When it comes to stealth games, I find myself at a crossroads. I love them yet I don’t have the patience for them. It's quite an ongoing conundrum. Stealth games are my second-favorite genre after tactical games. Like many, I love the idea of staying hidden as if I'm a ghost and sneaking through enemy fortresses undetected to either stealthily eliminate all hostiles or achieve a set objective. I promise I'm not a psychopath when I say this, but I'll definitely admit to acknowledging my own sanity every time I do this: I love the process of systematically eliminating enemies in a single compound until there's no one left. Sometimes, I'll even replay levels with the optional objective of eliminating and hiding every fallen body in my wake. Now join me as I reminisce about my picks on this list of the 20 best stealth games.
The 21 Best Stealth Games
Best Stealth Games
1. 'Invisible, Inc.'
The first entry on this list combines two of my favorite elements in all of gaming - tactical play and stealth-based mechanics. Invisible Inc. is all about utilizing a group of spies in order to infiltrate corporations and achieve a set objective on a tight deadline. The characters have a variety of skills, plus there are a nice variety of tools that cater to all types of players' playstyles. The levels are randomly generated, which does an amazing job of producing more replayability and tension during every encounter.
2. 'Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time'
The entirety of the Sly Cooper series can be described as a kid-friendly stealth game franchise backed by cartoonish graphics. The first three games (which happen to be included within a PS3 collection) and this fourth game are a good introduction to the stealth genre for kids since it leaves out some of those signature R-rated animations and actions. Like many experiences of its kind, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time focuses on stealth and spices it up with some fun platforming segments and plenty of charm. Some of the jokes are silly, but that's to be expected from a PG-13-oriented game. While this title's stealth elements may seem rudimentary in comparison to the other games on this list, it's still worth checking out.
3. 'Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist'
Putting this game on the list is likely to trigger some of those super diehard Splinter Cell fans. And that's simply because Ubisoft has kept this amazing license on ice since the Xbox 360/PS3 era. (as in two generations ago!). This game was released in 2013 and the Splinter Cell franchise has been quiet ever since. In case you forgot, it is now 2022. However, I digress. Splinter Cell: Blacklist moves the franchise forward in the right direction. The stealth is superb thanks to Sam Fisher’s excellent mobility. The controls are tight, which makes sneaking around feel incredibly responsive and super rewarding.
4. 'The Last of Us' (series)
Naughty Dog’s zombie apocalypse games offer great stealth gameplay and an emotional story to boot. While the controversy surrounding the second game’s story has become infamous, the gameplay is still fun and worth diving into. Both games gravitate towards stealth-oriented gameplay as the main characters aren't any heroes or demigods. While they can hold their own in minimal combat, taking advantage of the stealth gameplay is almost essential to even the battlefield and surviving. Stealth takedowns in the second game can be emotionally daunting as you look at the NPC’s facial expressions during the takedowns. Talk about horror and emotional distress!
5. 'Sniper Elite 4'
Sniper Elite 4 and the franchise as a whole are best known for their slow-motion, bullet-time camera. Akin to the focus on fatalities of Mortal Kombat, the bullet camera in Sniper Elite 4 follows the shot fired by the player as it penetrates the target and even highlights the damage to the target’s skeletal system. Sniper Elite 4 has the player sneaking through Italy during WWII to take down Nazi commanders. Using sound and the terrain to your advantage is necessary to achieve victory and leave every mission unscathed.
6. 'Assassin’s Creed Odyssey'
While all the Assassin’s Creed games could fill this whole list up, this selection sticks out to me by doing a great job of improving the series (even if it takes a few steps back with some of its game mechanics). While the stealth gameplay and the abilities granted to the player provide a limitless amount of fun, the leveling system and, more specifically, the enemy leveling mechanics hinders this game and keeps it from being damn near perfect.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey essentially allows the player to specialize in melee combat, ranged combat, or stealth takedowns. Trying to be a jack of all trades can be hindering, so it's best to focus on one. Unfortunately, the one downfall of the game is that trying to stealthily take down an enemy is almost futile even if the player is at a higher level than them. This one gameplay mechanic significantly hinders the game in my opinion.
Even still, the good outweighs the bad here and makes for a great foray into Spartan history.
7. 'Aragami' (series)
So the Aragami series focuses on having to make good use of the shadows and light. While sticking to the shadows has become an innate ability and almost instinct for most stealth games, Aragami enforces this attribute through its main mechanics. The titular character is a shadow spirit and thus is strongest within the dark. This means players must avoid bright areas and other light sources since they'll end up hindering them. As you make your way through the shadows, it becomes imperative to stay hidden and make good use of the main character's sly abilities.
8. 'Syphon Filter'
I will happily admit that nostalgia most likely plays a strong role in the reasoning behind this retro title making the list. While the game may be rudimentary in its stealth mechanics, Syphon Filter still offers some great fun and was a major success for Sony during the PS1 era. This was definitely my go-to game back in the day. And this was at a time when I didn't even know of the existence of Metal Gear Solid! Hopefully, Sony either does a remake or a reboot of the series and I can relieve the glory days of Gabe Logan's espionage adventures.
9. 'Deus Ex: Mankind Divided'
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gives the players the freedom to approach mission objectives any way they see fit. As a huge stealth fan, you know that means I always go the sneaky route. Thankfully, this game doesn't sacrifice its fun factor in order to achieve a high level of variety in its gameplay. Sneaking around and avoiding combat is a viable option to achieve one’s goal and it certainly has its own rewards. Making use of conveniently placed vents and staying undercover is essential and always exhilarating.
10. 'Tenchu: Stealth Assassins'
The only other big nostalgia pick on this list is Tenchu: Stealth Assassins for the PS1. This was my first stealth game and probably the cause of my fascination with ninjas and the genre in general. Interestingly enough, I've actually never owned this game. I remember playing it at my cousin’s house whenever I visited and always had a great time playing it with him. We replayed so many levels and chose so many different tools in our bids to achieve victory. I think the most fun of all derived from this game was picking what we considered to be the “weakest” tools and betting each other to beat the level with them in tow.
11. 'A Plague Tale: Innocence'
Just like The Last of Us, A Plague Tale: Innocence features a character that cannot handle combat well and thus focuses on getting by via stealth. The game follows Amicia and her younger brother, Hugo, in medieval Europe during the Black Plague. This favorite of mine enhances its old-world themes by sprinkling in more fantastical elements, the gameplay is superb, and the story is emotional. Players are even forced to avoid unwinnable fights via stealth in order to keep both Amicia and Hugo away from imminent danger. Upon completion, you too will become eager for the sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, to arrive a whole lot sooner.
12. 'Hitman 3'
Hitman 3 (and the franchise as a whole) does a great job providing stealth-based gameplay without forcing players to stay hidden at all times. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? The fact that it empowers those who want to experiment when it comes to completing every mission makes it such a joy to play. Just like the earlier games in the series, Hitman 3 provides you with a target to eliminate and a wealth of options on how to take them down.
Is the target hiding on a yacht? Well, you can sneak onto the yacht as a support person. Once on the boat, the player now has several methods towards getting the job down - you can either poison the target, fill them full of some lead, or keep it simple by strangling them to death. The game's assassination options are many and provide a high degree of replayability.
13. 'Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice'
Now here's another game that's not entirely focused on staying hidden, but it does employ stealth mechanics. Made by the amazing folks at FromSoftware, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice puts the players in the role of a shinobi who achieves victory at any cost. And of course, this course of action includes taking out unsuspecting opponents before they even have a chance to notice you. While some enemies are too tough to take down right away, a stealthy approach will weaken them long enough to boost the player’s odds of victory. Sneaking through the bushes and tall grass to take down unaware samurai and other sorts of foes is always great fun.
14. 'Batman: Arkham' (series)
The Batman: Arkham games (especially Arkham City!) feature some fantastic stealth gameplay mechanics that give you the chance to become Batman as he preys on random street thugs and goons. Sneaking through vents and ziplining to gargoyles to quietly take down each villain's hired minions never gets old. Using scare tactics to make those same baddies extra nervous about the "Dark Knight's" presence is also why I can't get enough of these games. Those "Predator Challenges" tend to keep me pretty busy whenever I feel like booting up any of the Batman: Arkham games.
15. 'Mark of the Ninja'
Mark of the Ninja is a 2.5D stealth game with superb executions and highly rewarding gameplay. Players can sneak through each stage as an unseen ghost that can sneakily banish everyone they come across. You can also choose to engage in direct combat during every enemy encounter, but that comes with a high risk of failure since the main character doesn't have a whole lot of health. Mark of the Ninja does a commendable job of combining the elements of light and sound to enhance the players' sneak factor - using those two attributes to your advantage to either slip past the guards or lure them into a death-dealing trap is instantly gratifying.
16. 'Dishonored' (series)
Developed by Arcane Studios, the Dishonored games employ strong stealth mechanics and throw players into a world that reacts to their non-violent & violent decisions. While the first Dishonored is pretty awesome, Dishonored 2 builds upon the first in several worthwhile ways that make it so much better. The second game allows the player to choose between commanding two different characters and the ability to use magic abilities or reject them for a more "realism" based approach to sneaky gameplay.
Like some of the other entries on this list, the player can choose to go in all guns (and crossbow) blazing to accomplish their goals. Sneaking through each self-contained stage is highly engaging -utilizing alternative methods for dealing with your foes without killing them is supremely satisfying.
17. 'Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War'
While both games in the Shadow series don't focus solely on stealth gameplay, they both still do an applause-worthy job of incorporating those same elements in an efficient manner. With massive fortresses that can easily house 100 orcs, you'll need to employ stealthy maneuvering a powerful tool in order to gain the upper hand. With the ability to brand orcs and bring them over to your side, sneakily creating an army inside a fortress before challenging the big boss is quite the thrill.
Using environmental elements, such as caged beasts and raging bees, to enact havoc upon the battlefield is so fun (especially when the captain has a weakness and they start running away in a panic once they come across it). The main character's wraith abilities, which allow you to pull off sneaky kills from across the room, always feel so exhilarating.
18. 'Desperados III'
Desperados III is a combination of real-time tactical gameplay and stealth gameplay. So you're given a party with up to five characters who must utilize their respective skills (sometimes simultaneously) to sneak through the levels to achieve their goals. And in order to do that, you'll need to lead them all through some wonderfully designed levels. Those stages act like large puzzles that the player must solve through careful planning - making efficient use of each character's signature skill is key to escaping each situation alive.
The game's simultaneous takedowns are the best part of the action at hand, in my opinion. There's no greater thrill than setting up a pitch-perfect execution of a whole group of guards and watching it go down without a hitch. There are plenty of trial and error situations at hand here - luckily the game encourages you to be experimental with your approach thanks to a very generous quick save and reload feature.
19. 'Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain'
I just have to acknowledge Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as the ultimate stealth game. While the latter half of the story is pretty lackluster, the gameplay is never lacking. Starting out with minimal gear and slowly expanding your arsenal is a rewarding experience. Finding and “recruiting” the best soldiers is a wonderful game mechanic that enhances every moment spent with Snake.
It's always worth moving through each locale like a phantom, meaning you'll need to practically leave no evidence of your presence behind. I must admit - I've only achieved that personal goal a handful of times and it took a whole lot of patience to do so.
The wide arsenal of tools (including the infamous water gun!) provides a ton of mission completion variety as you navigate through each location. The added mechanic in which the enemies react to your standard infiltration techniques keeps the whole campaign from feeling stale. Imagine my shock when the enemy started using floodlights and helmets to thwart my usual nighttime infiltration maneuvers & headshots! I had to change up my approach then, which provided me with an awesome change of pace.
At one point, I even went in all guns blazing (which goes against my MGS instincts!) and it was still a blast.
20. 'Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun'
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is another real-time tactical, stealth game that's akin to Desperados III. Both games were made by the same developer, Mimimi Productions. Shadow Tactics sticks out a bit more for me because of its unique setting and stellar storyline. I'm also a huge fan of its placement within the Edo period, which gives it a flavor all its own.
Much like Desperados III, this game features a lineup of beautifully designed levels that play out like intricate brainteasers that require the player to efficiently use all their skills to navigate each environment successfully. And also like Desperados III, setting up and executing simultaneous takedowns is the biggest highlight of the gameplay at hand.
I bet you did a double-take when you saw this game make the list. XCOM2? Yup, you read those words correctly. For those of you out there that haven't played it yet, here's a quick breakdown - XCOM2 is a tactical strategy that features turn-based battles where you lead a team of soldiers during a guerilla campaign against an alien invasion. The base game has a simple stealth mechanic in the form of concealment.
Your soldiers start out in a hidden state and remain that way until their first fight or if they're accidentally revealed (which always happens when you’re caught in a compromising position). The expansion, War of the Chosen, added a new battle class ("Reavers") that can remain in stealth mode even after firing a weapon (with limitations put in place to not make them too overpowered, of course). XCOM2 also gets tons of kudos from me because of all the PC mods made for it (shout out to all the authors who do wonders in the department).
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