What makes a ninja? Is it their style of martial arts? Maybe it’s their weapons or outfits. Or is it a combination of all of these things? Maybe the thing that makes a ninja a true master of their art, is their dedication. Dedication to the craft of being a shinobi. Dedication to being covert, silent assassins. Having a work ethic strong enough to complete any task assigned to them. Or maybe, they’re just a Pokemon using their tongue as a scarf.
While the mystery surrounding ninjas continues to intrigue us, we can still enjoy the appearance of these sneaky little guys in popular culture. Here’s some of our favourite ninjas in the history of video games.
Scorpion – Mortal Combat
Easily recognisable thanks to his black and yellow ninja garb, Scorpion is one of the most well-known ninjas of all time. While he hasn’t appeared in every Mortal Kombat title (he wasn’t included in Mortal Kombat 3), he is the closest thing the series has to a mascot.
When he isn’t busy trying to get revenge on the guy who killed him (yes, he is an undead ninja), he spends his time throwing his harpoon kunai at opponents. If he manages to hit you with it, he’ll drag you in while shouting “Come here” or “Get over here”, which, while not the sexiest way to get someone to come closer to you, is definitely effective.
Genji – Overwatch
Like most people, I had an Overwatch phase. Also like most people, the phrase “ryuujin no ken wo kurae” is etched into my mind as the last thing I’ll hear before I die. Genji is a ninja known for his use of blades and shurikens, as well as being constantly in need of healing.
Jokes aside, Genji is a cyborg ninja and the cheekier younger brother of the stoic Hanzo Shimada. Like Mortal Kombat‘s Scorpion, Genji is one of the most recognisable characters from his franchise.
Greninja – Pokemon
Okay, Greninja technically isn’t a ninja. It’s a Pokemon that was introduced in Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. Despite not being a ninja by trade, I think if given the opportunity, Greninja would choose to become a career ninja. It moves like a silent assassin and uses shurikens made of compressed water as weapons.
I mean, come on, ninja is right in its name. The only thing stopping this frog Pokemon from reaching its true potential is the fact that it’s forced to battle other Pokemon in open settings, which doesn’t really lean into the traditional shadows where ninjas would fight.
Yuffie Kisaragi – Final Fantasy VII
There are many jobs and classes in the world of Final Fantasy, but one of the most underrepresented is the ninja class. When you think of a ninja in Final Fantasy though, one name springs to mind – Yuffie. Before meeting the party in the game, she is trying to undo the damage that the Shinra Corporation has done to her hometown.
Yuffie is loud for a ninja and a thief, but she’s charming, and any woman who uses a giant shuriken to fight the bad guys is a winner in my books.
Akali – League of Legends
Akali is one of the four ninja champions in League of Legends, the world’s most popular MOBA game. Along with Shen, Zed and Kennen, all of whom come from Ionia, Akali is the only kunoichi (female ninja) in the game.
She’s famous for being reworked into a champion that has been unstoppable until recently. With multiple big changes after her initial rework, the League of Legends player base was divided on whether or not she was a good playable character. Despite this, she’s loved for her character design and her overall attitude, which sees her fighting against authority and tradition.
Sheik – The Legend of Zelda
Known for its cute Kokiri, silly Gorons and giant fairies, ninjas aren’t the first thing that come to mind when someone mentions The Legend of Zelda.
In Ocarina of Time, Zelda (spoilers), disguises herself as Sheik, a member of the Sheikah tribe.
While the Sheikah are never officially confirmed to be ninjas, they use shadow magic and are skilled in hand-to-hand combat and acrobatics. They’re a secretive race who are tasked with protecting the royal family. Sounds like ninjas to me.
Espio the Chameleon – Sonic the Hedgehog
Working for team Chaotix, Espio is a ninja chameleon who excels as a detective. His team consists of Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee, both energetic and chaotic characters. Espio is the cool and collected third member, who embodies ninjutsu arts in his physical prowess, kunai throwing, and ability to camouflage himself.
My first time seeing Espio was while I was playing Sonic Heroes on PlayStation 2, and while Chaotix wasn’t my favourite team (I was obsessed with Rouge the Bat), I really loved being able to throw shuriken as Espio.
Ryu Hayabusa – Ninja Gaiden
The protagonist of Ninja Gaiden is one of the best ninjas in gaming history. He’s disciplined and stoic, knowing that life is short, especially in his line of work.
He’s known as the most powerful ninja in the world, with immense skill in Hayabusa-style ninjutsu, as well as immaculate swordsmanship, Ryu is a force to be reckoned with.
Wolf – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Found by a master shinobi named Owl, Wolf was an orphaned child who was trained from an early age to be able to defend himself with ninjutsu. He has a prosthetic arm that can be upgraded, as well as the ability to resurrect himself from death.
This ninja is not only an expert with fighting techniques, but is also almost unkillable.
Fuelled by a tragic backstory and a mission to save his master, Wolf is an unstoppable ninja who only wants to do good in the world.
Gray Fox – Metal Gear
This cyborg ninja has a long history in the Metal Gear universe. He was initially a child soldier, and the only operative to achieve the codename ‘Fox’ in the FOXHOUND Special Forces Unit.
Friends with Solid Snake, but loyal to Big Boss, he’s worked both for and against good and evil, merely completing the tasks he has been assigned, which, as we know, is one of the marks of a true ninja.
Despite the tragedy that befalls him throughout the series, Gray Fox never gives up, which, for a cyborg ninja who’s full of trauma, is really inspirational.
Okay, so you’ve played every game with ninjas there is to play. Or you’re somehow sick of playing video games and want to watch some ninja movies. Oh boy, do I have a great recommendation for you. The 1997 cult classic Beverly Hills Ninja, starring the late Chris Farley, is streaming live on PEDESTRIAN TELEVISION tonight at 8:30pm and on Thursday, November 26.
Lead Image Credit: Riot Games/Square Enix/FromSoftware Inc.