Best Samurai Games

The Best Samurai Games

The Best Samurai Games

I’ve always felt that there needed to be a good Samurai RPG, but I’ve yet to find one. A feudal Japan setting, with some added mysticism and the classic Japanese steel seems to be a natural habitat for a role playing game, however there hasn’t been that definitive game in said genre. While several games featuring Samurai have included RPG elements, a traditional (think turn-based) game still doesn't exist. When other RPGs do have a Samurai character, you better believe I feature them and level them up as much as possible.

That said, I have enjoyed plenty of console games that have imagined the Samurai and Ronin culture. I have excluded games that only tie into the Samurai culture because they use a Katana, or games that are about the Ninja {which is why games from the Ninja Gaiden series or Tenchu series are not included). This list is strictly comprised of Samurai centered games or at least where the Samurai culture plays a large role. I have chosen to only select one game per series.  Because the Samurai game genre is not extensive, I have chosen these as some of the best Samurai games.

Upcoming Samurai RPG Candidate


Ghost of Tsushima

Made by Sucker Punch, the studio behind the Infamous series, not much is known about Ghost of Tsushima as the trailer at Paris Games Week showed no (or at least very little) gameplay footage. However, because of Sucker Punch's track record, one can assume an open world action game with RPG elements and a AAA budget. At E3 2018, a gameplay trailer as well as a bag stage demo were revealed. A third person action game set in an absolutely stunning open world, interspersed with swordplay, climbing mechanics and some stealth, Ghost of Tsushima appears primed to take the mantle of greatest Samurai video game. 

Watch the gameplay trailer here:


Not the Best Samurai Games

Seven Samurai 20XX

Not a Good Example of a Samurai Game - Seven Samurai 20XX

PlayStation 2  

A retelling of the seminal Seven Samurai, this game doesn't deserve the title. Mostly a mess, the retelling is the only redeeming factor. The gameplay boils down to hack and slash with some decent combos. It's playable but doesn't contain the necessary production value needed to come close to equaling the source material (I can't imagine any game could).  While the world building and character archetypes are admirable and attempt originality, the music and graphics are subpar enough as to not fill it out. There is no reason to play this game, especially looking back now.

Samurai Warriors

PlayStation 2

Brawling as a Samurai in Samurai Warriors

A carbon copy of the Dynasty Warriors formula, yet set with Samurai. Similar to its Dynasty cousins, Samurai Warriors is a brawler, and similarly there's not a lot to it. The Dynasty Warrior franchise is plenty popular, but they are all rather shallow. The brawling mechanics are solid and fun, but it's all extremely repetitive. Kendo is a very technical discipline and Samurai Warriors is nothing more than a button-masher. If you like the other games in the Dynasty Warriors franchise however you'll like this one.


PlayStation 2

A Weak Facsimile of Bushido Blade

Another early PS2 game, fighting is very simple, with only one button used to attack your enemies. While the attempt to remove button-mashing mechanics for timing and patience is admirable, it doesn't work out. The fact this is literally the only gameplay makes this repetitive and boring. The only thing breaking up the monotony are special moves initiated after filling the Ki bar. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Kengo are the gameplay aspects that found there way into Nioh whether intentional or not.

Blood Will Tell

PlayStation 2

Fighting for His Parts

Continuing the trend of mediocre Samurai game on PS2, Blood Will Tell features hack and slash gameplay, that is honestly broken due to the camera. In many instances it is hard to tell where you are being attacked from and how best to attack your "target." However, unlike the games above, Blood Will Tell has an intriguing story in which the main character is attempting to regain the body parts he is missing, 48 in all. 

Best Samurai Games Honorable Mention

Genji: Dawn of the Samurai

PlayStation 2

Genji's Dynasty Warriors-like Gameplay

Genji: Dawn of the Samurai is very similar to Onimusha in its gameplay style, but the combat is much more fluid, almost like the Dynasty Warriors series. The graphics are strong, and the story is fine when considering the mysticism of the material. A sequel followed on the PlayStation 3 but wasn't regarded as well despite the upgrade in hardware power. Unlike many of the other Samurai games on this list, Genji did feature platforming, which was the only feature that broke up the combat, however it wasn't very polished and served no purpose outside of simple traversal.

Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny

PlayStation 2

Onimusha is essentially a Samurai version of Resident Evil even with the antiquated D pad movement. To be fair, Onimusha 2 did add the ability to change the controls to a true 3D movement (as opposed to turning with the left and right buttons and pressing up to move forward - also known as tank controls). Combat was good but I didn’t care for all the soul collecting and straight demon fighting. The second game in the series also had much more exploring which got tedious because of the controls (no analog stick, really?). The third game featured Jean Reno and a strange time travel plot, but also a terrific opening cutscene but Onimusha 2 still remains the best in the series.

The graphics were great for the time, even if the backgrounds were pre-rendered, usually colorful and a nice setting, but this is a game that is very hard to go back and play because of the clunky controls. Unlike other games on this list, there really is no charm here.

Any of the Onimusha games could be added here (we'll except for the third game because of, well, time travel). But Onimusha 2 gets the nod for its innovation of controls and lack of convoluted plot.

Afro Samurai

PlayStation 3

Afro Samurai was a show that I really tried to get into. Its style was as close as I could find to Ninja Scroll, just with some more comedy thrown in. It wasn’t the greatest show, but what it did, it did well, setting up each fight as a, what in video game terminology, boss battle.

The game captures the show well. And that is probably the best thing about it. The art style is a great match if not perfectly smooth and the gameplay is decent, but the charm of the show and the difference between a great game and a good game was missing. It’s a solid game that doesn't do anything special and really just inspires you to watch the fantastic television series instead.

For Honor

PlayStation 4

The Samurai of For Honor

For Honor isn't purely a Samurai game, so I might slightly be breaking my own rule, but it possibly has the most technical swordplay controls in any game on this list, and possibly of all-time. A combination of timing, tactics and reflexes, pitting Samurai against other great warriors of the past, in this case Vikings and Knights, should prove a very intriguing game.

Some of the Best Samurai Games

Bushido Blade


Bushido Blade Box Art

Bushido Blade is antiquated by today’s fighting game standards, but its simplicity was addictive. Bushido Blade was the first fighting game I can remember that had one hit kills and the ability to injure specific limbs. This was in a time of traditional arcade fighters such as Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken. The graphics weren't great at the time, and definitely do not hold up, but with a full 3D map, this game ran incredibly well.

In one on one combat in a wide open arena (huge for the time on PlayStation), combatants faced one another wielding several different type of striking weapons, mostly swords. Bushido itself means “warrior code of honor” specific to the Japanese. While not everything in this game is related to Samurai, Bushido is the honor code in which they lived by and plays an important part in the game.

It felt so rewarding to get a one hit kill, but it also forced the player to be cautious and pick their spots, being very patient not to expose yourself during a strike. Exposing yourself and missing the crucial strike often meant you were on the receiving end of death.

Way of the Samurai

PlayStation 2

Way of the Samurai box art

As far as a day in the life goes, Way of the Samurai probably best illustrated the life of a Ronin (for a videogame). From the onset there were so many different ways to play this game. Because of the branching gameplay there was some trial and error and the game could be “finished” in one sit down, but the game could be played multiple ways.

At its heart, Way of the Samurai is a combat game. It’s very slow going combat, and it forces you not to be a button masher. Similar to Bushido Blade, exposing yourself can lead to a quick death. Each sword also has a limited durability, so blocking and striking will wear them down. Swords offer different attributes, and over time special abilities can be used. If you choose to fight though, you better be ready. These games had small story archs but they could be different each playthrough, which made short plays more gratifying, but ultimately made "completing" the game more difficult.

Muramasa Rebirth 

PlayStation Vita

Getting Closer to the Best Samurai Game with Muramasa Rebirth

A remastered version of an original Wii title, Muramasa is one of the best Samurai games that also includes RPG elements. Set in 2D, Muramasa is absolutely gorgeous, especially in high definition, and combat is smooth and reaches a certain Metroidvania level of non-linearity where new weapons are required to open up certain areas. It's a perfect title for the Vita because it's so easy to pick up and play.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

PlayStation 4/ PC

Shadow Tactics using the Shuriken

A real-time strategy game, Shadow Tactics is a bit of an acquired taste. It has an immense difficulty because of its stealth-based gameplay all while controlling up to five characters, each with their own specialty (some of which are more useful than others, but are all necessary). The story is primarily told through the Samurai Oshiro Mugen and he is joined by the ninja Hayato, a thief named Yuki, Aiko the spy, and Takuma who is a long-range  sharpshooter. This makes trail and error a necessity, which isn't for everyone. Despite this, Blades of the Shogun is steeped in Samurai lore in addition to a beautiful art style.

The Best Goofy Samurai Game

Rising Zan Box Art

Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman


Super goofy with awful graphics, this game was probably the Samurai game I’ve played the most. It’s not a traditional Samurai game by any means as Zan, the protagonist wielded a revolver (with unlimited rounds) in addition to his Katana. It was a little Devil May Cry before there ever was such a thing. It took place in the west and added a Japanese flavor instead of just making direct parallels to the two cultures like Hollywood has done.

The box art is gorgeous (and implies a much more serious tone than the game itself) but the standout is the intro music. It occasionally pops itself into my head even today; “Riiiiising Zaaaaaaannn, Samurai gun man!”

Candidates for the Best Samurai Game - The Runners Up

Samurai Shodown


Samurai Shodown Arcade

I played this game in the arcade (or the NeoGeos they used to have at McDonald’s) and the Sega Genesis. I much preferred the Genesis version based solely on using a controller compared to a joystick (as I did for all my fighting games, the six-button controller mind you). Samurai Shodown was the best alternative to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2 at the time.  I realize now that it is a much deeper game that Mortal Kombat ever was and of course my affinity for Samurai wasn’t what it was, but this is a game I still find myself enjoying, while Mortal Kombat doesn’t have the same effect (Street Fighter 2 is still the pinnacle in my estimation).

I almost exclusively played with Haohmaru because he really embodied the Samurai not to mention he was the face of the franchise and the first character I played with.   

Samurai Shodown (2019)

Arcade/PlayStation 4/XBox One/Switch

Samurai Shodown 2019

Take everything from the last paragraph and update it by 20 years. The best fighting game on this list, the updated version is a completely new game. Similar to the newest iterations of Street Fighter, the facelift still pays homage to the original. Besides the new graphical look, the fighting has an intensity that was lacking in the original. Single player is improved from the original (which was essentially just a versus mode) with the new one have a more complete story. But, compared to many of the fighting games of today, especially Mortal Kombat or Injustice, the story mode is severly lacking. The contemporaries have not changed and will inevitably remain as the competition, and in that regard, Samurai Shodown is lacking.

Total War: Shogun 2


One of the Best Representations of Samurai - Total War - Shogun 2

 A turn-based strategy game similar and something akin to Final Fantasy Tactics with some other gameplay aspects as well (all played out in real-time), the Total War series offers clan battles and diplomacy. The generals you control are where the RPG elements are found, improving traits which leads to building them out as almost mythical leaders. Shogun 2 is sequel to a series, that prior to its predecessor, was located in Europe.

Perhaps the coolest aspect of Shogun 2 is the historical basis of the encounters, providing a bit of history to it's original gameplay and the other side of the Samurai culture that isn't the lonely Ronin. The battles are impressively large scale, and zooming in provides intricate detail. Armies must brave the elements, providing a whole higher level of tactics for finding success. 

The Best Samurai far


PlayStation 4

Nioh, for all intents and purposes, is the newest and also best Samurai game. It's extremely difficult but also rewarding along the lines the Dark Souls series or Bloodborne. While it's based among history,  the game is mostly fantasy, fighting Demons with magic infused weapons and other spells. This hasn't seemed to dumb down the combat as it is extremely technical even insofar as to having a stamina meter that can make or break the fight. Mismanagement of stamina usually results in death. But, at its core and soul, Nioh is a Samurai game and the best representation of Samurai in the current generation.

Nioh - The Best Samurai Game

What games did I miss? Has anyone found the RPG I’ve been looking for?