What order should you play the STALKER games in?

STALKER Series Makes Console Debut

All of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have finally made their console debut nearly two decades after the series began on PC, and with three titles to choose from, many newcomers are wondering which order to play them in. Thankfully, there’s a super simple answer for that.

With STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl hitting Xbox consoles and PC later this year, now is the perfect time to catch up on the STALKER series to see what all the fuss is about. These are some of the most atmospheric shooters on the market, and the closest thing that console players have had until now is the excellent Metro series. The games can be a bit hard to get into because of their difficulty and learning curve, but a highly rewarding experience awaits anyone willing to brave the Zone.

Recommended STALKER Playing Order

The best way to play the STALKER games is in release order. You should start with Shadow of Chernobyl, then move on to Clear Sky, and then end with Call of Pripyat. This is the intended way to experience the series, and while you can jump into any entry and enjoy yourself, you’ll miss out on some context if you skip certain games.

I know some people love to experience franchises in chronological order, and if you’re one of those people, you’ll have a slightly different playing order for the series. Clear Sky is a prequel to the first game, so if you wanted to do a chronological STALKER playthrough, you’d play Clear Sky first, Shadow of Chernobyl second, and Call of Pripyat last.

No matter which order you choose, it’s not recommended to start with Call of Pripyat since it’s a sequel and relies on context from both Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky. All three titles come together to create one large story with deep lore, so you’ll want to start from the beginning (whether that’s release order or chronological order).

Where Does STALKER 2 Fit on the Timeline?

Stalker 2 Game Pass Featured Image
Image: GSC Game World

STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl is coming to Xbox Series X|S and PC in late 2024, and it’s the first game in the series to get a number added to the title. Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat are technically considered standalone expansions to Shadow of Chernobyl and all three titles are a part of the same story arc, so they weren’t considered to be numbered entries in the series.

STALKER 2 is being designed as a jumping-on point for the series and will mark the start of an all-new story arc. There will be some callbacks to the original trio of games, though, so developer GSC Game World has recommended that players catch up on the story to prepare for the new game. It’ll still stand on its own if you just want to dive into the new storyline when the game hits Xbox Game Pass.

While you can enjoy Heart of Chornobyl on its own, it’s never been easier to get into the STALKER series than it is right now. The original trilogy has been stuck on PC since release and most fans recommend using mods and community-developed fixes to get the best experience, but now all three games are available on PlayStation and Xbox consoles for those of you who don’t want to tinker with settings. Regardless of which game you decide to try out, we wish you the best of luck on your journeys in the Zone.