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Skulls of the Shogun

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Skulls of the Shogun Game Poster Image
Challenging turn-based strategy game with skeleton warriors.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about strategy in this stylish turn-based tactics game set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan. Combat provides players multiple strategic options, forcing them to choose which units to move each turn, how to move them, which enemies to target, and whether to take advantage of certain benefit-conferring elements in the environment rather than push the attack. They'll need to engage in a little trial and error to figure out what works best, and some parts of combat could be explained a bit better, but battles push players to stop and think rather than simply react. Skulls of the Shogun encourages players to analyze and evaluate situations and develop their own strategies in cartoonish turn-based combat.

Positive Messages

Entertains with violence and crude humor, but encourages strategic thought.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players control a recently deceased warmonger who loves battle, wants revenge on the person who killed him. He thinks only in terms of war, killing.    

Ease of Play

Challenging from the start. Players need to think several turns in advance, consider their opponents' potential countermoves to achieve success.


Skeletons hit each other with swords, spears, sometimes resulting in small splashes of quickly disappearing blood. Skulls are left behind when skeletons are defeated; players are encouraged to make their skeletal heroes eat them to grow stronger, eventually taking on demonic forms.


Some female characters depicted with bulging bosoms, deep cleavage.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Skulls of the Shogun is a downloadable turn-based military strategy game with some violence. Players assume the role of a recently deceased yet proud battle-obsessed general. Under his command, human skeletons fight each other with swords, spears, and bows, sometimes spilling blood. Characters frequently eat their defeated opponents' skulls to grow stronger. A couple of buxom female characters with deep cleavage are occasionally called upon in battle. It's a challenging game that forces players to think before they act, always in terms of military strategy with an eye to defeating enemies.

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What's it about?

You just can't escape endless queues, even after you die. That's what General Akamoto discovers when he dies on the battlefield and wakes up in limbo to a line half a millennium long in SKULLS OF THE SHOGUN. A man of impatient temperament, he decides to fight his way to the front, gathering allies from the line and learning some surprising facts about his demise as he goes along. Feudal Japanese-style combat with swords and bows plays out in turn-based fashion. Each unit has a movement radius and can attack once each turn. But units can increase their health by eating the skulls of fallen enemies. Eat three skulls and they'll take on a demonic form, giving them an extra action each turn. New environmental elements, such as shrines from which fresh units can be summoned, and unit types are introduced as the campaign progresses, deepening the strategic options available to both the player and his or her computer opponent. Outside the campaign, players can engage in multiplayer fights online and locally on the same screen. 

Is it any good?

The coolest thing about Skulls of the Shogun is how it removes the grid found in virtually every turn-based strategy game. Instead of moving a certain number of spaces, units can move anywhere within a circle surrounding them, then continue moving in a shrunken circle after they take their action. This allows for interesting wiggle room when navigating around objects in the environment and does away with the problem of one or two units blocking the rest of your army from reaching and attacking enemies. It takes a few missions to get a feel for it, and some elements related to this innovative style of movement could be a bit better explained during play, but it's highly empowering once you get a feel for it.

The game's unique charm goes far beyond its innovative play mechanics. Hand-drawn units and maps have a personality all their own, and the ridiculously catchy combat music will have you bopping your head during battles and leave you humming it once you stop playing. The smart dialogue is short and frequently funny. Turn-based tactics fans looking for something a bit different could do a lot worse.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be a soldier. Do you think it's hard for soldiers to go to war, even with their training?

  • Discuss screen time. How do you decide how many missions to play in a single sitting? If you lose a mission right before you planned on quitting, does that make you want to invest more time right away and try again?

Game details

For kids who love strategy

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