Despite any rumors and vague hints about what might be a new Ninja Gaiden game, the series has gone a long time without a proper sequel. This is a shame for fans of the all-action ninja franchise, but there is some reason to be cheerful with the recent Master Collection compilation.
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Along with that, a lot of the older games have the kind of quality that means they hold up well even today. Some of the titles have been better than others, however, and Metacritic’s review aggregator makes it easy to see which titles rank above the others as the best of the Ninja Gaiden series.
10 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (2013) – 66
As a port of the acclaimed Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for PlayStation Vita, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus had a great foundation to build on. Unfortunately, for a few reasons, the port didn’t quite achieve the heights of its main console counterpart but was nevertheless a solid adaptation.
The graphical and framerate limitations of the handheld console mean it isn’t the best version of the game, although the inclusion of “Hero Mode” is a good accessibility feature, making the game significantly easier. Other new game modes are diverting but unfortunately didn’t outweigh the downsides of this version of the game.
9 Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (2013) – 70
Similar to how the Sigma titles were enhanced ports of the earlier Ninja Gaiden games, Razor’s Edge is an enhanced version of Ninja Gaiden 3 with a range of changes. Although Ninja Gaiden 3 wasn’t well-received at the time of its release, getting extremely mixed reviews on Metacritic, Razor’s Edge brought in wholesale changes that made it a much better experience.
Razor’s Edge discarded or completely revamped frustrating elements of Ninja Gaiden 3, including Kunai Climbing. It also adopted a lot of elements from Ninja Gaiden II as well as featured a bunch of new and improved gameplay features. This version was the one featured in the Master Collection and is one of the better Wii U ports on the Switch.
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8 Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (2012) – 72
Remaking a highly successful title for handheld is never an easy task, as simply releasing the same game with downgraded graphics and lower performance can leave fans disappointed. Team Ninja found a good balance with Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, however, trading off the inferior graphics with a bunch of new features.
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These included the easier Hero Mode, touch screen and gyroscopic controls, and a bunch of equippable Enhancements for Ryu and Rachel that keep things interesting. Arguably, it still doesn’t provide enough of an advantage over Ninja Gaiden Sigma to be worth it but it’s a solid effort nonetheless.
7 Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection (2021) – 73
Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection brings three massive Ninja Gaiden titles to the Switch, Xbox One and PS4 in the form of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. The titles look better than ever on the newer-gen consoles and fans will be happy with a new way to enjoy classic Ninja Gaiden action.
The Master Collection also includes a ton of previously released game modes and DLC costumes to use when playing as Ryu as well as the other playable characters in the form of Ayane, Momiji, Rachel, and Kasumi. The only drawback is the lack of any new or previously unreleased content but the compilation still provides some great hack-and-slash action on modern consoles.
6 Ninja Gaiden II (2008) – 81
Following up on the triumphant 3D reimagining of the Ninja Gaiden franchise was no easy task, but Ninja Gaiden II did a great job of continuing the story of Ryu Hayabusa whilst stepping up the extreme violence and gore that had set the first game apart. With evil plans in motion to resurrect the Archfiend Vazdah, the player must step up to the challenge of stopping them from coming to fruition.
Ninja Gaiden II does provide a significant challenge, even for someone used to the franchise’s high difficulty level, but it rewards the player with one of the best hack-and-slash experiences of all time. Although the title has its flaws, there is a lot to love about Ninja Gaiden II.
5 Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (2008) – 83
In a series that has nearly solely focused on console editions, generally treating handheld games as an afterthought, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a memorable exception. An entirely original storyline featuring Ryu Hayabusa developed for the Nintendo DS, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword holds its own against the mainline titles.
Set between the events of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II, the story begins with the kidnapping of Momiji by the Black Spider Ninja Clan, who intend to summon an ancient fiend called Ishtaros. The gameplay, which largely revolves around using the stylus and swiping the touch screen to slash Ryu’s sword or jump, may put off some but it remains a solid Ninja Gaiden game.
4 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009) – 83
By 2009, Team Ninja had realized the formula for successfully revamping its previous titles and they proved it with this PS3 exclusive. A port of Ninja Gaiden II, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 features massive new bosses for players who wanted even more of a challenge from the already challenging sequel.
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The three new playable characters in the form of Momiji, Ayane, and Rachel could all be used in the new online cooperative mode, whilst small tweaks to the controls made everything feel a bit more polished. The use of reduced enemy spawns to keep performance up was criticized but the game’s favorable reviews reflect a significantly improved experience.
3 Ninja Gaiden Sigma (2007) – 88
The only downside of the massive success of the modern reimagination of the Ninja Gaiden franchise was the fact that the titles were Xbox exclusives, so plenty of fans were missing out on the fun. This was rectified in 2007 with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, a revamped port of Ninja Gaiden for the PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 3 has a ton of games with great replay value and Ninja Gaiden Sigma is no exception, featuring a new mission mode that shifted the focus to completing objectives rather than progressing a story. The game looks significantly better than the original Ninja Gaiden and the extra content provides a nice bonus.
2 Ninja Gaiden (2004) – 91
The master ninja Ryu Hayabusa may have first appeared in 1988 and dominated the 1990s, but his return in the form of the first 3D Ninja Gaiden title took the series to a new level. The player takes control of Ryu on a single-minded revenge mission to bring down the Holy Emperor.
One of the best-looking games on the Xbox, Ninja Gaiden introduced the world to a new brand of violent hack-and-slash ninja combat in huge levels full of tough enemies. Although the game has aged somewhat nearly 20 years on from its release, the Universal Acclaim it won on Metacritic goes to show just how good the game was for the time.
1 Ninja Gaiden Black (2005) – 94
The definitive version of Ninja Gaiden until Sigma, Ninja Gaiden Black was a reworked version of the game that included the added elements from the two Hurricane Pack expansions. With new enemies, new difficulty levels, additional costumes, and a new Arcade Mode, Ninja Gaiden Black managed to feel very fresh.
An additional 50 missions are also included in the game’s brand new Mission Mode and the camera is improved from the original, giving fans almost everything they were asking for. With all of these improvements, Ninja Gaiden Black crafted the quintessential ninja hack-and-slash experience.
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