Persona 3 Portable - Yomotsu Shikome

Persona 3 marked an ambitious shift in the Shin Megami Tensai sub-series when it first released on PlayStation 2 back in 2006. It led to Persona 4 and Persona 5, both of which are considered timeless JRPGs. Now, with Persona 3 Portable getting a re-release on modern hardware, it’s given a lot of folks the opportunity to dive into this classic.

Often considered one of the darker entries in the Persona series, Persona 3 definitely has a sinister vibe to it, and it leans into horror more than you might realize. Here are five reasons Persona 3 is actually a horror game.

The Dark Hour Feels Like Something Out of a J-Horror Manga

Persona 3 Portable - Tartarus

A normal day is made up of 24 hours, right? Maybe for you and I. In Persona 3, it’s explained that there’s a hidden 25th hour that occurs at midnight. This phenomenon, known as the Dark Hour, sees all normal humans placed inside coffins, completely unaware of the passage of time they are existing in.

The Dark Hour doesn’t affect these people, but those individuals who can summon their inner Personas are able to exist freely in this moment. It’s at this time where the protagonists of Persona 3 are able to climb the tower of Tartarus, which is filled with demonic, monstrous entities known as Shadows.

The concept of the Dark Hour is an interesting one for sure, and it has a very distinct J-horror vibe to it that feels like something taken out of the pages of a manga.

Apathy Syndrome Is Essentially Demonic Possession

Persona 3 Apathy Syndrome

As time passes in Persona 3, more and more people become afflicted with a condition called apathy syndrome. These people lose their energy and motivation, dragging their feet as they walk around town. They look a little bit like zombies, shambling around with their heads tilted to one side.

You eventually learn that apathy syndrome is the result of these individuals’ psyches being consumed by the Shadows. In other words, we’re looking at good old-fashioned possession here. No, these folks aren’t projectile vomiting on you or turning their heads 180 degrees, but they lose control of their faculties and, eventually, their consciousness as the Shadows feed on their souls.

That Creepy Kid

Persona 3 Portable Pharos

One of the first characters you encounter in Persona 3 is a young boy. He speaks slowly and uses ambiguous language, talking about mysterious events that will occur and telling you that you need to agree to take responsibility for your actions. He looks like a ghost kid, and he vanishes into and appears out of thin air as he pleases. He seems friendly enough, but that doesn’t make him any less creepy.

The Game Often Feels Like a Teen Slasher

Persona 3 - All-Out Attack

The gameplay of Persona 3 is split into your typical JRPG combat and visual novel scenes filled with dialogue and character development. The latter moments are used to drive the story forward, build the game’s world, and establish relationships between the characters. Because the protagonist and the majority of the cast are high school students, there are a lot of teen moments. During these visual novel parts, characters build bonds between one another, flirt with romance, and deal with the struggles of academia.

The high school setting and characters thus give Persona 3 something of a teen slasher vibe. If you’ve watched movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, or TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s easy to draw parallels to that specific brand of horror. These characters are not only tasked with keeping their grades up and dealing with the pressures of high school — they also have to make time to take on the supernatural.

Look at This Enemy and Tell Me This Isn’t Horror

Persona 3 Portable

Whether they’re friendly Personas or enemy demons, there are a lot of horrific-looking characters in Persona 3. Just look at this monster you encounter early on! Creepy. As. Heck.

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