Best Stealth Games: Hitman, Splinter Cell, And More

Lurk in the shadows with these sneaky masterpieces.

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Not all of us are Doomguy, ready to go into a room full of murderous demons with a shotgun and send them back to Hell. Some of us, instead, prefer to exist in the shadows, finding creative ways to avoid conflict or defeat enemies before they ever realize we're there. Luckily, there have been plenty of fantastic stealth games released over the years that offer just that, often with their own unique twists like supernatural abilities or high-tech equipment.

For the best stealth games of all time (in no particular order), we looked at several decades of potential inclusions, ranging from the pure, classic stealth of early Splinter Cell games all the way to the chaotic creative stealth of Hitman. If you're in the mood to get sneaky, definitely check these games out.

Dishonored

Dishonored
Dishonored

Equal parts Bioshock and Thief but without feeling like a ripoff of either, Arkane's Dishonored is a tremendous stealth-action game because it encourages experimentation. Not only can you go through the game with non-lethal strategies, but you can also cause mass chaos and destruction without ever having to give away your own position. Transforming into a rat, moving into a concealed position, and then sending a swarm of bloodthirsty rats to devour a nearby guard will never not be a joy, and exploring every nook and cranny of Dunwall is half of the fun.


Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

The third game in the Splinter Cell series--released just three years after the first--Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory nonetheless managed to take stealth-espionage to the next level. A new hacking minigame gave Sam Fisher yet another way to get the jump on his enemies without going guns blazing, with access to files and building systems hidden behind lines of code. Sam's knife and customizable gearset let different types of players experiment and develop their perfect loadout, and the visuals were better than ever. Spies vs. Mercs and a cooperative campaign were also included, cementing Chaos Theory as one of the best games to ever bear the Clancy name.


Splinter Cell Blacklist

Splinter Cell Blacklist
Splinter Cell Blacklist

Released after a long hiatus, Splinter Cell Blacklist feels like a combination of Chaos Theory's perfected classic stealth and the more aggressive stealth-action of Conviction. With three distinct playstyles called Ghost, Panther, and Assault, there is a way to tackle every objective regardless of how much stealth experience you have, and the enhanced Mark & Execute ability lets Sam Fisher operate as a ruthlessly efficient agent of death. It's streamlined and faster than the past games, which doesn't appeal to everyone, but Blacklist is an excellent example of how stealth games don't need to move at a snail's pace to still be stealth games.


Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

The Metal Gear Solid games were pioneers in the modern stealth genre, but… they didn't always play all that well, especially the first few. With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, that changed drastically. One of the best stealth-action games of all time, The Phantom Pain borders on immersive sim with its in-world storytelling, and its emergent gameplay structure lets you feel like you're Big Boss on a mission, gathering intel rather than having it spoonfed to you at key points. Capturing enemies to add to your army and making use of key companions further enhances your abilities, and the only real limit to what you can do in a mission is your imagination.


Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja
Mark of the Ninja

Stealth isn't limited to just 3D games, and Klei proved that in a big way with Mark of the Ninja. A Saturday-morning-cartoon aesthetic is a perfect fit for this surprisingly hardcore stealth game, which requires excellent timing and careful planning in order to avoid getting spotted and eliminate enemies. However, it's far from overwhelming, serving as a great starting point for stealth newcomers and an excellent change of pace for those more used to the realistic visuals of so many other stealth games. Plus, who doesn't love stabbing dudes in the chest as a ninja?

Hitman 3

Hitman 3
Hitman 3

No stealth series embraces the absurd more than Hitman, and IO Interactive leaned into that especially hard for Hitman 3. Like its two recent predecessors, Hitman 3 features a number of open-ended levels with objectives you can tackle in nearly any order--and in dozens of different ways. Sure, you can go up to your target and put a silenced pistol round in their skull, but why do that when you can get them to accidentally kill themselves via a botched photoshoot? In a series that once let you eject someone from a fighter jet a thousand feet into the air instead of just gunning him down, it's always best to think outside the box.


Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

The Assassin's Creed series has taken a few different forms over the years, ranging from the simple social-stealth gameplay of the original to the full-on RPG of Odyssey and Valhalla. In Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Ubisoft really hit its stride by offering smooth, polished stealth--often intertwined with direct combat--and the titular Brotherhood system. Rather than conquer a mission alone, the game lets Ezio use his recruits to assassinate targets--taking out your primary foe while your buddies leap from the rooftop and eliminate the guards is a joy, and one that very few stealth games have copied since then.


Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Though we chose the first game in the series for this list, we truly could have picked any of the Sly Cooper games and they would have deserved it. Appropriate for younger players--as long as you don't mind stealing--and combining stealth elements with simple platforming, Sly Cooper is a unique series that exemplifies the mascot-heavy days of the PS2. Joined by his partners in (literal) crime, Sly Cooper is a master of stealth and traversal, and the game's de-emphasis of direct combat stands in stark contrast to many other games of the era. It was followed by two sequels on the PS2 and a third on the PS3 and PS Vita, and we're eager to go on another adventure with the cute little guy.


The Last of Us

The Last of Us
The Last of Us

Not a pure stealth game--there are definitely moments of all-out action--The Last of Us nonetheless qualifies because of how well it handles its stealth moments. Whether it's trying to avoid a group of Clickers via distracting glass bottles or trying to take out bandits without any of them realizing you're there, The Last of Us favors smart play and avoiding conflict over slick gunplay. This can even be the case in the middle of an all-out firefight, with Joel capable of slipping away, flanking targets without them realizing he's left, and ambushing them with a gadget or two.


Gunpoint

Gunpoint
Gunpoint

Some of the best stealth games blend other genres together to create something that would simply be impossible in the traditional action-adventure framework. That's the case with Gunpoint, a retro-style puzzle-platformer that is more about finding the solution to a problem than it is avoiding enemies and traps on the fly. The primary way you'll do this is with the Crosslink tool, which lets you change security systems for your own benefit. But just because it's a puzzle game doesn't mean there is only one solution, giving you incentive to replay levels and figure out the cleverest ways to make it through each challenge.

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