Originally releasing in Japan as The Super Shinobi II, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master is the third game in the long-running Shinobi series to release on the Sega Genesis. Following both The Return of Shinobi and Shadow Dancer, Shinobi III would arrive in the West in July 1993 as the last mainline game in the series for several years. While Shadow Dancer is part of the Shinobi series, it is not the canonical sequel to The Return of Shinobi. Instead, Shinobi III is actually the sequel to the original Shinobi game on Sega Genesis, which is actually the second game in the series following its initial arrival in arcades.
Confusing naming conventions and release order aside, Shinobi III is the most successful game in the series, both critically and commercially. The game maintains a strong 85% review aggregate score and is often considered one of the best games to release on the Sega Genesis, even ranking in the top 10 in several “Best Of” lists chronicling the game library of Sega’s 16-bit console. Other than its standalone release on the Genesis, the only other platform to receive Shinobi III as a single game is the iPhone via the Apple Store.
Shinobi III is one of several games that feature as part of Sega’s Sega Genesis Collection, which has seen several releases and re-releases across multiple hardware generations. Additionally, the game is available on Nintendo Switch Online as part of the service’s Expansion Pack subscruption tier, which includes access to a sizable library of Genesis classics.
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Premise
Like the other games in the Shinobi series, players control the titular ninja master (whose identity varies from game to game, even from region to region) as he makes his way through a side-scrolling action platformer. Players have standard attacks, shuriken throws, and Ninjustsu magic at their disposal for taking down enemies. The game’s main story divides into 7 distinct stages, each with its own difficult boss waiting at the end as a final trial before proceeding to the next stage.
Unlike the previous Shinobi games though, Shinobi III sacrifices some of the franchise’s trademark difficulty in favor of giving players a greater sense of speed and power. In addition to the normal moves that players are familiar with from previous games in the series, Joe Musashi also now has a mid-air dash kick and a running slice that allows players to dash right through projectiles using invincibility frames (i-frames). Although the player has four spells available, they must select one to use per stage.
The game’s plot centers around the evil Neo Zeed, a nefarious crime syndicate thought to have been put out of commission. Neo Zeed returns to threaten the safety of the world once more, with a mysterious figurehead calling himself the Shadow Master as its head. Joe Musashi comes out of retirement, descending from his fortress of solitude in the mountains of Japan to save the world from total destruction using his ninja abilities as the Shinobi.
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Main Characters
Shinobi III sees series hero and titular Shinobi Joe Musashi coming out of retirement to stop the evil crime syndicate Neo Zeed. Aside from Joe and the mysterious Shadow Master who leads Neo Zeed, there are few characters that feature official names or details in their backstories. The main characters of Shinobi III include:
- Joe Musashi: Joe Musashi is the ninja master and titular shinobi of the Shinobi series. He is a member of the Oboru ninja clan and wields the iconic blade Oborozuki. He appears in 5 of the Shinobi games as either its main protagonist or a supporting character.
- Shadow Master: The Shadow Master is the mysterious leader of the Neo Zeed criminal syndicate. When Joe finally faces him in battle, he is a fellow shinobi with skills and power that rival those of the game’s protagonist.
Games in the Shinobi Series
The Shinobi series is one that is synonymous with some of the best 16-bit action platformers and arcade classics, as well as a successful series reboot during the PS2 era. In addition to the classic games available on the Sega Genesis, the series continues to reach new fans thanks to its inclusion in the Sega Genesis Collection available on a multitude of platforms as well as ports of the games on PC and mobile devices. Games in the Shinobi series include:
- Shinobi (Arcade, 1987)
- Shadow Dancer (Arcade, 1989)
- The Revenge of Shinobi (Sega Genesis, 1989)
- The Cyber Shinobi (Sega Master System, 1990)
- Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Sega Genesis, 1990)
- The G.G. Shinobi (Game Gear, 1991)
- The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury (Game Gear, 1992)
- Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Sega Genesis, 1993)
- Shinobi Legions (Sega Saturn, 1995)
- Shinobi (PS2, 2002)
- The Revenge of Shinobi (Game Boy Advance, 2002)
- Nightshade (PS2, 2003)
- Shinobi (3DS, 2011)
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Cheats & Cheat Codes
There are several in-game cheats that Shinobi III features, all of which can be input in the game’s option menu. However, note that these cheats are for the Genesis version of the game. Still, players can use many of them on the Sega Genesis Collection or Switch Online releases.
This cheat requires the use of two controllers but also unlocks a new 6-button control scheme that makes Joe easier to control. Plug a 6-button Genesis controller into Port 1 and a standard Genesis controller into Port 2. Highlight “Options” on the main menu but do not select it. While holding the Mode button on Controller 1, hold Up and the C button on Controller 2, then press Start on Controller 1. If done correctly, you will be in the “Options” menu but it will display as “Option”. This means 6-button mode is active. The controls for the game are now as follows:
- A Button – Block
- B Button – Melee Attack
- C Button – Jump
- X Button – Ninjustu Magic
- Y Button – Throw Shuriken
- Z Button – Throw Shuriken
Choose “BMG Selection” from the “Options” menu then press B to play these songs in order:
- “He Runs”, “Japonesque”, “Shinobi Walk”, “Sakura”, “Getufu”
Start a new game and enjoy being invincible to all enemy attacks.
Head to the “Options” menu and set the amount of available Shurikens as “0”. Set the Sound Effects option as “Shuriken”, then move your cursor down to highlight the option for Shurikens. Leave it there until the “0” changes to the infinity symbol.
Game Genie Codes
There are several codes available if players happen to have a Game Genie device or are playing on emulator. Note that the codes only work on default difficulty and that the Credit codes will not work with the level-select codes:
|Start with 1 Life
|Start with 11 Lives
|Start with 50 Lives
|Start with 99 Lives
|Each Throw Costs 2 Shurikens; 7 for Burst
|Start with 99 Shurikens
|No Shurikens on pick-up
|8 Shurikens on pick-up
|Start with no Ninjutsu
|Start with 5 Ninjutsu
|Start with 7 Ninjutsu
|Start with 1 Credit
|Start with 5 Credits
|Start with 9 Credits
|Start on Round 2
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-ACD6
|Start on Round 3
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-AED6
|Start on Round 4
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-AGD6
|Start on Round 5
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-AJD6
|Start on Round 6
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-ALD6
|Start on Round 7
|Y2NA-DRJ2 + APTT-AND6
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master Cheat FAQ
How do you get infinite Shurikens in Shinobi III?
There are two different ways to get infinite Shurikens in Shinobi III. The first will work on all versions of the game and has players using the options menu cheat above for infinite Shurikens. The other will only work on the Genesis release (or emulation of it) using Game Genie codes.
How long does it take to beat Shinobi III?
Beating Shinobi III is easier than other games in the series but is still no easy feat, requiring players to master its challenging stages all while dealing with finite resources. However, using cheats makes this process speed up significantly. The average time to beat Shinobi III is about 2.5 hours, but players can expedite this time by using cheats.