Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Game review by
Harold Goldberg, Common Sense Media
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
A fascinating, but dark mature RPG full of horror & sadness.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 17 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

While the characters get together and work together to solve mysteries, some are churlish, rude folk who are violent and/or swear (The cussing is full of four letter words.,although the C word is never used, many others are.) Schools and teachers are made fun of. Also, some of the kids seem depressed and it appears to be more than teenage angst. Boys are too pushy when flirting with girls.


There is animated blood and there is death. But it's not the gushing kind as in Devil May Cry. What you do see is blood that's somewhat akin to exploding fireworks. You don't see wounds, but you see this exploding balloon of blood spraying like fireworks above the heads of those in the battle room. And there's a lot of battling.


There's partial nudity and a fair amount of innuendo. The innuendo is more like flirting that all kids do, but it can be fairly aggressive. The partial nudity is female, including showing of breasts, in the Japanese comic book style of manga. Primarily, it happens in the dream portion of the game. Also, you'll enter an area at one point that seems like a strip club. On the wall are shadows portraits of what appear to be naked women. There is no stripping, but there is a dancer in a bikini.


You'll definitely encounter cuss words. You'll hear "s--t" and "asshole" a lot.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are references, but smoking or drinking isn't promoted as a good thing. It's just there. For instance, the uncle, who's the main cop in the mystery, sometimes wishes he had a beer or a cigarette when things are stressful. You will see people who are drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this game feature high school students as protagonists, this is an M-rated game intended for those 17 and up. The game contains a dark storyline, and is full of cussing, references to alcohol and smoking, along with occasional partial nudity. Within the first hour, you'll witness flirting by boys that's too pushy. At a crime scene, you'll see blood on the walls. Some of the script that you'll read has references to female monsters who have sexual relations with men. People act drunk as well. But even more than this, there are characters who seem to be severely depressed and the nightmares that the main character enters feel real. The horror and sadness is palpable, and that may require more maturity from the player to reckon with than the violence, sex references, partial nudity, and references to tobacco or alcohol.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChronOblivion March 31, 2014

Persona 4 is a Masterpiece With Powerful, Positive Themes

Persona 4 is, quite simply, the greatest game I have ever played. An incredibly diverse cast, a well-paced mystery/adventure plot, an iconic and catchy soundtr... Continue reading
Adult Written byCommonSenseGames March 25, 2014

Mature philosophy, not childish fantasy

Persona 4 has some of the most intellectually deep story and perfectly engaging gameplay I have ever seen. However, the game is clearly written for an audience... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byNoisyLightOne September 14, 2020


How in the holy name of hell does it say not present for positive messages. This game is a masterpiece of beautiful storytelling that teaches a lesson about the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bykiller425 December 2, 2012

Pretty much an extended PG-13 movie

Let me start by saying, this is not as dark as persona 3. THAT game is pretty freakin' depressing. This game DOES, in fact have positive role models and a... Continue reading

What's it about?

The Persona series of role playing games are notable and generally lauded because of their seamless mix of every day reality with dark fantasy.In SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: PERSONA 4, an M-rated, anime-like PlayStation 2 game, a teen boy moves from the bustling city to a small Japanese town. Just as he starts school, a woman involved in a love triangle is brutally murdered nearby. In this foggy, rainy town, he and his new friends set out to solve the twisting, turning mystery.

Persona 4 plays somewhat like an old school adventure game. In a limosine that looks like a funeral parlor, you'll meet the hook-nosed Igor, who'll help you proceed through the game. Using the 'X' button, you listen to and scroll through the words of townspeople and of those in a strange dream world. As you ask questions, you get some experience points. When you're taken to the dream world to play as persona Izanagi, you'll turn into long-coated warrior wielding a blade and magic spells. Here, your other characters have their own personas and will help you out with spells. When you win, you level up. You'll need to save frequently, unless you are in Beginner Mode (which lets you retry the game after dying).

Is it any good?

From the get-go, you'll be privy to mature sexual themes like love triangles, a foul-mouthed school teacher, and references to drinking and smoking. Yet this is no over-the-top Grand Theft Auto IV. All the references just make the game more intriguingly real, not satirically hyperreal. If you're used to an action game, the nature of this RPG is slower. But the curious will be rewarded with some scares along with a deep storyline and well-rounded characters who run the gamut of personalities.

The odd, nightmarish dream world may be too much for some with its long-tongued creatures and bears who have nothing inside their bodies. Though the weakest part of Persona 4 is the artwork, the anime style keeps it from being too frightening. The turn-based fighting can get a somewhat dull at times if you're not into the strategy that goes into defeating each strange foe. Ultimately, though, Persona 4 is a carefully honed game with a story that may not be unique, but is nonetheless as compelling as a page-turner. The game also includes a bonus soundtrack disk.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the dark mystery within the game. How does it compare to books and movies that are equally dark? Which of the characters appeal to you most, and why? Do they seem real to you? Which of the characters in the nightmare sequences do you enjoy and which disturb you? What exactly disturbs you? Do the nightmares feel real or too real? Do you ever want to stop playing because everything seems overwhelmingly sad? Or do you look of it as just a game in which you can easily separate the fiction from reality?

Game details

  • Platforms: PlayStation 2
  • Price: $39.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Atlus
  • Release date: December 9, 2008
  • Genre: Role-Playing
  • ESRB rating: M for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

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