Ninja Gaiden

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For other uses, see Ninja Gaiden (disambiguation).
Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden logo.png
Logo used from 1988 to 1991
Genres Action-adventure, hack and slash
Developers Tecmo
Team Ninja
Publishers Tecmo
Nintendo (North America and Europe)
Creators Hideo Yoshizawa (original series)
Tomonobu Itagaki, Team Ninja (modern series)
Artists Masato Kato (original series)
Platforms NES
PC Engine
Atari Lynx
Game Boy
Game Gear
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis
Mobile phones
Nintendo DS
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii Virtual Console
PlayStation Vita
Wii U
Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console
Microsoft Windows
Platform of origin NES
First release Ninja Gaiden
October 1988
Latest release Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
March 2014

Ninja Gaiden (NINJA 外伝?) is a series of video games by Tecmo featuring the ninja Ryu Hayabusa as its protagonist. The series was originally known as Ninja Ryukenden (忍者龍剣伝 Ninja Ryūkenden?, lit. "Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword") in Japan. The word "gaiden" in the North American Ninja Gaiden title means "side-story" in Japanese, even though the Ninja Gaiden series is not a spinoff of a previous series. The original arcade version, first two NES games and Game Boy game were released as Shadow Warriors in PAL regions.

The series gained popularity on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) for its tight action-platform gameplay, catchy music and, according to G4's X-Play, for being the first console game to have the story presented in cinematic cutscenes. The 8-bit trilogy was enhanced for the 16-bit Super NES in 1995. Sega also released two Ninja Gaiden games for the Game Gear and Master System, the latter only for PAL regions. A new game, titled Ninja Gaiden, was released in 2004 as a 3D action game on the Xbox, developed by Team Ninja, the makers of Dead or Alive.[1] The Ninja Gaiden franchise is well known for its high degree of difficulty, particularly the original NES version and the Xbox revival.[2]

Arcade game[edit]

Further information: Ninja Gaiden (arcade)
Timeline of release years
Original series in green
Modern series in yellow
1988 – Ninja Gaiden (arcade)
1988 – Ninja Gaiden (NES)
1989 –
1990 – Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
1991 – Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
1991 – Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)
1991 – Ninja Gaiden Shadow
1992 – Ninja Gaiden (Master System)
1993 –
1994 –
1995 – Ninja Gaiden Trilogy
1996 –
1997 –
1998 –
1999 –
2000 –
2001 –
2002 –
2003 –
2004 – Ninja Gaiden
2005 – Ninja Gaiden Black
2006 –
2007 – Ninja Gaiden Sigma
2008 – Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
2008 – Ninja Gaiden II
2009 – Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
2010 –
2011 –
2012 – Ninja Gaiden 3
2012 – Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge
2014 – Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden (released in 1988, in Japan, North America, and Europe)[3] was a Double Dragon-style beat 'em up, in which the player controls a nameless blue ninja as he travels to various regions of the United States (such as San Francisco, New York City and Las Vegas) to defeat an evil cult led by a fictional descendant of Nostradamus, who is trying to personally fulfil his ancestor's prophecy of the rise of an evil king in 1999. The player has a variety of techniques, such as a flying neck throw and a back-flip.[4] The player can obtain power-ups by throwing enemies into background objects, such as street lights and dumpsters. The player fights primarily with his bare hands, although a sword can also be used for a limited time as a power-up; he can also use environmental objects as a prop from which he can deliver more powerful kicking attacks. Although the game takes place in different environments, there are primarily only five kinds of enemies, all of which appear in every level (although some levels have extra enemy types). The game is remembered for its infamous continue screen (where the player character is tied to the ground underneath a descending circular saw).[5]

The original Ninja Gaiden arcade game received several ports for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga and ZX Spectrum computers. The Amiga version in particular, retained almost all of the graphics and functionality of the original game, including the two-player cooperative gameplay and the introduction. All these versions, developed by Ocean Software, were only released in Europe as Shadow Warriors. A PC (MS-DOS format) port of the original Ninja Gaiden was also developed by Hi Tech Expressions, this time for its release in North America as Ninja Gaiden, as opposed to the other computer versions. However, it featured stripped down play mechanics and a low 16 colour palette.

Lastly, was ported to the Atari Lynx handheld system. The original title was a solid port of the arcade title and is a more sought-after title for the Lynx.

An emulated version of the arcade game exists in the Xbox version's update, Ninja Gaiden Black, as a bonus feature, and it is also available through Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console download service.

Original trilogy[edit]

An illustration depicting Ryu Hayabusa at the center, with images of events from the NES trilogy shown at the background

Ninja Gaiden (NES)[edit]

The first Ninja Gaiden for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in Japan on December 9, 1988, in the United States on March 1989, and in Europe on August 15, 1991. A ninja named Ryu Hayabusa finds a letter by his recently missing father, Ken, telling him to go to America and meet with an archaeologist Dr. Smith. Dr. Smith tells Ryu that two statues hidden by Ryu's father and the doctor have the power to end the world – if united. Ryu ends up in South America and battles Jaquio, an evil cult leader bent on reviving the ancient demon called "Jashin" and responsible for the attack on Ken Hayabusa.

While the arcade game itself bears little or no connection to the later NES trilogy or Xbox revival (although the Xbox version does feature the same flying neck throw from the arcade game), certain aspects of it were carried over to the first NES title. The first stage in the NES game is a loose adaptation of the first stage in the arcade game and the opening cutscene in the NES game vaguely resembles the intro in the arcade version. Both games also feature Jason Voorhees look-alikes and the final boss in the arcade game vaguely resembles Bloody Malth from the NES game. The game introduced many of the series' staples, including the cinematic cutscenes, the boomerang-like Windmill Shuriken and the magical techniques called Ninja Arts (or Ninpo). Like all games in the series, it is noted for its difficulty, particularly the infamous Stage 6–2. To use the ninja arts, users had to collect power-ups. Each art used up a certain number of power-ups.

There are also several other versions of the Ninja Gaiden games on other platforms. A port of the first NES Ninja Gaiden was developed by Hudson for the PC Engine and released only in Japan, although the game features an unlockable English mode (with a different translation than the NES game). Other differences include enhanced graphics, reworked music and rebalanced difficulty.

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos[edit]

In the sequel, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, Ryu learns of a new villain named Ashtar, Emperor of Chaos and master to Jaquio. Ryu must rescue Irene Lew, a former CIA agent, from Ashtar and destroy the Dark Sword, a weapon of great power, forged from a bone of the demon, as the Dragon Sword is forged from a fang of a dragon. In the end, Ryu learns that Jaquio has been reborn to fulfil the destiny of Ashtar and the Dark Sword. This game was the first to feature Spirit Clones, invincible copies of Ryu which would mimic his movements and fight by his side. Also introduced was the ability to scale walls without the need to constantly jump upwards.

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos received computer ports developed by GameTek for the PC (MS-DOS format) and the Commodore Amiga, both for their release in North America. They featured a 256 colour palette (32 on Amiga) and were translated faithfully (though animation and movement were choppier) and also offered a save-and-load function, where your exact position in the game could be saved at any given moment.

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom[edit]

The third game, titled Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, has what some[who?] considered to be a rather convoluted and, at times, contradictory story featuring rogue secret agents, genetic engineering and the eponymous warship. The gameplay is largely unchanged and more is revealed about Foster, the CIA agent who sent Ryu after Jaquio in the first game and his true intentions towards the ninja. This game is often considered to be the most difficult of the original trilogy, as continues are limited this time. Additionally, most attacks deal 2 damage units to the player (rather than 1 in the previous games), who still has only 16 health units. New innovations in the third installment included a sword extension power-up that increased the range of the player's attack until the end of the level or until death, new types of surfaces from which the player could hang, and automatically scrolling areas.

It was both ported to the Atari Lynx handheld system. It was a very-faithful port of the NES game and is virtually identical from beginning to end, albeit with a more distorted-sounding soundtrack and slightly-jumbled visuals due to the lower in-game video resolution. An LCD handheld version produced by Tiger Electronics was released in 1988, which also had a sequel.

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy[edit]

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (忍者龍剣伝 巴 Ninja Ryūkenden Tomoe?) is a 1995 SNES collection featuring all three games. Few improvements were made, but passwords were included and the cinematic sequences were improved. The graphics were retouched and the soundtrack was updated. The third game was also made more playable by reverting the difficulty level to that of the Japanese version, with infinite continues and more reasonable damage from enemy attacks. Unfortunately, the ports suffered from slowdown, unresponsive controls, finicky hit detection, and no closing credits. Some graphical changes were made that removed parallax scrolling from the backgrounds of the levels. Other graphical changes were made to comply with Nintendo's "Family Friendly" censorship policy at the time (i.e. a pool of blood changed from red to green, and the removal of pentagrams). Fans also complained about the omission of some music tracks (including removing two pieces of music from Ninja Gaiden III and replacing the use of the stage 1–1 music in the Ninja Gaiden II pursuit cutscenes with a repeating footstep sound). Conversely, a degree of censorship was actually removed from certain parts of the script (for example, Jaquio's "Argh! He's awake" is replaced with "Damn, he's awake."), though the retooled scripts also featured new typographical errors not found in the original translations.[citation needed] Despite these shortcomings, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a bit of a collector's item and sells for nearly $200 if still sealed.[6]

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy was included as a bonus unlockable in 2004's Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox.

Ninja Gaiden Shadow[edit]

Main article: Ninja Gaiden Shadow

Tecmo released a Game Boy version called Ninja Gaiden Shadow. It was actually a licensed edit of a proposed Shadow of the Ninja (Natsume) Game Boy port. Although it was released following the NES trilogy, the game is actually a prequel to the original game.

Sega games[edit]

Sega, under license from Tecmo, developed three games but ultimately released only two: one for the Master System and another for the Game Gear, both bearing the Ninja Gaiden title worldwide, marking the first time a game in the series was released with the Ninja Gaiden name in Japan and Europe.

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)[edit]

Released in Europe, Australia and Brazil in 1992 for the Master System, this game has similar gameplay mechanics to the NES games, though it had much better graphics, faster gameplay and a few changes were made such as Ryu bouncing off walls instead of clinging to them, like the later 3D games. The game featured a new storyline, characters and scenarios, not connected to any of the other Ninja Gaiden games.

Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)[edit]

Released in Japan, North America and Europe in 1991 for the Game Gear, this game was not very close to any of the other Ninja Gaiden games. It featured a smaller screen size, bigger character sprites, slower game speed, and unlike the NES and Master System games which were more oriented to platforming action, this was more a linear side-scrolling game in the likes of the Shinobi series.

Ninja Gaiden (Mega Drive/Genesis)[edit]

A Mega Drive/Genesis version of Ninja Gaiden'[7] was in development by Sega sometime in 1992. It was planned to be a belt scroll-style beat-'em-up similar to the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden, instead of following the side-scrolling platform game format from the NES trilogy. The plot would have involved Ryu traveling to the United States in order to track down a pair of sibling ninjas named Jin and Rika who have gone rogue by stealing the Secret Scrolls of the Huma (an alternate romanization of the name "Fūma"). The Mega Drive version is not a port of the arcade game, but some of the stages (such as a casino) and enemy characters (like the hockey mask-wearing punks) are similar,[8] though the play mechanics are very different.

The game was never released commercially, but a beta build was leaked through the internet as a ROM image. The beta features seven stages, including cut-scenes and bosses, but has several programming bugs such as odd moving controls, unfinished levels, and cut-scenes which are skipped before finishing. Although the opening and stage names are in Japanese, the rest of the cut-scenes were translated into English. The techniques available in the beta consist of a standard punch combo, a jump kick, a rolling move, a special somersault kick, and a throw.

Modern series[edit]

The story of the 2004 release of Ninja Gaiden and its sequels have been established as a prequel, taking place before the original NES trilogy.[9][10][11] The main story of the game involves Ryu Hayabusa setting out on a quest to retrieve the Dark Dragon Blade from the hands of evil after most of his clan was wiped out.

Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden Sigma[edit]

The series was revived after several years with the 2004 release of Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. The title was developed over five years by developer Tomonobu Itagaki and his Team Ninja, and eventually released to high sales and critical acclaim. An upgraded edition with new content, modes and features came out the following year under the name Ninja Gaiden Black.

Later, a enhanced port directed by Yosuke Hayashi was made for the PlayStation 3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma, released on July 3, 2007. This version has its graphics reworked to high definition standards, and Rachel as a playable character. In 2012, updated version of the Sigma game was a launch title for the PlayStation Vita, titled Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus. It added a few new costumes for the playable characters, touch controls and making ninpo attacks stronger, and a new trophy list for the game.

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword[edit]

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was released in March 2008, only for the Nintendo DS. The game is played in a diagonal top-down view with 3D graphics, and the player needs to hold the Nintendo DS sideways, like a book, as in Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is played using full potential of the stylus. The story is set six months after the event of 2004's Ninja Gaiden. There is also a new playable female ninja character, Momiji.[12]

Ninja Gaiden II and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2[edit]

Ninja Gaiden II was a follow up to the series, released in 2008 and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360. It is set one year after the events in Ninja Gaiden (2004). The new features in the game were four difficulty levels, a regenerating health bar, and upgraded graphics and enemy AI.[13]

An enhanced version of Ninja Gaiden II was released for the PlayStation 3, titled Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.[14] The PlayStation Vita version, titled Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus, was released in 2013.

Ninja Gaiden 3 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge[edit]

Although series director Tomonobu Itagaki left shortly after the release of Ninja Gaiden II, Tecmo Koei still owned the franchise and planned to instigate development of another title, with a newly restructured Team Ninja. This title was revealed as Ninja Gaiden III at the Tokyo Game Show 2010. Information about the game in the coming months revealed that the new director, Yosuke Hayashi, would be taking the series to new directions, including the addition of "resistance" in cutting through enemies. Later, at the E3 2011, the game was unvelied as Ninja Gaiden 3. Changes to gameplay included removing dismemberment, replacing the roll with a new "slide" maneuver, and a "kunai climb" technique that would allow Ryu to scale certain walls. Tecmo Koei released the game on March 20, 2012 for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

An expanded version of the game titled Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge was released later on November 18th of the same year for the Wii U. In early 2013, Razor's Edge was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z[edit]

Main article: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Other media[edit]


Ninja Ryūkenden / Ninja Gaiden

Ryu, voiced by Keiichi Nanba, is the main character in the 1991 OVA film Ninja Ryūkenden, released in Japan only. Ryu Hayabusa has a unique look in the animation.[citation needed]


Some of the Ninja Gaiden series have received novelizations, such as the NES version.[citation needed]

Crossovers and cross-promotion[edit]

Cameo appearances

Ninja Gaiden's characters, as well as other references to the series, can be found in cameos and additional items in various titles from games by Tecmo, Koei and Microsoft.



NINJA GAIDEN timeline featuring games where Ryu Hayabusa appears or is mentioned

YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z (Dark Horse Comic)(Assumption, several years prior to YAIBA)

Ninja Ryukenden GB Shadow
↓1 year
↓6 months
↓5 months
The Vampire War
↓shortly after
↓several months


↓shortly after
↓shortly after

↓shortly after
Ninja Ryukenden
↓6 months
Ninja Ryukenden III The Ancient Ship of Doom
↓6 months
Ninja Ryukenden II The Dark Sword of Chaos
↓shortly after
Ninja Ryukenden OVA

DEAD OR ALIVE Dimensions
↓shortly after
↓shortly after
↓shortly after
↓shortly after

       ↓shortly after

↓shortly after
↓shortly after
↓2 years

Either unrelated to the timeline or not enough information to place:
Ninja Ryukenden(AC) Set in 1999
Ninja Gaiden(GG)
Ninja Gaiden(MS)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iuglio, Anthony (August 27, 2007). "Ninja Gaiden Series Retrospective".
  2. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (February 24, 2007). "Ninja Gaiden: IGN Review".
  3. ^ "Ninja Gaiden (Release Data)". GameFAQs. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "NGAR" (GIF). Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. 
  5. ^ "NGAR Continue screen" (GIF). Archived from the original on 2006-04-09. 
  6. ^ "Ninja Gaiden Trilogy". Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  7. ^ Electronic Gaming Monthly (August 1992). "Ninja Gaiden IV preview". Electronic Gaming Monthly. p. 48. 
  8. ^ Electronic Gaming Monthly (November 1992). "Ninja Gaiden". Electronic Gaming Monthly. p. 214. 
  9. ^ Mielke, James (2007-11-16). "Previews: Ninja Gaiden 2". Retrieved 2008-07-04. This is a new story starring Ryu Hayabusa. It takes place after Ninja Gaiden 1 for Xbox, and before the timeframe of the old Ninja Gaiden games on the NES  (Javascript required)
  10. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (2008-05-22). "Ninja Gaiden 2 Preview" (Interview). Video Gamer. Retrieved 2008-07-04. Story chronologically as well, this takes place after the fist Ninja Gaiden for Xbox, then after this, the story for this game from a chronological stand point leads into the old Ninja Gaiden for the NES. I think we have a nice continuity there. 
  11. ^ Luke, Anderson (2008-05-23). "Ninja Gaiden II: Q&A with Tomonobu Itagaki". Gamespot. Retrieved 2008-07-04. In story chronology as well, this takes place after the first Ninja Gaiden for Xbox and then after the story of this game it leads into the old NES ones, so I think we have a nice continuity there. 
  12. ^ IGN staff (2007-03-28). "Ninja Gaiden Coming to DS". IGN. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  13. ^ Leone, Matt (2005-09-11). "Previews: Ninja Gaiden 2". Retrieved 2006-11-09.  (Javascript required)
  14. ^ Ashcraft, Brian (March 17, 2009). "Xbox 360 Exclusive Ninja Gaiden II Coming To PS3". Archived from the original on 2009-03-17. 

External links[edit]