Ninja Gaiden

aka: Dragon Ninja, Ninja Ryūkenden, Shadow Warriors, Shadow Warriors: Ninja Gaiden
Moby ID: 7356
NES Specs
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Description official descriptions

Ninja Gaiden begins with a cinematic animation in which two ninjas duel to the death and one goes down. It is then revealed that the doomed ninja is the father of Ryu Hayabusa. When Ryu learns of this, he embarks on a quest to find out who killed his father and why. This quest takes him to America to find an archaeologist with whom his father was working. From there, Ryu becomes embroiled in an evil, supernatural conspiracy involving a villain named Jaquio who has plans to use an ancient castle and some relics to unleash a terrifying evil upon the world.

Ninja Gaiden is a side scrolling game where Ryu the ninja can run, jump and slash with his ninja sword. He can also attach to any vertical surface. Power-ups that allow Ryu to toss fireballs and ninja stars as well as perform other feats are scattered throughout the landscape.

Ryu will battle through urban city settings, forests, jungles, snow covered castles, underground railroads and ancient castles. A major feature in Ninja Gaiden are the cinematic scenes – sometimes fullscreen – through which the storyline unfolds.


  • 忍者龍剣伝 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (NES version)

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Image Illust
Art Works
Program Works
Sound Design
Audio Visual Copyright MCMLXXXVIII
  • Tecmo Ltd.
  • All rights reserved.
Image Illust
Art Works
[ full credits ]



Average score: 80% (based on 36 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 98 ratings with 3 reviews)

Slice and dice! Ninja know no fear!

The Good
First, we had Sega's Shinobi. When I was 9 years old, I spent many a quarter on the arcade version (and much of my allowance, to my mother's dismay :p). Why? Simple: ninjas are the video game world's greatest and most versatile heroes. So how do you 1-Up an awesome game like Shinobi? I found out that Christmas, when I received Ninja Gaiden for my NES.

I popped that box open, grabbed the cart, and bashed it into my NES so quickly it nearly choked on it. I flick on the power, and sit back. And THAT'S when it caught my eye...

HOLY CRAP!! CUT-SCENES!! CUT-SCENES ON MY NES!! I was floored: I almost thought I was watching a movie; I had NEVER seen this high-quality look on my system! So I watch one ninja fall to the ground, and then I see the guy who would be the hero: Ryu Hayabusa...Ninja, Ladie's Man, Professional Ass Kicker.

I didn't even hit Start yet, and I was too impressed already!

Anyway, Ninja Gaiden's got it all. Ryu's quite fleet-footed, quick on the draw with his sword, and slices and dices like no one's business. He listens to your every command (read: dead-on control). He does about 50 flips in the air during a jump. He's got cool Ninja Arts to aid him on his quest, including shuriken, Windmill Shuriken (they boomerang all over the screen!!), the Spinning Blade (jump and slash in a circle), and the Invincible Fire Wheel (TOASTY VILLAINS!!). And he'll need them, too...I'll explain why later.

Although I did explain the cut-scenes already, I think I should go into a bit more detail and cover the in-game graphics, sound, and music while I'm at it. The cut-scenes in this game, for 1989, were amazing. They conveyed the story in such a way that it almost seems like an anime OVA (incidentally, there was a Ninja Gaiden OVA in Japan, but it was poorly written and animated, and Ryu was only a bit character in it. BLASPHEMY!!), and you get such a feel for the characters that you would think that they were alive and for real. The story is nothing short of excellent, and the game plays it out perfectly, breaking the action up into six acts of 2 to 5 stages each, for a grand total of 21 stages. The difficulty level in the game slowly progresses from very easy to hardcore gamer tough, but it progresses steadily from stage to stage. The bosses fall in the same category as well, with a very easy first boss to a hair-yanking hard final boss. More on the difficulty later.

The graphics in this game are pretty good, albeit a little grainy. Everyone is of a decent size but oddly drawn, but the animation in this game is just stunning; it's so fluid that you wouldn't think at first that this is still just an NES. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has at least 3 to 4 frames of animation; even little details like Ryu throwing a weapon look awesome in motion! The sounds are pretty good for an NES, although a few sounds are a little odd like the "FWP-SPLSH!" sound enemies make when they're killed (sounds like an explosion splashing into water!), and Ryu somehow makes this blasting sound when he gets hit. Is he laden with nitro or something? ^_^

But never mind that, the big draw in the sound department? The MUSIC!! Mark my words: MUSIC MAKES OR BREAKS THE GAME!! In this case, it doesn't just MAKE the game, it's the BLOOD WORK!! The music in this game is just TOO FING GOOD!!! The composer made some excellent use of the NES's sound system, including the ever so neglected PCM drum channel (one of the other games to really use this channel was Castlevania II: Simon's Quest). It's so awesome that I used to use the Sound Test code, then tape all the tunes off the TV with a portable tape recorder held to the speaker, just to listen to it later. It's THAT GOOD!! Every single tune, even to this day, rings in my head for all eternity, and out of every track, my personal favorite, the track from Stage 4-2 (Bazlisk Mine Field) just RULES! Thanks to emulation (and the Internet!), I now have the entire soundtrack in MP3 format, and I still can't get over how amazing the music is!

*The Bad

Like I was saying about the difficulty...

All you little rugrats raised on today's modern systems have it easy. We old-timers had it tough. And Ninja Gaiden, while easy in the beginning, begins to show its true face about halfway into the game, and begins to become insanely hard! And one stage in particular, Stage 6-2 (all you old-timers who know what I'm talking about...raise your hands! raises hand), has been known to drive gamers into a furious rampage. Things are coming at you from literally every angle, and you need to put your skills to the ultimate test here. Come out unscathed, and you get to eat a whole box of Girl Scouts Thin Mint Cookies, on me. ^_^

Just thank Tecmo for one thing: infinite continues.

The Bottom Line
Even though Tecmo now is taunting and tempting us with voluptuous ninja girls and sexy women wrestlers, who can forget their roots? Ninja Gaiden is one of the best NES games of the time, and anyone who has had an NES in their home as a kid will agree.

But ninja girls are still good! ^_^ deep voice Bathe Kasumi...and bring her to me...

NES · by Satoshi Kunsai (2020) · 2019

Amazing and hard as hell...

The Good This is a masterpiece. Everything about this game reeks of awesomeness and here is why:

Gameplay: The game perfectly does what it is supposed to. It is a side-scroller about a ninja who tries to discover the truth behind his father's death and ends up fighting a demon. Actually, the story is much deeper but I don't want to spoil anything. Gameplay is fast and smooth but the game is EXTREMELY difficult. I decided to put the difficulty in the "I liked about this game" because it is a fair challenge. There are no bad controls or stupid glitches that contribute to the game's difficulty so if you're really good at video games, you may beat it after several hours.

Graphics: Not only does this game play nice but it also looks pretty. It is one of the few NES games which have beautiful cutscenes which actually kind of feel like watching a mini-episode. Graphics are gorgeous and everything represents perfectly what it's supposed to be. The levels are nicely done and there is a nice variety of them.

Sound and Music: I am speechless. This game has one of the coolest soundtracks i've ever heard. Each soundtrack fits perfectly the level it was made for and immerses you in the gameplay. Simply put, the music keeps you in its grip from start to finish. The sound is also worth mentioning. Though there isn't much of a variety of sounds during gameplay, they are well chosen. The explosion heard when you slice an enemy is quite satisfying.

The Bad
Gameplay: At times I wanted to kick a panda. This game can be frustrating as hell due to its difficulty. In the end you have to beat 3 bosses without dying once, otherwise it sends you way back. It took me several hours to beat it and I think I deserve a medal.

Graphics: No complaints.

Sound and Music: Absolutely no complaints.

The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a hard, yet fun game then...GET THIS GAME, I ORDER YOU!! There is no excuse to miss out on this game if you own a NES. If you want to put your side-scrolling skills to the limit, next to some amazing 8-bit music that Ninja Gaiden is your dream come true.

NES · by Ivan Obretenov (30) · 2019

Damn cool, but the gameplay isn't very good

The Good
Ninja Gaiden is a very well known NES classic (also called Shadow Warriors in Europe). There is a lot of things to like about this game, despite how old it is today.

You control Ryu, a Ninja to save the world from an evil being. Well, the story is more complex than that, and have plot twists and even minor emotional factor, which is very rare for the time it was released. Even RPGs had almost no story back then ! And this game features story cutscenes ! They are really impressive ! The developers definitely wanted to show us all they had to show back then. I'd play the game just for the cutscenes !

Aside of that, the in game graphics are detailed enough, but not much above average (sprites doesn't look very good, even the hero's sprite I find).

The game has some good platforming action, and the hero is very quick at jumping and attacking, and this is cool (hey, it's a ninja).

The music doesn't seem exceptional at first but it gets much better when you progress though the game. It doesn't use full potential of the NES, but the melodies really goes well with the game and that's what count.

The Bad
If you play the game far enough you'll figure yourself the big problem with this game. It's hard. Well, it's not just about difficulty, but about how they made it hard. Enemies are loaded multiple times, even when you don't scroll at all, and this is very annoying. On every gap you have to jump over, they made one or multiple enemies just positioned to hit you down into the hole, and if you happen to be very quick and kill that enemy, a clone of it instantly relays the original. This tend to be very annoying and frustrating.

Also, it's a shame that all graphics quality was made into cutscenes and the main graphics were left over. There is very few different enemies and bosses. The non-playable characters that appears during story scenes does not appear on the main screen at all, and this looks weird indeed. Like if they don't exist at all outside of cutscenes. I'd almost prefer cutscenes using the main game's graphics, but with characters moving and doing the same thing. It would look less cool, but definitely would make the player feel like the story has something to do with the game. Here it looks like they picked a random story that has nothing to do with the game.

The Bottom Line
Ninja Gaiden is a cool game, and I suggest you give it a try if you want to play a classic platform game. But be warned about how annoying the ever-reviving enemies are, and save-states are highly recommended if you don't want to become mad. The cutscenes are unusual on the NES and worth a look.

NES · by Bregalad (937) · 2019


Subject By Date
Arcade version Patrick Bregger (302713) Mar 22, 2014
Trivia for the game. yenruoj_tsegnol_eht (!!ihsoy) (2597) Sep 15, 2012
Pending correction Corn Popper (69021) Oct 25, 2010


Arcade version differences

The NES version, while starring the same main character ( Ryu Hayabusa), bears little or no connection to the original arcade Ninja Gaiden; nonetheless, some aspects of it were carried over to the NES title. The first stage is a vague adaptation of the arcade's first stage, the opening cutscenes are also somewhat similar. Both games feature Jason Voorhees look-alikes and, moreover, Bloody Malth from the NES game is reminiscent of the coin-op's final boss.


  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • December 1989 - Best Nintendo Game of the Year
    • December 1989 - Best Ending in a Video Game* Game Informer Magazine
    • August 2001 (Issue 100) - voted # 93 in the Top 100 Games of All Time poll

Information also contributed by PCGamer77


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Related Sites +

  • Howard & Nester do Ninja Gaiden
    A regular feature in Nintendo Power magazine, Howard & Nester was a comic strip about two game whizzes who would one-up each other, while disclosing hints and tips, in the settings of various recently-released games for the NES platform. In the May/June 1989 two-page installment, they reveal the location of a 1-Up.
  • OC ReMix Game Profile
    Fan remixes of music from Ninja Gaiden.
  • The Ninja Gaiden Homepage
    Perhaps the biggest source of information on Ninja Gaiden, which has music, fan fiction, and other game-related information.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 7356
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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Dwin1118.

Wii U, Arcade added by Michael Cassidy. Nintendo 3DS added by CrankyStorming. Nintendo Switch added by Kam1Kaz3NL77. TurboGrafx-16 added by Kabushi. Wii added by gamewarrior.

Additional contributors: Satoshi Kunsai, Foxhack, Alaka, Freeman, Pseudo_Intellectual, formercontrib, butane bob, CalaisianMindthief, Thomas Thompson, yenruoj_tsegnol_eht (!!ihsoy).

Game added October 4, 2002. Last modified May 5, 2024.