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Stealth is an interesting genre when it comes to video games. Many more action-oriented games are probably put off by the amount of waiting and distracting you have to do, but to a stealth game fan, there’s nothing better than perfectly executing your objective with no one even knowing you’re there. Over the years there has been a metric ton of stealth games, but which ones are the best?
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of some of the best stealth games on the market to help you next time you’ve got a stealth-game craving.
Thief 2: The Metal Age
Thief 2 is one of the grandaddies of the modern stealth genre, and for the longest time, it typified what it meant to be a really decent stealth game. Huge sprawling levels, methodical gameplay, and a sardonic tone all made Thief 2 a complete staple of the genre and an absolute must-own for any fans in the era. While it’s over 2 decades old now, it’s still a really fun time, even if the enemies look like they’re constructed from cardboard by modern standards.
Thief 2 has a lot going for it that makes it easy to recommend, even over more modern entries in the series. Each of the game’s 15 different stages is a huge, open-ended experience that lets you tackle your objective in various ways. Usually, these levels allow you to enter from various different locations, and approach guards and other enemies from a variety of different hiding places. Of course, the real objective is to learn the map and enemy placements well enough to pull off the true goal of any master thief: get in, steal everything, leave no trace.
Another big draw of the game is the main character, Garrett. While he was grizzled and serious in the 2014 reboot, original Garrett was much more sarcastic, and he’s largely responsible for the sardonic tone that the game has. He makes misanthropic about the guards before being bashed them around the skull, he shows total disinterest in the steampunk vs magic battle that seems to be going on around him. He’s the perfect protagonist for a dark fantasy world because he manages to bring it to life with his dry wit and outsider perspective.
On top of all those other reasons why Thief 2 is great, is the way that you’re invited to explore the world. We’ve already mentioned that the levels were huge and sprawling, but more than that you’re actively encouraged and rewarded for exploring it. There is often hidden loot to be found by straying from the beaten path, as well as some pretty funny moments for Garrett to comment on. There’s also more challenge in exploration because the sprawling levels leave you with enemy guard routes that are circuitous and can end up tripping you up if you’re not careful.
If you’re looking for a more modern stealth game, Dishonored is an easy choice. It borrows a lot of elements from Thief in many ways, with the same fantasy, steampunk world to explore around, as well as the generally grim tone to the setting, although Dishonored doesn’t bring the same type of levity or personality to proceedings. Despite this, the levels are certainly open-ended and sprawling, and the addition of magical powers and steampunk technology in your own personal arsenal does give the gameplay a nice amount of variety.
Dishonored presents you with various different ways to play, from murdering everyone in sight, to going through without even being seen, let alone killing anyone. These different ways of playing are also reflected in the levels, as you’ll need to fully explore them to discover all the different ways to resolve your situation. If you’re going for an easy playthrough, you can just run through, killing everyone and chucking bombs over your shoulder, or you can methodically tip-toe through the levels to do everything perfectly.
The storyline is interesting enough but is let down somewhat by some of the characters and dialogue. All of the guards look exactly alike and don’t seem to have much of their own personality, randomly spitting out the same few phrases over and over again. On the plus side, that’s not too much of a letdown because the gameplay is really solid and that’s the most important thing.
Thanks to the way Dishonored was designed, there is an enormous amount of replay value. Not only are there several ways of approaching the game, but there are also different endings, and some truly excellent DLC campaigns and mini-game collections to enjoy if you get your hands on the definite edition, which we highly recommend.
Metal Gear Solid 2
This was a really hard decision to make. The Metal Gear series is easily one of the most well-known stealth franchises of all time, starting back in the 80s on the Japanese-only MSX computer. Since then, the series has gone on to spawn numerous games on almost every platform, and catapulted the creator, Hideo Kojima, into game design auteur stardom. A lot of the games in the series are really excellent in their own ways, but for our money Metal Gear Solid 2 just about pulls forward over the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 2 was an interesting beast when it first came out. The first few hours of the game pull a fast one on the player, tricking you into thinking that you’re playing as one character, while the real main character is introduced later. While this trick is very good from a narrative standpoint, and really plays into the themes of the game, it did make a fair few people angry because they wanted to play as Snake.
That issue aside, the actual gameplay here is top-notch. The original PS1 entry suffered from a lot of problems in its latter half, such as an insane amount of back-tracking that make it feel like a bit of a slog. MGS 2 completely blows that out of the water. From start to finish it’s an intense storyline filled with mystery and intrigue, and there’s just so much solid gameplay to back it up that it’s a joy to play through numerous times even to this day.
Speaking of gameplay, it’s a great blend of stealth and action, rather than pure stealth. You have to balance your level of equipment with the amount of trouble you can deal with. There are also a few moments where you’re forced into action, but never in a way that’s going to leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying this game, there has never been a better time thanks to the recent PC re-release.
Styx: Master of Shadows
Here we go with a game coming right out of left field. The Styx games aren’t the most well-known titles on the market, and that’s a huge shame. They have a lot of charm and appeal to them, partially thanks to the interesting visual style, as well as the main character himself. You control Styx, a sarcastic goblin, as he creeps around a human-controlled tower, stealing goods and murdering humans.
In many ways, Styx has a lot of similarities to Thief (almost like Thief defined modern stealth games) but different similarities to Dishonored. There’s a great focus on light and sound, as hiding in the shadows is one of your primary ways of staying out of sight, and loud noises are both useful distractions and a great way to get caught. On top of that, there’s also the fact that the main character likes to make sarcastic comments and seemingly treats all of the humans in the tower with a great deal of contempt.
There’s also a fair amount of replayability in the game. The sprawling levels are sprinkled with collectibles and secrets and finding all of them helps you out a lot in terms of gameplay because certain collectibles allow you to buy upgrades between missions. Another potential bonus, depending on your sense of humor or taste, is the gross nature of the game. If you’re not above enjoying some gross-out comedy, then you should get a kick out of all of the phlegm and snot that Styx ends up dispensing.
Other than that, the only important point to mention is that technically Styx: Master of Shadows is the second game in the series, with the original title Of Orcs and Men being released back in 2012. The original title was actually a mixture of hack and slash combat and stealth, rather than pure stealth, so if you’re into stealth games you may just want to skip it for now. After all, Styx is a prequel, so you’ll at least be starting at the beginning of the storyline from a chronological sense.
Hitman: Blood Money
If there’s one series that almost everyone seems to like, it’s Hitman. The series has been around since 2000 with the original title Hitman: Codename 47 being a modest success. Luckily, Eidos decided to keep the series going, and so after another two games of trying to create the perfect Hitman experience, we finally got Hitman: Blood Money and everyone’s prayers were answered. Since then we’ve actually had a fair few really decent games since the series, especially the reboot trilogy, but to this day there’s just something special about Blood Money.
If you’re not familiar with Hitman gameplay, it revolves around the typical stealth-game ideal of open-ended levels. In each level, you have one, or several targets and have to take them out in whatever way you think is best. Typically there are numerous ways of approaching each kill, from making it look like an accident, to blatantly shooting them in the face and then running away. Of course, if you leave behind evidence of your involvement, such as CCTV footage or leaving equipment behind, you’re going to get a worse rating.
The real beauty of Blood Money is the pure variety in the levels. There’s a Mardi Gras level filled with costumes and drunk people to exploit to get your mission accomplished, there’s a mission at a kids birthday party where you can dress as a clown, and even a mission at the Christmas party of a porn mogul which features one of the best methods of completing an assassination in any of the games. We won’t spoil it for you exactly, but let’s just say that it involves a remote detonator and a glass-bottom jacuzzi.
Really, you shouldn’t need to know more than that to understand why this game is such a stellar experience. It has the best variety of any of the games up until this point in the series, as well as featuring more up-to-date gameplay and graphics than the earlier games. All of these things combined make Blood Money one of the greatest stealth games ever made, and easily the high-point of the series, even with the fantastic works of Hitman 3 (2021) nudging themselves into a close second.
There you have it, a list of some of the best stealth games that you’ll find anywhere no matter which platform you’re playing on. Having said that, there are plenty of other stealth games out there, and it just isn’t possible to cover them all on a single list. Are there any stealth games out there that you think should have been on this list? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.