6 Games Like Ninja Gaiden [Recommendations]


Ninja Gaiden was released in arcades across the world in the year 1988. It was a beat-em-up game that was enjoyable and garnered enough support to make its way onto consoles like the Gameboy and NES. It has continued to thrive over the years, with a pretty big jump in 2004 when Team Ninja, led by Tomonobu Itagaki, took control of the story and gameplay. It is under their rule that Ninja Gaiden series continues, with the latest in the series being Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, which was released in 2014. Let’s get back to the beginning of the series though.

Coinciding with the release of the arcade version was a NES version of Ninja Gaiden. This Ninja Gaiden was a game significantly different from the arcade version. It would be the first of a trilogy of action platformers that revolved around the missions of Ryu Hayabusa as he attempts to save the world from disaster. It is this version that this article focuses on as it cemented the main character for the rest of the series, set the bar for storylines, and introduced many unique gameplay features that helped define the action platformer genre. With all that said, let’s get to talking about the games like Ninja Gaiden.

Similar Games to Ninja Gaiden (NES)

1. Shinobi

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sega
  • Release Date: 1988

Shinobi follows the life of a regular martial arts teacher, Jo-Musashi. He’s a nice, regular guy; except he is not. Well, he’s nice, but he’s not regular. He is, in fact, a master ninja who has been called to duty in order to take on the Ring of Five, an international terrorist network that has kidnapped the children of world leaders.

One of the main similarities between Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden is the timing of their development and release in a world that was falling in love with ninja aesthetics. During the 80s there was a big boom, especially in the West, of ninja movies and the game industry decided to take advantage of this. Though both games took advantage of the timing, Shinobi took it one step further by pandering to western audiences with a MC who’s first name was extremely American: Jo. This is why the games are extremely similar on a visual level. However, the gameplay does differ slightly. Shinobi has more in common with the beat-em-up arcade version of Ninja Gaiden, rather than the action platformer for the NES.

2. Shadow of the Ninja

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Natsume
  • Developer: Natsume
  • Release Date: December 1990

Shadow of the Ninja takes the player into the future. We are set down in New York City while it is under the reign of a madman in the year 2029. Chaos rules the streets and it is our job, controlling one of two players, to infiltrate the stronghold of Emperor Garuda and to take him out.

Again, we’re seeing on this list a game that definitely took advantage of the ninja boom that was happening in the 1980s. Actually, it took advantage of quite a few tropes of the 1980s, such as the futuristic premise that revolves around a dystopian. The game also does a good job catering to western audiences by having the setting as New York City. Nonetheless, the main similarity between Shadow of the Ninja and Ninja Gaiden is the style of gameplay. The platforming aspect in both games is quite difficult (admittedly Ninja Gaiden is a lot harder), and both games have the player utilize a main weapon as well as other secondary weapons to take on the enemies.

3. Ninja Crusaders

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Sammy Corporation
  • Developer: NMK
  • Release Date: December 1990

Ninja Crusaders put us in a world that was under attack by aliens. Systematically, the aliens have been destroying Earth’s major cities, but a small resistance group of ninjas has banded together to save the planet. The group has decided to send two of its best ninja to take out the alien threat for good.

Ninja Crusaders clearly shares a similar aesthetic to Ninja Gaiden, as do most of the games on this list. As already discussed, ninjas and everything about them, were all the rage in the 80s and early 90s. In terms of gameplay, each of these games shared a high level of difficulty that frustrated many gamers. In Ninja Crusader, the enemy’s were at times impossibly difficult to predict. Their attack patterns and speed would vary to a point that it was difficult to plan a proper strategy. Also, later levels demanded a lot of memorization. The difference is that Ninja Gaiden’s difficulty revolved around enemies respawning and the vertical scaling of the platforms.

Any Games Like Ninja Gaiden (NES) ?

4. Strider

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: July 1989

Strider puts us into the year 2048, and the world has become quite the dystopian setting. In this world, there is a force of high-tech, elite ninjas, known as Striders, who are used for special operations. Your task as the youngest Strider ever, Hiryu, is to take on the Russian government and retrieve enemy secrets. However, the further Hiryu makes his way into the mission, the more complicated his world becomes as everyone seems to have an ulterior motive.

Strider, just like Ninja Gaiden, is an excellent platformer that requires the player to explore the environment just as much as you need to defeat the enemies that block your path. This game also features one of the more developed stories when it comes to platformers, actually any type of game during this time, taking the player on a long journey with a lot of memorable twists.

5. Double Dragon

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Tradewest
  • Developer: Technos
  • Release Date: June 1988

Double Dragon follows the story of Billy and Jimmy Lee, who grew up on the streets and have honed their fighting styles through the rough lessons that were learned on the hard pavement. When Billy’s significant other, Marian, gets taken away by a street gang, known as the Black Warriors, Billy must put all of his prowess to the test.

Though Double Dragon has a martial arts focus and the overall visuals match with the others on this list, the game definitely targets a western audience in the most overt way with the extremely macho American character designs. Nonetheless, this game has a certain prominent quality that it shares with Ninja Gaiden. The game paved the way for what a genre of games should and could be. Admittedly, Ninja Gaiden was more geared towards platformers, while Double Dragon demonstrated just how nuanced and fun a beat-em-up game can be.

6. Castlevania

  • System: NES
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: May 1987

The Castlevania series places us in the shoes of Simon Belmont, who is a descendant of a clan of vampire killers and plans to kill Count Dracula. In his mission to do so, he infiltrates Dracula’s castle where he is beset by an endless amount of ghosts, goblins, demons, werewolves, bats, and so much more.

The Castlevania series is one of the longest running and most beloved franchises out there. It set the bar for platformers and co-created a genre of platformers with Metroid: Metroidvania. It is just like Ninja Gaiden in that it was a trailblazer and it has gone through a similar transformation over the years, with both moving from platformers of high difficulty, to fast-paced action RPGs with huge worlds. That development aside, both showcase the best of platforming worlds. Each developed intricate maps that tested a player and forced them to really plan out each movement.


Perhaps you did not notice, but ninjas were really popular during this early time period of gaming and that popularity definitely cemented ninjas in the gaming industry. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise because we all view them as badass even now, but let’s just be thankful that they made their way into the gaming industry at such an early stage and so have been a part of the industry’s growth at every stage.

Anyways, most of these games will provide you with a nice dosage of ninja visuals if not just an entertaining and difficult world. However, it must be admitted that one of the reasons why it’s difficult for any game during this time period to truly compare to Ninja Gaiden is that it was at the forefront of creating cinematic cut scenes to help develop the story. With that being said, are there any games out there that you think can be compared to Ninja Gaiden?

ninja-gaiden-game-1-300x349 6 Games Like Ninja Gaiden [Recommendations]


Author: Yoko Dev

Hello, my anime peers. I’m from the states, but have taken an indefinite leave to travel while freelancing. Outside of a deep admiration for anime that started long ago, I love to read, write, and play video games. The main issue of traveling so far has been not having a console.

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