Ninjas are one of the coolest character types you can find in media next to cowboy and pirate. Whether it’s movies or anime, we never seem to get tired of watching wrapped assassins bound on rooftops in the dead of night. In video games, they are usually (or not) found among stealth dramas, as is their specialty. However, some of the most impactful ninja games aren’t even about stealth.
For example, the 1987 arcade action game Shinobi was the most likely ancestor of the video game ninja we know and love today. It is thanks to this game that we have a wide variety of titles to choose from when we want to enter the tabi of masked assassins. Here, we’re going to look back at some of the best platformers, RPGs, and even first-person shooters that have appeared in ninja history.
N, also called N: Way of the Ninja, is a stylish platformer from the era of website flash games. After being considered a hit, the game managed to break into consoles with its sequels, N+ and N++.
This gem of a series is pretty simple: run and jump over walls to the finish while dodging spikes, lasers and deadly drops, and collect gold along the way. The relatively simple premise was executed well enough to warrant the recognition that many flash games could only dream of obtaining.
September 11th shadow warrior 2
Back in the days of MS-DOS games, Shadow Warrior was released long after games like Doom and Wolfenstein had already hit the big time. Although well received, it was a bit of a forgotten gem, until it was rebooted in 2013. Returning with contemporary features and modern graphics, Shadow Warrior (2013) brought the game back to life and between hands of gamers who would appreciate FPS. ninja-action.
The protagonist, Lo Wang, is a much less serious protagonist known for his constant antics and machine guns. It’s a lot closer to a tongue-in-cheek parody of the typical story you’d expect from a ninja game. The reboot’s sequel, Shadow Warrior 2, hosts a lot of appreciated gameplay improvements and would be a good place to jump into the series. However, just like the original, a sense of humor is definitely needed as everything can come across as naturally insensitive.
8/11 Tenchu: Heaven’s Wrath
In the early days of consoles, two big names shaped the ninja landscape in video games for quite some time. The stealthiest of the pair is undoubtedly Tenchu. Much of what you’d expect in terms of stealth action in ninja-related video games was likely inspired by Tenchu.
After the first game in 1998, they entered a boom period in the 2000s where the developers, Acquire and K2 LLC, managed to release seven games, with two more being developed by Polygon and From Software. Unfortunately, they all remain on consoles and no other additions have been made to the series. Fortunately, in the distant future, From Software will return to the legacy of Tenchu in the development of a some big budget ninja themed games.
7/11 Ninja Gaider 2
The second series of ninjas, much less silent, would be Ninja Gaiden. Tecmo, and later Team Ninja, found similar success in the 90s on vintage consoles with a revamp of its identity in the 2000s.
Ninja Gaiden (2004) marked the start of the identity we all remember from the series. Tenchu focused on stealth, assassination, and slower, more grounded combat. Ninja Gaiden, however, was truly a hack-and-slash known for its awesome (and gruesome) combat and cinematic cutscenes. The running, jumping, and fluid combinations of these games made them surefire hits on gameplay alone.
6/11 Aragami 2
You might think of Aragami as a successor to what we loved about Tenchu, but these cel-shaded games stand out on their own for being all that and more. All fans of these games will feel right at home in Aragami and especially with the major improvements brought by Aragami 2.
Your character sneaks around in the dark of night, assassinating enemies left and right, a practice we all already love. What really shines about Aragami are all the different techniques at your disposal which make things even more exciting to play. The graphics and gameplay are all much improved in the sequel and best of all is the addition of co-op, letting you enjoy it all with a friend.
If you’ve ever wanted to play a ninja MMORPG, chances are you’ve heard of Warframe. Ninjas Play Free is right in the tagline, meaning the developers are already thinking of you and aiming to make this game an enjoyable experience. You’ll spend much of your time flying through the air and bouncing off walls in this exhilarating third-person action game set in outer space.
Much like a ninja, each “Warframe” is essentially the result of bio-engineering with its own unique powers that vary the gameplay wildly. While that means most of them wouldn’t pass for ninjas in the traditional sense, the rather unique concept of ninjas in space is still more than enough to captivate its player base.
If you like ninjas, cyberpunk, and parkour, Ghostrunner could easily be the perfect game for you. It trades a content-heavy story for a shorter, much more gameplay-focused experience that’s sure to leave you wanting more.
All will be forgiven once you get your hands on it, though. There’s nothing quite like running through neon lights, bouncing off walls, and deflecting bullet throws before hurtling towards your foes and slicing your foes in half with a quick swing of your katana. If this all sounds like a dream to you, you’ll probably play Ghostrunner again until you’re fully satisfied.
3/11 Nioh 2
Nioh is an action-RPG influenced by our favorite setting of Sengoku-era Japan. It hits similar beats to Souls games, dropping it into the “Soulslike” category despite sharing developers with the Ninja Gaiden franchise. The end result is something that combines the two a bit.
What sets Nioh apart from those games is definitely the skill tree feature, which lets you specialize in more than just attributes and weapons for your build. It’s not just ninjutsu to meet your ninja expectations, but also samurai skills as well as esoteric onmyoji magic. The new gameplay additions, the story and all the amazing monster designs put Nioh 2 ahead of its predecessor and you’d miss it if you skipped the first game.
2/11 mark of the ninja
Chances are that at least part of your childhood was spent watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. If so, you’ll be even happier once you’ve seen the art and animation of Mark of the Ninja. The entire game is definitely inspired by those same cartoons, and you could go so far as to say that a lot of the gameplay and story could be attributed to them as well.
In this game, you play as a ninja in modern times, stealthily leaping from rooftop to rooftop in order to uncover the secrets of your clan and the titular mark you bear. While other options are of course available, the main draw of the game is its incredible stealth gameplay. This, combined with the fantastically atmospheric backgrounds, is really reminiscent of the era that just might have made you appreciate the ninja theme, to begin with.
1/11 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
One of From Software’s most recent additions to their “Souls-like” games, Sekiro has likely turned out to be a dream come true for many ninja fans. It has a very traditional look and feel while going all out on the fantastical elements and lore the studio is known for offering.
The gameplay is of course no joke either. There are a variety of tools and items that will allow you to creatively solve problems and dispatch enemies. The bosses in this game will require a little more tact and timing than in a Souls game, as the main combat loop is all about lowering your enemy’s balance in order to land a decisive blow. This sets the stage for some very exciting and dynamic boss battles that rely heavily on player skill rather than knowledge of game mechanics.
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