In the mid-80s the biggest genre was the action genre for video games. People would run into a room or onto a screen, shoot everyone, and then go to the next screen. It wasn't until Metal Gear that this changed. In this game you played as Solid Snake who instead of attacking a base head on would sneak around enemies and hide from them. This forced Konami ,the publisher, to dub this sort of game the Stealth Genre.
The game spawned numerous knock-offs and sequels, including the highly successful Metal Gear Solid series, but the biggest contribution the game had on the industry was introducing everyone to this thing called Stealth. Many people thought this was looking backwards but once they got their hands on it most enjoyed the tension brought by the gameplay. Stealth was here to stay and wasn't sneaking by any time soon.
After Metal Gear many other games have considered themselves apart of the stealth genre, including games such as Thief, Hitman, and Splinter cell. These games all had a different take on the way to be stealthy. Thief gave you the ability to go through a level without killing or attacking anyone, and without being detected. Hitman gave you the ability to kill your targets without anyone knowing you were even there. And Splinter Cell allowed you to use multiple gadgets to kill your targets without alerting the other guards.
The stealth genre has gone through many iterations and while many have been positive, a few have taken us backwards. However, the genre and gameplay has overcome these past misgivings to become one of the most populated genres to this day. Most games have at least a minor stealth element to them. In Far Cry 3 you were able to be stealthy and kill guards without them knowing, infiltrating a compound and killing everyone there without them even knowing. In Call of Duty there are stealth missions, and that is generally one of the most action packed series of games of the past decade.
While it all started with Metal Gear, the genre has influenced almost every single genre of current video games. There are open world games such as Assassin's Creed that have stealth mechanics. Even Minecraft has stealth mechanics when trying to hide from a creeper. The shadow of the genre has reached far and wide and isn't nearly done evolving and influencing.
Old stealth games were much more sneaky, you could go through entire levels of a game without ever being detected. While more modern stealth games have periods where you have to be stealthy and periods where you have to defend yourself with a ton of killing. This is what I say is a collision of other genres with the stealth genre. While stealth has influenced other genres, they have also influenced stealth. In most modern games you now cannot Ghost a level. Even in the most recent Thief game you can only ghost a level up until you are discovered in a cutscene and have to run away.
It seems rather forced that instead of having what many consider to be true ultimate stealth you are forced into canned instances where there must be action. This infuriates many fans of the genre. Instead of them being able to play how they please they are forced into doing something that is completely against how they want to play the game. Most games that have done this are more modified stealth games and not really a part of the stealth genre.
The Need For Sneaking.
The Stealth genre has influenced almost every genre out there today. It all started with Metal Gear and now we just recently had the most recent MGS game released. The game has the ability to be played entirely by sneaking without being detected, which most other modern stealth games do not offer. It is part of the reason why it is still under the stealth title.
As an industry the stealth genre is needed. It began as a pixelated adventure and has become a realistic one, but that doesn't mean we should change the core gameplay as the graphics advance. Evolving stealth is a good thing but making it more action filled is not what the genre is about. Being stealth and sneaking around in cardboard boxes or behind corners is what the genre is about. Going into a level and never being detected is what the genre is about.
Without the stealth genre as we know it we could very well lose uniqueness in AAA games. Instead of having the rare fantastic games that are stealth filled and can be ghosted and are fun to just think of new was to take down an enemy without being detected, the industry will be flooded with more of the same action. Games filled with explosions and tons of enemies that you have to mow down. While these games are not necessarily bad, what is bad is having every game be like this. We need the occasional slow paced sneaking game to counteract the fast paced ones. Without those games, we might as well be stuck inside a cardboard box.