Best Ace Attorney Games (Every Title Ranked & Reviewed)

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Point-and-click adventures used to be the bread and butter of PC gaming.

But as the years went by and technology permitted more and more sophisticated gameplay, they were relegated to a secondary spot in the collective unconscious.

That is, until Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney came along and showed Western audiences that the genre still had a lot to offer.

It also brought Westerners closer to the concept of visual novels, so popular in Japan and among anime enthusiasts.

This game is the reason masterpieces such as Danganronpa had a chance at worldwide success, and the gaming industry is much better because of it.

As a fan, I’m constantly campaigning for the as-of-yet untranslated releases to make it out of Japan. So I’ve come up with a ranking of every Ace Attorney game released in English, both to educate newcomers and to rile up longtime fans to fight with me.

Order in the court!

8. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (2010)

Miles Edgeworth Ace Attorney game

Phoenix Wright’s most iconic rival plays the role of protagonist in this alternative NDS adventure that tweaks the Ace Attorney experience to give players a new perspective.

As exciting as it may sound, the developers weren’t able to deliver as satisfying a game as you’d expect after hearing that concept.

On one hand, exploring crime scenes in third-person for a change was pretty interesting.

You may even say it was better than the usual point-and-click fare, but it wasn’t enough to counter the lack of courtroom debates and the snail-pace of the story.

Plus the cases weren’t that interesting compared to many other titles.

7. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (2008)

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney game screenshot

After Phoenix is disbarred, it’s up to his student Apollo to bring justice to the innocent with the help of Phoenix’s own adoptive daughter/magician, Trucy Wright.

The first client – Phoenix Wright himself.

I know it seems as if I’m shunning the non-Phoenixcentric releases.

But believe me when I tell you, I’m all for that kind of alternative adventure. In fact I love AJ:AA’s charming cast to bits.

Still, it’s undeniable that the cases in Apollo’s NDS debut are completely unremarkable when compared to something like PW:AA’s Turnabout Goodbyes and many others in the series.

Plus I’m not a fan of Apollo’s Perceive System as a gameplay mechanic, even if the concept of calling out someone’s lies because of their “tells” is pretty cool.

6. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All (2007)

Phoenix Wright Justice for All screenshot

The second installment in the franchise isn’t a bad game by any means.

It took what made the first one so good and built upon it, even adding the new Psyche-Lock mechanic that went on to become a staple of the series.

And yet, I can’t say I like the main rival prosecutor which plays a big part in these games.

Franziska von Karma may be cute, but she can’t even decide on whether she’s going for the dominatrix aesthetic or just a plain aristocrat.

Still this game does have some pretty good things going for it.

Namely that it presents enormous character development for side characters like Miles and Maya, and also that its last case, Farewell, My Turnabout, is one of the most dramatic and exciting in the series.

5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice (2016)

Spirit of Justice gameplay

The latest game in the Ace Attorney franchise to come to the West is a weird one in that it takes place in Maya Fey’s country of origin, the mystical land of Khura’in, where spiritualism is taken as fact.

The stakes are also higher in this game.

Thanks to a local law by the name of the Defense Culpability Act, if a defendant is found guilty in the land of Khura’in, they’re to be executed along with the defense attorney.

Phoenix, being who he is, goes through with it anyway.

The game introduces tons of new content, charming characters like the super-cool prosecutor Nahyuta Sahdmahdi, and several mechanics associated with the mystical nature of the land, such as Divination Séances, which allow the player to witness the final moments of a victim.

There’s also a considerable visual upgrade to speak of in the form of beautiful, detailed illustrations that take advantage of the 3DS’ hardware, as well as animated cutscenes only recently added to the series.

4. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2014)

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright screenshot

It may seem weird to put a spin-off of sorts so far up the list, but this game is simply superb.

Considering both Ace Attorney and Level-5’s Professor Layton’s games are visual novels with a puzzle element to them, it wasn’t hard to bring them together in a harmonic way.

After all, it was the rise of Phoenix Wright that gave games like Professor Layton a leeway to worm their way into the mainstream, so such a crossover feels right.

The gameplay is divided into two phases, Adventure and Witch Trial, where both main characters and their assistants get a chance to do what they’re good at.

This 3DS crossover was also the first Ace Attorney game to introduce animated cutscenes, which were already a staple of Professor Layton. The change would go on to become the standard.

3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (2013)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies screenshot

Once a franchise gets as big as Ace Attorney, things may start feeling repetitive and worn out for returning fans.

A need for something different starts becoming apparent.

And that’s precisely what Dual Destinies does so right.

Where other games may have tried to introduce some strange gimmick to forcefully make gameplay feel new, this wonderful 3DS title spices things up with an absurd storyline – even for Ace Attorney standards

Decade-old cold cases, bombings, and even defending a cetacean are only some of the many absurdities present in the game.

Not only that, but Dual Destinies also puts you in control of three different attorneys depending on the case at hand – the newbie Athena Cykes, one-time protagonist Apollo Justice, and the newly re-instated Phoenix Wright.

All of these individual factors come together to provide a fresh experience with a strong foundation in previous games. Even if it sometimes feels much more like a traditional visual novel than an Ace Attorney investigation.

2. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005)

Original Ace Attorney 2005 gameplay screenshot

The game that started it all may not be the prettiest or the most polished, but it deserves all the credit for bringing a somewhat forgotten style of gameplay back to the West.

Investigate the crime scene, cross-examine witnesses and call them out on their falsehoods – that’s what this game is about.

Nothing more and nothing less.

It’s simple, lacking even the classic Psyche-Locks we’ve grown used to by now, but it doesn’t need them. It’s just right the way it is.

Part of what made this NDS masterpiece so popular is the way it marries some very serious drama elements with slapstick comedy and punny jokes, which help keep the game lighthearted.

Plus it’s the first time we got to hear Phoenix’s well-known catchphrase – Objection!

1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations (2007)

Trials and Tribulations Ace Attorney screenshot

Trials and Tribulations is by far my favorite Ace Attorney experience. This is for many reasons, but truly it’s because this title is the most complex and polished version of the franchise’s core gameplay.

Sure, newer releases have beautiful graphics and lots of wacky mechanics like speaking with the dead.

But this game had the exact same gameplay as its predecessor and still managed to not only feel innovative, but profoundly engaging.

It lets a returning player put everything they’ve learned throughout the past two games to good use, equating them to Phoenix Wright on a deep level. It feels like your own story, despite living it through the eyes of a gold-hearted goofball.

Not to mention the new caffeine-addicted prosecutor Godot is stupidly cool.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.