Few game franchises manage to amass a fan base as large and leave a footprint as long-lasting as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has. The original game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, is a classic that will forever have a place in the video game hall of fame. So far, it has received two sequels, both of which are solid games in their own right.

However, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat were more akin to standalone expansions, and a true sequel (known only as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 for the time being) has been confirmed and will launch sometime in 2021. Many fans of the franchise were overjoyed upon hearing the news, since S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was originally supposed to come out in 2012 but was instead canceled that same year when the development studio behind the series, GSC Game World, was temporarily closed for several years.

Now, the studio has been re-opened and the devs are breathing new life into the beloved franchise. But it’s been over a decade since the last S.T.A.K.E.R. game, so chances are that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will attract the attention of some gamers who did not get the chance to experience the original back in the day.

So, if S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was “before your time”, read on, as we will provide a brief overview of all three S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games released so far!

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    S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl


    Release date: March 20, 2007

    Developer: GSC Game World

    Platforms: Microsoft Windows

    The first and most iconic entry in the series, the development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl started way back in 2001, when it was known as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Oblivion Lost. It was originally supposed to come out in 2003, but the development took longer than anticipated, and the Shadow of Chernobyl that we know today finally came out in 2007.

    The premise of Shadow of Chernobyl is rather simple – the player character, an unnamed stalker referred to only as the “Marked One”, is rescued from a so-called death truck by another unnamed stalker who delivers him to a trader named Sidorovich in exchange for payment.

    Marked One suffers from a trope that was relatively common back then – amnesia – and the only thing he has to go on is a simple instruction in his PDA that says: “Kill Strelok”. So, in an attempt at finding answers, Marked One sets on a journey to find Strelok, a path that only leads him deeper and deeper into the Zone.

    Now, the “Zone” is the Zone of Alienation surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. However, in the alternate universe of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., there is more than just radiation to worry about – the fabric of reality itself is wavering, the landscape is dotted with physics-defying anomalies, the fauna has mutated into grotesque monsters, and valuable “artifacts” with various supernatural properties have caused many men to illegally enter the Zone seeking to make their fortunes by selling said artifacts – stalkers.

    Stalker Shadow Of Chernobyl

    As far as the gameplay elements are concerned, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is an FPS game with some RPG elements. There is no leveling progression, but there is an inventory system, the game is filled with NPCs that can be interacted with, and there are some stats to keep in mind when it comes to weapons and equipment. On top of all that, there are several factions that the player can join, but this aspect of the game was only really expanded upon in the later titles.

    Overall, the game is relatively slow-paced. The player has to take care regarding how they approach certain encounters and make full use of cover when firefights break out. Furthermore, the inventory has to be managed carefully because carrying too much weight will severely limit the player’s mobility, so it’s impractical to carry a ton of different guns and ammo.

    Stalker Shadow Of Chernobyl Game

    In any case, there are different ways to play the game, there is a variety of weapons and protective suits to choose from, and the bleak, dilapidated Zone is ripe for exploration. Even the graphics look quite good for a 2007 game, though the animations and the X-Ray Engine definitely make the game’s age readily apparent.

    At the end of the day, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is a classic, but it’s still a somewhat buggy and flawed game. Some elements feel very unpolished, though many issues were fixed in the later installments. Plus, there are many mods still being made for this game, from relatively small fixes to complete overhauls, so Shadow of Chernobyl isn’t quite dead yet.

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

    Stalker Clear Sky

    Release date: September 15, 2008

    Developer: GSC Game World

    Platforms: Microsoft Windows

    Released a year and a half after Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a prequel that feels like a one step forward and one step back.

    The second game puts the player in the shoes of a mercenary named Scar who, for some reason, is capable of surviving the deadly emissions that occur in the Zone at random intervals. He joins forces with the eponymous faction of stalkers and scientists dedicated to researching and understanding the Zone in an attempt to help them stop the emissions which seem to be getting more and more frequent.

    From a mechanics standpoint, the game remains more or less the same, but with some additions that include a selection of new weapons and gear, the ability to upgrade and repair weapons and protective suits, along with detectors which are now the only way to discover artifacts. On top of that, the factions have been expanded, featuring a more thorough reputation system and the ability to partake in faction war i.e. helping the members of one faction take territory from another in order to reap some faction-specific rewards.

    The engine was also updated for Clear Sky, so the game looks a bit better than the original. However, it wasn’t as well-received as the first game – despite the enhanced graphics, it suffered from performance issues and bugs, not to mention that it recycled many of the areas previously seen in Shadow of Chernobyl, only introducing relatively minor changes.

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

    Stalker Call Of Pripyat

    Release date: February 2, 2010

    Developer: GSC Game World

    Platforms: Microsoft Windows

    The third and final entry in the series (for the time being) is titled S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, and the events of the game take place after the events of Shadow of Chernobyl. This time around, the player assumes the role of one Major Alexander Degtyarev, who is sent by the Ukrainian military to investigate the wrecks of several reconnaissance helicopters that mysteriously crashed inside the Zone.

    Fundamentally, Call of Pripyat doesn’t differ much from the previous two entries when gameplay is concerned, as the core mechanics remain the same. The upgrade system is further refined and the game introduces new areas that are larger and more open compared to the smaller, more focused ones seen in the previous two games.

    Call of Pripyat was praised for its stability and lack of bugs (something that was a problem with both of the previous titles) and its vast open areas contributed a lot to making it feel like a true open-world experience with a variety of locations to explore. Still, the X-Ray Engine was seriously beginning to show its age in 2010, so it was time for the developers to move onto a new project with a brand-new engine, which they did.

    S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

    Stalker 2

    Release date: TBD (2021)

    Developer: GSC Game World

    Platforms: Unconfirmed, likely Windows, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Project Scarlett

    As mentioned in the introduction, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 had a troubled development, having been cancelled back in 2012 before the project was launched again in 2018. The game is expected to hit the shelves in 2021 and we know very little about it so far.

    What we do know is that it will be powered by Unreal Engine 4, which is good news, and it means that the game will most likely be released for consoles as well this time around. There is no other concrete info available on the game so far, but we hope to see a proper trailer and gameplay demo in 2020.


    Stalker Game

    And that would be it, all the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games released so far, plus one more that is expected to come out in the near future. If you’ve never experienced S.T.A.L.K.E.R., now would definitely be a good time!

    And as always, if you feel that we have overlooked something important, feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll see about fixing the error.

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