This week is International Ninja Day (Wednesday, December 5th), so Gamify would love to take this opportunity to shine a light on some of our favourite Ninja characters in video games (if it's even possible to shine a light on a ninja).
We’d like to rank these video game Ninjas but there’s simply no way of fully understanding the way of the ninja (so mysterious), If you feel that we have overlooked a real OG Ninja, please let us know in the comments below. With that in mind, lets take a look at the list of our 10 favourite Ninja characters in video games.
We’re jumping right into the deep end with this list, with a fan favourite. Rikimaru, the male protagonist of the Tenchu series, was a breath of fresh air for the original Playstation console. Up until Tenchu’s release in 1998, most action games on the Playstation required the protagonist to make as much noise as possible, while they blast their way through an army of enemies. Whereas Rikimaru is dependent upon his stealth and tactical kills, to keep him from getting into hot water.
Armed with a single sword and guided by a strong sense of destiny, Rikimaru maintains his composure through even the most dire situations. The use of stealth is a crucial aspect of ninjitsu, and Rikimaru reminds us all that ninjas are supposed to be silent assassins. In some ways, Rikimaru is the purest ninja on this entire list. He doesn’t have supernatural powers, or weapons forged by the gods, Rikimaru simply has his disciplined training and a scar over his right eye that reminds him to stay focused (so badass).
If covert assassinations are more your sort of thing, there are few better gaming ninjas than the legendary Rikimaru of Tenchu fame.
Now to take this list completely in the other direction we have Hotsuma from the Shinobi game series. This guy is everything that Rikimaru is not, armed with a “cursed blade” named Akujiki, that needs to consume the souls of both good and evil men along with Hotsuma’s ability to jump and move in an unnaturally fast manner, it’s no wonder that this Ninja doesn’t keep to the shadows but rather takes on his foes head-on.
There have been multiple protagonists in the Shinobi series but none have felt us upgraded as Hotsuma in the series 2002 reboot game. With a sleek design featuring a flowing scarf and a four-eyed mask as well as a soul-eating demon sword, Hotsuma's fighting style was swift and graceful leading to some really cinematic encounters.
Raiden- Metal Gear Rising
For anyone who hasn’t played the Metal Gear series, let me first ask you “why not?!” And then follow that up by letting you know that the protagonist in Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty was advertised to be the returning Solid Snake, a grizzled and worn special missions espionage operative only to have his character swapped out not even a quarter of the way through for a unanimously hated, whiny character named Raiden.
Needless to say, the old “Bait’n’Switch” was not well received. So, how do you rehabilitate a character that nobody has any love for? You destroy most of his body and have him rebuilt as a badass cyborg ninja.
The new and improved Raiden made an appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and while he wasn’t playable, MGS fans found that they had since had a change of heart towards the character. It wasn’t until Metal Gear Rising came out that fans got a chance to perform anime level acrobatics while hacking and slashing through foes. Raiden’s robotic body meant that his character could push the limits as to what is physically possible for a ninja to achieve. This was a character that MGS fans could get behind.
Ryu Hayabusa- Ninja Gaiden
To reel the list back in the direction of more traditional Ninja characters (for now), we have Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden series.
Between the assortment of super arts at his disposal, his mastery of countless weapons, his ability to cling to walls, and his remarkable ability to clone himself, Ryu Hayabusa is easily one of the most iconic video game ninjas of all time. He’s so iconic that he made the leap from his own game series into the Dead or Alive fighting games also.
As the star of one of the most notoriously difficult franchises on this list, Ryu has a wide variety of weapons and techniques that players have to master in order to survive enemies like vicious werewolves, ferocious demons, and even wilder baddies. As the sole surviver of his clan, Ryu was always going to be a determined warrior who would never shy away from a group of demon ninjas.
Leonardo- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
How can we talk about a list of iconic video game ninjas without mentioning at least one of the heroes in a half-shell, and of course it’s going to be their unspoken leader, Leonardo.
Raphael certainly is a close second but his hotheadedness lets him down, Michelangelo is great also but his obvious use as the comic relief does detract from him being the ultimate ninja, and Donatello… If you’re thinking Donatello, you best just stop reading and get on out of here.
Leonardo will always reign supreme, dual wielding his Ninjatos and remaining cool under pressure. All of the turtles are susceptible to their own personal demons and struggles, including Leonardo, but his balanced and disciplined outlook on life allows for him to lead the gang while dealing with his own problems.
Goh- Shinobido: Way of the Ninja
Imagine Jason Bourne was a ninja, that’s the premise of Shinobido: Way of the Ninja and its lead protagonist, Goh. Seriously though, Goh wakes up in a field with a sword by his side and no memory of anything, including his name. It isn’t until a “concerned bystander” informs Goh that he was in a battle the previous day in which his clan were all wiped out and his memories and soul were stolen and placed within 8 mythical stones.
Goh’s skills as a fearsome warrior and spy, literally has 3 different warlords fighting over having him on their side. If that doesn’t show you how skilful this Ninja is, I’m not quite sure what will.
If you’ve been in the vicinity of a Playstation you have played Tekken, that’s just how it is. Furthermore, if you’ve played Tekken you would of noticed in amongst all the fighters, there was a certain character that brought a sword to a fistfight.
That my friends is Yoshimitsu, a character that I fail to explain to others with each new Tekken instalment. Lets just say he’s a cyborg and move on. This guy can be seen as fiddly compared to other characters, but for those that have put the time in with Yoshimitsu, he is a self-healing, sword helicoptering, teleporting swordsman, who will absolutely spin kick the hell out of your legs before riding his sword like a pogo stick and making you fear for your life.
Bottomline, his fighting style is bananas and Soul Caliber took notice and ushered him over into their game as well (at least everyone else has weapons in that game and stands a bit more of a chance).
The Marked Ninja- Mark of the Ninja
Ninjas are mostly known for being wrapped in mystery, so for this pick to not have a name is one of the most ninja traits of all.
“The Marked Ninja” also has few details known about his past, other than the cursed tattoos on his body enhance his senses and give him supernatural powers. The wildest part about “The Marked Ninja” receiving his tattoos is that he had an understanding that they would eventually drive him insane, and he would have to kill himself before he could harm the Clan. Yet he still got the tattoos in an effort to protect his clan, those are some strong ninja principles right there.
What makes this character and his story so interesting is by the end of the game you have a choice to make, on whether or not you kill your sensei for his betrayal and then go on to live out the prophesy of the mad ruler or you can honour your vow to protect the clan and disembowel yourself. Two events that are both strongly inspired by ninja culture and folklore.
Much like Yoshimitsu and Raiden on this list, Genji is another human/robot hybrid. Yet, unlike Yoshimitsu fighting unarmed opponents with his sword, Genji is in a game where he brought a sword to a gunfight. That is so ninja.
Overwatch has a rolodex of characters that all bring projectile weapons to a large grouped arena battle. Whereas Genji has his throwing stars and a sword that can potentially reflect enemy projectiles back at them.
In a game that has other players wildly pacing the halls and playing as offensively as possible, Genji plays a very balanced and defensive role. Scaling walls and deflecting enemy attacks until the moment is right for him to bust out his dragon-blade and start cutting through his enemies.
Scorpion- Mortal Kombat
There is wriggle room for people to not know most of the characters on this list but the buck most certainly stops with Scorpion. One of the most iconic characters in gaming, period.
Reigning from the classic fighting series, Mortal Kombat. There are a range of ninjas that flood the arena floors of Mortal Kombat, yet the only other character that could possibly hold a light to Scorpion would be Sub-Zero.
Now I know some of you would say that Sub-Zero is cooler (pun intended) but you need to consider these 2 facts;
- Scorpion clawed his way out of the Netherealm with some new found unearthly powers and avenged his own death against Sub-Zero (who does that?!)
- Sub-Zero changed his mediocre name to an even worse one… Noob Saibot (Why?!)
For bonus points, lets consider how much Scorpion’s Kunai or roped spear if you will, is a welcomed addition to an already grotesquely violent fighting game like Mortal Kombat. Not to mention the iconic taunts of “Come here!” and “Get over here!” that he dishes out with his spear attacks.
Scorpion is an undead ninja, fuelled by exacting revenge on those that killed his clan. That is a dangerous man right there, not even death stands in his way.
Gray Fox- Metal Gear Solid
Ok, ok I’m aware there are a lot of cyborg ninjas in this list. I wish I could nail down why it seems to be such a common occurrence but my overarching theory seems to be, they just look cool. In my defence, I saved the best until last.
The cold, emotionless actions of a ninja correlate well with a cyborg, and Gray Fox is one cold, emotionless cyborg. Anyone who has played Metal Gear Solid can confirm that the first time you as Solid Snake come across Gray Fox in the bloody hall in which he killed all those guards, was spine-chilling.
In a game that is brimming with memorable characters, Gray Fox instantly became one of the game’s most iconic characters. He may not show the poise and discipline of some of the other ninjas on this list but his skilful swordsmanship, combined with his acrobatic abilities and his stealth cloaking device make for a fear-inducing ninja who should not be taken lightly.
Gray Fox was so popular amongst MGS fans that Hideo Kojima used his character traits to help rebirth Raiden’s character in future MGS games.
And that's our list of iconic video game ninjas, let us know if you feel we left any vital characters out.