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Should you play as a boy or girl in Persona 3 Portable?

The female main character has vastly better social link options

The two Persona 3 Portable protagonists over a green tinted Tartarus Graphic: Julia Lee/Polygon | Source images: Atlus
Julia Lee (she/her) is a guides producer, writing guides for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Genshin Impact. She helped launch the Rift Herald in 2016.

As soon as you start off in Persona 3 Portable, you’re asked a daunting question that no other Persona game asks you: Do you want to play as a girl or a boy? The answer does not affect the actual story, but what you choose has a huge effect on social links, so you should pick wisely.

What’s the difference between the male and female protagonist in Persona 3 Portable?

As the female protagonist, you can have social links with the male team members and eventually date them if you want. As the male protagonist, you can date the female team members, but you cannot reject them. You will end up dating all of them if you complete all their social links.

Notably, if you pick the male main character, you do not have any social links with the male team members. Instead, their social links are replaced by NPC students at the school. For example, as the female character, the Star social link is teammate Akihiko Sanada, but as the male character, it’s student athlete Mamoru Hayase.

Also, if you pick the female protagonist, you can choose between which Velvet Room attendant you want: Elizabeth or Theodore. (As the male protagonist, you are forced to use Elizabeth.)

Some of the dialogue choices will also slightly differ, but none of the choices dramatically change the story.

The female protagonist uses a naginata and the male protagonist uses a sword, but they both deal slashing damage, so you don’t have to worry about any vast difference in terms of combat. They also both start with the same persona, Orpheus, which looks slightly different depending on which gender you pick: It will get a palette swap and long brown hair if you pick the female protagonist.

Which protagonist is canon in Persona 3 Portable?

Most players regard the male protagonist as the “canon” character, and you barely see the female protagonist represented in other games. Lots of folks will recommend playing as the male protagonist during a first playthrough and revisiting Persona 3 Portable as the female protagonist for a second run. Don’t want to play a lengthy JRPG twice in a row? You are likely better off playing as the female protagonist, if you want to experience proper social links with all of your teammates.

Persona 3 does have an extended version, akin to Persona 4 Golden and Personal 5 Royal, called Persona 3 FES, but this is not the version that was ported to modern consoles. This is seen as the true canon version. You can only play as the male protagonist in this version.

Persona 3 aficionados will note that you should play FES and then play as the female character in Persona 3 Portable just to experience everything. The appeal of Persona 3 Portable’s original release was the expanded social links with the female protagonist (as well as some quality-of-life changes), but this obviously isn’t the case anymore, since it’s the only version playable on modern consoles when it hits Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on Jan. 19.