I figured I’d start the list off with a game that will make pretty much everyone go “hey I played that game when I was younger!” GUN is that game because pretty much anyone that has shown even the slightest bit of interest in the Wild West genre has explored the open world of GUN. The game did everything you could potentially love with an open world environment: wild west gunfights, bandits, and you can even hunt wild animals. There were so many finely tuned features all throughout the game that you could be addicted to it for days. Anyone remember the town patience meter?
If any game is ever going to give Rockstar a run for the money in the western genre it would be this franchise, but sadly the studio (Neversoft) is now defunct. It’s still a bit strange to me that the company behind all the good Tony Hawk games somehow went in a whole new direction, and totally nailed it in almost every way possible. And yet they still got shut down. In fact, according to an interview in Game Informer we could all be playing GUN 2 if it wasn’t for the Tony Hawk franchise. The studio opted to make more Tony Hawk titles instead of Gun 2 because the follow up required too many resources, and there wasn’t enough to split between that and making a new Tony Hawk. Hey, we all make mistakes!
DarkWatch: Curse of the West
I almost made this list without listing this title until I was reminded just how badass this game was. Darkwatch is another classic that many people will remember from “back in the day” that never got a follow up. This time we were following a character named Jericho Cross in a world inspired by the wild west, steampunk, and horror. Sounds awesome, right? Well it was and people loved the steampunk / horror twist the game delievered. In fact it even got a movie deal, but Hollywood seems to have forgotten about it.
The game brought many ideas to the table including a good or bad choice system. Based on your decisions you were rewarded bands for either side that would grant unique powers. Jericho would also become a “normal” gunslinger during daylight hours with no powers beyond some awesome standard wild west moves with his gun. The story was super thrilling to play, and the game had so many awesome moments that you could even go back and enjoy it today.
Developer High Noon Studios were the master minds behind it and they are currently owned by Activision which is having them assist on Call of Duty production along with making Transformers games, so they are still a functional studio. It seems if Activision ever wants to jump into this genre they have two really solid options!
Oddworld: Strangers Wrath
Another game that throws a spin on the Wild West, and does it well, is Oddworld: Strangers Wrath. This is the first 3D title in the franchise that provides a somewhat open, yet linear, approach and a new lead character named Stranger. The game takes place when Stranger needs to pay for his own medical procedure to save his life so he begins doing bounties for people to collect coins.
Like a majority of the games on this list the game wasn’t followed up, but was a big success for the franchise. It has been re-released in HD a few times, and remains relevant over time, but we would like to see something new come of it. The “odd world” is always fun to explore, and this one did many things right to continue that success.
Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood
We return to the world of the wild west with an absolutely perfect example of how it is done. Bound in Blood doesn’t spin off the idea of the wild west at all, and instead is a true western thriller. This isn’t the first game in the Call of Juarez franchise, and certainly not the last, but easily the most well done title in the series.
The game follows the McCall Brothers in an era at the end of the American Civil War, 20 years before the previous title takes place. They abandon their duties and head out on the run before they find themselves in Mexico learning of a gold secret. After a few deals are made, and some problems arise, we set out on a journey that goes through some major locations in history, including Tombstone, Arizona. It was the exploration of these iconic towns and the top notch western story that really got me excited. Especially since some iconic historic names, like Jesse James, are mentioned all throughout. The game also brought us some slightly new mechanics that could have easily been further exploited. The major one being the ability to choose which brother to play in each mission, offering you unique features and level approaches based on your decision.
Bound in Blood didn’t do anything extraordinary beyond being a western game down to its core, and for that we have to recommend it. If you want to live a true to life western and explore the world the way the genre is meant to be, this is the game for you. Bound in Blood is easily the best title in the franchise, we only wish they would return to it.
Read Dead Redemption
And thus the whole reason we wrote this article, Red Dead Redemption! This game does everything you could ever imagine doing in the wild west. The vast open world, horse riding, raiding, basically put “Gun” on steroids and amp up the quality and you get Redemption. Much like Bound in Blood this isn’t the first title in the franchise, but Redemption is by far one of Rockstars best games. The Cinelinx team about jumped off the planet in excitement when they saw the Red Dead Redemption 2 teasers this week.
Red Dead Redemption is not only a great western, but it could be classified as one of the best games ever created. I personally wouldn’t expect anything less from Rockstar though. The game offers everything from horse riding to gambling to drinking and hunting. Then to make things even better, and gain my interest, they add an expansion that turns the in-game world on its head with zombies. This game is perfection for anyone that loves open world adventures and the wild west.
Overall the wild west genre seems to be a hidden gem of the industry that pops up once in a while to remind you how great the genre can be. The few titles that shine in this group are actually games worth mentioning elsewhere, such as potential GOTY (Game of the Year) nominees. So maybe with Red Dead Redemption making a return we could see a few of these titles give it another go? Activision we are looking at you and whispering “Darkwatch” in your direction.
We know didn’t include every great wild west title, such as Wild Arms, so we want to know what your favorite title in the west is! Let us know in the comments below, or on our facebook page.