A stealth game is a video game in which the player needs to avoid detection. The genre was introduced in 1981 by the game Castle Wolfenstein, but was not popularized until 1998, with the release of Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. The genre's best selling games are Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, each with 7 million in sales.
The sequel to Castle Wolfenstein, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, released in 1984 for the Apple II, expanded on some of the stealth elements by including a dagger to silently kill guards, allowing the player to bribe guards or acquire passes so the guards would grant access to certain areas, expanding the lock-picking mechanic, and even allowed the dragging of bodies to secluded areas to avoid rousing the suspicion of the guards.
Another early game to be primarily stealth based was Sega's 005, an arcade game released in December 1981. 005 was based on the spy theme popularized by the fictional character James Bond and his secret agent code 007. The game consisted of many stages, the main one involving stealing a briefcase and exiting a warehouse while avoiding the armed guards. The main character is armed only with a gas canister, which can be used to temporarily disable guards, and must avoid the guard's flashlight beams while navigating a maze to the exit.
Metal Gear was followed by two independently-produced sequels that were both released in 1990: Snake's Revenge in North America and Europe for the NES; and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in Japan for the MSX2 (the latter being recognized as the canonical sequel, being produced by Kojima himself). While the early Metal Gear games were moderately successful, the concept did not develop beyond those few games for almost a decade.
The genre didn't expand much further until the release of Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, which involved various areas where either a brute force or stealth approach could be used, with stealth often being safer. Other times stealth was essential for survival- particularly in escape situations. Next came Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (February), closely followed by Metal Gear Solid (September), both released on the PlayStation, and Thief: The Dark Project (November) on the PC, all released in 1998. System Shock 2 also encouraged the player to use stealth through use of respawning enemies, severely limited ammunition and weapons that wear down with repeated firing.
Stealth games did not gain mass popularity until the release of Metal Gear Solid. Since then, it was followed by a sequel Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a prequel Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots along with many more games in this genre, most notably the Splinter Cell, No One Lives Forever, Manhunt and Hitman series. Other games incorporated a stealth approach as an option to players, notably Deus Ex, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Bungie's Oni. Many action games, such as Medal of Honor and Syphon Filter, include stealth-based levels. Some survival horror games (Siren being one example) implement aspects of this genre. Fatal Frame 3 has a character (Kei Amakura) that must use stealth instead of combat, due to his limited camera capabilities. Some platform games as well such as Sly Cooper use stealth as a main component of gameplay. The Legend of Zelda series often has one or two stealth missions, most notably the first visit to the Forbidden Fortress in The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker. Also in Paper Mario, at some points you had to control Peach and had to stay hidden from guards in the castle when it was controlled by Bowser.
The enjoyment in a stealth game is usually (but not always) cerebral in nature. The ability to silently stalk an opponent or be within arm's reach of a potentially dangerous enemy and yet be completely unseen appeals to many gamers. These games also tend to have more emphasis on story, as part of a stealth game's impact comes from the ambiance that the game has, emphasizing urgency and the need to remain hidden. Likewise, stealth games also tend to contain more visual and sound cues than other games, again to heighten the experience. Fans of stealth games often find great excitement in the high-risk, high-tension gameplay and cinematic experience that is typical of the genre, whereas other gamers may find stealth games not enjoyable due to the lack of frantic action and occasional frustration at the high finesse that is often required.
There are several different kinds of stealth used in this genre. For example, the Hitman series uses disguises as the main way of avoiding attention, while in the Splinter Cell and Manhunt series, hiding in shadows or behind objects is the best way to go. In the game Assassin's Creed, the player has to blend in with the civilians to remain undetected by the many guards, and, in Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4, using camouflage and the environment is one of the best ways to hide from enemies. In the game Second Sight you can make a hologram of your character that can run around for a while without being seen.
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