Inspired by the original sci-fi, stealth franchise, Metal Gear Solid, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell solidified the modern-day mechanics of the stealth-action genre. With six mainline titles, a couple of guest appearances, and two handheld titles, the Splinter Cell franchise had a stellar run through the 2000s. However, the franchise has gone dormant since 2013, and fans of the series continue to hold out hope that Sam Fisher will make a triumphant return. 

Even without a mainline title, Ubisoft seemingly hasn’t forgotten about their once tried and true stealth game. An anime adaptation will be hitting Netflix in 2022 and there’s potential for Sam to make an appearance in Ubisoft’s new 6v6 hero shooter. Sure, it’s not the same as a new Splinter Cell game, but it’s better than nothing, right? 

Yeah, it’s really not quite the same. So, while we wait for the hopeful return of Sam Fisher in a title of his own, here are all the Splinter Cell games you can currently play, ranked from worst to best.

Splinter Cell Games Ranked

Let’s see which Splinter Cell games, and DLC appearances, serve as top-tier entries in the stealth genre and which ones are best left forgotten. Here’s our list of all Splinter cell games ranked.

10/10

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Essentials

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Essentials

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PSP
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Release Date: March 21, 2006

Adapting a game to a handheld device is no easy feat, often leading to lesser versions of the original product. Splinter Cell Essentials is no different. Held back by the performance of the PSP, Essentials serves as an underwhelming best-of hits for the Splinter Cell franchise.  

It basically acts as a retrospective of Sam Fisher’s life, bringing in memorable missions from other Splinter Cell titles. This streamlines the story down to a synopsis of the other games in the series, helping it avoid being necessary viewing by not impacting the series general storyline. 

Overall, it’s not an awful game, as far as PSP titles are concerned, but it’s incredibly unfocused. It still includes a sub-par multiplayer mode, lacks the true fluid control setup of mainline titles, and truly does a disservice to the games it references. You’re better off revisiting the originals instead of this hazy recollection.

9/10

Splinter Cell 3D

Splinter Cell 3D

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): 3DS
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Release Date: April 10, 2011

Like we said before, adapting a game to mobile platforms is a difficult process. While the PSP is built to operate as a traditional console, the 3DS is entirely its own beast. So, bringing a pure port of the well-regarded Splinter Cell: Blacklist, should be seen both as an incredible feat and a certified mess.

Visually, this port looks as good as a 2005 game brought over to the 3DS can look. Like the Switch maintains the look of last-gen titles relatively well, so did the 3DS in this case. The impressive thing is that the semi-open levels and tools are completely unchanged, making this a pure reconstruction of the game.

Of course, it all being there doesn’t mean it plays well. The controls are incredibly limiting and the visual downgrade makes refined movement and targeting nearly impossible. It’s another title that isn’t bad per se, it’s just difficult to recommend when you can just play the original.

8/10

Ghost Recon Wildlands: Operation Watchman

Ghost Recon Wildlands Operation Watchman

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia
  • Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Milan
  • Release Date: October 4, 2019

What a tease this was, right? Revealing the voice of Michael Ironside returning to the titular role of Sam Fisher, only for it to be revealed that it’s DLC for Ghost Recon: Wildlands. For better or worse, Splinter Cell fans are used to the disappointment and at least in this case it was actually bringing the character back in a narrative capacity.

In this case, a grizzled old Sam Fisher has emerged with a covert operation for the Ghost Recon team. He’s been sent to hunt down a rogue CIA operative and needs your Wildlands character to help him find, infiltrate and take out this agent. The only downside here is that you don’t actually get to play as Fisher and instead get the chance to use his weaponry and goggles.

On the flip side, the mission design is very much Splinter Cell inspired and encourages pure stealth play. The issue with that is that Wildlands is not a stealth game, making the mechanics far jankier to manage.  

7/10

Ghost Recon Breakpoint: Deep State

Ghost Recon Breakpoint Deep State

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia
  • Developer: Ubisoft Paris
  • Release Date: March 24, 2020

Continuing with game hopping, Sam Fisher makes another appearance in an 8-hour DLC mission for Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. Similar to the Wildlands operation, Sam appears to ask for your help once again, except this time it’s to track down the Specialist who has been kidnapping well-known scientists from across the globe. It serves as a loose sequel to the last DLC appearance and is also a much better Splinter Cell-like expansion. 

For starters, the Echelon class in introduces is a pure homage to Sam. This forces you to leverage a silenced handgun and lean into the game’s stealth mechanics more effectively. The passive abilities benefit staying in the shadows to eliminate enemies, and the main story itself proves to be far more captivating than the last DLC. 

All in all, it’s still not a new game but it serves as a brief reminder of how good Splinter Cell can be.

6/10

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): Xbox, PC, PS2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance
  • Developer: Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Shanghai
  • Release Date: March 23, 2004

Both bigger in scope and features, this sequel capitalized on what made the original Splinter Cell so good, while making a few improvements. To a certain extent, there’s not much differentiating this title from the original. It retains the same massive-scale globetrotting escapades and stealth-focused gameplay but simply refines it into what most fans remember most about the series.

Now, the true crowning achievement of this title is the Spies vs Mercs multiplayer mode. Rather than being just a straight deathmatch rip-off, this has enemy teams play in different perspectives. Spies are stuck in the third person, attempting to place and activate bombs. Mercenaries on the other hand are in the first person working to take out the spies. This would prove to be a hit and remained a staple throughout the franchise to varying degrees of success.

5/10

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, Xbox, PS2
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Shanghai
  • Release Date: November 17, 2002

The original Splinter Cell (which is the first Splinter Cell game ever made) may be the purest stealth game in the franchise. While it may lack many of the quality of life improvements and mechanics found in later installments, it still relishes in the serious stealth-action gameplay. The story isn’t overly long, but told through brief cutscenes and dialogue, allowing the tone and action to take center stage.

Everything is based around movement and using your environment to your advantage. You need to stick to the shadows, repel from the ceiling to execute takedowns, and slink back into the dark in pursuit of your next target. All of this, including some of the more active takedowns, feels intuitive and smooth for a 20-year old game. 

It blends elements of previous stealth titles like Metal Gear Solid and Thief into something fully unique. The narrative is compelling, has you rooting for Sam from the start, and backs it all up with incredibly fun and fluid gameplay.

4/10

Splinter Cell: Double Agent

Splinter Cell Double Agent

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, GameCube, PC, Wii
  • Developer: Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Shanghai
  • Release Date: October 17, 2006

Double Agent sees Sam Fisher goes undercover inside a terrorist cell to take them out and determine what their overall plan entails. The gameplay has you simultaneously sneaking through the terrorist headquarters and attempting to rise through their ranks, bringing in a morality system that is mainly just for show.

The true difference in this title is that while stealth is still a major focus some levels require you to play during the daytime. This means that you have to play more aggressively and quickly navigate environments. Now, Double Agent would be higher on this list, except for the fact that it has two different versions. 

The PS2 and Xbox version plays more like the traditional Splinter Cell stealth titles retaining the same mechanics and design engine. The Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 version on the other hand fully departs from this both structurally and mechanically, meaning most find the old-gen version to actually be the better of the two.

3/10

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Splinter Cell Conviction

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Release Date: April 13, 2010

A pure departure from the series stealth mechanics, Conviction works surprisingly well despite a troubled development cycle. While the gameplay is far more actio-oriented it actually benefits the storytelling, allowing for a far more grizzled Sam on a solo revenge mission. Of course, this unravels into a full scale save the world type adventure, but at its heart, it remains a far more visceral experience.

This means that the combat is far more focused on gunplay and aggressive engagement. It introduces the “mark and execute” finisher, which can easily help you clear a room, and your stealth visuals are far simpler to see thanks to the black and white visuals when undercover. 

The blend of stealth and mid-to-short range combat makes for a faster-paced experience. It still retains the core principles of the other titles but may lead to mixed impressions depending on your preference.

2/10

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Splinter Cell Blacklist

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
  • Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
  • Release Date: August 20, 2013

Blacklist is an excellent game with a marred history. It deserves to be mentioned in any account of the top Splinter Cell games. This is thanks to the replacement of Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher, which left many fans frustrated with the decision. Besides that unfortunate setback, this game serves as the elegant middle ground between stealth and aggression the last two titles sought to create.

The solution in Chaos Theory was to create three experience trees, allowing you to upgrade the path you like to play most. The gameplay you lean into even encourages upgrades and purchases in that vein, making it even more important to choose what you like. On top of all that, the levels themselves also encourage you to approach encounters entirely differently, meaning you can easily replay with a unique experience every time.

1/10

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

Image: Ubisoft

  • Platform(s): PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox, GameCube
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Milan
  • Release Date: March 21, 2005

If you’re asking what’s the best Splinter Cell game, this is it! The number one spot shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of the series. The last of the original trilogy, Chaos Theory brings everything together into a tight package of intricate level design, bombastic set pieces, and grounded storytelling. It truly embraces the espionage elements of the first two games, working to make the potential consequences even more far-reaching and complex.

It also introduces the first time the series explores gameplay scenarios. Meaning that you can choose to take out enemies lethally with your knife or non-lethally with your original array of takedowns and tools. On top of that, it includes some of the best graphical looks for the generation and a more refined version of Spies vs. Mercs.

All in all, it’s the culmination of what makes the original games so great. It would solidify the series as a must-play and help define the stealth genre moving forward.

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We hope you enjoyed our list of every Splinter Cell game ranked and found a title to hold you over until Sam Fisher pops up again (if he ever does outside DLC appearances). If you liked this roundup, be sure to share this article on your favorite social platforms. And for news, reviews, and more lists like this one, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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