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Ninjas, gold, and homing missiles — Nintendo Hard at its finest.

"N, 'the way of the ninja', is a highly advanced system of spiritual, cognitive, and physical training. It emphasizes pacifism, humility, and the need to traverse a series of 5 rooms before the end of your lifetime; a feat known only as 'beating an episode.'"

N is a precision momentum-based platformer developed by Metanet Software and made in Flash. You control a tiny, practically weightless ninja with the gift of godlike speed and agility, but the curse of a very short lifespan.

The goal of each screen is to flip a switch to open the exit, then reach it before time runs out and without dying to the many hazards in your path. Collecting squares of gold adds extra time. Baddies of every sort frequent the levels.

Four years after its initial release, the game saw a revitalization as three separate Mission Pack Sequels for the Nintendo DS, PSP, and Xbox Live Arcade all titled N+. All of them are still just as tricky as the original. The game soon found revitalization again on the PlayStation 4 (and eventually Steam) years later as N++, adding even more new features. In 2011, the original N was updated to version 2.0. Play it here.

This game has examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: 5 zap drones in a few levels (appropriately titled "T Minus _") in N 2.0 form this, as you're locked in a room by one-way platforms and need to run back and forth across a minefield to unlock the door terminal before reaching the exit.
  • all lowercase letters: All the levels in the series are titled this way, save for the occasional ALL-CAPS title.
    • Level 35-3 "Sakurajima", stylized exactly as shown, is a rare exception; as is a co-op level in N+ called I knew this was a one-way trip."
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: If you complete all the 500 levels, all you get is to select a custom color for your ninja.
    • N+ ups the ante with an admittedly cool-looking headband that trails behind the ninja as it moves.
    • N++ expands color-swapping to the entire game, enemies, UI and all. Beating every fifth non-intro episode in the row unlocks a new color scheme for you to use, too! Headbands are also present, with a wider variety and unique unlock requirements.
  • Amen Break: N+'s soundtrack contains this.
  • Ascended Glitch: The later columns in N, especially the pre-2.0 80s column (which contains user-created levels), includes some levels designed to use what were originally bugs, such as 86-3 "Pressed for Time" and 88-1 "Twisted". And bug-solutions are most certainly not discouraged on the high scores list. The authors were also apologetic that certain bugs couldn't be reproduced for N+ .note  N++ has a secret challenge build around a glitch too.
  • Attract Mode: The original's main menu cycles through prerecorded plays, showing typical mistakes that players make during the game. By the third installment, it has become guaranteed that the ninja will never finish a level on the title screen. Made more embarrassing by the fact that, as long as you play at least a small portion of N++, the replays are, in fact, recorded from your attempts to beat the level. This also applies to custom or co-op levels.
  • Backtracking: A common level design pattern is to place the exit right at the start, such that your ninja will have to go back the way they came once they've pressed the open switch. Levels often add an extra layer of pain by adding toggle mines on your path that will give you a harder time going back unless you carefully avoid them, or having a switch that releases enemies to harass you on your return.
    • The level "amber waves of pain" places a bunch of gold above the exit in such a way that you can't collect it while the exit is open (as that would finish the level), forcing you to deliberately avoid the open switch, collect the gold, then backtrack to open the exit and re-backtrack to finish.
    • The level "skeletal fortress" is maybe one of the more egregious examples, as it's a tight space-filling passage strewn with mines, and you have to avoid touching switches along your path as they close off the gold vaults. The passage ends right next to where it starts, but you still have to go back to the start the long way. And if you forgot to get one particular piece of gold right at the start of the level, opening the exit will prevent you from collecting it, so you'll have to retry.
  • Badass Back: Zap drones have fields of lethally high-voltage electricity constantly surrounding them, allowing them to zap you from behind, below or above, as well as in front. This trope applies especially to the seeking version (indicated with an antenna on the backnote ), which chases you at double its normal speed when it detects you, but acts like its normal counterpart if it can't see you.
  • Black Comedy: The ragdoll physics can generate lots of this. Like getting blown to giblets by a mine, then seeing your remains bounce up and down on a trampoline. Only for them to be shocked away by a passing robot.
  • Booby Trap: Some levels contain traps like this, from mines hidden behind bounceblocks to switches that shut the player in or release enemies hidden behind gold.
  • Brutal Bonus Level:
    • N++ has the X row, which appears out of nowhere, should only you spend several weeks trying to beat every single episode in the grid.
    • And then there are sixth levels in each and every N++ grid episode, unlocked (in part) by replaying the existing levels under certain conditions, such as not touching the gold or by toggling all the mines on the stage. After completing rows from A to E, not only you will get the X row, but you might acquire the access to the sixth stages as well. Oh, and you've got to have Mysteriousness set to high as well.
    • Then there's the ++u unlockable option.
  • Butt-Monkey: The demo player on the title screen is always killed by a stupid mistake. As mentioned earlier, it might be you.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Throughout N++ you can stumble across levels with switches, toggle mines, and evil ninja triggers in weird places, the ones you have no reason to go to normally. But later, should you keep playing after beating all five rows in a tab, you find out that these are a part of special challenges that contribute to your progression score.
  • Cranium Ride: Thwumps are only electrified on one side of their square bodies. In many levels it's necessary to perch on or wall-jump off an inert side to reach your objectives.
  • Crosshair Aware: Watch out for the targeting reticules of the gauss turret. Unlike most examples of visible crosshairs, the targeting reticule actually indicates the angle at which the turret will shoot, not the location - this means that the ninja is anywhere along the turret's targeting line when it shoots, they'll still get killed instantly. The turrets know this, too; if the ninja is in such a straight line, the turret will shoot, regardless of whether or not the ninja is actually in the crosshair.
  • Death by Materialism: Most levels allow you to choose between going the easy way with little to no gold, and going the hard way with lots of gold. Sometimes there is a switch hidden behind a gold piece that traps you behind a door when you touch it. More commonly, there are optional rooms of gold that contain particularly tricky enemies.
  • Death Course: The whole game is this, but some levels are particularly unrelenting in their deathtrap-like nature.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The only penalty for death is that you have to start at the beginning of the level in which you died. In-game material for N+ states that while the player has infinite lives, they may not have infinite patience.
  • Directionally Solid Platforms: One-way platforms, and also one-way walls and ceilings. These are often used against the player, by being solid barriers to them but passable for enemies.
  • Earn Your Fun: Starts with a few easy, training-oriented levels to get you acquainted with the controls and mechanics. After that, the game is on.
  • Energy Weapon: The Laser Drones. Their beams go the distance immediately. Fortunately for the ninja, there's a second to react before they actually fire, marked by a convenient and harmless Laser Sight beforehand.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Mines, drones, missiles, fall damage (and omnidirectional impact trauma in N+ and N++)... the list goes on.
  • Fake Longevity: "Hardcore" mode in N++ can end up feeling like this. It doesn't takes that long to clear a whole column, but there's no significant enough change to the core gameplay either.
    • The situation gets worse if you try to get a no-death badge for a column – each of them has at least one level where it's very easy to mess up. Suddenly, what originally felt like mere five minutes, converts into hours of attempts.
  • Harder Than Hard: Getting through the fifth/sixth column in N unlocks Overclock Mode, which speeds up everything in the game by a ridiculous degree. Some levels, in fact, may be impossible to defeat with human reflexes. It's useful for excessively long replays, however.
  • Have a Nice Death: In the DS version of N+.
    "NICE ONE"
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: Chaingun Drones demonstrate this, making their gunfire easy to dodge in open spaces, but potentially lethal in closed spaces.
    • Gauss turrets are similar - they take a few moments to lock on and fire, so a moving player has a chance to avoid the shot or get out of their sights.
  • Homing Projectile: The missiles fired by the missile turret will track the player, but they need some room to turn. They also try to take the shortest path between themselves and the player, even if walls are in the way, which means the player can destroy them by luring them into walls.
  • Instant-Win Condition: If the exit is open, touching it means you win the level. Even while falling at terminal velocity to splatter a fraction of a second later.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Played with. Turrets, drones, gauss turrets, chaingun drones, lasers... pretty much everything in stock.
  • Laser Hallway: The laser turret in N++ offers examples of this in many levels, firing a permanent deadly laser as it travels along a wall or rotates in place. Often, you have to wait until the laser is obstructed by a solid surface before you can make a break for it.
  • Level Editor: A staple of every game in the series - complete with multiplatform level sharing.
  • Locked Door: Used either as a way to actually barricade the path to the exit or as a Monster Closet. Can be unlocked with the flick of a switch. An opposite of this stage element exists, too: as soon as you flick a (much more stealthy) switch, doing so causes a door to appear in thin air.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: You don't just die - depending on how much is going on the screen, you could get dismembered, bounced around repeatedly, burned, shocked, sliced in half, thrown, smashed, and blown up. All at the same time. Also, the gibs themselves can trigger further mines and get shocked by enemies.
  • Made of Plasticine: The ninja will spew blood pretty much whatever hits him, and often explodes if blown up or simply crushed. Blowing up when crushed somewhat Makes Sense In Context, though, as the "crushing enemies" (Thwumps) are electrified on the side with which they try to crush the ninja.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are many different ways to die and the game tracks them all. On Steam, there's an achievement for dying in every possible way. The title screen also shows an endless clip show of ninja deaths.
  • Minimalism: Generally, the art style and level design approach. There's little to no unnecessary detail whatsoever - the walls and background are completely plain and monochromatic (though N+ adds a subtle pattern to the background), and the objects consist of mostly simple shapes. N++ adds multiple color schemes in addition to the standard light and dark grey, and uses a more stylish brand of minimalism as well, partially provided by a Venezuelan graphic designer, MASA.
  • Mini Mook: Micro drones in N++. Zap drones that are half the size but subsequently twice as fast.
  • Multiplayer Difficulty Spike: N++ introduces the surprisingly huge co-op campaign, intended for two players. Got a friend to play with? Great. Now have fun trying to go in sync/tandem with each other and pulling off suicidal maneuvers every second level or so.
  • New Game Plus: N++ has whole three takes on it (and yes, there is a resource that carries over – your acquired skills!):
    • According to Metanet, all-gold badges are meant to be treated this way.
    • Secret challenges are a better example as they force you to replay the same levels in a radically different way, at least most of the time.
    • "Hardcore" mode, as the name suggests. Instead of beating tabs episode by episode, you have to clear them column by column.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: One of the obstacles in N++ is a spawn that creates a holographic clone of your character who follows your every move with a two-second delay. You get gibbed if you come into contact with the clone.
  • Nintendo Hard: Personifies this once you get past the first dozen or so levels. The trailer for N 2.0 takes it further with the trailer's slogan:
    "We put the N in FUN, you'll add the FU"
  • No Fair Cheating: You're actually allowed to use any number of players in every level of N++, even being able to play Solo stages with your buddy. Or three buddies. Doing that, however, not only makes the playthrough ineligible for leaderboards, but also doesn't give you the all-gold badges, in case you do collect all the gold.
    • Playing the Race mode alone to unlock new color schemes or just bump up the completion percentage, however, is totally fine.
  • Noob Cave: The beginning handful of levels are very simple, barren, and devoid of traps to give the player ample time to get accustomed to the controls and game mechanics right before being crushed like a grape, repeatedly.
  • Nostalgia Level: N++ has them. A whole set of them, in fact, which is just as enormous as the N++ grid. Some levels have been re-adopted for multiplayer and thus have much smaller grids in Co-op and Race.
    • N 2.0 reuses plenty of old levels too, but it's more subtle about it.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Despite the unexpectedly realistic impact physics, your ninja can still completely arrest their downward momentum by kicking off a wall and suffer no ill effects, even if they had been falling fast enough to be killed by impact damage. Logic suggests this should tear their legs off, but it doesn't.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Any injury from hard-enough collisions or being shot, zapped, or crushed will kill you.
  • One-Letter Title:
  • Poison Mushroom: In some levels even generally benevolent objects will be out for your blood. As such, launchers may throw you to your doom, and keys may remove critical platforms.
  • Press X to Die: "K" is a suicide command for when you've hopelessly screwed up the screen. Same goes for "V" in N++'s Steam release. This becomes literal in the DS version of N+, as pressing the X button commits suicide. Once dead, it also becomes the "Press X to return to main menu immediately" button. So, be very careful when you press it otherwise you may lose your progress.
  • Ragdoll Physics: Watching the poor ninja's body get tossed and thrashed around the room makes dying repeatedly a lot less frustrating.
  • Rank Inflation: Taken to an extreme. N++ includes a "completion percentage," but it gets multiplied by the "Numberwang" setting. At higher values, it quickly exceeds 1000%, making it possible to reach a "percentage" along the lines of "1397.059234% ++ 197.420937%" long before completing the game.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Many levels place gold behind switches that do something undesirable when triggered, such as opening a gate containing an enemy. If you really want all the gold, you have to do the level the hard way.
    • A common variation on this is to place a bunch of gold inside a dangerous trap at the very end of the level, forcing the player to choose between completing the level without the gold, or risk dying and starting the whole level over.
    • Another variation is to provide an easy route and a hard route, but add a switch to the easy route that locks the gold behind a door, making it inaccessible to those not doing the level the hard way.
  • Selective Gravity: Gravity essentially only applies to the player character, as all of the enemies can hover, float, are ground-bound, or fixed in place. The clone ninjas are arguably affected by gravity, but only because they follow your movements exactly.
  • Shout-Out:
    • N++ gives one to That Mitchell and Webb Look, of all things. One of the "options" in the corresponding menu is called Numberwang. It multiplies the displayed completion percentage — set it to a large number to get ridiculous percentages.
    • The Thwump drone is an obvious reference to the Thwomp enemies from Super Mario Bros., right down to their enemy behavior. In a similar fashion, one level of N++ featuring the homing missile launcher is called Bullet William, a reference to another Super Mario Bros. enemy, Bullet Bill.
    • The landscape in "Slipgate Complex" and "Ziggurat Vertigo" is literally the Quake logo. And then there's "The Longest Yard", which is not just named, but also styled after Q3DM17!
    • "Sabot-n-der" in N+ consists of a giant Cactuar statue.
    • The F7200 color scheme is an allusion to Wipeout 3. F7200 is the name of the AG racing league in the same game.
    • One level in N++ is called "Undead Burg". Ironically, unlike its namesake it's not a Nintendo Hard Death Course, but actually a pretty easy level by N++ standards.
  • Spike Balls of Doom: Mines have this appearance, being tiny circles surrounded by eight short rays that will detonate if you so much as brush them. Sometimes they're used to line the bottoms of pits to ensure a violent end for any ninja who falls in.
  • Super-Persistent Missile: The homing missiles will chase you relentlessly, no matter how much you weave and dodge. Your only edge is that you can run slightly faster than them, and they have a small but significant turning circle. Nonetheless, it can be quite dismaying to see them weaving through tight passages after you. The only way to get rid of them is to make them crash into walls - one common trick for doing this is to jump over them at the last second in a tight corridor so they don't have enough space to turn. Even if you manage this, the launchers will just launch another one - however, they only fire if they have a clear view of the ninja.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: N++ has deathballs that home in on the ninja. Despite looking like drones, their movement isn't confined to a grid, instead travelling in a path similar to a missile's. They're slower than missiles, but cannot be destroyed. They also have the same lack of pathfinding as missiles and will take the shortest route to the ninja regardless of walls, so corralling these things, if possible, is recommended.
  • Timed Mission: You initially have 90 seconds, plus 2 seconds for each gold piece you collect, to complete each group of five levels. It doesn't really matter as much as you'd think - every one of your countless deaths resets the timer for that level.
  • Title Drop: A few levels are directly based on the logos for Metanet, N, N+, and N++.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Hitting the ground at a high enough speed will fatally crush the ninja as you might expect, but what catches many players by surprise is that this will happen with any surface if you impact it at a flat angle. If you wall-jump up a chute fast enough, you can even kill yourself by hitting the ceiling too hard.
  • Wall Jump: A critical game mechanic. Jumping up walls increases your upward momentum, and chaining upward walljumps together in quick succession can allow you to reach great vertical speeds, which is a vital technique for traversing levels. It's even possible to kill yourself this way, by attaining enough speed to cause a fatal impact with the ceiling.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Prior to 2.0, pressing K to commit suicide would cause the game to say "Harsh, guy!".
  • Wire Fu: The jump physics simulate this, as appropriate for a ninja. You can leap great distances and apply a certain amount of acceleration/deceleration midair.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Your ninja will die many, many, many times, often due to a single small mistake. In N++ there are several death-related Steam achievements, including dying 5000 times and dying in every way that it's possible to die.