Game Overkill – Ninja Gaiden

I like this game. It is good.

I still vividly remember the first time I played Ninja Gaiden. There was a little general store near my parents’ cottage that also rented movies and video games. I don’t know why we picked it, but my brother and I grabbed Ninja Gaiden. And yes, we absolutely mispronounced it as Ninja Gay-den. We played the crap out of it and immediately rented it a second time. My brother is two years younger than I am, so let’s just say I managed to play the game a little bit more than he did. After days of grinding my way further and further through it, I managed to beat it. Conspicuously absent from these memories is my other brother. He would’ve been a baby at the time. I was apparently too into the game to notice any of his crying.

Who can blame me? As soon as the game starts, it is perfect.

Just look at that GIF. This game shows you who made it and what it’s called in a much more dramatic fashion than any other game I’d played. Then, if you don’t hit start, you’re treated to this:

Unless you were a kid in 1989, I’m not sure you can ever fully appreciate that cutscene. Personally, I had never seen a cutscene in a video game before. I was used to Super Mario Bros., Zelda II, Mega Man 2, and Final Fantasy. Sure, Mega Man 2’s little tracking shot up the building was cool, but it wasn’t until Ninja Gaiden showed me that cutscene that I realized that video games could do so much more than I’d ever imagined.

But then the game actually starts and two more of my favourite things happen. First, my favourite track on a stellar soundtrack comes on:

It is such a great tune. The base and percussion drive the song and the melody is sweet. It is one of my all-time favourite video game tunes.

The next thing you do is press right and hit some buttons.

Just look at him run. Mario, Mega Man, and the rest just look so slow compared to this. And he always has his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to swing it any second. When I started attacking and jumping around, I immediately felt like a badass ninja. The controls are as perfect as any other game’s back then.


Not everything is perfect though. If you’ve never played it, you may have heard that the game is brutally hard. If you have played it, you know this to be absolutely true. Still, unlimited continues means it’s definitely not impossible, but even knowing that won’t stop you from wanting to throw your controller across the room in frustration after a bird kills you for the 15th time. Hopefully, you will learn to appreciate those eagles, as well as the often frustrating knockback, as you can use them to your advantage sometimes.

If I had to pick one thing that I think is “bad,” it’s the bosses. They’re definitely not bad, but they are what I consider the weakest element in the game. The easy ones are a joke and the difficult ones are infuriatingly difficult thanks to their size and fast movement. It could be better, and proof that it could be better came in the two sequels. Honestly, everything was better in the sequels, but you can’t hold that against this one.

One last thing is that when the woman in the above GIF finally reveals her name, it was a little weird for me. She has the same name as my mom. I still remember essentially reacting with a gigantic “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?” I was really young and had never heard of another person with the same name.

I don’t really have any great insights into the game or anything profound to say about Ninja Gaiden. It’s a great game and you should play it if you haven’t. You folks put it in the 45th spot, which is pretty damn good. I prefer Ninja Gaiden II though.

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About Atsinganoi

Atsinganoi started gaming in the early 80s on an Atari 2600 and still thinks they're kinda neat. You can find him on Twitter if you want, just don't call him a frog.


  1. I agree: Original’s great, II’s even better. Enjoyable coverage here!

    • Thanks! I’ll get to II someday, as even if it didn’t make the cut, it’s on my damn list. I’m gonna have to mention your piece on the eagles.

  2. Man, this game. There’s so much to enjoy about this game, which is almost odd to say because it’s so damn hard. My Ninja Gaiden game sessions these days are quite short, simply because I don’t have the patience I used to have.

    Great game.

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