• Publisher: Tecmo
  • Release Date: Mar 2, 2004

Universal acclaim - based on 89 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 86 out of 89
  2. Negative: 1 out of 89
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  1. From start to finish, the main element that propels Ninja Gaiden above all others in the action genre is the dazzling combat-based gameplay.
  2. There has been such precise and accurate detail placed on this game that it would be near impossible to point out any faults.
  3. 100
    Ninja Gaiden epitomizes all that is beautiful in gaming, an experience that is at once difficult, though never in a cheap way, and artistically crafted.
  4. 100
    The jaw-dropping graphics help. As do the weapons, power-ups and the scope of the game (15-plus levels, 40-50 hours of play to complete). But it's the fighting that really won us over.
  5. The character models and environments are drop dead gorgeous. This is one of the prettiest games to ever grace a console, on par with some of the high end PC games out there.
  6. This game is cooler than ice cream stored in a fridge on Pluto. It look cools, it plays cool, it sounds cool.
  7. 100
    The majority of folks will clock in for a 20-plus-hour thrill ride. Few games are this good, for so long, and still keep you coming back for more. Ninja Gaiden is truly outstanding.
  8. 100
    The sense of accomplishment is strong with this one, as if the frenetic gameplay, incredible bosses, and awe-inspiring graphics aren't enough already.
  9. This is one of the best-looking games on the Xbox. That it also boasts fluid, intuitive gameplay, and does not condescend to the audience by making the fighting too simple or automatic, is miraculous.
  10. Play Magazine
    What Team Ninja have achieved is no less than a modern miracle, a game that somehow conjures the same stickiness and addictive spirit as its 8-bit juggernaut. Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox is, quite simply, a perfect video game. [Apr 2004, p.53; Grade = A+]
  11. Computer Games Magazine
    It is probably one of the hardest action games in quite some time, and requires extremely quick reflexes and skillful gameplay. [Grade = A+; June 2004, p.12]
  12. The actual fighting in the game is flawless...One of my favorite games of all time and easily my favorite game on Xbox. [Grade = A+]
  13. 100
    One of the best, most challenging games ever made. Ninja Gaiden is as close to perfect as a game can get. The game sports cutting edge graphics, great sound and the best fighting engine that has ever been created.
  14. Hands down the first great action title of 2004. The game will punish you with difficulty, but will keep you hooked with gorgeous eye candy, stellar and smooth game play.
  15. Ninja Gaiden does everything right from A to Z.
  16. Gorgeous graphical elements, outstanding animation and a solid storyline with strong challenge – what more is there to say?
  17. The action is fast, fluid, fun, and it never feels like just a big hack-n-slash fest.
  18. There aren't many titles that become increasingly satisfying as a gamer goes on, but Ninja Gaiden is one of them. By combining gameplay elements from almost every genre, and doing each one well, Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja should be applauded.
  19. Official Xbox Magazine
    What it has to offer is quite possibly the purest, deepest, most rewarding single-player action experience available on this current generation of hardware. [May 2004, p.66]
  20. As complex as the game might seem, its success is contingent on one main feature-fun. It's rare that after 20 hours of solving this puzzle and slashing that boss you'd want to try it again. Expect to do that with Ninja Gaiden.
  21. Not only does this Xbox-exclusive offer blazing action, mind-numbing visuals, and some of the most fluid combat you're likely to see this year, Team Ninja has buried the original three Ninja Gaiden NES games, taunting you to play and replay this game on increasingly difficult skills levels.
  22. People are saying this is the best game of 2004 so far. I would go a bit further and say this is the best game of the last year because, if no other reason, the game play is simply amazing. The movement physics are ultra smooth and fast paced.
  23. The action is fast paced and fluid on every character model, boss, and Ryu himself. The difficulty in the game is pretty tough, yet fair and very enjoyable.
  24. From start to finish, this game captivated me to no end and wowed me like few others have. [Apr 2004, p.102]
  25. Complaints aside, Ninja Gaiden is a great taste of old school, hardcore gaming wrapped in a beautiful package with solid control and combat mechanics.
  26. Quicksilver pacing, white-knuckle tension, and spit-shined effects put Gaiden among the most remarkable action games ever made, but it's every bit as hardcore. [May 2004, p.104]
  27. 95
    Simply the most polished and responsive action game we have seen so far this generation, and it's my belief it will likely remain so till the end. It fulfills the half-forgotten promise of the Xbox: to provide a gaming experience you can't get anywhere else. [*Note: GameSpy equates 5-stars/Ed Choice with a score of 95.]
  28. Drop dead gorgeous!! And I don't mean the game gets better looking as you go along. I mean from the very second you are thrust into the action part of the game, you can immediately see the raw power of the Ninja Gaiden graphic engine.
  29. The graphical intensity of the 3D environments is breathtaking.
  30. The weapon combos and gymnastic maneuvers make it one of the most graceful and strategic action games I've ever played thanks to some stellar A.I. and challenging gameplay. Combine that with outstanding level design, flawless graphics, and lots of crazy boss battles and you've got a game that will make any action gamer stand up and cheer.
  31. The few camera issues that you may have are merely teething troubles and will soon make way to pure unadulterated ninja killing with style and flair. This game has Xbox classic written all over it.
  32. Ninja Gaiden's greatest strength is its combat system, which gradually evolves as you progress through the game.
  33. Arguably one of the hardest XBox titles to date, and, as long as you're equal to its stiff challenge, one of the best.
  34. The story and action will keep you enthralled to its very end. Improvements in the level design and camera control could have shot this title into a stratosphere all of its own, but for Xbox owner's fleet of foot and quick of blade, this is essential gaming.
  35. 95
    It is beautiful, challenging, rewarding and fun. It's a game that you could play through several times just for the hell of it, and that's before you actively try going after the many, very cool extras. It is a game that encompasses your thoughts in all walks of life.
  36. Aside from the camera issues I'd say that Ninja Gaiden is everything that I could have hoped for in an action game. It's got intense action, a deep and varied combat system, lush visuals and the overall challenge that I had been waiting for.
  37. 95
    Bottom line is once you get used to the difficulty of NG you'll enjoy it for the challenge it offers and the cool factor the entire game incorporates.
  38. 94
    Sets a new standard for third-person action games in terms of length, depth, speed, and gore. It is Itagaki's masterpiece, easily Team Ninja's best work, and one of the finest games on the Xbox to date. How many action games combine great controls, amazing visuals, superb gameplay, and incredible design? Not many.
  39. One of the best, most challenging action adventure games ever made. Not only does Ninja Gaiden feature bleeding-edge graphics and sound, it boasts simply the best pure action ever seen in such a game.
  40. The most striking thing about the way Ninja Gaiden plays is that there isn't a cheap gimmick or the odd handy feature: it's that the animation and control are coupled perfectly to make a fluid and almost effortless game experience.
  41. There aren't many action/adventure games that can compete with Ninja Gaiden. In fact, it may be the best game of all time in that genre.
  42. By far the most beautiful game on the Xbox. I'd go so far as to say it is the best looking title on any system.
  43. It has a surprisingly deep combat system, highly responsive controls, graphics to die for, and audio to both dot the i and cross the t.
  44. A welcome return to the no nonsense do-or-die school of games. You have to battle for every inch, but around every corner there's something amazing!
  45. 93
    Ninja Gaiden offers you more than just quality gameplay – it offers a way of life.
  46. 92
    This game is extremely difficult -have no illusions about that- but it's great fun to play and this, combined with amazing graphics and great sound, make this an essential purchase.
  47. Combining the excellent, fast paced gameplay, with the magnificent visuals of DOA3, Tecmo created a gem of a game and has doubtlessly created a new step towards action game perfection.
  48. Whether you're an old fan, like an intense new challenge or just appreciate a well-done video game, Ninja Gaiden has what you're looking for.
  49. The combat is challenging but fair, and some of the physical puzzles may call for numerous attempts, and none of it is impossible.
  50. Entertainment Weekly
    The levels are satisfyingly expansive; the gameplay is fluid and fast (and fiendishly difficult). [16 Apr 2004, p.L2T 19]
  51. This is as good as a hack-and-slash epic gets.
  52. Tecmo's refusal to extend any kind of handhold to less dedicated players is simply a failure of design, not a badge of hardcore honour ... it's impossible to believe they couldn't have found a way to increase the accessibility of the game without undermining the gloriously intractable nature of the challenges it contains. [Apr 2004, p.96]
  53. While it may intimidate casual gamers, the hardcore will eat this up. Ninja Gaiden is the work of developers at the peak of their powers and is, pound for pound, light years beyond anything else in the category. [Jan 2004, p.47]
  54. No other game manages to deliver on the potential of controlling a ninja with this much flair and authority - it is, no bullshit, one of the finest action games ever made. Sever my spinal cord if I'm lying.
  55. Ultimately, Tecmo have created a game that recreates, and in a none too shallow way, the martial arts action movie experience.
  56. It will frustrate you. It's unrelenting, but you'll keep coming back for more, not just for the challenge itself, but for the hidden treasures that lie within.
  57. AceGamez
    There is nothing here that hasn't been done before in some form or another, but no other game has mixed so many fine ingredients together in such a stylish and well-designed fashion.
  58. Retains a feeling that we haven't felt from playing videogames in a long, long time; perhaps it's the sheer difficulty challenge, a key component to many long-forgotten classics; perhaps it's the fact that gameplay prevails over story and character development, something sadly missing from many of today's games; perhaps it's just the fact that Ninja Gaiden is just a damn fun game to play.
  59. Graphics are top-notch, with highly detailed characters and environments, and a clever third-person "camera" that follows Ryu during battles, exploration and puzzle-solving.
  60. netjak
    An amazing game whose play hearkens back to the vintage days of gaming, though not without a few hindrances. With beautiful graphics, animations, sound effects, and controls, this game is a must play for any gamer.
  61. Cheat Code Central
    One of the most challengingly beautiful game experiences I've had to date and it's only fault is a camera that makes things unnecessarily difficult in approximately 5% of the game.
  62. 90
    It's just unfortunate, though, that the camera mars a game that is so brilliant and tops everything else in the action/beat 'em up genre in so many ways. Ninja Gaiden is a landmark title that's better than anything similar you'll find, but it also serves as a reminder that even the best isn't necessarily perfect.
  63. In a sea of mediocre and washed out titles, Tecmo has delivered a stellar title for the Xbox that does not rely on the Live package, or massive bouncing breasts...Stylistic, challenging, and entertaining, Ninja Gaiden delivers on the promises that games like "Devil May Cry" made.
  64. The extreme difficulty level will turn off most casual gamers and the camera system needs a little tweaking, but the environments are huge and varied and the combat system keeps things fresh. Ryu is one of the most impressive, easy to control and well designed characters to ever grace a videogame.
  65. 90
    Though i wouldn't expect anything less from the makers of "Dead or Alive," Ryu's animations are brilliantly motion captured and suitably fluid.
  66. The combat system is deep, varied and insanely addictive thanks to dozens of fantastic techniques and plenty of memorable enemies. The adventure is superb and the number of collectibles and hidden items keep the gameplay fresh.
  67. 90
    Given the strength of the controls, it's a shame Gaiden falls victim to the classic third-person action game pitfall: the camera. While we've seen many worse examples, it does have issues.
  68. It reminds us of what hardcore gaming is really all about, and digs deep into our senses as we rip from room to room, collecting items and slashing the living hell out of whatever moves in an attempt to prove your ninjahood and uphold the honor of your fallen clan. It isn't perfect, but what it has to offer shouldn't be ignored.
  69. Throws in some streamlined role-playing elements such as basic item gathering and earning experience points. But you'd never mistake NG for a role-playing game because most role-playing games don't require the reflexes of a mongoose.
  70. TotalGames.net
    Bone shattering throws, deadly, sword slashes, and plenty of Ryu's Dead or Alive signature moves all combine to create an immensely satisfying experience that feels like a breah of fresh air after "Prince of Persia's" rather limited combat. [XBM]
  71. Other than the odd time that the camera misbehaves on you, Ninja Gaiden is without a doubt going to be in the running for game of the year.
  72. 86
    My biggest criticism of NG is the placement of the save points, especially before bosses.
  73. With a string of never-ending combos rattling off my fingertips intuitively, without thought, I now stand my ground against one and all, confident in my abilities, quite certain of my power. And it's exhilarating, in the face of such overwhelming adversity, to be able to do so.
  74. The game's sound also deserves top marks with unique environmental fitting music and excellent combat sound effects.
  75. Weekly Famitsu
    9 / 8 / 8 / 8 - 33 gold [Vol 796; 19 Mar 2004]
  76. 83
    Ninja Gaiden often feels like a very hard, but very generic action game after you get over the whole, "Wow, Ninjas!" thing that most people will have when they first play.
  77. Yes, the camera can be very annoying and the game is unquestionably difficult and at times frustrating, but the whole is much better than the sum of its parts. It's rare for an action game to get better the longer you play it.
  78. It completely captures the core of that oft-revered 2D console gameplay and rerealizes it almost flawlessly...If Gaiden isn't the "perfect" action game, it's pretty damn close.
  79. games(TM)
    A breathtaking romp that juxtaposes superbly implemented combat with intrusive CGI cut-scenes and the sort of archaic puzzles that would make the "Resident Evil" franchise proud. [May 2004, p.96]
  80. The fact that there is neither 'easy' mode, nor training section hurts. The game is too harsh and hence off putting.
  81. A superbly crafted game, but it's tough!...This is fluid combat at its absolute best.
  82. It's a good thing the levels are as great as they are, because you're likely to do a lot of backtracking. The gameplay doesn't require it, but the absurd placement of save points does.
  83. Even still, the lack of any serious genre innovation puts Ninja Gaiden somewhere circa 2001, well behind the likes of "Onimusha3" and to a lesser extent, "Otogi2." Each of those games demonstrates exactly how far the genre can be taken when a little extra effort has been put into such trivialities as background elements, level design and a decent camera system.
  84. It's really too bad the camera has such a horrendous impact on the gameplay, because that single visual hindrance spoils an otherwise impeccable graphical experience. Really, there are no two ways to say it: the non-camera graphics in Ninja Gaiden are astonishing.
  85. 70
    If not for the bland level construction and an oddly low-slung camera this would be truly outstanding.
  86. Ninja Gaiden, despite one of the year's worst camera systems, still manages to be one of the year's best action games.
  87. Most of the visual beauty takes a back seat to a bad camera and fairly repetitive gameplay. To be blunt, the camera system in Ninja Gaiden sucks.

Awards & Rankings

#3 Most Discussed Xbox Game of 2004
#6 Most Shared Xbox Game of 2004
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 193 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 16 out of 193
  1. Mar 30, 2017
    A kick ass way of bring back a classic. Well done. Totally worth checking out.

    Sadly it's sequels after this were not so special... Oh
    A kick ass way of bring back a classic. Well done. Totally worth checking out.

    Sadly it's sequels after this were not so special... Oh well... This one was still pretty sweet.
    Full Review »
  2. Sep 15, 2022
    "Ninja Gaiden" for the original Xbox is a great action game in the tradition of "Devil May Cry". Developed by Team Ninja and released in 2004,"Ninja Gaiden" for the original Xbox is a great action game in the tradition of "Devil May Cry". Developed by Team Ninja and released in 2004, it's a punishingly difficult action-adventure. According to director Tomonobu Itagaki, this reboot is set in the "Dead or Alive" universe and serves as a prequel to the NES titles. Being a fan of "God of War" and "Onimusha", I ended up buying an Xbox console just to play this and I didn't regret it. This is a masterpiece that ranks up with the best action titles ever made. It certainly is the best one made for the original Xbox. Unfortunately, the sequels did not live up to its level of excellence. In addition, the rebooted franchise never became as popular as its competition. Regardless, this first installment of the "new" Ninja Gaiden is a must-play. It surpasses the first "God of War" and "Devil May Cry" games in terms of map design, weapon selection and combat. I would rate it with a 9.4 out of 10. Full Review »
  3. Dec 16, 2019
    + playability
    + extreme difficulty
    + creative final bosses
    + art and design
    - Storyline
    - Sometimes ridiculously hard