Free riichi mahjong tools in English are in demand now more than ever. They are pretty much a necessity for the western non-Japanese speaking community out there.
Luckily, we now have a lot of resources in English to learn how to play, and how to get better. Unluckily, it can be hard to know which one is the best.
As a Professional Riichi Mahjong Player in Japan with over 10 years of experience, I curated each category to find only the best free tools for Japanese mahjong in English.
Only the best in this list. No affiliates, no fluff.
Players who want to improve their mahjong game in the shortest amount of time possible, whether online or offline, can benefit from the following mahjong tools and apps.
Whether you're just learning how to play Japanese mahjong, or you're aiming to become a professional player, any riichi enthusiast outside of Japan should definitely know about these tools!
I focused on three basic requirements to include a resource in this list.
One, they must be free.
Two, they must be in English.
Three, they must be useful and the best of its genre.
Please, let me know in the comments what you thought of them and if I missed another one that should be here.
Here is the list.
Play Riichi Mahjong Online For Free
The best server to play riichi mahjong online out there isn't really in English. The best online mahjong server is undoubtedly tenhou.net
It doesn't require a lot of Japanese knowledge to use anyway, but there is a way to change the interface into English.
Play Tenhou in English
You can still enjoy Tenhou in English.
Tenhou provides an official 4K desktop version that can be viewed in many languages. However, it is not free, and the Yaku are not translated.
Nevertheless, you can still enjoy a full-English Tenhou experience.
Tenhou is by far the best online mahjong server for riichi mahjong.
Tenhou's ranking system does an excellent job of separating beginner players from intermediate and advanced players. Because of that, it has become the most competitive environment online by far.
Other servers are not as competitive, so feel free to play in different servers for fun. Stick primarily to Tenhou as your means of facing stronger players.
The other advantage for Tenhou is that it will log your games into replay files that you can later share them with someone stronger than you to get Game Reviews.
Play Riichi Mahjong Offline For Free
Sometimes you want to avoid human players, and just play a few quick games at your own pace.
When it comes to playing Japanese mahjong offline, this is the best flash game:
The Best Japanese Mahjong Flash Game
This flash game allows you to play Japanese mahjong offline against a very decently balanced AI.
The best part is that it's 100% in English.
Back when I had just started playing mahjong I'd play against this CPU for several hours, sometimes all night. Today, over 10 years after, I'm a professional player in Japan.
When you're just starting out and you need some quick mahjong practice, be sure to give this free tool a few hours of love.
Note: There is also a mobile version of this app, but it's in Japanese.
If you prefer to use your phone to play mahjong, then...
Play Mahjong Online and Offline on Mobile
If you prefer mobile gaming, I used to recommend Sega's MJ even though it's in Japanese.
However, now there is an English alternative that is beautifully designed: MahjongSoul.
MultiPlayer Japanese Mahjong Game: MahjongSoul
MahjongSoul deserves a separate section in this list.
With MahjongSoul you get the whole package:
- A Japanese Mahjong Tutorial
- Play on Mobile and Desktop
- Beautiful 3D Interface
- Online Mahjong
- Offline Mahjong
- A Ranking System
- Not as competitive as Tenhou
- Achievements, items and beautiful characters
- Game Logs
You can download it for both, Android and iPhone on the official MahjongSoul website.
The other amazing thing about MahjongSoul is that it also has its own Discord Channel in English, where Japanese and English speaking players may interact with each other.
If you want your MahjongSoul game logs reviewed, you can submit them to me here.
How to Play Mahjong: Video Tutorial
As for those just starting out playing riichi mahjong and learning the finer rules and yaku, I really like the following video for beginners.
I have to warn you, though: it's 3 hours long...
If you have the time you might want to consider watching it to learn the rules and yaku.
The video is very engaging and detailed. It does not disappoint.
The Best Riichi Mahjong Strategy Book in English
So now you are playing against AIs and humans, but you can't seem to win as often as you would like to.
For people wanting to improve, you have this excellent e-book by Daina Chiba called "Riichi Boook I"
This e-book is in English, it's free and it covers every basic strategic concept of Riichi Mahjong.
This mahjong book is by far the best book available in English to become a solid riichi mahjong player.
If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you give it a download.
The Best Mahjong Cheat Sheet
There are a ton of mahjong cheat sheets out there, but my favorite one in English has to be EMA's Mahjong Cheat Sheet.
It includes scoring, rules, yaku and translations.
All in the manageable size of: Only 2 pages!
This means you can easily print it and keep it at hand.
The Best Mahjong Glossary and Terminology List
If you read a Mahjong term that you are not familiar with, chances are that it is included in Barticle's Japanese Mahjong Glossary.
You probably won't print this one out, but a ctrl + f search for the term will definitely give you results.
If you read it from start to finish, you will be an expert in Japanese mahjong lingo!
The Best Mahjong Training Apps
The English-speaking community has developed many apps for training all your hard and soft mahjong skills.
Here is a comprehensive list:
Mahjong Point Calculator and Scoring Tool
Of all the apps I tried, I liked Mahjong Tracker the most.
Some of the points in its favor:
- It's free
- It's in English
- It's very easy to use
- Game History available on desktop as well
- The website's design is pretty good, the devs are involved
If you don't have a fancy mahjong table that can keep score then this app is a must.
Mahjong Tile Efficiency Trainer in English
To improve your Tile Efficiency skills, there's this amazing Tile Efficiency Trainer that will guide you discard by discard to show you what the widest discard was.
I have to add one mandatory disclaimer tho: this tool should only be trusted for basic efficiency, as it does not take into account hand value or more complex nuances (such as considering final shape, or hand improvements); it's all about the widest tile acceptance for the next shanten for each discard. Not about Expected Value.
Mahjong Wait Reading Trainer in English
Too many tiles in one suit and suddenly you are lost... what you are waiting on!?
Relax. Try Ozball's Mahjong Wait Quiz!
There aren't many tools like this one out there, and because of its simplicity it is definitely one of my favorites.
You will become a Chin Itsu Master within weeks.
The Biggest Japanese Mahjong Wiki
You are definitely welcome to read, expand, edit and make use of this English Mahjong Wiki.
The Biggest English-speaking Riichi Mahjong Communities
Besides all of these Free Riichi Mahjong Tools, a few years ago I started an English-speaking riichi mahjong group on Facebook, based on the defunct Osamuko.com where I was an author.
There we laugh, we cry, we promote our clubs and challenge each other; we like to help each other out and ask questions.
It has grown to become one of the biggest Mahjong Groups on Facebook, so please go ahead and join us!
If Discord is more your thing, I also opened the biggest Mahjong Discord Channel, built as well around the members of the original Facebook Group. It has grown to become the de facto Discord Channel for Mahjong Discussion. So be sure to jump on in and connect!
In short, for playing casually you want to download MahjongSoul.
If you like to be competitive, go for Tenhou instead and use the English UI patch.
For learning strategy, download Daina Chiba's book and join us on Discord.
If this all is still not enough for you, please consider personal coaching and advice by becoming one of my Patrons. You'll get access to a ton of content, and you will also be supporting all my efforts to increase the number of mahjong players, riichi mahjong tools and other resources in English.
If you found this content useful, please share it and let me know in the comments, which tool was the most useful for you?