With over 72 million monthly visitors across over 320,000 wikis (and counting!), Wikia is a hotbed of passionate expertise on an incredibly diverse range of topics. With such a plethora of information to sift through, breaking into a new franchise or genre can seem a tad overwhelming. To help break the ice, we're going to be asking experts from various communities to tell us what it is about their area of expertise they find so captivating -- and the steps they recommend beginners take to set themselves on the path to geekery.
We're calling the series "Guided Tour'. This month, we're sticking to the shadows to learn about Stealth Games.
History of Stealth Games
The genre's roots begin in 1981 when Sega released the arcade game 005. The primary mission for the player was to take a briefcase of secret documents to a helicopter while avoiding enemies. 005 holds the Guinness World Record for being the first stealth game. Castle Wolfenstein, also released in 1981, focused on players stealing secret plans and escaping. In 1987 Hideo Kojima created Metal Gear, which utilized stealth elements within an action-adventure framework. The game was the first mainstream stealth game to be released for home consoles. Metal Gear placed a greater emphasis on stealth than other games of the time. The main character Snake begins with game without weapons which forces him to avoid confrontation.
Although stealth gameplay had appeared in a several games in the 1980s and 1990s, 1998 is seen as a turning point in for the genre's history. Groundbreaking titles such as Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, and Thief: The Dark Project were released. The ninja-themed game Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was the first ever 3D stealth based-game. Thief: The Dark Project featured the first-person perspective. One of Thief's most noteworthy contributions to the genre was the heavy use of audio cues and ambiance to determine the player's level of stealth and establish a crippling atmosphere.
In the present day, stealth games are represented in a wide variety of successful franchises.
“Stealth games are like analytic puzzles; they allow you to really plan ahead and figure out what you want to do with the situation”
My name is Shrev, and I’ve been an admin at the Sly Cooper Wiki since July 2010. I was introduced to the Sly Cooper series rather late, in 2005, but instantly loved playing the games, not only because of the funny characters, planned heists, but also because of the element of being able to watch your enemies without them knowing. In other words, stealth. My main reason for the appreciation of stealth in general is, as opposed to the fast-paced shoot ‘em up and “think-on-your-feet” gameplay, stealth allows you to sit back and think through what you’re about to do.
Stealth games are like analytic puzzles; they allow you to really plan ahead and figure out what you want to do with the situation; do you want to kill that enemy in front of you, or would you be able to manage to sneak past him while still being unseen? Are there any barriers or distractions you could use? If you do take out that guy, would you be able to do it silently? All these questions arise when you’re playing a stealth game, and while the planning may take a couple of tries, the feeling of the plan working is a very satisfying one.
Stealth games also allow a lot of freedom with your options. If you choose to kill someone, you have the choice of moving their body someplace. If you want to create a distraction, maybe there’s something near the middle that’ll attract all the guards, or maybe something in the corner that’ll bring in just the target. And with any stealth game, view is key, and is something that should always be taken advantage of. Whether it’s using your binocucom in Sly Cooper, or snooping through cameras in Watch_Dogs, whatever you can use to get that extra vantage point can really help make your plan all the more concrete. Stealth games occur quite often in an open-world environment because the game wants you to think about how your actions will affect the world at hand, not just the situation your character is in. Watch_Dogs especially takes advantage of this; by creating a harmful distraction, you may have inadvertently caused a passing pedestrian to call the cops, so not only do you have to deal with your enemies, but you’ve also got the cops on you too.If you’re one for planning ahead and taking it step-by-step, stealth may be just the genre for you.
“What I like about these types of games is the immersion they offer; like a good classic adventure game, if you take the time to examine your surroundings, you have the time to enjoy the level design, read documents, listen in on characters conversations.”
The Stealth genre is fairly broad category, and can be defined in many different ways, and through many different game mechanics.
In general the idea is to avoid being seen by adversarial forces by using elements in the surroundings to get from point A to point B. The mechanics may depend on hiding in the shadows, avoiding noise, blending in with a crowd, or even in some cases going completely invisible (through magic or technology). Some games depend on stealth to win, while others its only one of several ways to complete the mission objectives. While many early games while stealth was a challenging path to take, it often granted the most rewards, or was the only way to win (attempting to run or gun a mission would be suicide or break mission requirements for avoiding alarms).
To clarify I offer several examples: The Thief series is an immersive First Person Sneaker set in steampunk medieval or Victorian world. It relies on shadow stealth (hiding in the dark makes the player nearly or completely invisible) and avoiding noise in order to reach objectives to steal treasures from under the noses of suspecting guards (and sometimes robots and monsters). In the earliest of the games, the protagonist the Master Thief Garrett was agile but not particular deft at sword play (although an expert game player could still do well, but generally only against a single enemy). But the game certainly pushes remaining concealed in darkness over confrontation, and on higher difficulty settings killing opponents would lead to the game over screen. A stealthy player can get by either by knocking out opponents and hiding their bodies, or simply ghosting past them. The player is offered a wide range of tools to make things easier, such as water arrows to put out light sources, moss arrows to make ground silent, rope/vine arrows or climbing gloves to reach windows or cliffs above the player, and noisemaker arrows to use as a distraction.
The Splinter Cell series is similar to Thief, but it is third-person, set in modern or near-future. The missions usually involve trying to pick up some important intel, or occasionally assassinate some third world despot. He is a bit more open to killing, but killing must be done silently as well. It follows the same shadow concealment style stealth, although later games have started incorporating daylight levels which require more concealment behind ‘cover’ (behind boxes, cars, walls, etc) . The player is given two guns, and other technological devices that allow him to disrupt or permanently take out lights, cameras, etc. Hacking is an option in many cases as well. The protagonist Sam Fisher is particular agile and has several acrobatic moves allowing the character to hide above or below an enemy (and even take them out from those positions lethally and non-lethal ally). Unfortunately (for pure ‘ghosting’ fans) the series has often had points in each game in the game where it forces you into an action sequence sometimes having to protect hostages, and having to use force. However, most of the game the game pushes the player to avoid confrontation and alarms.
Another form of stealth is social stealth, which requires a person to blend in with civilians or even the enemy. Sometimes by donning uniforms or costumes, other times hiding in crowds. The Assassin’s Creed series combines elements of social stealth and cover stealth (hiding in haystacks, in bushes, or behind boxes and other cover) to reach objectives (usually intel, which leads to a later assassination mission). However the games do not punish a player for avoiding the stealth mechanics, and the game can be played purely action. There are many points where the game forces the player into fighting/escape sequences with no way of avoiding them. The protagonists are quite agile, capable of climbing buildings, jumping off buildings to escape, or simply standing their ground and taking out enemies with instant counter kills. The latter may be a negative to anyone looking for a pure stealth (‘ghosting’) experience.
Building on the previous types are many games that can be considered hybrid genres but offer a stealth path. Most of these examples include role playing elements, and stealth is only one option to beat the game. Deus Ex, and BioShock are good examples. Most of these games prove the adage; “Jack of all trades, master of none”, as the stealth mechanics are rarely as sophisticated as a game with dedicated stealth mechanics. The player will not begin particularly stealthy in most cases, and must spend ability points or experience to unlock new stealth abilities or improve stealth abilities. In some cases the player may even get abilities that make them completely invisible to different types of enemies (either by jamming or true invisibility). Hiding bodies may be allowed by game mechanics, or just an afterthought. In general in these games ‘line of sight’ is more important than even sound or light/darkness. Cover is used more for stealth. Occasionally a hybrid, such as Dark Messiah or Arx Fatalis may utilize advanced stealth mechanics such as shadow stealth, but the player must spend enough ability points for that kind of stealth to be viable (and will only be available several hours into the game).
Occasionally one might find elements of social stealth in a hybrid game (some of the earliest Wolfenstein games for example gave the ability to steal uniforms, and trick their way past enemies). The later games in the series do away with costumed stealth, but rely on a limited ‘line of sight’ stealth. If the player sneaks behind an enemy they can stab them for silent one hit kill, or use silenced pistols to take enemies out from a distance. But if a body is found, it might set off alarms, and turn the game into pure action situation.
In the Batman Arkham series a form of shadow/concealment stealth (hiding in the rafters to swoop down on unsuspecting enemies, and quickly go back into hiding before the rest are able to find him). But in that series it is only a tool, and one way of taking out groups of enemies. But the Batman is right at home beating up on thugs just as well (the games try to mix both styles of stealth and action throughout).
What I like about these types of games is the immersion they offer; like a good classic adventure game, if you take the time to examine your surroundings, you have the time to enjoy the level design, read documents, listen in on characters conversations (in a way action games rarely allow). Through these actions one often can find secrets, more treasures/loot and new ways to reach objectives. This makes the game feel longer, and gives the sense of exploration, even when the game is funneling the player along a preconstructed linear pathStealth games can fit somewhere between feel of an adventure game, and action-adventure genres, and the RPG genres as far as immersive storytelling as you have time to sit back and take in your surroundings, and be careful (world immersion and story are usually what draw me to games).
“When Thief: The Dark Project was released, stealth mechanics and improved AI added a new level of strategy that was missing in many action games of the time. Enemies couldn't determine your location. If they were alerted, you had a wide variety of options at your disposal.”
My name is Sxerks and I'm founder of the Thief wiki and the Thief reboot wiki. I've been editing wikis since 2007. I've been playing video games since the early Atari days. Fast forward to the 90's: Various PC games and the immersive nature of first-person shooters really stood out to me. During this time, I had been playing a lot of turn based games, such as Dungeons & Dragons before moving on to Doom, Heretic, Quake, and their clones. The more I played these games, the more I saw them lack in strategic gameplay and story. Stories were large walls of text between maps, and gamplay was comprised of enemies that always seemed to know where you were.
Then Thief: The Dark Project came along! The stealth mechanics and improved AI added that level of strategy that was missing in many action games of the time. Enemies couldn't determine your location. If they were alerted, you had a wide variety of options at your disposal. You could flee from the battle and hide, or damage them until they retreated. The larger emphasis on sound was groundbreaking. You could hear enemy footsteps, and enemies could hear yours. The behavior of enemies would change depending on any sounds you made. This is the main reason I started playing stealth games exclusively with headphones.Thief spawned multiple sequels, a reboot, and was an inspiration for many future stealth games. The Thief modding community extended the life of this stealth series and created over a thousand fan made missions, including large campaigns, some of which I have created myself.
Want to put your stealth skills to the test? Check out some of these awesome stealth game wikis on our network. These wikis can provide a large amount of information about these great games. Looking for a difficult stealth game, or perhaps an action/stealth game hybrid? Take a look at these great game series, you might find your next favorite game!
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