This is not intended to be a list of games (I’ve done that before), or to be complete in any way. It just picks a few samples to show how things developed.
1975: Taito’s “Western Gun” is licensed by Midway as “Gun Fight”.
1979: Taito’s “Space Invaders”, again published by Midway in the USA, is probably the first Japanese arcade game to make a real impact abroad.
1985: The Famicom is released in North America as Nintendo Entertainment System. It is completely redesigned to resemble a VCR more than a game console.
1986: Ken Williams travels to Japan with the intention to sell Sierra games there. Instead he returns with a game he has bought: “Thexder” by Game Arts, which will become Sierra’s best selling game in 1987. Other game ports resulting from this cooperation are Silpheed, Zeliard and Fire Hawk. Sierra will also port Nihon Falcom’s Sorcerian in 1987.
1987: Spectrum HoloByte licenses Sokoban and creates versions for Apple II, Commodore 64 and PC.
1988: Koei establishes a Californian subsidiary and publishes at least every other game in the USA, on multiple platforms. The “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” series is probably the most popular.
1989: Brøderbund ports thre PC-88 titles: Cosmic Soldier 2: Psychic War (Kogado), Wibarm (Arsys Software), Ys (Nihon Falcom, first game only). Seika ports “Take the A-Train II” as “Railroad Empire”.
1990: Final Fantasy is released in the USA. According to one survey, Mario is recognized by more American children than Mickey Mouse.
1992: Maxis publishes “Take the A-Train III” as simply “A-Train”. Liberty International Components forms the subsidiary Megatech Software, which brings the first eroge to the USA.
1994: SoftEgg translates Gainax’ Princess Maker 2. They are unable to find a publisher, but the finished translation gets leaked and enjoys some popularity anyway.
1994/95: Hitoshi Ozawa translates a number of freeware Windows games into English, among them Same Game.
1995: The Sony Playstation is released in the USA.
1996: JAST USA is founded.