5. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
Few games capture the feel of bagging a live bounty like Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. The lawless world of hunter and prey brilliantly come to life with this title as players are put directly into the boots of a mysterious bounty hunter. With a crossbow that uses live ammo, players are given plenty of weird and unique ways to take down their bounties: Chippunks can taunt and distract enemies, fuzzles and their sharp teeth can tear apart the meanest bad guys, and bolamite spiders are used to immobilize any foe. Stanger’s Wrath is a special take on the western genre, but one that is ever so welcomed.
4. Sunset Riders
As a child, there were few games I played more than Konami’s Sunset Riders on the Sega Genesis (an alternate version – the real arcade version – existed on the SNES with much more content and two more playable characters). In Sunset Riders, you controlled one of two (or four, depending on platform) cowboys in a side-scrolling adventure. Each cowboy came equipped with a different weapon, and they traversed through a western town, a runaway train, a Native American settlement, and much more. At the end of each stage, the players battled a wanted criminal (always introduced with a wanted flier) until finally toppling the remaining villain. This gem is easily one of my favorite arcade side scrollers of all time, and it’s a game I play on occasion still.
3. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
The Gunslinger entry in the Call of Jaurez franchise is one of the best arcade-style shoot-em-ups I have ever played. The game and the main protagonist, Silas Greaves, do not take themselves too seriously and that’s where plenty of the fun exists; the entire story is told through a series of flashbacks, yet Silas isn’t afraid to throw a few embellishments here and there. The cliche bounty hunter stories suddenly take on a much more vibrant and epic narrative as even the player doesn’t know whether he actually fought the ghosts of renegade outlaws or faced off against an entire Apache battalion. The western aesthetics of saloon stories and bounty hunter contracts are in full force with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and it’s a great ride throughout.
2. Oregon Trail
What 90s kid didn’t spend time on Oregon Trail during school? Whether it be the original, dated version of the game or the updated 90s software, Oregon Trail serves as perhaps the most significantly influential sim experience in the history of video games. As a student, my classmates and I would rush to play one of the few class PCs after finishing up our work. The game was so awesome that my father bought me a copy to play at home (this was my updated software version). If you’ve never experienced holding your breath as you forded a river or crumbled in defeat after succumbing to dysentery, you’ve never experienced all there is to be a gamer. Few games could top Oregon Trail in this great list of games.
1. Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar San Diego’s Red Dead Redemption shoots its way to the top of our western video games list. The massive open world of a fictitious southern American state and Mexican frontier plays an absolutely perfect backdrop for a western video game. The shanty towns and safe havens are few and in-between vast deserts of wildlife and unpredictable prairies. Detail is key in world-building and Red Dead Redemption doesn’t miss a beat. The amazing locales, like the MacFarlane Ranch or the modernized settlement of Blackwater, further immerse players into the dingy and gritty world of the wild west. Not to mention, the excellent writing and terrific main character gave players even more reason to linger in the world of Red Dead Redemption. John Marston, a bandit-turned-law-abiding-citizen, was the perfect fulcrum for players when exploring the grey matters of the American frontier. The wild west typically spelled right and wrong through the barrel of a gun, however Red Dead Redemption also showcased how the landscape was changing: lawlessness dictated less every day and government control seemed to become more and more prevalent. Red Dead Redemption told an extremely thematic narrative of an ever-growing western front that few wild west games can parallel.