I’ve been a gamer since the mid-90s, starting out with arcades. Eventually, my parents got me a Sega Genesis which opened a whole new world of gaming. Platformers, fighting games, racing games, shooters- I love them all.
However, there’s one genre that I feel has been woefully underrepresented in modern gaming. And that’s stealth. Remember when games like Splinter Cell, Hitman, and Metal Gear were leading the industry back in the early 2000s?
The weird thing is that stealth hasn’t exactly disappeared. In fact, stealth mechanics are more ubiquitous than ever before. You have small bits and pieces of stealth welded onto everything from Uncharted to The Last of Us.
Crouching to make less noise, staying in the shadows, using silenced weapons- all these are things you’ll find in pretty much every AAA game. However, dedicated stealth games are rarely seen these days. So I decided to take a deep dive into this genre and showcase some of its best examples (both old and new).
This is a list of the top 40 stealth games of all time (PS, Xbox, PC, Switch). Stealth comes in many flavors, and this list will give you the top 10 stealth titles for PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Switch. Note that when I say PlayStation and Xbox, I am covering all iterations of these consoles released up until now.
Top 10 Stealth Games Of All Time For PS
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Possibly the most well recognized modern stealth game, Metal Gear Solid V was the most hyped-up video game released in 2015. Unlike the other Metal Gear Solid games, this one is a prequel. It’s set 11 years before the events of the original Metal Gear Solid.
Set during the Cold War, it follows the story of Venom Snake. You infiltrate Soviet bases in Afghanistan while trying to stay out of sight. Binoculars, maps, radio communications, and non-lethal weapons are all available to keep you from getting caught.
Phantom Pain might be the best modern Metal Gear Solid game if we’re talking about pure stealth mechanics. Its levels are extremely open-ended, offering complete freedom to the player. There are multiple ways to achieve each objective, and you decide which one you want to take.
With rich lore, excellent art design, and a gripping narrative, Dishonored 2 isn’t just a great stealth game. It sets the benchmark for what all good games should aspire to be. The combat is stellar, with a wide assortment of melee abilities and magical powers. Like the previous game, you can choose to not accept these powers when they are given to you.
The skill tree leveling system almost makes it feel like a role-playing game. And right from the start, you are given the choice to play as two different characters- Corvo or Emily. Both of these characters play similarly but have different special abilities.
If you take a lethal approach by killing every enemy in sight, it increases your Chaos level. Increasing your Chaos level means you’ll find more enemies in subsequent levels (as well as different dialogue options). Plus, depending on which character you choose to play at the start, your endings will be different.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 30 RTS Games Of All Time That You Must Play
If you’re a gamer who grew up in the 90s, you might have heard of Tenchu. It was a ninja assassin stealth game, and possibly the first-ever mainstream 3D stealth game. Aragami doesn’t play like Tenchu, but it clearly takes a lot of inspiration from that game.
There isn’t much to talk about in terms of the story. You’re a shadowy assassin with supernatural powers and you must clear a path through a network of interconnected open-world levels to reach the final boss. The art design is very unique, with a comic-book aesthetic and cell-shaded graphics.
This isn’t the first Hitman game, rather the first of the reboot trilogy (of which Hitman 3 is the newest one) that started in 2016. After the disaster that was Hitman Absolution, IO Interactive went back to the drawing board. And came up with what I can confidently call an excellent Hitman game.
Unlike previous games, this is part of an episodic series (so the first game is often called Hitman Episode 1). What makes this so good is its open-ended level design that gives you multiple unique objectives and an equally large number of ways to complete those objectives. You can drop a chandelier on your target, take them out with poisoned food, shoot them, etc.
Disguises are an important system within Hitman, and you’ll gain or lose access to parts of the map depending on your attire. Your goal is to blend in with the crowd and get close to your target before you put them to sleep. This thrilling experience never gets old thanks to the sandbox-style level design.
Much like the original Alien movie from 1979, this game has a tense and brooding atmosphere. There is always this heavy sense of dread floating around in the air because you never know when the Xenomorph might jump out in front of you. You play as Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda, investigating a space station to find out why her mother disappeared.
Aesthetic and art design are spot-on. You truly feel like you’re in a retro-futuristic sci-fi spaceship, based on a 1970s vision of the future. Plus, every interior space and gadget looks like it belongs within the fictional Alien universe.
This game makes excellent use of light/ shadow stealth and audio feedback. The result is an extremely addicting (and terrifying) loop of completing random tasks on the ship while trying to evade the invincible alien creature.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 30 Platformer Games Of All Time That You Must Play
Metal Gear Solid 2
Wacky global conspiracies, corporate espionage, giant robots- this game is absolutely crazy and I love it for that. It somehow manages to mix serious sociopolitical talk with melodramatic anime-style cutscenes involving characters who talk like 1980s action star parodies. But, don’t let any of this distract you from the fact that Metal Gear Solid 2 is possible the best PS2 stealth game in existence.
Yes, this game is old- it’s from the PS2 era. Eventually, a version would be released for Xbox and PC (called Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance). Metal Gear Solid 2 is a mature game that explores themes such as media censorship, artificial intelligence, freedom of thought, ideological echo chambers, etc.
Sniper Elite IV
Want to play as an expert marksman who infiltrates and sabotages Nazi military bases in World War 2? Sniper Elite IV is the ultimate WW2 single-player sniping simulator with realistic bullet physics and extremely detailed graphics. You can see your bullet go through enemy bodies in real-time after it leaves the barrel of your gun, thanks to a special camera system.
There are plenty of Nazi generals and commanders for you to murder in cold blood, and you’ll also get to take out enemy vehicles. Everything from armored cars to Tiger tanks can be disabled if you shoot them in the right place. And there is a huge selection of authentically modeled WW2 weapons to keep your inner history nerd happy.
Metal Gear Solid
This is the very first Metal Gear Solid game, released in 1998 for the PS1. You play as Solid Snake, who’s basically James Bond mixed with Snake Plissken. As a Green Beret and skilled infiltration specialist, you sneak into a heavily guarded nuclear weapons facility to stop an evil terrorist group from blowing up the world.
While the game is 3D, it plays very differently from its successors. Most of the time, you have a top-down camera which makes MGS feel like a tactical RTS with action game mechanics. Camera angles do change when you transition between cover or move into certain rooms, plus there are plenty of cinematic cutscenes to keep you entertained.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 Sandbox Games Of All Time (PC, PS, Android, Xbox)
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Much like Metal Gear Solid, this is also a 3D stealth action game. However, it was actually released in February of 1998 which makes it the first-ever 3D stealth game. And unlike Metal Gear, you play as a Ninja during the Sengoku period.
There is plenty of blood and gore in this game when you choose to discard stealth and engage in full-on combat. Shurikens, katanas, grapple hooks, smoke bombs- it has everything you’d expect from a ninja game. One really nice element of this game is its vertical level design that lets you jump onto rooftops and walls to sneak past enemies.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Another Sly Cooper game revolving around his mystical book of secrets called the Thievius Raccoonus. Cooper’s family has a legacy of being talented thieves, the absolute best of their kind. However, there is now a rogue time traveler who’s going into the past and controlling Sly’s ancestors.
This causes the pages of the book to rewrite themselves since they are essentially chronicles of the Cooper family line. Now Sly must team up again with his gang of master thieves and put an end to this madness. Thieves in Time has a fun story to tell and combines that with excellent gameplay to create the perfect stealth platformer.
Top 10 Stealth Games Of All Time For Xbox
The final chapter in IO Interactive’s excellent reboot trilogy, Hitman 3 is basically more of what you had in the previous 2 games. And that’s all the fans wanted. You’ve got more exciting assassination scenarios than ever before with a plot thread running in the background.
With this game, Agent 47’s World of Assassination storyline comes to an end. You are finally going to kill the Partners who are basically like Illuminati. These are the heads of Providence, an organization comprised of social elites who secretly control various governments in the world.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 JRPG Games Of All Time (PC, PS, PSP, Switch)
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The first M-rated Splinter Cell and possibly the best Splinter Cell game ever made. It’s the exact kind of game you’d expect to carry a Tom Clancy title. Mature, mechanically deep, full of minute details, and grounded in reality.
Chaos Theory has a very complex stealth system comprised of light and shadow stealth in combination with sound-based stealth. The sound system in this game doesn’t just take into account noise made by your character, but also the ambient noise.
Enemies have multiple states of awareness and will prepare themselves by wearing body armor if they spot you. Killing non-combatants or friendly soldiers will fail the mission. During interrogation, you even have the option of killing your enemies.
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Alright, I’m going to say it- Invisible War is actually a really good game and worthy successor to the original Deus Ex. I know, gaming media and a lot of players criticized this game when it was released for straying too far from the original. But it’s a lot better than many other games released during the same time period in terms of gameplay and narrative.
Invisible War takes place 20 years after the events of the original game, with the world suffering from social and economic collapse. Once again, you have a combination of 3 different genres- stealth, FPS, and RPG. There are various city levels interconnected by hubs, and you must defeat a secretive group of elites who plan to control world affairs.
Back in the early 2000s, Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia series was receiving great commercial and critical success. However, Microsoft and Sony were both planning to release the 7th generation of consoles (Xbox 360 and PS3). During this time, Ubisoft heads wanted to move away from linear levels and explore a more open-world setting.
This would be possible thanks to the capabilities of the new consoles. And while doing so, they would retain the close-quarters melee combat and parkour from their Prince of Persia games. That’s how the first Assassin’s Creed game was born.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 Horror Games Of All Time (PC, PS, Android, Switch)
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Pandora Tomorrow is the 2nd Splinter Cell game. It laid the foundation for many of the game mechanics that would eventually be used in Chaos Theory. In Pandora Tomorrow, you play secret agent Sam Fisher who is tasked with infiltrating the embassy of a southeast Asian military dictator.
As you progress through the story, you find out that the dictator has put into motion an evil global bioweapon scheme. When triggered, it will infect millions in densely populated cities with a deadly variant of the smallpox virus.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
This is not one single game, but a remastered collection of old Metal Gear titles. It even includes the original MSX2 Metal Gear game, along with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is also included; this is a game that was originally designed for the PSP.
All games have been updated to support modern resolutions, and you have dedicated keys for specific functions. Like the ability to aim and lower your weapon without firing it, which was originally handled by pressure-sensitive buttons on the PS2 controller. The Xbox 360 controller lacks pressure-sensitive buttons, so you press down on the left stick instead.
Batman: Arkham Origins
A sequel to Batman: Arkham City, Origins is centered around a much younger Bruce Wayne. He is more impulsive, less experienced, and isn’t on good terms with the GCPD. This game shows the creation of Batman, how Bruce tackles being hunted by Gotham police while also catching criminals at the same time.
Much like other Arkham games, you have a melee combat system that lets you rack up impressive-looking combos by just spamming attack and block. Plus, you have access to all sorts of bat-gadgetry like X-ray vision, radar, grapple shot, etc. Gotham City is a large open world for you to roam around in, and there are various side missions that you can complete to gain XP.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
A direct sequel to the first Assassin’s Creed. Brotherhood retains much of what made the first one so good while also introducing several new elements. For starters, you’re now part of an actual creed.
You can rescue citizens from Roman troops in various locations across the city. These rescued citizens can then be sent on quests or called for backup whenever you need help with a mission. Brotherhood also introduces new weapons and gadgets along with several horse riding tricks.
Styx: Shards of Darkness
This is one of the few stealth games released in modern times that truly feels unique and inspired. It’s based on the fictional world of the Of Orcs and Men series. And set several years after the events of the first game (Master of Shadows).
Styx works as a humble thief/ assassin within a town controlled by humans and orcs, where goblins are treated as slaves. Styx has access to magical powers and can lay traps for his enemies. He can even turn invisible for short periods of time.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
You don’t find a whole lot of stealth games set in a true medieval world. This one is, and it portrays a plague-ridden French city during the Hundred Years’ War. Amicia de Rune is the main character, and she is trying to escape from French Inquisition troops with her little brother Hugo.
Not only do you have to dodge these soldiers, but you must also stay clear of infected rats that are spreading the black plague. Some puzzle-solving is also thrown in along with distraction mechanics. You use a homemade sling to throw rocks that can stun or distract guards.
Top 10 Stealth Games Of All Time For PC
When this game was originally conceived, it wasn’t supposed to be some big-budget AAA mega release. Instead, it was to be a simple shooter. The team working on it had been laid off earlier from Looking Glass Studios, the creators of Thief.
Warren Spector got inspiration from Thief, Ultima Underworld, and System Shock. For Deus Ex, he combined 3 different genres: role-playing, FPS, and stealth. For the plot, he came up with a futuristic cyberpunk setting based around global conspiracy theories of an elite cabal that controls all world affairs.
You play as JC Denton, the first nano-augmented UNATCO agent. The game puts you in various sandbox levels and gives you nearly unlimited freedom to achieve your objectives in whichever way you wish. And yes, it does have multiple endings based on the gameplay path you choose.
Thief: The Dark Project
Released during an era when 3D games had become mainstream, Thief: The Dark Project is a pure stealth game. And by that, I mean it demands you play the stealthy way. Unlike Dishonored and Metal Gear Solid, you can’t run around whacking guards and shooting people.
Garett the master thief doesn’t have a stealth mode, radar, or X-ray vision. He uses an actual, physical map that you have to pull up every time you need to get a sense of where you are. And this map won’t always be accurate, since it is based on second-hand information from other people.
As you discover more of each level, the map gets updated with new locations and objectives. There is very little hand-holding or exposition, the game doesn’t bombard you with pretentious tutorials or cutscenes. Instead, you find out about the story and characters by hearing the guards talk and reading letters/ manuscripts scattered around each level.
Hitman: Blood Money
You play as genetically enhanced Agent 47 who has just arrived in America to investigate a series of assassinations targeted at his fellow ICA operatives. And you are going to kill every poor soul responsible. For money of course.
The cleaner your kill, the more money you are rewarded. Money is used to buy better equipment and collect information for future missions. Blood Money also introduced new gameplay systems like distractions, human shields, false alarms, accident kills, etc.
Thief 2: The Metal Age
While the first Thief game had a tinge of dark fantasy and horror mixed in, its sequel shifted to a more urban setting. Fewer mazes and monsters but more guards and gothic monuments. Much like the previous game, your goal is to stay hidden as much as possible.
A regular drunk guard armed with a truncheon can knock your lights out within seconds, so direct confrontation is not recommended. This urban setting also introduces patrol bots and surveillance cameras which are constructed in a very steampunk style.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
After Invisible War’s commercial failure, the Deus Ex series was placed on an extended hiatus. Ion Storm studios also closed down, meaning fans of Deus Ex would probably never get the third game. And then, in 2009 we started getting hints that a new Deus Ex game is in the works.
This time, it was Eidos Montreal making the game. People were skeptical. After all Deus Ex is a storied franchise and anyone making a sequel is carrying a lot of expectations.
Fortunately, Human Revolution is an excellent game. It keeps the open-ended level design and freedom of choice from previous games while introducing new and unique mechanics to revolutionize gameplay. There are cover shooter mechanics and you have these pesky boss fights that disrupt the whole stealth theme.
But despite a couple of flaws, the overall package is excellent. You have a gritty cyberpunk narrative featuring gravel gargling stoic protagonist Adam Jensen. Wearing a trench coat and shades, he will single-handedly throw a wrench in the plans of the Illuminati.
Mark of the Ninja
It’s a strange mix of old and new, both in terms of design and the actual story of the game. How many modern stealth side-scrollers have you heard of? Most stealth games these days are either top-down or some mix of first-person/ third-person action.
You play as a nameless ninja in the modern world who dresses and fights like ninjas from the days of feudal Japan. There’s plenty of platforming, and each level is divided into sub-sections that are either dark or well-lit. The speed at which you move is also a deciding factor when it comes to detection since running produces more sound.
The first Dishonored game was marketed as a spiritual successor to Thief. One of the creative directors for this game was Harvey Smith, of Deus Ex fame. And the game is indeed a joy to play through.
It has this weird industrial steampunk vibe, being set in a fictional 19th-century English city called Dunwall. You play as Corvo, bodyguard to the Empress who’s assassinated. And you’re framed for her murder, so you sneak around the city uncovering a secret conspiracy to take over the land.
It’s a turn-based tactics game with roguelike elements blended in. The game plays in two stages. Prior to each mission, you spend time gathering info on your target.
During this preparation time, you also select special agents and equipment. You can assign agents to multiple missions simultaneously, and they have a chance of getting killed. Think of this game as a mish-mash between X-COM and Metal Gear Solid.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
To give you some perspective on what kind of game this is, know that it was created by FromSoftware. These are the people who gifted us with Bloodborne and Dark Souls. Saying this game is hard would be a massive understatement.
And you are guaranteed to die a lot more than just twice. But the rewarding sensation of pride and accomplishment that you get when you finally figure out this game can’t be explained through words. Its gameplay is deep and varied, offering you several options to tackle each foe.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
As of now, this is the last Deus Ex game. Eidos Montreal and Square Enix haven’t announced any info regarding its successor, which means that Adam Jensen’s story will probably remain unfinished. Nevertheless, Mankind Divided is an excellent game that was unjustly criticized by many for having a subpar story and short campaign.
Yeah, if you just follow the main narrative this game isn’t all that long. But why would you, when there are literally dozens of unique side quests and missions that add more depth to the narrative? Gameplay is simply amazing thanks to new augmentations and AI that is vastly superior compared to Human Revolution.
Besides, the story itself might be fairly basic compared to Human Revolution but it’s part of a larger plot. And you see references to that connection all the time (both in cutscenes and notes that you pick up in each level).
Top 10 Stealth Games Of All Time For Switch
It’s future-noir that is presented from a top-down perspective with retro graphics. Role-playing and stealth elements combine to create a unique atmosphere that is both exciting and tense. The futuristic city of New York has been taken over by drug kingpins and social collapse threatens to engulf the entire city.
Three vigilantes try to find out what’s going on inside the criminal underworld of this once great city. This is a game where you will have to make hard choices. And each decision will have a lasting impact on how the rest of the game plays out.
Sniper Elite 3: Ultimate Edition
This is a prequel to Sniper Elite: V2 and is set in the North African theatre of World War 2. You play as an elite OSS operative tasked with infiltrating and sabotaging Nazi bases. These Nazis are designing a new superweapon that could turn the tide of battle.
You methodically assassinate generals while stealing documents and blowing up equipment to prevent their plans from materializing. The combat is generally slow and tactical as long as you maintain a stealthy profile. But once enough enemies find out your position, everything turns into a giant shootout with grenades and machine gunfire.
Assassin’s Creed: Rebel Collection
This is a collection of two games with all single-player DLC included. You get Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Rogue. Black Flag is a combination of pirate ship combat and base building mixed in with assassin stuff. Rogue is the story of a Templar defector, set between the events of Black Flag and III.
In Black Flag you are thrust right into early 18th century Caribbean seas, this time period is often called the Golden Age of Pirates. In Rogue, your character is a Templar fighting in the French and Indian War. Both games have ship-based exploration and combat, with some base-building mechanics.
Dead by Daylight
This is an online co-op survival horror where you can either play as the prey or the hunter. One extremely dangerous killer is on the hunt for 4 survivors who must unlock gates around the map in order to escape. There are several licensed and original killers in this game.
Some are characters from other games or movie franchises. Each killer has its own unique special ability. Survivors cannot directly fight back or hurt the killer, they can only stun or blind him.
Scotland Yard in the future decides to come up with an all-knowing super AI that can catch thieves well before they do a crime. And you play as a thief tasked with infiltrating and stealing stuff from a designated spot in London. The game is set over a duration of 100 in-game days, during which you can assign multiple thieves.
Some of these thieves will fail, get caught, or die permanently. There are guard robots patrolling each heist location and you have a choice to kill your thief with a suicide pill to prevent him from being taken in. You can plant bugs to collect info, hack computers to siphon money into your bank account, and use explosives to blow through walls.
Never Stop Sneakin’
At its core, this game is intended to be a parody of the PS1 Metal Gear Solid. It has the same blocky 3D graphics and over-the-top characters with a wacky global conspiracy plot. But the gameplay is actually good enough to help this game stand on its own merit and not just as a cheap parody.
The plot is not very deep or memorable. A time-traveling goon has gone back and kidnapped all US presidents, you must stop him and set them free. To do so, you will sneak into enemy bases and evade guards while hacking computer systems.
Aragami: Shadow Edition
This is an enhanced version of the base Aragami game, and it comes with preloaded DLC content. There is the Nightfall expansion that introduces a new storyline with several characters. And you also get the Assassin’s Mark DLC which is primarily a bundle of skins.
Aragami works perfectly on the Nintendo Switch since it isn’t very hardware intensive, to begin with. Plus, the intuitive controls and cell-shaded comic book aesthetic are very appealing.
Not to be confused with “Serial Cleaners” which is yet to be released at the time of writing this article. In this game, you play as a professional cleaner. But your job isn’t to get rid of stains from carpets and walls.
Well, kind of- but instead of dirt and grime, you deal with murder scenes. You’re the cleaner who gets rid of blood, bodies, and other incriminating evidence.
Think of Winston the Wolf from Pulp Fiction, you basically play as him in this game. You drive a fast car, do your job efficiently, and get paid depending on how efficiently you clean the scene. The goal is to never get caught by leaving zero evidence behind.
Ghost of a Tale
In the world of this game, an ancient cleansing flame once claimed the lives of millions who stood up against it. It is a medieval setting, populated by anthropomorphic animals. You play as Tilo the mouse, who has been imprisoned by a kingdom of rats for trying to uncover a sinister conspiracy.
Since your character is too weak for direct conflict, you must navigate the environments of this game using stealth. There are NPCs who you can talk with, they will give you quests and instructions. You will be able to use several mechanics like distractions, disguises, etc. to plot a path around enemies.
Imagine an arena filled with invisible opponents. You have to carefully scan your surrounding for little clues such as footsteps and people coming out of their cloaking. There are various “hero” characters you can choose from, each with its unique abilities.
The gameplay is very diverse since there are so many unique weapons and power-ups. Plus, you can use tactical baits to lure other players out of hiding. Fights are usually long stretches of silence broken by short bursts of intense action.
As you can see, there are tons of excellent stealth games out there- both new and old. Yes, the glory days of this genre are gone, making way for easily marketable and highly profitable genres like Battle Royale. But stealth classics can still be enjoyed via emulation, PC gaming, and backward compatibility on consoles.
Plus, you’ve got a resurgence of this genre in the indie sphere where creativity and innovation are prioritized over monkey making. Whether you’re into sci-fi, horror, action-adventure, tactical espionage, etc., you’ll find at least one game on this list that scratches your stealth itch.
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