There’s something about the romantic legend of the ninja that remains compelling even now. While real ninja were essentially low-class spies trained to infiltrate the homes or castles of enemies (and were looked down upon by more honourable samurai), the legend of the ninja casts them as shadowy assassins with consummate skill. There’s truth to that, of course, but as with everything, the romance is more exciting than the real history, right? It seems that game developers agree, too. Here are the 15 best PS4 ninja games to play right now.
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection contains two absolutely excellent ninja games and one okay one. If you love lightning-fast action games that place an emphasis on reflexes and skill, then you’re going to love these games, even though they can be brutally difficult. Those who prefer strategy or stealth should apply elsewhere, but if you do like Ninja Gaiden, this collection remasters the three main numbered instalments of the series, so you should find plenty to occupy you within. The third game isn’t particularly great, but the first two are well worth your time.
While it’s much more simple than many other ninja games on PS4, N++ captures the essence of what it means to be a ninja. It’s a 2D platformer in which you must navigate a series of increasingly difficult levels, collecting gold to increase your time and making it to the goal without dying. Everything in N++ kills you in a single hit, so you need to be careful and sneaky, leaping gracefully over hazards and knowing when to move and when to remain still. If you like N++, there are a huge number of levels to take on, so you’ll find lots to love here.
Did you know that the word “shinobi” is effectively just another word for “ninja”? It’s true, and in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you play an incredibly skilled shinobi by the name of Wolf, who must recover his master from the forces that conspire to use him for some greater purpose. In this From Software Soulslike, you’ll need to use all the tools at your disposal to achieve victory against some incredibly tough bosses, but there’s an added layer of verticality and movement that makes exploration thrilling. There’s also a stealth element, which is rare for Soulslikes.
Few games truly encapsulate what it means to be a ninja better than Mark of the Ninja. It’s a fast, fluid 2D stealth game in which you must use the shadows to your advantage, hiding and picking off enemies (or simply leaving them alive and confused) as you make your way towards your objectives. Along the way, you can use shuriken to shatter lightbulbs, distract and misdirect your enemies, and use your acrobatic skills to leap across levels without being seen.
We’re cheating slightly by including this one, we know, but we couldn’t help ourselves. Shredder’s Revenge is a classic beat-’em-up in the style of the old-school Turtles games, so if you ever played games like Turtles in Time, you’ll love this one. Created by the folks at Dotemu, this game is a love letter to retro titles of yore, but it looks and plays much better than those games did. All four turtles are playable, each with their own unique skillset, and you can even play as Master Splinter and April O’Neil!
Mortal Kombat is well-known for its flirtations with ninja legends, and Mortal Kombat 11 is no different. It offers up a diverse cast of characters, many of which take direct inspiration from ninja; characters like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Ermac are directly inspired by ninja to greater or lesser degrees, so if you love to play as ninja, you’ll find plenty of opportunities here. You’ll also be able to enjoy a crushingly brutal fighting game that displays the perfect balance between skill and accessibility.
In Ghost of Tsushima, you play as Jin Sakai, a noble Japanese warrior brought low by invading Mongol hordes. You must learn to pick yourself up and reclaim your honour, but in order to do so, you’ll need to adopt the tactics of the shinobi; sneaking around rather than openly fighting, picking your battles, and tricking your enemies. This open-world game has some rather rote design, but it’s gorgeous to look at, and the story is compelling throughout.
When From Software released Dark Souls, it caused developers everywhere to attempt to copy the formula to varying degrees of success. Some of the worst Soulslikes are clunky and borderline unplayable, but that criticism doesn’t apply to Team Ninja’s Nioh. Technically, it’s not really a ninja sim; it’s more of a samurai game, since you’ll mostly be engaging in open combat. However, it does incorporate classical Japanese mythology, and you do get to meet some ninja, so we’re counting it.
9. Nioh 2
Since we included Nioh on this list, it would be churlish not to also include the superior sequel, right? Nioh 2 is one of those games that’s arguably better than its predecessor in every conceivable way. It improves on the first game’s combat, casts you as a custom character instead of a “real historical figure” (to the extent that William Adams in the first game can be called historical), and gives you more options in combat and more yokai to battle. The level design has also been improved; it feels less linear and more compelling this time around.
There’s something about the simplicity of 2D platformers that lends itself well to ninja gaming. Strider is the perfect example of this principle in action. It’s a 2.5D Metroidvania game in which you play as the titular Strider Hiryu, and you have access to a whole range of ninja tools including shuriken and your trusty katana. The action is incredibly fast and graceful, and there are few better games for truly making you feel like an unstoppable ninja warrior. The Metroidvania exploration also means there are plenty of opportunities for backtracking and using newfound skills.
11. Shadow Warrior
Etymologically, the word “shinobi” derives from the expression “shinobi-no-mono”, which means “a person who hides/steals”. In essence, that’s the same as “shadow warrior”, so there are arguably no more representative ninja games than Shadow Warrior, the 2013 reboot of the classic FPS series developed by Flying Wild Hog. Again, this isn’t a ninja game per se; it’s more of a boomer shooter-style experience, but you do get to wield a katana, so we’re including it anyway. The sequels suffer somewhat from diminishing returns, but they’re still fun.
Warframe is a truly bizarre experience. It’s extremely difficult to classify; it’s a sort of MMORPG-third-person-action hybrid with looter shooter elements, but even that description doesn’t entirely do it justice. The story and lore are entirely too convoluted to explain in a single paragraph, so give this free-to-play ninja action game a try if you’re interested. You essentially get to play as a cyborg ninja, after all, and what’s cooler than that? Nothing, we say. It is worth remembering that Warframe does have a free-to-play model, though, so it might get a little grindy after a while.
Although it’s not a hands-on action game, in many ways, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun gets closer to the essential ninja experience than many other games starring these Japanese assassins. It’s a top-down tactical stealth game in which you must command a group of sneaky specialists as they use their skills to navigate various challenges in Edo-period Japan. This one isn’t for twitch reflex lovers; it’s a slow, methodical experience where you’ll need to think about and observe each map carefully. Don’t forget to save a lot, too!
14. Cyber Shadow
We couldn’t put this list together without referencing Cyber Shadow, the love letter to classic Ninja Gaiden platformers. Published by Shovel Knight studio Yacht Club Games, Cyber Shadow isn’t dissimilar to that game; it’s an incredibly fluid ninja platformer with a perfectly-tuned challenge curve and a surprisingly in-depth story. If you love old-school Ninja Gaiden and you want to challenge yourself, then you should definitely check out Cyber Shadow. It’s not possible to get the old-school Ninja Gaiden games on PS4, so this is as close as you’re getting.
Before you play Ghostrunner, we should warn you: this game is brutally, sadistically difficult. You will die. A lot. It’s baked into the game’s challenge; the goal is simply to keep dying until you learn the level layout well enough to complete it, in essence. It’s not dissimilar to games like Hotline Miami in that regard, although Ghostrunner’s higher-quality graphics make it a little less difficult on the eyes than that game. There’s lots of ninja-style acrobatic fun to be had here if you can forgive the high difficulty, though.