 80. That’s pretty much what I expected, though, as I had a great time with each game.

Let’s also look at the Average Score:

  • Trigger Happy Havoc: 7.75
  • Goodbye Despair: 8.63
  • Killing Harmony: 7.50

Goodbye Despair taking the crown is hardly surprising to me (it came 1st or 2nd in every category, after all), but I was surprised that the other two were so close. Strangely enough, the average scores in the end aren’t too far away from what I’d actually rate them. Speaking of which …

My Personal Scores:

Average scores and statistics are all well and good, but how would I rank the games from my own personal experience?

1st: GOODBYE DESPAIR [8.5]

No surprises, the fan-favourite entry in the series is also my pick for best of the bunch. It improves upon everything that made the original so great, all while telling a compelling and original tale of its own.

2nd: TRIGGER HAPPY HAVOC [8.0]

I pretty much hold Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair in the same esteem, as they are two of my favourite mystery games of all time … but I have to knock the original down a peg purely for how outdated the gameplay is in hindsight. Still, it’s an excellent way to kick off a videogame series.

3rd: KILLING HARMONY [7.5]

I still had a blast with Killing Harmony, but some of the trials’ developments and the ridiculous ending left a sour taste in my mouth. If it wasn’t for that controversial finale, it may have even beaten the original in quality.

Aaaaaaaaand that’s the end of this marathon of a list! If you enjoyed it, you can check out some of my latest blog posts below:

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