Samurai Game: Legends - The Multiplayer Mode That Lets You Become a Ninja
Ghost of Tsushima takes place during the 13th century in Feudal Japan, specifically during the Kamakura Period. Developed by Sucker Punch and released on the PS4 on July 17, 2020, Ghost of Tsushima is a stellar action game that utilizes a setting that is seldom explored in the industry, particularly by Western developers.
Ghost of Tsushima is certainly unique, however, there have been many samurai-type games that have come in the past. Which titles that alongside Ghost of Tsushima as some of the best samurai games in history?
In terms of gameplay or era, Total War: Shogun 2 and Ghost of Tsushima share basically nothing in common. Despite their many differences, they are two of the most complete and defining titles featuring samurai. Set in feudal Japan, Total War: Shogun 2 casts the player as a warlord fighting for control of the country, with the bulk of the game containing eight factions.
Creative Assembly's franchise has produced some of the greatest strategy games of all time, and Shogun 2 sits among Total War's best releases. Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai jumps forward to the Bakumatsu era and is also worth playing.
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Based on Shinichirō Watanabe's great anime, Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, with SUDA51 handling directorial duties. While it doesn't reach the heights of a No More Heroes or killer7, Sidetracked still oozes personality and charm. Its core beat 'em up mechanics are shallow but fun, and the game ties them into Samurai Champloo's iconic hip-hop soundtrack.
A different beast to Ghost of Tsushima, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a belated video game based on Genndy Tartakovsky's popular cartoon. The show follows a samurai, Jack, who is sent to the future by the evil Aku; naturally, the soft-spoken protagonist sets out to cut the demon in half and return back to his time.
Built on the foundations of titles such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time is a stylish hack and slash game that manages to offer a respectable challenge. It doesn't quite have the depth to justify too many repeat playthroughs, but those seeking a cartoonish samurai adventure with a twist should find a lot to enjoy here.
As the first entry in the series, Onimusha: Warlords may not be as refined as the later sequels. That said, as it was released on all consoles last year as a quick remaster, it remains the easiest to track down and play in 2021. It is simply the Resident Evil formula, but with samurai in the feudal era of Japan fighting demons instead of zombies. It is as cool as it sounds. Capcom needs to give Resident Evil a break and return to this franchise.
Set just after Oda Nobunaga's epic war with Imagawa Yoshimoto in 1560, known as the Battle of Okehazama, players take the role of a warrior encountering demons drawn by the blood-soaked battlefield. Locations of brutal conflicts in Japanese folklore often draw malevolent forces tied to the rage and hatred brought about by war. This proliferates in video games as well, as seen by this and other samurai titles.
Another demon-slaying samurai game is Nioh, a new franchise that debuted in the previous generation. While this could be dismissed as a samurai clone of Dark Souls, it is more than that. With a named character and better balancing next to its sequel that just came out, it is the better of the two. It might even be more challenging than Dark Souls since it demands faster reflexes.
Technically, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is not a samurai game since the main character, Wolf, is closer to a shinobi; however, FromSoftware's title focuses heavily on melee combat, which is a better fit for the samurai archetype than a ninja. Ultimately, Sekiro makes the cut simply because the game is good enough to justify smudging the criteria to include it in this article. If nothing else, Wolf fights a couple of samurai in the campaign.
Sekiro's gameplay is not all that similar to Ghost of Tsushima's, but they both place a heavy emphasis on monitoring and countering the enemy's movements. Sekiro is set after the Sengoku Period and implements a lot of fantastical elements, further setting it apart from Sucker Punch's game.
Katana Zero is an indie darling that also launched in 2019. It borrows the one-hit-kill gameplay of other indies like Hotline Miami but adds a samurai and a slowdown mechanic. With the techno soundtrack and neo-punk aesthetic, this game is a fun trip albeit a short one. Slaying enemies as a cyber samurai is inherently cool and like Nioh, Katana Zero can be quite challenging.
What definitely can be considered a technicolor bloodbath amidst sharpened steel is also the tale of a cold, lifeless killing machine that becomes something more. Set in a dystopian city full of both grime and crime, the player controls Zero, an experiment who may or may not have been a human. Throughout the game, as players get to hunt down and assassinate targets, they'll also be given the chance to chase Zero's thoughts and feelings as he experiences the world around him.
Way of the Samurai 4 is the latest entry in this series and debuted on the PS3 and PC digitally. That is the easiest game, relatively speaking, to get ahold of; however, if one can track down the original on PS2, that is the way to go. It garnered mixed reviews at launch, however, earning a 72 Metascore.
The Way of the Samurai series has an air of diminishing returns past the original, a game that perfectly encapsulates the idea of roaming the countryside as a ronin. Players cut down foes while playing the part of a self-created swordsman or swordswoman in the fictional Japanese coastal town of Amihama during the early 1800s. They can join one of three factions: the Japanese government, the rebels, or the British navy seeking to end the conflict. The story of the game spans five days, each full of decision-making opportunities that will change the course of the tale.
This series has a stigma to it for seemingly offering just mindless hack and slash mayhem. Truthfully, that is not far off base. However, what makes Samurai Warriors so adored by fans is the co-op, which genuinely can make even the worst of games great in some capacity, along with player choice. Slaying thousands of enemies might not be realistic, but it is like a samurai power fantasy. This spin-off of a spin-off, Empires, is recommended above others because it integrates a level of strategy to the franchise.
As another samurai game set during the wartorn era of Japan known as the Sengoku period, this game sees quite a few real, albeit romanticized, battles from the late 1500s to the early 1600s. The first conflict experienced in the game is the battle of Itsukushima, the only bloody conflict to ever take place on the hallowed island of Miyajima. Many more such epic retellings of real events can be enjoyed throughout the course of this game.
This is not a pure samurai game, but in either single-player or multiplayer, the work gone into representing these heroes based on real ones in our world can be mesmerizing. For Honor launched with knights, samurai, and Vikings, and later added warriors based on those from Chinese history. This might be the closest video games can get to simulating real combat with samurai.
Despite not taking place in the real world, all the different classes in the game represent classic warrior archetypes from all over Earth's diverse histories and cultures. This mix of different fighting styles grants each faction versatility and power in a few key places. The Samurai faction consists of seven different heroes for players to stab, slash, and bash their rivals into submission with.
Another simulation-type fighting game, Bushido Blade operates with one-hit kills. This made for some intense battles with the game's AI or against friends. Both entries on the PS1 are good, but the second offers more variety. The game earned fairly admirable reviews, including a score of 83 on Metacritic.
Although weapons common in Feudal era Japan, somewhat equivalent to Europe's medieval ages, are used in this game, the setting is actually much more modern than expected. Players can see helicopters here and there throughout gameplay, as well as other current technology, making much of the techno elements more logical.
Another Square gem lost to time from the PS1 era is Brave Fencer Musashi. This falls more in line with the action RPG genre, and it is a lighthearted one at that, earning an 81 rating on Metacritic. Set in a fictional fantasy world, players control a boy who is the reincarnation of a mighty warrior: the eponymous Musashi. This is one of those tales with many classic fantasy elements that fans of similar games will love, such as doing battle with monsters, saving nobility, and collecting magical artifacts to stop an evil force.
This game is the latest in the series as of 2016. It was released for Vita in the West before coming out on the Switch and PC in 2020. Not many of the Shiren the Wanderer games have been localized due to roguelikes not catching on until recently. Shiren the Wanderer began on the Super Nintendo as a side note, but it left a decent impact with a 75 Metascore.
In the world of fighting games, SNK needs no introduction. Responsible for Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters, SNK has spent decades mastering the art of 2D fighters, and Samurai Shodown ranks among the developer's greatest achievements. Following a 10-year break, the franchise returned in a big way with 2019's reboot, a release that has extremely strong fundamentals.
While not overly stacked with content outside of a pretty basic story/arcade mode, Samurai Shodown's combat comes with more than enough depth to keep players invested for a long time, especially if they want to truly master the game. It should be noted that Samurai Shodown's multiplayer scene is not that active on Steam, so this title is only really worth picking up for those interested in playing solo.
Those who like samurai games set in the more recent 1800s will enjoy this title. There's plenty of action to be had while playing as Ryoma, who has recently finished training with his sword and is eager to test his might. He gets plenty of chances to do so as he gets embroiled in conflicts involving the government and local unrest.