Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- #30 Ghostrunner 2
- #29 Like a Dragon: Ishin
- #28 Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
- #27 Trek to Yomi
- #26 Total War: Shogun 2
- #25 Mini Ninjas
- #24 Onimusha: Warlords
- #23 Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker
- #22 Shinobido: Way of the Ninja
- #21 Mystical Ninja Starring Goemen
- #20 Ninja: Shadow of Darkness
- #19 Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
- #18 Shinobi Series
- #17 Shadow Warrior
- #16 Aragami 2
- #15 Cyber Shadow
- #14 The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game
- #13 Warframe
- #12 Strider
- #11 Nioh Series
- #10 Katana Zero
- #9 Tenchu (Series)
- #8 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- #7 SIFU
- #6 Mark of the Ninja
- #5 Ghostrunner
- #4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
- #3 The Messenger
- #2 Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
- #1 The Ninja Gaiden Series
Ninja’s are, let’s face it, awesome. Shrouded in mystery, masters of agility and stealth, not to mention the myriad of tools and tricks up their sleeve. They follow a strict code, and when it comes down to it, could totally beat a pirate in a face-off. Discipline over drinking rum and getting scurvy? No contest.
When it comes to representation in video games, ninjas are a mixed bag. Some games follow the strictness of ninja-ing to a tee, whilst others have them loosely adhering to training whilst getting into large-scale combat in the open. Whatever the situation they’re put into, ninjas will reign supreme. Here are the best examples of ninjas in gaming history.
#30 Ghostrunner 2
Platform: PC PS5 XSX|S
Release Date: October 26, 2023
If you enjoyed Ghostrunner, then a sequel might be well worth the pickup. Players can expect the same style of gameplay as the first installment but with a few additional tweaks. It’s still a very futuristic cyberpunk setup where you’re dropped into this world as essentially a glorified ninja. With that said, the game does take place after the events of the first installment. With the Keymaster taken care of, a new AI cult has emerged outside of the Dharma Tower, and it’s up to you to save humanity. This is a fast-paced game where only one hit is required to either take out your opponent. Unfortunately, the same can be said about you. On the bright side, with several checkpoints throughout the level, you’ll be right back in the action in a matter of seconds.
#29 Like a Dragon: Ishin
Platform: PC PS4 Xbox One XSX|S PS5
Release Date: February 21, 2023
If you’re a fan of SEGA’s gangster series, then you know some of what to expect in Like a Dragon: Ishin. But don’t think it’ll play exactly as you remember. Why is that? The game isn’t set in the modern days of the Yakuza but in a century long since passed.
You’ll play a fallen Samurai named Ryoma. He has been blamed for his father’s death, but he is innocent. He’ll travel to a city to learn the truth of his father’s murder and see the changes coming to Japan firsthand.
Fight off bandits and the foes you come across, and reclaim the honor that was stripped from you!
#28 Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
Platform: PC PS4 Xbox One XSX|S PS5
Release Date: March 03, 2023
The real-world version of China has undergone many wars in its history. However, when you enter the world of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, you won’t see China as you know it. Instead, you’ll be seeing a darker and more fantasy-filled version where monsters and demons run wild and threaten to destroy everything in their path.
You are a lone militia man who returns to China only to see it in this chaos. You must rise to fight against these waves of darkness and unlock the power within you.
You’ll also get to choose the weapon that helps you win battles. So choose wisely!
#27 Trek to Yomi
Platform: PC PS4 Xbox One XSX|S PS5 Switch
Release Date: May 5, 2022
If you’ve been enjoying the small renaissance we’ve been having in terms of Samurai and Ninja titles, then you’ll want to get Trek to Yomi.
First, you’ll want to do that because the game has a very stylized presentation that is virtually unmatched. It makes you feel like you’re in a classic film from decades gone by.
As for the game, you play a swordsman who undergoes a journey of self-discovery and discovering his true fate as he ventures from one place to another. Add that to tight combat, and you have a title many will enjoy. So pick up your sword and start your quest!
#26 Total War: Shogun 2
- Platform: PC
It may seem strange to add a massive, open-warfare kind of game to display the silent assassins, but that’s why it deserves a spot here. If you’ve played Command & Conquer: Red Alert, you’ll remember the Tanya unit. A seemingly unstoppable unit, Tanya’s wreaked havoc.
Well, in the Shogun spin-off of the Total War games, that’s what ninjas do… but silently. Whilst weak to direct combat, a small unit of these shadow warriors can decimate squads if they’re not careful. Infiltrating enemy ranks, wreaking organised havoc, before dropping blinding bombs and fleeing to do it again somewhere else is what makes them one of the best units.
#25 Mini Ninjas
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS
One of video gaming’s biggest crimes is dismissing one because it looks too childish, or kid-friendly. Mini Ninjas is one such example: the box art and characters look like shovelware, akin to the awful Ninjabread Man (do not play it). Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll see that IO Interactive are behind the diminutive ninjas. That’s right, the Hitman guys made a ninja platformer.
Which, to its credit, is awesome. Combining some nifty visuals and quirky combat, flipping between six different shrouded soldiers is great fun. Being a platformer, there’s the usual trappings of secrets to explore and find, as well as a decent little story in there too. IO Interactive snuck that one up on us, eh?
#24 Onimusha: Warlords
- Platform: PlayStation 2 & Xbox (original); PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC (remaster)
It might sound like a tenuous stretch to put this here, given the protagonist is a samurai, but bear with us: you do get to play as a ninja for some bits. So it stays, because the Kaede parts are quite awesome. She also gets to kick ass in spin-off Onimusha Blade Warriors too, but that’s another story.
In the first Onimusha game, Warlords, there are sections when the hero Samanosuke is indisposed, switching gameplay to the kunoichi (female ninja) Kaede. Mixing things up a bit, Kaede’s sections are different in tone. Less combat heavy, Kaede is more agile and gives players a glimpse of how ninjas used to be back in the day. Essentially: very cool.
#23 Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Ninjas in the Naruto universe are about as bountiful as the long-running series itself. As are the games, spanning pretty much all the consoles, story arcs and… god knows what else in between. To pick one game as an exemplar would be tough, so to throw a spanner in the mix, we’ve gone for Shinobi Striker instead.
What makes Striker special from the myriad amounts of other Naruto games is what it does to the formula. Think violent, team-based Smash Bros. with anime ninjas and you get the idea. It’s as over the top as any similar Dragon Ball Z/Guilty Gear animated beat ’em up, with about as much headache-inducing screams and bright lights as an episode of Naruto.
#22 Shinobido: Way of the Ninja
- Platform: PlayStation 2
If you ever wondered why Tenchu started to go downhill after the third (even though they didn’t make Wrath of Heaven), it’s because Acquire went on to make samurai games instead. Yet proving that you can’t keep a good stealth assassin down, they did return with Shinobido.
Off the back of their Way of the Samurai series, Shinobido is a curious beast. Not in terms of gameplay, but its progression. Essentially “an open-ended ninja game”, Shinobido lets players choose when to end missions in its hub-style gameplay choice. Weird as it sounds, it was a nice twist on the formula. Niche, certainly, but the stealth action more than made up for it.
#21 Mystical Ninja Starring Goemen
- Platform: Nintendo 64
The transition to 3D had its ups and downs with platforming/action-adventure games. For every good, like Super Mario 64 you had the bad, like Earthworm Jim 3D. Fortunately, for a cute little chibi ninja… thing like Goemon, it could only be a positive. Admittedly a bit obscure game for the Western audience, it was a big gamble for Konami.
Fortunately, the gamble paid off and Goemon’s adventure on the N64 was a pleasant game in the Pocky & Rocky spirit. The humour landed well, the gameplay was fun when it got going, which isn’t bad for something that a large part of the audience would never have heard of.
#20 Ninja: Shadow of Darkness
- Platform: PlayStation
Back in the summer of 1998, Tenchu was riding high as the stealth ninja golden boy. Yet rather than try and usurp it, Ninja: Shadow of Darkness went for the more action route instead. Like Fighting Force was to Streets of Rage, Ninja was the kung-fu counterpart to Rikimaru and Ayane’s stealth shenanigans.
It may seem massively dated now, with its clunky camera and lack of story, but that’s a given. It was, to put it bluntly, fun to just let loose and kick ass without having to think too hard about plot. Core dropped the potential sequel in favour of focusing on Tomb Raider, making this a one-off. Which is a shame, as it could have been refined into something better along the way.
#19 Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
- Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Much like Total War: Shogun, Shadow Tactics isn’t a dedicated game about ninjas. That being said, it doesn’t lessen the fact that ninjas are absolutely awesome in this tactical adventure. From the same team behind Desperados III, making this an Eastern, this game is just as hard and rewarding.
Hayato, the main character of the squad, has all the typical ninja tropes. But much like the rest of the team, he has to be used tactically to avoid being eliminated. When used successfully, as part of a whole, Hayato is a veritable force of silent-but-deadly stereotype. Don’t sleep on this game.
#18 Shinobi Series
- Platform: Arcades, Sega consoles
The Ninja Gaiden series may be the more successful of the two, but it’s easy to forget that Shinobi snuck in first by a whole year. Starting in the arcades, then the Master System, it was a nails platformer from Sega. But it was the progression to the Mega Drive in The Revenge of Shinobi that hooked many in.
Massively in part to it being bundled on a multi-game cartridge, TRoS was the entry game for many gamers back in the day. Shinobi, the series, held its own for most of the late 90’s. The 2000’s saw an ill-fated edgy remake (much like Altered Beast did too) that no one liked, but the love for Ryu Hayabusa’s 2D actions still remains.
#17 Shadow Warrior
- Released on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
The first Shadow Warrior could charitably be called “a product of its time”. Or, if one were to be cruel; a Duke Nukem 3D knockoff. But unlike the Duke, Lo Wang has without the test of time and come out better for being modernised. Sounds like a parallel universe storyline, but it’s true.
Still first person, letting rip as Lo Wang with both guns and sword is insane amounts of fun. It’s ridiculously violent, full of quips and silliness, and replayability in the guise of harder difficulties and unlockables. It’s done well enough to spawn two sequels too, but the first should certainly be the starting point (surprisingly).
#16 Aragami 2
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
It may seem like a lot of these ninja titles on this list are more action than stealth, so here’s Aragami 2 to break that combo, Aragami, despite being set in a world of fantasy, puts its focus on the sneaking first and the action second. That, and being able to do it with two friends alongside you.
For those who didn’t play the first, it may seem a tough game to get into. But stick with it, and it gets better. When it gels, Aragami opens up into a co-op stealth adventure that Assassin’s Creed Unity failed to capture (plus the supernatural). Gather some friends and go nuts… quietly.
#15 Cyber Shadow
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
Back to the nostalgia now, Cyber Shadow is Mechanical Head Studio and Yacht Club’s (the Shovel Knight team) throwback to Ninja Gaiden style of game. And much like Shovel Knight, it’s a well developed, tightly designed blast from the past.
Picking powers up along the way, like a Metroid title, Cyber Shadow has players utilise lightning-fast reflexes that are needed to complete the game. It’s brutal as the levels progress, but it’s so worth it to play out the funky, retro-cyber inspired story.
#14 The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
It’d be fair to thank Star Wars for the reinvention of the LEGO games. Fast forward many years, franchises and tie-ins later, and we got the Ninjago game based on the movie. If you’ve played one LEGO game, you’ve played them all, with Ninjago being no radically different.
On the bright side, it does retain the fun of the movie, much like the LEGO movie reminded us that everything is awesome. Paired with some blocky ninja action, LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game is a riot for adults and kids alike. The kids for the mindless fun, the adults for having to steer the kids along.
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC
Ninjas” In the future! Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is… to an extent. Warframe, the massively mulriplayer online game, is one of aliens and super-suits, blades and balletics. Weird to think it’s a spin off of Dark Sector, eh?
Whilst no Tenno class is just a ninja, each one offers variations on the theme of “flip out and kill in style”. Warframe isn’t easy to get into, like any already-running online game, but when it gels you’ll be slicing and dicing in cyber-ninja style in no time.
- Platform: PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 and One, and PC
Like some others in this list, the Strider series has been around for a while. Starting in the late 80’s in the arcade, Strider Hiryu made the move to the home console in the early 90’s. Hiryu himself gets his popularity afloat by popping up in Marvel vs. Capcom, proving the fans still cared for the series.
So when 2014 rolled around, and gamers saw Strider make the leap to the seventh add eighth generation of consoles. To positive reviews, no less, bringing a Metroidvania edge to proceedings. It looked good, played well and had the right amount of nostalgic challenge to make it addictive.
#11 Nioh Series
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, PC
Nioh is an action role-playing game that is set in Japan during the year 1600. In this game players get to take on the role of a Irish samurai named William. As William the player will navigate him through many missions, fighting both human and supernatural enemies. This game is not easy, but brutal and action packed. The chances of dying are high. It is time to seek order.
#10 Katana Zero
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC
Another game in which the player character isn’t *technically* a ninja, but when it’s a game as high octane as this, it can be forgiven. You’ll think you’re a ninja when you see the end-of-level playback showcasing how awesome it all looked. Well, that and the violence.
Yes, another Devolver game with a weird story, Katana Zero is a frustrating “try and try again” game with a challenge to it. One hit kills that work both ways, Zero will have players gnashing their teeth as they attempt a level again. But with time slowing powers, the ability to deflect bullets and basically wreck it all up in slicey fashion, it’s worth it.
#9 Tenchu (Series)
- Platform: Various
Making the leap to 3D, especially in the early days of the PlayStation, was going to have its hurdles. For one, rendering and draw distance, even before you factor in verticality and climbing. Thank god then, that Tenchu has such engaging gameplay that we can overlook so of its earlier issues.
The first game nailed the stealth attitude perfectly, proving that open combat was a bad idea. The sequel, a prequel, refined that experience into a smoother and stealthier experience. But it was the leap to the PS2 in Wrath of Heaven that the Tenchu series peaked. It’s just a shame that FromSoftware fumbled it with Tenchu Z, but they made up for it…
#8 Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia
Imagine, if you will, that Tenchu walked so that Sekiro could run. Well, clambered on rooftops so that Sekiro could launch himself off of them. Whilst the balance in the combat does favour more the direct approach, there are still ample opportunities to sneak up on foes.
Whilst not the strictest tenet of gameplay, sometimes taking the high road in Sekiro is often just as rewarding as standing one’s ground. Scouting out a new area, perching on a ledge before taking that leap of faith. And by leap of faith, we mean “hitting that deathblow on a guard some fifty feet below the shinobi”. Beautiful.
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5, PC
Granted, you are not technically a silent assassin in Sifu, but this game makes you feel like an absolute martial artist master. To quote the movie Upgrade. this game gives that “…you didn’t know that I’m a f**cking ninja” vibes. Words don’t this game justice, but we’ll try.
A story about revenge, Sifu doesn’t break ground on that front. But what it does do, in spades, is offer up some excellent buttery smooth martial arts action when it gets going. It isn’t easy, leaning more on a roguelite/repetition angle to progression, but when it gets going it’s balletic and badass.
#6 Mark of the Ninja
- Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC
Whilst Devolver know subversion and violence, Klei Entertainment know how to do colourful action and an aesthetic reminiscent of a Cartoon Network show. Just look at Shank, which made Rambo-like tropes a joy to play. So, off the back of two Shanks, they turned to stealth and shadows.
Mark of the Ninja is linear, in that levels have one beginning and one end. But what you do to get to the end is up to you. Does one ghost it, leaving these hapless guards alive, as they’re only after a paycheck? Or does one go full vengeance and carve a path of shinobi savagery along the way? Either way, you’ll look good doing it.
- Platform: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC.
It’s generally considered that putting the word “cyber” before something makes it cooler. Cyberpunk, cyber-sword, and in this instance, cyber-ninja. We may revisit that strategy later on… but for now, it’s all about the first person action that is Ghostrunner.
Set in a Judge Dredd-style city block, Ghostrunner puts players in the cyber-shoes (see, cool?) of a runner: a cyborg thought wiped out. Through the eyes of this unit, players will hack, slash and run their way to the literal top, all to a corking soundtrack by synthwave artist Daniel Deluxe. It’s hard, even as far as considering it a first person Hotline Miami. But like that game, it’s also just as rewarding.
#4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (and Cloud), Nintendo Switch and PC
Let’s be reasonable here: most of us heard the word “ninja” because of these guys. Except the British, who got “hero turtles” instead, but that’s by the by. The majority of us cut our teeth with the heroes in a half shell, learning of new and exotic weapons and kick-ass martial arts.
So, imagine our surprise when the Ninja Turtles come back onto our screens/monitors with a game that feels like the next progression from The Hyperstone Heist and Turtles in Time. Crisps character models, flashy moves and flashier effects, what better time to tickle that nostalgia than by jumping in as Donatello, the best turtle?
#3 The Messenger
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Whilst the 2D ninja platformer has been around for a while, and been done in 3D to varying degrees of success, there’s always room for something nostalgic to cheer us up. That’s where The Messenger comes in. Initially styled around the 8bit Ninja Gaiden games, it’s not long before it subverts the retro gameplay and goes full 16bit.
Nor is it a complete cakewalk of a game, offering up some tricky sections and engaging boss fights. But it wouldn’t be a Devolver Digital game without some flair, right? That, thankfully, comes in the form of some of the funniest writing ever put to pixel. Catchy beats, witty dialogue and a nostalgic angle, in one package? Become The Messenger.
#2 Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
- Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox One and PC
It would be fair to say that upon his reveal, the reception to Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 was… less than positive. So, by the time Metal Gear Solid 4 came out, Raiden had been rebooted into something a bit more kickass. Still annoying, but the breakdancing ninja fight scenes made up for it.
Which, thankfully for us, bore the spin-off Revengeance; a chance for the new cyborg ninja to redeem himself. And redeem he did, as Revengeance offers up some of the most viscerally appealing combat outside of a John Wick movie. It’s so over the top (and that’s saying something for a Metal Gear game) that it’s so easy to lost in the acrobatic carnage on screen. It’s also worth it alone to hear Senator Armstrong say, “Nanomachines, son”.
#1 The Ninja Gaiden Series
- Platform: Various (they’ve been around for 34 years)
There can’t be a list about ninjas without the series that put the word in the mouths of so many gamers over the years. It was hard to narrow down which particular game in this vast series (except Ninja Gaiden 3), so instead we blanketed it as the whole series. Be it the hard as nails, 2D platformers of the past, or the hard as nails 3D action-adventures that recently had a current gen spruce up.
Whichever one you cut your teeth on, one thing remains the same: the addictive challenge. The classics were that nails, Contra-level degree of graft, whilst the modern remakes were doing the Dark Souls difficulty circuit before Dark Souls came about. They are tough, yes, but with such satisfying combat and spectacle on display, it’s hard to stay mad at them. Ninja Gaiden games may not have had a new one in years (again, cheers NG3), but it’s worth revisiting the remaster collection for that nostalgic, infuriating ninja action.
Disclaimer: This list was updated on 9/1/22 to include Nioh.