Stealth games don’t make you feel invincible in front of your enemies in a way that you can kill a dozen of the bad guys without taking any significant damage. You get a level playing field in which only your strategies define whether you can pass a mission or get shot in an attempt to deceive the bad guys.
What makes the best stealth game?
Numerous factors decide if a stealth game lives up to the expectations of the gaming community. Here are a few things that play the most significant parts in making a stealth game stand out:
#1. Gameplay Mechanics 🎮
Gameplay mechanics play a pivotal role in defining the character of any game, but they play an even more important role in stealth genre games. The gameplay mechanics in a stealth game must be crafted well enough to make the gamer feel immersed in the scene. Moreover, the player should not be limited to just one way of clearing the mission, and the gameplay mechanics should leave it to the player to decide their approach. The Hitman series particularly hits it out of the park when it comes to allowing players to choose their own approaches.
#2. Storyline 📖
There is no point in mindlessly killing enemies or avoiding them unless the player finds a strong motive behind their actions. That’s precisely what a good storyline provides: a strong motivation for players to root for the protagonist and ensure that they are glued to their screens until they complete a mission. Well-written characters, interesting and witty dialogues, and intricate plot twists are some factors that characterize a great storyline.
#3. Graphics 🖥️
While gameplay mechanics and storyline play significant roles in making a stealth game memorable, it is the overall graphics that ensure an immersive gameplay experience for the players. Great graphics transform random animated shapes and characters into lifelike beings and create the illusion of live action in front of the players. A good stealth game should have realistic graphics with well-thought-out lighting effects, character models, and attention to detail.
#4. Overall Impact on the Genre 💥
Remember how the GTA franchise defined the open-world genre and paved the way for other popular open-world titles like the Watch Dogs series or the Assassin’s Creed series? Great stealth games also possess the power to leave a long-lasting impact on the stealth genre. The best stealth games often use innovative implementations in gameplay mechanics, graphics, and storylines that sometimes click with the gaming community and become instant hits.
Now that we know what to look for in a stealth game, let’s check out some of the classics from the genre:
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
The Splinter Cell series has always been a bestseller for Ubisoft and among gamers who enjoy action-adventure games. Released in 2013, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist focuses on the story of Sam Fisher, a US military spy who travels around the globe saving the day from the bad guys.
I wouldn’t classify Splinter Cell: Blacklist as a hardcore stealth game since it allows the user to choose how they want to accomplish missions. However, the reason this game makes it onto our list is that you can perform all of the missions from the game in Stealth/Panther mode.
You can always personalize your gear to best suit your stealthy mission plans. The best part is that the game won’t fail you if you alert the enemies, unlike many other stealth games. Instead, you can blast the enemies with your weapons and still manage to go through.
Developers: Ubisoft Toronto
Release Date: August 20, 2013
It won’t be fair to curate a list of the best stealth games without mentioning the OG Hitman series. In Hitman III, you play as Agent 47, one of the most popular characters in gaming. Players go on different missions around the globe, assassinating enemies to progress through the campaign. The stellar environment and unique maps are the backbone of this game.
You can choose between a ton of options to complete the same missions. Agent 47 can change into the disguises of guards, detectives, scientists, and more to ease his way into usually inaccessible spots around the maps.
Moreover, you are never restricted to just one weapon of assassination; you may use anything from poison to a good old pistol for your advances. The game also adds the ‘Contract’ mode, where you can assassinate various targets to earn money.
Overall, Hitman III is a classic among stealth games that you should definitely try!
Developers: IO Interactive
Publisher: IO Interactive
Release Date: January 20, 2021
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is not just any other stealth game that throws you into the battlefield with cliché gameplay mechanics. MGS V has one of the strongest gameplay mechanics, which creates different scenarios for the very same missions. If you attempt an evacuation mission in the daytime, it is easier to be spotted by the enemies. However, it also makes sniping enemies easier than at night time.
Similarly, during nighttime rain, you might not be able to spot enemies easily. However, you can crouch-sprint your way through the enemy land without getting noticed.
All of this makes MGS V a great stealth game. Sure, it penalizes you when you totally go against the stealth nature of the gameplay and start destroying enemies with weapons. However, on the bright side, you do get a split second to react if you alert an enemy while hiding.
|Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Standard Edition (PS4)||$13.19||Buy on Amazon|
Overall, MGS 5 is surely a stealth game you should play, especially if you love a sandbox gameplay mechanism with intricate detailing.
Developers: Kojima Productions
Release Date: September 1, 2015
The Dishonored Series
Stealth games like MGS V bring excellent gameplay mechanics to the table. However, they often lack a bit on the storyline front. If you are someone that needs a good storyline before you can invest yourself into a game, you might want to give the Dishonored series a try. Backed by an amazing storyline across all the games from the series, Dishonored is surely one of the best action-adventure games from the stealth genre.
You can play as Corvo or Emily in different games from the franchise; both come with their own supernatural skills. That’s particularly what makes Dishonored stand out from its contemporaries, as most stealth games feature normal human-like protagonists with some weaponry.
Dishonored, on the other hand, offers an immersive gameplay experience packed with surprisingly interesting mechanics in a mysterious world.
Developers: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: October 9, 2012 (Dishonored) | November 11, 2016 (Dishonored 2)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex is a massively popular franchise in the action-adventure genre, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a great game to experience the strengths of this series if you are new to it. I would call Mankind Divided a choice-driven stealth game, where the game doesn’t force you to choose stealth, but rather you have the option to choose your gameplay style.
The gameplay mechanics are the game’s strength, as you are exposed to a wide variety of high-tech weaponry that works perfectly in different scenarios in the gameplay. Moreover, the game rewards you when you explore its world; you can find weaponry or side missions in different locations across the game.
Overall, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a decent stealth game that’s worth giving a shot, especially if you like a cyberpunk thematic setting. I’d recommend you to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution to get a better grip on the sequel’s storytelling, however.
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
Japanese fiction is full of stories about how Ninjas are the best stealthy killers and how they can easily outnumber a massive army of enemies. Won’t it be great to play a Ninja in a stealth game?
That’s exactly what Mark of the Ninja: Remastered plans to do. You play a nameless ninja in the game where you need to get across various enemies in a stealthy way to accomplish missions. The game is not based in a conventional FPP 3D but in a 2D world, which is more like the classic Prince of Persia or Contra games.
The game doesn’t let its 2D setting become its weakness; rather, it inculcates some excellent gameplay mechanics to make it a fun ride. You can hide in the dark areas of the scene to escape your enemies’ sights. Every sound you make can be heard within a certain sphere, depending on the intensity of the noise.
The story is fun too, with a renegade villain and a powerful motivation to continue your journey as the masterful Ninja.
Developers: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Check it out on GOG.
Most conventional stealth games don’t feature fast-paced gameplay. It is because the player needs time to think of strategies and create a plan of action against the bad guys. However, if you need a fast-paced stealth game that tests your instincts as well as your strategies, you should definitely check out Invisible, Inc.
Although set in a 2.5D world, Invisible, Inc. never comes across as a lackluster game on the graphics front. The game does a decent job of making you feel immersed in tracking the movement of the guards and hacking electronic components around your characters.
|Invisible, Inc. Nintendo Switch Edition – Switch [Digital Code]||$19.99||Buy on Amazon|
Moreover, each character comes with their own skill set, which makes them stand apart. You may also use the in-game features such as rewinding time and predicting guard movement to ease your path to the waypoint.
Developers: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
If I had to describe Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in a sentence, it would be ‘an action-packed thriller with amazing graphics, magnificent combat sequences, and gripping gameplay’. You play a shinobi called Wolf, who has a prosthetic arm. This arm is an all-in-one weapon, containing the likes of a grappling hook and replete with a gadget kit.
Utilizing the strengths of this arm can let you stealthily face your opponents and make your way across the mission map. You get the best of both worlds as the game doesn’t limit you to just stealth missions; you get plenty of occasions to test your sword combat skills with monsters, dragons, and enemies, of course.
Overall, the game is a must-try for anyone in search of a shinobi-styled stealth adventure with stellar graphics. Fair warning, though – this game is renowned for being one of the most difficult games available today!
Release Date: March 22, 2019
Consider it a boon or a curse for the gaming industry, but only a few big development houses make games on a frequent basis. They invest huge amounts of money into their products. However, a fair number of these games just feel like money-making schemes rather than pieces of art.
Echo from ULTRA ULTRA feels like a breath of fresh air in a sea of monotonously designed games that lack a soul of their own. Unlike other stealth games that implement a tried and tested formula of an action-packed storyline, Echo focuses on creating a world that connects with the gamer.
The missions seem worthy of your time, and you are quickly sucked into En’s mindset. The game’s story is surely very different from conventional games, but the gamble plays out perfectly for Echo.
Coming to the game, you play En, who is on a planet to resurrect a loved one from the dead. However, things take a nasty turn as you progress. The gameplay mechanics are good and make you feel immersed in the game.
If you like to try something new, make sure to encourage ULTRA ULTRA by trying out Echo!
Developers: ULTRA ULTRA
Publisher: ULTRA ULTRA
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Check it out on GOG.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Set during the Edo period in Japan, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is an amazing stealth game that challenges you at every level in its gameplay. The intricately designed maps make sure to test out your stealth strategies across the game.
Shadow Tactics often becomes a puzzle where you need to think for hours on end. It can also be frustrating when anything you try doesn’t seem to work out, but that’s the strength of Shadow Tactics. If you love a challenging stealth adventure, Shadow Tactics might just become your next favorite from the genre.
|Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – PlayStation 4||$33.95||Buy on Amazon|
Although one might argue about the graphics department, as the game is set in a 2.5D world, we leave it to you to decide if you like the overall experience. Honestly, the game isn’t for everyone, and you might rage quit if you get annoyed easily when things don’t work out in a game. However, if you pass the missions with your perseverance, the gameplay and storyline are equally rewarding.
Developers: Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment | Kalypso Media
Release Date: December 6, 2016
You can also check it out on GOG.
Aragami 2 is another stealth game where you play a shadow spirit called Aragami in a fantasy land called the Rashomon Valley. The environment shows signs of war damage, and you, as the player, need to protect your clan, the Kurotsuba clan, from the rival Akatsuchi clan.
The gameplay mechanics and the stealth elements in the game are decent, to begin with. However, the game is let down by a poorly fleshed-out storyline. The missions sometimes feel repetitive as you go on killing similar kinds of enemies under similar circumstances.
Nonetheless, Aragami 2 is a decent one-time try if you want to play a stealth-based game with good gameplay mechanics.
Developers: Lince Works
Publisher: Lince Works
Release Date: October 4, 2016
You can also check it out on GOG.
This list compiles the best stealth games with great storylines, gameplay mechanics, and graphics. All of these stealth games differ in their storylines and the way they reinvent the stealth subgenre. Do try these games and let us know which of these games you liked the most.
If stealth games aren’t your strong suit, and you want something more action-packed, try the best zombie games on PC!