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The cover of the Megami Tensei collection.
Image via the Megami Tensei Wiki

What Does “Shin Megami Tensei” Mean? – Answered

Out with the old, in with the new

What does “Shin Megami Tensei” translate to? We go over the meaning and how it connects to the series’s history.

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What Does “Shin Megami Tensei” Mean?

In Japanese, “Shin Megami Tensei” means “New Goddess Reincarnation.” Shin Megami Tensei games do occasionally have reincarnation in their stories and feature goddesses as obtainable demons, including an entire race known as Megami. But the title has less to do with the games’ stories and more to do with how the series is differentiated from but still related to the original media that is about a character who is the reincarnation of a goddess.

The Origins of Megami Tensei

The Shin Megami Tensei series is actually based on a novel, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Goddess Reincarnation) by Aya Nishitani, and its sequels. In a The Legend of Zelda fashion, the goddess reincarnation in question isn’t the protagonist of the novel, but an important woman the protagonist must assist. Her name is Yumiko Shirasagi, and she is the reincarnation of the goddess Izanami.

As the title order implies, Megami Tensei isn’t even the series name—it’s the name of just the first book, which is part of the Digital Devil Story trilogy. Still, the novel was popular enough to get an anime adaptation with the same name, and numerous video game adaptations using its subtitle, Megami Tensei. These video games would go on to inspire the Shin Megami Tensei series.

The First “New” Megami Tensei

The very first Shin Megami Tensei game, released in 1992 on the Super Famicom (the Japanese version of the SNES), is inspired by but not directly adapted from the original Megami Tensei series. The main hero of Shin Megami Tensei is meant to be the reincarnation of the Biblical figure Adam and the main heroine is the reincarnation of Eve, but Eve is not considered a “goddess” in the series nor does she appear in any game besides the Japan-only Shin Megami Tensei NINE.

The Shin Megami Tensei title is mostly a reference to how the games are a “new” spin on the concepts started by the original novel series. Thankfully, you don’t need to play the games in any particular order, and the same goes for the spin-offs and even novels, so there’s no need to worry if you can’t get your hands on the Japan-only book that started it all.

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Niki Fakhoori
Niki’s love for video games encompasses a wide range of genres, but she is especially fond of RPGs, adventure games, visual novels, simulation games, and fighting games. Her favorite video game-related pastime is asking her unwieldy backlog why she doesn’t have any new games to play. When she isn’t playing or writing about video games, she’s playing with cats, journaling, painting, or obsessing over the latest news in the world of stationery and planners.