Persona 5 is a one-of-a-kind experience, seamlessly blending classic JRPG combat mechanics with some of the most memorable characters in gaming, all within an incredibly stylish acid jazz noir-inspired package. First released in the United States on September 15, 2016, it will soon get an updated re-release in the form of Persona 5 Royal on March 30, 2020.
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The dungeons in P5, or "palaces," offer up a unique setting for the Phantom Thieves to infiltrate. As the team embarks on their quest to steal hearts and right societal wrongs, they're plunged into twisted, albeit iconic, representations of their target's psyche. Here we are ranking all 9 of them from worst to best.
Updated July 11, 2022 by Ritwik Mitra: For quite some time, the dungeons of the Persona series were procedurally generated. Tartarus was the worst example of this, with each floor barely having any change whatsoever. This made for a rather boring slog as players powered through the floors of this massive dungeon in a bid to progress the main story instead. Persona 4 did add a better spin to this mechanic by adding a theme for every dungeon, but the cracks formed by the procedurally-generated dungeons were still pretty visible for all to see.
However, all this changed with the advent of Persona 5, which decided that dungeons needed to be more personalized to make this part of the gameplay interesting. As a result, each and every Palace that players explore in the game becomes a fascinating look into the mind of the individual whose heart the Phantom Thieves are trying to change. This allows for a ton of environmental storytelling while keeping the game's themes at the forefront during these infiltrations.
That being said, not all the Palaces in Persona 5 boast the same level of quality. Some are noticeably worse than others, due to a combination of several factors including level design, toughness, and length, to name a few. Keeping this in mind, here are all the palaces in Persona 5, ranked in order of how fun and engaging they are to explore in the game.
9 Okumura's Palace
In theory, Okumura's Palace should be one of the coolest. The futuristic setting is rad, and the concept of Okumura seeing his fast-food workers as disposable mechanical drones is the kind of perverse villain trait that makes your eventual takedown of him incredibly satisfying. It helps that the Palace itself looks fairly unique and makes for a fresh change of pace from the other environments that players have explored in the game.
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However, this palace is kneecapped by both its extreme length and narrative shortcomings. While the stakes are still high, they're in relation to Haru, a character introduced as Morgana's sidekick during his rebellious phase. The hasty manner in which Haru's character is introduced, coupled with the fact that she's the last permanent member of the Phantom Thieves to join your party, weakens the impact of this Palace even more.
By the time the player finds Okumura's treasure, their quest has become less about saving your new friend from her forced betrothal. Usually, they're more concerned with moving on past this part of the game, which is pretty understandable since the plot reaches a really interesting point right after Okumura's Palace is done and dusted... although that is easier said than done. After all, the boss fight against Okumura is easily one of the most challenging in the entire game and will leave players stumped until they use effective strategies and don't let any good stay alive for too long.
8 The Final Palace
The Final Palace in Mementos has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Not only is it propelling the Phantom Thieves to their final confrontation, but it also has to keep things moving and fun. For the most part, it works just fine. The stark red and black color scheme, a fun puzzle mechanic, and some grim realizations all help make this a very serviceable palace.
P5 is at its best, though, when its characters are front and center in the conflict. Sure, the hearts of Tokyo are at risk, but a world-ending threat just isn't as compelling or creative as the more personal moments that the Phantom Thieves go through in prior palaces.
That being said, facing the Holy Grail and getting brushed off by such a powerful threat still serves as a powerful wake-up call that perfectly sets the stage for the final confrontation... in the base game, at least. After all, Persona 5 Royal features a brand new epilogue of its own where players need to go through Maruki's Palace... but that's a conversation best saved for another day.
7 Kaneshiro's Palace
The best thing about Kaneshiro's palace is the introduction of the newest Phantom Thief, Queen (a.k.a. Makoto, a.k.a Best Girl). The next best thing is the absolutely gonzo boss fight, where an insectoid version of Kaneshiro summons a giant mechanical piggy bank to ruin your day. This battle can prove challenging, but never stretches into the realm of unfairness and serves as a formidable test of everything the gamer had learned up to this point.
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However, there are several annoying facets of this Palace that take away from the overall experience. The keypad puzzles are fun at first, but grow stale after a while. Plus, after coming off of the highs of Madarame's palace (both from a narrative and level-design perspective), robbing an actual bank somehow feels just a little dull. It's a shame, since Kaneshiro could've actually had a compelling Palace... but this villain feels almost inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and taking care of him simply isn't as satisfying as the other villains who had more personal squabbles with the Phantom Thieves.
6 Maruki's Palace
Persona 5 Royal introduces a new semester, coupled with a brand-new Palace that remains a mystery for quite some time. Visiting this Palace for the first time is quite a blast, with Kasumi also awakening her Persona during this rather interesting segment.
After the events of the third semester when the Palace ruler is revealed to be none other than Takuto Maruki, a string of interesting plot points take place. These culminate in the reveal that the Kasumi that players interacted with all this time was actually Sumire Yoshizawa instead. It's a rather interesting part of the infiltration, although one has to admit that this was also the peak of this Palace as well.
After the Phantom Thieves band together to take down Maruki, the entire Palace becomes somewhat of a slog. Forcing players to go to Mementos to take down a barricade doesn't help. Furthermore, the random quizzing segment in the middle of the infiltration serves only to annoy players instead of acting as a change of pace. For a Palace that is meant to be the final stop in this amazing journey, it's a bit grating to find out that this dungeon overstays its welcome due to how unnecessarily long it is.
5 Shido's Palace
Shido's palace has some of the absolute coolest and most thematically resonant moments in the entire game. Teaching all the people that Shido's coerced into his circle a much-needed lesson is super satisfying. However, the impact feels kinda hollow once players realize that these are just cognitive beings in the mind of Shido and nothing else. Despite that, the fight against Akechi towards the end is both thrilling and heartbreaking. Shido himself is a challenge, but it makes the eventual victory a fist-pumping moment of joy.
If only those stupid mouse puzzles weren't so annoying. The palace itself is already pretty long, but turning into an (admittedly cute) rodent in rooms full of enemies makes backtracking and exploring a slog. It's an unbearably rote and irritating segment of the Palace. Most players would undoubtedly be annoyed by the end of an otherwise stellar infiltration process. It's the biggest drawback in a Palace that is truly brilliant otherwise, even though it might feel a bit too long at times... which is probably the fault of those rodent sections anyway.
4 Futaba's Palace
The best palaces in P5 tell you more than you thought you knew about whomever it is you're infiltrating; Futaba's palace gives you an almost fully colored-in picture of her psyche from top to bottom. What starts as a mission to get Medjed off the Phantom Thieves' back turns into a sweet and poignant story about helping Futaba come to terms with guilt.
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Crawling through the pyramid is also a lot of fun, if not a bit repetitive. The Egyptian-inspired personas you discover help give this palace a strong sense of place, and the puzzles help tell a story as well as break up the gameplay. In terms of the most emotional dungeon to explore, this tomb definitely takes the cake... even thought the level design is far from perfect at times.
3 Madarame's Palace
Madarame's palace is the first time where Persona 5 truly pops off. Where every palace at its core is about stealing a treasure, this is one of the few that truly feels like a heist. The museum feels fully realized, complete with all the things you'd expect to find: an intricate security system, obtuse modern art, and, yes, even a help desk. Even the different sections within the museum feel unique and easily distinguishable. It's also one of the few palaces in the game where the Phantom Thieves have to work in both the Metaverse and the real world to pull off the infiltration.
On top of all that, Yusuke's story is told very well here. His complex relationship with both Madarame and art helped make someone who could easily become a joke character stand out as one of the more emotionally grounded members of the group. To cap it all off, the final Escher-esque portion of the palace has some bonkers visuals and a fun navigation mechanic to boot.
2 Kamoshida's Palace
Lots of video games come with the caveat of "it doesn't get good until about [10, 15, 30, etc] hours in." Persona 5 eschews this trend at the top by almost immediately throwing you into Kamoshida's palace. Even though it functions as an extended tutorial, each trip into the castle manages to be fun while still telling something about the world, its rules, and its characters.
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As Ryuji, Morgana, and Ann become more and more endearing to the player, Kamoshida, on the other hand, rapidly cements himself as one of the biggest jerks in gaming. Taking him down feels GREAT and propels the player into their role as a Phantom Thief for the next 90 hours of gameplay.
1 Sae's Palace
A 777 indeed! Sae's palace can be best described as a "bop." Everything in this palace turns the best elements of P5 all the way up. Akechi joins the party! The music slaps! You get to cheat at dice! By this point in the game, the Phantom Thieves have fully formed, the story has caught up to the beginning scene, and all systems are firing.
Cruising through the casino can be challenging if unprepared, but it feels so satisfying once you get to the final confrontation with Sae and, just for a moment, it seems as though everything has finally gone according to plan. Looking cool, Joker!
Persona 5 Royal is available now on PlayStation 4. It is set to release for Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, PC, and PlayStation 5 on October 21, 2022.
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