Best Stealth 2021: Hitman 3

Game of the Year 2021
(Image credit: Future)

Did you see it coming? Hitman 3 is the best stealth game this year. For more awards, head to our GOTY 2021 hub.

Fraser Brown, Online Editor: For the site, I wrote a far-too-revealing feature about really wanting a game where Agent 47 chases me. Then I tried to get Andy Kelly to ask Agent 47 voice actor David Bateson to record himself saying, "I'm coming to get you, Fraser." He chickened out and now he is dead (to me). You could say I really got into Hitman 3. 

It's weird to think of it as a stealth game. In one of the most out-there missions, I spent my first attempt in-character as a detective in an Agatha Christie knock-off, right up until the point where I killed my target. There are more traditionally sneaky routes through every map, of course, but Hitman's all about that social stealth, and Hitman 3 has some of the strongest examples of these out of the whole trilogy. Agent 47 gets plenty of chances to show off his acting chops, even though they still just amount to putting on a disguise and otherwise acting and sounding just like his regular spooky self.

The murder mystery in Dartmoor and the elaborate Chongqing mission are where we get to see IO at its most experimental, but for the purists there's Berlin and the glorious sandbox of a dingy nightclub. You've got targets you know nothing about and no plan so, at least for that first playthrough, it's all about reacting and going with your instincts. It would have probably made for a better climax than the actual final mission, its only dud.

Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: Berlin really is emblematic of what makes Hitman 3 so good. Hitman 2's levels were bigger, but the sequel has a playful confidence to it—exploring the edges of what makes a great stealth sandbox to masterful effect.

Here, in this underground club, you're tasked with taking out the ICA agents that are there to hunt you. Rather than a single target with a handful of big, obvious routes leading to their demise, you're instead left to work out a series of more small-scale assassinations. Arguably this is Hitman at its purest: just ingenuity and opportunism at your disposal.

As Fraser mentioned, Hitman's stock in trade is social stealth—playing dress-up to hide in plain sight and walk among your victims. But it's also worth celebrating the continued quality of IO's level design. Your first playthroughs will likely be defined by the showcase solutions—Dartmoor's detective being the most obvious example. But each level is also designed to support its many optional challenges, the pinnacle of which is silently completing a mission without ever donning a disguise. Attempt this and you'll discover new routes and opportunities—clever ways a level is constructed to reveal possibilities that you missed on your first visit.

This impeccable design is what makes Hitman 3 not just a great stealth game, but a near endlessly replayable one, too—that scales to support whatever challenge you want to throw at it.

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Replayability? That's my cue. Hitman 3 is my very first Hitman game. I owned the first two games in IO Interactive's trilogy and hadn't played them yet, because I know how much stealthy puzzles are my thing—and I worried that I'd never put them down.

It turns out that I was right to be afraid, because I have played over 20 hours of Hitman 3 without leaving its very first mission in Dubai. I have beaten it so many times—learning different routes, completing challenges, just goofing off—and I know there are still quirks of its level design I've yet to notice. I'm determined to complete a suit-only silent assassin run without looking up a guide. Who knows how many more hours that will take me?

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.