Best Professor Layton Games: Ranking The Entire Series

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Professor Layton is one of the most widely-loved franchises out there.

While fans are generally very opinionated on what the best entry in the series is, none of its games get any hate at all – which is remarkable in today’s day and age.

Created by Japanese developer Level-5, the franchise is one of the few bringing together the cohesive storytelling of a narrative-driven game and brain-training puzzles.

It manages to get people interested in working their most crucial organ, and it keeps things interesting even after hours of puzzle-solving. Everything in the Layton series has a distinct personality and a particular charm, from the cutscenes to the characters and the far-fetched mysteries presented in every game.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of the series or a newbie looking for some puzzles to crack, this ranking of every Layton game should point you in the right direction.

 

9. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (2008)

Professor Layton and the Curious Village iOS screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo DS, iOS, Android

We kick things off by taking a look back at the game that started the puzzle-solving craze on the NDS.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first one in the original trilogy and follows the beloved duo of Hershel and Luke as they try to track down the Golden Apple, a mysterious item supposedly hidden somewhere in the village of St. Mystere.

As the first game in the franchise, it had some areas that could be improved – such as the budding art style – but the soul of the Layton experience is already there.

 

8. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (2009)

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box - Nintendo DS screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo DS, iOS, Android

As a sequel to an already acclaimed game, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box focused on perfecting what made the first game such an engaging experience rather than experimenting with new features.

The story follows Hershel and Luke as they travel cross-country to find the truth about the Elysian Box, said to kill anyone who dares open it.

First set in a train going nowhere, then dumping our heroes in the wonderfully creepy place that is Folsense, this Layton adventure is nothing short of an Anne Rice novel.

This story is full of mystery, even more so than the original.

In a way, it becomes another puzzle you’re trying to figure out as you go through the actual puzzles.

It’s a tad short, yes. And it takes a while for the story and puzzles to get going – but once you’re in the thick of things, the game is fantastic.

 

7. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (2014)

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy Nintendo 3DS screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

The most modern installment in the main line of Professor Layton games, and the last game of the 3DS prequel trilogy, was one of the franchise’s most ambitious moments – so much so, perhaps, that it was a bit too much.

The game’s story tries to do it all, taking the player and our beloved characters on tour around the world, as they try to uncover the mysteries surrounding the ancient Azran civilization.

The central conflict is also on a scale never before seen in the series. And there are so many major plot twists, you may get dizzy.

While it’s exciting, spending so little time in each location stops any of them from truly shining.

Something similar happens to the story, as none of the plot twists or moments of character development feel particularly gripping.

That said, the game does a great job of tying up loose ends and addressing important plot points, such as Descole’s origin.

The game’s aesthetic and character models are also top-notch here, and a lot of fun to play with.

 

6. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (2012)

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask Nintendo 3DS gameplay screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

The Professor’s first adventure in 3D brought with it a lot of new challenges for the development team. Such as making the transition to 3D character models as smooth as possible and keeping the general look and feel of the game aesthetically cohesive.

It’s hard to determine whether they succeeded or not, as the new 3D graphics look amazing sometimes, but profoundly amateurish at others.

That said, the puzzles remain amazing. And it has one of the best soundtracks in the series as a whole.

The story, which follows Layton and his sidekicks Luke and Emmy as they pursue the truth behind the Masked Gentleman who’s been wreaking havoc in the city of Monte d’Or, is also one of the best.

 

5. Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy (2017)

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy Nintendo Switch gameplay

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS

While it seems that Professor Layton’s days as a video game protagonist are over, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any puzzle-solving action coming from Level-5.

Katrielle Layton is Hershel’s daughter and the new lead for Layton’s Mystery Journey.

The first game in this new series focuses on setting the stage, introducing characters, and a new mystery to uncover – the Professor’s disappearance.

While the puzzles remain as strong as ever, the new “girly” aesthetic has been a bit hard on long-time fans who’ve grown accustomed to the Professor’s Englishman charm.

That said, it remains an excellent foray into new grounds with a strong female protagonist, bringing a fresh perspective to the game and possibly attracting new players.

If you’re interested in trying out what this new take on the Layton premise has in store, go for the Nintendo Switch release. The control scheme for the Switch definitely surpasses the 3DS.

 

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

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Nintendo 3DS gameplay

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

It’s unusual to find a crossover game so high up on a ranking.

But this fantastic mash-up of the famed Professor Layton and noble Phoenix Wright is truly a match made in heaven.

Capcom developed the game for the 3DS with enough involvement from Level-5 to keep the game equal parts Layton and Ace Attorney.

This is partly accomplished by just letting each group of characters take care of different activities. While Hershel and his group solve puzzles, Phoenix defends people during witch trials.

It may sound crazy, but the game follows an excellent narrative that puts both out protagonists in a mysterious medieval world and features some showstopping plot twists.

The game also looks gorgeous, following the graphical style of the most recent Ace Attorney games. Now the Layton characters look a bit weird beside the more realistic Ace Attorney characters, but it’s nothing too unsettling.

 

3. Professor Layton and the Last Specter (2011)

Professor Layton and the Last Specter - game screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo DS

As the last entry in Hershel’s adventures on the NDS, Professor Layton and the Last Specter focuses on setting the stage for a new trilogy of games that would continue on the 3DS.

The game is a prequel, telling the story of how Professor Layton first met his sidekick Luke.

The professor is joined by Emmy, his assistant, and the first female character worth remembering in the series. It also introduces Descolé, the main villain for this trilogy.

The story is far from a wild ride.

It’s rather homely, and focuses intensely on creating lovable characters with moving interactions with one another. Really it’s an emotional game like no other in the series, which goes well with its atmospheric feel and generally dark storyline.

It’s also important to mention that both the Japanese and American versions of the game feature Professor Layton’s London Life, a slice-of-life RPG similar to Animal Crossing, which was the best part for many reviewers.

 

2. Layton Brothers: Mystery Room (2013)

Layton Brothers: Mystery Room iOS gameplay

Platforms: Android, iOS

Easily the best Layton spin-off has to be Layton Brothers: Mystery Room, released for iOS and Android with a new concept set in the Layton universe.

The game is told from the perspective of Lucy Baker, a newly admitted detective at Scotland Yard’s Mystery Room, where she works with Alfendi Layton – a genius with a double personality.

In other words, it’s a modern Sherlock Holmes novel.

While the narrative is gripping and exciting all the way through, Layton Brothers also features fantastic gameplay that’s more similar to Ace Attorney than to the original Layton games.

It’s case-based, and you’ll have to get down and dirty in the crime scenes to piece together the “puzzle” that is every crime.

With lovable characters and one of the biggest plot twists in the franchise, Layton Brothers is simply a game you can’t ignore.

It’s also a great entry point for newcomers for the series, as the CSI-aspect and thrilling storyline have a lot more mainstream appeal than the often morose aesthetic of the main series.

 

1. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (2010)

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future iOS screenshot

Platforms: Nintendo DS, Android, iOS

I’m sure I’m not alone in my praise of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, which features the most emotional and thrilling plot in the entire series.

Along with a soundtrack that’ll keep playing in your brain until the end of days.

It’s the last game in the original NDS trilogy, bringing fans more of the same polished Layton gameplay, and some of the most challenging puzzles in the series.

What makes this game so memorable it how epic the narrative feels.

It follows Hershel and Luke as they investigate a time machine and become entangled in a multi-timeline mystery. It’s far-fetched, but it works.

Regrettably, this is the last game chronologically to feature either the Professor or Luke, and it ends on a cliffhanger that’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

In a way, I guess it’s just something to look forward to!

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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.