Hitman 3 finished off the World of Assassination trilogy this month, and with developer IO Interactive confirming that the game recouped its development costs already, could we see stealth games make a comeback?
The studio is moving onto a James Bond game, but there are plenty of other franchises that could be set to emerge from the shadows.
Hitman 3's Success Shows That Stealth Sells
Rewind a few years, and stealth titles seemed to be all the rage.
Sure, there was Hitman, with its unique brand of sneaking and disguise swapping, but the household names were the likes of Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell – two franchises that are both absent in today's gaming landscape.
Tenchu and Thief have also been snuffed out, while the likes of Dishonored and Deus Ex have also seemingly come and gone and Assassin's Creed dropped it's "barely there" stealth mechanics.
Thankfully, the indie scene did some of the heavy lifting – Mark of the Ninja, Invisible Inc, and the lesser-known Aragami have been great stop-gaps, but we've been lacking in big-budget stealth titles.
Could that be about to change?
Hitman 2016 surprised many with its episodic release cadence, and Hitman 2 solidified the existing foundations, while Hitman 3 feels like the developer at its most confident. Unlike any other title in recent memory, it's more satisfying to circumnavigate trouble rather than instigate it.
It's a game that rewards smarts, and with a Metacritic rating of 87, it appears critics have responded well to it.
While it's a very pure stealth game, built on an underlying systemic puzzle box, it's not alone in many ways. Sony's hugely successful Last of Us Part 2 is, among other things, a game about skulking past enemies or taking them out quietly, as is Ghost Of Tsushima in many ways. Have both of those prepared players for stealthier gameplay?
Between those three games, could publishers be more willing to take a chance? One of the reasons that stealth games slipped away was because online multiplayer shooters became very much the dominant genre, squeezing the life out of anything lacking in bombast.
Splinter Cell: Conviction and Hitman: Absolution leaned into action in ways that didn't land with their respective fanbases, but it appears we've come full circle.
With Sam Fisher's comeback restricted to appearances in other franchises and Konami's Metal Gear franchise expected to make its return on the silver screen before gaming, who will be the next developer to release a big stealth game?
Whoever it is, there's clearly an appetite for it.