2023 saw a stealth game resurgence, and you probably missed it

2023 saw a stealth game resurgence, and you probably missed it
CDPR|IO Interactive|Konami

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Last updated 

26th Dec 2023 11:30

Amid all the fun of action RPGs, Soulslikes, sports games, and more, I've spent the last few years bemoaning the lack of stealth games. While Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher popped up in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Metal Gear jumped the shark by moving into a battlefield filled with zombies, the genre has been woefully underrepresented in recent years outside of the remaster of the excellent Mark of the Ninja and the Hitman World of Assassination trilogy.

2023 was hardly a banner year for stealth games, but it kicked things into gear again with some very pleasant surprises sneaking out of the shadows.

Toothless and Ruthless

Hitman Freelancer hideout screenshot
Click to enlarge

It seems wild to me that 2023 saw the launch of a new Arkane game, and we simply forgot about it because the quality was so far below the studio's regular output.

Dishonored and its sequel are stealth game royalty, and while Deathloop moved away from what I loved about those titles, it was still a Game of the Year contender. While Redfall dropped the ball in its commitment to multiplayer missions and an empty open world, I'm thankful there was another release that flew under the radar somewhat - although isn't that what stealth games do best?

Hitman's free Freelancer update was, at the time I wrote about it, my favourite release of 2023. By taking locations from all three of the World of Assassination titles and putting them into a roguelike mode, IO Interactive ratcheted up the tension as you realise one errant bullet can be the difference between success and failure.

As someone who tends to be a bit of a 'save scummer', I found myself making much deeper choices from moment to moment to avoid being gunned down before I even got close to a target.

That's alongside Hitman's continuing roadmap with elusive targets and new rewards, while Hitman: Blood Money (possibly my favourite game of all time) came to iOS and iPadOS. It was a good year for Agent 47, even with IO working on its Bond game (here's hoping for plenty of stealth sections there).

Reemerging from the shadows

Assassin's Creed Mirage key art
Click to enlarge

While we knew for ages that Assassin's Creed: Mirage was going to be tiptoeing back to the franchise's roots with a focus on social stealth, classic mission structures, and a smaller open world, I wasn't quite prepared for just how much of a core stealth game it is.

Throwing items for distractions, avoiding enemies at all costs, and even the occasionally comically small vision areas make it an absolute blast as someone who preferred to play the early games as sneakily as possible.

It's also, by virtue of its detailed environments and narrower focus, possibly one of the best-looking stealth games out there.

Assassin's Creed also arrived in VR this year, with Assassin's Creed Nexus being a great time in VR. I had a great time throwing objects at guards as Ezio before flailing my arm for a swift takedown.

It's not the only franchise that began to lean into stealth a little more. I played Cyberpunk 2077 like a Deus Ex game, all takedowns and quickhacks, but Phantom Liberty really leans into the secret agent fantasy with expertly designed missions that feel like they're built for stealth.

One particular infiltration, sneaking into a casino and using dialogue options to subtly interrogate a pair of hackers, is the closest I got to feeling like Bond this year, but even sneaking into enemy bases in side missions felt curated for just about any approach.

Looking ahead

The year was nicely rounded out by the arrival of the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection, and while there's been some hubbub about which versions were included, I didn't care a jot as I blitzed through Shadow Moses, the MGS2 tanker, and Big Shell like the years had rolled back.

With the Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Remake getting its first gameplay reveal, it feels like a great time to rip through the first two entries.

I also started working my way through Dishonored and Dishonored 2 again on Steam Deck, truly exceptional games that will hopefully be joined by a true trilogy-ender (as much as I loved Death of the Outsider).

With a Splinter Cell remake still in development, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, as well as the PS5 remaster of The Last of Us Part 2, it appears we'll be creeping around in the shadows next year, too.

Long live the stealth genre.

Lloyd Coombes
About the author
Lloyd Coombes
Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.
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