Did you see that? No, of course you didn’t. If you did, you’d already be dead. That, my friends, is the ninja code. Well, the cool ninja code. The video game ninja code. Brandishing a long sword and sporting stealth abilities that should be humanly impossible, video game ninjas are among the most gratifying classes to control.
Sticking to the shadows may not be the definition of fun for some, but it’s tough to deny that the following 15 games based on ninjas deserve the recognition they’ve received. Grab your shuriken, sheath your katana, attach your tenugui, and get ready to find out what it’s like to be a real (video game) shinobi.
Developer: Slick Entertainment/SilverBirch Studios Publisher: Metanet Software/Atari, Inc.
Sometimes, some of the best games of a genre are the most simplistic. N+ proves this theory with mometum-based puzzles that will keep you moving across 2D platforming levels. Master the use of three buttons and the D-pad and you’ll be zooming across more than 150 challenges. Run and jump as a small ninja who is as limber as he is fragile.
Anything that isn’t a flat surface is deadly, be it a droid, mine, or missile. N+ is all about timing, less about killing, and not quite the conventional ninja game you were probably hoping for on this list of best ninja games. Released in 2008, N+ didn’t have to rely on gore, stealth, or the typical features of the genre to garner a place on Tony Mott’s “1,001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.”
14. Mini Ninjas
Developer: IO Interactive Publisher: Square Enix
They may be small, but these warriors are capable of standing proud with their much taller brethren. Mini Ninjas may be quirky, playful, and colorful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your satisfying dose of traipsing around as a sword-wielding shinobi. Choose from one of six unique Mini Ninjas and embark on an adventure that, to the tiny skilled assassins, is larger than life.
When the world is threatened by the Evil Samurai Warlord and his magic dispersed to enchant otherwise benevolent characters, the Mini Ninjas disperse to save the day. To do so, they rely on their skillset, which ranges from being able to control animals to casting spells.
Mini Ninjas isn’t a replacement for the uber-violent ninja games you may be looking for, but if you’re up for a quest-laden journey, it’s going to satisfy quite a few spots.
Developer: Digital Extremes Publisher: Digital Extremes
Many years into the future, the world will look nothing like it does today. Humanity is a breed of robotic clones, at war with a variety of different tech-based races. At the heart of the great war are the Tenno, ancient warriors recently awoken from a century-long cryosleep to find themselves locked in conflict. Players take control of the acrobatic Tenno, donning their bio-mechanical Warframes.
For a free-to-play game, Warframe offers a lot of content. Much of it may be tucked behind premium and rare currencies, but it is possible to grind through each mission to upgrade your Tenno’s Warframe.
Every Warframe has its own series of mods, each one sure to make laying waste to hordes of enemies a ton of fun. The word “ninja” may not be used, but it’s hard to deny that’s totally the type of game you’re playing.
12. Shadow of the Ninja
Developer: Natsume Publisher: Natsume
In the distant future, the United States will be run by a dangerous dictator with a penchant for mayhem. What Emperor Garuda won’t be aware of, however, is the pair of ninjas sent in to kill him. Or so says the future predicted in Natsume’s Shadow of the Ninja.
Players take control of Kaede or Hayate, a duo of colorful ninjas that can run, jump, crouch, and cut their way through a variety of enemies. Equipped with a katana or kusarigama, Kaede and Hayate are pushed to their limits as they battle through a futuristic version of New York City. The closer they get to their target, the more that’s thrown their way. Across five levels, players can experience what it’s like to be a fast-footed ninja.
Shadow of the Ninja is a classic side-scroller through and through, complete with detailed sprites, vibrant levels, and a story that really doesn’t matter because the gameplay is distractingly entertaining.
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
If you can’t do impressive side flips, scale walls, and run at impossible speeds, are you even really a ninja?
Strider helped solidify the standard of playing as a ninja in the late 80s when Capcom released this popular side-scrolling platformer. As Hiryu, a deadly Strider equipped to take on even the most impossible tasks, is sent on said impossible task. Hiryu sets out to assassinate the Grandmaster, a dictator that oversees the dystopian future, and is faced with waves of deadly enemies.
The arcade-style gameplay keeps this fast and flowing. Bounce off of walls, latch onto platforms, and speed-run through detailed levels set in a futuristic Russian Empire. Hiryu’s speedy sword attacks are enough to clear out entire levels, but additional power-ups and abilities keep things fresh and exciting.
The Best Ninja Games: 10-6
10. Bushido Blade
Developer: Light Weight Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
In the early days of 3D fighters, there were only a few games that became the go-to for friendly one-on-one combat. Bushido Blade was one of them, providing players with a slower gameplay experience that requires patience.
The more open environments of Bushido Blade made for unique matches that often dissolved into a game of tag. What separates Bushido Blade from other games of the genre is its meticulous combat, where button mashing and cheap combos won’t earn you a victory. Fitting for a game named after Japan’s samurai code of honor.
Despite its innovations, including a Body Damage system, Bushido Blade alienated fans of faster-paced 3D fighters like Tekken. However, that doesn’t take away from the merits that land it on this list of the best ninja games.
It may not be an exact replica of a real sword fight between ninjas, but we have to assume it comes pretty close. As you can expect, that creates a challenging but enjoyable experience that spawned a sequel and a spiritual successor
9. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developer: PlatinumGames Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
There’s a Metal Gear game for every genre, right? Survival, stealth, adventure, turn-based, and deck-building have all been covered. If “ninja” were a genre, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance would have it covered.
Veering off from the style of game fans were so used to seeing from Kojima, Revengeance again dropped Solid Snake as a protagonist in favor of Raiden. Unlike with Sons of Liberty, however, it wasn’t a surprise this time, and Raiden is a whole lot cooler.
Donning his cyborg ninja persona seen in Guns of the Patriots, Raiden is a fast-footed protagonist battling mechanical units, Gekko, and enhanced soldiers. Instead of firearms, he wields his trusty high-frequency blade and other abilities.
With a focus on sword fighting, players can slow down time to cut through environments and enemies with precision. Frantic gameplay is a far cry from the series signature stealth mechanics, but the change is certainly a welcomed one. What is typical is the zany story expected from a game bred from Hideo Kojima’s wildly popular series.
Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
This isn’t the first ninja game that the aptly-named Team Ninja delivered, but it’s certainly one of the best.
Though Nioh was one of Team Ninja’s later titles, development began in 2004, early on in the development team’s career. A 13-year development process usually spells doom for any project, but Nioh came out on the opposite side with an award-winning story and memorable gameplay.
Set during a fictional version of the late Sengoku period, players take control of William, an Irishman seeking an enemy in Japan. Trained by the famed Japanese samurai, the Irish traveler slices his way through the followers of Edward Kelly, an English Renaissance occultist. In the background of William’s story is a country torn apart by warring clans.
The era of PS2 gaming was one of the best, if not the best we’ve ever seen. It would stand to reason that one of the best ninja games in existence would be from that console generation.
Set in the late-19th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate has fallen and the mysterious traveler Kenji has arrived at Rokkotsu Pass. Though he may have his own agenda, Kenji finds himself trapped between three factions vying for control over the outpost, forcing the ronin to choose a side.
Will you use your skills as a samurai to protect the innocent or observe as the Kurou family and Akadama clan tear one another apart? Selfless or villainous, the path players choose to take Kenji down may change the story, but it has no effect on the core gameplay. Swap out swords, call upon the power of a magic staff, and master the way of the samurai in this PS2 classic.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
You can’t have a “best ninja games” list without finding a spot for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While we could probably throw a couple on this list, Turtles in Time is the most fitting.
Originally released in arcades as a two-player or four-player cabinet, Turtles in Time takes players across millennia in the most thrilling Turtle adventure yet. Traveling through time may be a dull trope that’s been done time and time again, but Turtles in Time handles it well, providing a fun variety of eras.
The quartet of teenage ninjas duke it out with their most infamous foe in between slicing and dicing through a horde of Footsoldiers, Mousers, and other classic enemies. Baxter Stockman, Tokka and Rahzar, Metalhead, Krang, and Shredder round out a rogue’s gallery of memorable villains. Each turtle has his own strengths and weaknesses, providing some variety in gameplay.
Coupled with a unique story, Turtles in Time is an experience worthy of multiple ports and ample praise.
The Best Ninja Games: 5-1
5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Activision
What can you expect from the development team behind the Dark Soul series and Bloodborne? Something difficult with meticulous, somewhat tedious combat? A dark story hidden beneath a heavy focus on nuanced gameplay? Enemies that will haunt your dreams the moment you come face-to-face with them?
Whether one or all of these are included, it’s bound to be a memorable experience. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware’s crack at ninja gaming, is far from a Dark Souls or Bloodborne clone, but it’s still a memorable experience.
After losing his left arm in a confrontation, Wolf, a shinobi during the Sengoku period, sets out to exact revenge against the samurai clan responsible for his handicap. After his recovery, Wolf is equipped with a sophisticated prosthetic that can wield an array of weaponry and gadgets – and that’s where things get really fun.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice earns the accolades it received upon release with solid gameplay and a fun story of revenge that’s both bloody and smart.
“Sekiro is a tremendously fun and difficult game — everything from the combat to the world itself is crafted in a masterful way. The only thing I had a minor issue with was the camera: it can be a bit temperamental when you move around quickly sometimes. Even after spending around 40 hours to beat it, I still want to come back for more in the coming weeks.”
4. Ninja Gaiden Black
Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Tecmo
Developers weren’t always so obsessed with making more modern games incredibly challenging. Sure, the old days of pixelated character models and 2D playing fields produced the most difficult titles to date, but Team Ninja was part of a 21st-century trend to try and put players through the ringer for the full gaming experience.
Though one of the most difficult games of its time, Ninja Gaiden Black is also a thoroughly enjoyable ninja title. As part of the classic series, players take control of series protagonist Ryu Hayabusa. Previously stuck in a 2D plain, Ryu is unleashed on 3D enemies in vibrant environments. His assortment of combos, moves, gadgets, and blades fit the more open level designs.
Ninja Gaiden Black is an updated version of 2004’s Ninja Gaiden, featuring all-new modes, features, and content for a more robust gaming experience in the ninja shoes of a classic character.
3. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Responsible for Don’t Starve and Oxygen Not Included, Klei Entertainment has been known to deliver stylized and unique experiences. Mark of the Ninja is no exception.
Set in a world of shadows and ample hiding spots, players engage enemies as a skilled ninja that uses as much of the environment to silently take down those that stand in his way. Hide, sneak, and silently kill your foe with an armament of ninja gadgets and gizmos that can disarm or kill patrolling guards.
The art style and use of black and dark colors keep the appearance fresh so you can admire the scenery when hiding and plotting. For being developed by an indie team, Mark of the Ninja is surprisingly good.
It’s the right amount of brutally violent, beautiful, and entertaining. When you’re not busy admiring the remaster’s upgraded appearance, you’re sure to find yourself sucked into a game fitting for the title of “best ninja game.”
2. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Developer: Acquire Publisher: Activision
Before K2 LLC took over the series for two PS2 entries, Acquire was behind the wheel with this action-stealth game. When Lord Mei-Oh sets out to destroy Lord Gohda, two powerful ninjas, Rikimaru and Ayame, intervene. Players choose to play as either hero, equipped with the sharp sword and combat acumen that makes them the best ninjas for the job to protect Lord Gohda.
Acquire didn’t just try to mimic the expected motions of ninjas. It brought in famed martial artists Sho Kosugi and his son Kane for motion capture. This helped prevent the typical janky movements of the PSX era, though the run animations are pretty wonky.
Stealth Assassins gives players the ability to live out their ninja fantasies, which is exactly what you should want out of one of the best ninja games on the market.
It’s rare to find a game where both stealth and head-on combat work, but Acquire worked its magic and gave us Tenchu.
1. Shinobi III
Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
Long before SEGA dropped out of the console race and was relegated to producing third-rate Sonic the Hedgehog titles, the developer was churning out classics like Shinobi and, well, Sonic the Hedgehog. After the success of the original Shinobi, SEGA went on to deliver an entire series of titles. Of them, the third entry stands out, receiving acclaim from critics and players alike.
As returning protagonist Joe Musashi, players set off on a side-scrolling adventure where they’ll use shinobi Joe’s moveset, ninja gear, and acrobatic abilities to scale and run across varying levels. Like any typical platformer, Joe faces an assortment of traps and hazards, but smooth gameplay limits accidental deaths. Meaning, if you die, it’s due to inexperience or carelessness.
Shinobi III is near the pinnacle of ninja gaming, with a protagonist that couldn’t look anymore the part and gameplay that has surprisingly survived the test of time.