Five Games That Defined The Stealth Genre

Enjoy the cathartic thrill of a great stealth exploit? Here are five games that defined the genre.

By LG18, Posted 09 Dec 2020

The stealth genre represents an outlet for the more devious and devilish of human desires. Patience is required, but duly rewarded.
Regardless of whether you’re the type of player that seeks satisfaction in getting in and out without leaving so much as a footprint, or the sort of character that takes thrill suffocating a target with their own birthday cake, you owe a great deal of the privilege to exercise your stealthiest fantasies to these five titles. 

Hitman: Blood Money
IO Interactive

The ‘World of Assassinations' Hitman trilogy is set to conclude early next year with the third instalment. It’s been a love letter to fans, successfully returning the franchise to its roots - foundations considered masterfully realised in Hitman: Blood Money.

Released in 2006, Blood Money was praised for its thoroughly open-ended, non-linear levels, intelligent AI and robust stealth gameplay that enabled incredible scope for creative assassinations. This entry in the series displayed how gloriously inventive stealth gameplay could be, and was one of the first to place focus on players skill and tactical approach through the use of weapon modifications, a notoriety metre which would carry over to subsequent missions and variable payment based on how well a mission was executed.
The series’ dark yet comical tone is at full effect here, and with some of the most iconic stealth levels ever conceived (such as ‘A new Life’ and ‘The Murder Of Crows’), Blood Money defined many of the conventions stealth titles would follow for the next decade.

bed assassination

Thief 2: The Metal Age
Looking Glass Studios

It would be considered sacrilege to discuss stealth games without mentioning the Thief series. The second game in particular was revolutionary for its time; levels were huge and expansive and utilised mechanics such as light and dark, the importance of sound, a nonlinear environmental design and AI that still feels strong today even twenty years later.
With plenty of inventive objectives and cool puzzles, the game is a brilliant immersive sim in its own right with there being no wrong way to play. Main character Garrett and the narrative that ensues are well done and interesting, and there’s a wealth of backstory to discover in the game thanks to the excellent world building.

Thief 2 has possibly the most in depth and involved mission structures in any game to date, and even today, you won’t find many stealth games with the attention to detail and nuanced stealth gameplay of this landmark title.  


Splinter cell: Chaos Theory

The Splinter Cell series brought James Bond-esq secret service gameplay to the stealth genre in the form of Sam Fisher - a Navy Seal turned secret agent working for the NSA, and it was Chaos Theory in particular that made waves in the way it made the stealth genre more accessible.
While a stealth affair at its core, the title simultaneously shed a lot of the rigidity of past titles. Hand to hand combat and interrogation were unique features for the time, and there was the option of the stealthy, sneaky approach to a situation as well as a more offensive approach. If you were to mess up stealth wise, the gameplay was diverse enough that you could realistically get yourself out of a bad situation. 

The game's levels felt like real places, and Chaos Theory was one of the first titles to push a more realistic tone within the genre. Sam’s skill set and the multiplicity it allowed the player, along with an array of awesome gadgets, an intriguing plot with witty writing and a brilliant co-op mode made for one of the most engaging stealth titles to date.  

     upside down take down

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

There isn’t any warrior more synonymous with stealth than this Japanese Ninja, and the Tenchu series places the player within the shoes of these legendary combatants.
Despite its age, there’s something wonderfully cathartic about Tenchu: Stealth Assassins - the original entry in the series and considered the first true 3d stealth title.
Offering an array of feudal Japanese tools at your disposal such as poisoned rice, shuriken’s, katanas and the addictive grappling hook, Stealth Assassins provides the player a simple yet impactful stealth system and to date, no studio offered sneaky ninja gameplay like studio Acquire did.
With a great ratio of combat to stealth gameplay, a sublime soundtrack and a surprisingly rich and atmospheric setting for an original PlayStation game, the title is an undisputed stealth classic. 

     katana duel


Metal Gear Solid 2

While it was Metal Gear Solid 5 that offered the most open-ended stealth sandbox gameplay the series has seen, MGS 2 is arguably the most unique game in the genre. The title shocked the world with its incredible E3 reveal as a PlayStation 2 launch title in the year 2000, and it's as great today as it was when it was first released.

Whether you’re sneaking around in a box, slinking past security cameras or tracking down a roller-skating, trench-coat wearing bald bomber, MGS 2’s quirky style provides something thoroughly different.
Enemy AI hunting patterns are impressive even by today's standards, and the player even had the ability to shoot an enemy’s radio so they couldn’t call for back-up. It’s also possible to complete the entire game (even the boss fights) without killing anybody!
Along with an awesome array of gadgets and a finely tuned and robust stealth system to use them in; one of MGS 2’s best aspects is its incredibly clever, highly philosophical postmodernism narrative, which is far more indicative of the problems in today's society than it was in 2001.



Which other stealth titles do you think helped develop the genre into the diverse category it is today? Let us know in the comments.


Linden Garcia
Editor, NoobFeed

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