A great new entry in publisher Yacht Club Games’ portfolio, Mechanical Head Studios’ Cyber Shadow is the “quintessential ninja action game.” Following the hero on his apocalyptic crusade through the all-too-familiar cyberpunk setting of Mekacity, Cyber Shadow captured its audience almost immediately with its beautiful pixel art, pumped-up soundtrack, and classically challenging gameplay.
Much like its ancestors in the Ninja Gaiden franchise, and its older brother Shovel Knight, Yacht Club’s newest promised quite an experience. After its relatively short play-time (by today’s standards at least), many found themselves satisfied, if not wanting just a bit more from the stunning world of Mekacity. While waiting for a potential sequel, or just Yacht Club’s next venture into the world of platforming, here are some games to fill the void of high-octane 2D action.
11 Katana ZERO
Here is another fantastic breakneck ninja game with a tech-beat soundtrack and some of the best gamefeel one can expect from an action platformer. Released in 2019, Katana ZERO is available on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.
Katana ZERO is a stylish example of the modern pixel art community’s finest. From the visuals to the techno bumps and the time-freeze mechanics, Katana ZERO is the perfect rhythmic cyber-thriller.
10 Shovel Knight
Yacht Club’s first mainline game, Shovel Knight surprised fans with a deeply nostalgic, yet shiny and new experience.
Riding on the gimmick of classic NES style, Shovel Knight quickly became much, much more than just a tribute to some of the best platformers of all time. The game boasts a charming world, well-developed characters, and several DLC featuring fan-favorite bosses. For fans of the genre, Shovel Knight is a must-play.
9 Ninja Gaiden
Cyber Shadow’s direct inspiration, as cited by Yacht Club in its initial announcement. Ninja Gaiden is a tough-as-nails classic that’s gone on surprisingly long considering the series’ many ups and downs over recent years.
Most players will recommend the first three NES titles and the first two reboots, which should be more than enough content to occupy a good franchise binge. Hopefully, Ryu will make a comeback before long and a new Ninja Gaiden game will become a reality.
8 Mega Man X Collection
What can be said about Megaman X that hasn’t already been said a million times before?
Capcom’s classic title is often cited as not only the best Mega Man game, but one of the best video games of all time. Mega Man X’s design is all-around fantastic, and game designers and artists alike use it as a premiere example of teaching good, fun design in the industry.
7 Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon
Following the successful Kickstarter campaign from the beloved developer of Castlevania, the Bloodstained series promised a return to the franchise’s roots.
Curse of the Moon was released as an accompaniment to the Kickstarter’s main course, Ritual of the Night, except boasting a much more retro style, akin to Castlevania’s early titles. A splendid homage to NES games, Curse of the Moon is a great game even without the nostalgia goggles. A sequel was also released in 2020.
6 The Messenger
Devolver’s The Messenger can easily be seen as a spiritual twin to Cyber Shadow, taking the same approach to a modernized adaptation of Ninja Gaiden.
The premise of the game is fairly simple, summed up primarily in the title. The player takes control of a ninja on his quest to deliver a scroll to the top of a mountain. Along the way, the game presents new abilities and twists, giving the classic formula a new spin.
5 Mark Of The Ninja
Mark of the Ninja is praised as being one of the greatest stealth games of the modern era, with the title garnering perfect scores from several sites.
Following a nameless protagonist through the ages-old conflict between tradition and tech, Mark of the Ninja is a beautifully executed entry into the genre, and a great outlet for players to execute their ninja fantasies. When it comes to modern 2D action-stealth games, they don’t get much better than Mark of the Ninja.
Strider is another beautiful example of how to reboot a classic arcade franchise, with its slick visuals and tight controls.
The original Strider was a major influence on franchises like God of War and Devil May Cry, with its innovative hack-n-slash style. The reboot brings protagonist Hiryu into a slightly darker version of the series’ dystopian future. In reality, both versions are a blast and well worth players’ time if not for the original’s limited availability.
3 Super House Of Dead Ninjas
Taking a cue from classic arcade games with a more modern rogue-lite approach, Adult Swim’s Super House of Dead Ninjas is an addictive, fast-paced rush.
Akin to Minit, SHoDN gives players only 30 seconds to make their way down a randomly generated tower, with time bonuses granted along the way. The formula promises quite a bit of replayability, even if it is naturally very difficult.
2 Project Blue
Following the recent trend of creating games with the limited hardware of old consoles, toggleSwitch’s Project Blue met a successful Kickstarter goal to allow the game to be brought to real workable NES cartridges (as well as a slightly more available digital release).
In a fitting tone, the player is set loose in a cyberpunk apocalypse and tasked with fighting a megacorp. While simple in premise and gameplay, Project Blue has a surprisingly charming style and more than succeeds in its fulfillment of the gimmick.
1 BONUS: Vapor Trails
An indie release that’s actually still in its early access stage, Vapor Trails is a promising venture into a world bursting with style.
Noted by reviewers as “akin to something from Platinum Games,” the mechanics are tight as combat becomes a dance between offense and defense with an exquisite flow. The developer is also actively working to fill the game out past its (already satisfying) current state, meaning reviews and critiques are more than welcome, and will likely be implemented into the dev cycle as the game continues to grow.