Since Naruto exploded onto the scene in the mid-2000s, we have received one video game adaptation after another. By this point, there are so many different titles, -usually with confusing names like Ultimate Ninja Storm or Ultimate Ninja Storm Full Burst- it is hard to keep track of which games are actually worth playing. With Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker set to be released sometime in 2018, now seems as good a time as any to count down the best games which allow us to step into the blond ninja’s shoes.
It is not just about the combos a player can pull off, but the level of detail implemented in the world and characters. While playing a Naruto game, we want to feel like we can reach out and touch the Hidden Leaf village. Even more important than the story or fighting mechanics is whether the manga and anime’s larger-than-life personality survives the transitions into the video game.
10. Naruto Shippuden: Naruto vs Sasuke
A lesser known title, Naruto Shippuden: Naruto vs Sasuke is the sixth entry in the Ninja Council series developed by Tomy Corporation for Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and later the Nintendo DS. Due to the limitations of the hardware, this game struggles to compare to some of the others, especially in the location design. Despite being released less than a decade ago, Naruto Shippuden: Naruto vs Sasuke shows its GBA roots in every single frame.
Fortunately, the side-scrolling beat ‘em up gameplay is a lot of fun and well worth the price of admission. The majority of the experience is played using Naruto, who can throw stars, teleport, and dish out a few strike attacks. Thankfully, he is never alone, as two other characters join in on his missions. There are fourteen playable fighters with their own unique abilities, which can be unlocked by completing side-missions. This not only allows for a great deal of replayability, but it ensures the gameplay never really gets old.
Despite the misleading title, this 3DS brawler is not actually based on Naruto Shippuden but the parody spin-off series Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. Debuting in April 2012, this chibi style anime lasted for 51 episodes and was geared towards a younger audience. Naruto Powerful Shippuden follows suit, as it incorporates the same comedic tone and animation style seen in the anime.
Although Namco apparently did not trust Rock Lee enough to put his name in the title, he shares the spotlight with Naruto in the storyline. With two campaigns, one for Naruto and the other for Rock Lee, players push through a series of stages filled with baddies needing to be squashed. This is not a one vs one fighter, instead offering a 2D brawling experience and some light RPG elements. Once a level is complete, XP is earned to upgrade stats or unlock new skills. The colorful chibi art style suits the simplistic combat, and support characters can be called into action with the push of a button.
Naruto Powerful Shippuden is a fun little brawler which offers something different from a typical Naruto game. It never takes itself seriously, and although the stages can get a bit repetitive, it does not overstay its welcome.
The final entry into the loved Clash of Ninja series to receive an English translation, Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 included a few important strides forward for the franchise. Boasting an impressive cast of 40 characters, this was the first game in the series set after the launch of Shippuden. This allowed the developers to include new characters, stages, and a fresh story. It also introduced Wi-Fi Battle mode, which allowed for a range of online battles.
The fighting mechanics are easy enough to grasp but difficult to master. As this is a WII game, combos consist of pushing buttons and a few well-timed shakes. Despite the limited nature of the console, Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 offers over a dozen moves per character and a bunch of advanced techniques, like perfect dodges, which are crucial in deciding the outcome of a battle. If there is one slight negative, is that the grind is real! Everything, from characters to areas, is locked away and requires the player to complete the story mode multiple times.
The Ultimate Ninja series first launched on the PlayStation 2 back in 2003. Prior to the release of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, five games made it to the west, although Storm was the first available on the PlayStation 3. In the months leading up to its release, a great degree of hype started to build around CyberConnect2’s fighting game, with the visuals being given a lot of attention by the media. This was touted as the first Naruto to properly adapt the 2-D anime into a 3-D video game setting. Suffice it to say, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm delivered in spades.
Controlling Naruto, players traverse the Hidden Leaf Village, which serves as a hub world, in search of available challenges. This allows for a bit of freedom, as there is no fixed path which needs to be followed. At any given moment, there is a range of characters ready and able to send Naruto on a mission. There are over 100 challenges available in Ultimate Mission Mode, spanning from the original anime to the Sasuke Retrieval Arc. CyberConnect2 even included some customization options, as players can put together their own three-man ninja team before heading out to battle.
The third entry in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, Generations removes the free-roaming hub world from the previous two games, instead offering a traditional story mode. At first, this was a bit disappointing, as we missed being able to explore the Hidden Leaf village, but we understood why CyberConnect2 decided to take this approach. There are eleven arcs to unlock and play through, including ones told from the perspective of fan favorites like Killer Bee and Gaara, which retell the story starting from the original series to Shippuden. This streamlined approach resulted in a shorter but more fulfilling experience, as there is no filler to play through.
Studio Pierrot animated cut-scenes specifically for Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, with some completely new content. The gameplay does not divert too far from the previous Ultimate Ninja Storm, although the combat’s speed was greatly increased. There are 72 playable fighters, with 15 support only ones, so it is almost a guarantee that your favorite character can be found within Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations.
The Xbox 360 received two great exclusive Naruto titles, with The Broken Bond being one of them. What we love about Ubisoft’s take on the franchise is they managed to hit a perfect mid-point between creating an RPG and a fighting game. Hidden Leaf village never looked so good or was this fun to explore, with a slew of mini-games allowing the player to take a break from combat.
Which is not to say the fighting mechanics are not well implemented, as the developers made good use of a fantastic tag team system to fully utilize the 28 playable characters. The cast is diverse and boasts their own unique combos, although there are a handful of moves which remain consistent across the board. This might sound lazy, but it makes it easier to pick up a random fighter to try out, as they do not feel completely alien. We also love the sound effects, which add some much-needed oomph to each move.
Musou games are not for everyone, so some might find Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact somewhat disappointing. Released on the PSP, which also housed the Ultimate Ninja Heroes set of games, the developers dropped the traditional fighting mechanics for a Dynasty Warriors experience. Each stage consists of a series of rooms housing a large horde of enemies which need to be defeated before the player can move on to the next challenge. They do not offer much of a fight, but it is hard to not feel like a bad-ass after blowing away a few dozen guys.
Set after the three-year time skip, the story covers the story from the Gaara rescue arc until the end of the Five Kage Summit arc. There is a great deal of content to play through, with side-missions and unlockable characters, but the most addictive element comes in the form of a card system. Once a level is completed, booster packs are dropped containing a few random cards, which can be assigned to one of four character slots. Providing stat boosts and other unique benefits, this system added a great deal of replayability, serving as an incentive to revisit completed levels.
The latest Naruto game, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 originally received some bad press due to a few bugs on the PC version. Once these issues were ironed out, fans were left with an expansive addition to the franchise and the most bombastic one yet. Right off the bat, the playable cast is just massive! Including the DLC, over 75 characters make the jump from the anime, with most receiving more than one version of themselves.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a gorgeous game, even eclipsing the anime. The combat is, admittedly, overly simplistic and favors style over substance. The controls and combos remain consistent throughout the cast, but CyberConnect2 did such a fantastic job of recreating the moves from the source material, that we cannot help but forgive them. They even introduced a few new gameplay mechanics, like the ability to switch characters on the fly, and brought back the option to equip jutsu prior to a battle. There are a few small touches which also improve the overall experience, like how outfits are damaged by attacks.
Yes – this is the other great Xbox 360 exclusive. From all the dozens of released Naruto games, this is the one that feels the most like it is taking place in the anime. The story covers the first 80 or so episodes of the original series, and drops the players into Naruto’s shoes and the Hidden Leaf village. Although combat plays a big part, a good chunk of time is dedicated to platforming and exploring the hub world. Like the source material, Naruto is hated and mocked by the rest of the village, so atfirst, NPCs will not even talk to the orange jumpsuit-wearing shinobi, although they loosen up as the plot progresses.
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja captures the spirit of Masashi Kishimoto’s beloved series perfectly. Each environment, especially the Hidden Leaf village, is as close to an ideal replica of the original as possible. It does not feel like we are just revisiting Naruto’s greatest hits, holding no influence on how the story progresses, but that we are the ninja and this is our story. The combat is quite challenging and requires patience to master, with each character equipped with an arsenal of moves and abilities capable of overcoming any obstacle. It is one of the best-balanced fighting games set in the Naruto universe.
The definitive Naruto video game, and the first to be released for the PC, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst is not only a mouth full but an ideal purchase for fans and newcomers alike. In an act of mercy, the story mode does not reset and just continues from the events of Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, covering from the Five Kage Summit Arc until the Shinobi World War Arc. As the manga and anime were yet to finish, a unique ending is included. Otherwise, the story rarely diverts from the one we already know.
Initially, players will spend a great deal of time working their way through Ultimate Adventure, which is Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst’s story mode. Lasting for well over ten hours, the combat is intercut with long cut scenes recreating famous moments from the anime. Those who are unfamiliar with the series might feel a bit lost, but fans should get a kick out of these segments. The massive cast of 81 playable characters is unlocked via Ultimate Adventure, and then can be used in free or online mode.
The combat is easy to grasp but satisfying. Combos are assigned to only one button, with the moves changing depending on which direction on the left analog stick is chosen by the player. Battles are fast paced and, at times, overwhelming, mimicking the kinetic nature of the anime’s action scenes.
Whenever a Naruto game is released, we always find them to give them a try. From Clash of Ninja’s 2-D arenas to the explosive Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise, Masashi Kishimoto’s creation has proven to be a reliable source for video game adaptations. In comparison to One Piece or Dragon Ball, the quality of the games are considerably more consistent and enjoyable. As the Boruto series is doing well, it is unlikely there will be a shortage of new content for the future.
Do you think there are any other must play Naruto games we should have included? Please let us know in the comment section below.
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