Some people think that action-based video games are all about violence and killing, with the main gameplay focus being combat and magic. But for stealth-action gamers, that couldn't be farther from the truth! In most stealth action games, the point is to avoid fighting - sometimes entirely. And to make fights quick, clean kills more like an assassination than all-out carnage. Stealth action games feature sneaking in the shadows, remaining unseen and unheard, and not leaving behind evidence that you were ever there. It's a different kind of challenge from a typical combat-based action game, and no less difficult to complete.
Stealth action games encompass a wide variety of stories and other genres of games. They can be first or third-person, with realistic modern settings, historical locations, or even fantasy and supernatural elements. The only thing they need to have in common is an emphasis on remaining undetected to be successful at the game. The more important and well-thought out the stealth gameplay is, the better! And that's what we used to make our list of the Top 10 Stealth-Action Games. These games all have stealth that is important to gameplay, but is more than just puzzle games - they have their own action, too!
10. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
- System/Platform: Xbox, Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
- Developer: Starbreeze Studios, Tigon Studios
- Release Date: Jun. 1st, 2004
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a game based on the main character Riddick from the films Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, who you play as. It takes place in a flashback set before The Chronicles of Riddick film, with Riddick remembering his time breaking out of prison. Riddick struggles against gangs and their leaders, mutants in the sewers, prison riots, and more as he attempts to escape this maximum security facility. He is even recaptured when manages to nearly get out one time, and has to try again from an even harder location! Using tips from people he meets along the way, whatever tools he can find, and his own special powers Riddick has to escape from Butcher Bay - or die trying.
Typically games based on movies are not very good, but Escape from Butcher Bay does something very well - stealth. By crouching, you enter a stealth mode that allows you to attempt to move about undetected and commit instant kills against enemies. Because you often have to fight with nothing but your bare hands, stealth is a good solution to making it through the game rather than rushing headfirst into full-fledged combat. You can also make use of a special power called "eyeshine" that allows Riddick to see even in total darkness, adding another element to the stealth gameplay.
Escape from Butcher Bay is tragically short to play, but if you're interested in a prison break kind of plot, like supernatural powers, or are even just a fan of the movie franchise, it's a fun stealth action game that will entertain you at least for a little while!
9. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Gamecube, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Mobile, N-Gage, Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Release Date: Mar. 21st, 2005
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the story of Sam Fisher, just like previous games in the series, who is a special agent in Third Echelon, a branch of the NSA. Chaos Theory is a story of information warfare, where algorithms are the weapon being wielded to affect real countries and people. With entire cities losing power and national defense systems being hacked, things have reached a critical level. You play as Sam as he has to go deeper into enemy territory than ever before to rescue critical information and protect anything else from falling into dangerous hands! With tensions high in Asia and possible war on Japan's doorstep, Third Echelon has to stop any more algorithms from getting out and threatening the dying peace anymore.
A large part of the stealth system in Chaos Theory is an added aural meter that enemies have since previous games in the series. This means that Sam has to be aware of how much noise he is making while completing missions under stealth if he wants to avoid detection. If you make the wrong move, alarms will trigger which alert more guards to Sam's presence. While the game does not stop Sam from having a high kill count and setting off alarms, your mission score will suffer critically for making these mistakes.
For high scores, stealth is the way to go! If you want to play as a special agent and help stop a global war in the new age of electronic warfare, Chaos Theory is your stealth action game. It has plenty of chances for close-combat fights too if you're looking for fighting in addition to just stealth!
8. Assassin’s Creed
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Release Date: Nov. 13th, 2007
Assassin's Creed is the first game in a now well-known series of videogames following the order of Assassins, who fight for the free will of the people, and the Templars, who desire to create peace through total control. You play as Desmond Miles, a man who is able to control the memories of his genetic ancestors through a machine called the Animus. Primarily, gameplay is thus done as his ancestor Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, one of these assassins. Both the Templars and the Assassins are after a magical artefact called the Apple of Eden, which is said to be able to control people's minds. To protect it from the Templars and to change the modern day as well, Desmond has to find the Apple before the Templars do by using Altaïr.
While stealth is not the only part of gameplay, Assassin's Creed is very famous for its stealth elements. Many missions involve assassinating only one target which is done best by sneaking up and killing them as silently as possible and escaping. Some missions involve eavesdropping, pickpocketing, or tailing suspects. All of these missions are failed if you are discovered from stealth. Combat is generally difficult in the game, too, which encourages players to engage in it as little as possible. But if you are discovered by guards during usual gameplay by drawing too much attention to yourself, Assassin's Creed does offer you the chance to flee and try to blend with the crowd or hide until the coast is clear. Because stealth is only a piece of Assassin's Creed it's not as high on our list of the Top 10 Stealth Action Games, but we could hardly make a list without it!
7. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
- Developer: Kojima Productions
- Release Date: Sep. 1st, 2015
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain follows Punished "Venom" Snake on his path to seek revenge for his destroyed forces and attempted murder. Playing as codename Venom Snake, you will travel to Afghanistan to try to find the people responsible for killing your old crew. Along the way, Venom Snake comes across many people from his past and finds himself in a lot of difficult situations in this war-torn country. While originally only fuelled by revenge, when Venom Snake discovers a larger conspiracy at play by the Patriots organisation, his goal begins to shift to stopping them as well before they can create a new Metal Gear system.
Metal Gear Solid V offers a large open world environment to explore - and to not get discovered in. You must rely on stealth to avoid detection by guards and the like, and can use items like cardboard boxes and decoys to help hide and stay safe! The game encourages you to not kill anyone, instead, using things like tranquilliser darts to get past those whom you can't sneak past, to reach your goals. Metal Gear Solid V is a very tactical based stealth game, where you have to find the best solution to meet your objectives and pass through the storyline. And all the while not making unnecessary kills! For fans of the series or general fans of military and stealth gameplay, Metal Gear Solid V is a, well, solid choice!
6. Thief II: The Metal Age
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Eidos Interactive
- Developer: Looking Glass Studios
- Release Date: Mar. 23rd, 2000
Thief II: The Metal Age lets you play as Garrett, a master thief in the City. Garrett is being hunted by Truart, the local law enforcement officer, but there's much more to the story than that. As he investigates the matter, Garrett unveils a plot by Truart and religious leader Father Karras to turn average people into servants for them - and to create a mask that emits a red smoke that turns people into rust! But just who is actually on Truart's side in this project, and who is conspiring to save the City? Is Truart really even the mastermind of this plan, or is it something much bigger than just the local sheriff? Garrett had to find these answers and more while trying to save the City from the shadows.
Thief II is, of course, a sequel game, but can be played on its own. The developers listened to the feedback of fans of the first title and created more urban stealth gameplay for this game and less fighting and monsters to deal with. When playing, you must find shadows and quiet flooring to get through areas avoiding the detection of guards and others out to find you - and the City is a fantastic steampunk playground to explore doing just that!
Each level of the game offers the player choices for how to reach the objectives, using only stealth or a mix of stealth and quiet assassinations. Plus Garrett is equipped with some pretty cool arrows to do things like put out torches so he can escape through the shadows or rope ladders to escape from sticky situations. Thief II delivers even better stealth gameplay to an already celebrated franchise.
5. Deus Ex
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation 2
- Publisher: Eidos Interactive
- Developer: Ion Storm
- Release Date: Jun. 17th, 2000
In Deus Ex, you play as JC Denton, a nano-augmented man with superhuman abilities and a member of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. The world is slowly spiralling out of control with the spread of a virus known as the Grey Death. The only known vaccine for it is Ambrosia, and only the rich are able to afford the dosage. Thus the division between the rich and the poor had grown very large, and the poor have started to rise up and rebel violently against the system. UNATC tries to stand against their spreading violence and protect Ambrosia, but when JC learns from his brother that the Grey Death might be man-made and everything has been a conspiracy to help the rich, where will he stand?
Played from a first-person perspective, Deus Ex allows for a lot of stealth gameplay in a very open setting. While it is possible to take on the large numbers of humans and robots that will attack you in groups if you upgrade your character correctly, you will die a lot less getting to that point if you learn how to use the stealth elements to outwit your enemies. Non-player characters will also praise your less forceful methods if you use more stealth than straightforward combat, adding an unexpected moral tie to the stealth gameplay. The player will face plenty of chances to choose between using stealth and using force to complete missions, meaning Deus Ex can be players in whatever way you enjoy playing the game. It makes this title a versatile one for our list of the Top 10 Stealth Action Games.
4. Alien: Isolation
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Creative Assembly
- Release Date: Oct. 7th, 2014
Alien: Isolation is of course based on the iconic science fiction horror movie series, so get ready for some scary stealth action. You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley from the original film, as she tries to learn what happened to her mother. When given the opportunity to see the flight log from her mother's ship, Amanda jumps at the chance to travel to a space station to retrieve it. But when the team arrives, the station is abandoned, and Amanda is stuck in a remote station with a single alien creature loose there as well. She must outsmart the alien in order to survive while using whatever tools she can to survive and outmanoeuvre the killer creature. With lighting changes, cramped passageways, mysterious sounds, and more the game is a great tribute to the original film full of surprises, strategy, and more.
If you're looking for a stealth action game that is also going to potentially scare you right out of your seat, you've found it. Alien: Isolation is played in first-person, which makes sneaking through the space station and trying to outwit the alien all the more realistic and challenging. Stealth is the only way to play this game, but it never becomes repetitive because the game constantly throws new challenges at you. Sometimes you have a weapon, sometimes you don't. Occasionally your tools like a motion tracker may stop working. Maybe the lights will go out. Alien: Isolation is meant to keep you on your toes, constantly changing your playing style to adapt to the situation and figuring out new solutions. And all of it is stealth based! If you're looking for a terrifying challenge, you've found it in Alien: Isolation.
- System/Platform: Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Maximum Games (NA), Linch Works (Worldwide)
- Developer: Lince Works
- Release Date: Oct. 11th, 2016
Aragami follows the story of an assassin of the same name whom you play as. He is born from the shadows when a captive girl of an army of light called the Kaiho summons him to rescue her and defeat them. The army destroyed the Nisshoku, who were aligned with the shadows, using their ability to manipulate the light. To save the Shadow Empress and defeat the Kaihi, Aragami must find six special talismans to unlock the prison - and he must do it all before the sun rises. Because he was born from the shadows, Aragami will die if he is in the sunlight. He has supernatural abilities to jump between shadows, though, and must use them if he wants to be successful in his mission.
Aragami is a unique action stealth game that uses magic and shadows as its main gameplay point. The player must teleport between these shadows across the map to reach certain objectives, but the ability is limited and must be resupplied before continuing. And of course, each area is patrolled by guards. While they can be killed if necessary, only the boss of each map MUST be killed. All other guards can be outwitted and avoided using the stealth abilities! Be aware that if Aragami is hit even one time, he will die, so using as much stealth as possible is your best option to get through the levels. If you are detected, it is possible to evade the guards and escape - but they will remain even more suspicious than before. For a unique story and some really cool gameplay, check out Aragami and become a shadow assassin!
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Release Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
Dishonored is set in a steampunk fantasy city called Dunwall, following the Empress' body guard Corvo Attano, whom you play as. Despite a history of strong loyalty, Corvo is framed for the murder of the Empress he has always served as well as her daughter's kidnapping, and to get revenge on the people that ruined his life he becomes an assassin. The city of Dunwall is plague-ridden though to aid to his problem, with rats trying to kill him just as much as other people are. Luckily, Corvo is aided by a group called the Loyalists who are also fighting to reclaim Dunwall from those trying to destroy it and help the Empress' daughter become the new leader - not to mention he has been given magical powers to slow and manipulate time by a mysterious person. But with plague-ridden rats, infected citizens, walls of light, and powerful guards will Corvo be able to regain his honour and save the city?
The gameplay in Dishonoured is heavily based on choices - for each assassination you complete or area you must cross, the player is given a choice of how to complete it. You can use combat, stealth, or a combination of these things. The game punishes the overuse of combat though while rewarding stealth with a great in-game feature - the more bodies you rack up in your kill-count, the more plagued rats the city attracts, which makes completing the game even harder. There is also a trophy to be won for completing the game without making any unnecessary kills and getting through entirely using stealth! Alongside a great story, memorable characters, and a really cool setting that is a mix of London and Edinburgh, it makes Dishonoured a rewarding and fun game to play.
1. Hitman: Blood Money
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360,
- Publisher: Eidos Interactive
- Developer: IO Interactive
- Release Date: May 30th, 2006
In Hitman: Blood Money, you play as a hitman simply known as Agent 47, employed by the Agency, as you play through his various hits in the United States. The story is uniquely told mostly as flashback sequences narrated by the former FBI director as he discusses Agent 47's kills. There's more to the original story than meets the eye though, and the FBI director is not always honest in his retellings. When conspiracies and cloning plans come into the mix, things start to get really exciting, and the truth about who Agent 47 is and what is happening to the Agency starts to be revealed. Agent 47 is more than just another hired assassin.
If you're just looking for a violent shooting game, Hitman: Blood Money isn't that game. But if you have come for a stealth game where having a clean kill and clean getaway are more important, well, now you're in the right place. After all, a good hitman just eliminates his target without drawing attention to himself or alerting civilians and guards! And that's exactly what you're expected to do in Hitman: Blood Money.
Every unnecessary kill you make, or loud sound, or even incorrect clothing choices for the area will make passing the mission and make your hit harder, if not impossible. You need to think about your plan, and use stealth as much as possible to blend in and avoid detection - and of course, to get away from the scene of the kill as well! With realistic environments and a heavy emphasis on the importance of not being discovered, Hitman: Blood Money deserves its high spot on our list of the Top 10 Stealth Action Games.
Whether you want to be a ninja, an assassin, a secret agent, or something else entirely stealth action games offer a lot of options. Be ready to use your mind to figure out how to succeed at these games rather than simply relying on button-mashing your way through them. You'll either lose or come to regret it later when the game makes it hard to advance. Whether you're already a fan of the genre and looking for a game you missed or wanting to try an all-new challenge, you can't go wrong with a choice from our carefully selected list of the Top 10 Stealth Action Games.
Have you played any of these games? Which one do you want to try? Did we miss out your favourite stealth action title, or would you like to adjust our ranking order? What makes you interested in playing stealth action games at all? Whatever you want to say, we want to hear it in the comments below.