Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun Game Poster Image
Brutal strategy game is gory, tough, yet hard to put down.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Freeing land from brutal shogun minimized by focus on killing, robbing many people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While fighting an evil shogun, protagonists engage in criminal acts to defeat his forces.

Ease of Play

Little is easy here, from tough difficulty to the necessity to master strategies unique to each character you control.


Players use swords, shuriken, explosives to kill enemies. Blood frequently shown as enemies are slashed, stabbed. Handful of sequences depict characters committing suicide, getting beheaded.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

You can use sake as a lure for enemies, causing some to come drink, others to talk to themselves about overcoming alcoholism.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a downloadable action strategy game. In Japan around the Edo period, you control a team of deadly specialists who will use their wits, blades, traps, guns, and thieving abilities to survive a string of demanding and challenging missions. In line with the game's brutality, there's a considerable amount of blood and gore -- usually depicted as enemies are slashed and stabbed. There's some alcohol consumption and use of drinks as lures for traps. Gameplay is extremely difficult and requires players to come up with strategies on their own. Be aware that the challenge could frustrate some gamers.

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What's it about?

Set in the year 1615, SHADOW TACTICS: BLADES OF THE SHOGUN centers on a new shogun hoping to seize power over Japan to enforce nationwide peace. In his battle against conspiracy and rebellion, he recruits five specialists in assassination, sabotage, and espionage. The team must fight against the mysterious Kage-sama, who plans to overthrow the shogun. They infiltrate castles, gather information, fight rebellions, and ruthlessly eliminate Kage-sama's allies.

Is it any good?

What makes this strategy game so excellent, ironically enough, is what also makes it so frustrating: its sadistic difficulty level. Although you can opt for an easier mode in Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, if you don't know what you're doing, you'll almost instantly cause a "game over." But gameplay isn't really unfair, because you have to fail, constantly, before you finally succeed. Unlike in other games where saving and loading is something you do occasionally or at pivotal moments, Shadow Tactics has an unspoken expectation that you're going to save and try again almost every few seconds. One of the main things that makes this game so hard and so great is its refusal to give you a way to pause the action and issue commands, which is an expected standard in the tactical role-playing game genre. Here, you have to monitor the world around you at all times, make sure you stay out of sight lines, and make sure you have a plan of escape before trying to do anything. If you don't, you will fail. It's that simple. 

That likely will be a huge turnoff for a lot of players. Similarly, the main way to play this game, if you're at all intrigued, is on a PC. Although console ports have recently been released, the biggest snag on PlayStation or Xbox One is how much detail is on-screen, which can completely hide your characters. Since your monitor size is likely to be smaller than your TV, playing on a computer helps considerably. Otherwise, you're in for extra complications that are unfair (like hiding your characters in front of a bush instead of behind it), since gameplay hinges completely on your ability to avoid conflicts and discover solutions on the fly. But overall, if you're new to the strategy genre or simply looking for something you won't be able to blaze through in an afternoon, give this a whirl.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Does a game like this one need to show blood and gore, or could this have been indicated in a more symbolic manner?

  • Talk about how this game uses a real historical period to present actions in the distant past that have shaped today's world. Have you read any works of fiction or played other games that also use this method of storytelling? Does it encourage you to read more about what really happened? 

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strategy

Themes & Topics

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