The shurikens used in the Shinobi franchise can be more appropriately identified as kunai (Japanese: 苦無), but they are inconsistently referred to as kunai in some games and shurikens in others. In the Tensho Era of Japan, the kunai was originally produced as a farming instrument. The kunai was a dull blade, made of soft iron, and was used for digging, prying, smashing wood and plaster, and the various other activities that would have likely destroyed a tool that was sharpened or heat-treated. In Shinobi (1987), these projectiles can be used to harm enemies, and in Shinobi (2002) and Nightshade, they can be used to prevent enemies from moving for a brief time.

In most Shinobi games, the player can execute a special move called the Shuriken Blast, also referred to as a Shuriken Burst, which produces a sphere of the blades around the user.

Depending on the user's positioning, the shurikens will be released above or below them in a forty-five degree angle.