Ghost of Tsushima is a 2020 action-adventure game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Set in an open world, the player controls Jin Sakai, a samurai charged with protecting the island of Tsushima during the first Mongol invasion of Japan. The game was released on July 17, 2020 for PlayStation 4 and a Director’s Cut version for PlayStation 5 will be released on August 20, 2021.
Ghost of Tsushima is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The game features a vast open world with no visible landmarks on the HUD, which can be explored with or without the aid of wind direction. Players can travel to different parts of the island on horseback. There is an item that acts as a grappling hook to reach hard-to-reach areas. The game features side quests and non-playable characters that the player can interact with.
Players can fight their enemies using their tachi, which allows them to deliver a series of lethal blows against a set number of enemies, known as a showdown. In addition, the player has access to bows that can be used to fire different types of arrows. It is also possible to dodge enemies and attack them silently, and tools such as fireworks can be used to distract, smoke bombs to disorient alert enemies and kunai to attack multiple enemies. One-on-one duels with non-playable characters are presented as side missions.
Players can also unlock different sets of armour, clothing and amulets. Each set has different properties that provide advantages in battle. Some armour reduces damage taken, while others increase overall health or melee damage.
The protagonist, Jin Sakai, is the leader and only remaining member of the Sakai clan and a samurai warrior. He is the nephew and ward of Lord Shimura, the jitō of Tsushima. He meets several friends and companions, including the thief Yuna and her blacksmith brother Taka, the warrior Lady Masako Adachi, the famous archer Kyūdō Sensei Sadanobu Ishikawa, the merchant and swindler Kenji, the Buddhist warrior monk Norio, the Sakai clan’s eldest son, the housekeeper Yuriko, and Jin’s childhood friend and leader of the famous Straw Hat Rōnin, Ryuzo.
In 1274, a Mongol invasion fleet led by Khotun Khan lands on the Japanese island of Tsushima. Local samurai Jin Sakai and his uncle Lord Shimura join the rest of the island’s army in an attempt to repel the invasion. However, the battle ends in disaster: The samurai army is killed, Shimura is captured and Jin is badly wounded and left for dead. Jin is found and revived by Yuna, a local thief, who informs him that all the villages have fallen to the Mongols. Jin storms Khotun’s fortress at Kaneda Castle to save Shimura, but is defeated in battle by Khotun and thrown off the bridge, but survives.
Realising that he cannot defeat the Mongols alone or with traditional samurai fighting tactics, Jin travels around the island to find allies and learn unconventional fighting techniques. He manages to recruit Yuna, his blacksmith brother Taka, the cunning merchant Kenji, the master archer Ishikawa, the samurai Masako Adachi, and his old friend and mercenary Ryuzo and his rōnin straw hat. When Jin disrupts the Mongols’ activities and frees the island’s villages, he is revered by the inhabitants as «the Spirit». Taka builds a grappling hook that Jin can use to scale the castle walls and summons his allies. Ryuzo and the Straw Hat betray Jin in order to collect the bounty the Mongols have paid him. But Jin manages to fight back, free Shimura and retake Kaneda’s castle. Despite his victory, Khotun had already left to conquer Shimura Castle with Ryuzo’s men.
To take back the castle, Jin recruits Norio, his warrior monks and the Yarikawa clan. Shimura recruits the local pirate Goro to send a message to the shogun asking for reinforcements and announcing that he wants to adopt Jin as his heir. With a new army under Shimura’s command and reinforcements from the Shogun on the way, Jin retrieves his family’s ancestral armor from hostess Yuriko, who teaches him how to make poison. On Lord Shimura’s orders, Jin and Taka attempt to break into a fortress where Ryuzo is supposed to be hiding. However, they are ambushed and captured by Khotun. When Jin refuses to surrender, Khotun kills Taka. Yuna and Jin escape from the fortress, kill Ryuzo’s remaining men and bury Taka’s body near the Yarikawa fortress before Shogun samurai reinforcements arrive. Shimura leads his army in an assault on Shimura Castle and drives the Mongols back into the dungeon. Khotun, however, resorts to unconventional tactics and inflicts heavy losses on the samurai. Knowing that another frontal assault would cost more lives, Jin defies Shimura and decides to poison the Mongols.
Ghost of Tsushima was developed by Sucker Punch Productions. After completing Infamous First Light, the team wanted to develop another open-world project, as they felt that player choice was important to the game. Therefore, there are no reference points in the game and players are completely free to explore the game world. According to Nate Fox, the game’s director, when designing the game, the team narrowed down the many internal proposals to «the fantasy of becoming a samurai». Before choosing the setting, Sucker Punch considered several other locations and themes such as pirates, Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor and the Three Musketeers, but returned to feudal Japan and told the story of a samurai warrior. Later they found a historical account of the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in 1274 and «the whole vision fell into place».
This is a game based entirely on reality. We try to bring people to Japan in the year 1274. We are inspired by history, but we don’t build it brick by brick. We are not trying to reconstruct the island of Tsushima. Our protagonist is a work of fiction. We even considered using historical figures, and we asked people who were more culturally aware than us, and they said it would be insensitive, so we didn’t do it.
Sucker Punch sent an audio team to Japan to record a variety of sounds, including birdsong.
The game’s marketing campaign began in October 2017, when a reveal trailer was shown at Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Paris Games Week press conference. Sony decided not to announce the title too early, as many of the game systems had not yet been decided and were still subject to change. At E3 2018, a gameplay demo was shown and Cornelius Boots gave a live shakuhachi performance. A preview was shown at the State of Play presentation on 10 December 2019 and at The Game Awards 2019 with a live orchestral performance on 12 December. A trailer was released on 5 March 2020.
A multiplayer expansion titled Ghost of Tsushima: Legends was announced in August 2020 and released on October 16, 2020 with another new gameplay feature for the base game. Additional trophies were also added. In contrast to the main game, supernatural elements from Japanese folklore and mythology feature heavily in Legends. Players take on one of four available classes and take part in two-player story missions or four-player wave missions, although all missions can be played solo. There is also a four-player raid that spans three chapters. It was released on 30 October 2020, two weeks after the original release of Ghost of Tsushima: Legends. The multiplayer expansion, as well as other updates to the game, were distributed for free to owners of the base game.
HomeAggregate ScoreMetacritic83 / 100PublicationScoreDestructoid9.5 / 10 Famitsu40 / 40 Game Informer9.5 / 10 GameRevolution GameSpot7 / 10 GamesRadar + IGN9 / 10 Push Square9 / 10 The Guardian USgamer4 / 5 VG247
According to the review portal Metacritic, the game received «generally positive» reviews.
The aesthetics and visual design of the game were highly praised. Mitchell Saltzman of IGN described the game as «an absolutely beautiful adventure through one of the most breathtaking landscapes in history», but criticised the AI of the enemies. Although Eurogamer’s Chris Tapsell did not recommend the title, he said that «the game’s world as a whole is beautiful, absolutely, undeniably, oppressive».
As for the open world activities, opinions are more mixed. Carolyn Petit of Polygon said the game «offers a beautiful world to explore, and that’s great, but it should have been much more than a list of activities to do.»Ian Walker of Kotaku said»I found myself audibly sighing every time I climbed to the top of a hill to reach a mysterious goal, only to chase another fox or compose another haiku. These distractions, unique at first glance, turned out to be exhausting work in the long run.»
Rachel Weber of GamesRadar+ said the battles were «fluid and fair». Chris Carter of Destructoid said that «the pacing of the battles is also a treat for the eyes» and that «like the little nuances of the open world, the battles blossom over time.»
Ghost of Tsushima was the best-selling physical game in the UK in its first week of release, with 373,473 copies sold in the country by the end of 2020. The game topped the download charts in Europe and the US. In Japan, it was also the best-selling game in its first week with 212,915 copies sold. The game has remained in the top 30 best-selling video games in Japan for more than 15 consecutive weeks, with a total of more than 412,000 copies sold.
The game received special praise for graphics and sound at the Game Critics Awards in July 2018. Nominated for Most Wanted Game at the Golden Joystick Awards in 2018. At the 38th Golden Joystick Awards in 2020, the game was nominated for Best Sound, Best Narrative, Best Visual Design and PlayStation Game of the Year, while Sucker Punch received the Studio of the Year award. It received several nominations at the 2020 Game Awards, including Game of the Year, Best Game Direction, Best Narrative and Best Actor for Daisuke Tsuji. Winner of PlayStation Magazine’s official Game of the Year Award – UK.
On 25 March 2021, Sony Pictures and PlayStation Productions announced the development of a film adaptation of the game, to be directed by Chad Stahelski.