Tom Clancy was an American novelist most known for creating the fictional character Jack Ryan. In film adaptations of his work, Ryan has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Chris Pine. But Clancyès name first broke into the video game scene with The Hunt for Red October, a submarine simulator based on his novel and subsequent movie. There are now 41 games with Clancy’s name attached, both with the Red Storm Entertainment and, currently, Ubisoft.
The games are varied in their gameplay, from tactical based shooters to stealth action, and the story often involving espionage or terrorist cells. Some focus on explosive and cinematic moments while others are meant to be played without making a sound.
Tom Clancy’s The Division was released last week to next-gen systems to positive reviews. The ability to seamlessly play online with friends combined with a fun and ever-changing open world environment makes for a game with endless replay value. But where does The Division rank in the long list of Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six titles? These are the 12 Best Tom Clancy Video Games Of All Time.
Marketed as a tactical cover-based shooter, the released game told a different story. This 2012 release lacked any finesse in its design. Most situations could be solved simply by ambush; tactics were largely absent.
This doesn’t stop the game from having incredible moments. The partially destructible environments and customizable weapons made this recent addition to the Ghost Recon series a spectacular game to play with friends. So while the single-player mode often felt too simplistic, the multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive, was thoroughly enjoyable. Future Soldier makes the list, but just barely.
The second in the Ghost Recon series, Ghost Recon 2 is a tough sell today. The graphics are ugly and the gameplay sloppy. However, this game’s release two generations of consoles ago was met with positive reviews.
The interactive and naturalistic environments and mission hazards started the franchise in the right direction. Squad commands felt natural and responsive and the plot never lagged. Though it isn’t a highlight of the series as a whole, it is notable for being the reason why the games are so well-known today. At this point, it can almost feel nostalgic to play it.
The first Rainbow Six game was released in 1998 to mixed reviews, and the majority of the subsequent games failed to garner any significant praise. That was until Rainbow Six Vegas in 2006. A tactical first-person shooter focused on squad teamwork, Vegas is one of the best-selling and most beloved Clancy games.
The game follows the Rainbow team, an elite anti-terrorist squad, as they fight to take back Las Vegas. With its incredibly immersive and difficult gameplay and engaging story, playing Vegas is a blast beginning to end. We would be remiss not to mention the setting, with its bright lights and well-known iconography, and how it helped make the game visually appealing.
The spectacular Michael Ironside’s final performance as Sam Fisher found the character in new territory. The prior Splinter Cell games were entirely stealth-based, following lone-operative Fisher on classified and dangerous missions. The games encouraged the player to find non-lethal and silent ways to progress past enemies.
Conviction introduced elements to make the gameplay more like a Bourne movie, like the ability to "mark & execute" several enemies at once. The game also removed series mainstays like Fisher’s night vision goggles, the ability to lock-pick doors, and the much-loved Spies vs. Mercs mode.
Despite not being a true Splinter Cell game, Conviction is undeniably fun. Interrogations in real time with the option to use the environment against the victim, the re-design of the HUD, and Ironside’s swan song make this game worth playing. Though be warned, the campaign is disappointingly short.
Advanced Warfighter 2 pits the player in a battle directly at the Mexican-American border. Featuring squad-based combat that makes the first Advanced Warfighter seem incredibly limited, the game is very fun despite feeling derivative.
With additions including a squad medic and an improved and complex multiplayer mode, GRAW 2 is a tactical shooter in every definition of the word. Unlike the aforementioned Future Soldier, running and gunning like in an arcade shooter will end in the death of all your teammates. It makes for a smart and challenging game, one that is only for those willing to be patient and strategize.
The most recent in the Rainbow Six series, Siege features fully destructible environments in, well, siege-based attacks. The environments were one of the main selling points of the product, and for good reason.
Obliterating walls in a building as you search for the other team or objective is gleefully mad-cap. The multi-player rounds are short and satisfying, and endlessly re-playable as long as the strategy and teammates change. Though there is no single-player campaign, hours can be spent rescuing hostages with friends or fighting off waves of AI solo on the couch.
What this game lacks in a performance from Michael Ironside as Sam Fisher, it makes up for in spades with its enhanced graphics and replay ability. Unlike Conviction, Ubisoft honors the classic Splinter Cell games with night vision goggles and Spies Vs. Mercs re-entering the playing field. In this game, Spies Vs. Mercs, the online multiplayer mode, has never been better. Character customization player offers many ways to progress through single-player levels or best your friends online. Four separate and solid cooperative modes that can be played both online and split-screen make this a great game to buy for those with previous generation consoles.
Though the gameplay is more action-based than stealth at times, it is notable this game can be completed “Ghost” style without killing enemies or alerting them to your presence. The wide array of options and unlockables in the many hours of gameplay make this a spectacular recent entry in the franchise.
The sequel to number 11 on this list, Vegas 2 improves on its predecessor in many ways. The AI is much more intelligent, creating more unique scenarios and solutions. The graphics were also notably better, though with a 2008 release date, they are already dated.
The co-op story was vastly better than Vegas, with customizable characters and an XP system that feels just, as opposed to random. From single-player, to co-op, to online multi-player, this game has a plethora of features, each one more entertaining than the last. Together, they make a formidable pair of movies.
That’s right, The Division made it to Number 4 on the list. The most recent Clancy game broke plenty of records for Ubisoft, selling more copies on its first day than the open-world Watch Dogs. The Division is astutely compared to the MMO-style first-person shooter Destiny. Players progress in a single-player campaign that is constantly connected to an online server. Encounters with other players can be turned off, but that eliminates most of what makes The Division unique. Its squad-based tactics are familiar to fans of the Clancy series, with obvious improvements to previous titles.
The dynamic weather system, crisp graphics, and spectacular world-design of a ravaged New York make the game a joy to play. That coupled with its near near-flawless online features, practical loot system, and intense gameplay, put The Division up at the top of Clancy’s best-of list.
This is the game that started it all. Clancy introduced us to Sam Fisher, a spy in the Third Echelon. The player progressed through third person levels with minimal weaponry and a focus on evading enemies instead of confronting them. Forced to constantly adapt to the intelligent AI, the player must stay in the shadows and use their wits, saving minimal ammo only for emergencies.
The use of light and dark in this game is still being utilized today in games; as the title says, it truly was stealth-action redefined. Despite dated graphics, this game holds up due to its groundbreaking campaign that constantly challenges you to think outside the box.
The immediate sequel to Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow followed the same basic ideas. Even with just slight improvements in graphics and gameplay and an original campaign, it would be worth it to play. But it is the addition of the Spies Vs. Mercs mode that truly solidify this game in the canon of not just Clancy games, but online games as well.
Spies Vs. Mercs is truly one of the greatest online modes ever conceived, allowing players to choose between playing as spies or mercenaries with largely different strategies associated with them. The gameplay is dynamic and tense, with a heavy reliance on communicating with your friends to win.
So while the single-player was more an expansion and less of a sequel, the addition of Spies Vs. Mercs puts Pandora Tomorrow on top.
Beating out its predecessor by a hair, Chaos Theory truly belongs at the #1 spot on this list. The game improved literally every aspect of the gameplay of the previous two titles. Chaos Theory received universal acclaim and rightfully so, it is truly a pleasure to play. Less tedious than the original, while still maintaining a focus on stealth, it remains difficult without being frustrating.
Chaos Theory further expanded on Spies Vs. Mercs and added a cooperative campaign that required skill and a very close friend to successfully complete. With a single-player story that features plenty of twists and turns and Fisher’s increased mobility and gadget selection, this is the game where you most feel like the elite operative Clancy wrote about in his novels. So wipe the dust off your original Xbox and play it again, Sam.
Think any other Tom Clancy games should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!