Remix: My Favorite Ninja Games.
(AfroGamers.com) Ninjas exist in roughly every form of media—particularly manga and video games. When it comes to games, there are some standalone titles based on ninjas but often times, you’ll run into games that feature them as additional playable characters.
Recently, fellow Afro Gamers talent Kwame Shakir gave us his fave five of shinobi sagas. Check it out, there’s some classics and heavy hitters on it! In reading it, I figured “I love ninjas (and pirates), I love ninja games. Maybe I should do a fave five too!”
Yes, that was my exact train of thought. Here’s my favorite ninja games.
- Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja (Dungeon Crawler – NDS 2006, Success): The thing about Nintendo handhelds is that while the PSP and PS Vita had RPGs, the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS had them in spades. Whereas Square Enix would drag its feet bringing a new Final Fantasy, Nintendo could get Dragon Quest or roughly anything from Atlus.
It was also the home for a ton of dungeon crawler RPGs. The best-known ones were the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and the Etrian Odyssey titles. One of the little known titles that often got glanced over were the two Izuna games.
Izuna was a game about a ninja who couldn’t find regular shinobi work and settled in a village with her master. After enraging the gods, Izuna has to go into a number of dungeons to appease them at their shrines. This isn’t old school, first person dungeon crawling like Etrian Odyssey but more like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.
- Strider (Beat ‘em Up – PS4 2014, Double Helix Games): I remember 1989’s Strider by Capcom but I wouldn’t play it until 1991 on the Sega Genesis. At six I didn’t have the skill or patience for side scrollers, so if it was Super Mario Bros. 3 or Double Dragon I was going to rage when I lost. I would play it again years later on emulator and while I was better, it didn’t really do anything for me. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t enthralled by it.
When Strider was announced for PS4 at launch I wasn’t too enthused. However, once I saw the gameplay I had to try it out. By that time, I went from being interested in graphics to loving gameplay and story. Sure enough, Strider (2014) got me hooked. It was still a side scroller but it had this awesome futuristic style to it and a degree of difficulty that wasn’t tacked onto somewhat stiff 90s controls.
- Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (Stealth – PS2/Xbox 2003, K2LLC): Prior to 2003, I’d played very few stealth games. Metal Gear on Nintendo being the main one that comes to mind. Like the original Strider, I was young when I played Metal Gear and I just wasn’t any good at it. As a matter of fact, I loathed the game because I didn’t understand the mechanics. Years later I got the hang of it but it left a bad taste in my mouth on stealth titles.
When I first played Tenchu, a friend brought his PlayStation 2 over and he had Wrath of Heaven and Way of the Samurai. Both were dope games but Tenchu really stood out in its execution of ninja stealth. While it mixed it ninja folklore and had a smidge of fantastical elements, it was 96-percent straight up hiding on rooftops, throwing kunai, putting people to sleep, and avoiding guards.
It had the perfect mix of fun, difficulty, and cool visuals. If you needed a game that was typical of the early PS2, it was this game. If I were to pick a game that was purest in ninja action, it would be this game.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Beat ‘em Up – SNES/Arcade 1992, Konami): This game. This game. Before our Showbiz became Chuck E. Cheese’s in 1993, it had four arcade games: Super Mario Bros./1942, the 1983 Star Wars game, Dig Dug, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. I’m a huge Mario fan but my tokens and quarters went to TMNT.
This was the ultimate TMNT game. You and three others could pick the three reptile shinobi. My favorite has always been Michelangelo, so he was your favorite you’re just out of luck. You’d go through several stages of New York fighting Foot Clan, robots, and the Ninja Turtles’ major enemies. Just slashing and eating pizza as needed until you were sent back in time.
It was an experience. I would eventually get the game on Super Nintendo—a great port, by the way—and emulator. It’s timeless as it’s a favorite of both my nephew and my son. I suggest finding it however you can, getting at least two controllers, and calling it a weekend.
- Inindo: Way of the Ninja (Tactical RPG – SNES 1991, Koei): If Koei sounds familiar, it should. If not, I’d say Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and too some degree Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
This was a double rare game. First, Koei games were hard to find in the early 1990s. The first one I ever played was Aerobiz, a fun airline business simulator, at my uncle’s house. It got me hooked on the genre and it’s one of top favorites when it comes to gaming. Second, RPGs in general cost more than other game. When I saw Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars in Walmart shortly after its launch, the game was over $60. This was the 1990s.
Maybe it could’ve been that all Squaresoft games were expensive compared to other titles. I didn’t get to play my first RPG–Super Mario RPG—until it was available at Blockbuster. With Inindo, it simply wasn’t available at the stores we frequented. I didn’t play it until 2000 on the ZSNES emulator and I was blown away.
The graphics weren’t anything special. This is a game from 1991—1993 in the West. RPGs didn’t start to get truly beautiful until Mode 7 burst on the scene. Think a game like Secret of the Stars or Lufia and a later game with Mode 7 like Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger.
What was special about Inindo were the features included. The game details a young ninja whose village is turned into a burning parking lot by Oda Nobunaga. Your whole quest is one of revenge against the warlord. Problem is, you just finished your initial training but you’re still weak skill-wise. Now you travel Japan, finding hidden Iga ninja villages to learn advanced skills.
Along the way, you will level up and gain allies. Here’s genius part number one about Inindo. The A.I for allies is such that you have to gain their friendship through talking to them in either at an inn or a castle in a town.
Some will want to talk to you while others don’t want to be bothered. Not only that, they each have an opinion on Nobunaga. Of course, all Iga ninja hate Nobunaga but some might not join you if you if you’re not strong.
The game also has a day-night cycle with days, months, and years passing. As a result, characters that might join your party will move from village to village and some might either challenge you to a duel or come to collect a bounty.
It’s something that should be in games now. The other feature is that the game is historical, focusing on Nobunaga’s actual push to accumulate power. To defeat Nobunaga, you also need to befriend feudal lords and hope they challenge Nobunaga and his allies.
This is achieved by carrying out missions for a lord until you’re trusted enough to be recruited as an officer in battles. It’s a game that’s even harder to find now, so your best bet is emulator.
Those are my favorite five ninja video games! Most are definitely out of print and either obtainable by eBay or emulator but all are definitely worth a play.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.