Myth: Metal Gear was the first stealth video game
Fact: There were other stealth video games prior to Metal Gear.
By Ravi Singh, Posted on March 13, 2010
Just need to get this out there as it’s an annoying myth that I still see spread around, but Metal Gear Solid was not the first stealth video game. On a less obvious note, Metal Gear Solid was not the first 3D stealth game either. The honor of that goes to Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. Still, Metal Gear Solid was probably the first 3D stealth game in development as the game was being worked on for the 3DO in 1994 as Metal Gear 3. Still while it was certainly not the first, it undoubtedly became the most influential in the genre. That’s not what this is about, though. This is about a myth that even a hardcore Metal Gear fan might be mistaken to believe is true–that the game that started the entire series actually started the genre itself back in 1987.
Metal Gear was definitely the first stealth game that was popular, especially it’s NES remake/port. The first Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition published in 2008 claimed that “Metal Gear on the NES” is the first stealth game. We all know that’s bullshit as the original Metal Gear was released a year earlier on the MSX. We can give them the benefit of the doubt as they use a screenshot from the MSX anyways despite claiming it was a NES game.
Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition’s website still incorrectly mentions Metal Gear on the NES as the first stealth game.
However, the original MSX version of Metal Gear wasn’t the first stealth game either. The first stealth game was actually Castle Wolfenstein, released for the Apple II in 1981 by Muse. The object of the game is to obtain the secret Nazi war plan and get the fuck out. In the process the player has to sneak around, wear disguises, hold up, and frisk Nazis. The player has limited ammunition and simply running around will force you to face the wrath of the alerted enemies.
Wait, what the fuck? Isn’t there a game called Wolfenstein 3D which was a first-person shooter where you pretty much kill Nazis and Robot Hitler? Or Robot Hitler With No Mustache on a heavily censored Super Nintendo port? Yeah and it was simply inspired by Castle Wolfenstein and it’s sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. Interestingly enough, Wolfenstein 3D was at first in developed to be a stealth-action game but they decided to remove features like hiding dead bodies because it “drastically slowed down the gameplay and made the controls too sophisticated for a mouse or joystick.”
Soon after Castle Wolfenstein‘s release saw the release of SEGA’s James Bond parody 005 to the arcades. The game was divided into four distinct “scenes,” three of which had the player sneak around with a briefcase through the streets, a warehouse and even a fucking ice rink of all things.
In 1984, Muse developed and released the sequel to Castle Wolfenstein titled Beyond Castle Wolfenstein for both the Apple II and Commodore 64. The game made stealth more of a priority by having the disguised player required to acquire and show “passes” to demanding guards or successfully bribe them. Failure to do so resulted in the alarm being sounded in which case all the enemies will go after you.
Wolfenstein 3D, like Metal Gear, is often credited for being the first in it’s genre when it really was not. However both were the first highly popular titles in their genres. While I wouldn’t say that Metal Gear popularized the stealth genre as much as Wolfenstein 3D popularized first person shooters, Metal Gear Solid most certainly did. Still, making a genre popular and actually inventing it are two completely different things.