Stealth games are a bit of a strange beast. Instead of challenging you to eliminate every enemy you see with progressively larger weapons, these games had you actively avoiding combat in favor or sneaking by unnoticed. Although they were a bit of a departure when they first appeared on the scene, we’ve been treated to some great stealth titles over the years. These eight games are some of the best entries in that genre from over the years.
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“But Alien Isolation is a survival horror game!” you say. While you’re not entirely wrong, it’s also a damn fine stealth title. In many games in the genre, you stay alive and advance by observing your enemies, learning their routes, and then avoiding them (or taking them out) based on patterns. That’s not the case in Alien Isolation. The main enemy is unpredictable, and even the act of saving your game is fraught with peril. It’s a perfect example of the genre.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
The Hitman series puts you in the shoes of Agent 47 and encourages you to be a sneaky bastard. Not only do you need to conceal yourself, you need to use disguises, misdirection and gadgets to take out your assassination targets. You can run and gun your way through the levels, but the ideal way to play is to stay under the radar and unnoticed. The smoother your missions go, the better your rating will be.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
If there’s one character that belongs in a stealth game, it’s the Dark Knight himself. Rocksteady was a relatively unknown developer, but Batman: Arkham Asylum made them superstars. Batman stalks henchman from the shadows, emerging only when the odds are on his side. A wide array of gadgets and an x-ray vision-like “Detective Mode” give you more options in how you engage your enemies, and there’s even an Invisible Predator mode that forces you to use different approaches to stay undetected.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Before Batman: Arkham Asylum came along, the game that was most like it was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. While it’s not a pure stealth title, Riddick is vulnerable enough that you’ll find yourself sneaking around the Butcher Bay prison until the later stages of the game. The blend of first-person action and stealth resulted in a game that was actually far better than the movie it was based on.
Dishonored puts you in the sneaky shoes of bodyguard-turned-assassin Corvo Attano. The world of Dunwall is well-realized, and the combination of stealth abilities and magic-like powers is extremely satisfying. You can choose to kill off all your foes, or simply subdue them, but the game’s Chaos system will keep track and adjust the number of enemies in subsequent levels based on how many people you kill. It offered plenty of options for customization, and you could easily replay the game and take a very different approach.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The entire Splinter Cell series is a standout in the stealth genre, and Chaos Theory is the best game in that series. Sam Fisher is a secret operative who uses stealth to approach and neutralize his enemies. The game’s focus on dynamic lighting and multiple pathways allows you infiltrate a variety of environments, which you’ll need, because enemies will react to your every move. Add in the great multiplayer options, and you’ve got a stealth game you can play with your friends.
Metal Gear Solid
Solid Snake brought stealth to Shadow Moses in 1998, and everyone who played along was in for a treat. Not only was it the first 3D Metal Gear game, it introduced ideas like alerting guards and evasion countdowns that are still in use today. It was one of the games that cemented PlayStation’s place as a player in the console market. It was also the start of a series that continues to sell well today, even if it did begin as a guy hiding in a cardboard box.
Thief: The Dark Project
Perhaps no game has done as much for the stealth genre as Thief: The Dark Project. Instead of a hidden / not hidden mechanic, Thief used a “light gem” to let the player know just how visible they were. Garrett, the titular thief, had a wide array of tools at his disposal, including a bow that could shoot many useful types of arrows. Moss arrows could dampen the sound of footsteps, and water arrows could be used to put out any pesky torches. What really made the game great was that it focused not on eliminating enemies, but avoiding them entirely. While some will argue that Thief II: The Metal Age is the superior title, no one can deny the massive impact that the original title had on gaming.