Facebook Files: Subs Or Dubs?

Welcome to another Facebook Files. I’m going to stop keeping count now. Here’s a rundown of how things work: Every week, we look through our Facebook group for the best community discussions. The ones that stand out are published on Siliconera as part of this feature every weekend. If your topic isn’t chosen one week, don’t lose heart…it might get picked up the next!

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Uy started up a discussion on whether people prefer to play games in Japanese with subtitles or with dubbed voice-acting. Since this is a common argument around here and people brought up some good points, I figured it would make for good discussion this week.


Uy wrote:

It’s nice that some Japanese games localized in English have the option of turning the Japanese/English voice on, like the Disgaea series, and most NIS games. However, there’s also many localized games presented in English dubbed only such as Persona 3/4, and most Square-Enix games. So do you prefer to play your game subbed or dubbed?


For me, I mostly prefer to play the game in its original Japanese language track with English subtitle. It’s so I can enjoy the game in its fullest form, without missing on some of the message or cultural references that wouldn’t come across and (most of the time) got replaced when translated to another language. This especially true when playing the Persona series where the setting take place in Japan.


However, I also appreciated dubbed when it’s done well, such as Disgaea or Persona 3/4. But I hope that in the future, more companies would gave us the Japanese language with English subbed as an options instead of rely solely on dub.


Milan and Gabe brought up a great point, which is that we wouldn’t have to wait as long for a game with subs only.


Milan wrote:

Games would come out faster if they left out the dubs, sure sometimes the make them good, but you cant simulate the japanese language, moe dosent exist in the english language and should never be "attempted".


English dubs are usually 100% crappy. Well most language that try to imitate japanese turn out crappy. Western Voice actors just do not know how to replicate the feelings, maybe they lack the practice, maybe the language lacks something I dont know.


Gabe wrote:

It really depends for myself. I’m usually not too picky about bad dubbing but sometimes I’d rather hear the original voice cast and read subs.


Also, I think it’d be nice if the games that would require subs would have it done and then released before they produce the dubbed game. It could be released much sooner and would require some kids to actually read something. I know it would never happen but I can hope.




Enjoying not just good, but even bad dubs is also a guilty pleasure for some of us, so I pitched in with my two cents this time as well.



This is purely on a case-by-case basis for me. If it’s an Atlus game, I’ll take the dub any day. Good English dubbing in games still feels very novel to me and I love listening to a good English track. NISA are pretty good about this, too. Oh, and for some odd reason, I love the horrendous English dubbing in the first Tenchu game. So awesome. ♥


If it’s something like, say, Fragile or Sky Crawlers…I would really prefer to play them in their original language. The same goes for games based off of anime. On that note though, Jeanne d’Arc sounds very, very unique. I wish more companies would dabble in those kinds of experiments with voice-acting.


Stephen wrote:

First time playing through, I think I’d prefer the dub. As long as the English voices aren’t awful, I think it would be much more enjoyable to experience the game without having to read all the subtitles, focusing more on what’s actually happening on screen rather than reading. Sometimes it takes time to get used to the English voices, but most of the time they grow on you and you get used to it.


For a second playthrough I’d play it subbed. A lot of Japanese voice acting appears to have more emotion than English dubs, so by experiencing both versions you get to choose which you prefer. But yeah, first time through I think I’d prefer dub.


Samuel wrote:

If it can be I’ll play a game with a dub.


By "if it can be" I mean if the dub is good enough! Because, I find I can more easily connect to the characters in English, although sometimes the setting calls for Japanese, but even then English is fine. A good example (that has been used extensively here) is Persona 4. I like it a lot in Persona 4 although it is clearly Japanese because the characters are just easier to get in to, AND it is top notch.


A good example of a game that for me NEEDS to be English would be the Metal Gear Solid games. They’re clearly set in America and have many American influences/nods and references. This is a Kojima thing, pretty well all his games should be English, although Boktai is debatable.


Perhaps now that digital distribution is catching on, we’ll start to see more publishers experiment by allowing fans who can’t wait early access to a sub-only build, while saving the dubbed version for a disc-based retail release.


What’s the verdict on the site — subs or dubs?

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.