Analog Joy Club
Analog Joy Club is an archival site dedicated to the research, translation, and exhibition of historical Japanese board, card, war, and role-playing games. The site is maintained by Nathan Altice, Teaching Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz, who currently researches the history of board and card games during Japan’s 昭和 Shōwa era (1926–89).
For an historical overview of Shōwa games post-WWII, please see my 2019 DiGRA paper, Joy Family: Japanese Board Games in the Post-War Shōwa Period [PDF]. For an introductory writeup on Bandai’s analog games, please see my older blog post on “Bandai’s Joy Family.” For more info on board game adaptations of videogames, see my 2020 article “Super Mario Bros. vs. Super Mario Bros. vs. Super Mario Bros.” from ROMchip journal. For more information on the website and game archive, as well as contact information, see “Project History & Contributors” at the bottom of the page.
All game translations are listed below. Translations are organized by company, series, and year of publication (when known). Each title has a link to a Drive folder that includes archival scans (600dpi .png) of each game’s components as well as documents containing transcriptions and translations of all Japanese text in the game. Most translations include the English text inline with the original Japanese text.
The translations are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. However, please note that the games, rules, and licensed properties may still be subject to copyright by their respective owners. If you do use the scans or translations for your own project, please let us know (and be sure to credit the site and translators, because archiving and translation is difficult work)!
Although known primarily as a toy company specializing in plastic robots and models, Bandai was one of the most prolific analog game publishers in Japan in the 1980s. Between 1980–1994, Bandai published more than twenty board and card game series, comprising nearly 400 individual games. Joy Family and Party Joy would be their two most successful and long-running board game series in the Shōwa era.
Board Game Series・ボードゲームシリーズ
This unremarkably-named series was likely Bandai’s first foray into board games. Bandai announced six games for the series in 1973, but apparently only released four. Unlike Bandai’s later board games, these show more Western influence in their design.
- シンドバッド七つの航海・Sinbad’s Seven Voyages (1973)
Card Game Series・カードゲームシリーズ
Bandai began their remarkable run of analog game releases in 1980 with their line of “Game for Adult,” an awkward English name for games targeted at older players—mainly teens and college students. The Card Game Series was part of this line. Bandai released eight games in this numbered series in 1980, followed by three additional “deluxe” games the following year. The box design, game style, and form factor were clearly inspired by Parker Bros. hit 1972 card game Waterworks, which the Japan Game & Toy Co. imported to Japan in 1976.
- No. 3 ギャング・Gang (1980)
Joy Family Series・ジョイファミリーシリーズ
Joy Family were large-format board games meant for family play, created in part to compete with rival toy company Takara’s massive success importing LIFE to Japan as 人生ゲーム (Life Game). Bandai released over 70 Joy Family games between 1980–1994, including the hit おばけ屋敷ゲーム Haunted House Game, which sold over 800,000 copies in Japan.
- JALPAK 世界一周ゲーム・JALPAK Around the World (1980)
- ドラキュラゲーム・Dracula (1980)
- おばけ屋敷ゲーム・Haunted House (1981)
- クレイジークライマー・Crazy Climber (1981)
- 恐怖の吸血鬼・ドラキュラ・Terror of the Vampire Dracula (1981)
- 魔界村・Makaimura (1986)
Party Joy Series・パーティジョイシリーズ
Party Joy (or PJ) were portable, manga digest-sized games meant for children to play together. Bandai released 135 numbered PJ games between 1983–92. There were also four PJ spin-off series: Party Joy Cassette Type, Party Joy W, Party Joy Instructor, and Party Joy Matrix Battle. The PJ series covered a wide range of genres, including horror, sports, adventure, travel, and videogame adaptations.
- #001 悪霊島ゲーム・Evil Spirit Island (1983)
- #002 もえよブッシュマンゲーム・Burning Bushman (1983)
- #003 幽霊船ゲーム・Ghost Ship (1983)
- #006 キン肉マン・格闘技宇宙一ゲーム・Kinnikuman: The Universe's Top Combat Sport Game (1983)
- #013 冒険世界一周ゲーム・Adventure 'Round the World (1984)
- #018 マイルドロボのふしぎな旅ゲーム・Mild Robo’s Strange Journey (1984)
- #019 スチュワーデス物語ゲーム・Stewardess Story (1984)
- #026 日本全国・ミケ猫トマトの配達屋さんゲーム・Japan Nationwide: Tomato Calico Cat's Delivery Service (1984)
- #027 悪魔の時計台ゲーム・The Devil's Clocktower (1984)
- #028 北斗の拳ゲーム・Fist of the North Star (1984)
- #031 死神伝説I・迷宮の秘宝ゲーム・Shinigami Legend I: Treasures of the Labyrinth (1984)
- #034 呪われた洞窟・死神伝説ゲーム・The Cursed Cave: Shinigami Legend (1985)
- #049 こぐまくらぶ・ケーキがいっぱ～いゲーム・Bear Cub Club: Fuuulllll of Cakes Game (1985)
- #050 死神伝説・１３死神の逆襲ゲーム・Shinigami Legend: 13 Death Gods' Reprisal (1985)
- #056 ツインビーゲーム・Twin Bee (1986)
- #062 マイティボンジャックゲーム・Mighty Bomb Jack (1986)
- #063 謎の村雨城ゲーム・The Mysterious Murasame Castle (1986)
- 洞窟脱出ゲーム・Party Joy Store Display / Cave Escape (1986)
- #076 おばけ屋敷ゲーム・Haunted House (1987)
Famous Scene Cassette Game・カセット名場面ゲーム
This short-lived series from 1986 fit a tiny board game adaptation of a Famicom game into a plastic case shaped like a cartridge—or “cassette,” as they were known in Japan. Each game focused on a “famous scene” from the adapted game and included small rubber figurines of key characters. The reverse side of each board could also be combined with boards from other games in the series to play a secondary game of position and capture.
Similar to the Famous Scene Cassette Games, Bandai's Game Comic games were tiny, low-priced board games that included a ramune confection for ¥200. Bandai released three sets of six games (18 total) in 1986. The first set featured all-original titles, but the subsequent two were adaptations of popular Famicom games, usually split into two parts that could either be played standalone or back-to-back.
- #07 スーパーマリオブラザーズゲーム ＰＡＲＴー１・Super Mario Bros. Part-1 (1986)
- #10 ゼルダの伝説ゲームＰＡＲＴー２・ Legend of Zelda Game Part-2 (1986)
- #15 メトロイドゲーム ＰＡＲＴー１・Metroid Part-1 (1986)
- #16 メトロイドゲーム ＰＡＲＴー２・Metroid Part-2 (1986)
Cassette Case Game・カセットケースゲーム
Like a fusion of the Game Comic and Famous Scene Cassette series, Bandai's Cassette Case Game series housed tiny games, stickers, and a candy treat inside an ‘authentic’ Family Computer cassette case. Bandai released four games in this series, all adaptations of Famicom games.
Epoch specialized in reflex-based sports games, like their long-running series of 野球盤 “Baseball Board” games, but they also produced a substantial number of board, war, and card games. Among these, they are best known for their historical wargame simulations from the 1980s.
Epoch released their first Baseball Board in 1958. The handmade mechanical game combined elements of pinball and pachinko to deliver a table-sized simulation of one of Japan's favorite sports. With yearly updates that continue today, 野球盤 is Epoch's longest-running game series.
- 野球盤・復刻版・Baseball Board (Reprint) (1958/2000)
EWE (Epoch War Game Electronics) Series
From 1983–4, Epoch launched a sub-series of wargames aimed at slightly younger (or beginner) players. The EWE series distilled hex-based wargames to a few key mechanics, a small turn count, limited units, and focused scenarios. In lieu of dice, each game included a six-LED array to determine random outcomes—thus the “electronic” moniker in the series name.
Junior Board Game Series
In the mid- to late-1980s, Epoch released the Junior Board Game series to compete with Bandai’s popular Party Joy series.
- 魔界都市・ゾンビゲーム・Makai City: Zombie Game (1987)
- ドラゴンスレイヤー・Dragon Slayer (1986)
Videogame publisher Enix, best known for their long-running RPG series Dragon Quest and eventual merger with Square, began publishing board and card game adaptations of their games in the late 80s/early 90s.
- ドラゴンクエストI.IIボードゲーム・Dragon Quest I.II (c.1993)
Hanayama was one of Japan’s first modern card and board game manufacturers in the Showa era. Their バンカース Bankers game, first released in the 1950s, was a uniquely Japanese spin on Parker Bros.’ Monopoly, featuring events and locales native to Japan.
★ Koide Shinkosha・小出信宏社
Alongside Hanayama, Koide was one of the first Japanese publishers to design and distribute card and board games in the Showa era. They created sugoroku, karuta, trump (ie, playing) cards, and board games, and licensed popular television and manga properties.
- 怪傑ハリマオゲーム・The Amazing Harimao Game (c.1960s) NEW!
- 番頭はんと丁稚どんゲーム・Bantō-han & Decchi-don Game (c.1960s)
- チロリン村とくるみの木ゲーム・Chirorin Town & the Walnut Tree Game (c.1960s)
- 夢の超特急ゲーム・Dream Super Express Game (c.1960s)
- 白馬童子ゲーム・Hakuba Douji Game (c.1960s)
- １丁目１番地ゲーム・Ichi Chōme Ichi Banchi Game (c.1960s)
- ララミー牧場ゲーム・Laramie Ranch Game (c.1960s)
- パトロールカーゲーム・Patrol Car Game (c.1960s) NEW!
- 相撲ゲーム・Sumo Wrestling Game (c.1960s)
Namco, best known for their arcade, computer, and console videogames, only dipped briefly into board games and only to produce adaptations of their own titles. In 1985 and 1986, they produced two short-lived series: Handy Board Game—featuring two titles in slim, paperback-sized sleeves—and Fantasy Board Game, featuring three titles in larger, bookshelf-sized boxes reminiscent of wargames popular at the time.
Fantasy Board Game
- #1 ザ・タワーオブドルアーガ・The Tower of Druaga (1985)
Before Nintendo made arcade, portable, and console videogames, they had nearly a century of history producing card and board games.
- 野球ゲーム・Baseball Game (c.1960s)
★ Papel Creation・パペルクリエション
Not much information exists about this company aside from their commercial output. They released at least nine card and board games c. 1990–93, all based on licensed properties, including Godzilla, Moomin, Wacky Races, Tom & Jerry, and Super Mario Kart.
- スーパーマリオカート・カードゲーム・Super Mario Kart Card Game (c.1993)
★ Show Kikaku・翔企画
Founded by former Epoch employee Suzuki Ginichirō in 1984, Show Kikaku initially followed in Epoch's wargaming footsteps by publishing simplified, low-cost war games based on historic conflicts. However, Show Kikaku had their breakthrough in 1988 upon publication of the first Monster Maker card game. Buoyed by Kugatsu Hime's bold and cartoonish illustrations, Monster Maker fused elements of Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkeinesque fantasy, and computer RPGs into a light, easy-to-play party game. Monster Maker would spawn an expansive franchise of characters and locations through more than a dozen card games, multiple board games, magazines, comics, and even its own tabletop RPG.
Small Fantasy Game Series
- ドラゴンアタック！・Dragon Attack! (1990)
This short-lived Japanese toy and game company was one of the first to license Nintendo properties for board game adaptations. Takahashi released six Famicom adaptations in very limited release.
Family Computer Board Game Series・ファミリーコンピュータボードゲームシリーズ
Alongside Bandai, Takara was one of the most successful and prolific board game publishers in Japan. Their influential タカラのアメリカンゲーム Takara American Games series debuted in 1968, featuring translated imports of titles from Whitman and Milton Bradley. The latter company’s LIFE, localized as 人生ゲーム, is one of the most important and influential games in Japanese history. The American Games series continued for four decades, and 人生ゲーム still receives annual updates separate from its American counterpart.
Between 1983–4, Takara released twelve cassette-shaped board games, each with two games (Side A & B), magnetic pawns for travel play, and an embedded spinner. Besides their unique form factor, the games are notable for their low-brow toilet humor.
- CG08 (1984)
Like many Japanese board and card game publishers in the Shōwa era, Yonezawa was best known as a toy manufacturer. They had dabbled in games since at least the 1970s but jumped headlong into game publishing with the パーティールーム21 Party Room 21 series, which ranged from card and board games to Game Boy carts and console peripherals.
Party Room 21・パーティールーム２１
Yonezawa kicked off Party Room 21 in 1986, targeting college-aged adults with a series of irreverent, rules-light party games. The series, which comprised more than 75 titles, continued at a steady clip until 1994, when Yonezawa was acquired by Sega. Party Room's most prolific designer was 高橋章子 Akiko Takahashi, former editor of Big House magazine. Using the pen name A.A. Station, she designed more than twenty games from 1986 to 1990. Many of her titles, like the popular Tanba board game, were subversive and satirical takes on traditional Japanese culture, customs, and games.
- Titles coming eventually!
Project History & Contributors
The Analog Joy Club project grew out of a UCSC undergraduate game design class I teach called Game Systems. When I first taught the class in winter quarter 2017, I assigned the students to create a board game adaptation of a video game as their final project. I began researching board game adaptations to provide a few examples for my students, and I soon discovered that there were hundreds, leading all the way back to the early 1980s. I also discovered that Japanese companies actively published adaptations in the 1980s, and many of the publishers I knew from videogames, like Bandai and Epoch, had released hundreds of board games, most of which were unknown outside Japan.
Soon after I began buying Japanese games in mid-2017, I began translating them. At the time, I barely knew the hiragana syllabary, much less any kanji, so I struggled through brute-force translation with a number of online translators and reference dictionaries. It was slow work. A single page of text would take me several days to translate (poorly). But once the archive began to grow, a few UCSC undergraduate students caught wind of the project and offered to help out. Since then, nearly two dozen undergraduate and graduate UCSC students have helped translate more than fifty games, advertisements, articles, books, and more.
Translation and localization require an enormous amount of time and effort, and this project wouldn’t be possible without the following contributors:
Yasheng She, Quillon Arkenstone, Corey Pessin, Molly Thompson, Ruihong Simon Yu, Tina Peng, Jolina Lam, Christina Quach, Vienna Chan, Zijing Guo, Wenbo Xie, Julia Isom, Carlos Cisneros, Nina Koh, Tiffany Lam, Mia King, Haley Hayashi, Joann Baldonado, Ethan Chong, Jared Pettitt, Jesus Hernandez, Pengze Zheng, Crystal Yu, Daniel Zhang, Julia Isom, Sirena Liu, Xiao Qing Yu, Paul McCann, Nomura Akio, and The Arcade Castle
If you have any questions or comments, or if you’re interested in contributing to the project in any way, please contact me via my university email at naltice AT ucsc DOT edu or via Twitter @circuitlions.