Shh, NPCs… be vewy, vewy quiet. We’re talking Stealth games today. BOOM BABY!
Before I get pulled over by the “well, actually” police in any prospective comments below, let me clarify that I consider Stealth to be less a genre of sorts than a mechanism or feature employed in action games. For the purposes of this Elemental Challenge, we’re using it for a terminological categorization. Capiche? So anyway, Stealth games are characterized by an emphasis on sneaking around, avoiding enemies, conserving ammunition and items, and being as quiet as possible. When done right, this can be quite thrilling. When done wrong, it can lead to a lot of player impatience. Worse, it can seem like the game was just fishing for buyers by including the modus operandi of ninjas for no good reason, especially if the characters or setting have no precedent for stealth gameplay. Speaking of which, when are we going to get a Super Mario stealth game?
Tread carefully. Our favorites are nigh…
The Black Humor Mage
The Metal Gear series is what comes to a lot of people’s minds, and for good reason. I’m not even a huge fan of stealth games, and yet the Metal Gear series managed to become my absolute favorite game series. I love these games to death, and each one does stealth so much differently from each other so that it’s always a rush. I can’t pick my favorite one though.
The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. I am currently playing through this game on my YouTube channel and I have really been enjoying it. The stealth elements of the game are vital and very well executed. It gives you plenty of reason to be in the shadows and sneaking about whether it be an angry mob of Innsmouth citizens or to find clues in areas where you should not be allowed to voyage. (Honorable Mentions – Dishonored, Manhunt, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)
What is stealth? *runs into into the jungle with guns blazing* I really, really suck at stealth, but I managed to struggle through Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on GameCube because of its amazing story. For the rest of the series I resorted to online playthroughs.
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)
Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox360). I don’t really like stealth games – I’ve not got the patience or ability to play them. However, I really liked Conviction as the stealth was great, but you also had the option of just destroying everyone. I like having the freedom to pick how to beat levels, as opposed to being forced to play them one specific way.
The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)
Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero. Long before Skyrim there was Quest for Glory! Nothing beats choice, & the Quest for Glory series had it in spades, allowing a player to play the game how they wanted to, leveling in numerous different ways. Who doesn’t love a thief with a lockpick? Nothing beats discovering the hidden Thieves’ Guild & using wits to progress through the game. Another innovation was the character import system which allowed players to take their character into the next game. Quest for Glory I by Sierra combined adventure, role-playing, & humor with great success.
The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)
I feel as though Alpha Protocol just didn’t get the love it deserved- and that’s a shame. Despite it being a common selling point nowadays, I tend to dislike what passes for ‘your choices will come back later’ kinds of games, namely because said choices tend to not really matter in the end, so it says a lot about Alpha Protocol that I loved it even though such a mechanic is present.
The PS3 game is a spy story in which you’re blacklisted from the eponymous off-the-books organization, and must go on to unravel the conspiracy that used you as a fall guy. Your choices and actions determine what a variety of characters will say, feel, and do about you throughout the playthrough, and any one particular person or organization’s affinity towards you can alter future missions and opportunities. What caught my interest the most, though, was the various ways you could go about a level. Sneaking was just as much of an option as engaging enemies, and on top of that, there was a clear difference between killing and non-lethal approaches, which also affected your relationships. Having everybody I ran into on my initial playthrough acknowledge that the protagonist didn’t kill indiscriminately made the struggle worth it.
The story and supporting characters were functional enough to make the game work, either, and I came back for six playthoughs of this. Even by the fifth, I was still discovering new dialog and branches that weren’t open to me before. Different classes and skill trees made every playthrough fun enough to complete, and even my ‘everything dies’ run was difficult in new ways that I never ran into with my more stealthy approaches.
The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)
Does Dishonored count as a stealth game? If so, that one’s an easy win for me. I haven’t played many stealth games, as I’m more of a “get stuff done fast” kind of guy, but Dishonored tip-toed the line of stealth and action-RPG. The greatest part about the series is how every situation truly had several ways to go about them. Do you want to Blink your way through the map, avoiding all contact with the enemy entirely? Silently take out a guard and hide him behind a dumpster? Or just drop down on their head and murder them in full view of a dozen enemies? The choice was yours!
Dishonored also scores bonus points because it’s one of the few stealth games where you aren’t explicitly punished by doing away with stealth elements altogether. Sure you could aim to. This ties in with “being the bad guy” in most RPGs – generally you are dissuaded from playing a certain way. I never felt pressed in Dishonored to behave in a certain way, and that’s why it holds the torch for best stealth game out there.
The Rage Mage
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is one big middle finger for the fans. One big, whiny, pallid, effeminate, platinum-blonde middle finger that’s not Solid Snake.
The Well-Red Mage
I quite nearly went with Metal Gear Solid as my stealth game of choice, since it was mindblowing, dramatic, and intense, especially upon first experiencing it. But then I remembered Arkham Asylum. This is my favorite of the Arkham games for its claustrophobia and focus over its open-world successors, and it is the best video game interpretation of Batman’s universe we’ve ever seen. Throw in veteran voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, pitch perfect atmosphere, tons of villains and references, gadgets galore, and stealth mechanics which actually fit the player character and you’ve got one heck of a stealth game where you play as a walking arsenal. I’ve played a few stealth games but this is one where the setting and the cast actually seemed to fit the mechanics on display. There’s nothing quite like being the Batman and dropping down on thugs for a silent takedown, stringing them up by their ankles. I AM THE NIGHT.
You’ve been spotted by the enemy! Run, run, run, run! But come back this way tomorrow, after you’ve lost your tail, and we’ll do a bit more running but this time things will be a little more horrific.
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