What are Stealth Games?

Matthew_Anderson
edited August 2023 in Gaming

Stealth games make up an important segment of the video game market. Stealth action games, in addition to various subgenres including ninja stealth games and coop stealth games, provide a contrast to the omnipresent shooter game. Franchises like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell have shaken up the video game landscape while also attracting a large following of loyal fans. 

Despite the popularity of this type of game, not everyone understands what the term means, especially those who are not avid gamers. What is the origin of the stealth game? How do stealth games work in terms of overall gameplay? In addition to answering these questions, we’ll let you know some of the 5 best stealth games for an introduction to the genre.

What are stealth games?

When it comes to gameplay and strategy, stealth games are totally different from shooter games. Players in stealth games receive low amounts of ammo or no weapons at all, making staying undetected by enemies and threats a crucial part of the game.

Additionally, due to the stealth element, development puts more emphasis on level design in order to give the player places to hide. Enemies also make greater use of AI, relying on signs like movement within a certain area to perceive an intruder. Players must rely on wits and strategy to make it through a level undetected and unharmed, which is precisely what makes stealth games so thrilling and popular.

History of stealth games

There is no game that all believe to be the originator of the stealth game genre, as different observers cite different games as the “first” stealth game. One view is that the character disguises and alarm triggers in Castle Wolfenstein created a model that later games like Metal Gear would follow.

Another cites Manbiki Shounen (Shoplifting Boy), released in 1979 in Japan, as the first true example of a stealth game. There is also the opinion that Thief truly initiated the genre, since it was the first stealth game to be a wide success. No matter where you draw the line, stealth games share a lot of characteristics in common.

As the genre developed, stealth games came to use a wider and more sophisticated range of techniques. The first installment of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell in 2002, for example, introduced dynamic lighting and shadows as gameplay elements, increasing the realism significantly. 2007’s Assassin’s Creed introduced a social aspect, where the player can hide themselves among a crowd of civilians. 

Alien: Isolation, released in 2014, represented a whole new frontier. The game was the first to measure noise from the player’s microphone, whereas the alien can use that noise to track the player down. One of the most recent developments in the genre is the multiplayer stealth game. Though the concept itself was introduced by Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, it has been revolutionized in several ways. Games like Among Us and SpyParty force the player to evade detection from other players, which increases the realism compared to single-player games.

With the genre constantly evolving, the stealth game is alive and more dynamic than ever.

5 best stealth games for an introduction to the genre

1. Alien: Isolation  

Alien: Isolation, released in 2014 by Sega, is a stealth game based on the movie 1979 Alien starring Sigourney Weaver. In this game widely considered to be one of the best stealth games of all time, you must survive your time on a spaceship through avoiding a series of enemies, including the infamous alien.

The game’s design is based on the original film, not the 1986 sequel, and its dedication to its source material shows. The game creates a nightmarish environment that thrills the player, directly immersing them into the Aliens universe. Downloadable content packs even recreated some of the scenes from the original film, merging the video game and the movie into one interactive universe.

2. Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid is not only known as one of the best stealth games, but as one of the best video games ever. Its relatively simple premise is carried out to perfection as the player must navigate the protagonist, Solid Snake, around a range of enemies and obstacles.  

Players can use a wide range of techniques to avoid detection, including hiding behind boxes, ducking behind walls and distraction to fool their enemies. Though the stealth game concept was not new at the time, Metal Gear Solid brought the game to a whole different level. For a solid introduction to this genre, Metal Gear Solid is a terrific place to start.  

3. Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow  

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is just one game in the multi-game Splinter Cell franchise. This video game phenomenon is based on the work of Tom Clancy and its production involved the action-adventure author’s participation. In this sequel, players must contend with biological warfare from an Indonesian terrorist group threatening to infect people with the smallpox virus.

The novelty of this sequel, however, is its introduction of a multiplayer mode. Having never been done before within the genre, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow was a hit as a multiplayer stealth game.

4. Mark of the Ninja  

Mark of the Ninja is a critically acclaimed single-player stealth action game. Released for the first time in 2012 by Microsoft Studios, the game follows a ninja in the modern-day world where ancient customs and modern technology clash.

A large part of its commercial success is thanks to its superb visual and graphic design. Its sleek artistic style masks deceivingly complicated gameplay. This game was a major success, receiving over a 90% rating on Metacritic. In fact, critics’ main complaint was that some of the puzzles were too difficult. But don’t let that scare you away - this stealth game is a load of fun, and a great introduction to the genre.

5. Dishonored 2  

Dishonored 2, set in the fictional, Mediterranean-esque world of Karnaca, is considered by some to be the best stealth game of all time. Its ingenious concept, set in a world where both whaling and wind-turbine-fueled electricity play large roles, is a breathtakingly gorgeous fresh take on the stealth genre. 

The game both looks and sounds amazing, thanks to the groundbreaking production work of the studio. It may not be the most typical example of a stealth game, but it’s worth playing to see just how far the boundaries can be pushed. Try this game out today on PlayStation 4, Windows, or Xbox One.

Conclusion

Stealth games, whether the traditional action model or a subgenre like ninja stealth games or coop stealth games, are thrilling, edge-of-your-seat games with an experience like no other.

But to experience any game to the fullest, it’s imperative to have the right hardware: without a powerful monitor or laptop, your PC game’s performance will forever be limited. That’s why you should consider the Nitro KG2 monitor, a cutting-edge monitor designed for fast performance and crystal clear graphics. If you’re looking for something portable, try the Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop - with 16 GB of memory and an Octa-core processor, you’ll be getting the most out of your games.

Matthew is a freelance content writer whose work has previously appeared in well-known language-learning blog Fluent in 3 Months and The Happy Self-Publisher. His creative work has also appeared in Otoliths, CafeLit, and the Eunoia Review. He is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is studying for a master's degree in Chinese Literature.

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