Ghost of Tsushima is a good video game. I would even argue it’s a great game. It’s also a stealth game. Well… kind of.
If you want it to, Ghost of Tsushima succeeds in the stealth genre. Yet it also succeeds as a game that lets you quite literally shout “FIGHT ME” at every enemy nearby when you ride into an encampment. It’s hard to persuade myself to be a ninja when the alternative is “cinematically bisect five dudes in rapid succession in a slow motion chain-duel.” That got me thinking: what are some of the other best “stealth” games, which let you completely reject the concept of stealth? What are some games that want so badly for you to sneak around like a master assassin, but whose very design means that’s not the only (or even the most fun) option? In short, which stealth games not-so-secretly incentivize mayhem? Here’s the best of the bunch I could find!
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Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey encouraged stealth by a) making it fun thanks to the Spear of Leonidas’s teleportation-murder properties, and b) making it so a single errant swing at an unfortunate civilian meant every citizen of the greater Athens metropolitan area would line up to ineffectually flail at you with a souvlaki. But was there EVER a reason to be stealthy in Origins? At best, you could kill maybe two guys before every nearby bandit caught on and attempted to dog pile you with sickle swords. Just skip the pretense and go right to wholesale pharaoh murder. Or don’t, and instead go play an actual good video game.
The original Dishonored is a very, very good stealth game. It is, maybe more than any other game on this list, clearly designed to be a stealth game. But you can’t give someone telekinesis, teleportation, and time manipulation, only to pretend they’re incompetent in a straight up fight. If I can summon a swarm of murderous rats to devour my enemies, there’s a ticking clock going until I bust out the rodent tsunami. Dishonored 2 steered into the skid and told you to play however you like. However, the original clearly wanted you to sneak about. It got all sad at you when you decided to see how many dudes you could hurl into the ocean with your brain. For those wondering: the answer is “all the dudes.”
Part of what made the original Deus Ex so revolutionary for its time was just how much choice it gave you. The most obvious choice, of course, was stealth. It was easy to turn on invisibility and pick guys off with your tranquilizer crossbow. You could also snipe enemies silently from half a map away with robotically-enhanced precision. Or you could be a cyber shadow on the wind, hacking turrets to kill your foes for you. Then again… you could turn on super speed and super strength, and charge in screaming, slicing mooks to ribbons with a laser sword. I’ll give you exactly one guess which option I favored.
Hitman: Blood Money
Hitman has always been of two minds. One mind rewards you with higher mission ratings for sneaking around, swapping disguises like some sort of chameleon-octopus hybrid, surgically killing your targets and only your targets. The other mind gives you a birthday clown suit and a machine gun. It asks if you’re willing to be the hero we need. This slot could be filled by literally any Hitman game. However, Blood Money allowed you to kill a riverboat captain with an exploding birthday cake. That’s why it gets the nod.
Watch Dogs 2
I’m not sure there’s ever been a bigger video game glow up than from Watch Dogs to Watch Dogs 2. Maybe the first one was a stealth game? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Even though I played it all the way through, I’ve worked very hard to erase the experience from my brain, leaving only the faint, haunting memory of cars with roughly the same handling characteristics as a convenience store. The second one, though, was definitely supposed to be a stealth game. It wanted so badly for me to surreptitiously hack the world, manipulating everyday technology to deadly effect. But it also didn’t skimp on 3D printed assault rifles. If you’re making me a techno wizard, but also letting me cast Gun, you’d better give me a compelling reason to leave that third-level spell in my scroll case — if that’s not where you want my playstyle to land, anyway. For everything at which it did succeed (which is actually a pretty long list), Watch Dogs 2 did not succeed at that.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
I genuinely didn’t even remember until about halfway through this game that you’re supposed to sneak up and disable the robot dinosaurs (despite a thorough tutorial at the beginning that teaches you to do exactly that). Why would I take the silent approach when the alternate option is to set 10 tripwires, shoot them in the face, and watch them commit explosive seppuku? For a game to give you stealth — as well as a gun called a “tearblaster” — seems like a mixed message to me.
Untitled Goose Game
When looking up lists of stealth games, I found this unlikely entry nestled into one of them Honestly… I can’t even dispute that classification. This is where we live now. I don’t have too many thoughts here (except that Untitled Goose Game is great and you should play it), but I will say it’s way more fun to charge in Full Metal Honk than to sneak around — even if it makes the game harder. Goose can’t stop; goose won’t stop.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
A top-down stealth series is only ever going to work if it has a radar that allows you to detect opponents more than four feet away from you. The first two Metal Gear Solid games were happy to provide one, but Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (how does anyone type this name without laughing) took away your radar. The justification was “it’s the 60s and the Soliton radar technology couldn’t exist,” but don’t give me that crap; this is the same video game where you face off with an astronaut wielding a flamethrower and a guy whose whole deal is “the Venom symbiote, but made of bees.” Whatever else you want to say about him (and oh, I have so many things to say about him), Hideo Kojima is not a man bound by your archaic notions of realism. But while MGS3 took away your ability to effectively do stealth, it also gave you something else: a shotgun. In a stealth game.
Look, man, what am I supposed to do at that point? Kojima opened the door; all I’m doing is walking through it. The minute they handed me that shotgun, every encounter was always headed down one road. It is for that reason that this is the greatest ever example of a stealth game vastly improved by completely and totally ignoring stealth.