Rockstar Games certainly helped revolutionize the open world format through the western epic that was Red Dead Redemption IIand elsewhere with the seemingly endless (and most recent) reissues of GTA V. But the western genre and the “wild west” setting fills a special niche that is not explored too often.
The 2018 sequel has arguably become the most well-received and popular of its time, but there are other notable titles from previous years. Metacritic has rated the best in this particular setting, from the cult classic Oddworld series to even JRPG Wild Arms.
10/10 Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger – 76 (Xbox 360, 36 reviews)
The Juarez’s call games had a short-lived run from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s, but they managed a couple of solid entries. Gunslinger was the last release, putting the Wild West into a first-person shooter.
The story also takes a creative spin on real-life characters from the American Wild West, from the likes of Billy the Kid to the Sundance Kid and beyond. Critical reception highlighted arcade-style gunplay and an interesting take on the storytelling
9/10 Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood – 77 (Xbox 360, 77 reviews)
Bound in blood was the first sequel in Juarez’s call series, and it is also the most well received. Taking place 16 years after the original game, Bound in blood revolves around the story of two brothers who fought on the side of the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
The two later left the war to go back and save their families, while trying to shake their former boss off the rails. It’s a shame that the series has been effectively put to rest, because in addition to giving this exciting setting more variety in gameplay, they’re also underrated games that would benefit from modern game design advances.
8/10 Desperados: Wanted Dead Or Alive – 78 (PC, 12 reviews)
A PC-exclusive series, that Desperados trilogy of games is an interesting choice for players who want to experience a wild-west-themed game through the lens of another genre. Games of this type usually opt for first- or third-person action-adventure, if not straight-up shooters.
However, in the early 2000s Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive has players go through the border in a top-down and real-time strategy format. The game was praised for its use of tactical combat, as well as an engaging western story.
7/10 Wild Arms 3 – 78 (PlayStation 2, 30 reviews)
There are plenty of excellent modern JRPGs to play for newcomers and veterans alike that use familiar fantasy or sci-fi settings, but one might be surprised to find that there is a western-themed game of this genre in form of Wild Arms 3. Released for PlayStation 2, Wild Arms 3 doesn’t take place in a fictionalized version of the real Western frontier, but it does use a sci-fi planet that takes heavy inspiration from it.
Players play as protagonist Virginia Maxwell as she seeks out adventures on the vast desert planet of Filgaia. And as most JRPGs (especially at the time) involve combat turn-based action, being praised for that as well as its cast of characters and story.
6/10 Gun – 79 (Xbox, 55 reviews)
Red Dead Redemption undoubtedly popularized the concept of an open world western game, but Guns did a solid job with it a few years before Rockstar’s first mainline game. The aptly titled game takes inspiration from classic Clint Eastwood-style spaghetti westerns and opted for a third-person action-adventure game format.
Players could use different types of weapons, as well as explosives and bows for combat. Equally, there was also an option to switch to a first-person camera to engage in combat from an alternate perspective.
5/10 Red Steel 2 – 80 (Nintendo Wii, 73 reviews)
Nintendo has published some of the most memorable games in the history of the medium, spanning generations of consoles. The usual suspects like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda will understandably be the center of attention, but the Wii had its fair share of hidden gems. It includes the inventive Wild West game Red steel 2thanks to the gaming approaches.
It revolves around an unnamed hero of the Kusanagi clan as he tangles with the vicious desert-dwelling Jackal gang. But what makes this such a creative game is how it mixes the wild west with a samurai story, highlighted in its story premise and fun mix of first-person shooter and hack-and-slash swordplay action.
4/10 Desperados III – 86 (PC, 61 reviews)
After the sophomore entry was released to more middling reviews, Desperados III was launched in 2006 to become the most critically acclaimed game in the series. Set in the Wild West of the 1870s, this sequel explores the origins of series protagonist John Cooper while taking thematic cues from Spaghetti Westerns such as Once Upon a Time in the West.
Critics cited the unique personalities of each of the game’s characters to be refreshing while delivering rewarding gameplay using mechanics that involve meaningful player choice. Similarly, the prominent characters helped to diversify and make the tactical combat all the more gripping.
3/10 Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath – 88 (Xbox, 65 reviews)
The Oddworld the series was a cult classic from the original PlayStation days, and heavily used the platformer and action-adventure genres as the basis of its gameplay. The games usually put the player in the shoes of a protagonist fighting against industrial conglomerates from the destructive Oddworld ecosystem. And in Stranger’s Wrathputs the game a sci-fi Wild West spin on its usual formula.
The titular Stranger protagonist goes on a series of bounty hunts to pay for treatment for a mysterious illness. Stranger’s Wrath was highly regarded for its unique experience, using a combination of third-person for platform exploration and melee combat, with first-person used for shooting mechanics.
2/10 Red Dead Redemption – 95 (Xbox 360, 96 reviews)
The sequel probably takes the lion’s share of attention to improve upon an already fantastic foundation, but the original Red Dead Redemption still stands as one of Rockstar’s best games. Much of the game’s acclaim came from its intricate open-world game design, and how the Western setting was used to suit it.
The player takes on the role of John Marston and embarks on a gritty wild-western story that sees the former outlaw drawn back into his life of crime. Along the way, players could shape John’s personality and progression through the world through a morality system that affected how characters would interact with him.
1/10 Red Dead Redemption II – 97 (PlayStation 4, 99 reviews)
One of the biggest landmark games of recent years, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption II was a huge step forward in both open-world gaming and the dynamic systems that make it up. Although a sequel in name, the narrative is a true forerunner.
This time around, players follow protagonist Arthur Morgan and his gang – including the aforementioned Marston – as they deal with the dying age of “the outlaw of the West”. The world is huge with great mechanical depth, with many of the dynamic character interactions and changing environmental effects combining for one of the most immersive wild west games to date.
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