Recently, the MegaTen franchise has been gaining fans around the world with releases like Shin Megami Tensei V and spin-offs like the Persona series. As a result, it is expected that many more people are interested in learning more about it. One of the main questions players may have is the meaning of the name Shin Megami Tensei, which has even more significance than it seems at first glance.
Directly translating “Megami Tensei” results in “Goddess Reincarnation/Rebirth,” this is in reference to the origins of the franchise. The first game in the franchise, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, was based on Aya Nishitani’s 1986 book of the same name. In it, the title refers to the revelation that one of the main characters in the story is actually the reincarnation of the Japanese goddess Izanami.
The series would keep the same title until 1992’s Shin Megami Tensei for the Super Famicom (SNES) in Japan. The word “Shin” in the title means “true” in Japanese, although it can also be interpreted as “new.” Accordingly, Atlus changed the title in part due to the new path the series would take, distancing itself from what the original books proposed.
Check out the teaser for the Shin Megami Tensei port for the iOS launched in 2014 here below.
In addition, in a now unpublished FAQ page on the official Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne site, Atlus offered a more thorough explanation of the title. It explained that, rather than a rebirth, “Tensei” means metempsychosis, a Buddhist philosophical idea that refers to the process of birth, death, and rebirth to which even deities are subject.
The idea of an endless cycle of reincarnation along with deities from different mythologies and religions is one of the main themes of the entire franchise to date. Markedly, games like Shin Megami Tensei II, Devil Survivor, and even Persona 4 feature this theme. So exploring these ideas in the next MegaTen game you play should not come as a surprise.
The latest installment in the franchise, Shin Megami Tensei V, is currently available for Nintendo Switch. You can also find the recent SMT III Nocturne HD remaster on Switch, PS4, and PC via Steam.