What Were the Stealth Games Before Metal Gear Solid?

Before Metal Gear Solid, there were stealth games that laid the foundation for the genre’s future success. These games provided players with a sense of thrill and excitement as they navigated through levels, avoiding detection by enemies. In this article, we will explore some of the earliest stealth games that paved the way for the iconic Metal Gear Solid series. Get ready to uncover the rich history of stealth gaming and discover the titles that inspired a generation of gamers.

Quick Answer:
Before Metal Gear Solid, there were several stealth games that paved the way for the genre’s popularity. These games included titles such as Sneaky Snake, Splinter Cell, and Thief: The Dark Project. These games focused on the use of stealth and cunning to complete objectives, rather than brute force. They often featured complex levels and challenging enemy AI, requiring players to think strategically and plan their movements carefully. These early stealth games helped to establish the genre and laid the groundwork for the more cinematic and polished experience that Metal Gear Solid would later provide.

Early Stealth Games: Sneaking Around Since the 80s

The Birth of Stealth Games

The early 1980s saw the emergence of the first stealth games, paving the way for the genre’s development and popularity. These games were characterized by their emphasis on sneaking, tactics, and avoiding detection, laying the groundwork for the stealth-based gameplay that would become a staple of the genre.

Infiltrator (1983)

Infiltrator, released in 1983, was one of the earliest stealth games and is often cited as a precursor to the modern stealth genre. Developed by Sphere Inc. and published by Elephant Games, this sci-fi themed game featured a first-person perspective and put players in the role of a lone agent tasked with infiltrating an alien spaceship.

A Sci-Fi Sneaker’s Paradise

Infiltrator’s gameplay focused on stealth and cunning, requiring players to navigate through the ship’s corridors, avoiding detection by the alien crew and collecting valuable information. The game’s levels were intricately designed, with multiple paths and hidden areas, encouraging players to think strategically and use their surroundings to their advantage.

Intricate Maps and Alien Encounters

The game’s environments were detailed and immersive, with players needing to memorize the layout of the ship to successfully complete their mission. Infiltrator also featured randomized elements, such as enemy patrol patterns and room layouts, adding an extra layer of challenge and replayability.

A Tactical Challenge for Players

Infiltrator’s emphasis on stealth and strategy made it a unique gaming experience for players at the time. The game’s emphasis on collecting information and using it to plan one’s next move encouraged players to think tactically and consider the consequences of their actions.

Spy vs. Spy (1984)

The following year, Spy vs. Spy was released for home consoles, marking the first stealth game to be released for a home console platform. Developed by Sculptured Software and published by Epyx, the game featured two-player cooperative gameplay, making it a popular choice for friends and family to play together.

The First Stealth Game for Home Consoles

Spy vs. Spy was set in a Cold War-inspired world, with players taking on the roles of rival spies trying to outsmart and outmaneuver each other. The game featured a variety of missions, including stealth-based objectives, puzzles, and combat-oriented tasks, making it a diverse and engaging experience for players.

Challenging Maps and Puzzles

The game’s maps were challenging and intricately designed, with hidden rooms, secret passages, and traps. Players needed to work together, utilizing their unique skills and abilities, to navigate through the maps and complete their objectives.

Spy vs. Spy also featured a variety of puzzles, adding an extra layer of challenge to the gameplay. These puzzles required players to think creatively and use their surroundings to solve riddles and unlock new areas.

In summary, the early stealth games, such as Infiltrator and Spy vs. Spy, laid the groundwork for the stealth genre, introducing players to the concept of sneaking, tactics, and avoiding detection. These games emphasized strategy and thinking ahead, setting the stage for the development of more complex and sophisticated stealth games to come.

Metal Gear (1987)

The Birth of the Iconic Solid Snake

Metal Gear, released in 1987, was the game that started it all. Developed by Konami and designed by Hideo Kojima, it introduced the world to the genre of tactical espionage action. The game was revolutionary in its approach to storytelling and cinematics, incorporating cutscenes and codec conversations to advance the narrative.

The Origin of the Stealth Gameplay Formula

Metal Gear established the formula for stealth gameplay that would be followed by many games to come. Players controlled a character named Big Boss, who was tasked with infiltrating enemy bases and completing objectives while avoiding detection. The game featured a day-night cycle, weather conditions, and a variety of enemy types, each with their own patrol routes and behaviors.

A Glimpse into the Future of Stealth Games

Metal Gear was a groundbreaking game that paved the way for the stealth genre. Its innovative gameplay mechanics and cinematic storytelling techniques set a new standard for the industry. The game’s impact was felt beyond its own series, inspiring other developers to create their own stealth-focused games. Metal Gear’s influence can still be seen in modern stealth games, making it a defining title in the genre’s history.

Hidden Gems: Overlooked Stealth Games of the 80s and 90s

Key takeaway: The early stealth games of the 80s and 90s, such as Infiltrator, Spy vs. Spy, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and others, laid the groundwork for the stealth genre, introducing players to the concept of sneaking, tactics, and avoiding detection. These games emphasized strategy and thinking ahead, setting the stage for the development of more complex and sophisticated stealth games to come.

The Ultimate Game of Shadows: The Incredible Dracula: The Last Word (1992)

Vampire Stealth Action
  • A Rare Breed of Game: Blending Stealth and Action with Supernatural Elements
  • Challenging Gameplay: Putting Your Stealth and Combat Skills to the Test
An Unusual Take on Stealth Games
  • A Unique Setting: Transylvania as the Backdrop for a Thrilling Adventure
  • Innovative Storytelling: A Complex and Engaging Narrative that Keeps You on the Edge
Masterful Combat and Deduction
  • Skillful Combat System: Tactical Battles that Require Strategy and Precision
  • Puzzle-Solving: Using Your Wits to Overcome Obstacles and Uncover Secrets
Unique Characters and Atmosphere
  • Well-Developed Characters: A Cast of Interesting and Memorable Figures
  • Atmospheric Soundtrack: Immersive Music that Enhances the Game’s Spellbinding Mood

Splinter Cell: The Beginning (2004)

A Glimpse into Sam Fisher’s Early Years

In 2004, Ubisoft released Splinter Cell: The Beginning, a prequel to the popular stealth series that offered a glimpse into the early years of protagonist Sam Fisher. This game was a unique addition to the stealth genre, as it explored the origins of the main character and his development as an operative.

A More Accessible Stealth Experience

One of the key features of Splinter Cell: The Beginning was its more accessible approach to the stealth genre. While previous games in the series had been known for their challenging gameplay, this prequel offered a more streamlined experience that allowed players to enjoy the stealth mechanics without the same level of difficulty.

Tight Corridors and Fast-Paced Action

The gameplay in Splinter Cell: The Beginning was fast-paced and action-packed, with tight corridors and multiple paths to explore. This added a new level of excitement to the stealth genre, as players could choose their own approach to each level and take on enemies in a variety of ways.

An Interesting Prequel to the Main Series

Overall, Splinter Cell: The Beginning was an interesting addition to the stealth genre, offering a unique prequel story that explored the early years of Sam Fisher. With its more accessible gameplay and fast-paced action, this game was a standout in the world of stealth gaming and helped to pave the way for future titles in the series.

Undercover: Operation Winter Sun (1995)

A Unique Approach to Stealth

Undercover: Operation Winter Sun, released in 1995, was a lesser-known but innovative stealth game that offered a unique approach to the genre. Developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra On-Line, the game combined elements of espionage, infiltration, and sabotage to create a thrilling gaming experience.

Undercover Agents and Double Crosses

In Undercover: Operation Winter Sun, players assumed the role of a skilled undercover agent tasked with completing a series of missions across various locations around the world. The game’s narrative revolved around the protagonist’s efforts to uncover a sinister plot orchestrated by a criminal organization known as “The Trust.”

Players were required to navigate through various environments, such as factories, warehouses, and laboratories, while evading guards and security systems. The game’s focus on espionage and undercover operations allowed for multiple paths to accomplish objectives, enabling players to choose between stealthy approaches or more aggressive tactics.

Dynamic Missions and Disguises

The game featured a diverse range of missions, each with its own set of objectives and challenges. Players could acquire an array of disguises to blend in with their surroundings and gain access to restricted areas. This added an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay, as players had to carefully consider which disguise to use in order to successfully complete their mission.

An Underrated Gem in the Stealth Genre

Undercover: Operation Winter Sun was an underrated gem in the stealth genre, offering players a unique blend of espionage, infiltration, and sabotage. Despite its innovative gameplay mechanics and engaging narrative, the game failed to gain widespread recognition due to its release during a time when the stealth genre was not as popular as it is today. However, it remains a cult classic among fans of the genre and serves as a testament to the creativity and innovation of its developers.

The Influence of Non-Stealth Games on Stealth Games

Thief (1998)

A New Approach to Stealth

Thief, released in 1998, brought a fresh perspective to the stealth genre. It introduced a new approach to stealth by placing the player in the role of a master thief, navigating through a living city filled with opportunities for theft and exploration. The game’s focus on stealth, combined with its immersive environment, made it a standout title in the gaming world.

A Master Thief in a Living City

In Thief, players assume the role of Garrett, a skilled thief with a reputation for being the best in the business. The game takes place in a massive, living city with a day-night cycle, dynamic weather, and a population of NPCs going about their daily routines. This living city provided an excellent backdrop for Garrett’s nefarious activities, allowing players to blend in with the environment and avoid detection.

The Art of Stealing

The game’s core mechanic revolved around the art of stealing. Players were encouraged to use their wits and cunning to navigate through the city undetected, picking pockets, looting treasures, and avoiding guards. Thief’s focus on stealth over combat made it a unique experience, as players had to carefully plan their movements and utilize the environment to avoid detection.

The Evolution of Stealth Games

Thief’s emphasis on stealth gameplay and immersive environments laid the groundwork for future stealth games. Its success inspired a new wave of stealth-focused titles that would follow in its footsteps, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the genre.

The Legacy of Thief

Thief’s impact on the gaming world was significant. It established a new standard for stealth games, providing a blueprint for future titles to follow. The game’s success also helped to solidify the stealth-action genre, paving the way for more games that combined stealth gameplay with other genres, such as adventure and action.

The Birth of the Stealth-Action Genre

Thief’s unique blend of stealth and action gameplay laid the groundwork for the stealth-action genre. It demonstrated that players were interested in a more dynamic approach to stealth, one that allowed for both cunning and combat when necessary. This led to the development of more games that combined stealth with other genres, creating a new subgenre of gaming.

Inspiring Future Stealth Games

Thief’s influence on the stealth genre can be seen in many of the games that followed in its footsteps. Titles such as the Splinter Cell series, Hitman, and Dishonored all owe a debt to Thief’s innovative approach to stealth gameplay and immersive environments. Thief’s legacy continues to inspire new generations of gamers and developers, ensuring that the stealth genre remains a vital and exciting part of gaming culture.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (1999)

A New Perspective on Stealth

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, released in 1999, brought a fresh perspective to the stealth genre. The game’s narrative is set during the height of the Cold War, and players take on the role of a soldier code-named Snake. This setting provided a unique backdrop for the game’s stealth mechanics, as players were tasked with navigating a world on the brink of nuclear war.

A Nostalgic Trip to the Cold War Era

Metal Gear Solid 3 transports players back to the tense era of the Cold War, a time when nuclear war was a real threat and espionage was a way of life. The game’s atmosphere captures the paranoia and uncertainty of the time, creating a palpable sense of danger that drives the player’s need for stealth and cunning.

Tactical Espionage Action Reinvented

In Snake Eater, players engage in tactical espionage action, with a focus on stealth and deception. The game introduces new gameplay mechanics that emphasize the importance of patience and strategic thinking. For example, players must carefully manage their stamina and food intake, as well as adapt to the changing weather conditions, all of which affect gameplay.

The Birth of a Legendary Hero

Metal Gear Solid 3 is also notable for introducing the iconic character of Big Boss, a legendary hero in the Metal Gear universe. The game’s narrative explores the origins of this character, showing how he became the ultimate soldier and a master of stealth.

The Evolution of Stealth Gameplay

Snake Eater’s innovative gameplay mechanics had a significant impact on the stealth genre. The game introduced new moves and tactics, such as the ability to crawl, sneak, and hide in bushes, which expanded the range of possibilities for players. These mechanics were not only groundbreaking at the time but also paved the way for future stealth games.

New Moves and Tactics

The introduction of new moves and tactics in Snake Eater made stealth more dynamic and engaging. Players could now crawl under tables, hide in bushes, and use distractions to their advantage. These new mechanics allowed for more varied gameplay and encouraged players to think creatively when approaching challenges.

A Modern Take on Classic Stealth

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a testament to the enduring appeal of classic stealth gameplay. The game’s blend of tactical espionage action, immersive atmosphere, and innovative mechanics continue to inspire new generations of gamers. Snake Eater’s legacy can be seen in the many stealth games that have followed in its footsteps, all seeking to capture the magic of this pioneering title.

The Stealth Game Landscape Today

A Variety of Stealth Games for Everyone

A Brief Overview of Modern Stealth Games

In recent years, the stealth game genre has seen a resurgence, with a variety of games catering to different tastes and preferences. Some of the most notable modern stealth games include:

  • AI Detect: This game places the player in the role of a highly advanced AI system tasked with infiltrating various environments and gathering information. The game emphasizes stealth and evasion, with the player using hacking and surveillance tools to avoid detection.
  • Nightfall: In this game, the player takes on the role of a covert operative tasked with infiltrating a hostile city and completing various objectives. The game features a unique day-night cycle, with the player needing to adapt their tactics to the changing environment.
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider: This game follows the adventures of Lara Croft as she explores a vast, ancient world filled with danger and mystery. The game features stealth gameplay elements, with the player needing to use their wits and cunning to avoid detection and overcome obstacles.
  • Death Stranding: This game puts the player in the role of a courier tasked with transporting packages across a post-apocalyptic world filled with strange creatures and hazards. The game features stealth and evasion gameplay, with the player needing to use their skills and equipment to avoid detection and complete their missions.

These are just a few examples of the many modern stealth games available today, each offering a unique and immersive experience for players. Whether you prefer fast-paced action or slow, methodical gameplay, there’s a stealth game out there for everyone.


1. What is a stealth game?

A stealth game is a type of video game where the player must use stealth to avoid detection by enemies and complete objectives. These games often involve sneaking around, hiding in shadows, and using disguises or other tactics to avoid detection.

2. What were some early stealth games?

Some early stealth games include 1987’s Metal Gear, which was the first game in the Metal Gear series and featured stealth gameplay elements, as well as 1990’s Alone in the Dark, which included a stealth mechanic where the player could hide from enemies in shadows. Other early stealth games include Splinter Cell (2002) and Thief: The Dark Project (1998).

3. What made Metal Gear Solid different from other stealth games?

Metal Gear Solid, released in 1998, was one of the first stealth games to feature a fully 3D environment, which allowed for more dynamic and interactive gameplay. It also featured a complex storyline with multiple characters and plot twists, as well as a unique gameplay mechanic where the player could hide behind objects and peek over them to scout the area. Additionally, the game featured cinematic cutscenes and voice acting, which helped to immerse the player in the game’s world.

4. Are there any other notable stealth games from the early 2000s?

Yes, there are several other notable stealth games from the early 2000s. These include 2002’s Splinter Cell, which featured a cover system and realistic combat mechanics in addition to stealth gameplay, and 2004’s Hitman, which allowed the player to take on contract kills in a variety of sandbox environments. Other notable stealth games from this time period include 2005’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which incorporated acrobatic combat and stealth gameplay, and 2006’s Assassin’s Creed, which introduced free-roaming open-world gameplay and a focus on assassination missions.

7 Years Later, There Is No Stealth Game Like Metal Gear Solid 5

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