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Everyone loves ninjas. There is something fantastic about the skills possessed by a ninja. Not only are they adept at sneaking around without detection, but they can also bring the pain in a fight with a seemingly never-ending slew of enemies when the need arises.
What is even more awesome than ninjas themselves? Taking control of a ninja and actually performing all of the incredible feats yourself in video game form, of course. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the very best ninja games and franchises you will find throughout gamings storied history.
If you think back, how many NES franchises can you think of that are still alive and kicking (see what I did there) today? Castlevania, Zelda, and Mario are probably three that come to mind. Well, how about Ninja Gaiden? Sure, the gameplay has seen some serious changes over the years, but the idea remains the same: you are a ninja, and you are tasked with doing some cool ninja-like things. What more could you ask for?
We’ve actually looked at games that made the transition from 2D to 3D very smoothly, and one could argue that Ninja Gaiden belongs on that list. What started as an incredibly difficult side-scrolling ninja game has perfectly transitioned into a 3D beat-em up game that remains as difficult as its old-school counterparts. It’s easily one of the best ninja franchises ever made, and it continues to excel throughout almost every release.
While Ninja Gaiden was over in Nintendoland being awesome, over on the Sega Master System, Shinobi was doing its thing, albeit with slightly less fanfare. It featured gameplay that was a lot like Ninja Gaiden, with some awesome side-scrolling ninja action with lots of combat and challenging platforming. The levels in the original Shinobi were very deep, offering a high degree of challenge to players.
Also like Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi eventually made the shift to 3D, and while not greeted with as much success, some of them are still quite good. The first 3D game, simply titles Shinobi, was released in 2002, and it came out to decent reviews from critics. Since then, a game in the franchise called Nightshade was released, which was not as good as the first 3D entry, but it was still solid. In 2011, Shinobi 3D was released for the 3DS, and it brought the franchise back to its side-scrolling roots.
Samurai Shodown, or SamSho as it’s sometimes called, is a little different from the first two games we’ve talked about in that it is a 2D fighting game along the line of Street Fighter. It’s a series that is best known in arcade circles, but it has also seen success in home versions across various platforms ranging from the Neo Geo to the PlayStation.
Almost every game released with the Samurai Shodown name is regarded as a classic, at least the older ones were. Some of the more recent games have been misses, but the beauty of the fighting game genre is that you can go back to the older games and still have a great time. Sure, not all of the characters are ninjas in terms of look and feel, but everything about the gameplay and action just screams ninja awesomeness. Seriously, if you want a game that puts two ninjas one on one to see who possesses the greater skills, check out any of the classic SamSho releases, and you will not be disappointed.
Tenchu is a franchise that has kind of fallen off with some relatively poor releases, but that doesn’t take away from how awesome the older games were back in the late 90s. The games go out of their way to emphasize the stealth portion of being a ninja, which is something many ninja games avoid, instead focusing on the intense action.
Part of what makes this game such a classic is the use of motion capture, something not common for early PlayStation games. This creates an incredible accurate feeling of being a ninja, and it really shows through in the gameplay. It’s definitely a game that is very true to the ways of ninjitsu, and one that any hardcore ninja lover will enjoy.
If you love ninjas, these games have you covered. Whether you prefer platformers, 3D action games, or fighters, these franchises have games that suit your tastes.
Now, we turn to you: what are your favorite ninja video games? Hit the comments section below and let us know!