Despite a bit of oversaturation in modern pop culture, ninjas were a real profession once upon a time. Rather than the mystifying warriors who could vanish without a trace they’re often portrayed as, ninjas were trained to employ stealth, subtlety, and trickery to accomplish acts of espionage and assassination.
Unfortunately, a lot of those notions go by the wayside for ninjas depicted in shows, movies, and games these days, and for these ninjas in particular, the idea of “subtlety” is more of a vague suggestion than an iron-clad rule.
10 Chipp Zanuff – Guilty Gear
Chipp is actually an exceptional ninja and when he’s serious, he’s capable of incredible feats of speed and infiltration, and he was a quick study in the ways of ki manipulation. That said, when he’s not serious, he’s a bit too overenthusiastic about his own profession.
Chipp is a bona fide Japan fanboy, and he’s quick to exposit on all his favorite (generally inaccurate) things about the country to anyone within earshot, and if anyone insults Japan or questions his “Japanese” heritage, he’ll immediately drop all pretences of stealth to slug them.
9 Bang Shishigami – Blazblue
One of the few survivors of the deadly Ikaruga Civil War, Bang would have every right to be a serious, rather withdrawn person, and that would probably be beneficial for a ninja. Unfortunately, that’s simply not how he rolls; Bang does everything at maximum energy, whether it be in combat or exaggerated speeches about justice and virtue.
He is exceptionally skilled in the ways of speed and stealth, but all of it tends to quickly go out the window in a fight, especially when he activates his signature move, Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan, and completely forgoes defense for relentless offense.
8 Frank Goldfinger – Shadow Hearts: From The New World
According to Frank’s backstory, which he’s quick to offer when Johnny and company first meet him, he was involved in a plane crash that left him stranded in the rainforests of Brazil. Here, though, he discovered a secret village full of ninja who immigrated from Japan, and learned their stealthy ways. Well, “learned” is a strong word.
Frank has some basic iconography of ninjas down, such as smoke bombs and throwing stars, but his jovial, bumbling nature and rather loud dress sense immediately destroy any potential efforts at subtlety. One of his very first acts of “stealth” is to attempt to blend in to a gray steel wall by holding a red, white, and blue flag in front of himself.
7 Mai Shiranui – Fatal Fury
Mai’s rather… distinctive outfit has made her an icon of sorts for SNK’s entire brand. In absolute fairness, revealing outfits like hers were actually employed by real-life kunoichi, female ninjas. Sex appeal is, of course, very distracting, which allows more overt acts of subterfuge to go unnoticed.
Of course, when you’re in a fighting tournament, there’s obviously no stealth going on, so it’s more of an odd fashion choice than anything. Mai is a trained ninja, for sure, but if she has the capacity to be stealthy, we’ve never seen her make much of an effort at it.
6 Yuffie Kisaragi – Final Fantasy 7
Yuffie has been trained since birth to be a Wutai spy, and for the most part, she’s pretty good at it. She’s a master of disguise, can use various ninja tools like smoke bombs and shurikens, and she lies like a rug. Unfortunately, at only 16 years old, she’s still very much a child, and it shows.
Yuffie has a tendency to be cocky and flamboyant in her actions; if she thinks she has the upper hand, she’ll always take the time to brag, which usually gives her enemies plenty of time to get the drop on her. Yuffie genuinely cares about her homeland and wants to do whatever she can to help it, but she’s a bit too eager to prove her dedication to that cause, even if it blows her cover.
5 Sheena Fujibayashi – Tales Of Symphonia
In spite of her prodigious skill with paper talismans and spirit channeling, stealth isn’t really part of Sheena’s playbook. In her initial appearances, Sheena attempts to come off as a cold and dedicated assassin. This is quickly foiled when she bumbles into a trap, one that she doesn’t manage to escape from until much later.
That clumsiness, in turn, fuels Sheena’s hot-blooded temper, causing her to dispense with the usual ninja modus operandi and go for straightforward aggression. She can use some common ninja tricks, but whether she forgets about them or just doesn’t care is honestly anyone’s guess.
4 Vega – Street Fighter
Vega is probably not one of the first characters you think of when you think “ninjas,” but according to official sources, his fighting style is classified as “Spanish Ninjutsu,” so it does count, more or less. Vega’s job in Shadaloo is to be an assassin, and he is good at killing people, but he’s never been especially subtle about it.
It’s kind of hard to be stealthy when you’re walking around shirtless with a giant cat claw strapped to your arm, and that’s not even mentioning Vega’s bizarre tendency to shriek like a spider monkey while lunging at people.
Thanks to both a lengthy bout of simulated training and numerous cybernetic enhancements, Raiden is a field agent with stealth skills close to Solid Snake in his prime. Raiden has many of the same skills as another cybernetic ninja, Gray Fox, though despite that title, Raiden’s cybernetics make engaging in stealth kind of pointless.
With his sword and nearly indestructible body, he can take on just about any foe in a straight encounter, so while the quiet approach is an option for him, it’s not really a necessary one. Raiden is an incredible swordsman, for sure, but being a traditional ninja simply isn’t his style.
2 Taki – Soul Calibur
Taki is undoubtedly one of the most professional ninjas on this list. She’s an expert combatant with kunai, a master of spirits and ki manipulation, and a dedicated tracker and assassin. Really, she would be the perfect ninja… if not for her fashion sense. In almost all of her appearances, Taki wears a bright red bodysuit, the stealth applications of which are virtually nil.
Even if she changed her outfit, though, Taki is about 5’7, which, fun fact, makes her abnormally tall by Edo-era Japan standards. She’d stick out like a sore thumb whether in uniform or not.
1 Ryu Hayabusa – Ninja Gaiden
Ryu is definitely one of the most iconic ninjas in all gaming, not to mention one of the very first gaming debuts on this entire list with the original Ninja Gaiden releasing in 1988. In that game, though, Ryu is running through the streets of New York in full, bright blue ninja garb. While such an outfit may be considered stealthy at night and in Japan, in a western city in broad daylight, not so much.
Even in his more recent incarnations, the only real ninja skills Ryu regularly demonstrates are acrobatics and ki manipulation. In his defense, he’s mostly fighting demons and other ninjas in the newer games, so there’s less of a reason to bother with the stealthy stuff.
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About The Author
Daniel Trock (8 Articles Published)
Having played a litany of video games since childhood, Daniel is an old school gaming fiend. He first got into the sphere in the age of the Nintendo 64, and has amassed a respectable personal library over the years, with his Steam library alone currently numbering over 600 games. Daniel enjoys researching his favorite games extensively, from their developmental histories to their narratives and characters. Recently, Daniel has been a regular game guide writer for Gamer Journalist, as writing gives him a chance to gab at length about his favorite topic.