It can be tough to get into a new game series. IO Interactive’s HITMAN 3 may look like a super-fun first person shooter (and it is), but how are you supposed to assassinate people when you’re too busy wondering how you know Diana or why you have a barcode on your head? Never fear—with our helpful guide to the Hitman series, you’ll soon be contract killing with confidence.
HITMAN: CODENAME 47 (2000)
The first game in the Hitman series is a third-person shooter with a semi-open world, featuring the distinctly smooth-yet-pointy graphics style of the early, early aughts. Player character “Subject 47,” a bald dude rocking a cute back-of-the-head barcode tattoo, wakes up in the basement of a creepy sanatorium (padded walls and all), and is guided through a training course by a mystery man talking through a loudspeaker. 47 shows off his athletic, firearm, and assassination skills; then, he shows off his sanatorium-guard-murdering skills and makes his escape.
Cut to: one year later. 47 is now a hitman (surprise, surprise) for the International Contract Agency (ICA). He’s got a super different new name (Agent 47) as well as a handler, Diana Burnwood, who you know you can trust thanks to her soothing British accent. Over the course of a year, 47 kills four different people—but don’t worry, they were totally evil so you don’t have to feel bad or anything. After killing his targets, 47 discovers that each of them had letters in their pockets talking about an experimental human, someone named Dr. Ort-Meyer, and—yikes—Agent 47 himself.
Diana fills 47 in on some pretty startling news: all four of the guys he killed served together in the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam. The hits had all been ordered by the same person—a big no-no for the ICA. You know what that means! It’s time for One Last Job. 47 must assassinate a doctor in a Romanian sanatorium. (Coincidentally, it’s the one he broke out of a year prior. Weird!) After he finishes his mission, 47 realizes that the guy he just killed was Ort-Meyer’s assistant. He then learns that Ort-Meyer and the four guys he murdered earlier in the game had combined their DNA to create a perfect assassin: Agent 47 himself. (So, in a way, he kind of killed his dads. Well, most of them. Either way: whoops.)
With the assistance of CIA agent Carlton Smith, 47 tracks down his fifth dad, Ort-Meyer, and learns the truth: Ort-Meyer had orchestrated 47’s post-tutorial escape in order to see how he would fare IRL. He had also been the one to order the hits from earlier in the game so that he wouldn’t have to share 47 with the rest of the gang. Ort-Meyer also reveals that he’s since made some little brothers for 47—”Subjects 48,” a gaggle of clones that are easier to control and theoretically more skilled. (They aren’t actually more skilled, because 47 kills them.) 47 then tracks down and shoots Ort-Meyer. Before he dies, Ort-Meyer expresses regret for not recognizing his own son. 47, who apparently isn’t great at handling paternal affection, snaps his neck. So that probably means he’s done hitmanning forever, right?
HITMAN 2: SILENT ASSASSIN (2002)
Well, apparently not. (Not for lack of trying, though!) After the events of the first game, 47 makes a valiant effort to leave the assassin life behind him. Like many notable pop culture murderers before him, 47 decides to take up a greener, more peaceful life. He finds work as a gardener at a Sicilian church, helmed by Reverend Emilio Vittorio. He spends the rest of the game atoning for his previous sins and growing some pretty flowers. The end!
JK. Vittorio is kidnapped, and his abductors want $500,000, pronto. Unfortunately, 47 doesn’t have enough cash to free his friend, so he turns to his old bosses at the ICA for assistance. They agree to help, but in exchange, 47 has to complete a few contracts for them. Seems only fair!
47 learns that the Mafia was behind Vittorio’s kidnapping, and though he’s able to find and kill the person directly responsible for what happened, he can’t find Vittorio. Still, 47 must repay his debt to the ICA, so he sets out to complete his contracts. He travels the world, making stops in Russia, Japan, Afghanistan, India, and Malaysia. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to learn more about what happened to Vittorio, and accepts that his friend is probably dead.
After 47 kills his final target, the ICA reveals that Vittorio’s kidnapping was orchestrated by Sergei Zavorotko, the brother of one of 47’s five dead dads. That pretty much makes him 47’s uncle! Sergei concocted the sinister scheme to lure 47 out of retirement; furthermore, all of the hits 47 had carried out were ordered by Sergei. 47, eager for a family reunion, tracks Sergei down and kills him—and bumps into Vittorio, whom Sergei had been holding captive. Yep, Vittorio was alive the whole time! Vittorio begs 47 to leave his life of crime and return to the church, but 47 skedaddles on out of there and rejoins the ICA.
HITMAN: CONTRACTS (2004)
Hitman: Contracts once again follows Agent 47 as he takes out targets around the world—but this time, in third person! The game starts with a bang (literally) as 47 is shot and almost killed while on an assignment in Paris. He returns to his hotel room and has a charming walk down memory lane, reminiscing about all the cool murders he did.
Though an ICA doctor arrives to patch 47 up, officers from the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) storm the hotel, determined to capture 47. The ICA doctor bounces before he can dress the wound, but 47 miraculously regains his strength regardless, and remembers that the guy who shot him, Albert Fournier, was a corrupt GIGN officer.
GIGN fills the room with tear gas, but 47 escapes. He’s got a job to finish, after all! Once he finds and kills Fournier, he hightails it to the airport and gets the heck out of France. Diana meets him on the plane and delivers some rough news: the ICA is being targeted by a group known as the Franchise. Yikes!
HITMAN: BLOOD MONEY (2006)
The fourth game in the Hitman series mixes things up a bit—for once, we don’t start the game with our good friend 47. Rather, the story begins with Rick Henderson, an American journalist on a field trip to the home of former FBI Director Alexander Leland “Jack” Cayne. Though Rick plans on interviewing Cayne about a previous attack on the White House, Cayne has other ideas for their time together—he wants to let Rick in on the existence of a super mysterious cloned hitman. (Yeah, he’s talking about 47.) Though Rick believes 47 is an urban myth, he decides to hear Cayne out, because it’s the polite thing to do.
Cayne, naturally, came prepared for the weirdest game of Show And Tell ever—he shows Rick a stack of papers documenting 47’s criminal activities, including murdery trips to Maryland, Chile, and France. Also, according to the documents, the Franchise has been wreaking havoc on the ICA to the extent that Diana literally had to shut the whole operation down.
Cayne tells Rick that 47 was responsible for the aforementioned White House attack, and was ultimately killed by his handler. Cayne, further proving to us what a liar he is, then says 47 stole cloning data of Ort-Meyer to sell to whatever weirdo might be interested in that kind of thing. Even wilder news: apparently, 47 was working with the Franchise to kill the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Cayne seems pretty trustworthy—I think we should listen to this guy!
Cayne doesn’t know everything, though. For instance, 47 discovers the Franchise is in cahoots with Alpha Zerox, a political organization that wants Ort-Meyer’s cloning tech all for themselves. The President has plans to legalize cloning, so the Franchise wants him killed. This would put Vice President Daniel Morris in power—pretty ideal for the Franchise, since Morris is their puppet. 47 is hired by his old pal Carlton Smith to stop the Franchise’s goons from assassinating the president. Diana, meanwhile, has her own nifty plan: she double-crosses 47 by injecting him with poison. (It’s not actually as double-crossy as it seems.) The poison is actually a serum that, Romeo & Juliet-style, mimics death, allowing 47 close access to the Franchise.
Cayne plans to cremate our “fallen” anti-hero, since his bone marrow could be stolen by rival cloning organizations, which is very icky. Cayne is a surprisingly sentimental dude, though, and he arranges a quick ceremony to send 47 off to his eternal resting place. He even invites Rick to watch! Another guest at the funeral? Diana, rocking her best lipstick. (It’s the best because it contains the antidote for the poison keeping 47 in a Snow White state.) She gives him a smooch, 47 wakes up and kills everyone in the church (RIP Rick), Diana reopens the ICA, and they live happily ever after. The moral of this story? Don’t throw funerals for assassins! Just let them de-spawn, like nature intended!
HITMAN: ABSOLUTION (2012)
Agent 47 is back, and he has an exciting new mission: kill Diana for mysteriously betraying the ICA. Uh oh! 47 is a professional, though, so he puts aside his personal feelings and confronts Diana, who lets him in on her motivations—she’s trying to protect a genetically engineered teenager, Victoria, from having to become an assassin. 47 shoots and seemingly kills Diana (RIP), but promises to help Victoria. His replacement handler, Benjamin Travis, does not like this one bit, and declares 47 a traitor.
47 takes Victoria to Chicago and drops her off at the Rosewood Orphanage. He then seeks out a disgraced ICA informant named Birdie, who’s happy to help 47—in exchange for one small favor, of course. 47 assassinates a local crime boss, after which Birdie is happy to spill the beans. He tells 47 about a man named Blake Dexter, who is the head of a home defense company and seems to have an acute interest in Victoria. Dexter is planning to kidnap Victoria and auction her off to the highest bidder. 47, not cool with this, tries to kill Dexter. Unfortunately, he’s knocked out, and when he comes to, Dexter has vanished, 47 has been framed for the murder of one of the hotel maids, and the hotel is on fire. Yikes!
47 evades the police, then finds out about a group of mercenaries (led by Edward Wade) that Dexter hired to kidnap Victoria. 47 tries to stop them, but they capture Birdie, who spills the beans on Victoria’s location to save his own skin. 47 hightails it to the orphanage to protect Victoria. He kills Wade, but Dexter’s son Lenny snatches Victoria.
47 heads to Hope, South Dakota, the home base of Dexter’s private military company. He kills Lenny’s gang, interrogates Lenny re: Victoria’s location, and then kills Lenny. After a bit of murdering for the sake of tying up loose ends, 47 finds Victoria at the Hope Courthouse jail. Unfortunately, Dexter shows up to rain on his parade—he captures and tortures 47, then heads off to meet with a prospective buyer: Travis, 47’s secretly evil new handler from the beginning of the game. 47 escapes and follows Dexter to Chicago. Dexter tries to helicopter away with Victoria, but 47 kills him and saves the day.
A while later, Travis and his squad visit Diana’s grave, and 47 ambushes them per the instructions he received in a letter from Diana. The letter also reveals the shocking truth behind Victoria’s origins: Travis secretly funded the whole project under the nose of his ICA superiors. After 47 kills Travis, it is revealed that Diana is actually alive and is living with Victoria at her mansion. Also, a detective has been trying to locate 47 since the maid’s murder, and Birdie shows up to spill the beans on his identity. Thanks a lot, Birdie.
HITMAN marks the beginning of the World of Assassination trilogy, and takes place six years after the events of Hitman: Absolution. Even though the story is technically later on the timeline, we still get a nifty little prologue reminding us how we got to this point—and introducing us to ICA Training Director Erich Soders, who totally was here the whole time, and wasn’t just added now, in the sixth game of the series. Anyway, Soders tries to rig the initiation so that 47 doesn’t get into the ICA, but obviously that doesn’t work.
Cut to: 20 years later. Diana is now in a senior position at the ICA, and she sends 47 on a series of fun jobs, sending him to various exotic locales where he commits various exotic murders. One of the jobs is at a Parisian fashion show! Très chic!
Unfortunately, though the contracts appear to be unrelated, it turns out that a mysterious “Shadow Client” arranged for all of them, and used the ICA to carry out attacks on a secret organization known as “Providence.” As a result, it kind of looks like the ICA is waging a war on Providence. Whoops! Also, Diana discovers that Soders is a mole for Providence. 47, of course, kills him. Fortunately, the Shadow Client’s deception is revealed, so Providence is no longer mad at the ICA for all the assassinations, which is pretty nice. A member of Providence approaches Diana in the hopes of hiring the ICA to find and kill the Shadow Client. Diana turns him down, but he tells her he has new info about 47’s past. This, of course, changes her tune a little bit.
HITMAN 2 (2018)
In HITMAN 2, Agent 47 is on the hunt for the Shadow Client! The ICA and Providence have decided to partner up in order to take our mystery foe down, and 47 is on the job. 47 does a bunch of murders, and then we learn that the Shadow Client is actually Lucas Grey, ex-head of security to ex-alive Providence key-holder Eugene Cobb. Grey and hacker extraordinaire Olivia Hall hide out together in Central Europe, with the goal of recruiting 47 to their side.
Grey heads to Romania, with 47 in hot pursuit. Grey leads 47 to the sanatorium where 47 was created, and then reveals something pretty wild: Grey is also in Ort-Meyer’s genetically-engineered clone squad. 47 suddenly remembers Grey as a child—back then, he was known as “Subject 6,” and the two bros swore to each other that they would seek vengeance on the organization responsible for turning them into killers.
Grey meets with Diana in Berlin, and reveals to her that Ort-Meyer was also involved with Providence. Providence, it turns out, is controlled by three “Partners” and their right-hand dude, the “Constant.” Grey and 47 messed up their initial attempt to take out Team Bad Guy, and 47’s memories were erased (though Grey was able to get away safely). Grey’s new plan is to capture the Constant, and get them to reveal the identities of the Partners. 47 might know who the Constant is, but first he needs to take a convenient memory-erasure antidote that Grey stole in Johannesburg.
47 takes the antidote, and remembers the first Constant: a KGB spymaster named Janus. Diana does a big lie and files a report naming Janus as the Shadow Client, which means 47 gets to go assassinate him. Janus is retired and is living where all people go when they retire (Vermont). During the job, 47 learns that Janus had plans to meet the Constant at a fancy gala thrown by a survivalist organization known as the “Ark Society.” 47, always game for a party, sets off to dance the night away. He captures the Constant and takes him to go get interrogated. The Constant reveals the identities of the Partners. When 47 and Grey leave to go find their new targets, the Constant lets Diana in on one last secret: 47 killed her parents!
HITMAN 3 (2021)
Now that you’re all caught up on Agent 47’s jet-setting, murderous past, you should have no problem keeping up with his jet-setting, murderous future. Now, pack your bags—it’s time to go to Dubai!
Hitman 3 is available now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Google Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. For more information on the Hitman series, visit hitman.fandom.com.