A beginner’s guide to Disgaea

Since 2003, NIS has been giving people a way to help groups of antiheroes accomplish goals of varying degrees of morality. With new versions and iterations arriving every few years, someone might wonder how they could hop into these strategic scenarios. Well, if you check out our guide, you might find a way to make the Netherworld your new second home.

The must-plays

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

2015-2018, PS4/Switch/PC (NIS America)
The most recent main installment in the series is both the most game in the franchise and the result of over a decade of introducing and tuning gameplay systems to create the most addictive mix. Disgaea is best suited for players who want to dive into near-endless systems, and those players should start here. The Complete ports of the game add in the DLC for even more stuff, like adding sand to a beach. You’re already buried. Hopefully you love it. – Graham

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories

2006-2017, PS2/PSP/PC (NIS America)
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is one of those installments that has not received as much repeat releases, but that does not mean it is not one of the best. This entry offers a very focused story that is about defeating an overlord to undo a curse, rather than become an overlord. Its gameplay is tight and refined, and it is the only installment to offer a Dark Court feature that assigns characters Felonies for committing acts like reaching a high level or mastering a type of weapon, which then means you have to go to a Court Gate in Item World after receiving a Subpoena to get prizes for your “achievements.” The PSP and PC versions both add an Axel Mode campaign, Magichange system that lets monsters become weapons during battles and other features that result in a stronger game. – Jenni

The next steps

Disgaea 1 Complete

2018, PS4/Switch (NIS America)
If you find the focused story and systems of Disgaea 2 more appealing than 5, you may also like this remake of the original entry. Starring the cast that would come to lead the spinoffs and associated media, it’s the iconic story — for what that’s worth — of Disgaea, and this version takes some steps to modernize presentation while keeping the gameplay exactly where it was. – Graham

Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice

2009-2012, PS3/Vita (NIS America)
What happens when a demon’s overlord father (accidentally) destroys his game system? Well, if you are playing Disgaea 3, it means the main character goes on a quest to usurp his father and become the overlord and principal of Evil Academy. This installment adds a lot to the Disgaea formula. A character’s status can be influenced by the two possible Evilities assigned to them or by joining Clubs that allow a certain group of characters to receive a specific effect, with Class World allowing for further improvements. Monsters can Magichange into weapons for humanoid characters to use. Pirating (and Reverse Pirating) can occur in the Item World, giving you more enemies to challenge. People also did not need to wait for the subsequent port for an additional scenario, as Raspberyl Mode was added as DLC for the PS3 release. Though, if you do get Absence of Detention on the Vita, you have access to even more scenarios and content. – Jenni

The deeper cuts

Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten

2011-2014, PS3/Vita (NIS America)
Valvatorez is a vampire who takes his promises very seriously. He vowed to stop sucking people’s blood after pledging to abstain until he scared a woman (who then died). Then, when the government decides to kill his Prinny charges, he vows to give them a reward he committed to and kicks off a rebellion. This installment builds on a lot of past games, enhancing Magichange with Demon Fuse, more complex tower-building properties, more Evilities and the ability to use Pirating to invade other players’ games. It also lets you capture enemies and then Discipline them for various rewards. The Vita version is not as large as past ports, as it mainly includes the console installment’s DLC, a Time Leap Episode, a Weapon Sprite Changer and some other adjustments. – Jenni

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness

2013, PS3 (NIS America)
Disgaea D2 looks at what happens after Laharl becomes the Netherworld’s Overlord. Not everyone is pleased with the new leader, and this game is about his securing his place and dealing with his newly-arrived little sister. As far as gameplay goes, it is not all that dissimilar from Disgaea 3 and Disgaea 4. You can develop relationships between characters with Likeability, which determines how strong attacks while Monster Mounting, the feature that lets humanoid characters ride characters, are or if people will work together for Team Attacks. There is a lot there and it relies heavily on knowledge of the original Disgaea, so keep that in mind before you consider playing it. – Jenni

The rest

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

2003-2016, PS2 (Atlus); PSP/DS/PC (NIS America)
The first release of the first Disgaea hadn’t totally nailed some elements that would come to define the franchise, and technical issues and strange inconsistency between the in-game visuals and character portraits make it a lesser choice compared to the Complete edition of the game. Still, if you only have access to one of these versions (or want to play the game on a DS or 3DS for maximum portable convenience), these editions may have some value to you. – Graham

Disgaea Infinite

2009, PSP (NIS America)
Disgaea Infinite is a visual novel that is a direct sequel to the original Disgaea, but takes place before Disgaea D2 and other installments. Someone is attempting to assassinate Laharl, and the Prinnies are taking the fall. Fortunately, one Prinny has access to TickTock, a anthropomorphic pocketwatch. By using TickTock, Prinny travels through time, steps into the minds of other iconic characters and influences their actions to find out who is trying to kill Laharl. – Jenni

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood!

2008-2010, PSP (NIS America)
The two Prinny titles are action games starring Prinnies, the basic mooks in the series. They are very difficult, in keeping with the idea that Prinnies are very delicate creatures that can explode when thrown and tend to be generally weak characters in the Disgaea series. In each one, you have to help Prinnies accomplish goals for Etna, their master. Both also have an Alternate mode starring Asagi, the perennial NIS character constantly trying to be the star of a game, as she attempts to become the star of each of these games. – Jenni

Disgaea Anime

2006, DVD (OLM, Inc.)
The Disgaea anime series might be the easiest way for people to get into the story without playing the original game It is only 12 episodes long and has been released worldwide. One of the major changes is that Captain Gordon, Jennifer and Thursday come to the Netherworld and become a part of the plot much faster than they do in the games. There are also some events, such a Prinny strike and adventures outside the castle, to add a little more adventure. – Jenni

Disgaea Manga

2003-2010, manga (Broccoli, Udon Entertainment)
People who really like reading are in luck! The first, second and third games have all received manga adaptations. The lone Disgaea volume was released by Broccoli in English in 2006. In 2007, two Disgaea 2 manga volumes made their debut outside Japan, again courtesy of Broccoli. Then, in 2013, the two Disgaea 3 issues appeared after being brought stateside by Udon Entertainment. – Jenni

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