Video games have blessed gamers with vastly varying genres. These include relaxing simulators and headscratching puzzlers to exhilarating action games and spooky horror ones. One of the more overlooked genres is stealth.
Franchises like Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, and Hitman represent the genre's peak. Even though there aren't as many stealth games these days.
However, the genre's peak continues to shine bright even today. Let's look at some of the great stealth games that have been a must-play for any gamer.
Additionally, we'll highlight five games with stealth elements or segments that feel out of place or are poorly designed
These five stealth games range from having excellent mechanics and systems to solid level design and atmosphere
1) Dishonored 2
Released in 2018 for PC, PS4, and XB1, Arkane Studios' sequel to 2011's exceptional Dishonored improved upon it in countless ways. In addition to returning protagonist Corvo Attano, players can also play as Emily Kaldwin. It retains the magic-driven stealth and rewarding exploration of the first, especially the immersive sim design.
Dishonored 2 pairs of established formulas with larger environments, better AI, new and improved powers, and superior level design. The A Crack in the Slab time-travel segment is regarded as one of the best-level design showcases in gaming.
2) Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Ubisoft’s iconic third-person action series has been in the backseat for a while, but even then, modern Tom Clancy games don’t hold a candle to Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. The best version is the PC/Xbox/PS3 one, highlighting all the intertwining elements that make this world-aring adventure memorable.
There are plenty of useful gadgets to toy around with, challenging mechanics to manage (e.g., noise levels), robust level design, and a surprisingly smart AI for a 2005 title. All of this makes it a must-play for fans of the genre, especially seeing how well Chaos Theory has aged.
3) Alien: Isolation
The 2014 survival horror entry in the iconic Alien franchise from Creative Assembly is probably the tensest. Amanda Ripley encounters a hostile xenomorph while exploring the abandoned space station Sevastopol and must try to escape.
First-person stealth employs a risk vs reward system that encourages exploration and strategy.
With a few weapons and tools available to distract and defend against the monstrosity, players will find themselves soaking in the rich atmosphere befitting the franchise when they're not running and hiding for their lives.
The Alien features some of the smartest enemies AI seen yet in a horror title with detailed animations and aggressive behavior. Alien Isolation is available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
4) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
2016 saw the PC/PS4/XB1 release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The successor to 2011's critically acclaimed Human Revolution fell short in some ways compared to the predecessor.
However, it wouldn't be here if it didn't accomplish something and Mankind Divided's biggest strength is its mechanical prowess. Like Dishonored 2, it is a big improvement in aspects like Adam Jensen's traversal and gunplay.
Augmentations are ever more varied and useful than ever before in taking down foes, whether stealthily or otherwise. Players will have many options, from invisibility and the powerful Typhoon blast to new options like the Icarus Dash and remote hacking electronics.
All of this is wrapped up in a vertically rich world that feels lived in, rewards player curiosity, and features some of the side-quests in the Deus Ex universe.
5) Thief: Deadly Shadows
While Thief II: The Metal Age is widely considered the best in the series, its successor was no slouch either, despite being divisive in many ways. Developed by Ion Storm of Deus Ex fame, Thief: Deadly Shadows was released for PC and Xbox in 2004.
Master thief Garrett returns for another several rounds of infiltration and, well, thievery. Levels throughout various locales peppered with patrolling foes and are about performing objectives while stealing precious items are punctuated by visits to the City hub.
Each area feels fairly boxed-in and tighter, but there's still a lot to find, and enemy AI improves with new behaviors. The atmosphere is also amazing, further enriched by the crisp sound design.
Deadly Shadows ramps it up with a few later levels, particularly Robbing the Cradle, which takes a surprising horror turn. All in all, it is a worthy entry in the dormant Thief series.
Five titles that are bogged down with that one forced stealth segment or bad implementation
1) Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands
The simple and basic Wildlands' stealth systems are reflected in one specific mission in Ubisoft's 2017 open-world action game. Called Operation: Watchman, it sees the Ghosts infiltrate a base in La Cruz to meet up with none other than Splinter Cell's own Sam Fisher.
The problem is, it needs to be done undetected AND without killing any enemies. Given how heavily the base is guarded and how the game is not built for stealth at all, it quickly devolves into an exercise in frustration.
The quest is optional, but it is undoubtedly one of the most poorly designed side-missions ever made, especially when playing solo and at higher difficulties.
2) Murdered: Soul Suspect
It isn't a particular segment that is the problem in 2014's Square Enix-published paranormal adventure. Instead, the general combat encounters pop up throughout Ronan O'Connor's investigations throughout Salem as a ghost. These manifest in the form of patrolling demonic entities who must be eliminated by sneaking behind them.
Players can also use the ethereal pockets dotted around each area to hide when detected, so stealth is not challenging. However, it is not engaging either when every encounter turns out the same as the last with a shallow QTE action. This sucks any enjoyment that the narrative-driven experience otherwise presents.
3) Life Is Strange
2015's supernatural teenage drama from Dontnod is a gripping narrative adventure that is admittedly not for everyone. But it does what it sets out to do: tell an emotional tale via Telltale-esque linear exploration, dialogue, and minor puzzle solving. There is no interactive gameplay throughout the experience because it does not need it.
However, the developers shoehorned a stealth section in the finale for... whatever reason. It's fairly easy with Max Caulfield's time-rewind mechanic allowing for leeway, but it does bog down an otherwise intriguing choice-driven journey.
Bloober Team's first foray into the sci-fi cyberpunk genre, and they passed the test with flying colors. The first-person horror adventure is one of the most atmospheric games in recent memory. It tells a haunting, immersive tale of Daniel Lazarski, a cop who must investigate mysterious murders using cybernetic augmentations.
The slow pace and dialogue-based encounters with NPCs trudge along with the narrative well. However, there are a few bumps in the road. These are the game's stealth segments. Players must avoid detection by hulking monstrosity by sneaking around the AI - definitely taking a page from Frictional Games' SOMA there with the enemy design.
But players cannot even lean around corners to keep track of the creature. At least, it is not particularly intelligent despite being able to one-shot the defenseless protagonist. It's just another example of a game with a stealth segment but barebones stealth mechanics to make up for it.
5) Metroid: Zero Mission
The remake of the first Metroid game was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. It follows in the NES original's footsteps with brand new visuals, new areas, new powerups, etc. The additions include a stealth segment near the end where Samus Aran loses her Power Suit (reverting to the Zero Suit Samus) form.
The game puts her in an area teeming with space pirates, and she must escape while armed with just a stun gun and her spin jump ability. Being the hunted is a pretty tedious endeavor for a series that's always been about hunting down foes.
Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of the writer.