After the second world war, Japan understood they were falling behind in the competition against the US. Whether industrial or military, their opponents were too large and had a gross advantage. Instead, the Japanese focused more on exporting their culture.
Since then, this non-violent approach has worked astoundingly well in times of unprecedented peace. From video games to TV shows and, most prominently, anime, the rich heritage of Japan has been exported globally. Among these exports are tales about the martial prowess of Japan’s iconic ninjas.
The contrast between the two could not have been more stark. One is a literal medieval battlefield tank that fought with honor and discipline. The other was a cunning rogue who struck from the shadows and was ruthless in achieving their ends, no matter the means.
Their popularity over the decades hasn’t reduced, and even today, they enjoy strong mindshare with games still being released based on their lore. Gamers worldwide have enjoyed playing like these two warriors and discovering their different combat styles and weapons.
The most deadly Ninjas in video game history
5) Shadow – Final Fantasy VI
The lone warrior who lives by his own rules, Shadow bears allegiance to none. A playable character in Final Fantasy VI, Shadow is a mercenary with a compelling personality that made gamers take notice.
A man of few words and a quintessential loner, this ninja’s only constant companion is a canine sidekick.
Frequently shifting sides from the empire to the rebellion, Shadow works for the right price and plays by a different set of rules.
Though most of Shadow’s past, present, and future is a mystery, players are given a glimpse of his backstory through dreams while resting between missions.
4) Leonardo – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Leonardo, the unspoken leader of our favorite half-shelled heroes, is on the other end of the spectrum.
As loyal as he is strong, Leonardo is a disciplined warrior who always puts the team before himself.
Leo trains and studies relentlessly, most driven on the team, and it’s no wonder that he is the favorite student of Splinter, their adoptive father.
Leonardo, the eldest among his brothers, is identifiable via a distinctive blue mask.
While each Ninja Turtle is unique in their skills and personality, this dual Ninjato-wielding fighter is famous for always being calm under pressure and the rock the team can rely on.
3) Wolf – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro, also known as Wolf, made a lasting impression in the minds of gamers with his prosthetic tools and combat arts. The immense capacity for learning, agility that would put the fleetest to shame, and the ability to see in the dark make Wolf a Shinobi of legend.
A young orphan rescued from the waste of a terrible battle, Wolf was taken in by the Owl, who became a foster father and mentor. A life of discipline and training turned this ninja into a lethal weapon, and he was soon bound by oath to a lifetime duty to protect a young lord.
Believing his master to be dead during an attack that also crippled him, Wolf wasted away his life aimlessly until news of his master still being alive reached him. The story after that is what makes Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice an award-winning game.
2) Scorpion – Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat’s roster of ninjas (secret characters included) has a key differentiator, but Scorpion stands out for several reasons. An undead ninja, fuelled by exacting revenge on those that killed his clan, not even death can stop him.
With attacks powered by a deadly Kunai or rope spear, Scorpion launches a grotesque display of power over his opponents in the gory fighting game. The iconic taunts of “Come Here” and “Get Over Here” accompanying his spear attacks add to the character’s personality and make him even more memorable.
1) Snake Eyes – G.I Joes
Arguably the most famous ninja of our time, Snake Eyes has become a fan favorite of every 90s kid from the GI Joe TV shows. Though subsequent GI Joe games hardly caused a ripple in the gaming community on release, the legend of the strong silent ninja never diminished.
An orphan taken in and trained by the clan of his future arch-nemesis Storm Shadow, Snake eyes is a lethal warrior with legendary combat capabilities. Heavy burns and the loss of his vocal cords in an accident didn’t stop him from completing a mission and haven’t slowed him down since.
Since its beginning, every franchise film has featured the iconic ninja, with one entirely dedicated to his origins.
Most honorable samurai in video games
5) Oshiro Mugen – Shadow tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Set in feudal Japan, Shadow tactics essentially follow Oshiro Mugen, the samurai tasked by his Shogun to bring peace to the land. He subsequently recruits four more allies and is the unquestioned leader of the squad.
A robust and honorable warrior with a heart of gold and the skills to back it up, he is excellent at taking down numerous targets together. The paladin of the squad, Mugen, is used to being the center of attention and enjoys being in the thick of things while leaving the rest of his squad free to take out key targets.
Born a peasant, Mugen rose through the ranks to become the Shogun’s most trusted and fearsome warrior.
4) William – Nioh
Probably the only character in this list who isn’t a native of Japan, William is an Irishman with a talent for violence on the high seas. His original mission to find powerful spiritual stones called Amrita led him to Japan in pursuit of the alchemist Edward Kelley, where he formed an unlikely alliance with the Tokugawa shogunate against his quarry and the Oni. They are a threat to the political stability of the land.
Nioh is set in a dark fantasy version of the Sengoku period of Japan, where different clans are at war. William is based on a real person and meets several other historical figures from that period on his journey.
3) Haohmaru – Samurai Shodown
A Ronin (Samurai with no Lord or Master) is based on the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, Haohmaru is an iconic gaming character, having starred in each of the Samurai Shodown games by SNK.
First appearing in 1993, he has been featured 20 times since then. While serving no master and fighting for the thrill of battle, gamers are privy to HaohMaru’s journey from a young, reckless warrior to an enlightened and wise samurai with keen observations about his opponents and the mystery of life.
2) Jin Sakai – Ghost of Tsushima
Jin Sakai, or the Ghost of Tsushima, was brought to life masterfully by Sucker Punch Productions for an open-world Samurai experience. He is one of the more popular samurai in recent times. The sole remaining member of clan Sakai, he is the nephew and ward of Lord Shimura, the Jitō of Tsushima.
Set during the historical event of the first Mongol invasion of Japan, Jin was among the small army of defenders who made the ultimate sacrifice for Tsushima.
Understanding that the enemy cannot be taken head-on, Jin must choose between the honorable Bushido way or the ruthless Shinobi way, and this conflict within him is apparent throughout the game.
1) Samurai Jack – Battle Through Time
The ultimate indomitable Samurai warrior, Samurai Jack first made an animated appearance in 2001. Trained from a young age to battle the demon Aku, Jack gets put into a spell and sent eons into the future where Aku reigns supreme.
The post-apocalyptic world our hero wakes up to is plagued with all manner of lowlife who thrives on the chaos spread by the demon king. Without thinking of giving up, Jack takes on every evil denizen Aku sends his way and becomes a symbol of hope for the terrorized populace.
A stoic hero with sage-like wisdom who puts the needs of others above his own, Samurai Jack is one of a kind.
Note: This article is subjective and solely reflects the writer’s opinions.
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