|“||In the metro, the rare daredevils who had the guts to venture to the surface were called stalkers. In protective suits and gas masks with tinted glass, they were heavily armed as they ascended to the surface in search of items that were necessities for everyone: military supplies, equipment, replacement parts, fuel ... There were hundreds of men who dared to do this. Those who were able to make it back alive could be counted on one's finger - and these men were worth their weight in gold.||„|
— Metro 2033 Novel
Stalkers search for fuel, ammunition, and other salvageable materials at the surface to sell them in the Metro or keep them for themselves. They sometimes have small hideouts on the surface, built into ruined apartments or office buildings where they stash their findings, though most live in stations, bringing them their findings. Stalkers often work alone, or in small teams, but they universally aid each other by leaving supply drops on the surface, leaving brightly colored markers as guideposts in the swamps, and having flashlight signals to communicate. Many Stalkers are mentioned as having military backgrounds, pre-war. They are also very often well-armed, similarly to rangers and soldiers. They tend to wear armored vests, hazmat suits and long trench coats.
It is heavily implied that a Stalker's life expectancy is very low, so those who venture upwards must be either thrill-seekers or suicidal - in the lawless Metro, either is possible. Stalkers are often considered insane by most other inhabitants of the metro, with Bourbon referring to them in the video game as "crazy devils". Equally though, everyone relies on them for everything, giving them an almost godly status. Very few Stalkers are ever seen in the games - most are desiccated corpses that Artyom can search for supplies from, again alluding to their deadly profession.
While many Stalkers are known to work independently, Stalking to support themselves or their families, some Stalkers have acknowledged that working together on Stalking mission can be beneficial, a example being the Protagonist and his friends found in the Developer Pack (DLC) mission Spider Lair. However Political Factions have also known to commission large Stalker groups. A few examples of these are Polis, commission the Spartans to bring pre-war technology from the surface to them. And the Nazis who capture Artyom in the level Ashes are Stalkers.
Stalkers have a more central role in the novel than in the video games, replacing the rangers completely. They are envied by station dwellers for their skill and bravery. The Rangers in game are derived from the faction of which Miller is part of in the book - he leads a commando unit of Stalkers into Park Pobedy station to rescue Artyom, or, more specifically, Anton, wearing similar armor to the Rangers in game. Much like the Rangers, they still play a big part in the defense of Polis, the Kshatriya class being warrior-Stalkers dedicated to the station.
Stalkers were said to be armed with unusual short assault rifles with laser sights and silencers, possibly AKS-74Us, and wore long heavy bullet-proof vests over black uniforms. In addition, massive titanium helmets with face guards and large titanium shields with eye slits added to their intimidating view.
- The term Stalker is not by any means derived from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise as commonly thought, but from the book Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers (on which the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are based). This is where the term "stalker" was used for the first time in regards to individuals brave and crazy enough to venture into the Visitation Zones.
- Many dead stalkers found on the surface appear to be wearing older Soviet-era gas masks, similar to GP-5s.
- Unlike in Metro 2033, you can identify living stalkers in Metro: Last Light:
- The first stalkers that the player will identify are Reich stalkers, though they are only seen briefly before they knock Artyom out.
- Pavel traveled to the Botanical Gardens with another Stalker to find any remaining Dark Ones, though they too were captured.
- Occasionally on the surface gunshots can be heard in the distance, which are possibly from Stalkers battling mutants. The most notable of these are during The Dead City, which cause a Watchman pack to scatter.
- Simon, from Venice, is mentioned as being a Stalker, as a child's mother mentions that her son's teddy bear was brought from the surface by Simon, and how rare toys are these days.
- A duo of stalkers can be seen in the level Bolshoi informing Katja - the wife of one of their colleagues - of her husband's death in a Demon attack, as well as the location his grave site.
- A girl in Bolshoi brags to her friend about how her father is a stalker and how he'll bring her special things once he returns. After chatting they head to the metro tunnel to wait for him there.
- A group of six resting stalkers are encountered in a safe house at the start of the level Depot, where Artyom can trade with them. They are led by a man named Pyotr who apparently knows Miller personally. They leave before Artyom encounters a hostile scouting party from the Red Line.
- The Polis Kshatriya team are Stalkers from Polis who explore the surface to find artifacts to preserve the culture and knowledge of old-Russia. Their latest assignment was to explore the Moscow State Library.
- The group heading to the abandoned missile silo in Spider Lair are Stalkers, though they are less than successful in fending off the Spiderbugs.
- Most of Metro inhabitants view stalkers as heroes and thus highly respected, "even more than former Metro workers". Stalkers were compared to "the knights in shining armors" because of their job and well-kept anti-radiation suits. As such, they replaced the "childhood dream" occupations such as cosmonauts or pilots.
- In some cases, Stalkers were criminals sent to the surface as a form of capital punishment, though giving a dangerous criminal a gun and letting him go free seems slightly nonsensical. However, their slim chances of survival on the surface and their lack of equipment if there is no trading makes certain sense.
- The Stalkers' light signal, used on the surface, to reveal their identity as a Stalker, is three circles drawn with turned on flash-light. The response signal is copying the same three circles.