There are countless games that let you murder people, but how many of them let you play as a bald man dressed up in a bird costume who eliminates his targets by throwing a homing briefcase at them which contains an explosive rubber duck? To celebrate Hitman 3’s launch on Steam (and Xbox Game Pass!) today, we here at GameByte are counting down all the best Hitman games in one easy to digest list.
So without further ado, here are the best Hitman games ranked worst to best.
10. Hitman Absolution
Let’s face it, you all knew we’d kick the list off with this. Hitman Absolution is by no means a bad game, but it certainly is a bad Hitman game. The levels aren’t as big, nor do they offer the same kind of freedom as the previous entries in the series. Still, there are some bangers still in there. The King of Chinatown and Welcome To Hope are decent levels. But they’re split up between everlong linear sequences and awful story cutscenes.
Hitman Absolution also came when Square Enix decided to take some of its Western franchises down the “dark-and-gritty reboot” route, as also evidenced by Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Human Revolution which released around the same time. It also hurt that this came 6 years after Blood Money, and wouldn’t receive another follow up for 4 more years, so it was all we really had to enjoy at the time.
9. Hitman: Codename 47
Even as the game that kicked off the franchise, Hitman Codename 47 is unfortunately ranked so high up due to its age more than anything. It’s clear IO Interactive were onto a winner here, but the idea of what Hitman would become wouldn’t quite become clear until the sequels.
Playing the game in 2022 invites you to a world of pain, dealing with broken enemy AI, awkward controls and level design that’s a bit too restricted. Similar to Absolution, there are some missions here that save it from being a complete disaster. The opening Hong Kong levels are particularly a good example of IO having a good vision from the beginning of how to make a good murder simulator.
8. Hitman Sniper
Hitman Sniper is a decent shot at converting the typical open-ended immersive sim gameplay to a watered-down mobile experience. To its credit, it does it really well. You play the game through a sniper scope and have to find ways to discreetly take out targets and manipulate events to work in your favour. This can sometimes be somewhat of a puzzle as you try to find ways to isolate your targets and kill them without alerting other NPCs. It’s a fantastic mobile game, all things considered, it’s just a little short-lived compared to the other games in the series.
7. Hitman GO
The other mobile game in the series. This time, however, the Hitman formula is tweaked into a turn-based board game format. You move Agent 47 around small diorama-style levels, with other characters such as guards, civilians, and – of course – the target present. This becomes a puzzle of moving 47 around the board in such a way to get to your objective without being caught by guards. It’s a cute reinterpretation of the mainline series, and definitely serves as the better Hitman game on mobile. You can also get this on PC and consoles under the title “Hitman GO: Definitive Edition”, where it also plays extremely well.
6. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Now we’re getting somewhere. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is home to so many iconic missions; St. Petersburg Stakeout, Terminal Hospitality, and Invitation to a Party are truly great stuff. No longer tied down by the technical and narrative barriers of Codename 47, this is where the genius of IO Interactive’s creativity started to shine. There are more levels here that have solutions besides “shoot everything up” or “follow this one specific route to a T” which its predecessor was guilty of multiple times. There are still a few hiccups, mind you, which puts it at the midway point of this list.
5. Hitman 3
The finale of the World of Assassination trilogy has some truly iconic set pieces. Sneaking into the high-tech ICA facility in Chongqing and solving a murder in Dartmoor stand out as some excellent moments in a momentous campaign. It’s also set to have a rather momentous bank of content for its second year.
On the whole, it’s a worthwhile conclusion to the trilogy. However, those few moments that sacrifice freedom for narrative let it down. The grand finale being a linear corridor stage with very little reason to replay is the biggest offender here. If you ask me, it seems like IO Interactive decided to make Hitman 3 a case study for its upcoming Bond game, preventing the trilogy from going out with a bang.
4. Hitman Contracts
Hitman Contracts is a weird one. It’s a part-remake of Codename 47 and a part-sequel to Silent Assassin. In this one, Agent 47 has been shot and is critically wounded. As he bleeds out, 47 reflects on some of his past assassinations. Many of these include remastered versions of older missions from the first game, which rules if you wanted to re-experience those older stages with better graphics, controls and gameplay.
There’s also a slight tonal shift here, emphasising grittier missions with more messed up targets involved. An early point in Hitman’s history where IO Interactive wanted to flesh out how it wrote its characters. The new missions are also extremely fitting alongside this, with Beldingford Manor and The Meat King’s Party being among some of the best stages in the entire Hitman series.
3. Hitman (2016)
Now this is how you do Hitman. After the controversy of Absolution being exactly what fans didn’t want from the series, IOI went back to the series’ roots with large open stages, multiple options to approach a level, and a seemingly endless amount of replayability. While many hated it, I found the episodic approach to Hitman’s release schedule to be appropriate given the nature of the story. You’d spend a month or so playing through one location, completing all the challenges and learning all the routes inside-and-out, then you’d move on when the next one launched.
And to Absolution’s credit, its best ideas made their way back into Hitman 2016’s DNA; with instinct providing a more accessible way to learn level layouts and NPC behaviour, and the impressive Contracts Mode effortlessly allowing players to spend thousands of hours in-game.
2. Hitman Blood Money
Hitman Blood Money is easily the peak of the classic series. IO Interactive had finally managed to bypass the eurojank feel of its predecessors, bringing big improvements to graphics, controls, and level variety. The game’s tutorial and systems were simplified enough to make it accessible to a wider audience, while still keeping in with the trial-and-error nature of Hitman’s cyclical gameplay.
Then you’ve got the missions themselves, which is just banger after banger. Curtains Down. You Better Watch Out. A New Life. The Murder of Crows. A Dance With The Devil. Need I go on? While I love the World of Assassination trilogy, there isn’t quite anything in those titles that still hit the vibe Blood Money does. Having said that…
1. Hitman 2
Hitman 2 is not just the best Hitman game, it’s also the perfect video game. It’s a series of incredible stages with diverse gameplay options and endlessly replayable bonus content. Reducing Hitman 2016’s escalations from 5 stages to 3 instantly made them worth playing. The spin-off Ghost Mode and Sniper Assassin modes also brought something new and unique on both fronts, modes that would still be worth playing now if the servers were still online. And then you’ve got that legendary homing briefcase.
But why is Hitman 2 at the top of this list? Pretty much every location in the game is a perfected version of what the series has been capable of. Going from Miami’s colourful, high-tech motorsporting event to the hot deep jungles of Colombia? Or from the quiet facade of conservative American suburbia to the imposing, secretive Ark Society castle island? Revisiting earlier games in the series, you can see where the seeds of Hitman 2 were planted, but this is IO Interactive at its topmost form.
What do you think about our picks for the best Hitman games? Let us know on our social channels.
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Featured Image Credit: IO Interactive