The Best Hitman Games, All 7 Ranked from Worst to First
With the release of Hitman 2 upon us, it just seems right to reflect on everything that’s come before it, and see how it compares with its predecessors.
7. Hitman: Codename 47 (2000)
It may be a bit of a cop-out to say that the first in the series is the weakest, but in this case, it’s true. Upon it’s initial release, it came out to generally high acclaim, but suffered issues with exposure due to having been released only on PC. The primary components of the series’ gameplay was all here; the disguise system, and the visceral stealth kills all started here.
Due to its age, it isn’t the greatest game to play today, and even following it’s release, many critiqued the game for being difficult to handle and quite unfriendly to play. Aside from that, the plot is ambiguous and all over the place. All of these elements culminated for a game with an intriguing premise, but tech and development limitations at the time proved too detrimental to the game, making it the weakest in a series of great games.
6. Hitman: Contracts (2004)
Contracts, the third entry in the series, provided a step in the right direction for the series as a whole, however the positive steps it took in furthering the gameplay elements of the series, were overshadowed by the lackluster story that surrounded it. It seems more or less like a recap game; the focus on the story is based on retelling aspects of the first two games that didn’t have too large of a player base.
Contracts partially betrayed its audience, favoring to try and target a wider audience before the release of their next major installment. It’s a risk that paid off in dividends for them, but just didn’t result in a game that was good enough for people that had dedicated themselves to the series.
5. Hitman: Absolution (2012)
Absolution, much like Contracts, sacrificed its bread and butter audience in favor of reaching the more general audience. Rather than sacrificing story, this time the gameplay was the aspect that hit the cutting-room floor. The gameplay resembled that of a more linear stealth-action shooter. There was still variety in approaching situations and kills, but Absolution had more in common with a Splinter Cell game than any of the Hitman games before it.
That doesn’t mean it was all terrible, though; the narrative was intriguing and provided for some very memorable moments while the more linear nature of the gameplay allowed for some fantastic level design and an interesting change in aesthetic. It was actually quite a great game, but it wasn’t what fans of the series were looking for in a Hitman game.
4. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002)
The second entry, Silent Assassin, is really what got the series moving, in both its popularity and hitting a stride in terms of the styles of gameplay available to the player. It was the first in the series to have a wide console release, having been released on PS2, original Xbox and PC all at the same time; the GameCube version would come out less than a year later. IO Interactive addressed the issues found in the first game, by making the control scheme a bit easier to grasp and providing the player with more options in how to approach each kill.
The variety in approaches available also gave way to the ranking system of the series, which was introduced in Silent Assassin. The axis of the ranking system ranged from “Silent Assassin”, which meant that the player managed to move through the area unnoticed and killed only the target of the mission, to “Mass Murderer”, a ranking that is certainly self-explanatory. Silent Assassin is what set the gold-standard for all future releases in the Hitman series, which is why it sits so high on this list, despite being quite dated.
3. Hitman (2016)
The game simply titled Hitman, proved to be the return to form that the series needed after the misstep that had been Absolution. After listening to fan feedback regarding the previous installment, IO decided to move their next attempt into the form of an episodic series. Moving in this direction granted them the ability to be taking in fan feedback regarding the structure of each mission, correcting missteps in design as they occurred and building upon the better design elements. This flexibility in design and structure gave way to what turned out to be among the best Hitman games in the series.
While the episodic nature of the game proved favorable in certain design aspects, it ultimately proved detrimental to the overall playability of the game. Waiting for new missions to come out was a bore, and it was difficult to keep track of the release schedule at times, which made the plot difficult to follow. Ultimately, the release schedule sucked the air of a game that should’ve been celebrated for its innovation and fantastic design.
2. Hitman 2 (2018)
Hitman 2 is a finely-tuned game, delivering on the promise of Hitman, the previous episodic entry in the series. It provides for the same level of accessibility in gameplay design, without the episodic release schedule to hold it back. The game moves full steam ahead, rarely losing momentum in its gameplay, with each level being a wonder to explore and test the limits of.
The design philosophy of the previous game is all here, making it among the most ideal entries in the series. It has earned its place as one of the series’ best offerings yet, bringing forward a formula that was put together with the cooperation of fans, on the previous title.. Despite the mastering of said formula, the game feels a bit too much like what the previous Hitman title should’ve been, rather than a full blown sequel, which holds it back from topping off this list.
1. Hitman: Blood Money (2006)
Blood Money is to Contracts, what Hitman 2 (2018) is to Hitman (2016). Blood Money mastered the gameplay and plot elements of the previous title, much like Hitman 2 does, yet it also manages to expand upon these elements and provide even more to do. Kills are creative, and levels allow for a great amount of exploration and variety. The level design of this game is impeccable, and still holds up with the best of the games that we get today.
That all goes without even mentioning that it has some of the most memorable kills and story beats in the series. Blood Money has the most complete story of any Hitman game. It has a cast of interesting targets to kill, and each one of them presents an interesting challenge that is unique to the story behind the target and the location of the contract. The kills all eventually tie together to tell a cohesive story, culminating to one of the most memorable endings in any game yet. For that, it remains the best entry in the Hitman franchise to date.
7. Hitman: Codename 47 (2000)
Hitman certainly showcased some inventive design mechanics at launch; the primary components of the series' gameplay were all here, but it was often a chore to play, inaccessible even by old-school, "hardcore" PC standards.
It made for a "nearly there" sort of experience, an intriguing premise but one that was a product of its time and certainly doesn't hold up today.