Thanks to Steam, in just a few clicks I can buy heartrending Chinese RPGs, intense Japanese shmups that would otherwise only be sold at specialist doujin events, and even official English translations of spooky Korean-born horror games. It is glorious. Steam has been a wonderful one-stop-shop for PC games for a long time now, growing from a simple Half Life 2 delivery service to the multilingual behemoth it is today. No matter the country of origin or the language a game's been written in, there is nothing I can't get my hands on. Is there?
Steam is extraordinarily open by its competitors' standards, as anyone who's ever imported a region-locked console game will know. And yet it's still home to more than a few games only available in certain countries or regions—gaming delights those of us in Europe, North & South America, Australia, and elsewhere are so cruelly denied.
Here are a few of my most-yearned-for yet irritatingly internationally unavailable picks. Without using a VPN to change Steam regions, these are the unique PC gaming experiences I'm heartlessly denied from adding to my insurmountable backlog.
Okay, so the list is actually seven games, but this is a twofer. Roughly five billion Super Robot Wars games have been made since the series' 1991 debut, although to date only one of them's been released on Steam for international audiences: Super Robot Wars 30. And what do you do when you've cleared the only strategy game brilliant enough to let your Magic Knight Rayearth favourites fight alongside an impressive roster of Gundams? You weep for all the mechs you'll never get to command, because Super Robot Wars V and X are technically also available on Valve's digital storefront, they're just not sold to the likes of us.
The name might not ring a bell, but the Mojipittan series has been doing well enough for itself in Japan since the long-gone days of the GBA. Imagine Scrabble, but adorably cute, definitely not in English, and a little looser on the rules. The game's utter reliance on the Japanese alphabet for absolutely everything makes it easy to see why it's never been translated, but it'd still be nice if those of us living outside Japan could buy it anyway—fun puzzle games like this make for great language practice.
I'm not a big fan of horses. They've all got too-long faces full of giant teeth, legs that could crush my pathetic human bones with ease, and they aren't afraid of using either of their built-in weapons at a moment's notice. So it'd be reasonable to assume I wouldn't be interested in horse racing sims at all, seeing as they're stuffed with neighing monstrosities. But here we are.
I know from prior experience that Koei's 30-year-old series in this odd business-sport genre is the sort that I promise I'll play for a little… while and then end up peeling myself off my chair hours later instead. They're a beautiful blend of intense stat management, thrilling races, and terrifying animals charging around at high speeds. It'd be great if I could play this one from early 2023, too.
Some days I just want to spend some teeth-rottingly sweet time with a group of highly merchandisable anime sweethearts eternally drifting through their own soft-focus haze, like the sort Koei have been including in the musically-themed La Corda d'Oro series for decades now. What's this particular entry like? I wish I could tell you, but as you've probably already guessed, Koei won't let me buy it.
A million different variations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, going all the way back to untranslated '80s efforts? No problem—those aren't region-locked. One (1) cute romantic adventure? Impossible.
Of course Japan isn't the only country to keep its gaming treasures to itself, as this Chinese adventure game shows. Much like the excellent (and occasionally bizarre) 428 Shibuya Scramble, this branching tale uses countless stills of costumed actors to tell its story, lending its stylish historical experience a different, and perhaps more nuanced, look than the 2D illustrations the genre usually goes for. It seems to have been well received by those who can buy it, if the game's 85% approval rating on its Steamdb page is anything to go by. But as I can't get my grubby mitts on it I suppose I'll just have to stare lovingly at some screenshots and wonder when—or if—I'll get to play it for myself instead.
I know from a combination of personal experience and tedious VPN-related shenanigans that the original online version of Dragon Quest X is a great MMO packed with charming stories, interesting character classes, and stunning cel shaded vistas. The trouble is I really can't be bothered with all of the hassle that goes with keeping the game running these days, so hearing that not only was Dragon Quest X Offline a real thing, but it was also coming to Steam, felt like a gift from the gods of gaming themselves. Finally I'd get to have all of the fun, with none of the login issues—or so I thought.
"This item is currently unavailable in your region". It's the "currently" in that generic message that really stings, because it implies that might change in the future, though DQ10 Offline has already been available in Japan for a full year.
Please let me play the game again, Square Enix. I miss my mermaid-ish Weddie avatar.