Stealth games are as popular as ever, and that makes the prospect of the Steam Deck more exciting to delve into stealth action. Stealth games have evolved since Hitman, Splinter Cell, and Metal Gear introduced complex mechanics that reward player creativity. The Deck’s capabilities allow many to translate seamlessly onto a handheld form in terms of controls and gameplay loops.
The upcoming Splinter Cell remake shows the genre’s resurgence, with the franchise already strongly represented on Steam thanks to its segmented levels and unparalleled stealth co-op. Batman: Arkham is another example of the excellent stealth selection on Steam Deck, with the cathartic ways players can have Batman utilize a mix of gadgets and martial arts to clear a room of thugs discreetly.
Hitman: World Of Assassination Trilogy
The World of Assassination is a triumphant modern-age Hitman modern-reboot. It’s only improved since the superbly transformative update to Hitman 3 that folds the entire trilogy into one package under the World of Assassination subtitle. This update retroactively applies 3‘s gameplay to the first pair’s levels, making for even more replayability.
Hitman 3 has been praised as the best of the series, refining the addictive formula to its peak. Part of what makes the World of Assassination trilogy such high quality is how it rewards and encourages twisted ingenuity. It’s incredibly versatile in how it approaches ways to execute kills on inventive sandbox levels. Just as well, the game almost operates as a secret comedy game, featuring myriad ways that hits can be carried out in morbidly hilarious ways.
Hideo Kojima’s legacy series, Metal Gear Solid, has spawned several excellent games. And while publisher Konami is still letting the series’ dormancy last, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, the latest mainline entry, runs well on the Steam Deck. That’s quite the achievement considering the open-worlds and degree of customization on display.
When it comes to story, The Phantom Pain is seen as being somewhat divisive, as the almost required listening to multiple hours’ worth of audio tapes and the seemingly incomplete ending hold it back from achieving absolute prestige status in the genre and series. However, the open-world sandbox stealth gameplay can be considered revolutionary for stealth action. Players can load out Venom Snake with highly customizable and upgradable equipment to tackle their missions, and it feels very satisfying in terms of the replayability of specific missions.
Batman: Arkham Series
Rocksteady’s reinvention of the Dark Knight in gaming resulted in some of the best modern superhero video games ever made. The Batman: Arkham series games, including Origins, have been beloved for how they pay homage to Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s Gotham City within the wider DCAU. And now it’s arguably even more engaging with the portability and power of the Steam Deck.
But aside from being one of the most true-to-character adaptations of DC’s widely beloved hero, it’s one of the most accessible stealth-action games available. It’s not the only focus, as the freeflow combat is immensely satisfying, and the storytelling is wonderfully reminiscent of the source material. Still, the predator sequences are some of the most immersive in superhero games. It also encourages players to think outside the box, using Batman’s arsenal of colorful high-tech gadgets to pick off villains one by one or multiple at a time.
While Resident Evil’s many excellent installments dominate the horror genre, Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation proved to be an exciting and refreshing hit. Just as well, the game also became one of the most beloved modern move-to-video-game adaptations. A big factor in this is how it captures the foreboding atmosphere of Ridley Scott’s landmark horror movie.
That makes Alien: Isolation an ideal choice for stealth genre fans hankering for a flavor of horror. For compatibility, it’s a non-issue especially since the game runs natively on Linux, which is what the Steam Deck’s SteamOS is based on. The game puts players in the first-person role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter as she investigates her disappearance, as well as the part of prey vs. predator while navigating the claustrophobic corridors of the space station.
Arkane Studios is mostly known for its Dishonored IP, which has been well-received in its two mainline entries and one spinoff. Its indirect sequel Deathloop, though, suggests a new direction for continuity. Nonetheless, these games incorporate satisfying and immersive first-person stealth-action gameplay set within a grimily stylish steampunk fantasy world.
While the aforementioned Deathloop switches up the gameplay, all Dishonored games have been well-received for rewarding several different stealth-action gameplay styles. The open-ended level designs and the selection of items available to manipulate a playthrough heavily incentivize creativity and multiple playthroughs. The latter is especially fitting of the handheld form factor of the Steam Deck for pick-up-and-play sessions, and even more with challenge runs.
Splinter Cell Series
The Splinter Cell series is one of the icons of the stealth-action genre alongside the giants that are Metal Gear Solid and Hitman. And after years of hiatus, it’s poised for a comeback thanks to the upcoming remake. But before fans will get the chance to experience the modernized rendition of Sam Fisher’s first venture, there are some noteworthy pickups for Steam Deck.
The segmented level progression and impressive co-op gameplay of Splinter Cell‘s games make it a great fit for Valve’s handheld. Likewise, the Steam storefront has access to some of the series’ best, including the likes of Chaos Theory. It was praised for revitalizing its formula with tense new combat mechanics, but Blacklist will be a suitably exciting title for newcomers that want the most modern entry in the franchise. Naturally, the co-op element is an excellent key to the games’ longevity and replayability.
Mark Of The Ninja: Remastered
AAA titles are undoubtedly one of the most exciting things about the Steam Deck. The Deck opens up the possibility to play games that aren’t otherwise able to be played in a handheld form factor. However, even going into 2023 shows the indie games are going strong, and 2018’s remaster of Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja shows how well indies fit on the handheld PC.
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered masterfully and nostalgically blends 16-bit era aesthetics, 2D side-scrolling gameplay, and innovative use of stealth. Pitting a nameless ninja against a battle between tradition and technology, players can enjoy an exciting visual atmosphere that effectively uses its environments as the crux of the gameplay. The light and shadow effects are key to its flexible stealth combat while simultaneously setting the scene, combining for a concise experience perfect for short or long bursts on Steam Deck.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut
Role-playing games can also be quite versatile in their stylistic approach, partly by blending with other subgenres like action, stealth, and strategy. Several excellent and immersive fantasy or sci-fi RPGs incorporate stealth in their gameplay to some extent. However, not many use them as prominently as Eidos-Montréal’s cyberpunk RPG Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Human Revolution is an impressive amalgamation of styles, blending shooters, stealth, and deep role-playing mechanics. Steam Deck allows for an even more accessible way to experience this, and it allows players the freedom to build the cybernetically enhanced Adam Jensen to their liking. But given the context of the world and its protagonist, Human Revolution is at its best when built toward stealth.
Klei Entertainment isn’t only known for its acclaimed sidescroller. Invisible, Inc. was another inventive take on stealth gameplay. This indie title has enough creative charm and features a gameplay loop that’s comfortable for the pick-up-and-play nature of the Steam Deck as a handheld PC. It’s also friendly in preserving battery life — an important asset.
Invisible, Inc. combines slick art direction, stealth-focused combat, and the best turn-based army-like commands of games like XCOM to make for a unique experience. Turn-based games generally lend themselves well to handheld gaming consoles, thanks in part to the pacing of the gameplay style and the Deck’s comfortable ergonomics. Likewise, the high stakes and rogue-like elements of Invisible, Inc.‘s level design when going on covert missions ensure an equally compelling session.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
To varying degrees, developer studio FromSoftware has incorporated stealth in its games. And though it’s not an explicit stealth-action game, the way Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice uses it as one of the core pillars of its gameplay does enough to justify it within the subgenre. Given the studio’s creative reputation, it’s also a strong choice for those that want to test their mettle – or outright expertise – on a game’s mechanics.
Critically lauded as one of FromSoftware’s best Soulsborne games, Sekiro: Shadow Die Twiceruns impressively well on the Steam Deck and makes it an engaging new way to experience this overall action-adventure title. Since it isn’t an RPG, players can’t rely on unique armor, weapons, or leveling up to grind past its nail-biting challenges. Instead, it focuses on asking the player to master its moment-to-moment mechanics. One such element is the stealth action itself, as foregoing it, while possible, will make for a punishing playthrough.