Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The stealth genre was first established in a more action packed arcade vein, so Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell came as a refreshing entry into the genre with its realistic and unforgiving gameplay. The slow pace that characterised the franchise has recently seen a face lift, but the first four Splinter Cell games remain as stealth classics. The first and second games were great, but it was Chaos Theory that perfectly rounded off the original trilogy with its refined mechanics and impressive co-op modes.
The classic aphorism of “hiding in plain sight” was put to the test in 2000’s Hitman: Codename 47. The game was (and still is) unique within stealth gaming for prioritising disguise as the primary form of espionage as opposed to avoiding lines of sight. The original two games were great, but they were mere cannon fodder in comparison to the refined and honed nature of Hitman Contracts. With superior level design and the most cohesive narrative, Contracts is the best game in one of the best stealth franchises on the market.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
I normally avoid placing multiple games from the same franchise in a list, but Conviction differs so much from the original four Splinter Cell games that it deserves a mention. So many new mechanics bolstered the Splinter Cell formula to create an almost entirely new sub-genre within stealth games. This new fast paced predator stealth is picking up, with the upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Rising and Hitman: Absolution seeming to take many cues from this modern classic.
Thief: The Dark Project
What list of great stealth games would be complete without the original Thief? In terms of narrative, perspective and gameplay innovation (so basically all the components that comprise a game) Thief: The Dark Project honed and advanced the way we think about games. So many titles use sound and light as key stealth mechanics, and it’s all thanks to this classic.