All Ninja Gaiden Games Ever Released (1988-2022)
Ninja Gaiden games have a huge legacy - unknown to even its biggest fans! We're taking a deep dive on every single Ninja Gaiden game released since 1988.
The Ninja Gaiden franchise is one of the best series to ever set foot in the gaming industry, and one of the toughest as well. The series’ first inception was in the Arcade with a Double-Dragon-style beat’em up game where Players controlled a nameless blue ninja whose job is to beat the crap out of everyone.
Shortly after its arcade release, a trilogy would be released on the NES back in December 1988. The latter was met with critical acclaim and was a commercial success. Despite the fact that Tecmo’s masterpiece performed well, many criticized the brutal difficulty of the games.
The criticism did not stop the developers. On the contrary, the series continued its journey as one of the most challenging games to this day. People all over the world find themselves coming back to the NES trilogy just to put their skills to the test and relive the old memories.
With the upcoming release of Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection, let’s take a look back at every Ninja Gaiden game ever released. The article will cover mobile entries in the franchise as well.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection
- 2 Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
- 3 Ninja Gaiden Clans (2012)
- 4 Ninja Gaiden 3
- 5 Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
- 6 Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
- 7 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
- 8 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
- 9 Ninja Gaiden II
- 10 Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
- 11 Ninja Gaiden Sigma
- 12 Ninja Gaiden
- 13 Ninja Gaiden Black
- 14 Ninja Gaiden X (2004)
- 15 Ninja Gaiden Trilogy
- 16 Ninja Gaiden (Cancelled) Sega Genesis
- 17 Ninja Gaiden (1992) Master System
- 18 Ninja Gaiden Shadow
- 19 Ninja Gaiden (1991) Game Gear Release
- 20 Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
- 21 Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword
- 22 Ninja Gaiden
- 23 Ninja Gaiden (1988) Arcade Release
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection is the biggest return of the franchise after 7 years of dormancy. Now players can enjoy Ryu Hayabusa’s saga in high definition either on PC, consoles, or their Nintendo Switch.
The collection features Ninja Gaiden Sigma 1 and 2, as well as, Razor’s Edge. Although, we feel that it could’ve been much better if Tecmo Koei released the Xbox 360 release of Ninja Gaiden II instead of Sigma. The level of gore and the ability to dismember your enemies is something no hack and slash fan should miss.
Unlike NG3, Yaiba took a different destination. The latter introduced a fresh art style, a new protagonist, and zombies. But on the one hand, it removed everything that made the franchise unique and went for an average hack and slash experience. The combo channelling was completely eradicated leaving players to helplessly smash the same buttons endlessly. It’s sad to mention that the new character, Yaiba, is easily one of the forgotten characters in the series. Perhaps the best thing about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is its art style, but that on its own isn’t enough to make the game any special.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a spin-off and wasn’t developed by Team Ninja in the first place. Spark Unlimited was the developer behind the game, and shortly after its release, the developers were no longer in business. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a good game on its own. It’s not the best nor the worst, but is it a great Ninja Gaiden game? Absolutely not.
Ninja Gaiden Clans (2012)
Release Date: September 20, 2012
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platforms: Android | iOS
Genre: 3D, Platforming, Hack and Slash
Timeline: Not Canon
Ninja Gaiden Clans or known as 100万人のNINJA GAIDEN, 100 Man-ri no ninjagaiden, lit. NINJA GAIDEN of 1 Million People is a japan exclusive game for Android and iPhone devices. While the game borrows from the franchise, it is not considered canon.
The gameplay is similar to Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, but it involves card collection trading. You attack your foes by swiping, and you can perform a Ninpo technique by following certain instructions. Other than that, there’s nothing special about this title.
A North American release for the game was scheduled, but after a few months, the plan was unfortunately cancelled.
Ninja Gaiden 3 was an attempt to cater to casual gamers who have had issues with the previous titles by simplifying the combat and opting for a different playstyle this time around. Although I said the game attempted to cater to casuals, Ninja Gaiden 3 managed to retain the essence of challenge throughout the game. Several bosses and enemies will definitely put your ninja way to the test.
Team Ninja sought to make Ninja Gaiden 3 an enjoyable experience, and while the third entry did not reach the same level as its predecessors, it was quite a fun ride with a strong story, although felt rushed towards the end of the game.
Razor’s Edge is an updated version of Ninja Gaiden 3 that features several fixes and additions. But that’s pretty much it. Razor’s Edge is still one of the least discussed entries in the franchise due to how it tried so hard to appease a casual audience.
Sigma Plus is a re-release of the Ninja Gaiden Sigma title on the PlayStation 3 for Sony’s PS Vita. Sigma Plus comes loaded with several features such as the introduction of an easy difficulty titled ” hero ” mode, making it cater to casual gamers, or those who found the original to be unforgiving.
While Sigma Plus takes advantage of the PS Vita technical capabilities and offers a set of accessories that Ryu and Rachel can equip, it sadly caps the experience to 30FPS instead of 60FPS.
Sigma Plus 2 or known as Ninja Gaiden Σ2 Plus is an enhanced port of the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Similar to the Sigma Plus port, Sigma Plus 2 includes the hero mode and introduces two new modes: Ninja Race and Turbo.
In Ninja Race, Ryu has to reach a certain goal. Meanwhile, The Turbo mode has Ryu running at full speed throughout the game. Many out there may find these new additions entertaining enough to keep them hooked to the game.
Similar to Sigma, Sigma 2 is a remastered version of Ninja Gaiden II. The remaster fixes most of the technical issues seen in the Xbox 360 release, but on the one hand, it comes with a price. The excessive amount of gore has been reduced making your foes vanish once killed rather than laying on the ground completely dismembered.
This is not only the change that Sigma 2 has under its belt. The latter features three new playable female characters – Ayane, Momiji, and Rachel – that made Sigma 2 a worthwhile pickup.
Similar to the original Ninja Gaiden game on the Xbox, the sequel attempted to elevate the franchise to new heights while retaining the essence of Ninja Gaiden Black. The main selling point of Ninja Gaiden II was its newly introduced capability of dismembering enemies and cutting them into pieces with your katana. The level of gore has been exponentially enhanced to give players a new fresh experience.
Not only that but the sequel also comes packed with new weapons, moves, and newly introduced villains. Yet, unfortunately, the original Xbox 360 release suffers from constant slowdowns when there are too many enemies on your screen. However, this was fixed on Sigma 2, but it came with a sacrifice.
Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword is the only entry in the franchise to ever set foot into the DS library. While the gameplay may be reminiscent of the modern Ninja Gaiden games, Dragon Sword takes advantage of the hardware’s stylus to deliver an interesting experience.
Dragon Sword is considered one of the best portable Ninja Gaiden games ever released, and it kind of plays better than Sigma Plus in terms of performance. It is quite disappointing that Koei Tecmo didn’t produce a follow-up to Dragon Sword on either the Nintendo DS or 3DS because that too would’ve been a blast.
Three years after its release on the original Xbox, PlayStation 3 owners had the chance to experience some of Ninja Gaiden’s goodness. Ninja Gaiden Sigma is a remastered version that comes packed with all-new features. For instance, Rachel has been included as a new playable character. The difficulty was lowered a bit, and many puzzle elements were removed to focus entirely on combat.
On the one hand, a PS Vita version was released 5 years after, albeit it suffered from several technical issues that unfortunately made it less enjoyable than its console counterpart.
After the series’ dormancy since the release of the trilogy on the NES, the franchise would make a strong comeback and push Ryu Hayabusa to a whole new level. The original Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox is still regarded as a revolutionary game thanks to what it brought to the hack and slash genre. Fast-paced action, unforgiving enemies, cool cutscenes, fantastic sound design, and a super-powerful ninja. It was indeed a strong comeback from Tecmo back then.
Tecmo would go on to release a new version of Ninja Gaiden titled Ninja Gaiden Black. It included new foes, new challenges and extra costumes to choose from once you finish the game.
Ninja Gaiden Black stands alongside Devil May Cry 3 as one of the greatest hack and slash titles ever made. The atmosphere, action, visuals, and captivating plot all played a role in hooking the player into endless action. Even after all these years, Ninja Gaiden Black is a mind-blowing hack and slash action game of the highest calibre.
Ninja Gaiden X (2004)
Release Date: 2004
Platforms: Mobile Phones
Genre: 2D, Side-Scrolling, Platforming
Ninja Gaiden X is the prequel to the NES trilogy that was released exclusively in Japan back in 2004 for mobile devices. Little is known about this entry rather than being a prequel. Luckily, it can be played via an emulator, but you’ll have to play it in Japanese. So far, there’s no English translation for this entry which may be a turn-off to many. If you’re interested, you can watch a short gameplay video uploaded by Clyde Mandelin on Youtube.
The Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a collection containing three NES games. These three games are ports of originals that come packed with changes and new features. For instance, the third game is based on the Japanese release that comes loaded with infinite continues and lower difficulty compared to the North American release.
There are other several changes such as censorship of blood to comply with Nintendo’s “Family Friendly” censorship policy back then. Blood wasn’t the only thing that was censored, even the dialogues. On the one hand, visuals were slightly enhanced to fit with the SNES.
Nowadays, to get your hands on this collection it’ll cost an arm and a leg as the current pricing of a sealed copy has reached up to 2499USD.
Ninja Gaiden (Cancelled) Sega Genesis
Release Date: Cancelled
Platforms: Sega Genes/Mega Drive
Genre: 2D, Beat’em up
Timeline: Not Canon
After the release of Ninja Gaiden on the Master System, a Mega Drive version was in development back in 1992. Instead of following a 2D side-scrolling experience similar to the previous games, the Sega Genesis game would have followed the same Beat ’em up format seen in the first Arcade game.
The story would have once again featured the legendary ninja, Ryu Hayabusa on his quest to hunt down two siblings called Jin and Rika who are responsible for stealing The Secret Scrolls. Ryu Hayabusa would have to retrieve the secret scrolls and defeat the siblings.
Despite the game not being officially released a beta build was leaked through the internet as a downloadable ROM. The beta build contains seven levels packed with cutscenes and entertaining boss fights. However, as far as beta builds go, the game suffers from several bugs and glitches. Bear in mind that the game, although it may look similar to the Arcade game, plays differently than the latter.
Ninja Gaiden (1992) Master System
Release Date: July 1992
Platforms: Master System
Genre: 2D, Side-Scrolling, Platformer
Timeline: Not Canon
Another entry in the series with a confusing name. Unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden on the Master System was released exclusively in Europe. To play it, one has to either get an emulator or import it abroad.
This particular entry in the Ryu Hayabusa saga somehow manages to capture bits of the classic NES trilogy while adding its own touch to the spin.
Months after the release of Ninja Gaiden on Sega’s Game Gear, Nintendo’s Game boy has also received its own fair share of Ryu Hayabusa. Ninja Gaiden Shadow was developed by Natsume known for games such as Wild Guns, Power Blade, and Pocky & Rocky.
According to fans, the game uses Natsume’s Shadow of the Ninja engine which ultimately makes Ninja Gaiden Shadow based on the latter.
Unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden Shadow is one of the less-liked entries in the Ninja Gaiden franchise and one that many don’t see themselves going back to it anytime soon.
Ninja Gaiden (1991) Game Gear Release
Release Date: November 1, 1991
Developer: Japan Studio House
Platforms: Game Gear
Genre: 2D, Side-Scrolling, Platformer
Timeline: Not Canon
Despite the game looking familiar to the 1988 game, they’re actually both different. Ninja Gaiden on the Game Gear is an entirely new release that was designed specifically for Sega’s handheld at the time.
In terms of the visuals, the Game Gear looks much more polished than its contender the NES. It manages to emulate what fans loved about the classic NES trilogy while delivering a few new features.
The ultimate conclusion to the NES trilogy, and the hardest entry in the saga. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom’s American release was intentionally made more difficult than in other regions. A move that has impacted the game’s reputation for being unnecessarily difficult and frustrating for so many.
Unfortunately, the third game is the least discussed entry in the franchise due to how it tries to retain what made the first Ninja Gaiden a unique experience. The Ancient Ship of Doom isn’t a bad game, but it’s definitely the least liked one in the trilogy.
Ninja Gaiden II is the direct sequel to the first game. It comes packed with a few new stages, moves, and power-ups. The sequel, while delivering slightly the same experience like the aforementioned, manages to refine the formula just enough to turn it into a new fresh experience.
The sequel continues one year after the events of the first game. Once again, you’re inside the shoes of Ryu Hayabusa in his quest to stop a madman from opening the gate of darkness and unleashing destruction on planet earth.
Ninja Gaiden II, just like its predecessor, is a difficult game. However, this difficulty nudges the player not to give up. Instead, the difficulty acts as fuel to push the player to get good at the game.
The first game introduced everyone to the franchise with its merciless difficulty and unforgiving foes. The severe difficulty can get out of hand at times, but for the most part, it feels rewarding once one manages to finish a certain level.
In this entry, you take on the role of Ryu Hayabusa, a blue ninja who goes on an epic quest to thwart the evil leader Jaquio from reviving the ancient fiend, Jashin.
Ninja Gaiden on the NES marks the proper beginning of Tecmo’s unforgettable franchise and a franchise that has inspired numerous titles such as Sega’s Shinobi series and Tenchu. The aforementioned has received several awards and is often praised for its challenging difficulty, superb soundtracks, and engaging action platforming.
Ninja Gaiden (1988) Arcade Release
Release Date: October 1988
Developer: Tecmo, Ltd.
Publisher: Tecmo, Inc.
Platforms: Arcade | DOS | Commodore 64 | Amiga | Amstrad CPC | ZX Specturm | Atari ST | PS4 | Lynx | Wii | Nintendo Switch
Genre: Beat’ em up, Side-Scroller
The first Ninja Gaiden was first released on the Arcade and was met with a positive reception during its release. This success has resulted in the game being ported to various platforms such as the Commodore 64, Amiga, and other different platforms.
Unlike its NES counterpart, the arcade release is a 2D side-scrolling beat’em up that sees you controlling a nameless ninja to defeat an evil organization. This evil cult seeks to cause havoc in the city of the United States.
The first game has taken a substantially different form than the NES release with the gameplay being pretty similar to the likes of Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage. Players can destroy several objects by either knocking or throwing the enemy away. Upon doing that, players will uncover rewarding items such as health recovery, weapons, or bonus points. And if you’re lucky, you may stumble across an extra life point.
In 2009, the game has been ported to the Nintendo Wii as a downloadable Virtual Console Arcade game in Japan, Europe, and North America. However, there are a few changes compared to the original release.
Thank you for reading.