Stealth games have travelled quite the distance since Metal Gear first shipped the notion back in 1987, with the cloak and dagger formula going on to become an all-time fan favourite in the gaming community. Of course, the idea has never usually strayed too far from the basic premise of shadow-dwelling and tenaciously tiptoeing towards a target. But that’s stealth, in a nutshell, with or without the option to discard the darkness and go in with two smoking barrels.
Whether it’s infiltrating a top-secret bunker to extract a prisoner, or wading through the waves in a desperate attempt to avoid the heated spotlight — stealth games have always been generous with their nail-biting dramatics that keep the heart pounding and the trigger finger itching. But what are the best stealth games of all time? What chapters have carried the essence of the genre and encapsulated it in one groundbreaking module? Well, if we had to put our take on it — it’d have to be these five.
5. The Last of Us: Part II
It’s fair to say that The Last of Us took quite a dark turn when bringing David into the mix, what with his sinister intentions that quickly escalated into a mischievous game of cat and mouse. After that, the stealth segments quickly became some of the most memorable in both chapters, with the succeeding chapter taking it up a few notches and completely redesigning the formula altogether.
Of course, being a zombie game — having to sneak around and avoid the hungry hordes was sort of expected — even from a story that trickles action down your throat every few minutes. However, The Last of Us: Part II crammed in a lot more than that, from the nail-biting feuds between Ellie and Abby to the nerve-wracking chase sequences with the dreaded Rat King. Nested within every encounter the game rolled out for us, surprisingly, was some level of stealth that the player could either engage with or disregard entirely. And honestly, that’s the best of both worlds approach we never really grow weary of.
We’ve seen plenty of sneaky gems swing for the skies of stealth over the years, with the majority failing to reach the same level of acclaim as Kojima’s firstborn in the Metal Gear world. Only, when Arkane Studios stepped up to give the iconic series a run for its money in 2012, the heavens finally decided to nudge the kingpin aside and lease a spot for Bethesda’s newest frontrunner — one that would eventually take the world by storm come 2013.
Being one of Bethesda’s many creative branches, fans came to expect a slew of attractive world designs and fascinating backstories riddled with intrigue. And, to be fair, they weren’t disappointed when Dishonored did finally roll out. In fact, as far as steampunk stealth goes, Corvo’s tainted tale through the rat-infested city of Dunwall probably stands as the best in the category overall, with the second chapter evolving every aspect from the original. But for the sake of praising the foundations, we do have to give credit where it’s due, and in this case — Dishonored definitely has our respect.
3. Hitman 3
There are hundreds of reasons why we admire Hitman and the world of assassination it envelopes, but the main one we’re always eager to brag about is the actual style of stealth the series incorporates. Not only does it give you the option to quite literally disguise yourself as a bush — but also accomplish your mission without even having to strip out of your formal attire. And the best part is, even if you’re a casual gamer with absolutely no experience in stealth whatsoever — you can still walk away feeling the part without having to rifle through a training manual beforehand.
Hitman, as a series, has never followed the usual tiptoe and whistle guideline that many best-selling games rely on. And we’re fine with that. Stealth-wise, players can either use it to their advantage or immediately discard it without having to think twice. But that there, having the choice handed to you, is exactly why we think Hitman is one of the best video game series ever created. It’s original, it’s addictive — and it’s hands down one of the best stealth games on the market.
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
While you could easily argue that Metal Gear Solid, as a series, could comfortably fill all five segments in the list, we do have to give the full marks to the beloved Snake Eater chapter, securing its spot as one of the best in the genre. It’s during this point in the timeline where Kojima truly knuckled down on the stealth division and lit the torch for later instalments.
Metal Gear has always given its player base the option to stay the course and use the environment as an advantage, just the same as it has never really shied away from giving you the tools to simply discard the shadows and full-on wing it. Though, any Metal Gear fan will tell you that the former method will always be the best approach to any situation the series hurdles at you. And Snake Eater, in specific, is best served as a stealth game without additional toes dipped in other pools.
1. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Of all the things that could possibly go wrong in the gaming industry — Deus Ex definitely had its fair share of issues, which sadly led to Square Enix backpedalling a whole lot more than they probably should’ve done. But having said that, even beneath the loose promises of releasing another entry to the series and a mobile port to tie it all together — Deus Ex, as it stands — is still a phenomenal franchise. And as for Mankind Divided, well, there’s a branch no amount of cold promises or false starts could ever turn sour.
Let’s put it this way. If CD Projekt had taken it upon themselves to so much as gloss over Deus Ex and channel it into their own works, then Cyberpunk 2077 might’ve stood a much better chance on launch day. Okay, so they’re both worlds apart when it comes to genre, but setting-wise, both platforms share the same light, only with Square’s creation shining a whole lot brighter. And as far as stealth goes, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided definitely rounds up the whole package, with so much to keep you bolted to the shadows that you’ll start fashioning fangs.