Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the most highly anticipated games of 2017, so the recent delay came as disappointing news to the numerous fans who are eager to get their hands on another Rockstar production. Expectations for this sequel are high because Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece that excels on almost all fronts. It even nabbed the highest spot on our top 25 Xbox 360 games list.
The magic of the first Red Dead Redemption can’t be characterized by one specific element. The heartfelt story with a cast of memorable characters, the gorgeous and lonely landscapes, the Western setting, the world building side activities, the visceral gunplay, and the sandbox nature of the online open world all come together to craft a unique experience. Fans yearning for something similar to play while they wait for Red Dead Redemption 2 will be hard pressed to find a game that knocks it out of the park on all of these levels outside of Grand Theft Auto V, but for those looking to scratch a particular itch there are some great options. Here’s a selection of games that capture some of the individual flavors of Red Dead Redemption.
If you enjoyed the thrill of the hunt…
Check Out Horizon Zero Dawn – PS4
One of the most popular side activities in Red Dead Redemption was hunting. All of the animals have realistic behavior, and feel like living parts of the world instead of objects to be shot. In the years since, hunting became a popular side activity and is featured in games such as Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Rust. In Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn, hunting is front and center. As Aloy, you explore deserts, forests, and snowy mountains, and encounter a diverse array of wildlife and fantastical machines. Each of the machines has unique animal-like behaviors, making them feel like natural parts of this world. Some graze, some roam in herds, and some will even try to hunt you. The sci-fi twist makes discovering each new robot exciting, and figuring out how to best take them down with the tools at your disposal adds an extra dimension of challenge and excitement. Every successful hunt also nets you crafting components and experience points to make you a more effective hunter, creating a satisfying core gameplay loop.
If you enjoyed the Western setting…
Check Out Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Video game Westerns have always been few in number, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good ones out there. One recent example that stands out is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Over the course of the game, you shoot your way through mines, quaint towns, deserts, and forests, encountering gruff cowboys, antagonistic Apaches, and skeevy outlaws. Rather than mimic the serious tone of Red Dead Redemption, the story is campy and fun like the arcade-style gameplay. The story is narrated while you play through its events, but there’s a twist: the narrator is unreliable. As he makes mistakes, the world changes around you. For example, Apache enemies you are fighting might suddenly turn into cowboys. The silly tone provides an interesting contrast to the seriousness of Red Dead Redemption and reveals the diversity of experiences in the Western genre.
Also play: Gun, Westerado: Double-Barreled
If you enjoyed the world-building side content…
Check Out The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – PS4, Xbox One, PC
Meaningful side content that avoids feeling like formulaic filler is hard to come by in many open-world games, but Red Dead Redemption nails it. Every activity, from collecting bounties to playing a game of horseshoes, deepens the attachment between the player and the game’s world. Our 2015 Game of the Year, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the current model for side content done right. The optional quests are well written and give the player choices that have a noticeable impact on the world and the people in it. Of these, the highlights are special monster hunts that allow players to embody the role of a Witcher, a professional monster slayer. In these quests you learn about a monster and its weaknesses, gather materials to craft elixirs and poisons to take it down, and then go on the hunt. Another standout feature is the in-universe collectible card game, Gwent, which is not only addicting (and has since become its own standalone game), but adds another dimension to the society in The Witcher’s world.
If you enjoyed the heartfelt storytelling and memorable cast…
Check Out The Last of Us – PS4, PS3
Red Dead Redemption tells a moving story about family, redemption, and the end of an era. The narrative is full of stand-out characters, two of whom made it onto our Top 30 Characters Who Defined A Decade list back in Issue 212. If one were to construct a similar list for this decade, a spot or two would almost certainly need to be reserved for Joel and Ellie, the central characters from The Last of Us. As they journey Westward through a post-apocalyptic United States, they encounter other people who have their own memorable stories to tell. The game challenges us to think about love, loss, and human frailty, and the gameplay itself powerfully conveys the desperate struggle for survival and its consequences. It’s a fantastic storytelling experience, and one that was inspired by Westerns and films like No Country for Old Men. We gave the game the top spot on our top 25 games on PS3 list.
If you enjoyed roaming across lonely landscapes…
Check Out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Switch, Wii U
Riding a horse through the vast expanses of Red Dead Redemption’s world is a calming and reflective experience. It makes one contemplate the vastness and beauty of nature while also conveying a satisfying sense of adventure as destinations that were once far away slowly inch closer into view. Cluttered and busy open worlds just don’t evoke these same feelings, but many are still designed that way to ensure that players will always have something to do. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushes back against this tendency, instead introducing players to a massive open world where exploration drives the gameplay. It’s a largely solitary experience; most of the encounters in the world are with monsters and animals, and even those are relatively rare. Slowly climbing a large mountain, one grasp at a time, or riding your horse through a wide-open desert without any immediate concerns captures the same magic that was present in Red Dead Redemption.
If you enjoyed the visceral gunplay…
Check Out Max Payne 3 – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
The gunplay in Red Dead Redemption is action-packed and gritty. Every kill feels unique because the game uses NaturalMotion’s Euphoria animation engine which gives all of the characters unique physics. The gunshots are powerful and can send enemies spinning backwards, tumbling down stairs, or off their horses. Skilled players might aim their shots to disarm enemies, cripple their legs, or blow the hats off of their heads. Rockstar’s next project after Red Dead Redemption was Max Payne 3, which has that same, special Euphoria feel and ramps up the action a notch. Fans of the ability to slow time and make more precise shots will feel at home in Max Payne, where doing slow motion dives while firing weapons is the series’ primary mechanic. The game is all about bombastic gunfights, and the expressive physics are on full display. Killing the last enemy in a room always results in close-up camera angle of the bullets piercing their body in a way that’s uniquely Euphoria.
If you enjoyed taking down gang hideouts with friends…
Check Out Ghost Recon: Wildlands – PS4, Xbox One, PC
It’s hard to find a multiplayer experience that has all of the freedom of Red Dead Redemption’s online open world, but there are definitely games that have expanded on one of the most fun elements: storming enemy bases with friends at your side. In Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Bolivia is full of cartel operations for you and up to three others to undermine. While a bit repetitive at times, Wildlands succeeds when it comes to allowing a group of friends to creatively wipe out enemy bases. Maybe you’ll get on a mountain with a sniper rifle to call out enemy positions while your friends sneak in on foot with silenced weapons. Or maybe you just drive in with a jeep and start firing. Creating and executing tactical plans with your friends – and frantically reacting when they go awry – makes for some of the best cooperative experiences this year.
Are there other games you’ve played that hit the same notes as Red Dead Redemption? Share them with us in the comments below!