Nioh is a pretty tough game, no doubt. It’s probably unwise to partake in anything that might hinder your chances of survival like watching movies but why not?
Nioh is already a pretty engrossing and immersive experience, but watching a couple of kickass samurai films to get you in the mood doesn’t hurt either. Slaying Yokai and rescuing cute Kodama are no easy tasks, and with these movies in the background you’ll be primed for any obstacle that stands in your way.
Or you could distracted by Akira Kurosowa’s beautiful film-making and fall head first into a trap instantly killing you and losing all of your Amrita. It’s all for the love of Nioh after all. So let’s get the list started!
5 Films to Watch While Playing Nioh
Admittedly the silliest film on this list, Ashura manages to tell a colorful and surprisingly engaging story set in the Edo period about a beautiful oni who appears on earth. She intends to bring Demon Queen Ashura back to life and bring upon complete world domination. The film is filled to the brim with all sorts of demons, sword fighting and Nioh-esque locales.
Our hero, Izumo, is a Kabuki actor after serving some time with the Oni Makado; a demon-slaying army created by the Japanese government. He left the Oni Makado after he thought he accidentally killed a little girl and has been atoning ever since. The first opening minutes of the film sets the mood as we see the Oni Makado take down several Demons disguised as regular people during a lively festival at night. It’s a visual splendor, albeit campy, that meshes really well with Yoko Kanno’s excellent compositions. Ashura is a great companion piece to Nioh, the entire opening almost bringing the feel of the game to life.
Akira Kurosowa’s epic, Shakespearean masterpiece is clearly a must-see on its own, but it also serves as a great companion piece to Nioh. It is set during the Sengoku period, same as Team Ninja’s adventure. It’s a tale of warlords, castles, and of course samurai warfare. You won’t find any Yokai here but you’ll enjoy the excellent cinematography and the epic scale of the battles.
It’s a film I watched shortly before starting Nioh for the first time and it really helped me get immersed in the world of samurai and the political unrest that permeated during this period minus the Yokai. I can safely confirm there were no sightings of Hino-Enma nor Umi-Bozu throughout it’s 162 minute run-time. Even if you don’t intend to play Nioh, you should still watch Ran as it is arguably Akira Kurosowa’s finest achievement in addition to it being his last great piece of work.
Shogun Assassin (1980)
Technically this entry covers five movies but they’re so good I can’t really pick any one of them. The movies are adaptations of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga, an action series about a wandering honor-less samurai-turned-assassin and his son trying to kill a shogun that has gone mad with power.
Our hero travels from place to place, gets hired to kill the corrupt servants and nobles tied to the shogun, and gets into extremely well choreographed and insanely bloody action sequences where he fights off entire armies. His enemies range from bandits to ronin, to ninjas with mystical powers and deadly tools. His weapons of choice are a reliable katana at his side and the weaponized baby carriage he uses to transport his son. It is just as insane as it sounds.
These films were shot in the 1980s and their constant use of practical effects to portray the blood spilled by protagonist Ogami Ito works in its favor. On the one hand, the effects are unbelievably cheesy by modern standards, and the English VA used for the adaptations have some pretty silly pieces of dialogue in them. However, the movies also do a good job of showing just how taxing and stressful it is for a single warrior to face so much hardship, even when he plans ahead and remains clever with what he has on hand. There are two particularly amazing finales in movies three and five that are amazing in scale but both clearly almost kill the hero. If you’ve ever gotten through so much as the first level of Nioh, you can relate to this protagonist’s struggle all too well.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)
Takeshi Kitano’s modern take on the infamous Zatoichi movies is one of the most bizarre samurai films I’ve seen in a while. It deals with the main character wandering into a village that is dealing with a bandit problem and a corrupt samurai that is abusing his power. While the movie itself is an odd combination of realistically brutal and visceral action sequences with unbelievably fake looking CGI blood, it is also a truly bizarre mix of the director’s odd sensibilities. The entire finale of the movie ends with an elaborately choreographed tap dancing number.
How does this relate to Nioh? Kou Shibasawa and Team Ninja’s unusual habits make their way into what is otherwise a Japanese take on Dark Souls. The cheesy over-the-top villain and the ludicrous plot about the philosopher’s stone and trying to destroy Japan. The odd side objectives where you discover cute little green men. The surprisingly well-realized historical accuracy mixed with dopey fantasy camp. The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi is an odd duck and does not apologize for it, just like this game.
Seven Samurai (1954)
It goes without saying that this movie has to be on the list. Considered to be the greatest film about Samurai ever made by the late great Akira Kurosawa. The movie follows a poor village that is being harassed and terrorized by bandits. Their only solution is to gather what little money they have together in order to hire the help of the titular seven samurai.
The big idea behind the film is that most of its run-time is dedicated to the samurai setting up a plan to deal with the bandit threat. They’re not in an ideal area for defense, they’re outnumbered, and their resources are scarce. Every single thought going into a battle strategy counts. While it isn’t an action-heavy movie, at least until the third act, it thankfully encapsulates a lot of what Nioh encourages. Taking advantage of your surroundings, savvy use of every tool you have at your disposal, and a slow deliberate approach to every new challenge.
Thanks to our own Tyler Chancey for helping me curate this great list. It’s time to binge some great movies and pour more hours into Nioh. What did you think of the list? Have any suggestions? Drop us a few down below.