Do you wanna be a cowboy, baby? Well, soon you can be — because Rockstar’s next game is speeding toward us faster than a hijacked runaway train full of outlaws. With even a short trailer sending gamers into fits of hysteria, the hype shows no signs of slowing down before Rockstar’s latest pulls into the station on the 26th of October.
Following the recent bout of previews that revealed just how promising and expansive Rockstar’s open world behemoth is (dynamic horse testicles, you guys), we thought it best to lasso a few titles that would be perfect for fans desperate to scratch that Western itch before Red Dead Redemption 2. Without further ado, here are five rootin’-tootin’ western games to help make the next few weeks a little easier.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Easily the most interesting game in the Call of Juarez series, Gunslinger saw Ubisoft push the franchise in a new direction, serving a gorgeous new art style while offering a surprisingly unique approach to storytelling. Using the classic cinema trope of the unreliable narrator, you play as bounty hunter Silas Greaves as he regales patrons about his murderous sprees in the Old West, with the environment and arcade gameplay morphing as he exaggerates or is corrected by those listening to his tales.
The busy gunplay is crunchy and high-octane, providing bursts of endorphins as the difficulty spikes at random and your arsenal improves. It’s also one of the few cowboy games to really nail the art of the duel, with whipping out your pistol slowing time to a halt and invoking multiple foes as you try to balance focus and rush to defeat any outlaws who dare to rise to the challenge. Inexplicably, Gunslinger also includes the 34th president of the United States, if you needed any more reason to check it out…
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
Definitely one of the more aesthetically unique Western games on the market, Oddworld Inhabitants came out of left field in 2005 to trial out a new genre and setting within its established wacky world. Players step into the Stetson-wearing shoes of The Stranger, who embarks on a bounty-hunting mission across the Western Mudos, visiting inspired locations such as Gizzard Gulch and New Yolk City, ousting dodgy dealers and banking tons of Moolah.
Stranger’s Wrath recently received the remaster treatment, making it readily available on pretty much every next gen device, with a Nintendo Switch version coming soon. Luckily, the unique third/first-person hybrid action actually holds up pretty well — and that’s largely down to the clever ‘live ammo’ system that distances it from other, more conventional shooters. ‘Live ammo’ is exactly what it sounds like, with The Stranger collecting poor old critters to use as the two main ammo types in his arsenal.
It’s a wonderfully bizarre little system, with each animal bullet coming with its own power-up, from Stingbees that hone in on targets down to the unforgettable Stunkz that release noxious fumes –forcing your foes to barf all over the battlefield. Nice.
One of the only non-skateboarding or rhythm games to come from the now-defunct development house Neversoft, this highly unique title paved the way for Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption with its vast, gritty open world full of activities. From playing poker to mining ore, GUN let you live out your childhood dreams of adventure on the American Frontier in both third and first-person.
Whilst the graphics clearly haven’t stood the test of time, the gameplay certainly has. Picking up GUN today, its still shameless fun to hunt buffalo or chuck whiskey bombs at lawmen. All of this chaotic cowboy carnage is made all the better by being tied up in a surprisingly meaty story that’s full of slightly cliched (but undeniably awesome) Spaghetti Western thrills. All of this in a game that served as a launch title for the Xbox 360 and was playable on the GameCube! If you squint a bit and start drinking heavily it’s basically Red Dead 2.
Red Dead Redemption
Obvious, but this couldn’t be missed really. Red Dead Redemption is certainly the closest thing you’re going to get to its sequel and thanks to the Xbox One X enhancements — it still holds up surprisingly well. As you probably already know, Red Dead Redemption 2 is actually a prequel, so it would be good to familiarize yourself with the world that is waiting for Arthur Morgan and the gang after the events of the upcoming game. It’s easy to forget how dark this game is. If the ‘Old West’ is dying in Red Dead 2, its corpse is being mercilessly picked at by vultures in the original.
Red Dead Redemption follows John Marston in 1911, an outlaw from a bygone era who soon finds himself struggling to find his place in the new world. The encroaching maw of modern technology and bureaucracy forces him into a grisly revenge mission to take down his former gang. As a period piece, Rockstar’s 2010 epic is still unmatched for its intricate depiction of the Wild West. With its compelling characters, satisfying gameplay and powerful story, new and returning players can find something to love here, even if you just end up exploring its secret-filled world. Just watch out for the zombies and sasquatches…
Westerado: Double Barreled
Perfect if you’re looking for a Western experience that is more bite-sized and instantly satisfying than other similar games in the field, this special indie game is an RPG that follows the player as they hunt a malicious Desperado who murdered their family. Betrayal is er, a bit of a theme in Western games.
To figure out the mystery, you must venture across a pixelated Wild West world and interrogate its inhabitants with your trusty pistols, which, interestingly, can only shoot on a horizontal axis. The diversity of gameplay in Westerado: Double Barreled is impressive and no run is the same, meaning there is plenty of replay value once you’ve finished off the short story. Humorous dialogue and a charming score make this diamond in the rough an easy recommendation for Western fans who want a less daunting experience than the impossibly huge open worlds of games like Red Dead Redemption.