Ninja warriors have been an obsession for many for practically as long as they have existed. Known for their stealthy, cunning, deceitful and highly lethal ways, Ninjas were the perfect assassins for hire and some of the most badass fighters in history, making it only natural that they become the subject of all sorts of pop culture mediums.
With plenty of movies, TV shows, cartoons, and toys dedicated to the legendary assassins, it is only natural they also become the subject of video games. With plenty of fans clamoring to dive deep into the world of ninjas, it’s no surprise that entire ninja-themed gaming sites have popped up, as well as some amazing console and PC titles being released across the years to great reception.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best Ninja games ever made, beloved by gamers and ninja fans alike.
Kid Niki: Radical Ninja (NES)
Known as Kaiketsu Yanchamaru (translating to “The Wonderful Yanchamaru”) in its native Japan, Kid Niki is a classic platformer NES game that can best be described as the Ninja version of Super Mario Bros. A quick look at the artwork will immediately betray just how literal that statement is, though Kid Niki does find a way to carve out its own personality.
Released to great acclaim in Japan, this cute lighthearted ninja game was rebranded and distributed to western audiences a year later, however it did not quite reach the same level of commercial success, making it a hidden gem that is mostly unknown outside of Asia.
Playing as Kid Niki, the most radical and talented kid in the Ninja School, you will go through 7 different levels using your Twirling Ninja Sword to defeat sorts of enemies, until you reach the Boss at the end of each round. The bosses are particularly weird, which makes the game all the more peculiar and fun, and if you manage to defeat all of them you’ll be able to rescue your beloved dream girl from the evil freaks who’ve captured her. Did we mention this game was the Ninja version of Super Mario?
Shinobi (Arcade, Sega)
The game that would span one of the best and most challenging franchises of side scrollers of all time, Shinobi follows the adventures of badass ninja Joe Musashi, who is called upon time and time again to battle the evil forces of the technologically advanced Neo Zeed.
Using his superior training in the arts of Ninjutsu, including some special abilities and masterful use of ninja weapons, Mushashi must battle Samurai masters, Oni (Japanese demons), and other evil beings in his multiple quests, which include rescuing his girlfriend, saving innocent children, and preventing cyborgs from destroying the world. Since the evil army he is fighting against also have modern military weapons, the odds may be stacked against you, but that won’t prevent a real ninja from getting the job done!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
It would be absolutely negligent to write an article about ninja games and not mention everyone’s favorite heroes in a half shell. With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spanning dozens of well received titles across the years on practically every gaming platform, the hardest part is not quite deciding to include one of their games on this list, but rather which game to include.
While the original TMNT game on NES or the arcade classic Turtles in Time could easily take its place on this list, the Konami developed ‘The Manhattan Project’ is our favorite from the bunch. The Manhattan Project follows the beat ‘em up adventures of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael as they end their vacations early in order to thwart Shredder’s latest evil scheme, as he has levitated the entire island of Manhattan into the sky.
Beating up all of Shredder’s foot soldiers and goons using their iconic weapons and ninja skills, while cracking wise with their unique sense of humour, it is up to the turtles to return Manhattan back where it belongs.
Ninja Gaiden (NES, Multiplatform)
While Shinobi was may have stolen the hearts of ninja fans over at the Sega side of gaming, it was Nintendo’s Ninja Gaiden that was receiving most of the acclaim – and well deserved to boot.
Ninja Gaiden follows the ninja adventures of Ryu Hayabusa, a true ninja’s ninja and one of the most badass ninjas the gaming world has ever seen, not only is Ryu a master of martial arts, but he is also an expert in ninja weaponry -such as his trusty shuriken- and of ninja magic, which allows him to do all sorts of useful tricks like throwing fireballs, duplicating himself and sticking to walls in a way that would make Spiderman jealous.
What really makes Ninja Gaiden such a renowned game though is not just its protagonist or the myriad of amazing monsters and ninjas he must fight, but rather how damn hard the game actually is. If you are not a fan of extremely challenging games, you’ll want to stay away from this one, but if you enjoy high levels of difficulty you will find plenty to love (and be frustrated by).