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Let’s Learn Japanese with Nintendo 3DS

August 1, 2013

If you’re like me, sitting down and studying without getting distracted is near implausible. Lucky for you and me, I found a method that actually helps reinforce my language studying while having tons of fun – PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.


Yes that’s right, I’m using video games to study Japanese.

I recently bought a Japanese 3DS. Not only does this mean I can play all the upcoming games that may not be released in North America, it also means I can practice reading Japanese.

Because most Nintendo 3DS Games have furigana (hiragana readings placed on top of their respective Kanji), I can easily learn new vocabulary while becoming familiar with sentence patterns. Keep in mind that not all 3DS games have furigana (such as Harvest Moon: A New Beginning).


Really simple sentences!

If you want to get started on this path of Japanese language learning; I 100% recommend Animal Crossing New Leaf (とびだせどうぶつの森).  Not only is it entertaining/adorable, it contains many basic vocabulary and sentence structures since the game is based on everyday lifestyle and interacting with game characters on a daily basis. There is also a combination of formal  and colloquial language, which is great for anyone who’d like to diversify their understanding of Japanese.

My methods to studying with video games:

  1. Play video game
  2. Identify any unfamiliar vocabulary
  3. Look up definition on Naver/Daum
  4. Record vocabulary in notepad
  5. If any sentence structure/grammar seems helpful to memorize, record sentence in Evernote Japanese grammar notebook
  6. Continue enjoying the video game!

And just like everything else, there are pros and cons to using video games to study Japanese


  • Fun way to study
  • More “real-life” sentences rather than boring old new articles
  • Easier access to learning than constantly searching through books/articles
  • Diverse vocabulary/sentences
  • Furigana makes it easy to identify unfamiliar Kanji


  • Money consuming
  • Sometimes the lack of motivation to record vocabulary/sentences when playing
  •  Some video games may not contain helpful vocabulary
  • Some colloquial sentences may be hard to understand for the beginner

Overall, I would say playing video games in Japanese has helped improve my reading skills. Most of the vocabulary used in the game are used commonly in real life as well, so it is really easy to hear/see these words in dramas, music etc. It makes sense, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s video games or books… reading is reading (in terms of learning foreign languages).

GOOD NEWS: If you don’t have a Japanese 3DS or don’t want to fork over the dough to import one, Pokemon XY will have the option to change the game language – 6 languages to be exact. And yes, it includes Korean and Japanese as well!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Marcus permalink
    April 17, 2014 9:37 am

    Thanks for the suggestions,found this page trough goolge 😛 Though this is outdated to august 2013,I was wondering if you can recommends other games or other ways to study japanese 😛

    • April 18, 2014 4:48 pm

      Hi Marcus! Glad you dropped by~

      Besides Animal Crossing, I found that Harvest Moon games have lots of useful vocabulary and phrases that can be used in everyday situations.

      The only downside is that they there is no furigana – only kanji by itself. but that shouldn’t be a problem as you’ll become more and more familiar with them the more you play. Simulation games such as Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon are great for practicing Japanese. If you do some research, I’m sure you can find many more.

      Also, if you go through my posts on this blog, you can see all sorts of way that I study Japanese, if that helps 🙂

      • Joe permalink
        November 10, 2014 11:12 pm

        What if you cannot read katakana or hiragana yet?

      • November 11, 2014 1:13 am

        I think you should learn how to read the alphabets before trying to learn any Japanese – it makes things much more easier and more accurate.

        From personal experience, I think it is best to avoid romaji as much as possible 🙂

      • Joe permalink
        November 11, 2014 2:20 am

        Which is why I was hoping for a 3ds game to help me learn the alphabet. lol

      • November 11, 2014 2:57 am

        Have you tried looking at the app/android store? They have lots of games and applications that are helpful. The dictionary app that I use on my iPhone even has flashcards for hiragana + katakana.

        I think these options will be better than paying for a 3ds game.

        And there are bunch of online games for Japanese children to practice the alphabet. A quick google search pulled up for example.

      • Joe permalink
        November 11, 2014 3:17 am

        I shall try that then. Though most of the androids language learning apps I’ve seen are not amazing but who knows what I will find.

      • November 11, 2014 3:22 am

        Sounds great! If I find any quality android apps, I will be sure to share them here 🙂

  2. Kyle permalink
    February 18, 2015 10:53 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for this post!

    I’ve been learning Japanese since sometime late last summer. I’m able to read things, but my reading speed is still pretty slow. Most reading sources I found seem to be way over my head currently. I’ve only really recently started on Kanji the past couple months. My grammar is *just* enough to where I wouldn’t starve to death or die if somebody air-dropped me into the middle of Japan for no reason.

    I purchased both a Japanese version of Animal Crossing and a Japanese 3DS after reading this. The screenshots of Animal Crossing definitely swayed me. Having a bit of Furigana at my disposal should make this more fun! I do love flash-cards for vocabulary but having some diversity in my studying sounds excellent!

    Thanks again! If you have more game recommendations I’d love to hear them!

    • February 19, 2015 12:33 am

      Thank you for the kind words, Kyle! I am very honored to have changed a part in your Japanese studies. I will be to sure to make future posts regarding such video games.

      Thanks again and have lots of fun with AC!

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