LinceWorks just announced Aragami 2, the sequel to their excellent stealth game Aragami, which is one of my all-time favorites, so I feel kind of inspired to list my 5 favorite stealth games. And also looking forward to playing Aragami 2 – hopefully next year.
The thrill of being hunter and hunted
If you have followed my blog, you know that the stealth genre holds a special place in my heart. And if you are unsure what to expect, let me try to explain the thrill of stealth.
Contrary to, for example, shooters, you will usually be faced with overwhelming odds, be it the sheer number of enemies, your own lack of skill or power, or more advanced obstacles, like technology. Mostly, our protagonists will operate outside of the system, be it as spec ops agents, thieves or assassins, forced to go into hiding against their will or by the nature of their profession. They will be hunters out for revenge and hunted by their enemies at the same time. This, of course, serves to justify the focus on stealth.
Wherever they go, being discovered means certain – or almost certain – death. So to succeed, you will have to observe, to think ahead and strike when the opportunity presents itself. Often, stealth game protagonists have special powers that give them an edge in combat, but I have learned that the thrill – or rather, the challenge – is even greater if you disable those powers. Also, most stealth games will be level-based, so no racing away to escape as you could in an open world setting.
The stealth afficinado will take great pleasure in sneaking though an enemy stronghold unseen. And while the prospect of succeeding is undeniably thrilling, it does require patience and great presence of mind. You cannot just bumble into a scene and expect things to go your way. Sometimes, you’ll have to improvise. Which is why observation is key. Be aware of alternative routes, escapes and environmental traps that might work in your favor.
So, if this sounds like the type of game you might enjoy, here are my – spoiler-free – 5 Favorite Stealth Games.
5. Deus ex: Human Revolution / Deus ex: Mankind Divided
In Deus ex: Human Revolution and its sequel Deus ex: Mankind Divided you are Adam Jensen, a Cyberpunk super-soldier with very special abilities. He can use them to either circumvent or utterly destroy all opposition. If you opt for the stealthy approach, you have a range of skills at your disposal that you can upgrade to give Adam an advantage e.g. in persuading his opponents during interrrogations or equip him with a cloaking device that can even fool laser grids.
You will not always be able to remain stealthy, but most of the time. Also, there are plenty of opportunities to sneak about and take out enemies silently, if you choose to. You can also play as a pacifist and accomplish a good part of the game without even engaging in combat.
Since stealth is just one of the possible play styles, this one is “only” my number five. It makes up for that with a great, thought-provoking story, great characters and meaningful choices, that will change the world as you progress. Also, the world itself as well as the musical score are fantastic.
4. Dishonored 1 + 2
Dishonored is set in the strangely beautiful, brutal world of the Empire of the Isles, ruled by Jessamin Kaldwin with Royal Protector Corvo Attano by her side. When he is accused of a crime he did not commit, this accomplished swordsman finds himself presented with a choice: become a disciple of the Outsider and acquire the powers of the arcane, or remain mortal and rely both on his skill with the sword and his ability to stay hidden from sight, if he so chooses.
Whatever your choice, every decision you make from then on does have consequences. And while Corvo will be hunted mercilessly by the guards, he does not have to become the hunter himself. There are always alternatives to making an easy kill. And an easy kill it would be, as Corvo is highly capable of wreaking havoc. And he certainly has the motivation to do just that.
Yet that is the charm of Dishonored and its sequel, Dishonored 2. If you prefer to play stealthily, you’ll have to practice restraint, knowing that you could go all in. Probably. Personally, if I want to really challenge myself, I will decline the Outsider’s gift.
That said, apart from its unique world, Dishonored features some very fascinating character, from the Outsider himself to one of the most intriguing assassins I have come across so far.
Speaking of assassins: The HITMAN-series features one of the most badass professional assassins in game history. Agent 47 is a cool-headed, observant hitman with a skill for disguising himself to get into places he normally wouldn’t be able to get into. These places are, naturally, off-limits, so the Suit only-achievements – where you have to accomplish a mission wearig your original suit and no disguise whatsoever throughout – are the hardest and most coveted.
Agent 47 is a versatile assassin, too, and able to use tools and weapons to create environmental opportunities to either distract or take out his targets. Trying out all the possible ways you can get away with with murder without being seen is great fun indeed.
While outfitted with a range of weapons, if you so choose, Agent 47 won’t stand a chance in an all-out fight against the many guards he will be faced with in any mission. Also, running is not an option as hiding places are rare and he is not really fast.
As mentioned in the beginning, Aragami is one of my absolute favorite stealth games. And a true stealth game it is, as there is no other option than to play it quietly, without being seen.
Just one strike from an enemy weapon will kill the Aragami. The Aragami itself is not a person, but an entity summoned by someone in need of help. It does not have a choice in the matter either. Haunted by visions it follows the path set before it without question. Which is an intriguing prospect in itself.
As with the HITMAN-series, observation and timing are crucial to succeeding in this game. The levels are tight and finding a place to hide before the enemy spots you can become quite stressful at times. Also, the Aragami is faced with obstacles Agent 47 would be very ill-equipped to handle. Luckily, it does have the tools that enable it to overcome said obstacles. But even those have their limits and you will have to learn to use them wisely.
What I love about Aragami is the absolute brutal, unforgiving stealth. There is no margin for error. But you will learn, over time, how to approach a mission and how to tackle guards and other things standing in your way. A well-deserved second place.
Thief, or rather the 2014-reboot of the classic, remains my favorite stealth game to date. Master thief Garrett is an unlikely hero dragged into an eerie adventure in this dreary world of shadow and death. The City suffers terribly, but there are more sinister forces at work than its ruler.
The very first job Garrett accepts unknowingly sends him into the heart of the conspiracy and from then on, this is a rollercoaster ride through streets crawling with guards, overly suspicious citizens and something else. The atmosphere is spooky, and Garrett has to watch his back, as the shadows are his only ally. He is not a fighter and making an escape more easily said than done if you are not yet acquainted with the city’s various hidden corners and storerooms. Having played this games many times, I know exacly what I am doing.
Yet I still feel the thrill of sneaking behind two patrolling guards’ backs to lift their pockets or – even better – plunder a heavily guarded bank vault in the excellent DLC before I fade into the shadows, unseen. Hiding places are scarce, the streets are narrow and your safest route is usually via the high ground. Since Garrett is not nearly as well equipped for a fight as, say, Corvo Attano from the Dishonored-franchise, the cleverly crafted levels will leave you feeling very vulnerable indeed. Which only adds to the thrill.
Okay, Splinter Cell does deserve a mention.
So, here they are, my Top 5 stealth games.
I will be continuing this series, irregularly. Guess I will present my favorite sniper games next. Probably.
Until then, keep on playing!