When you’re a kid, being a ninja is a big deal. Dressing up in black clothes and karate chopping unsuspecting old age pensioners is, for most of us, one of the first times you get yourself hauled off to jail. Indeed – it’s a valuable life lesson. Beating the crap out of people will land you in trouble, so you’re not allowed to do it. Bloody moral society.
Thankfully, in video games, morals rarely exist. This is, arguably, most evident in the Grand Theft Auto series, where players can do all sorts of depraved activities. It doesn’t make gamers violent, though! No, no! It simply makes one a toxic individual ready to explode in outrage over the most trivial occurrences. Something is lacking. Perhaps… it is the way of the warrior? Bushido or bulls***? Bushido, master, as it is Mark of the Ninja!
Mark of the Ninja
To be clear, there aren’t any ninjas called Mark in this indie title. Whilst this is a bit disappointing, the opportunity to play as a bloodthirsty silent assassin rather makes up for it. Cutting to the chase here, let’s just state this is one fantastic indie game which, despite critical acclaim, doesn’t appear to wrack up any more attention these days.
These sorts of titles aren’t new, of course. We waxed lyrical about the brilliant Ninja Gaiden on the NES, then there’s the whole Assassin’s Creed stuff, and there’s a stealthy bit in the Ocarina of Time, but Mark of the Ninja does go full ninja and the result is rather splendid and stealthy.
Stealth is the name of the game here. This was a concept we first came across in Goldeneye 007 on the N64. Before this, you usually just charged into any situation with all guns blazing – Doom popularised the idea and it remained an unsophisticated gaming trope for some time. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have ensured we can now have more complex enemy character reactions, which leads the way nicely to Mark of the Ninja (2012).
It’s a platformer by Klei Entertainment – there’s some ninja-based plot going on in the background, but you play as an unnamed dude who sets out to wipe out other dudes in ingenious fashion. It requires brains, you have to think your way through levels, and it’s a whole heap of murderous fun. The atmospherics are particularly impressive with this one, so it’s highly recommended by us. Indeed.
The Rise of Stealth & Toilets
Stealth in video games has become increasingly popular. You still have series like Call of Duty where the player can hurtle into situations with guns blazing like a crazed SOB, but the likes of the Tom Clancy series and Metal Gear Solid really pushed the concept of being sneaky into the gaming conscience.
As mentioned earlier, our first genuine experience of stealth in a video games was in Goldeneye on the N64, which we’re doing a full 20th anniversary celebration of shortly. On the second level of the game, Facility, you can sneakily wipe out (lol) a guy in (rather than on) the toilet with a shot to the head. Brutal – you can see it at the 30 second mark in the above video.
At the time it seemed like the most astonishing thing ever, although games like Mark of the Ninja have managed to advance AI considerably. However, back in 1997, it was unlike anything else in the history of ever. It was all anyone could talk about at Southlands High School and Mr. Wapojif and his imbecilic mates (apart from the PlayStation owning NOOBIE SCUM ones) delighted in annihilating some dude in a toilet cubicle. Such is the brilliance of stealth and the very British fascination with scatological humour. Cheers, Rare.