The noble samurai is one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. Originating as a dedicated military caste during the Kamakura Shogunate in the 12th century CE, the samurai would become a dominant force in Japan’s military, political, and cultural history for the next 700 years until they were disbanded after the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century. Even after they were rendered obsolete by modern weapons, samurai still remained fixtures of Japanese popular culture, something that continues to this day.


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This has resulted in countless portrayals in books, TV shows, anime, movies, and of course video games. The medium of video games is no stranger to these warriors from the land of the rising sun with many well-known and celebrated titles such as Ghosts of Tsushima, and Samurai Shodown. But while many of these games are well remembered, many have sadly been lost to the mists of time. This list will go over some of the more notable examples of forgotten samurai games.

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8/8 Samurai (Arcade Game)

Quite possibly the first samurai game ever made, Samurai is an arcade game released by Sega in 1980 for their VIC Dual arcade hardware. This game has players taking control of a Samurai and fighting waves of opponents while dodging projectiles. Like most games of this era, the action almost entirely takes place on a single screen with the goal being to survive as long as possible and rack up a high score.

However, this is a surprisingly deep game for the time that it was created, requiring careful positioning and spacial awareness for the player to safely take out their opponents. Overall a simple, but fun game, worth checking out for those who can appreciate old-school arcade games.

7/8 Sword Of The Samurai

Sword of the Samurai is a historical action role-playing and strategy game set in the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States period) of Japanese history. The game was something of a spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s Pirates and features similar mechanics, but instead of playing as a swashbuckling pirate, players must instead take on the role of a feudal samurai.

While the game features plenty of action in the form of duels and leading armies into battle, what makes this game special is how it fully immerses players into their roles. Players are encouraged to follow the code of Bushido while trying to advance within the daimyo’s court, with potentially disastrous consequences for dishonor. A true classic of early home computing, Sword of the Samurai is a must-play for anyone who has ever dreamed of living the life of a feudal warlord.

6/8 Deathlord

An early computer role-playing game released in 1987, Deathlord takes place in a fantasy world heavily inspired by feudal Japan. This game combines the overworld exploration of games like Ultima, with the dungeon crawling and combat of Wizardry.

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Another thing that this game took from Wizardry is its extreme difficulty, Deathlord is infamous among old-school RPG players for its hardcore challenge. This is partially due to the game’s harsh perma-death system that only allows players one save file and auto-saves regularly. Despite this the game is still excellent, featuring a massive (for the time) open world and an epic quest.

5/8 Way Of The Samurai

A rare example of a western-style RPG made in Japan, Way of the Samurai can best be thought of as a samurai-themed Deus Ex. The game takes place at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration era and has players taking on the role of a wandering Ronin who stumbles into a remote village caught in a conflict between several warring factions.

From there the player is given near complete freedom, they can side with and perform missions for any of the factions or none of them, and doing so determines the course of the story. Players can customize and role-play their samurai however they want. An overall excellent title that is a true hidden gem of the PS2‘s library, Way of the Samurai has been criminally overlooked but did at least manage to gain enough of a cult following to garner three additional sequels.

4/8 Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits Bushido Retsuden

Most fighting game fans are likely at least casually familiar with SNK‘s Samurai Shodown series (Samurai Spirits in Japan). However, most likely do not know that the series actually received a Japan-only RPG spinoff. The game was originally released for the Neo Geo CD, PlayStation 1, and Sega Saturn.

The game plays for the most part like a traditional JRPG, though with a few interesting wrinkles. For one thing, the player is able to choose their starting character which alters how certain story scenes play out. It is also possible to execute special moves utilizing fighting game inputs as opposed to selecting them from a menu. Overall, a fairly solid effort, especially coming from a developer not known for making RPGs. For those unable to read Japanese there is thankfully a fan translation currently in the works.

3/8 Onimusha Tactics

The Onimusha series is one of Capcom’s most beloved from the PS2 era. But while the console entries are well known, few remember the tactical RPG spinoff released for the Game Boy Advance. The game clearly takes heavy influence from Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, though unfortunately not quite as good as those classics.

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Still, Onimusha Tactics is a fairly solid entry in the genre, with plenty of fun tactical battles for players to sink their teeth into. The story is fairly basic, drawing from the series lore. The game also manages to weave in mechanics from the console titles and adapt them to the new genre. Overall a decent game that should satisfy most fans of the series, but might leave more seasoned strategy players somewhat wanting.

2/8 Bushido Blade

One of the most unique fighting games ever made, Bushido Blade was the result of Square Soft at the peak of its creativity during the PlayStation 1 era. The massive change that this game made to the fighting game formula was to get rid of the life bar and instead implement a realistic system of inflicting injuries. This means that it is possible to kill an opponent with one well-placed strike and attacks to a player’s limbs had the potential to severely limit a fighter’s mobility. This resulted in extremely tense matches that severely punished button mashing.

While an excellent game that managed to garner a hardcore cult following, Bushido Blade sadly never managed to make much of an impact on gaming. It received a single sequel, and a spiritual successor, but was otherwise quickly forgotten about by most of the gaming community.

1/8 Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman

A hidden gem in the original Playstation’s library, Rising Zan: The Samurai Gunman can best be described as an early predecessor to weird hack-and-slash games like No More Heroes. Players take control of the titular hero, a gunman in the wild west who decided to study the ways of Bushido to fight evil.

The game’s tone is very tongue-in-cheek, even featuring a Saturday morning cartoon-esque theme song. The gameplay combines high-speed hack-and-slash action with third-person shooting. Unfortunately, the game was released before many genre conventions had been established and as a result, can be difficult to learn for those used to more modern games. Still, those who can adapt to the game’s steep learning curve will find a unique and rewarding title that was very forward-thinking for its time.

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