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Video Game / Ninja Gaiden

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The ninja way knows neither good nor evil.

Ninja Gaiden, originally titled Ninja Ryūkenden ("Ninja Dragon Sword Story") in Japanese is an action game series produced by Tecmo (now Koei Tecmo) centering around Ryu Hayabusa, a Ninja from the Dragon Clan, who gets involved with government conspiracies, kicks loads of ass and slaughters legions of supernatural beings along the way.

The series dates back to 1988 with two simultaneously developed games under the same title: an arcade version that was a side-scrolling beat-'em-up in the vein of Double Dragon, and a more popular console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a 2D action platformer notable for being one of the earliest action games to feature cinematic sequences between stages. The NES version would spawn two sequels, a Game Boy prequel, a couple of stand-alone versions for other platforms and an OVA set after the events of the NES trilogy before Tecmo discontinued the series after the release of the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy compilation for the Super NES in 1995.


However, Ryu's presence in Tecmo's Dead or Alive fighting game series helped keep the series alive within the public's consciousness, leading to a revival in 2004 for the Xbox by DOA developer Team Ninja simply titled Ninja Gaiden. Since then, Ninja Gaiden has become Team Ninja's other Flagship Franchise, leading to even further sequels and spinoffs.

There was also a set of licensed versions produced by Sega for their consoles in 1992. Rather than being ports of the previous Tecmo versions, Sega produced three different games that were unique to each platform. The Game Gear version had the widest release of these versions, being available in North America, Europe and Japan (where it was released under the Ninja Gaiden banner instead of the usual Ninja Ryūkenden), while the Sega Master System version was available exclusively in Europe. The Mega Drive version, which was a beat-'em-up similar to the arcade game, was never released, but was leaked in the form of a pirated version that was still in an unfinished state.


The NES Trilogy (1988-1991)
In the first game, Ryu receives a letter from his father Joe Hayabusa (renamed Ken Hayabusa in the original localization), saying that should he not return, Ryu is to journey to America and contact a man named Walter Smith. Believing his father dead, Ryu goes to America to carry out this request. After battling a large man with an axe in a bar, he is subdued by a woman with a tranquilizer gun. He awakens in a prison cell, where the woman (Irene Lew) frees him and gives him a mysterious, grotesque statue. Ryu is puzzled by this, but presses onward. He meets with Smith, who identifies the statue as one of the Demon Statues, a pair of Artifacts of Doom he and Joe discovered and vowed to protect. As Ryu and Smith talk, the statue is stolen by another ninja. Ryu gives chase, and recaptures the statue, but returns to find Smith dying. Ryu vows to carry on his work, protecting the Demon Statues.

However, Ryu is captured by the CIA and brought before A. Foster, the head of the agency. Foster reveals that Irene is one of their agents, and that she is tracking down a man known as Jaquio, who seeks to release the powerful demon sealed in the statues. Foster orders Ryu to take out Jaquio; Ryu, remembering his oath to Smith, complies. Air-dropped into the jungles of Brazil, he makes his way to Jaquio's fortress, where he finds Jaquio has Irene at gunpoint. Jaquio reveals he has the second Demon Statue already, and demands Ryu's statue in exchange for Irene's life; Ryu, being new at the whole hero thing, complies. Jaquio's an old hand at villainy, however, and simply absconds with the statues and the girl — but not before sending Ryu hurtling down a trapdoor to the catacombs below.

Undaunted, Ryu fights his way to the top of the fortress, where he again encounters Jaquio and Irene... as well as Ryu's father, who, while not dead, is under Jaquio's mind control. Ryu gets the better of Jaquio in battle, and in desperation, Jaquio launches a magic bolt at Ryu, but his father comes to his senses, intercepts the bolt, and dies. The enraged Ryu proceeds to kill Jaquio... but he's too late, for Jaquio has released the demon from the statues!

Ryu bravely fights the demon, sealing it once more. After the battle, Foster radios Irene and orders her to assassinate Ryu and take the statues. Irene hesitates, and Ryu takes her radio and tells Foster the next time they meet, it will be as enemies.

Quite a bit more elaborate than the Save the Princess plots of the day, isn't it?

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom both had similarly complex plots, centered around their titular MacGuffins. Due to space considerations, we won't get much more into detail here; however, they offer just as many, if not more, twists and turns as the first game.

As for the actual game that takes place between the cutscenes? Ninja Gaiden played a lot like Castlevania — only faster paced and with a more acrobatic protagonist. The games were the very epitome of Nintendo Hard, with enemies coming at you from every direction at once. Gamers didn't seem to mind, however — even those who found the challenge to be too much suffered through it anyway to see the next chapter in Ryu's saga.

There was also a Game Boy prequel game called Ninja Gaiden Shadow. Taking place three years prior to the original trilogy, it has Ryu travelling to New York to battle Emperor Garuda, a servant of Jaquio.

The Team Ninja series (2004-current)
Sometime in 1999, Itagaki and Team Ninja began work on their first "action" title, aside from their on-going Dead or Alive series. Although then-Tecmo wanted a tie-in for this new revival with the NES trilogy, this Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden, released in 2004, involves none of the elements. In an interview, Itagaki mentioned he "prefer not to be influenced by or base it on the original story". While Ryu's still the protagonist, none of the above elements are explicitly mentioned.

The story establishes Ryu's a member of the Dragon Ninja Clan, charged with protecting the Dark Dragon Blade, a BFS imbued with some pretty extraordinary powers. After the game's tutorial level, he's informed that the Hayabusa Village has been destroyed. When Ryu investigates, a samurai pledged to the Holy Vigoor Emperor, Doku, kills him with the Dark Dragon Blade.

Don't worry, he gets better.

Thus, the game embarks Ryu upon a ferocious quest for revenge and the retrieval of the Dark Dragon Blade. The details of the plot are convoluted and don't add up to anything particularly extraordinary, but Ryu slices and dices his way through Vigoorian soldiers, tanks, zombies, ninjas and ghost piranhas.

The Xbox version is, as the kids these days say, difficult… really, really difficult… as in "throw-your-controller-at-the-screen-and-scare-the-dog difficult". In contrast to other Hack And Slashers, enemies avert Mook Chivalry and have no compunctions about suffocating the player at every available moment. In fact, beating this game is an achievement. Hell, there was an Updated Re-release called Ninja Gaiden Black which not only fixed gameplay imbalances, placed more enemies and bosses and added in "Combat Missions", it included two new modes: a "super-duper-mega-easy" mode and an "even harder than Harder Than Hard mode"! Unfortunately, it didn't help the "super-duper-mega-easy" mode was quite hard itself, difficult to the point of inducing trauma.

The game was critically acclaimed by all, and considered the best 3D Hack and Slash game of its time. A title that it still keeps in the eyes of a lot of people, specially the Black version. Many praised its preserved difficulty from the NES trilogy, but without being unfair, alongside gorgeous visuals and attention to detail in combat and environments by pushing the Xbox beyond its hardware limitations. An Enhanced Remake of Ninja Gaiden Black called Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the Sony PlayStation 3 was released in 2007, rounding out the last gameplay additions with a new character (Rachel), new weapons and enemies, while making it look more pretty with the console's high-defintion capabilities. It also removes or simplifies some puzzles that contained too much back-and-forth.

In 2008, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was released for the Nintendo DS. This Gaiden Game sequel set six months after Ninja Gaiden tells of Ryu and his journey to save his apprentice, Momiji, and find the Dark Dragonstones that can resurrect an ancient Dark Dragon. In the same year, the true sequel Ninja Gaiden II was released for the Microsoft Xbox 360, where another Artifact of Doom the Dragon Lineage were guarding, the Statue of the Archfiend, is stolen. Ryu must travel the world chasing the Four Greater Fiends as they attempt to resurrect the Archfiend itself. Both games retain the difficulty of Ninja Gaiden (Ninja Gaiden II arguably even harder) and the stories are serviceable, yet the latter's almost completely nonsensical, with Everything Trying to Kill You more aptly applied. For example, at one point a giant armadillo with marginal fire Elemental Powers appears with no apparent connection to the villains.

Following the release of Ninja Gaiden II, Itagaki stepped down from Team Ninja and left the now merged Tecmo Koei. Current series director and producer Yosuke Hayashi took over and released an Updated Re-release of Ninja Gaiden II on the PS3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Notably, the game partly resolves the nonsensical nature of the plot in the 360 original, but also throws in new characters (Ayane from the Dead or Alive series and Momiji, plus the return of Rachel) and scenarios, a co-op mission mode, a "Chapter Challenge" mode and a prologue that links Dragon Sword to current continuity (Ninja Gaiden II never makes a mention of Dragon Sword). It also significantly tones down the 360 game's gore and the number of enemies, making them more resilient instead.

In February 2012, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, an enhanced version of Sigma was released for the Vita, it featured new sets of accesories for both Ryu and Rachel, as well as utilizing the Vita's touch and motion controls.

Ninja Gaiden III was released in March 2012 on both PS3 and 360. Contrary to his predecessor, Hayashi wanted to make the game "more accessible", and the game, while not exactly easy, is noticeably more forgiving than the first two games. For the first time in the series, Ninja Gaiden III features Competitive Multiplayer. Set after Ninja Gaiden II, Ryu receives a request from the Japanese government, after terrorists take the British Prime Minister hostage, demanding his appearance. He travels to London and faces the mysterious foes, led by the enigmatic "Regent of the Mask", who places a curse on Ryu's right arm, making him feel the pain and hatred of the people he killed. The story also marks the return of scriptwriter Masato Kato to the series, bringing back the deep narrative seen in the NES trilogy. It effectively ties the modern games into overall continuity. III also has a much more cinematic and dramatic feel compared to its predecessors.

Alas, while Ninja Gaiden III was successful commercially, it wasn't as much critically with players criticizing the aforementioned dumbed-down difficulty, excessively streamlined gameplay and a lack of replay value. Many fans of the earlier two titles particularly panned it: its attempt at story unwelcomed, its "cinematic and dramatic feel" was panned as needlessly boring and nonsensical (watch super-ninja Ryu Hayabusa ride around the desert in a jeep!) whereas II at least was entertaining and nonsensical and those who'd enjoyed the fast-paced, unforgiving but fair combat of the previous titles particularly blasted the decision to remove all other weapons and inject poorly-done moral choices in their place.

The game had a re-release in late 2012 on the Wii U (January 2013 in Europe) entitled Razor's Edge, with Team Ninja addressing the flaws, such as re-adding back dismemberments, brutal difficulty, fleshed out gameplay, weapon acquisitions and upgrades and additional playable characters (Momiji, Ayane and the first appearance of Kasumi from Dead or Alive). Also, some of the most disliked cutscenes were eliminated. Ports for the PS3 and Xbox 360 were released in April 2013. Both versions include all the downloadable content from the Wii U version already on the disc.

Also in 2013, Sigma Plus 2 was released on the Vita, it was widely considered superior to Sigma 2, as it restored all the gore that was cut on the PS3 version.

In 2014, a collaboration with Spark Unlimited and Comcept gave birth to a Spin-Off called Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. The protagonist is Yaiba, one of the many victims of Ryu Hayabusa, who is Back from the Dead to chase the man who killed him. The tone, graphical style and gameplay differ vastly from the main series, though. Also, there are zombies. The game unfortunately received below average scores, with critics deriding it for being vastly inferior to the main series.

Due to the poor reception of Yaiba, Team Ninja officially announced in early 2017 that the series was on an indefinite hiatus, and would be brought back "when the time was right". Practically nothing was heard about the series since then, until January 2019 when Team Ninja unexpectedly filed a trademark for Yaiba again, though it is unknown what will become of it.

On February 17th, 2021, during a Nintendo Direct it was officially announced that the modern series is getting a collection release titled Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, composed of Sigma 1, Sigma 2 and Razor’s Edge, with most of its DLC, in one pack; set for release on June 10th, 2021, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC - that which marks the much anticipated debut of the modern trilogy on the latter two platforms.

Now with a good Character Sheet, thus character tropes go there.

The Ninja Gaiden video game series provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    General tropes 
  • Action Girl: Although this series falls for the Faux Action Girl a little bit too often, Ayane, Momiji and Rachel in Sigma 2 definitely play the role straight.
    • Irene should count: those times when she isn't already captured or dead she can definitely hold her own. She even pulls her own Big Damn Heroes in The Ancient Ship of Doom when she rescues Ryu from death with the help of a submachinegun.
  • Anachronic Order: Some Continuity Snarl and Flip-Flop of God aside, the series goes like this, from a young 18 years old Ryu to a 23 yearsnote  old Master Ninja:
    • Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy) —> Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) —> Dragon Sword —> Ninja Gaiden II —> Ninja Gaiden 3 —> Ninja Gaiden (NES) —> The Ancient Ship of Doom —> The Dark Sword of Chaos —> Ninja Ryūkenden OVA —> Dead or Alive series
  • The Anime of the Game: The 1991 OVA, which is set after the events of the second NES game.
  • Appropriated Title: The original incarnation of the franchise was known as Ninja Ryūkenden (Ninja Dragon Sword Story) in Japan and Shadow Warriors in Europe. When Team Ninja rebooted the series, they chose to stick with one title worldwide instead of having a different Market-Based Title for each region. This caused a side effect which led to the Japanese versions of the game being easier to distinguish (the older series is known as Ninja Ryūkenden, while the rebooted version is Ninja Gaiden), a privilege not afforded to American fans.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Dragon Ninja clan apparently exists to look after these, keeping the lids on various cans of evil.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The arcade game ending involves Ryu in a small boat heading back to Japan. Both Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji are together in the same skyline in the shot.
  • Battle Couple: Ryu the badass One-Man Army Ninja and Irene/Sonia the Girl With Guns then later Mission Control; still together in the Dead or Alive series.
  • Canon Immigrant: The fact Ryu married Irene and opened up a Curio/Antique Shop to run it together in the OVA carries over to the Dead or Alive series, which is set after everything that happened in his solo series. After Igakaki's re-imagination for the Ninja Gaiden series on the Xbox, it looked like this fact got retconned for good, but it took his departure from Team Ninja and Hayashi's intervetion as the new director to put the pieces back together in Dead or Alive: Dimensions.
    • Looking the other way around, Ayane would be the biggest immigrant in the series, followed by her half-sister Kasumi.
  • Continuity Cameo: Ayane from Dead or Alive shows up in the modern trilogy. Inverted with Irene, who makes a cameo in Dead or Alive: Dimensions as Ryu's CIA contact during the story mode. The cameo doubles as confirming Sonia from Ninja Gaiden II as Irene's alias.
    • Kasumi gets a faceless cameo in Sigma 2. Hayate is name-dropped in III and certain characters in Dragon Sword appear on-screen in the same game.
  • Continuity Nod: With Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Hayashi has tried fixing some of Itagaki's mess, with Irene making a cameo in particular, as an attempt at settling Ryu's appearance in Dead or Alive as being placed years after his solo adventures.
    • Within the franchise, Sigma 2 gives many throwbacks to previous games, such as the inclusions of Rachel from Ninja Gaiden and Momiji from Dragon Sword, something ehe original release Ninja Gaiden II for the 360 didn't trouble itself with. Similarly, a number of enemies in II were taken directly from Dragon Sword (the Rasetsu ninjas and the red dragons, among others).
    • In the New York level of Ninja Gaiden II, you can see some scrolling signs reading "Doatec".
  • Continuity Snarl: Ryu's appearance in Dead or Alive, since the first installment made clear in his character bio that the current Ryu is, canonically, the one who already has ventured through all his solo games, reinforced by stating he's a Curio Shop owner, something that would only happen after the end of the NES trilogy with Ryu married to Irene and everything else, namely from the OVA. Itagaki then envisioned the new Ninja Gaiden series for the Xbox and kind of made continuity unstable, such as having Ryu wear his "Black Falcon" outfit as the default outfit from Dead or Alive 4 and onward, while making no mention of Irene or his shop in-game.
    • As of Dead or Alive: Dimensions, things seemed to have been fixed, thanks to a couple of cameos here and there.
  • Convection Schmonvection: In Ninja Gaiden II, Ryu can run on lava and swim in it, although it starts to hurt later. Possibly justified since he can set himself on fire every time he uses fire-based Ninpo (and other elemental Ninpo).
    • Back in The Dark Sword of Chaos and The Ancient Ship of Doom, Ryu can easily cross a firepit or the caldera of an active volcano and won't suffer injuries unless he falls into the flames or lava.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Both incarnations of the franchise involve Ryu eventually fighting giant demons.
  • Dressed Like a Dominatrix:
    • One of the Ancient Greater Fiends, Ishtaros, is a powerful evil goddess. She wears black thigh-high high-heeled boots, some weird leather straps on her arms, and that's pretty much it. One of her arms sports Femme Fatalons, the other one is a tentacle she uses like a whip.
    • Rachel too uses this aesthetic. Her combat suit is made of black leather, and consists of thigh-high boots, gloves of varying length, and a leotard which exposes her cleavage and lower midriff.
  • Dual Boss: The NES series has some of this but the modern series is fond of pitting you against two to three bosses at once, sometimes with mooks involve! Razor's Edge takes it Up to Eleven.
    • Curse you, Giants of the Underworld!
    • Also, the "Dragons" pro wrestling duo in the arcade version.
    • The Tengu brothers in Sigma 2, although it's an odd example since you alternatively fight them alone and together several times throughout the game (see Recurring Boss below).
    • The Quetzalcoatl in Ninja Gaiden II
    • In the original trilogy, it's the Kelbeross in the first two games, followed by Great Koganei in the third.
  • Eldritch Location: The Realm of Chaos, the Labyrinth of Shadows, and the eponymous Ancient Ship of Doom
  • Empathic Weapon: The Dragon Sword
  • Fanservice Pack: Dead or Alive: Dimensions' inclusion of Irene's cameo and revealing that Sonia was her alias in Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360, pretty much "upgraded" all of Irene's previously known portrayal in the classic trilogy.
  • Game-Over Man: The arcade game is infamous for it's continue screen of Ryu strapped to a table with a buzzsaw lowering down onto him.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The original Japanese version was titled Ninja Ryūkenden ("Ninja Dragon Sword Story"), so the localization's title almost makes it seem like a Gaiden Game when it isn't at all.
  • Gravity Is Purple: The Art of The Piercing Void, one of Ryu's most powerful ninja techniques, allows him to control gravity in order to create a black hole surrounded by purple energy.
  • Happily Married: Ryu and Irene after the NES trilogy, during the OVA and carried over to Dead or Alive, until this fact was stopped being mentioned in the latter after Itagaki envisioned the modern trilogy, possibly in an attempt to discard the idea of his creation being a long prequel for the original NES trilogy, turning into a new continuity altogether, and leaving Ryu free for new interests. It took Dead or Alive: Dimensions to fix the timeline again, namely bringing Irene back to make things stable... although the game is still very vague on the romance/marriage matter.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: Who said ninja games need a stealth mechanic? Considering Ryu has the access of the Dragon Sword and he's constantly facing demons and fiends that might not be fooled by stealth easily, perhaps stealth wasn't that necessary. It's also implied in III that it's sometimes defied, as Ayane manages to get some top secret information from the government without being detected. If it's against mundane humans (and cutscenes), stealth is an option for Ninjas here; meaning that Ryu can afford to be visible because he allows it to and anyone who sees him without his permission is gonna die.
    • Ninja Gaiden II seemed like you could be stealthy for once, until it gets retracted in a few seconds. How fast can you replace a searchlight that seemingly exploded for no reason?
    • Ninja Gaiden III introduces stealth kills, although they are totally optional.
  • Keep It Foreign: The series' international title of Ninja Gaiden was chosen because Tecmo thought Ninja Ryūkenden was hard to pronounce for Westerners. Interestingly, evidence seems to suggest that Ninja Gaiden was actually the original title (since the original arcade game was developed as a parody of American ninja films and their misunderstanding of Japanese culture), with Ninja Ryūkenden being something Tecmo came up later due to the original title being too nonsensical for Japanese players.
  • Large and in Charge: In the Arcade, NES trilogy and modern games, the bosses literally loom over Ryu Hayabusa. But just like Kenshiro, the Doomguy, Samus Aran and the Belmont Clan, size means jack shit to our resident superninja, as he can and will carve a path through his enemies.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: It all comes down to Tecmo Koei simply establishing an official timeline without producers stating their own versions. Until then, it's not entirely clear which game represents Ryu's first true adventure: the arcade game, the NES trilogy or the modern series.
  • Nintendo Hard: If there's anything that can be said to be consistent about the series, it's that all of the entries are thumb-breakingly difficult. For the newer series, the guys at Team Ninja know it. You get an achievement for continuing enough times!
  • No Pronunciation Guide
    • A lot of people tend to mispronounce the title as "Ninja Gay Den" (rather than "Ninja Guy Den").
    • And despite the fact that the characters call Ryu's name as "Ree-yu", some reviewers and critics still mispronounce it as "Ra-yu". Just like that other Ryu, or any other Ryu for that matter.
  • Rated M for Manly: Especially the modern series.
  • Retcon: Some worth of mention, as Tecmo passed the series around to just about any willing developer and producer: Natsume, Team Ninja, Itagaki, Hayashi, etc. Of course, each had their own visions for the series:
    • Ninja Gaiden Shadow is said to be set three years before the NES trilogy. Add to the fact Ryu is in his early 20s in the NES games don't match up with the modern trilogy, either.Explanation 
    • Irene became a walking Retcon herself when "Sonia" was confirmed to be another one of her codenames she uses on the field Dead or Alive. Now it seems Ryu actually knew Irene before the NES series in the 360 version of Ninja Gaiden II, while in the first NES game he certainly doesn't find "Sea Swallow" familiar to a certain Sonia he met earlier. Irene's appearance of course was always that of a blond buxomed babe with pale skin instead of a brunette with modest body proportions; maybe she was wearing a disguise in the NES series?
    • Ryu and Irene's marital status. The first Dead or Alive states they're Happily Married and Irene dutifully runs their Antique Shop while Ryu is away fighting in the tournament. In the next Dead or Alive tournament, their marriage became a mysterious subject: Ryu still is an Antique Shop owner, but Irene isn't mentioned in his bio anymore; in fact, it was doubtful that Irene ever existed from the second tournament onwards. When Dead or Alive: Dimensions was released, it recaps the first four tournaments and brought her back into the fray, but the marriage remains a mystery and suddenly Irene's a CIA agent again. The recap of Dimensions just goes as far as to imply they're romantically involved.
    • Joe/Ken Hayabusa's whereabouts. Ryu's father dies in the NES trilogy, yet he's alive and kicking in the modern series, which is totally fine since it's a prequel. In enters Dead or Alive and make things difficult, as the first game makes no mention of Joe at all; it doesn't even touch upon the Hayabusa Clan, either. It only shows that Ryu is taking the position of clan leader for the moment and doesn't say anything else since his father was always fond of leaving his son to taking care of the clan while he spent seasons training on top of the mountains.
  • Sequential Boss: The NES trilogy, plus the Vigoorian Emperor in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. Most bosses in III are also like this (which may explain why they have no life-bar).
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The attract cinematic of the arcade version features a battle between the player character and a hockey mask-wearing mook. Never bring brass knuckles to a sword fight...
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Ryu's arms are the only skin he bares in both incarnations.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: While some elements of the OVA became Canon Immigrant for the Dead or Alive series (and by proxy the modern trilogy), the fact Irene retired from being a CIA agent to run an Antique Shop with Ryu didn't stick, at least in the Retool Dead or Alive: Dimensions, where Irene acts as Mission Control for Ryu during his mission. It's unclear if she still is involved with their Antique Shop.
  • Updated Re-release: Every modern game had at least one.
    • For the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, there's Black, Sigma (PS3) and Sigma Plus (Play Station Vita).
    • For Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360) there is Sigma 2 (PS3) and Sigma 2 Plus (Vita)
      • Sigma 2's case is a bit special though. Due to an exclusivity contract with Microsoft, II could not be ported onto the PS3. The only way to do it after Itagaki left was to add, remove and change so many things that Sigma 2 would be considered an independent game rather than a mere port. It worked: although the levels, combat system and enemies are pretty much the same, the playing experience is quite different.
    • For Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3/360) there is Razor's Edge (Wii U, and then to PS3/360).
    • Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES can technically be counted as one for the NES series, though it winds up as a subversion. It uses the same 8-bit graphics, but in a couple levels in The Ancient Ship of Doom that had amazing 8-bit multiple parallax scrolling backgrounds, became single static scrolling backwards. It was actually a downgrade.
  • The 'Verse: Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive are one in the same universe, with the modern trilogy marking the earliest events, followed by the NES trilogy, and capping off with the Dead or Alive tournaments as the lastest.
  • Wall Jump: The original NES trilogy lacked a wall-jump mechanic, but instead had a wall-clinging mechanic. The first game in the series with a proper wall-jump mechanic was Ninja Gaiden (1992) on the Sega Master System. The wall-jump mechanic was then adopted by the later 3D Ninja Gaiden games.

    Tropes in the NES trilogy 
  • Air Jousting: Both Ryu and his old man suck at it in the Original Trilogy.
    • And after twenty-plus years, Ryu still sucks at it, as he attempts this in his death match against Strider Hiryu and fails epically.
    • He does manage to eke out a draw (i.e., killed the mook) in the Arcade intro of Ninja Gaiden.
  • Alien Sky: As Ryu approaches the gate to the Realm of Chaos in The Dark Sword of Chaos, he's greeted by an eerie violet sky with strange stars hanging too close to the surface.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Ryu doesn't learn Irene's real name until the very end of the first game. However, the manual already spoils this fact. However, the original Japanese manual made her name a complete mystery.
    • The names of the four human bosses Ryu must face and then some are described in the manual for the first game.
    • The same thing also applies for said first game to the name of each of the stages.
  • Ascended Glitch: While Ryu could always stick to walls, he could only Wall Crawl on select surfaces with ladder-like patterns on them in the original. However, with a little practice, it was easy to jump away from the wall and curl back onto it at a higher spot (which made several areas with difficult platforms, particularly Stage 5-3, much easier). Starting with The Dark Sword Of Chaos, he was able to crawl up any wall.
  • Attack Drone: The Shadow Clones from The Dark Sword of Chaos, which follow in Ryu's footsteps precisely and attack when he does, at no cost. He can have up to two clones out at a time.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The spinning slash and fire shield in the first game. The first causes you to do a spinning slash every time you attack while jumping, which can deal obnoxious damage to bosses, even killing the first one in one hit if landed correctly. The problem is it causes you to do a spinning slash every time you attack while jumping, meaning you can't control how you use your special attack energy, and will probably run out of it (unless you know the trick: hold down while attacking). The fire shield makes you invincible for a little while, but the problem is that when it times out, you lose it and get nothing to replace it.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: The name of the stages in the original trilogy were pretty cool. One such name is "Place of Red Execution", where Ryu fights Bloody Malth in the first NES game.
  • Back from the Dead / Disney Death: Irene after being sacrificed for Jacquio's goal in The Dark Sword of Chaos. She gets resurrected by the Dragon Sword's magic in the ending.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: After beating first boss in The Dark Sword of Chaos, Dando the Cursed, Ryu meets a mysterious army operative who pulls a gun on him. Before Ryu can react, the man finish off the monstrous Dando, who Ryu hadn't quite finished off.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: A villainous version. Most of the bosses in The Ancient Ship of Doom use Ryu's Ninja Arts such as the Windmill Throwing Star or mass-fire versions of the Art of the Fire Wheel.
  • BFS: The titular Dark Sword of Chaos is just gigantic, yet Ashtar can wield it easily with one hand.
  • Big Bad
    • Jaquio in the first NES game.
    • Ashtar in The Dark Sword of Chaos and the orchestrator of the events of the first. His position gets hijacked when the Demon is revived (twice!) inside Jaquio's body by the Dark Sword of Chaos.
    • Clancy in The Ancient Ship of Doom, after doublecrossing his boss.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Basaquer, Kelbeross, Malth and even Big Bad Jaquio fall pray to this in the original NES trilogy. Their actual names were supposed to be "Berserker," "Cerberus", "Mars" and "Devil King" (Jakiō.) The mistranslated names do have plenty of charm, though...
    • "Dando the Cursed" in The Dark Sword of Chaos is supposed to "The Damned One". This one is more forgivable, being an actual swear.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: In The Dark Sword of Chaos, the last stages take place in the Realm of Chaos. They steadily become more organic, with pulsing organs and faces on the walls, dripping ooze, and veins running across every surface.
  • Boss Bonanza: One major source of the trilogy's notoriously brutal difficulty. At the end of the first game, you had to fight three bosses in a row, and your health would not be replenished after victory in the first two. Death at the end hands of any boss would result in being sent back to the start of the last level. This made learning boss mechanics through trial and error extremely difficult due to the long amount of time it took to get back to them after a defeat.
  • Captain Ersatz: The mook with a hockey mask and a machete (named Jackson) is based on Jason Voorhees.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Either that or bosses in the NES games carry a set of firecrackers which activate upon death.
  • Check-Point Starvation: The first NES game was generally pretty good with checkpoints, as you would usually respawn at the same screen you died at...unless you died to a boss, in which case you're taken back to the beginning of the stage. To make matters worse, if you're unfortunate enough to die at any of the three final bosses, however, you're kicked all the way back to the start of 6-1 instead of 6-4.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The Nintendo Power Strategy Guide for The Dark Sword of Chaos followed the game's story between gameplay tips and tricks as a fully drawn comic book. Ryu's encounter with Ashtar is a stand-out moment.
  • Cue the Sun: The happy ending of the first and third NES games.
  • Cut Song: "Inevitable" in The Dark Sword of Chaos, which can only be heard with an NSF player.
  • Cutscene: One of the first games, if not, the first game to incorporate these in between levels to tell a cohesive story.note 
  • Cutscene Incompetence: The first game contains one of the earliest examples ever of this trope. Despite being an elite ninja, Ryu is knocked out and captured by Irene Lew in a cutscene after the first level, and only gets out of prison after she lets him out. He later gets captured by CIA agents (the second time he's captured in a span of 3 levels) and forced to work for them. Eventually he is manipulated by a Hostage for MacGuffin situation in which he hands over the demon statues Jaquio to prevent him from killing Irene. Natrually, Jaquio takes the statues, doesn't release Irene, and dumps Ryu down a pit trap, forcing him to fight through long levels just to get back to Jaquio again
  • Demoted to Extra: Clones of the Malice Four, the bosses of the first game, appear as powered-down mooks in the second game.
  • Difficulty by Region: The NES version of III has no password feature, limited continues, less checkpoints and stronger enemies than its Famicom counterpart.
  • Doppelgänger: The Bio-Noid doppelganger from The Ancient Ship of Doom
  • Doppelgänger Attack: The Kelbeross beasts from the first two NES games, where only one of them was vulnerable but both were very, very deadly. Similarly, Ryu acquired this skill in The Dark Sword of Chaos, where he could generate up to two Shadow Clones that are invulernable, would follow in his footsteps precisely (even stopping in midair if Ryu himself jumped and then stopped moving), and would slash or use Ninja Arts in perfect sync with him. A great deal of boss strategies (and speed runs) centered around proper positioning of these clones while Ryu himself ducked into a safe spot.
  • Dramatic Thunder: The way that Ashtar introduces himself in The Dark Sword of Chaos.
  • Dual Wielding: Basaquer in the NES games dual-wields butterfly knives.
  • Evil Counterpart: As far as the NES games go, it's explicitly stated that the Dark Sword of Chaos is this to the Dragon Sword, having been forged from a demon's bones as opposed to a dragon's fang.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Both the Tower of Lahja, and later the gate to the Chaos Realm, in The Dark Sword of Chaos.
  • Fake Difficulty: Aside from the famed birds and pits, there's also the fact that screwing up against the bosses in Level 6 of the first game will dump you at the start of the stage for no reason. Even if it's not a Game Over, and even though this hasn't been the way things work for the entire rest of the game. The fact that once you kill a boss it stays dead even after you hike it back there doesn't fully cover for how much of a dick move this is. The hit detection in all three of the games is also pretty awful. Ryu or pretty much any enemy can be hit, damaged or killed if their only pixels away from a damaging enemy or weapon, not when they, ya know, actually get attacked by said enemy or weapon. However, there are also points when you can clearly see Ryu's knife go through an enemy, but nothing happens to the enemy. This can make trying to make quick decisions or getting into tight spots much more of a pain, therefore leading to a fair amount of cheap deaths or injuries. A good example would be trying to avoid the stars flying ninjas throw at you in stages 5-3 and 6-2 in the first game. In the third game, this hit detection problem reaches bootleg game levels of bad. For example, if your on a platform, and a spike in a platform below comes near but is still many pixels away from your feet, it counts as a hit.
  • Faux Action Girl: Irene, despite being a badass CIA agent, finds herself captured in both the first and second games. Played with both ways in The Ancient Ship of Doom, which begins with Irene apparently murdered by a Ryu clone during the opening credits while spying on a secret lab. However, she later has a Big Damn Heroes moment when she rescues Ryu from the same clone with a machine gun.
  • Four Is Death: The Malice Four in the first NES game.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Discussed at the end of the third game. Irene cannot comprehend evil, but Ryu can:
    Irene: I'll never understand why people make and pursue evil plans until they wind up dead.
    Ryu: Humans are always striving to achieve. All of creatures on earth, in all worlds, can never be just a part of someone's plans. Fortunately, mankind is never foolish enough to wipe itself out to achieve some ambitions.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: The first NES Ninja Gaiden. Barbarian, Bomberhead and Basquer were all ridiculously easy once you got the pattern down, an easily-exploitable glitch could make Kelbeross a pushover, Bloody Malth is just a matter of getting close to him and mashing buttons and the Masked Devil just requires you to hit the giant orb in the middle. Jaquio, however, is ungodly hard, and the Demon is largely luck-based. The sequels evened it out quite a bit.
  • Hellgate: The Dark Sword of Chaos presents a recursive example: an evil-looking tower with a demonic skull for an entrance, which leads to the antechamber of the Realm of Chaos. And inside that, an altar upon which the actual gates can be opened.
  • Hellhound: The Kerbeross beasts from the NES Ninja Gaiden and The Dark Sword of Chaos
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Irene was a redhead in the original trilogy. As Sonia, her hair (supposedly bleached) is blonde.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Back in The Dark Sword of Chaos, not only is it heavily implied that Robert died while he held the line to protect Ryu's back, but the Dragon Sword itself makes a sacrifice to revive Irene at the end.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: How did the CIA and Jacquio's troops find Ryu so quickly after he came to America? Maybe it's because he's the only person in modern New York who runs around in broad daylight dressed like a Ninja.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Ryu versus his brainwashed father in the first NES Ninja Gaiden.
  • Interquel: The Ancient Ship of Doom takes place after the events of the first NES Ninja Gaiden, but before The Dark Sword of Chaos, which is why Ryu still possesses the Dragon Sword, despite having lost it at the end. The Japanese manual makes the game's setting clear, but the American manual only implies it subtly.
    After Ryu's victorious duel with Jaquio, Ashtar returned to the bowels of darkness and bided his time. But another evil creature was already on its way as another adventure awaits the unsuspecting Ryu Hayabusa...
  • Ledge Bats: The birds.
  • The Legions of Hell: What will pour out of the Gate of Darkness to the Realm of Chaos if Ashtar's ritual is completed. Many foes in the games already hail from there.
  • Love at First Sight: Both Ryu and Irene in the first NES game, after an entire adventure without any proper build up for romance. In fairness, Ryu took the fact he was able to meet her as a fitting payment for all the trouble they went through, and Irene seems to have the same mindset on this matter as she disregarded Foster's direct orders to kill him. The result is the couple kissing at the end; as of Dead or Alive, they are Happily Married and running their Antique Shop together.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Jacquio —> Ashtar —> Jacquio. Trust us, It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Mask Power: Ashtar from The Dark Sword of Chaos wears a smooth, faceless metal mask with only thin slits for eyes... or maybe the eyes are part of the mask.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The NES games were fond of this. In the first, Ryu leaves the statues together too long, releasing the Demon; a year later in The Dark Sword of Chaos, he doesn't pay attention as the pool of blood from Jaquio's corpse reaches the Sword of Chaos, releasing the Demon again.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Funky Dynamite, a man-sized mutant lizard cyborg with a jetpack and plasma guns.
  • Obstructive Foreground: Used in The Dark Sword of Chaos intentionally, with infuriating results.
  • One-Winged Angel: Jacquio in the first game, Jacquio again in the sequel and Clancy in the final.
  • Platform Hell: The NES games. If it wasn't bad enough that Tecmo forced you to use the wall cling ability and jump across tiny platforms over pits, they decided to throw in Goddamned Bats, eagles and even the grunts on full force. Worse, the first two games allow infinite mook respawns.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Played straight in the NES trilogy, thank goodness. The Platform Hell aspect of the game is hard enough as is; it's almost Nightmare Fuel to think of what it would be like had the several enemies who shot at you or threw shuriken at you did so quickly.
  • Playing with Fire: Most of Ryu's Ninja Arts in the NES trilogy revolve around flinging fireballs or encasing himself in them with the Invincible Fire Wheel.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Windmill Throwing Star in the NES trilogy and the Windmill Shuriken in the two Xbox games.
  • Puzzle Boss: In the Boss battle against Ryu's father, trying to strike him will get you nowhere. To win the fight, you have to destroy the statue casting orbs of energy towards him. (Which isn't hard, once you catch on. Or if you watched the cutscene right before the fight, which shows you what to attack)
  • Race Against the Clock: In Act 7 of The Ancient Ship of Doom, should you make it to the Final Boss without dying, you will notice the timer is very close to zero once you reach the end.
  • Respawning Enemies: The NES trilogy has perhaps the most frustrating examples of such. After killing any mook, if their spawn point even goes one pixel offscreen and back, they're immediately back. In fact, the spawn points are so sensitive, you may find yourself at times standing in just the right spot for a spawn point to be grazing the boundary, causing them to infinitely respawn should you keep killing them without moving.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Throughout The Ancient Ship of Doom, instead of heading into a hellish dimension to battle demonic creatures like its preceding games, Ryu faces a high-tech robotic army at (mostly) artificial environments, culminating with a battle within an alien ship against a laser-equipped Humongous Mecha.
  • Rule of Three: In the NES trilogy, each game requires Ryu to fight three bosses in succession in the final stage.
  • Say My Name: In The Dark Sword of Chaos, multiple times.
  • Scenery Porn: The NES series had a fair amount of this as well: each game had at least one cutscene that was just a grand panoramic sweep that generally showed Ryu in the foreground gazing upon his uniformly majestic destination, and many of the backgrounds and stages were more visually detailed and attractive than the player was likely to notice.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Demon Statues from the first NES Ninja Gaiden
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The opening cutscene of the NES Ninja Gaiden, where Joe gets defeated via this. He later turns out to be alive...
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Robert T. Sturgeon is a devoted follower of this philosophy.
  • Spin Attack: The Jump and Slash Technique in the first game is a powerful art which turned Ryu into a flying buzzsaw and had the potential to take out bosses with one good hit. It's no wonder why it was removed in the sequels.
  • Stupid Surrender: In a cutscene in the first game, Ryu surrenders to a few CIA agents who point guns at him... right after finishing a level in which he had to defeat numerous enemies, including several of them who were armed with guns.
    • Subverted, though, because with Dr. Smith dead and only a warning about the demon statues from him, Ryu didn't have anyplace else to go. He correctly surmised that going along with them would get him the information he needed.
  • Sword Beam: The Dark Sword of Chaos can shoot off what looks like ball lightning.
  • Team Pet: The Kelbeross are a villainous example, being Jaquio's pet dogs (well, they were before he mutated them into gargantuan monstrosities). This only gets described in the manual, though, leading people who didn't read it to consider them a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
  • Trap Door: The NES trilogy is loaded with this
  • Visible Silence: Made famous by the NES titles.
  • Warmup Boss: Surprisingly, most of the early bosses in the NES games were this.
  • What the...?!: In the NES trilogy, this is Ryu's version of an Oh, Crap! Moment. He tends to draw these like a moth to a flame.
    • At the Final Boss of The Ancient Ship of Doom, Ryu instead stutters out the villain's name upon seeing its monstrous form.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: After releasing Joe and defeating Big Bad Jaquio, you still have to deal with the Demon he was trying to release. Much easier than the previous boss fight, fortunately.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Robert's battle against the demons in The Dark Sword of Chaos.

    Tropes in the Team Ninja series 
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Played in an odd way in Ninja Gaiden 3. Ryu's weapons can cut through metal, but not effortlessly − a good half of the QTEs in the game are button mashing to cut down turrets, spider tank legs or other armored equipment.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The tenth level of the Xbox title, oddly named "the Aquaduct" (sic).
    • Down the Drain: A sizeable chunk of the sequel's third chapter takes place in a sewer.
  • Action Commands: Ninja Gaiden III may be the first game to have these with non-indicative button prompts during steel-on-bone attacks. Even if you're told to press Y, pressing X works just fine, and vice-versa. Since steel-on-bone chaining works only if you press X, you'll sometimes be better off disregarding the button prompt. Of course, you can also just turn the button-prompts off entirely...
  • Actionized Sequel: The original sequel for the modern Ninja Gaiden series on Xbox, Ninja Gaiden II on the 360, heavily toned down the exploration and puzzle elements found in the previous game, the stages became very streamlined, finding a key or two to open a door became almost trivial - if that wasn't streamlining enough, Sigma 2 on PS3 removed any traces of exploration found in the 360 version altogether; by then modern Ninja Gaiden became just like its classic series: full blown action only, all Ryu needs to do to progress through the game is to beat enemies and push foward. Ninja Gaiden III followed on Sigma 2, being exclusively action oriented.
  • Advertised Extra: Ryu's childhood friend Kureha gets her own short profile in the manual of the first game, indicating she'll have some important role. In truth, she only briefly shows up in one cutscene early on before dying alongside the rest of Ryu's village.
  • A.I. Breaker: In Ninja Gaiden II, midair attacks with the scythe. The Y button attack in particular ("Blood Rain") causes Ryu's landing to be delayed nearly a full second — most enemies and even certain bosses will dash underneath you and get hit by the scythe.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Genshin is from the rival Black Spider Ninja Clan who allied with Elizabet to resurrect the Archfiend, and sees Ryu as a Worthy Opponent. After multiple encounters that end with a stalemate, Genshin is formally defeated and reveals he was something of a pawn in the whole thing. Genshin is then revived as a fiend and defeated once more against Ryu with the True Dragon Sword, with Elizabet lamenting his uselessness. Ryu is subsequently enraged he picks up Genshin's sword The Blade of the Archfiend and uses it in conjunction with the Dragon Sword through the remainder of the game (it replacing the weaker twin swords "Dragon's Claw and Tiger's Fang" you previously had). Ryu then places Genshin's sword among the field of the buried warriors.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Beating any of the difficulty levels in the modern games rewards the player with a new costume.
  • Anti-Frustration Feature: Ninja Gaiden III allows the player to switch anytime to "Hero Mode". The game plays the same as on Normal difficulty, but when health is under 30% (when the lifebar starts to glow red), guard and evading become automatic, making death pretty much impossible.
  • Artifact Mook: In the first level, Murai sends his own, novice mooks at you in normal mode. From hard mode on, though, the same level makes you fight Black Spider Ninja... which are supposed to be enemies of Murai and have no reason to obey him whatsoever. Similarly, in hard mode you will often fight fiends and Black Spider Ninja altogether, even though these fiends are supposed to fight the Ninja, not help them.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In II, the Werewolf fiends cannot get on a table if Ryu jumps on it. A patch made things even more stupid, with the Werewolf fiends able to get on it but not get off. The T-Rex boss in Ninja Gaiden III is becoming quite infamous for this. One of its main forms of attack is charging Ryu and then suddely tripping and falling to its side without hitting anything just so Ryu can attack it.
  • Ascended Extra: Some of the characters, bosses, and even mooks get this in the sequels and Updated Rereleases.
  • Auto-Revive: Talisman of Rebirth in the modern trilogy
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Unlabored Flawlessness in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. It's the wooden sword upgraded some 7 times (other weapons peak at 3 or 4) with no discernable change until it becomes a giant wooden paddle. It's a surprisingly powerful weapon, able to wreak havoc at about the same power as the upgraded War Hammer, but its high upgrade cost and very restrictive secret to its power (when you're low on health it becomes exceptionally vicious) makes it difficult to use.
    • The Falcon's Talons from Ninja Gaiden II and onwards is generally regarded as having one of the worst Ulimate Techniques to use (the talons themselves are very restrictive to close combat), but it's awesome to see Ryu go berserk on an enemy with claws attached to his hands and feet.
    • Projectile weapons in the first Xbox game start bouncing off enemies when you get near the end (so much for your giant shuriken and stocks of gunpowder laced kunai). The bow is an exception, but standing around for Ryu to take it out and fire gets you killed pretty quickly at higher difficulties, though it's made more useful in "Sigma Plus" as you can now shoot arrows while jumping.
  • Back from the Dead / Disney Death: Ryu after being killed by Doku in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden.
  • Bag of Spilling: In the modern trilogy, this is averted for Ryu's movelist. The Flying Swallow, Izuna Drop, counter and Guillotine Throw are all unlocked at the start of II, all of which were acquired during the first game. Played straight for the weapons in a strange way: three of them that are found in random places (the Lunar, Dragon's Claw & Tiger's Fang and the Vigoorian Flail) were already acquired in the first game, of which two of them are supposed to be unique…
  • Beam Spam: Dagra Dai in Ninja Gaiden II
  • BFS: Aside from playable examples, cleavers are used by Fiend Nightmares and Spirit Doku has one long nodachi in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden.
    • The final boss in the unjustly-overlooked arcade original had a pair of these.
    • Dagra Dai Dual Wields these.
  • Big Bad: The Regent of the Mask and men behind the man Cliff and Ashtear, in Ninja Gaiden III
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: One boss explodes. The way to avoid damage is to block it. This leads to a massive arena-wide explosion stopped by a katana.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Ninja Gaiden II for the 360 (as if the first wasn't gory enough...). III more or less goes back to the level of the first game by removing dismemberments and decapitations entirely, although thanks to a new graphical engine, High-Pressure Blood will not only stain Ryu's weapon during fights, but also his body and the camera. However, Razor's Edge brings back all the gore that made Ninja Gaiden II (in)famous.
  • Boring, but Practical: For the array of awesome weapons that you have stashed in Hammerspace, you'll probably end up being forced to use the Dragon Blade to beat bosses and higher-tier enemies.
    • To a lesser extent, shurikens do virtually no damage but are very useful to stun small enemies and prevent them from grabbing you or interrupting your charge for an Ultimate Techqniue.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Good Lord, the Vigoorian Berserkers. They are armed with a Dabilahro, are fairly fast for their build, have a solid guard but are also very resilient, and on top of that have nothing but powerful close range and distance attacks. Of course if you try to use a Flying Swallow, you will be promptly dissuaded to try again. Manage to deal them enough damage? To reward you, they turn red and become even more dangerous. Granted, there is a simple tactics to take them down (let them attack at close range and use a counter) but it doesn't work so well when there are two or three of them (which is, 90% of the time).
    • Alchemists in Razor's Edge, always attack in groups of 3, just love to dodge your attacks and spam Painfully Slow Projectiles on you while you're trying to focus on one of them. They can also block your Ninpo and steel-on-bone attacks with their alchemic shield, and have a grab that drains both your health and your ki.
  • Boss Rush: Sort of at the end of the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. You first fight two previously beaten bosses, then Marbus, two forms of Vigoor and finally the Big Bad. At higher difficulties, the two fairly easy bosses are replaced by the much more challenging ancient fiends Nicchae and Ishtaros, making this a Boss Rush with only new bosses.
  • Bowdlerise: While Sigma 2 brought great additions such as new playable characters, game modes and a multiplayer option to warrant its deserved critical acclaim, it also got some vocal criticism from some due to the direction of removing the potential bloodbath present in the 360 version. Rather than see gallons of blood, dismembered limbs and body parts were turned into purple mist, which creates a rather odd effect because Ryu still performs brutal actions against enemies, only to see them gush out purple-colored smoke.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: In Ninja Gaiden (Sigma) for the Xbox/PS3, the Plasma Saber MK II (on Normal) or the Dark Dragon Blade (Hard and above), sort of. You get them by gathering all 50 gold scarabs, but the latter is so close to the end of the game that they won't be of much use. Add to this that you have to bring the scarabs to Muramasa, and since there's no shop at the top of the Emperor's tower (where you get the last scarab), that means you have to go backtrack through tough enemies and swarms of ghost piranhas just to find a shop where you can get the damn sword. You then discover the Plasma Saber is every bit identical to the True Dragon Sword and that you can't use the Dark Dragon Blade against the Final Boss (since he's the one using it). With the exception of some fiend challenges like the ones with many Berserkers, it's not really worth the trouble. This trope is averted with the highest difficulty Master Ninja Mode, which rewards you with...nothing!
    • The Unlabored Flawlessness can be viewed this way. Its most notable feature is that its attack power goes way up when your health is in the red zone, but if your defense is skilled enough to survive like that, you probably don't need it.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In Dragon Sword, after finally explaining what the collectable Wooden Amulets are for, Denroku comments that he read it in the strategy guide.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The final mission in the first game, Eternal Legend, is a mini-scenario with 5 phases, during which you face waves of all the enemies met in story mode, and several bosses in-between. You have access to most of your semi-upgraded weapons and unlimited projectiles. You can save and go shopping between phases, but you will have very limited resources, and will have to take as little damage as possible to beat the mission.
  • Bullet Hell: Ninja Gaiden II, Master Ninja mode. Just… watch.
  • Call-Back: In Day 6 of Ninja Gaiden 3, the Epigonos boss can switch between a sword, a scythe, and claws, like Ryū. Except the combos he uses with the scythe and claws are from the movelist of Ninja Gaiden II.
  • Camera Abuse: For additional immersion, blood will splat on the screen each time you peform an Obliteration Technique on an enemy in Ninja Gaiden III.
  • Camera Screw: In the modern trilogy, specifically the ones released on Microsoft platforms, the camera will often be your toughest opponent, chosing the most impractical angle possible, zooming in without reason and putting mooks or even Ryu himself off-screen. Surely Sigma and Sigma 2 have fixed this problem, haven't they? Er...well, no.
    • Fortunately, the camera in Ninja Gaiden III does its job decently, although still not perfectly. The most frequent problem is that enemies in the foreground obstruct your view because of the low camera angle.
  • Cats Are Mean: And those of the first Xbox game are Demonic Spiders!
  • Chainsaw Good: Spriggans (zombies in Ninja Gaiden II/Sigma 2) with chainsaws and cannons for arms
  • Charged Attack: Hold-type, though a variation. To pull off the devasting Ultimate Techniques in the modern games, you must collect essences by holding down the heavy attack button in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. The sequels and remakes allowed the techniques to be performed even if essence isn't collected, but it will kick in much faster if essence is absorbed.
    • Ninja Gaiden III, however, opts out into the collect-type: you can only unleash an Ultimate Technique when Ryu's arm starts to glow red after killing mooks. In the same vein, Ninpo can only be activated if a gauge is filled up.
    • And Razor's Edge goes back to a mixed-system, even adding a third level of charge.
  • Charge Meter: Ryu glows brighter and more fiercely as the charge of an Ultimate Technique increases (accompanied by an explosion).
  • Check-Point Starvation: Sigma 2 has a few passages where you have to go through several long, tough fights without the possibility to save in-between, most notably the last parts of Chapter 13 (including the very grueling stairway fight), 14 (the graveyard fights) and the first half of Chapter 16 (the very long straight corridor). The latter two have an appearance of Recurring Bosses out of nowhere without the usual auto-save. These passages are stressing in Normal but get really sadistic in Master Ninja.
  • Cherry Tapping: Wooden Sword School
  • Chest Monster: We found some ghost fish - in a chest! Instead of a box of "cash"!
  • Collapsing Lair: A staple of the series once the Big Bad is defeated.
  • Competitive Balance: Weapons in the modern trilogy use some combination of range, damage, combo potential and the power of the Ultimate Technique. The Dragon Sword is the most balanced but in the first game there are several weapons that mostly play the same way (War Hammer, Dihilabhro and the Unlabored Flawlessness are all heavy blunt weapons, as well as the Dark Dragon Blade in bonus-quests). The sequel has a bit more variety in that regard, since no two weapons play quite the same.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ryu, a lone Ninja, will slice his way through veritable armies of mooks.
  • Counter-Attack: A basic technique in the modern games, although it has been progressively nerfed. In the first game, it was overpowered (especially if used with the Dabilahro), but in the sequel they mainly served to dismember weaker enemies. By Ninja Gaiden III, it's just a little more damaging than a heavy attack. Razor's Edge un-nerfs it by giving it back its dismembering properties.
  • Cosmetic Award: Karma system. Averted in Razor's Edge, wherein the player spends points to upgrade weapons/Ninpo, increase health and learn new techniques.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Ninja Gaiden III has sequences where you're forced to slowly descend on helpless, disarmed mook and mercilessly cut them down. While the first instance is a mook who just watched you dozens of his comrades and drops his gun, pleading for his life (and scared shitless), other situations has the mook dare you to kill them while lecturing you. The game cannot progress unless you kill them. Mercifully removed in Razor's Edge.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In Sigma 2, the bow is aimed and fired with the triggers instead of the face buttons for Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II. Justified since it allows to throw shurikens even with the bow equipped but it does take a bit of time to get used to it. The opposite is even worse: in II, many Sigma 2 players will try to throw shurikens mid-jump and fire an arrow; it won't work.
    • Same deal with guarding: for the Xbox games, it's on the left trigger; on the PS3, it's L1. Consider the consequences of letting your guard down for one second in II, this can be a problem.
  • Deadly Lunge: The Flying Swallow and Guillotine Throw techniques can make short work of the standard Mooks.
    • A lot of enemies like to pull these stunts too.
  • Death from Above: A gameplay mechanic in Ninja Gaiden III. You can jump from a high building and glide in the air towards a poor mook, before impaling him as you land.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: Razor's Edge turned the stee-on-bone attacks into this. If you time it right, you can one-hit-kill an enemy before he grabs you − and repeat the attack on nearby enemies (a max-upgraded allows up to 4 kills in a row), and regain a tiny bit of health. If you don't, well, he grabs you.
  • Doppelgänger: The aggressive Doppelganger Fiends in the modern series. They are capable of doing nearly every single one of Ryu's moves and every single advanced techniques a player must know.
    • The Epigonos from Ninja Gaiden III, and it comes in two forms: the first has Ryu's form, the second has a fiendish transformation and can switch between three weapons like Ryu. However, they're not as aggressive as the fiend versions and they easily fall for an Izuna Drop, even in harder difficulties.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: The Doppelganger Fiends.
  • Dual Wielding: A wide assortment available for Ryu, ranging from the Dragon's Fang and Tiger's Claw, Tonfas and the True Dragon Sword and Blade of the Archfiend.
  • Earn Your Fun: Itagaki wasn't the page quote for nothing.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Done literally in Black. You unlock Ninja Dog mode if you die too many times on the first level, but not before Ayane admonishes you for being so weak. She then proceeds to give you a purple ribbon powerup, and all the power bracelets become ribbons as well. Ryu remains in his purple ninja trainee outfit for the remainder of the adventure after Chapter 2 instead of changing to his iconic Black Falcon suit.
    • In Razor's Edge, playing in Hero Mode reduces the experience earned in combat if the character's health drops to the level where guard becomes automatic (i.e. you would have died without it). Hero Mode was also featured in Sigma Plus
  • Eaten Alive: At the start of one of the boss battles, Rachel gets devoured whole and alive by a fiend right in front of Ryu.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: Used for every weapon in the modern trilogy, except for katanas. In a variation, the True Dragon Sword and Blade of the Archfiend replaces a maxed-upgraded Dragon's Claw and Tiger's Fang in II/Sigma 2, since it's the strongest weapon in the game.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Rachel's chapter in Sigma 2 has one of these.
  • Elite Mooks: The Underworld versions of the Incendiary Shuriken ninja deal much more damage than their normal counterparts who were already cheap enemies, but they also feature a quasi-suicidal attack where they stab you in the chest with one of their claws and then detonate an Incendiary Shuriken attached to their impaled-arm to deal massive damage.
  • Energy Weapon : Paz Zuu from the Xbox Ninja Gaiden uses Eye Beams which, oddly enough, doesn't damage you directly; instead, it traces a path, which ignites shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, the black pincer fiends in the same game aren't so kind-hearted with their own Eye Beams, infuriating more than one player.
  • Epic Flail: Nunchaku, Vigorian Flail and Kusari-Gama. The latter two crosses with Sinister Scythe.
  • Escort Mission: A very brief, easy one at the end of Day 4 in Ninja Gaiden III, where you have to protect Canna as multiple Homunculi jump and attack you. Inverted in the same game during the trek to find Joe, as Momiji is the one escorting Ryu.
  • Essence Drop: In the modern games, yellow essence is the currency, blue refills health and red restores Ninpo. In fact, this trope is a requirement to perform Ultimate Techniques in the first game. Ninja Gaiden III removed it completely for a better Gameplay and Story Integration.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: LOA's various activities include cloning dinosaurs to sell them as pets, or so says the Regent of the Mask; not sure many people will want a Tyrannosaurus Rex at home.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Nearly the entire weapon roster in the latter-day Gaiden games abuse the hell out of this. Of particular note is the Lunar, which Ryu mainly uses by spinning it so fast it literally grinds his enemies' limbs off.
  • Excuse Plot: Primarily a trait of Itagaki's games, which can both be summed up as "Big Bad attacks the village, Ryu chases Big Bad to his lair and kicks ass". Both Sigmas and Dragon Sword are a tiny bit more fleshed out. Ninja Gaiden 3, however, is much more plot-driven, going back the tradition of the NES games.
  • Expospeak Gag: In the middle of the "Flying Fortress Daedalus" level in Ninja Gaiden II, the intercom voice suddenly stops being serious for a second.
    "Another intruder has been detected with explosives. A blonde woman. Message to all units: she's hot!"
  • Eyepatch of Power: Genshin
  • The Faceless: Kasumi in Sigma 2
  • Faceless Goons: Averted in Ninja Gaiden III for a full dollop of What Measure Is a Mook?.
  • Fake Difficulty: The Camera Screws were bad enough in the first Xbox game, but the second added some extremely cheap mooks, always in hordes, who have grabs that are way too fast to anticipate, or ones who constantly spam explosive projectiles, mostly from off-screen. Mentor and Master Ninja Modes often takes this straight into Bullet Hell.
  • Fatal Family Photo: As soon as the scientist in III starts talking about how Canna reminds him of his daughter back home, whom he will be seeing soon, you know he's doomed.
  • Faux Action Girl:
    • In the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, Rachel, who kills a random fiend when she's introduced, spends the rest of the game getting captured, thrown around Vigoor and being strung up for a sacrifice. Lovely outfit, however. This gets fixed in Sigma, where she's promoted to playable character, thus promoted to full-on Action Girl. Who still gets constantly captured and thrown around in the cutscenes. Aside from the promotion, her role in the story didn't change.
    • Sonia in Ninja Gaiden II, plays the badass CIA agent a little more convincingly. While she manages to get captured and needs rescuing at the start, she repays the favor by showing up like a big damn hero and saving Ryu from a battle against impossible odds, and later by strolling around the Daedalus, casually dispatching ninja mooks with a rocket launcher. Unfortunately, she gets demoted by getting captured again, put into a dress marginally less Stripperific than her regular attire, and fails to do anything useful from that point on (although admittedly, it's kinda hard to do anything in the Underworld if you're not a badass Ninja.
    • Really, the series has become a Faux Action Girl factory, since hot, playable female characters have become a selling point, but the protagonist is always Ryu, requiring 1-3 seemingly-competent women to still need him bailing them out every game.
    • Momiji unfortunately doesn't have a good showing in Dragon Sword - she demonstrates some skill as a ninja but loses handily to the first big fiend she encounters and spends most of the game as a tortured captive of the Black Spider Clan. Thankfully she gets to be a full-blown Action Girl in Sigma 2. And by the time of Ninja Gaiden III, she spends a whole level fighting alongside Ryu almost as an equal.
    • Come in, Mizuki McCloud, and welcome to the club!
    • As stated above, some of the female characters manage to abandon the Faux Action Girl category eventually.
  • Fetch Quest: The golden scarabs in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden and the crystal skulls in the sequel, though the latter's especially bad: when you collect the 30 skulls, the reward is...a giant crystal skull that has no use whatsoever. It might have some sort of effect, but the description of the object is too crytpic to determine what.
  • Field of Blades: In II, the last part of the infamous Chapter 11.
  • Finishing Move: Obliteration Techniques, Fiend Sealer and variants
  • Flash Step: Several Ultimate Techniques emulate this; in the sequel, most Ultimates rely on this to continue the attack. The True Dragon Sword's Ultimate Technique upgrades this into Teleport Spam.
  • Flunky Boss: Masakado and Marbus in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden and Zedonius and Dagra Dai, as well as the second fights against Rasetsu, Genshin and Volf in II. In Black, Sigma and II, every single boss turns into this in higher difficulties.
  • Franchise Zombie: Itagaki wanted II to be the last Ninja Gaiden game, at least for modern continuity. It only took his departure for Hayashi to keep going with III. Still, it's unclear if Itagaki really meant that, since he made the statement when he was already at odds with Tecmo Koei, very close to his eventual departure.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Ninja Gaiden III makes a point of eliminating elements that "break the immersion". No Hyperspace Arsenal (Save for the extra weapons in Razor's Edge, but that's it), no statues that teleport you to a shop, no Essence Drop from dead foes and the save point statues are replaced by a falcon following Ryu. There are no healing items either: even in Razor's Edge, all methods for healing (Ninpo, meditation, steel-on-bone and save points) are performed directly in-game, except for life-upgrades.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: Despite being messily devoured by a fiend and remaining trapped in its stomach for the entire boss fight, Rachel doesn't seem to be much worse for wear once Ryu cuts her out.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The ankylosaurus at the end of Ninja Gaiden II Chapter 7 would seem to fit, but it's actually seen and referred to at least once before you fight it. The two you eventually face in the Underworld, however, fit this trope.
    • Actually, you can see them in a lake of lava a little ways before the second fight.
    • Really, a good portion of the minibosses fit this. The Rasetsu-class ninja show up in the oddest of places...
    • The most egregious example in II is the electric metallic Viking/fish/sperm… thing at the end of Chapter 3.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: One of the new techniques of Razor's Edge is "Meditation", which allows you to heal yourself using your Ninpo energy.
  • Grenade Launcher: Certain MSAT mooks in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden carry these, and Black gave the tanks these to counter an easy means of defeating them, which was to get so close that it could only circle without being able to fire its cannon, only a mounted machine gun with a suppressable gunner.
  • Harder Than Hard: Very Hard/Path of the Mentor and Master Ninja/Path of the Master Ninja.
    • Ninja Gaiden II was this on any difficulty...for questionable reasons.
    • Players who became proficient on Path of Acolyte/Warrior would end up dying in the first chapter of Path of the Mentor. All enemies are upgraded to those you previously encountered later on and you start out with no upgrades.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: This is also the case in Ninja Gaiden II: while the levels are basically massive gauntlets with endless hordes of cheap mooks, most bosses are surprisingly easy to take down. Even the four Greater Fiends and the Final Boss pose little threat. Sigma 2 balanced things by reducing the amount of on-screen mooks but made most of the bosses harder, improving their AI and health.
    • Played straight in Ayane's chapter in Sigma 2, though; Onibaba is considerably easier than the mooks you have to get through first, particularly at higher difficulty levels.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Awakened Alma saving Rachel
  • Hellgate: Mt. Fuji is one, apparently.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Awakened Alma saving Rachel
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The first fight against the Regent of the Mask in Ninja Gaiden III. You stab him for what seems to be the finishing blow...but instead he grabs Ryu's sword, utters a few words to activate the Grip of Murder and fuses it into his arm, giving him a cursed Red Right Hand for the rest of the game.
  • High-Pressure Blood: While Ninja Gaiden II went for Ludicrous Gibs, III took this route.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Two of them in Ninja Gaiden Sigma. In Chapter 2 against Doku, when you have only a level one Dragon Sword and a rachitic lifebar, and in Chapter 14 with Rachel when you fight Nicchae and Ishtaros. In both cases, a normal player will likely get their ass handed before understanding what's going on. It is technically possible to win, but that requires insane skill, and even if you do your character gets beaten in the cutscene anyway.
  • How We Got Here: The original Ninja Gaiden III begins with the scene from the very first trailer of the game − a first-person perspective of Ryu coldly assassinating an enemy and removing his mask, with chaos in the background. The player gains control of Ryu as he fights a giant humanoid monster, before the title appears and the story flashes back to Day 1. Turns out the man Ryu is killing is Theodore Higgins, Brainwashed and Crazy into becoming the Regent of the Mask, and the giant monster is the Goddess using Theodore's daughter Canna as its vessel, wielding the Dragon Sword.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: In Ninja Gaiden II, the difficulty runs from Acolyte, Warrior, Mentor to Master Ninja.
  • I Have a Family: One of the mooks tries to pull this on Ryu at the beginning of Ninja Gaiden III. It works as well as expected.
  • Immune to Bullets: Many higher-level mooks in the modern trilogy are immune to standard shuriken or can block them if you throw them off-the-cuff instead of as part of a combo. In the weapon description of Rachel's sidearm in Sigma 2, it states high-level fiends are immune to her magic-laden ammunition, crafted specifically to give her an edge in fighting them.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in the modern games. Gun-toting enemies are very competent at aiming and can be a real hindrance. The only exceptions are the basic hooded mooks of Ninja Gaiden III, who consistently shoot over your head, even when you're kunai-climbing a wall and you are not meters from them.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Plenty, such as the Vigoorian Flail, but in Real Life it would be more dangerous for the user than the target. It probably wouldn't swing as easily as a nunchaku, either. Then there's the Plasma Saber MK II. Most projectiles are also this, such as the Incendiary Kunai, the Fuuma Shuriken, the Gatling Spear Gun and Howling Cannon.
  • Indy Escape: Ninja Gaiden III is quite fond of these, with notably two in Day 3 (the first to escape a napalm bombing, the second to outrun the T-Rex). Thankfully, it doesn't have too much of the Camera Screws these sequences usually have, since the camera zooms out a bit when an obstacle is close.
  • Infinite Supplies: Ryu has an endless supply of standard shuriken. Enemies with small arms have to periodically reload (most evident with the MSAT), but they never run out of magazines.
    • In Sigma 2, he also has an infinite amount of arrows. In the first game and II, there's a limit, but there will always be a body bristling with arrows nearby when you need it.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: The modern trilogy have the Gleaming Blade move and its Ultimate Technique versions, which eat mooks for breakfast.
  • Invisibility: The Ghosts in Ninja Gaiden III have an invisibily suit and will usually use it for surprise attacks or lob grenades at you from every direction. You can detect them with your shurikens and your bow, and they always turn visible when they attack, so they aren't that difficult to fight, but they still can be a pain at higher difficulties.
  • Invulnerable Attack: Ninpo, off-the-wall attacks, throws, Obliteration and Ultimate Techniques, and steel-on-bone in the modern series (plus certain spin attacks in Ninja Gaiden II). In the higher difficulties of II, knowing how and when to use these is actually crucial.
  • Jiggle Physics: Itagaki is very fond of this in his games. Sigma 2 gives us the ability to control this with the Sixaxis controller.
  • Jump Physics: Remember, kids — you can change directions and accelerate multiple times while mid-air, and maintain yourself in the air by maiming an enemy!
  • Kaizo Trap: The giant armadillo boss in Ninja Gaiden II explodes after death, which kills you instantly. The only way to avoid a One-Hit KO is to hold the block button, which is rather counter-intuitive since no other explosive attack in the modern series can be blocked.
    • The clawed mutants of III will sometimes start to "overheat" and come at you to explode after you killed them.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Fiend-Sealer from the Dragon Sword in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. Notched up in sequels with Oblieration Techniques.
  • Lag Cancel: You can throw a shuriken to cancel the recovery of normal attacks (but not heavy ones). Razor's Edge also introduces the Cicada Surge, which can be activated any time, including in the middle of a combo, as long as you are on the ground. Both techniques require quick thinking and good reflexes to use effectively.
  • Large Ham: Volf, all the way. The Regent of the Mask in Ninja Gaiden III takes his share, too.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The underworld in II, which can be accessed by leaping into Mount Fuji.
  • Life Drain: A special ability of Kitetsu, Doku's demonic sword in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. You can do it to minor mooks the same way Doku does it to you and regain quite a bit of health. You can even do it to Doku himself. However, the rest of the time you use it, the blade drains your own health. In Sigma, holding the sword doesn't deplete your lifebar, but the effect of this trope is considerably nerfed.
    • The Alchemist mooks in III also have a grapple maneveur like this.
  • Lighter and Softer: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 when compared to the original Ninja Gaiden II, graphically speaking. Most of the blood and gore is removed and it uses noticeably brighter color tones and a bloom effect, thankfully the Vita version - Sigma Plus 2 restored all the gore.
  • Living Statue: In Sigma 2 you fight a giant Buddha statue as a Warm-Up Boss; a few chapters later, the freaking Statue of Liberty.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: An issue in Sigma 2. For example, you have a loading at the chapter screen, then if you want to change costumes you have another loading, and after you've selected the outfit, you have to go through the chapter screen loading again. In Ninja Gaiden III, the "world map" animation would be cool if it wasn't so long and if you didn't have to watch it every single time you load the game or get to the next day. Sometimes you even have to watch it twice between two events.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Every weapon in Ninja Gaiden II can dismember and dice opponents, not that this deters them from fighting. Lycanthropes will even pick up stray body parts and throw them at you.
  • Losing Your Head: Inverted with the zombies and Spriggans in the first two modern games. They continue their attacks even after being decapitated, although doing so renders them blind and they just swing randomly. The flare fiends in Sigma 2 can also fight headless, and they are not blinded.
  • Lost Technology: Twin Serpents Plaza statue in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden/Sigma
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Thanks to some BFG toting ninjas in the later levels of Ninja Gaiden II, you get to be on the receiving end of these.
  • Magikarp Power: The Wooden Sword is pathetic until its final upgrade, where it becomes the Unlabored Flawlessness, a potential gamebreaking weapon for those skilled enough to use it.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Doku -> Vigoorian Emperor -> The Dark Disciple, who is Murai in disguise
  • Marathon Level: Many in the first Xbox game, notably those with long puzzles. In Ninja Gaiden II, nearly every single chapter is this, but Chapters 6, 8 and 11 are the most notable, especially the latter.
  • Mask Power: Inverted with the Ogres from Ninja Gaiden Black, who grow stronger after Ryu breaks their masks.
  • Mega-Corp: Lords Of Alchemy in Ninja Gaiden III
  • Mercy Kill: One of the developers of Ninja Gaiden II described Obliteration Techniques as this, but considering dismembered mooks still go after you and will occasionally use a suicidal maneveur, "mercy" might be overstating it.
  • Mercy Mode: Ninja Dog in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden, Hero Mode in III
  • Meta Power Up: You can purchase a power-up in Razor's Edge (possibly NG3 as well) that allows you to accumulate Karma more quickly.
  • Mighty Glacier/Stone Wall: The purple zombies of the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. They carry enormous bayonet guns, their attacks are pretty damaging, but are so slow you have to be really careless to get killed. It takes three full Ultimate Techniques of the Unlabored Flawlessness to make them bite the dust, meaning they have more health than some bosses.
  • Mook Bouncer: The black laser fiends in the first Xbox game are already annoying, but in the tower section of the second-to-last chapter, they can use a really nasty grapple that drags you underground and sends you back to the level below, forcing you to go through the previous wave of enemies again and through a wave of ghost fish. Even more infuriating if you're doing a Karma run, since it prevents you from getting any more points in that fight (it's counted as if you had fled the fight).
  • Mook Chivalry: Chiva-what?
  • Mook Debut Cutscene: Generally averted in the modern trilogy, with a few exceptions like the MSATs, the zombies and the flare fiends in Ninja Gaiden/Sigma, or the Van Gelfs in II/Sigma 2. In both cases, the "rank" of the enemy introduced will actually change depending on the difficulty: a purple (immature) Van Gelf will come out of the hole in Accolyte, a green one (winged) in Warrior and a golden one (the strongest type) in Mentor.
  • Morale Mechanic: In Ninja Gaiden 3, using the fire dragon Ninpo will cause the weakest enemies around to drop their weapons, cower and beg for their lives. If you so chose, you can finish them off regardless.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: Murai starts off the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden/Sigma by sending dozens of his men at you to be killed. Throughout the game, he sends you letters encouraging you kill as many people as you can, including civilians, because their blood will make the Dark Dragon Blade stronger. Yeah, good luck guessing who the "surprise" Final Boss will be.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The so-called Fiend Challenges in Ninja Gaiden/Sigma and the Tests of Valor in II (but removed in Sigma 2) and Razor's Edge. II/Sigma 2 has infamous stairway fight in Chapter 10/13, where you face a ridiculous number of enemies at the same time and take down a good hundred of them. Hell, in Master Ninja Mode for II, the game is pretty much a 12-hour long Multi-Mook Melee!
  • Power Copying: Weapons picked from certain bosses will allow Ryu to perform their special attacks.
  • Mysterious Watcher: Ayane and Gamov from the Xbox Ninja Gaiden
  • Nerf: The Flying Swallow in the Xbox game was toned down in Black because you could spam it on pretty much everything with 100% success. Black featured mooks that were specifically designed to punish you for overabusing it, i.e. block the attack entirely and counter it. You definitely didn't want to be caught using that on the Advanced MSAT soldiers.
    • The counter system: in the first game, counters were fairly easy to execute with little effort in timing of an enemy's attack. Coupled with a powerful weapon, such as the Dabilahro, counters turn into OneHitKOs. The sequels required stricter timing and plenty of enemies' attacks are combo-driven.
    • The Spin Attack from the first NES Ninja Gaiden was removed from the sequels. The Invincible Fire Wheel, an equippable (albeit expensive) Ninja Art was turned into a limited, single-use powerup for The Ancient Ship of Doom.
      • The Art of the Fire Wheel is further nerfed for the Xbox Ninja Gaiden compared to the NES days. It creates a flaming shield around Ryu, but it knocks away most enemies on contact which severely limits its usefulness (continuous damage is impossible and it knocks them out of your melee weapon's effective range). You are also far from invincible.
      • It has been un-nerfed in Razor's Edge, as Momiji's Ninpo, although her ki gauge takes a long time to fill.
    • Incendiary Kunai in II systematically dismembered enemies the first time and killed them with a second one. In Sigma 2, those used by Ayane are quite effective in normal difficulty, but are about as useful as shuriken at higher difficulties. Sigma 2 also removes the ability to charge arrows. Then again, since projectiles are rendered infinite in use, keeping them as powerful would've turned them into Game Breakers.
    • Ninja Gaiden III indirectly nerfed the Izuna Drop: it's still an instant kill technique, but tougher human-sized mooks have to be weakened before you can lift them up, so it's not quite as overabused as in previous games.
  • New Game+: Used in Ninja Gaiden II. Sigma 2 and Razor's Edge subvert this a bit with Chapter Challenge Mode: once you beat any difficulty, you can redo the chapters individually with all your weapons and Ninpo upgraded (not unlike Devil May Cry), and can choose your character. So while it's not technically this trope, it functions as one, except your life bar's length depends on the chapter you play. The game is also slightly more difficult in this mode.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: A minor example in II/Sigma 2 (so minor that Ryu fixes it pretty fast) While escaping Mt. Fuji with Sonia, a drop of Ryu's cursed Dragon Clan/Fiend blood revives the Archfiend Vazdah into its One-Winged Angel form.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Spriggans are a more literal example: giant, armored zombies with a chainsaw in one arm and a cannon in the other.
  • Non-Dubbed Grunts: Dragon Sword has no English voice track, as Tecmo Toei felt no need to hire English voice actors, since the game only has grunts and a few words uttered through the whole adventure. Still it's quite impressive that all sounds and grunts alike are performed by the original Japanese voice actors, and actually recorded for production, not recycled tracks from the console versions.
  • No, I Am Behind You: The "Cicada's Surge" technique allows Ryu to teleport behind an attacking enemy in Razor's Edge.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • In the first game, after you get the bow, you can use it to shoot a wounded Ayane dead; the game will promptly end as a result.
    • You can likewise shoot Sonia dead near the end of Ninja Gaiden II, which will result in this.
  • No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: Averted in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden, as you can still explore a bit of Tairon or find a few secret paths, as well as stroll in previously visited areas; this is helped by the fact that 90% of the game takes place inside or near the city. Played straight with the sequels, being much more linear, especially III, where there are no items to pick up, so any semblance of exploration has totally vanished. Razor's Edge re-adds scarabs and secret areas, though.
  • Numerical Hard: The difference between Normal and Hard was barely noticeable in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. There were more, slightly tougher enemies, but that was pretty much it. Like so many other things, Black and Sigma corrected this by replacing basic mooks with new, tougher ones, and turning every boss into a Flunky Boss.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Dark Dragon in Dragon Sword, according to Nicchae, would've annihilated both humans AND fiends had Ryu not destroyed it soon after its birth.
  • Once per Episode: In the modern series, the first three games has the Hayabusa Village attacked at the beginning − by Doku in the first and the Black Spider Clan in Dragon Sword and II.
  • One-Hit Kill: Master Ninja Mode's ungodly difficulty in Sigma 2 relies on the fact that the player has very little room for mistake. Several enemy attacks like fire geysers, and any boss grapple or mook suicidal attack will kill you instantly regardless of your lifebar's length.
    • In your arsenal, the Inazuma Drop for any non-boss humanoid enemy. The only caveat is that you have to actually pull it off.
  • One-Time Dungeon: In the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden, you can't go back to the Ninja Fortress from Chapter 1 nor enter the airship in Chapter 3 since it crashes.
  • One-Winged Angel: Alma -> Awakened Alma, Doku -> Spirit Doku, and both forms of the Vigoorian Emperor in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden and the Archfiend in the sequel.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: A game mechanic in II/Sigma 2, where enemies act differently depending on how they've been dismembered. In some ways, they become more dangerous when they've lost a limb, and will liekly do a grab/suicide attack that's very hard to avoid and heavily damaging.
  • Only Idiots May Pass: Subverted in the modern games
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: Homunculi in Ninja Gaiden III turn into Chimeras after you take them down. They are also the only enemies that beg you to kill them while they attack you.
  • Perfect-Play A.I.: The Doppelganger fiend in the first Xbox game would make you feel like you're fighting against a computer-controlled Ryu.
    • The Regent of the Mask in Razor's Edge can also be quite infuriating, as he is mostly immune to Ultimate Techniques, dodges a lot and takes advantage of every little opening in your defense − and even his basic attacks deal quite a lot of damage. Dealing with him in higher difficulties requires a perfect knowledge of his pattern.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Averted in Ninja Gaiden II, where white ninja archers fire explosive arrows so fast you can't possibly dodge them in time; they're also unblockable and can hit you underwater. In Master Ninja Mode, you fight them right at the beginning, waiting for you across gaps or targeting you while running on water. Everyone's got their four-leaf clovers? Thankfully, they are fewer and a bit slower in Sigma 2.
  • Playing with Fire: Art of the Inferno, Fire Wheel and Phoenix.
  • Pivotal Boss: The spider tank in Ninja Gaiden III is more or less this, although it can attack you even without facing you directly.
  • Power Glows: After you acquire the True Dragon Sword in the modern trilogy, it gains a purple aura. In Ninja Gaiden III, Ryu's cursed arm glows red, indicating when you can unleash an Ultimate Technique.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang
    • The Windmill Shuriken in the two Xbox games.
    • You can throw the Eclipse Scythe like a boomerang as a wall attack in Ninja Gaiden II. Razor's Edge also adds this move as a hold-and-release attack.
  • Press X to Not Die: One of the most frequent complaints regarding Ninja Gaiden III is the heavy use of scripted sequences — of the "you can take a shower and have a tea before pressing the button" type.
  • Prequel: The modern trilogy compared to the NES originals
  • Product Placement: Ninja Gaiden II has some in the New York level, notably for Toshiba. Strangely, you don't see them in Sigma 2.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Arguably the Special Forces and Vigoorian Military, though the journals found in Ninja Gaiden II show the Black Spider Ninjas to be something of this, too.
  • Recurring Boss: Doku, Genshin, and Regent of the Mask.
    • The Tengu Brothers in Sigma 2: you fight one alone in Chapter 5, who flees in the middle before you can finish it off; you fight them together at the end of the same chapter. At the beginning of Chapter 14, you fight the two but one of them escapes. You kill the other, and the one that escaped reappears at the end of the chapter, with a few other ninjas. Finally, the two reappear in Chapter 16. What's interesting is that you almost always have to fight them after going through several long and harsh fights, with no possibility to save between the fights, meaning you'll rarely confront them at full health.
  • Real-Time Weapon Change: Deliberately averted in the modern series − asked about it at the time of Ninja Gaiden II, Itagaki said that such a feature would change the game too much and that he prefers player to stick to one weapon during a fight. You can open a quick menu with the d-pad to change weapons, but it pauses the game.
  • Recurring Riff: "A Hero Unmasked" in the soundtrack of Ninja Gaiden III
  • Refuge in Audacity: The boob-jiggling feature in Sigma 2; you can even do it during cutscenes.
  • Respawning Enemies: Averted beginning with Ninja Gaiden II: once you've wiped out a wave of enemies, it's for good.
  • Revival: NES trilogy -> Modern trilogy. Also counts as a Video Game 3D Leap.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Vigoorian forces, meet Dragon Sword! Dragon Sword, meet Vigoorian forces! Subverted against tanks and a helicopter, which Ryu needs to use specially-tipped arrows to destroy.
  • RPG Elements: The Mission Mode and online modes for Ninja Gaiden III has you start as a low-ranking Ninja. Completing trials will level up your character, improving combos and equipment. This is quite surprising, as the story mode in the same game removed everything that remotely looked like an upgrade system.
    • Razor's Edge rectifies story mode, but with a different mechanic: players will use Karma points to upgrade weapons, Ninpo, increase the life bar and gain new techniques.
  • Rule of Cool: The modern trilogy thrives on this.
  • Scenery Porn: Some of the levels in Ninja Gaiden II are gorgeous. Special mention goes to the chapter taking place atop the Tokyo skyscrapers. The game also has one of the more beautiful game portrayals of central Moscow (albeit the city is never named), going through Red Square, the GUM, the Underground, some nearby churches and buildings, before ending in Spaskaya Tower. St. Basil's Cathedral, unfortunately, is absent.
  • Score Multiplier: In Razor's Edge, after killing a few enemies, you enter "bloody rage mode", where your weapon/right arm starts to glow red: by holding triangle you can trigger an instant Ultimate Technique, but as long as you don't, a Karma multiplier will appear and increase each time you kill an enemy. Note than in the original Ninja Gaiden 3, the "red arm" was just the new way to activate ultimate techniques and didn't have any other function.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Karma runs; other popular ones include finishing the game with no upgrades or without using Ninpo and Ultimate Techniques.
  • Sequel Escalation: Ninja Gaiden Black/Sigma are Nintendo Hard with moderate gore, playthroughs are done at a relatively slow pace, you never fight more than three or four enemies at once and the strongest techniques are restricted in use. II takes the gore to ridiculous levels, is considerably faster, requires offensive strategies and you frequently fight insane number of mooks. Combos, weapons and Ultimate Techniques are cranked up to the point they would've been absolute Game Breakers in the first game. Sigma 2 toned down the gore and number of enemies, though increased AI and boss/mook resilience, Sigma Plus 2 included all that in addition to restoring the gore.
  • Serial Escalation : Sigma 2 features a co-op based Mission Mode with five levels - Acolyte, Warrior, Mentor, Master Ninja and Ultimate Ninja. The latter has missions that make even the most experienced players have a Heroic BSoD the first time, like fighting the Four Greater Fiends simultaneously. You won't be able to do anything in those missions without an experienced human partner.
  • Shout-Out: Fully upgrading the Wooden Sword turns it into a new weapon called Unlabored Flawlessness, which takes the form of a wooden boat oar in reference to the famous story of Miyamoto Musashi using a boat oar in a sword duel.
  • Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship: Both used and averted depending on which technique Ryu pulls off in the modern games.
  • Smash Mook: Ogres from Ninja Gaiden Black
  • Smoke Out: Smoke bombs are used by both Ryu and enemy ninjas in the modern trilogy.
  • Spam Attack: Most Ultimate Techniques
  • Spin Attack: Ryu's movelist with the Dragon's Claw/Tiger's Fang consists of some hard cuts and a lot of spinning. Certain weapons also have access to a 360 degree input that usually turns out to be a spin attack. In Razor's Edge, the shuriken gets its own spin attack.
    • Most of the "hold-and-release" strong attacks in III involve spinning horizontally or vertically.
  • Spy Catsuit: The Xbox Ninja Gaiden gave one sleeve-less ninja version to Ryu (coupled with a Scarf of Asskicking and a Cool Mask to boot), and it's been his default costume both in his own series and the Dead or Alive series ever since.
  • Squishy Wizard: In the modern games, mages are annoying and potentially very damaging long-distance attacks, but are the weakest human enemies in terms of health. Of course, they're only squishy compared to other ninja mooks, but still.
    • Completely averted in Ninja Gaiden III: Alchemists are among the toughest enemies in the game, especially the white-clad variant.
  • Stealth Pun: This one's a bit of a stretch, but "Florentine" is both an Italian identity (via its city) and a term used for Dual Wielding. In Sigma 2, Ryu receives dual katanas in the Venice-based chapter (Venice being a city in Italy).
  • Story Difficulty Setting: "Hero Mode" in 3 and in both Sigma Plus games, where blocking and evading becomes automatic if your health is low, which means the player basically cannot die. Word of God was that this mode was made for those who just wanted to enjoy the story. The Updated Re-release of 3 Razor's Edge keeps Hero Mode but also has a New Game+-ish mode that, conversely, removes the cutscenes and Quick Time Events to keep only the gameplay.
  • Stripperiffic
    • Rachel's outfit is barely there.
    • Sonia's outfit in Ninja Gaiden II is just as much, if not more so, to the extent where the diaphanous gown-and-lingerie ensemble she ends up near the end of the game is probably less revealing.
    • Momiji's "Ninja" outfits (her black and red-and-white ones in particular) in Ninja Gaiden II and Razor's Edge, which show a bit of skin on rather interesting parts of her body (namely around her chest, back, and thighs).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the aftermath of a boss fight in 3 (Razor's Edge), said boss would go on a rant of how the humans will be cleansed. As Ryu, your job is to slowly drag yourself there and make him talk with your sword instead. Literally. And it is glorious.
  • Swipe Your Blade Off: Will often be done by Ryu with all of his weapons in Ninja Gaiden II. Great: more blood to clean up.
  • Sword Beam: The double katanas' Ultimate Technique in Razor's Edge has Ryu spin rapidly before launching three of these.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: Getting the Eye of the Dragon to upgrade the Dragon Sword to the True Dragon Sword in every game of the modern trilogy.
  • Taking You with Me: A good deal of any crippled, dismembered enemies in Ninja Gaiden II. As well, the Armadillo bosses explode upon death, killing Ryu instantly if he doesn't block.
  • Tamer and Chaster: The original release for Ninja Gaiden 3 really tried to make the series a little more grounded, with Ryu only equipping what he has in hand, no unexplained magic save statues, etc. That also extends in the attempt of toning down the provocative designs the series has been known for under Team Ninja’s hands, all new females seen are dressed quite modestly compared to what the series has provided before, with only Momiji sticking out as she still wears her original outfit. Then comes the Razor’s Edge re-release, the same way it tried to undo some of the attempts at making the series more grounded, it also brought back some of the risqué content, the new cutscenes with Ayane contain some little nudity and gratuitous breast jiggling.
  • Teleport Spam: Some of Ryu's Ultimate Techniques gain this.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The combo system allows characters to keep mangling decapitated enemies.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Tairon, capital of the Vigoor Empire, doesn't seem to have anyone other than a lone shopkeeper, a busty dominatrix, and a bunch of military personnel. Subverted when there are people in the nightclub, but they all run screaming when a giant dinosaur-fiend shows up. That, and the Vigoorian military imposes a curfew more or less as soon as Ryu shows up.
  • Teased with Awesome: The Blade of the Archfiend at the end of Ninja Gaiden II. Since you get it at a point when only bosses and large enemies remain, you can only use the Underworld Drop (the most powerful combo in the game) during New Game+.
  • Temporary Online Content: The Hurricane Packs for the original Xbox game, following the discontinuation of the original Xbox Live service. While Ninja Gaiden Black carries over most of the content from the Hurricane Packs (extra game modes and costumes), it also removes the famed Intercept move, which was deemed too powerful by the developers.
  • Turns Red: The Armadillo bosses in Ninja Gaiden II turn red and glow when their health is low, becoming somewhat more dangerous. When finally killed, they explode. Ogres and Berserkers in Black and gorilla Chimeras in III.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Emperor in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden is fought on a floating platform that you must move back and forth (default) or up and down (by holding the guard button) to avoid its Beam Spam. It's painfully unintuitive and tedious.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Ryu's adventures in New York end with an animated Statue of Liberty using up its last moments of movement and first moments of freedom extending its hand to helt him escape before sinking into the sea. Rachel's chapter in Sigma 2 sees said statue right back where it should be as the sun rises.
    • Earlier, at the end of the second chapter of the first game, Ryu is clearly killed, but the next scene has him gearing up for battle as if it never happened, and it's never mentioned again.
  • Up to Eleven: The Xbox Ninja Gaiden was already a violent game, but II makes the first game look pretty tame. Fights against large groups of enemies are essentially guaranteed to turn into utter bloodbaths as Ryu dismembers enemies and, with the right weapons, can cut enemies in two.
    • Forget clean cuts: certain weapons can make body parts explode on impact. Extended use of those weapons can leave gibs on the floor and walls everywhere you go. In fact, the blood and body parts remain in the background for as long as you are playing the level with any enemy that doesn't dissolve upon being defeated. Ah, the wonders of technology.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Imperial Palace in the Xbox game. It's an enormous tower hanging upside down and covered in giant skulls. It's so very definitely final, that even the item chests are evil and spiky.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: In the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden; decide to shoot a wounded Ayane with your newly-acquired bow, and the game immediately ends in failure.
  • Video Game Sliding: Ninja Gaiden 3 has a sliding move that is useful as a dodge , an offensive technique to put enemies off balance, and a way to get under obstacles. It completes the trilogy's list of dodge moves with the first game's Unnecessary Combat Roll and the second's Flash Step.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Murai, the first boss of Xbox Ninja Gaiden, is a classic example of this. Still, almost every subsequent boss serves as this, popping up if only to hammer you for thinking the rest of the game would be smooth sailing (Alma's first encounter, for example).
    • Regent of the Mask in III
  • Wall Crawl: The Kunai Climb allows Ryu to climb walls made of wood, brick, stone, ice or even metal. Those kunais mst be pretty damn sharp.
  • We Don't Suck Anymore: Team Ninja admitted that they tried too hard to catch a western audience with Ninja Gaiden 3 and ended up neglecting old fans of the series. As a result, the massive changes made to the gameplay for Razor's Edge are a mix of backpedalling to Ninja Gaiden II's popular elements (dismemberments, Ninpos, fast weapons) and overhauling of 3's new mechanics (Ki system, Grip of Murder, Steel-on-bones), peppered with a few new techniques and features, and a difficulty cranked up a couple notches. They kept Hero Mode, though.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: For a series that took much joy in slicing and dicing opposing mooks, Ninja Gaiden III attempted to turn this into a plot point. Also, when you perform the fire-dragon Ninpo the first time, mooks around drop their weapons and stop fighting; you have the choice to coldly finish them or let them live (it happens in Normal mode only).
  • World of Buxom: Only female children are exempt from it.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Guillotine Throw and Izuna Drop. Ayane in Sigma 2 has a scissors lock in place of the Guillotine Throw.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Said word-for-word by Shadow Ninja Rasetsu in the first boss fight of Ninja Gaiden II.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is set to have some zombie themes.


Video Example(s):


Ryu Hayabusa's Izuna Drop

A demonstration of Ryu's trademark technique in Ninja Gaiden Sigma

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SpinningPiledriver

Media sources:

Main / SpinningPiledriver