It's hard to deny the sheer diversity of the best stealth games in 2021. Chrome dome assassins, one-eyed clones, revenge-obsessed guitar strummers... they've got it all. Sometimes stealth games act as a power fantasy, letting you manipulate enemies with all manner of high tech gadgets… or in the case of Venom Snake, the lo-fi wizardry of a cardboard box. Other titles use stealth as a necessary means of survival – the player squarely cast in the role of the hunted as deviously tricky AI mercilessly tracks you down.
While some of the titles below might not be considered stealth games in the purest sense, they all contain sly mechanics that make getting the drop on enemies a back-stabbing hoot. In the mood for neck-breaking, slightly cowardly, oh so sneaky satisfaction? These are the best stealth games you can play right now.
15. Sniper Elite 4
Rocking the best killcam in all of games, there’s nothing quite like silently sniping a Nazi squarely in the testes from half a mile away. Sniper Elite 4 has a B-movie charm that’s hugely appealing. Unfussy but with room for tactical depth, this is a game of sheer silliness that also rewards ultra-precision.
Tagging one of Hitler’s cronies from a distance with Karl Fairburne’s binoculars, picking the perfect spot to put a bullet through their trachea, then watching said Nazi’s throat get shredded in slow-motion never gets old. It may be a simple gameplay loop, but when sneakily butchering fascists from afar is this much fun, who the hell wants complexity?
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
14. Far Cry 3
Not only is Far Cry 3 a first-person shooter of the highest order, it’s one of the most influential games Ubisoft has ever made. Before this sun-kissed sandbox, not many shooters pulled off stealth mechanics successfully. That all changed with Jason Brody’s pirate-offing adventure. By letting you individually tag enemies from a distance, Far Cry 3 encouraged you to thoughtfully plan out murdery infiltrations like few games before it.
Almost every major Ubisoft hit since Far Cry 3 has borrowed some element or another from the open-world blaster. Nearly a decade on, Jason’s rock-hurling, guard-tagging, throat-slitting shooter remains a first class example of how to pull off stealth from a first-person perspective.
Play it on: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Rockstar’s virtual snuff film is one of the most deeply unpleasant games you’ll ever play… and that’s not a complaint. Shunted into the shoes of recently freed prisoner James Earl Cash, it’s your job to obey the murderous whims of a sociopathic filmmaker. As Brian Cox’s insidiously creepy director hisses instructions through an earpiece, a night of increasingly ghastly slaughter awaits.
Tasked with strangling, eviscerating, and suffocating gangs of progressively more unhinged thugs, the sneaky, super-gruesome games of cat-and-mouse only get more repellent. One minute, Cash is choking the life out of a clown-faced goon as he wraps a plastic bag around his victim’s face, the next he’s plunging a hammer into intimate areas of the male anatomy that should never have hammers introduced to them. Taking inspiration from ‘70s cinema – both elements of The Warriors and Halloween are at play – Manhunt is a savagely brutal, totally unforgettable stealth masterpiece.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
12. Invisible, Inc
Both a terrific pun, and a top-tier stealth game. A sneaky take on turned-based tactics, Invisible, Inc sees you control a squad of secret agents as they sleuth their way through all manner of twisting, procedurally-generated maps.
Combining Elements of both Don’t Starve and Mark of the Ninja, this is a stealth game that encourages clear plans and fearless execution. Deliberating hemming you in with limited resources, then further piling on the stress with claustrophobic maps, this is a title that taps into tense genre staples to shred your nerves in the most moreish way possible.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Mac
11. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The only reason Naked Snake’s brilliant Cold War sneak ‘em up doesn’t creep into a top ten place is because we’ve stuck another Metal Gear game in a far higher spot. Despite being over 15-years-old, Hideo Kojima’s jungle sneaker is still one of the most wonderfully stupid, consistently subversive games you can play today.
Take part in an hour-long sniper duel against an OAP marksman who can sap health from the sun. Outwit your enemies by dropping a beehive onto their unsuspecting heads. Sneak up on your prey, put a knife to their throat, then shake them down for useful items… probably while wearing a plastic crocodile hat. Silly yet thoughtful, with some of the most inventive boss battles ever, Metal Gear Solid 3 is an all-time stealth classic. Thanks to its clean art style, it also holds up surprisingly well on 4K TVs.
Play it on: PS3, Xbox 360 (playable on Xbox One via back-compat)
10. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Few stealth games are kid-friendly, so thank goodness Sly Cooper exists to teach the PG-13 demographic about the value of slinking and subterfuge before they jump into the wider pool of R-rated skulking. Looking back at Insomniac’s back catalogue, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time stands tall even among the best Ratchet and Clank entries.
The fourth major adventure utilises great platforming, mechanical variety and relentless charm to mould an adventure that’s as endlessly affable as the starring raccoon. The depth of stealth itself has its limits, but Sly 4 makes up for it with a generous heaping of gameplay goodness across all other aspects of its design. Come for the silly jokes, stay for just about everything else.
Play it on: PS3, PS Vita
9. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Sam Fisher has come a long way since the original Splinter Cell way back in ye olden days of 2002. There may have been a few bumps in the road, sure, but Splinter Cell: Blacklist is evidence that Fisher has a bright future ahead of him. Well, if Ubisoft can ever be bothered to make a new game in the series.
Blacklist earns its place here for the steps it takes to move the franchise forward, imbuing Fisher with a renewed sense of mobility while returning to the stealth-focused maxims of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. The freeform controls do a good job of making Fisher operate like the veteran field agent he is, while the presentation, which apes a 24-style action thriller, fits like an incredibly sneaky shoe. Considering Blacklist is one of the last big games to hit PS3 and Xbox 360, Ubisoft needs to hurry up and bring Sam to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Play it on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Even though it looks increasingly unlikely we’ll ever get the final entry of what was originally conceived as a planned trilogy, at least rebooted Deus Ex went out on a hell of a high. As impressive as Human Revolution was, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided took giant augmented leaps forward, executing sci-fi stealth on a scale its predecessor couldn’t match.
Open combat is, as always, an option for walking gruff-bag Adam Jensen, but it's sticking to the vents and conveniently placed pieces of cover in Mankind Divided that remains the most rewarding avenue for progress. This is a stealth game where you can hack into someone’s office, find the password for their colleague’s computer on a sticky note, then log on and wire their bank account credits to spend on a new tranquilizer gun with which to take out that very same person. If that doesn’t appeal to you as a stealth fan, you’re definitely dead inside.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
7. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered
You have to give kudos to Klei Entertainment for making a side-scrolling game that feels just as satisfying and stimulating as some of the best three-dimensional stealth games out there. Hell, the beauty of Mark of the Ninja isn’t in spite of its 2D make-up: it’s because of it.
That unconventional perspective forces players into new modalities of thinking, with puzzles and platforming becoming an integral part of the experience. The animation is also ‘slap-you-around-the-face’ gorgeous. Those dense, painterly textures and brooding backdrops really are a sight of the sorest of stealthy eyes.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch
6. Thief 2: The Metal Age
Forget the half-baked Thief remake from 2014: Thief 2: The Metal Age is the series’ seminal masterpiece. As one of the first stealth games to offer open-ended levels, responsive first-person controls and genuinely emergent forms of gameplay, it paved the way for future titles. Like the one that just so happens to nab the runner’s up spot on this list.
Despite its age, Thief 2 hasn’t lost any of its original appeal. The impeccable sound and visual work preserve Thief’s world, ensuring the atmosphere is as captivating as it was seventeen years ago. All these years on, the game’s freeform design has kept its replay value alive and well to this day.
Play it on: PC
5. The Last of Us Part 2
The most intimately upsetting game on PS4 is also one of the greatest stealth games ever made. Building on Naughty Dog’s original apocalyptic adventure, The Last of Us 2 strengthens the original’s stealth elements to create a sequel that’s both harrowing and emboldening. Although quick, spoiler-free tip: try your best to blank out the hideously distraught faces of all the people Ellie kills.
The game’s greatest strength is that it hangs on a knife-edge between empowerment and total helplessness. Depending on the weapons you’re holding, Ellie could be an unarmed, terrified girl hiding from a bloodthirsty German Shepherd, or a tooled-up badass who could silently eliminate a half dozen enemies with a super-satisfying bow and arrow. Whatever you think of the game’s affecting (if polarizing) story, the meat and potatoes stealth in The Last of Us 2 is excellent… and uncomfortably personal.
Play it on: PS4
4. Alien: Isolation
Possibly the greatest video game tie-in there’s ever been… and certainly the finest one that involves a nine-foot-tall, slavering beastie with a distinctly penis-shaped head. The genius of Alien: Isolation is that it leans into Ridley Scott’s hallmark horror, not James Cameron’s bombastic action sequel. Jettisoning pulse rifles and firefights for motion trackers and quiet dread, The Creative Assembly taps into the pure “in space, no one can hear you scream” spirit that made Scott’s 1979’s masterwork one of the most influential horror films of all time.
Isolation is also a terrific stealth game. With the titular monster firmly established as an unstoppable killing machine within the first 45 minutes, it’s your job as Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, to sneak and (barely) survive through the next 15 terrifying hours. Seeing as the Xenomorph is attracted to noise, stealth is essential. Encounter hostile fellow humans on the game’s spooky floating station? Scurry around them unless you want to start a firefight that will draw the Alien to you and see everyone end up as Xeno lunch. A spine-tingling stealth classic.
Play it on: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
3. Hitman 3
Probably the only game on this list where the concept of stealth usually involves very little with being hidden. As the closing part of the ‘World of Assassation’ trilogy, Hitman 3 once again rewards players for keeping Agent 47, well… very much in sight. The brilliance of this sequel – and the series at large – is that, while your seven-foot assassin is always visible, it’s rare any of the game’s NPCs realize just how deadly he is.
Blend in at a Berlin nightclub, then use the deafening noise of sweaty ravers to drown out all that stabbing and shooting. Dress up as a detective, before entering into an elaborate murder mystery at a sweeping English manor. The twist? Agent 47 ends up playing the part of killer, not Columbo. Infiltrate an opulent Italian vineyard, then squish your target in a gigantic grape press while disguised as a janitor. In Hitman 3, devious death and murderous social stealth is only a change of clothes away.
Play it on: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
2. Dishonored 2
What can be said about a game that’s been gushed about non-stop ever since its release? And for incredibly good reason. After Arkane laid down such a superb foundation in the original, it was inevitable Dishonored 2 would be a home run.
This is a sequel that builds upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. More varied and imaginative than the first Dishonored, this is a game comfortable letting you sneakily murder foes with plagues of rats as it is encouraging you time travel into the past to get the jump on Corvo and Emily’s foes. Throw in Arkane’s natural knack for unprecedented world-building (Karnaca is a Mediterranean dream of a sandbox), and you have a stealth game that’s only a few inches shy of perfection.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
1. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Flaming unicorns! A sniper who really should be wearing more clothes! The cutest one-eyed dog in the history of games! Metal Gear Solid 5 is not a stealth game you can pigeonhole. What is it, then? Oh, just the greatest stealth adventure of all time… and it’s not remotely close.
While it may have endured an infamously tortured development – one which saw the game’s ‘true’ ending lopped off – The Phantom Pain remains a towering achievement. Whether you know your Octacons from your Ocelots, this is the most joyously free-form stealth game there’s ever been. Empowering players with the sort of bold agency so few games ever have the guts to, this is an adventure where the depths of your sneaking success is only ever limited by your imagination.
Be it asking your horse to poo on command in order to make that jeep in the distance skid on said filly faeces, recruiting hundreds of guards with Snake’s personal ‘hot air balloon kidnap service’, or using a mute sniper chum to tranq your enemies from a mile away, MGS5 revels in giving players choice. This is Metal Gear at its most playful and adventurous. It’s truly glorious.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One