International Ninja Day: Celebrating the Best Video Game Ninjas
Dec. 5 is International Ninja Day, and ninjas have been a staple of gaming ever since the ’80s. It is easy to understand why as these mercenaries specialized in espionage and surprise attacks in feudal Japan, and had a whole host of cool weapons and accessories to aid them in their missions. It’s only natural that they would star in games just like they have in action flicks. Some of the best action, fighting, and stealth titles have starred ninjas over the years. To celebrate this fun holiday, Mandatory took a look at the 10 best video game ninjas.
Cover Photo: NetherRealm Studios
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Bang is one of BlazBlue's most entertaining fighters both from a gameplay and narrative perspective. This ninja is quite dangerous on the battlefield, but often makes a fool of himself off it. He is prone to making over-dramatic speeches and drooling over attractive women. However, he does have a heart of gold as his "no-kill" policy would suggest, and Bang does his best to protect his home and the children that he has self-appointed as apprentices.
Photo Credit: Arc System Works
Originally a soldier by the name of Frank Jaeger that nearly died after challenging Solid Snake to a fistfight in the middle of a minefield, Gray Fox returns as "Cyborg Ninja" in Metal Gear Solid. Now grafted to an armor exoskeleton and armed with an electrified sword, Gray Fox once again battles Solid Snake. While he's eventually bested, Gray Fox makes one final appearance in the iconic PlayStation game after helping his rival take down Metal Gear REX. He's one of the coolest characters in a series that is filled to the brim with iconic ones.
Photo Credit: Konami
Based upon the real-life samurai and ninja of the same name, several games have featured the loyal Tokugawa clan member. One of his best portrayals comes from Samurai Shodown, and he's one of the few characters that has been playable in every release. The Iga ninja comes equipped with shurikens that he can use to attack from afar and knows how to use flash bombs to attack his foes. He also uses his stealth abilities to teleport short distances and become invisible, which are definitely skills the real-life Hattori couldn't pull off.
Photo Credit: SNK
As the star of Sega's Shinobi series, Joe Musashi has been one of gaming's coolest ninjas since he debuted in 1987. While he's worn a variety of outfits, his most iconic is a white one with red accents. It's a bit eccentric and helps him stand out among a crowd even though we're not sure that is actually a good thing when you're a ninja. Regardless of his fashion choices, he's talented enough with his sword to deal with any trouble he comes up against. Despite not starring in any recent games, Musashi is still one of the most beloved Sega characters.
The granddaughter of a ninjutsu master, Mai Shiranui inherited much of her grandfather's skills. The Fatal Fury and King of Fighters star is one of the most popular characters in the series, which probably wouldn't have happened if she wound up being a male ninja like originally planned. Sadly for her male admirers, she's both fictional and in love with Andy Bogard. She most recently made headlines after Masahiro Sakurai jokingly explained that he didn't include her in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate because the game is for “good boys and girls of many different ages.”
Photo Credit: SNK
Of course the star of Ninja Gaiden would make the list of the best ninjas in gaming. Ryo Hayabusa has been a gaming icon ever since he debuted in 1988. Since then, he's also been one of the biggest stars in Dead or Alive and received a critically acclaimed 3D reboot. His popularity is going 30-plus years strong and there's no sign of it stopping any time soon.
Photo Credit: Koei Tecmo
What many fans might not know is that Strider Hiryu didn't actually debut in Capcom's Strider. He was the titular star of a Japanese manga the year prior that was made by manga group Moto Kikaku. While that wasn't a huge success, his foray into gaming has been one. This fast moving Ninja uses his signature blade, the Falchion, to destroy enemies with ease. He also calls in help in the form of some robotic buddies as he uses a robotic hawk and panther in his missions. It's not often we get a futuristic ninja, which has helped Strider seem so unique.
Photo Credit: Capcom
Mortal Kombat is packed with iconic ninjas, so much so that the entire list could have been filled by mostly characters created by Ed Boon. However, Sub-Zero is the coolest one as his ice abilities set him apart from the rest (sorry, Scorpion). He's been in every Mortal Kombat title, and even starred in his own spin-off title, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, on PlayStation and Nintendo 64. His appearances in the successful MK films have also made him known to non-gamers as well!
Photo Credit: NetherRealm Studios
Yoshimitsu holds the rare distinction of starring in both the Tekken and Soulcalibur series. While his visual design greatly differs from game to game, he's always a ninja master with a mechanical prosthetic arm that leads the Manji Clan. His Tekken counterpart is hinted at being a successor of the Soulcalibur character, but their fighting style is near identical in both games. His unique appearance has made him a fan favorite in both series.
Photo Credit: Bandai Namco
One of Final Fantasy VII's hidden characters, Yuffie Kisaraigi is a ninja that uses her skills to steal from warriors that wander into forests. She eventually becomes a friend to Cloud and the rest of the gang, and her cheerful personality has made her a favorite of RPG fans. Her goal is to restore her homeland of Wutai back to being a national powerhouse and free it from the Shinra Electric Power Company. A younger version of her appears in Before Crisis, while we get to see a slightly older Yuffie in Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus.
Photo Credit: Square Enix