With word coming in that Rockstar Games is working on a new version of a famous IP, I decided to look back on the publisher’s library from the PS3 / Xbox 360 / Wii era, and rank them from “worst” to first. It’s hard to classify any of the games as being the worst, or even as a bad game, because if you see the below games, all were pretty damn good.
Nine games released under the Rockstar Games brand, all of which faired well in reviews, sold well, and are considered solid games. Where does the recently released Grand Theft Auto V rank?
(9) Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (360 / Wii)
Being Rockstar’s first foray into the then-next generation, many were surprised to see this from the house of GTA and Max Payne. San Andreas capped off an amazing library of games from the PS2, and later the original Xbox, so expectations were that Rockstar would likely work on a franchise like Max Payne next. They didn’t, instead we got Table Tennis for the Xbox 360 (and eventually Wii), which wasn’t all that bad. The game was playable, challenging, and was genuinely fun. Online was a blast. The only disappointing factor was the fact that it was table tennis, when we all wanted Grand Theft Auto Vice City 2: Vercetti’s Vendetta.
(8) Manhunt 2 (Wii)
One of the more forgotten games in the Rockstar library, Manhunt 2′s only next generation release was on the Wii. It did release on the PC, PS2, and PSP as well. Manhunt 2 had a lot to live up from its first outing, and many fans will agree when I say that it didn’t. It was by no means a bad game, it just didn’t bring that same level of intensity as the first. It reminds me a lot of the Paranormal Activity movies. The first one took us all by surprise, and most of us all loved it. The proceeding sequels still have their moments, but it just wasn’t the same as the original. How Manhunt 2 saw release on a Nintendo console, and not the PS3 or Xbox 360, remains a mystery. Maybe Nintendo wanted to show they allowed M rated games that strived on gore and violence on their system. Either way, a Manhunt 3 is unlikely.
(7) Bully: Scholarship Edition (360 / Wii)
Bully originally released on the PS2 in 2006, to then get ported over to the Xbox 360 and Wii over a year later. The game put you in the shoes of a newcomer student to a private academy, full of your usual cliques, and high school drama. Add in the Rockstar sense of humor, and you got yourself quite the game. You’ll embark on a variety of challenges and mission that you could only dream of back in your days of being in school. This game would be the last of Rockstar’s next gen ports, as the remaining games on the list only saw release on next gen systems. The franchise is a strong candidate to be Rockstar’s next game, as GTAV head writer Dan Houser has expressed his interest to do another Bully game.
(6) Midnight Club Los Angeles (PS3 / 360)
If you were to list the racing games from easiest to hardest, Midnight Club Los Angeles should be in the top three. I’m all for a challenge, but MC LA brought the difficulty, and made sure you knew it was serious. While not a simulation, it certainly brought the challenges that you would expect from a sim racer. This is certainly not a bad thing, but has caused me to take frequent breaks from the game just to rest up and better my patience. Chances are we will see Midnight Club in the future, as the series has a dedicated and vocal following. Will it be the next Rockstar game? I don’t believe it will be.
(5) Max Payne 3 (PS3 / 360)
Understandably there’s a crowd out there that didn’t much appreciate Max Payne’s comeback from a lengthy hiatus. The game was modernized, rebooted the character of Max himself, and took away the presentation stylings of the first two games. Then there are those who loved MP3, embraced its content heavy multiplayer, and enjoyed the new story. Max Payne 3 had story elements from prior games, but all in all it was a reboot. Playing the game with no assists on brings one hell of a challenge, and one I will eventually get around to doing. It’s doubtful Max is a high priority on Rockstar’s radar right now, as it took them nine years to bring the series back. This is not the last we will see of our favorite ex-cop, and we should see him sooner rather than later.
(4) Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3 / 360)
The only Rockstar franchise to see two separate releases this generation, both GTA IV and V have their own respective pros and cons. GTA IV scaled back on what San Andreas brought to the table, featuring a revamped, but smaller Liberty City, and taking away elements of previous games. GTA IV told a pretty damn good story, introduced player choice – by giving the player an ultimatum of which ending they wanted for certain missions, and was the first GTA game to offer online multiplayer. We’ll get into what GTA V did better momentarily, but GTA IV brought with it two of the best expansion packs you could ask for in a GTA game. The Lost and the Damned need their own separate game, set in a Sons of Anarchy-esque world.
(3) LA Noire (PS3 / 360)
LA Noire is one of those games that got players all fired up initially, but as you get deeper into it, or go back and play it again after a hiatus, some begin to give a second thought to their initial reactions. My reactions haven’t changed, I loved LA Noire. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the story, and its gameplay elements, no matter how repetitive they ended up. The game had a rough development period, and we’ve seen numerous negative stories come out about the development cycle since its launch, so chances a new game in the LA Noire timeline will not be seen again in the near future. The original developers have since closed down, even after re-surfacing with Whore of the Orient. Either way, LA Noire was a solid outing if you were a single player focused gamer.
(2) Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 / 360)
You can go back and forth on what GTA V did better than its predecessor, and what GTA IV did better than its successor. We can certainly agree that GTA V has an even more robust online component, but we can’t help but to notice that Los Santos isn’t all that interactive as it looked to be, and the lack of such features like Vigilante missions is noticeable. GTA IV didn’t have its own Trevor, which certainly made fans enjoy the new cast of characters more in GTA V. You could easily flip flop the positions of both GTA games on this list, however with the potential of GTA Online, and the yet-to-be-announced expansion packs of GTA V on the horizon, I have to say it is the better of the two. Best GTA in the series? That’s another argument.
(1) Red Dead Redemption (PS3 / 360)
Many believe that Red Dead will be the next IP to get a sequel for Rockstar Games, or at least many want it to be, myself included. Red Dead Redemption did very little wrong, and it took everything that was wrong with its predecessor and made it better in the sequel. A campaign that offered both length as well as continued interest? Check. Online multiplayer that offered more than just standard deathmatch? Check. A reason to go back and beat the game 100%? Check. Worthy DLC? Check. Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorite games of this generation, and without hesitation is my favorite Rockstar release from the PS3 / 360 / Wii era. It defined value. Let this be the franchise Rockstar brings back next. It has only been three years since its release, which is considered short in Rockstar’s development cycles, but we need more.
What say you? Do you agree with the rankings? Would you change any of the games? Let it be known just how wrong I am about LA Noire, because I know that’s coming. Which game should Rockstar work on next? Keep in mind that Rockstar will likely focus most of its efforts on GTA V’s online and upcoming downloadable content, so we are likely a year or so away from even knowing what game they plan to release next.