There was once a time when the best stealth games would come out seemingly one after the other, which was just a part of the industry following what people wanted. If you’re sick of battle royale games, don’t worry, because they will eventually die out — it’s just the nature of the gaming climate to chase what’s hot. Just look at what’s happened to cover shooters and survival games over the years.
It doesn’t feel like the stealth genre is on the way out, rather that it’s difficult to find a “straight” stealth title that isn’t interspersed with other conventions, like an open world or open-ended approach that gives the player plenty of choice on how to approach obstacles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — adaptation and evolution is part of why Mario is still as beloved as ever.
The stealth games you’ll find below, however, lean more towards being pure sneaking and strategy over running and gunning. A quick qualifier for this list of the best stealth games: we’ve limited ourselves to just one entry per franchise for the sake of variety.
The Best Stealth Games
Developer: Rockstar Publisher: Take-Two Platform(s): PC, PS2, PS4, Xbox
Once you strip away all of its controversies, what are you left with when it comes to Manhunt? Well, you’re left with a game that’s so violent that it feels a little satirical of Rockstar’s flagship, but also a very solid game with some surprisingly great stealth gameplay all-round.
By design (and also possibly the restrictions of the time), James Earl Cash is not great at hand-to-hand combat, so stealthing and “plastic-bagging” is the aim of the game instead. You can perform many of the stealth pillars (corner-peeking, noise distractions), but the real headline act of Manhunt — and also the reason why it earned itself so many newspaper headlines — is the brutal executions.
While Manhunt was ahead of its time in many regards, time hasn’t caught up to it too harshly and is still a bloody joy to play. It may even still make you feel a bit queasy, despite its triangular nature.
20. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Activision Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
While not necessarily an outright stealth game, Sekiro’s handling of stealth means that unless you embrace it, you might be in for a bad time. In a game that throws tonnes of enemies at you at once and a giant monkey who refuses to die, you have to take any help you can damn well get.
Playing as a downbeat shinobi, you must leap and dash your way across buildings while trying desperately to maintain the little vitality you have — a couple of quick hits and you’re out in Sekiro. This makes creeping up on enemies and performing Stealth Deathblows an absolute life-saver, particularly if you can get one off against a mini-boss.
While there’s nothing revolutionary here in terms of stealth, there’s something to be said for making blood spurt out of someone’s windpipe like a fountain.
“Sekiro is a tremendously fun and difficult game — everything from the combat to the world itself is crafted in a masterful way. The only thing I had a minor issue with was the camera: it can be a bit temperamental when you move around quickly sometimes. Even after spending around 40 hours to beat it, I still want to come back for more in the coming weeks.”
19. Sniper Elite 4
Developer: Rebellion Publisher: Rebellion Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
There’s a surprising amount of stealth that comes before shooting someone’s testicles all the way off. Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t massively change things from the third installment but instead has some welcome QOL improvements, which is why it makes the cut for the best stealth games.
With levels that consist of open sandboxes that have many different ways of approaching your objective, Sniper Elite 4 feels closest to Hitman in terms of gameplay. However, can Agent 47 wait patiently in some shrubs for the target to expose themselves before masking their gunshot with the sound of an overhead plane and then sitting back and watching on with smug satisfaction as their head explodes?
Didn’t think so.
Developer: Bithell Games Publisher: Bithell Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, Vita
The immediate comparison that springs to mind when you load up Mike Bithell’s Volume is — if you had a good childhood — Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions. It has an aesthetic not a million miles away from Kojima’s weird side-content, though Volume has its fair share of original ideas to make it worthwhile.
Inspired by Robin Hood, Volume tasks you with stealing sensitive data from the rich and famous to spread it worldwide and incriminate evildoers. It’s a challenging game with a difficulty that creeps up on you the deeper you go thanks to its deep puzzles, though you can always take a step back, take in the beautiful visuals, and then take another stab at it.
17. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Vita
Does this really belong here? Not really. Is it a pure vanity pick because I remembered it as I was having a shower and its incredible box art? You better believe it.
While its status as an out-and-out stealth game can be argued thanks to its emphasis on platforming as well, it’s still a heck of a load of fun.
Created by Sucker Punch in their pre-inFamous days, Sly 2 is an affable mish mash of different ideas and mechanics. At one point it’s a stealth game as you play, at another it’s a brawler as Bentley goes crashing through enemies.
Its status as a PS2 classic is uncontested, but Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves gives it some strong competition if you want to stick to the same franchise.
PS5 sequel when, Sony?
16. Syphon Filter
Developer: SIE Bend Studio Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS1
A PlayStation favourite that came out a time when Solid Snake had only just made his PS1 debut, Syphon Filter never reached the fanfare of Metal Gear Solid, but it certainly had plenty of fans all the same.
It had so many fans, in fact, that Syphon Filter was a valuable IP for Sony for the next ten years, and then — nothing. The last entry in the franchise came way back in 2007 with Logan’s Shadow for PSP.
It’s been all quiet on the Syphon Filter front since then with its developer and originator, Bend, going on to produce portable Uncharted games and also Days Gone, which actually seems to be in the same universe. If you squint hard enough, Deacon actually even looks a little like Logan, too.
Probably the least well-known game on this list, Echo is an indie with a seriously interesting twist to gameplay; indies are always where you will find the most unique mechanics. You must fight yourself (or many different versions of yourself) as you traverse a constantly twisting and changing palace. If that sounds nuts, it all makes sense within the game, trust me.
You have a gun, thought its uses are limited and won’t permanently kill any of your “echoes”. This means that stealth is your best option and what a nerve-racking proposition it is. Your enemies react to your actions and even follow what you do: if you start shooting everything up, they will do the same.
Developer: Rocksteady Publisher: WB Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U
For all his gadgets and bone-breaking, Batman is at his most effective when he’s stalking his foes from the shadows.
Arkham City celebrates that by giving The Bat a big ol’ playground full of miscreants to incapacitate but apparently never kill, despite the fact that he has probably caused his fair share of haemorrhages over the years. You, too, can get in on the questionable act in what many see as the best in the Arkham series.
By expanding on the fundamentals introduced in Asylum with a grander scale and more polish, City allows you to approach being The Bat however you like. There’s something undeniably satisfying about the game’s combat, but equally so is stringing up bad guys from lampposts.
Arkham Knight is also worth a look, but only if you’re not on PC and also not averse to spending a whole bunch of time in the Batmobile.
13. Mark of the Ninja
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Switch
From one Klei stealth game to another, Mark of the Ninja represents the absolute best in 2D side-scrolling stealth games.
Admittedly, the competition isn’t exactly stacked, though Mark of the Ninja can more than hold its own against the biggest hitters. We may often reel off the adventures of Sam Fisher and Snake as the best stealth games around, but the innovative trials and tribulations of Mark’s unnamed ninja are certainly just as worthy.
The game places a huge emphasis on the little details with sound being something to be constantly aware of. The AI is a great deal smarter than in most stealth games, which means that even the smallest of noises could be your undoing. Luckily, the protagonist is more than a dab hand at evading detection, meaning that, with a lot of dedication, you can make Hattori Hanzo proud.
A remaster was released for consoles in 2018, though with it being available for a relative pittance on Steam, you shouldn’t wait around.
12. Invisible, Inc.
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment Platform(s): PC, iOS, PS4, Switch
Many people’s first introduction to Invisible, Inc. came during its reveal as one of the free PS Plus games and the maelstrom of negativity that followed from jaded subscribers. I quickly found out that this was incredibly unfair on Klei Entertainment’s relatively low-key stealth affair — it may not make as many headlines as Bloodborne, but it’s arguably just as worthy of your attention.
Failure in most stealth games simply means trying again (or losing your mind and massacring everything in sight), but not with Invisible, Inc: death is as debilitating and fearmongering as it is in something like XCOM. The stakes are high no matter the mission, so playing strategically is key — you’ll be afraid to fail, but you should be prepared for the inevitability of it.
Featuring a drop dead gorgeous art style and unique, engaging mechanics, Invisible, Inc. offers randomly generated delights and frustrations in equal measure. Check out Hacktag for something similar.
11. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Developer: Eidos Montréal Publisher: Square Enix Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
You may baulk at the original game not getting a look-in as one of the best stealth games, and you’d probably be right to do so. It changed the face of gaming for the better by interspersing many different styles of gameplay into one cohesive experience, but it’s showing some signs of age. Mods may fix it, though Human Revolution is a more than decent alternative — I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s actually the better game.
Billed as an action RPG, Human Revolution can be played as a straight run and gun, but where’s the fun in that? It’s at its best when you’re taking the constantly exasperated Adam Jensen around his dystopian surroundings and using his modifications to keep yourself in the shadows before eventually smashing through a wall to incapacitate someone while somehow not being detected.
For refining the mistakes of the first game and introducing mechanics that would serve as inspirations for its peers for years to come, Assassin’s Creed II has to get the nod as one of the best stealth games ever made.
Your first foray as Ezio invites you into a rich open world with plenty to do and even more ways to approach things, so much so that you don’t even need to really be all that sneaky. The feeling from parkour-ing across buildings is hard to match, especially when followed up by the traditional hay-cart dive.
Assassin’s Creed may continue to grow and expand with each new entry and become less and less about assassinating itself, but its second game represents the series at its purest.
9. Thief: Deadly Shadows
Developer: Ion Storm Publisher: Eidos Interactive Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Those who see the 2014 Thief idling around in bargain bins may not know what a fall from grace the series has suffered. The most recent incarnation was by no means a bad game, just largely uninspired and lacking a sprinkling of magic. You can’t say the same for Deadly Shadows, a game released when the demand for stealth games was arguably at its highest peak.
Deadly Shadows provided a lot of fundamental changes for the series, including the ability to switch between perspectives and to press up against walls; small things that not many games at the time could provide.
Some fans may rally against Deadly Shadows for “casualising” the Thief experience, but it’s still easy to pick up and play today while earlier entries are showing wear and tear.
It’s available for 76p on Steam as I write this; it’s worth it for that level alone.
Developer: Lince Works Publisher: Lince Works Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
A game inspired by the iconic series coming up very soon, Aragami is one of this generation’s most underrated games and another throwback to when stealth meant stealth.
By mixing cel-shading with a unique “inky” aesthetic, Aragami certainly looks the part and it’s luckily the same story in the gameplay department. Thanks to you only being able to dispose of enemies when hidden, it’s tough, but nothing worth having — including feeling like a badass — should come easy.
Aragami’s main hook is how it empowers you through the shadows with its stealth mechanics, not unlike similarly underrated The Darkness. While cloaked, you gain special abilities to help you take down your diligently patrolling enemies. Aragami rewards patience, and so should you reward yourself by picking up this often overlooked gem.
It has also recently introduced co-op, so there isn’t a better time to dive into Aragami.
7. Styx: Shards of Darkness
Developer: Cyanide Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Of all the stealth games on this list, Styx is perhaps the most unrefined; a AA title with aspirations that it can’t quite completely reach smoothly. Its rough edges don’t detract from what a gem it is, though: a throwback to its inspirations of old where stealth was key to winning the day.
As a sarcastic little goblin, your abilities are obviously limited — there’s no flitting over buildings in this game.
This means that Shards of Darkness contains plenty of trial and error gameplay, which may frustrate some. For anyone who’s played an old-school stealth game, however, it’s a joy.
The first Styx game is similarly brilliant, but for featuring refinements in controls, bigger stakes, and a somehow even more lovably obnoxious protagonist, Shards of Darkness is the one you should be checking out.
No matter your thoughts on Wrath of Heaven beating out many of its siblings to be the Tenchu game included here, there’s no denying that its box art is a thing of wonder. It’s exactly what drew many to the game as a kid with its brutal style ensuring I kept coming back for more. This may be just the rose-tinted spectacles talking, but no game has matched Wrath of Heaven in terms of visceral executions.
Featuring spine-breaks, heart filleting, and even some old-fashioned decapitations, it could be easy to discount Wrath of Heaven as nothing more than a gorefest, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It requires a lot of strategy and forward planning, almost like the Hitman of ninja games — you’ll never be able to look at a rice ball the same way again.
The series has been sadly dormant for over a decade and has mainly been found on just consoles, so you may want to start scouring eBay.
5. Ghost of Tsushima
Developer: Sucker Punch Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS4
Speaking of Tenchu, how about a burgeoning new franchise that certainly bears some similarities?
The last big PS4 exclusive was one heck of a way to say goodbye to the console. An open world game with a heavy emphasis on stealth (if you want it to, of course), Ghost of Tsushima is a pitch perfect love letter to the works of Kurosawa.
Playing as Jin Sakai, one of the last remaining samurai in his native land, you must repel Mongol invaders through whatever means necessary. Whether you want to fight with honor or not is up to you, but there’s something to be said for clearing out a camp full of foes without raising the alarm, your katana glinting as you dash from invader to invader.
Tsushima also shows a tonne of promise for the future of stealth games, which haven’t exactly been supported by the biggest companies in the industry over the last ten years.
Released during a time when dripfeeding content was all the rage in the industry, Hitman was one of the few that actually went about it the right way, releasing new levels with tonnes of replayability and special side distractions to keep you coming until the next batch of content was ready.
It doesn’t hurt that it offers the best gameplay in the series, either. Hitman had always been somewhat clunky by nature, seemingly to dissuade mass murder sprees. 2016’s Hitman, however, introduces the smoothest action seen yet with competent AI and reactive scenarios to still bring the challenge, as well as a much appreciated level of detail with so many different events triggering at once.
It’s absolutely worth picking up if you haven’t yet, but its sequel ain’t too shabby, either.
3. Dishonored 2
Developer: Arkane Studios Publisher: Bethesda Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
It’s a damn shame, too, because anyone who’s played the original game will find that Dishonored 2 fixes the annoying quirks and adds a few new ideas of its own. It heavily promotes stealth over other, more straightforward tactics, so whether you’re blinking to rooftops or summoning rats, you can feel like a superpowered assassin. If you couldn’t guess already, it feels awesome.
Dishonored 2 is also one of those games that rewards experimentation and perfection, so take your time with it and you will take a lot away from it in turn.
You want it, I want it, everyone wants it. The only problem with a new Splinter Cell game is that we’d have to buy it and, judging from the franchise’s most recent entries in terms of sales, it might be a risk that Ubisoft are averse to taking. If they were to make a new Splinter Cell game and have it be a success, all they need to do is look at Chaos Theory: the third entry in the series.
A considerable step up on the first two games, Chaos Theory came out in a head-to-head with Solid Snake; a rivalry that was fondly remembered with an Easter egg in Ghost Recon Wildlands. Looking back on it now, that rivalry probably spearheaded what was the golden age of stealth games.
Of all the games on this list, Chaos Theory may be the purest in terms of stealth. It will punish your simple mistakes with its relentless AI, so you will not just be able to light up all witnesses with a hail of gunfire. It’s a game about patience, just an absolute load of door bashing, and iconic green goggles.
If you’ll excuse me, I have a letter to draft to Ubisoft. No, Ubisoft, putting him in every other Tom Clancy game but his own does not count.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan Publisher: Konami Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, 3DS, Vita
Anyone who knows stealth games could have predicted that Snake Eater would be sitting pretty on top of the pile.
By stretching the tech limitations of its generation of gaming to almost breaking point, Kojima and co. were able to create one of gaming’s most adored franchises with its zenith. Considering the calibre of almost everything with the Metal Gear name, that’s high praise.
Praise, however, that is deserved. You play as Naked Snake, who is deep behind enemy lines during the Cold War in a tale of love, loss, and bullets. To survive, he must sneak around the dense jungles with a wide variety of camouflages and nibble on his fair share of crocodile.
It also has the staple Kojima attention to detail with the boss battle with The End totally avoidable if you just change your PS2’s date settings to make him die of old age.
It’s really about time Konami bundled all of these stealth landmarks as one complete collection. We’re as tired as Snake at the end of 4 about that not happening yet.