Begun in 2007, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise is a series of video games set in "The Zone", an area covering Chernobyl and its surroundings following a fictional second Chernobyl disaster. Loosely inspired by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series follows the lives of "stalkers", inhabitants of The Zone. Besides other stalkers, The Zone is covered with a number of dangers, from "anomalies" which destroy any object passing through them, to mutated wildlife and psychically-powered experiments.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Released in 2007, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl takes place in 2012, 6 years after the second Chernobyl incident. The game follows an amnesiac stalker referred to as "The Marked One", whose only link to his past is a note telling him to "Kill Strelok." The first entry in the series, Shadow of Chernobyl received fairly positive reception, eventually becoming a cult classic. However, the game was (and remains) infamous for its high number of bugs, many of which persist even following community efforts to patch some of the game's technical issues.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
Released in 2008, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is a prequel to the original game, set one year prior. The player takes the role of Scar, a mercenary tasked with stopping a group of stalkers led by Strelok, before they can reach the center of The Zone. Clear Sky introduced more defined mechanics around in-game factions and their relations to one another, but was received slightly less favorably than Shadow of Chernobyl, in part due to a continued abundance of bugs.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
Released in 2009, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat is the third game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. It takes place after Shadow of Chernobyl left, albeit from the perspective of a new character, Major Degtyarev. Degtyarey is sent into The Zone in attempts to blend in with the other stalkers, so as to ascertain the fate of a squad of men who crash-landed in the Zone. Call of Pripyat widely overhauled the UI of the previous games, as well as adding new features such as "safe zones", areas in which violence is prohibited, to act as quest hubs, alongside new areas, and a slew of miscellaneous improvements to the game's foundation.
Originally announced in 2010 with a planned 2012 release, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was intended for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Following internal difficulties, GSC Game World was dissolved in December 2011, with the game officially being cancelled in April of the following year.
In 2014, GSC Game World officially reformed to produce Cossacks 3. In 2018, Game World announced that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 had returned to development, being designed in Unreal Engine 4 and slated for a 2021 release. A trailer for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was later shown at Microsoft and Bethesda's E3 2021 presentation, bearing a new subtitle, Heart of Chernobyl, and a planned release date of April 28, 2022.
On Nov. 10, 2010, GSC Game World released a trailer for a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. movie, although following the group's dissolution, the state of the project is unknown, and likely cancelled.