Eight years after the release of Red Dead Redemption, gamers are about to revisit the open world Western with an eagerly awaited prequel. Fans of the Rockstar Game are counting down the days until the 26th of October, when the GTA cocktail of drugs, sex and violence is brought to the Wild West once again in Red Dead Redemption 2.
What made the original Red Dead Redemption so successful can only be attributed to a multitude of factors ranging from the excellent use of music to dynamic gameplay elements such as the ability to mark several shooting targets in slow motion. Key to the Red Dead experience, however, is of course the Western atmosphere and gunslinging environment; a setting for which there is a (perhaps surprising) lack of good video games.
If you’re looking for a basis of comparison, or simply want to set the mood in anticipation of RDR2, here are some older, yet noteworthy, Wild West titles we think might scratch your gaming itch.
Call of Juarez
This first-person shooter was first released in 2006 but stands the test of time and spawned a successful Juarez series. In the original Call of Juarez, gamers switch between playing as two protagonists with different game styles (shoot’em up vs. stealth). A classic revenge storyline is what motivates these characters, one of whom is Ray McCall, a gunslinger turned preacher who incorrectly believes that his nephew, Billy “Candle”, is responsible for the death of his brother and wife. While hunting Billy down for revenge, Billy seeks to find the true killers of his father and mother, who committed the murders while Billy was away searching for the legendary ‘Gold of Juarez’. Alternating gameplay styles is one of the game’s strong points, but many of its most enjoyable aspects are also centered around the incorporation of classic Wild West tropes such as the ‘quick duel draw’.
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West
This team-based shooter game is an oldie (released in 2009 by indie game developers Fatshark) but worth a play for the numerous game modes to choose between, and its great Old West American atmosphere. Shoot-outs take place in settings such as gold mines, cornfields, deserts and woodshack towns. Each character in the game has their own weapons and abilities, each with unique pros and cons. Strong teamwork is essential in this game, with players’ strengths boosted through cooperation. Interestingly, ‘Lead and Gold’ is often compared to the version of Team Fortress 2 also based in the Wild West, so check out this shooter if you enjoy the TF2 style of multiplayer game.
Wild Wild West: The Great Train Heist
Different from the other titles in the list in that it’s not a fully fledged video game but a Wild West video slot (animated slot that offer bonuses), Wild Wild West: The Great Train Heist can be played either for free or for real money online. From famous online casino games developer NetEnt, this game incorporates the typical game elements you’d expect of a high quality five-reel title (free spin activation and other bonus features) plus excellent graphics and sound effects which create an immersive, atmospheric experience. In this case the game is centered around four robbers in the Wild West, and set against the backdrop of a desert railway. If you’re looking for a mobile friendly gaming experience, this is the right pick.
One of the top Wild West games of all time, GUN is known for its influential take on open world combat and classic ‘cowboys and Indians’ narrative. The game received primarily positive reviews and even won GameSpy’s Xbox Game of the Year Award. Besides the action, gamers can enjoy a number of side missions in GUN. Just like in the Red Dead Redemption, there’s the option to play a minigame of poker, along with other characteristic cowboy activities like cattle herding and bounty hunting. A number of weapons can be used (including dynamite and whiskey bombs) though some need to be unlocked. Gamers will also appreciate the ability to switch between first person and third person perspective depending on the weapons used.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
The fictional universe ‘Oddworld’ has given fans four titles that are still adored by lovers of retro gaming, and the final installment in the series takes on a Wild West setting. The action-adventure game takes place on the Oddworld planet as opposed to the American Old West, but classic cowboy tropes still define Stranger’s Wrath. The ‘stranger’, in this case, is a bounty hunter who wants to pay for a life-saving operation through the cash he earns catching outlaws. All Oddworld titles have a highly creative and original feel to them, filled with morals and social criticism interwoven into the storyline – Stranger’s Wrath is no exception. This particular Wild West game is perfect for those who like fantasy elements in their gameplay.
Red Dead Redemption earned several awards and was widely acclaimed as one of the most interesting, well-developed video games in a long time. High hopes are being held both by critics and gamers that the follow-up will prove just as impressive. Whilst Rockstar Games’ venture into the Wild West is not closely rivalled by any other cowboy game, we do recommend the aforementioned titles for anyone keen for some gunslinging, nostalgia-laced action in the countdown to RDR2.