Romance of the Three Kingdoms (series)

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV main visual

Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國志, Sangokushi in Japan, meaning "Record of the Three Kingdoms") is a computer and video game series that originated from the Japanese video game developer Koei on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is a series of turn-based computerized war games set in the Three Kingdoms era. Fourteen editions of the series have been published in Japan and Chinese-speaking countries in East Asia. The games often feature a Chinese vocal track. These games are seen by many as the predecessors to Dynasty Warriors and Dynasty Tactics, the former being more combat-based where the latter more strategy oriented.

The events in the game are based on the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Book of the Later Han, Book of Jin, and others. It additionally meshes with other fictional interpretations of the time period, such as Yokoyama Mitsuteru Sangokushi -which the producer is a fan of, the puppet NHK series, and Eiji Yoshikawa's novel adaption. This is due to a pun of the game's Asian title, which can either mean "Three Kingdoms Will" or "Record of the Three Kingdoms" in Japan.

The iconic main theme heard in the opening credits and most promotional trailers for the series was composed by Yoko Kanno.


Gameplay here mainly revolves around managing numerical statistics, each representing an attribute of a city or character. Examples are a city will have statistics indicating the amount of food stored within its walls, its vulnerability to disasters such as floods and earthquakes, how content the people are, and so forth. The main goal of the game is to end the war and unite the land under one ruler. Even if the force the player originally started with is routed, the game will continue until one lord remains.

Turns are taken once per month or week depending on the title. Each city can perform several deeds per Turn but require a certain amount of Action Points (AP) to proceed. Since the player has a limited amount of AP, they must carefully plan their actions per turn. Individual armies are not affected by AP but can only perform one action in each phase. To proceed forward in the game's timeline, players need to select the Advance option. This resets the AP amount and allows other regional lords to perform their actions. The scenery and music changes based on the year's season. Musical changes also occur based on the amount of lands the player has conquered.

In later installments, players can choose to either follow the historical characteristics of history or be completely fictional. They can also adjust the lifespans and death rates of their heroes in a similar manner. If the player chooses to play in the fictional manner, every character -including the noble ladies in court- can be used to maintain the city and can be sent to war. The historical route will limit who participates in the game and removes most of the fictional characters. In this mode, Zhurong will be the only lady who can fight.

Characters have statistics to reflect his/her fighting prowess, intelligence and loyalty to his/her ruler among other attributes. Many players of this game spend more time on improving these statistics than waging war against neighboring territories since the artificial intelligence of the other rulers tend to be peaceful unless the player attacks them first, or they have reached a point of the story where war must break out. Even during such situations, rampant warfare is discouraged.

Editions VII, VIII and X saw the addition of RPG aspects, allowing the player to play as a ruler, an adviser, a prefect, a general or a vassal, whereas the player can only control the ruler in other editions. Also, different characters have various skills to aid them in combat, such as the ability to lure a group of enemy soldiers away from the others or to trick them into retreating. Officers can also participate in duels or debates. Players can also appoint their own versions of the Five Tiger Generals, arrange marriages, or swear brotherhood/sisterhood to other characters.

Recently, original characters and fictional foreign settlers have also been included. This list also includes figures from Water Margin and the four Chinese zodiacs. Other historical figures from different eras of China's history can also appear as optional officers. Generals like Bai Qi, Qin Liangyu, Zhang Liang, and Xiang Ji may be recruited in select titles. Characters from Nobunaga's Ambition also cross over in select titles. Figures from other parts of the world also make cameos in the games as optional figures, including the likes of Julius Caesar and Robin Hood.

The online MMORPG includes magic and mythological beasts for the characters to use. Players who play the game are asked to customize their character (their face, hair color, gender, voice, etc.) before deciding on which of the three kingdoms they want to serve in a guild. They can train their character to wield weaponry, participate in certain crafts, and other such skills to be a help to their kingdom of choice. Their characters can freely roam the world to explore it and can also choose to visit or temporarily ally with other forces, depending on the battle campaign or instance the player wants to commence. Players can choose to defeat generals in Nanman, Yuan Shao's forces, or each other (PvP) in certain dungeons. During special events, the three kingdoms may come together to engage in a three-front war with one another or to participate in a friendly competition. In the former case, siege weapons can be freely used against the other armies. Players can also choose to search dungeons for rare equipment and may choose to witness events contrasting the time period the game takes place (such as Xiang Yu confessing his devotion to his lover). A few events also include slaying various deities or beasts in order to obtain rare items and a higher rank. These monsters crossover with different aspects of Chinese mythology, some of which includes having Bull King, a giant spider woman, and a nine-tailed vixen as one of the game's bosses. High-leveled monsters are also sometimes limited for a specific kingdom to suppress. When the movie, Red Cliffs ~Part II~, was being showed in Japan, the online game also announced a special event to tie in with the movie.

Koei-Tecmo Games has announced that the online game will officially end on July 19, 2010. All services and support for the online will conclude on August 5. New players can continue to sign up for a trial version of the game until June 17th.

Released Games

For Amiga

  • Romance of Three Kingdoms
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms II


  • Romance of Three Kingdoms

For MSX2

  • Romance of Three Kingdoms (different from MSX1 version)
  • Romance of Three Kingdoms II

For Nintendo Entertainment System

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms II

For Super Nintendo Entertainment System

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms II
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms III: Dragon of Destiny
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire

For Sega Genesis

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms II
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms III: Dragon of Destiny

For Sega 32X

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire

For Sega Saturn

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire

For PlayStation

For PlayStation 2

For PlayStation 3

For PlayStation 4

For XBox One

For PC

For Wii

  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI (2007)
  • Sangokushi IV Virtual Console

For Wii U

For Game Boy

  • Sangokushi Game Boy (1992)

For Game Boy Color

  • Sangokushi Game Boy Color (1999)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms II WonderSwan (2000)
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire Game Boy Advance (2001)

For PlayStation Portable

For PlayStation Vita

For Nintendo DS

For Nintendo 3DS

For Nintendo Switch

For Mobile Phones


See also


Image Songs

  • Kiseki ga Kawaru Koro - first title
Performed by Akino Arai
Performed by Koji Kikkawa
  • Kurenai no Hana - Newgin's Pachislot Sangokushi, CR Sangokushi ~Eiyuu Shuuketsu~
Performed by Rin
  • RED WALL-RED SOUL - Newgin's Pachislot Sangokushi
Performed by YU+KI
  • Insert songs for CR Sangokushi ~Eiyuu Shuuketsu~
The Reason, Saishuukai STORY, Drive me - performed by MY FIRST STORY
The Last Savior, Amarantos no Tsubasa - performed by LIV MOON
Scream & Shout, Paint it Out!!!! - performed by KNOCK OUT MONKEY
  • Amazing - Sangokushi 2017 collaboration
Performed by Jane Zhang
Zhang's cosplays as Zhao Yun, Sun Shangxiang, and Diaochan and her song were used for a limited time within the game.

Related Media

Koei released a series of drama CDs dedicated to the games between 1992~1996. They chose voice actors for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series rather than their Dynasty Warriors counterparts. Gamecity also published a four volume light novel series titled Cho Sangokushi.

Music from the first game, II, III, V, X, and 13 was performed for the GAME SYMPHONY JAPAN 24th CONCERT KOEI TECMO Special ~Shibusawa Kou 35th Anniversary~ orchestra concert.


  • The series bounces design elements from the Dynasty Warriors and Dynasty Tactics titles for the 3D models in Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI and the series' Online adaption. Event stills from the series also appears in select Dynasty Warriors Empires installments.
  • Select titles from the series use small bits of footage from the popular live-action TV series. Koei continues to promote the TV series in their fan publications.
  • Elements established in Nobunaga's Ambition and this series form the basis for many of Koei's other historical simulation games.
  • Players of the MMO may collect the metal punishment rod used by Cao Cao in Souten Kōro. When they use it, they gain the ability to say his trademark line, "Just as well!" (ならばよし!). They can also collect the "demon figurine" of Cao Cao.


External Links

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