The release of Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy – Deluxe Edition on Nintendo Switch marks the belated debut of the Layton clan on Nintendo’s current console. A clutch of excellent puzzle games came out for the Nintendo DS and 3DS handhelds, but it has taken over a year and a half for the series to arrive on Switch. Rumours that further ports are in the pipeline persist, and with games of this quality, we’d be more than happy to revisit the curious village and more once again.
Which Professor Layton game is the best, though? Picking an order is an exceptionally tough task, but we asked Nintendo Life readers and you all delivered the following verdict. The top two games in the ranking below were in front by a fair margin, although the others were all incredibly close. The series arguably doesn’t have a ‘low point’, but if you don’t have time to enjoy every last one of Hershel Layton and Luke Triton’s adventures, you can use the following ranked list to start with the best and go from there.
So, read on to find out which are the very best Professor Layton games…
Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy feels rather comforting, the video game equivalent of a warm blanket. For the most part it reverts to the core formula of the Professor Layton games, albeit with a new cast and by dividing the narrative into mostly lighthearted, charming ‘cases’. All it lacks is the confidence to fully embrace its new setting, stopping short of expanding upon some of its ideas. That said, it still delivers the series’ unique blend of storytelling and lots of puzzles with aplomb. It’ll have fans and newcomers scratching their heads and smiling at the same time; here’s hoping it’s not Layton’s final mystery.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is another yet top-quality game in a truly brilliant series. Known as The Spectre’s Call in Europe, this was the fourth entry in the series and a prequel to the previous trilogy of games. Kicking off the prequel trilogy, the fourth game combined a thrilling narrative with its trademark puzzles and challenges your mind in a way very few games seriously attempt to do. The feeling you get when you solve a particularly difficult puzzle is less one of relief than it is a desire to leap ahead in the game and find the next. With this entry – the last to appear on DS – the second trilogy got off to an assured start before migrating to 3DS for the remaining two instalments.
The final game of the prequel trilogy which began with Professor Layton and the Last Specter on DS, Hershel Layton’s daughter would take the limelight in the follow up. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy capped the story of the professor and apprentice Luke’s first meeting and exploits, taking them on a globe-trotting adventure and showcasing the best elements of the series. It would be a little odd to start your Layton experience with the last entry of a prequel trilogy, but if you’ve only got access to this one, Azran Legacy is a fine, fine game.
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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask achieved its goal of making a successful franchise transition to 3DS, retaining the charm of its predecessors and making subtle changes to improve the series standards. While solving wonderfully engineered puzzles is the meat of the experience, moments of variety and a few new ideas keeps the franchise from going stale. Its greatest strength, that takes it from a top-notch puzzle collection to something more, is its story-telling. The broad range of characters, the emotional tone of the narrative and the teasing promise of more makes for an utterly engrossing experience. Charmed, Professor.
The second in the series, this one was known as Professor Layton and The Diabolical Box in North America, which is a closer translation of the Japanese title, so there’s no Harry Potter-style dumbing down going on here. Whatever you care to call it, this sequel takes the template of the Professor’s first puzzle-solving adventure and refines it to produce another excellent mystery that uses the console’s features in subtle and brilliant ways. If you enjoyed the original release, there’s absolutely no reason for you not to own this gem of a title.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the first in the puzzle-solving detective series to introduce the world to the titular professor and his apprentice Luke, Layton’s very own Watson. Level-5’s series had a wide appeal from the off, bringing in a whole new audience of gamers with its particular brand of mystery, adventure, great characters and writing to match. It was DS titles like this and Nintendo’s Touch Generation series that opened up video gaming to an audience who previously thought it wasn’t for them. The franchise’s continued success proves it wasn’t a fluke-y one-off. It might not have topped our poll, and the sequels may have refined the template, but Level-5 nailed the basics right off the bat.
The third entry of the mystery-solving DS trilogy is the top of our list. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future doesn’t stray too far from the winning formula of the first two releases, and instead focuses its attention on offering up what is arguably the best storyline of the series on the console, not to mention some of the best minigames as well. It’s no slouch when it comes to brain-twisting puzzles, either. It’s safe to say that if you’re a fan of the franchise, this is a must-play and thoroughly deserving of the ‘Best Professor Layton Game’ title. Bravo, Hershel.
It’s tough to go wrong with this series – let’s hope we see some more of the Professor’s adventures come to Switch in the near future. Disagree with this ranking? Let us know your personal favourites below.