The Best Stealth Games Ever Released
Assassin’s Creed tackles stealth in a very different way from most games in the genre. All of the game takes place during the day, and Altair wears white. While you might think it makes him stick out like a sore thumb, it doesn’t, because he is able to blend in with city folks more easily, as well as priests and others. White is a popular colour in this game, and to wear otherwise would be foolish.
Altair is able to take to the rooftops and dart from one building to another, and being able to see him against the grey stone walls and the overcast sky above would be no mean feat. A trained assassin, he can move steathily, even whilst running or jumping, maintaining a light footedness unmatched by most. He’s also able to hide in hay bails and on benches, in crowds of people – in the populated cities with streets overflowing with people, it’s easy for him to slip away.
Heavily inspired by the Thief series, this game uses magic, technological wondery and melee combat. Unlike Thief, the main character is more than capable of getting into fights and living, as he also has a pistol at hand. Of course, if you go loud, that does eliminte the stealth element, but it’s always nice to a have a plan B when thing go awry. Being able to use abilities like teleportation to slip away or get to otherwise inaccessible places unnoticed make this an intriguing title – much like a cross between the aforementioned Thief and BioShock.
All Thief missions take place at night, and Garrett is able to use the shadows to stay hidden, as well as crouch, walk silently, and wait, observe patrol routes – patience is key to success, but one must also move swiftly.
This is a game where stealth is even more crucial than other games, simply because Garrett doesn’t really have the means to combat a force that often outnumbers him. A sword against an entire garrison of guards isn’t going to help much, though one on one combat might be manageable to some degree. This becomes near impossible in Deadly Shadows when all you have as a defensive weapon in close quarets is a dagger.
Instead, Garret often makes use of a bow with a variety of different arrows – water arrows to put out torches, moss arrows to mask the sound of his footsteps, as well as employing the use of noisemaker arrows as a distraction and gas arrows to incapacitate guards on the spot – though his trusty blackjack will do just as well.
If spotted, Garrett can make use of other tools as his disposal, for instance in Thief II, he can use speed potions to outrun guards at a quicker pace, slowfall potions to float gracefully the ground below when jumping from a fatal height. There’s also the rare and expensive invisibility potion which enables Garrett to disappear instantly.
Needless to say, being able to combine all of these makes for a frightening and deadly opponent, and not to mention silent.
Metal Gear Solid
While Snake doesn’t have the ability to turn invisible like Grey Fox, he is equipped with a sneaking suit, the colour of which he is able to use to blend in with his surroundings. Snake can sneak up on guards, perform silent takedowns, and use suppressed weapons when needed.
Snake also has to watch out for security cameras, which he can sneak past, or use chaff grenades to interrupt their normal functioning for a time. Another tactic he will often employ throughout the game is sneaking through air ducts through the base on Shadow Moses Island.
Sam Fisher is a small and very agile man, able to perform maneuvres that most people get cramps just thinking about – like split leg wall climbs, and hanging and moving upside down along structures like pipes.
Staying in the dark is also key, and Sam has night vision goggles to gain an advantage over his enemies. Up close he can perform silent takedowns, hide bodies, and use suppressed weapons when necessary.
Combat in this title is difficult and has a steep learning curve – it’s largely pseudo-physics based, kind of in the same vain as Penumbra. The magic system also relies on making gestures with the mouse, replicating runes, or a combination thereof, making it difficult, particularly with modern hardware to accomplish.
This means stealth is often the best way to achieve your objectives, even though the stealth can feel a little clunky, and you’re not always sure that it’s working per se. You have to be crouched, and quiet, keeping to the shadows – it’s not one of the best stealth systems in my opinion, and coupled with the sharp AI, it’s quite hard to get through the game this way. However, it is pretty cool sniping enemies while hiding behind objects and killing them and they don’t really know who it is, or can’t reach you even if they do.
Deus Ex is well known for featuring multiple ways to accomplish goals in missions, and one of them is a stealthier approach, not just in avoiding enemies, but also the tech skills comes in to play a lot, being able to hack into computers, shut off alarms, and security cameras will aid JC in his endeavours. He also has the use of more silent weapons, like a supressed pistol, a crossbow that fires poison tipped bolts, and a simple yet effective knife.
Agent 47 has also relied on stealth in the games, mostly from the second game onwards. Hiding bodies, posing as guards or other people to avoid suspicion, but Blood Money was the game that introduced a whole new element to the series, and that was being able to make deaths look like an accident, this way excluding himself from suspicion and of course perhaps reaping karma points for not getting his hands dirty. It also costs the agency less in the long run, because they don’t have to pay witnesses to crimes to keep their mouths shut.
One wouldn’t normally associated this series with stealth, but when it comes to Fallout 3 and FNV in particular, you can take that route, not only relying on supressed weapons, but also crouching and sneaking about. You have a meter at the top which will tell you where you’re hidden or detected by anyone, and then caution in red will flash if an enemy spots you.
You often have to sneak, and have a sufficient sneak skill to complete missions a stealthier way, and to pickpocket people without being detected and to pick locks without being caught.
Sometimes it might be the best way if you want to get through an area, but your character isn’t strong enough to do it via more conventional ways, like with guns blazing, or a melee assault. Like if there’s an area full of deathclaws, and you need to get through. You either need to find another way, or if there isn’t one, then you’d better be pretty damn good at sneaking, because not even running is going to help you.
One could argue that it’s mainly down to the combat which takes a lot of practice to master – some might even say that it’s flat out bad. One thing that I’ve found is that it doesn’t work when you’re in a hurry – the fact that even spotting enemies in the game will make the main character have a panic attack and start to pass out as their vision goes blurry means that combat should be avoided and you should rather take a stealthier approach to the game to make it through unharmed. Sneaking around and avoiding enemies will accomplish this – also using dog food as a trail to lead hungry wild animals away as a distraction will help you immensely.
Stealth Bastard is an interesting little game, because it doesn’t really involve sneaking around guards like your typical stealth game, but you do have to stick to the shadows and avoid security cameras, robots of different sorts, and other triggers that might set off an alarm or a trap of some sorts.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Like a lot of games, particularly in the RPG genre, Bloodlines has horrible combat, whether using guns or blades. Even the patches of mods available for the game do little to improve this.
Using stealth can often give you an advantage. Now you can sneak around and avoid people, but one of the best things about playing specific clans like the Malkavians and the Nosferatu is that you can use Obfuscate, and ability that allows you to become invisible for a time. This makes sneaking much easier – in fact when using these clans, it’s virtually pointless increasing sneak – because if you truly want to play using stealth, you’d just pick one of these two – and yes, there is a mod to make Malkavian dialogue text more legible, though it does nothing to decipher it into plain English.
And playing as the Nosferatu also means that you can use the sewers to get around the city if you really don't want to be seen.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Dark Athena comes packaged with said game as well as remastered Escape From Butcher Bay, easily one of the best games of the 2000’s. In it, Riddick often muse utilise stealth to get by areas, and is helped later on in the game by his eyeshine ability, which contrary to what he says in Pitch Black is not done surgically, but is a natural Furian trait.
Riddick can then step out from the shadows, hiding in them tends to augment his vision, changing the hue a bit, and perform stealth kills on enemies, often breaking their necks, or if they turn around, he can wrestle their firearm away from them and use it against them.
Let’s face it, the one everyone used most next to maximum armour was cloak. Speed was useless most of the time, and this was reflected by the fact that they even took it away from the suit abilities wheel in the sequel and it was just relegated to the usual shift key for sprint.
Using cloak throughout the game would have been unfair, so the suit has a charge which diminishes the longer you use cloak. The charge drains slowly when you stay still, but drops quickly when you move, and the quicker you move, the quicker it runs out.
You have to be very careful and plan your movements wisely using cloak, as when it runs out your suit has to recharge, and you can’t engage other suit abilities for very long, and this is when you become really vulnerable to gunfire. In fact firing your weapon when cloaked costs the most as your suit is then drained completely. You should only ever disengage cloak, and then fire on an enemy.
Bully: Scholarship Edition
One can use stealth in Bully – in fact it’s often required to pass through certain areas of the game, and I have to say, out of all Rockstar games I’ve played, to this day, it is probably one of the most effective stealth systems coupled with passable AI.
Prefects often have a cone of vision, and if you are caught inside it when playing truant or doing something against the school code of conduct, like bullying or not adhering to dress code, you’ll get busted and either dragged to class or in front of the principal.
Some missions involve you sneaking into the girls’ dormatory to retrieve panties – don’t ask, but it’s not for Jimmy.
You can often hide in lockers or bins around campus to give bullies the slip too.
I think the stealth system was built upon that which was introduced in GTA: San Andreas, except I think that game’s stealth system wasn’t that good because it was kind of experimental and new to the series, and wasn’t really relied upon that heavily as only a handful of missions required it and it therefore wasn’t integral to gameplay, so it didn't work too well in my opinion.
Trilby: The Art of Theft
This game was made by Ben Yahtzee Croshaw and features a gentleman thief by the name of Trilby who's mission it is to steal items throughout a variety of levels. Trilby is rather acrobatic, being able to roll when crouching. He can also use the handle of his umbrella to get on to upper floors instead of resorting to ladders which take too long to climb anyway. That umbrella also has a stungun built into the tip that he can use to neutralise enemies. He can probably do a lot of stuff that Fisher or Garrett do, but of course it's 2D, so stylistically it bears more of a resemblance to Stealth Bastard.
Dark Messiah of Might & Magic
Dark Messiah's melee combat isn't the worst in the world. Although it was criticized by some by relying too much on kicks and spike racks all over the place, it was possible to come to grips with the swordplay and get somewhat good at it -- at least with lesser enemies. Taking on Orcs and Vampiric Knights later in the game gets to be quite challenging, and here is where you'll either need to rely on magic or stealth to get through some places.
Dark Messiah allows you to creep through shadows, and remain hidden, and one of the best things about this game was using rope arrows (obviously this game was heavily inspired by the likes of Thief) to get up to higher areas where you could then snipe enemies with a bow and arrow, or you could use telekinesis to throw things at them in the hopes of killing them. One of the most fun things to do in the game is to use mind control, which allows you to make enemies turn on eachother instead of fighting you. You can then take this opportunity to sneak past, or just sit quietly and enjoy the show.
It's entirely possible to get through large parts of the game without resorting to physically getting involved in combat, by sneaking, hiding, and setting traps for unsuspecting enemies to walk into, making stealth one of the harder, but more rewarding ways to play the game.
With only a squad of men up against an entire garrison of German troops, taking on all of them would be an impossible task. This is where stealth comes into play, and each of your men has the ability to some degree.
Your commandos have the ability to disguise themselves as German troops - originally only the Spy could do this, but later other commandos could do it too, but only for a limited amount of time. The Spy can always pose as an officer for the entire mission, but will only fool lower ranking enemy troops -- not officers, who will spot the Spy if he gets too close and reveal him, whereupon he will either be shot or captured.
The Green Beret can bury himself in snow after digging with a pickaxe, only to jump out and surprise German soldiers. He also has a wireless decoy which emits a sound which will lure away Germans, and he can then use this opportunity to kill them or sneak past them.
The diver is invisible in deep water and can't be spotted by anyone. Other commandos can go underwater but only for so long without air tanks.
The sapper can set traps for Germans to eliminate single patrols.
The thief is a small but agile soldier who can climb through windows, climb up and along telephone poles and wires to reach locations.
Of course the sniper uses a suppressed weapon to kill enemy troops from afar.
No One Lives Forever
Cate Archer, being a spy, has to draw as little attention to herself as possible, and she does this by not only having an arsenal of suppressed weaponry, but also relying on a lot of gadgets and gizmos to help her avoid being spotted by the enemy, like slippers for quieting her footsteps, knockout gas in a perfume bottle, and often resorts to sneaking around and using distractions like robots dogs to lure guard dogs away from their patrol routes or coins to do the same for enemies.
TES IV: Oblivion
In Oblivion, using sneak is often encouraged as you gain critical hit bonuses on enemies who aren't expecting you. You can also pickpocket people and get away with it, and pick locks more successfully without being interrupted.
You can usually make it easier on yourself by taking the sneakier route, particularly when playing as a class like thief or assassin -- as this is often required in the Thieves guild and especially the Dark Brotherhood missions.
You can also use potions that will grant you invisibility, silence your footsteps and actions, and more.
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