In drawing up the final rankings, I was surprised by how little I had to cut down my longlist. There were only 34 games to choose from. As mentioned way back in the introduction that’s almost certainly because ‘stealth’ has become an option in games that offer a more free-form approach to objectives. Far Cry is a stealth series to some and any game that forces you to trail an NPC without being spotted has elements of stealth in its makeup.
There does seem to be a resurgence of a purer form of stealth gaming, however. Volume is a straight, no-frills (mechanically, at least) interpretation of the sneaking and infiltration basics, and Klei’s two entries on this list are imaginative reinventions of the genre that do little to dilute their formula despite their bold experimentation with perspective and style. Even Dishonored’s more violent and kinetic approach to stealth is a meaningful manipulation of the basics of sight, sound and level design rather than a complete disregard for the rulebook. And then there’s The Phantom Pain, which might be proof that there is a place for huge budgets and development teams in the genre if it weren’t for Konami’s recent distancing from such projects.
I was never in doubt about the number one spot but putting the rest into order has taken longer than I’d care to admit. Invisible, Inc. at number two might be the boldest pick but come back to me in twenty five years when RPS commenters talk about it the same way the oldsters do about the original X-COM right now. It’s a monstrously clever game.
The game that came closest to dropping off the list entirely was Deus Ex because I’d convinced myself it wasn’t a stealth game. A game with optional stealth, of course, but not a stealth game. There are two drafts of this list without Deus Ex though and I couldn’t look at them for very long without feeling sad.
With all that said, let us know what your favourites are and why, and take a look at these notes about the list:
Distribution: The vast majority are available to buy digitally but only one is free. Sort of. Hidden and Dangerous 2 is the featured game from the series but it’s the prequel that you can download for free.
Developers: Klei are the standout studio, with two entries, both of which are in the top ten and both of which came out in the last three years. That’s remarkable, which is why I’m remarking on it.
Robbing And Killing: Six of the games are about stealing things, five are explicitly about killing certain individuals. In one of those, you don’t have to kill anyone at all.
Points of view: Only nine are entirely or predominately seen from a first-person perspective.
Creepy in more ways than one: Three of these games also appeared on our Best Horror Games list, showing the connections between the two genres. And perhaps also showing that certain games will appear on all of my lists.
Here’s the full list:
1. Thief II: The Metal Age
2. Invisible, Inc.
3. Hitman: Blood Money
4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
6. Mark of the Ninja
7. Deus Ex
8. Alien: Isolation
9. No One Lives Forever 2
10. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
11. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
12. Neon Struct
15. Batman: Arkham Asylum
17. The Saboteur
18. Styx: Master of Shadows
20. Hidden and Dangerous 2
21. Commandos 2: Men of Courage
22. The Evil Within
23. The Swindle
24. Payday 2
For more of RPS’ bestest best games, take your pick from:
The best PC games to play right now
The best free games on PC
Or try our genre-specific lists, if you want a particular kind of great game to play:
The best strategy games on PC
The 50 best RPG on PC
The best coop games ever made
The best VR games
The best FPS games
The best management games
The best survival games
The best space games on PC
The best non-violent games
The 14 best Metroidvanias
The 10 best hacking, coding and computing games
The best horror games on PC
The 10 greatest games based on movies
The 25 best stealth games on PC
The 25 best action games on PC
The 25 best adventure games ever made
The 25 best puzzle games on PC