24th Mar2013

How to Import for the PlayStation 3

by Kuro Matsuri

PlayStation 3 with Box

There’s some good news for those who want to import games for the PS3.  For all practical purposes, it is completely region free.  It doesn’t require any modification to play import games.  There are a couple of key exceptions, though.

If you happen to have one that is old enough to be backwards compatible, the PlayStation 2 games are still region locked, as are PS1 games in all PlayStation 3 consoles.  As some additional notes, DVDs are region locked.  Blu-rays are also region locked, but for those in the USA, Japan is considered to be the same region, so it might as well be region free if you’re specifically interested in US and Japan BDs.

The other notable exception is really a technicality.  The PS3 does not support region locking directly, however, it does allow games to see what region the current system is.  As such, there’s nothing from stopping a developer from implementing their own region locking.  So far, only one developer has, and then for only one game: Persona 4 Arena.  As such, P4A is the only region locked PS3 game.

If you would like to play any import game (not just PS3 games) on your PS3, you have two options:

Option 1: Buy a Japanese PS3

As always, the most reliable and the most expensive method is to purchase a Japanese version of the console.  You can find some very interesting Japan-only PS3 models at Play-Asia, but they are on the expensive side, starting at right around $400.  In all honesty, you’re probably better off trying to land yourself an import capable PS2 to go along with a local PS3, partially due to price, and partially due to input lag in backwards compatible PS3 systems, specifically for PS2 games.

Option 2: Install Custom Firmware

There’s lots of risks for this one, it’s considerably less legal, but it also has the benefit of allowing you to play backup titles, assuming you have a Blu-ray burner and don’t mind buying BD-Rs.  It also allows you to have one console to play 3 generations of games on across multiple regions.  It certainly sounds promising.

It does, unfortunately, have the downside that it might lock you out of the PSN and online play.  If that’s something you don’t mind potentially giving up, you can look up the PS3 Jailbreak 4.31 Custom Firmware.  Installation is pretty straightforward: download the custom firmware, put it on a USB stick, and treat it like it’s an official PS3 update.  Keep in mind, though, that you can’t update your PS3 the normal way without undoing the custom firmware or, even worse, possibly breaking your console.

Be sure to thoroughly scan anything you download for viruses.  Unofficial things like this do carry an extra risk of viruses.

Where to Get Games

At this time, import PS3 games are abundantly plentiful.  The go-to source is Play-Asia, but NCSX, Amazon (3rd party), and eBay all have pretty wide selections of Japanese import PlayStation 3 games.

Interesting Game Highlights

For the most part, the most interesting import games on the PS3 are ones that are coming out in the US at some point anyway, such as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Re MIX.  The biggest exceptions to this are game genres that are unlikely to do well in the US market, like Visual Novels or Dating Sims.  Possibly the most notable example of this is Clannad for PS3 (which was announced in April of 2010).

Enjoy your PlayStation 3 imports!


Disclaimer: use any of these methods at your own risk. Some of them can damage your console.

Endorsement Policy: while some of the links in this post are affiliate links, others are not, and we strive to provide the best options out there, regardless of affiliate status.

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