Ah, ninjas. These stealthy, deadly assassins have captured imaginations worldwide since they emerged from Japanese history and folklore and sneaked into popular culture. Ninjas in movies have typically been cast as the bad guys, opposing an honor-bound, samurai-style hero. Their history in video games, however, is more complex. Players have often been asked to step into the shoes of a ninja in games, and many video game ninjas are morally complex characters with interesting stories to tell.
Here's a list of ten favorite ninjas from the world of video games. It's a diverse bunch, ranging from the cute to the deadly and the principled to the vengeful. It also spans a wide number of video game genres, with apologies to the ninja-heavy fighting game genre. Enjoy meeting these ninjas as they slip out of the shadows and into the spotlight, at least for now.
Game: Every Cooperative Online Game, Ever
Ninja looters are generally considered the scum of the online gaming world. They are so named because they break the social contracts of online gaming by suddenly and unexpectedly stealing loot that was meant for other players, then (usually) disappearing into the virtual wilds, never to be seen again. Ninja looting is so reviled yet so common that the practice has been "verbed," and online gamers will often mention that somebody has "ninjaed" a legendary sword or worse, an entire guild bank. Ninja looters are the target of impotent rage on the part of their victims, but tales of ninjas both dastardly and idiotic often make for great reading by MMO communities.
Nintendo's round pink character in his ninja form wins the award for the most adorable ninja on this list. When Kirby uses his "Copy" ability to transform into a ninja, he is able to rapid-fire ninja stars at enemies and cling to walls. This combination of ranged attack power and maneuverability makes Ninja Kirby a very popular Kirby form.
Game: Tales of Symphonia
Sheena Fujibayashi is one of the main party members in the popular Gamecube RPG Tales of Symphonia. Found abandoned in a forest and adopted by a secretive ninja clan, Sheena has spent most of her life trying to make up for her part in a tragedy that killed half her village. She is sent by the leaders of her home world to assassinate Colette, the main female protagonist in the game. Colette is unwittingly a danger to Sheena's world, but once Sheena discovers that Colette is a kind-hearted young woman, she joins the main party in order to find a better way to solve her world's problems. Sheena's tragic history, fiery personality, good looks, and fighting style make her a popular character. She's even a possible love interest for main character Lloyd, should the player be dissatisfied with wooing naïve goody-goody Colette.
Joe Musashi is a classic video and arcade game ninja. He's got the traditional black outfit and ninja cowl, with some flashy red accents. In classic video game style, however, he's only got good intentions towards the world. His goal in the original Shinobi game is to rescue the children of his clan from a criminal organization that's been kidnapping them, and you can't get much more noble than that. In later games, Joe returns to bust up the crime syndicate for good, using his ninja stars, ninjato, and epic somersault to assault enemies and platforming challenges.
Series: Street Fighter
Ibuki, who appears in several Street Fighter games, is an ordinary teenage girl who also happens to be a ninja. She might have spent her first few games fretting about her college entrance exams and getting crushes on pop stars, but she kicks some butt in the ring. Ibuki sports a stylish khaki ninja outfit and a very distinctive set of two-foot-long bangs that jut out from under her headscarf. She specializes in slipping past her opponent's defense and dispatching them with fatal close-combat blows. She's just been accepted to a university, too, but not just any school. It's a university that's a secret elite ninja training school. Looks like Ibuki's future will continue to be... interesting.