The western is one of the most popular movie genres, and the image of a cowboy is one of the iconic symbols associated with the USA. There have been more western movies than one might have the time to watch, but oddly enough: the genre isn’t quite as populated in the realm of video games.
It feels wrong, doesn’t it? One would think the vast prairies, the pioneers, and stories like the life of Wyatt Earp or any of the famous bandits would inspire dozens of games… and yet it’s not quite the case. With that in mind, let’s celebrate the western games that we do have, because each of them is worth attention, even if some of them are a bit old now.
Let’s ride together into our list of…
|12 Is Better Than 6||2015-11-20||Action & Shooter||Ink Stains Games||85%|
|Call Of Juarez||2007-06-12||Adventure||Techland||79%|
|Desperados 3||2020-06-16||Strategy||Mimimi Games||92%|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||2019-11-05||Adventure||Rockstar Games||73%|
|Gun||2005-11-17||Action & Shooter||Neversoft|
|Call Of Juarez Bound In Blood||2009-06-30||Action & Shooter||Techland||81%|
|Call Of Juarez Gunslinger||2013-05-22||Action & Shooter||Techland||83%|
|Call Of Juarez The Cartel||2011-09-07||Adventure||Techland|
|Desperados Wanted Dead Or Alive||2001-07-23||Strategy||Spellbound||74%|
|Desperados 2 Coopers Revenge||2006-05-02||Strategy||Spellbound||87%|
|Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition||2010-10-21||Adventure||Obsidian Entertainment||61%|
|Hard West||2015-11-18||Adventure||CreativeForge Games||90%|
|Red Dead Redemption 1 (Xbox)||2010-05-18||Adventure||Rockstar||48%|
|West of Dead||2020-06-18||Shooter & Indie||Upstream Arcade||96%|
|Weird West||2022-03-31||Action & RPG||WolfEye Studios, Raphaël Colantonio||49%|
|Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD||2010-12-20||Adventure||Oddworld Inhabitants||92%|
|West of Loathing||2017-08-10||Adventure||Asymmetric|
West of Dead
|Genre:||Shooter & Indie|
One of several examples of the “weird west” fiction on this list, West of Dead takes place in Purgatory. Not the afterlife, no, it’s Purgatory, Wyoming.
You’re playing as a dead guy called William Mason who has to clear the place or demons, witches, and other occult problems which took residence in Purgatory. It’s a great premise for a fantastic gameplay.
While West of Dead might look like a classic twin-stick shooter, it’s more interested in you approaching things tactically than with overwhelming firepower. Taking cover, using the environment, and other tricks will serve you well. All of that is presented using a deeply stylized aesthetic reminiscent of comic books, and a gravely voice work by Ron Perlman.
This installment of the classic Desperados series (we talk about the original later on) wasn’t developed by the original studio.
Instead, it was made by people who created Shadow Tactics, a tribute to the playstyle of Desperados and Commandos, so the game was in very good hands. In fact, Desperados III is downright EXCELLENT, sitting at 96% approval on Steam at the time of writing.
DIII isn’t a sequel to the original games, instead: it’s the origin story, showing how Joh Cooper got first met some of the series’ mainstays. Desperados III is a fantastic mix of real-time tactics, stealth, and learning how to use each character’s unique skillset. Whether you want to relive your Desperados memories or want Shadow Tactics-but-Western, get this game, and never look back.
|Genre:||Action & RPG|
|Developer:||WolfEye Studios, Raphaël Colantonio|
Weird West isn’t just the name for the fiction genre, it’s also a title for a game developed by co-creators of Dishonored who reformed as WolfEyeStudios.
Weird West certainly keeps the immersive sim elements which characterize Dishonored, but instead of a whalepunk cities it takes a trip to the monster-ridden Old West and tells a story of several bounty hunters.
Weird West’s general gameplay is similar to twin-stick shooters, with very interactive environment for you to exploit in fun ways. But that’s just a part of the story: WW has also solid RPG elements, mostly expressed by lasting narrative and gameplay choices which can bite you in the future. You’ll also find a lot to love if you liked the original, isometric Fallout games.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
While not set on Earth by any metric, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ticks many of the boxes required to call it a cowboy game.
For one, you’ll be playing as the titular Stranger, a bounty hunter with a very western attire: a cool hat, a vest/poncho mix, high, riding boots, the works. The setting itself has strong Old West vibes as well, but sprinkles in science fiction and modern elements.
The story involves standing against villainous Sekto, whose operation harm a tribe of Grubbs, one of the species living on that world. It’s not particularly deep, but is well-paced, and it’s easy to get invested in the Stranger’s struggle. In terms of gameplay, it’s a first-/third-person action game with plenty of shooting powered mostly by a crossbow launching cute elemental critters at your foes.
West of Loathing
A big change of pace, but it would be rude to have an article about Western games with cowboys and NOT include West of Loathing.
It’s not an epic tale of revenge, nor will it wow you with photorealistic sunsets. Instead, it’s very likely to make you laugh, and its visual side is a whole lot of simple monochrome drawings, including stick figure characters. Looks can be deceptive, though!
WoL is a wild mix, as wild as the wild west is presents to you. It has, by its own admission, slapstick comedy, apretty complex RPG layer, a large world you’re to explore, deep customization, and many, many elements of a proper Western setting and story. There’s also a fair bit of the weird west vibe that rears its head every so often on this list, in case you want to more of that dish.
12 is Better Than 6
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
|Developer:||Ink Stains Games|
12 is Better Than 6 is a game with a title that’s hard to argue with. It’s a top-down shooter with a great, hand-drawn aesthetic.
No, really. Characters and environment are drawn, and color comes into the game pretty much only when the blood start’s spilling out of lead-induced wounds of your enemies or, just as possibly, your own.
Shooting in the game feels authentic despite the aesthetic, because you need to manually cock your gun before firing, and the guns are as authentic as can be given the game’s format. You can also find metal breastplates, which give you some survivability, a move taken straight out of Sergio Leone’s westerns. The protagonist also has a really nice hat, so that’s a plus too.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
A prequel to the 2006 game Call of Juarez, Bound in Blood tells the story of Ray and Thomas, two brothers, one of which we met in the original game.
Two years after they deserted from the army, they hear the story of the famed Juarez Gold and they make some questionable alliances to find it. All the while their old commander is hot on their tail.
Bound in Blood perfected the original game’s already solid gunplay, and this time around both playable characters were of value and fun to play. Ray is a force of nature: strong and deadly with his dual six shooters, while Thomas is faster and more adept at long-range combat. Both brothers, however, are proficient in using chairs as an improvised weapon.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Breaking away from the unpleasant story of the dysfunctional McCall family, Gunslinger is a good bit cheekier, following a story spun by its protagonist, a bounty hunter known as Silas Greaves.
A very fun feature of the game is that as we play through each of his stories, the scenes change as Silas’ audience catches his bluff and he has to quickly amend his tale.
Gunslinger is a very entertaining game, too. Silas can specialize in dual revolvers, rifles, and shotguns, for example, because this game gives you experience and skill points. Every now and then you can even dodge bullets in a dedicated QTE, and the series’ duels make their inevitable comeback. There’s even an arcade mode, which allows you to just let loose.
Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive
Desperados was a clear western-themed rip-off from the Commandos games, but at the same time it was a really good game.
And since we’ve already discussed the prequel by Mimimi Productions, it’s a good time to reminisce about that one time gunslinger John Cooper enlisted a few friends, including Doc and kate from Mimimi’s game, to take down an infamous bandit going by “El Diablo”.
Cooper’s crew has a diverse array of skills, which the player needs to learn how to utilize in real-time scenarios. Like its successors, the game is geared towards stealthy playstyle, with a lot of options allowing you to create a diversion, eliminate enemies quietly, or simply sneak around. There’s a lot of room for creative solutions, and in the worst case you can always try to shoot your way out.
Fallout: New Vegas
Is there really any doubt that Fallout: New Vegas is a western game?
Sure, it might have the stylings of a 50s-themed science-fiction post-apocalypse, but if you could give the protagonist a horse, the differences would blur. Like Eastwood’s Man with No Name the Courier arrives from the outside world to break the status quo of conflicted factions while trying to do his (or her) job.
Drop in a stylish duster or two, a hat, and a lever-action rifle and the cowboy image is complete. There’s a lot of room for roleplaying, so you can run caravans, be a gruff gunman, or try your luck in a casino and count on some mysterious stranger to save you in a gunfight. You also have a harsh Mojave desert to journey through, and there are plenty of wrongs to right and rights to wrong.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Gun was, in a way, Red Dead Redemption BEFORE RDR. It was an open-world game, back before they were the industry standard, and it was unmistakably a western game with a cool cowboy protagonist.
It did have a terribly unhelpful title, however, which might have contributed to the fact that this shooter called “Gun” didn’t make much impact on the industry despite acclaim and awards.
Many aspects of RDR you grew to expect were there, except maybe not as polished as Rockstar’s games tend to be. You can deal with bandits, test the patience of towns you visit, and chase bounties if you want to. Of course, there’s also a quickdraw mechanic, which switches you into an FPP mode to make aiming easier. The graphics didn’t age too well, but the concepts and execution are great.
Until the arrival of literal Weird West, Hard West was the only option for someone who wanted a video game version of the tabletop RPG Deadlands.
It has magic, it has dark deals with who’s obviously the devil, and there may even be a zombie gunman shambling around. It’s a solid, atmospheric western game with a good supernatural bent in more than a few places.
It plays out as a series of short stories with some common elements, and most events end up playing out as a turn-based battle, usually pitting the player-controlled characters against overwhelming odds. Death is cheap, and if you run out of Luck (which is a resource), you’re toast. On the flipside, good items and a good poker hand can give you interesting bonuses, just like in Deadlands.
It’s not a western in the “man in a poncho rides into town” sense, nor in a “white-hat sheriff holds out against bandits” one, but it’s a PvEvP set in the very late 19th century Louisiana, and features period-appropriate guns and clothes.
It also represents the “weird west” theme that is a running motif on this list, and here it’s reflected through monster hunting.
The main task of Hunt: Showdown is tracking down and killing a monstrosity located somewhere on the map, but there’s a trick to the match: there’s a huge bounty for the beastie, and you and your pal aren’t the only ones trying to get it. Before you extract with the trophy in hands, you’ll have to handle other hunters who won’t hesitate to put a bullet in your head to get the money.
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption isn’t the first in the series, being preceded by Red Dead Revolver, but it’s undoubtedly one that made the biggest impact.
John Marston’s story tugged at similar heartstrings that Eastwood’s Unforgiven did, perfectly capturing the twilight years of the Old West and its depictions in the genre, viewing them through the eyes of a man with troubled past.
In addition to its western storyline, Red Dead Redemption was easily one of the best open worlds of its generation. Rockstar took to creating the prairies and the settlements of the old West with the same aplomb they make cities and counties for GTA, and RDR was just as filled with things to do, even if the tone was generally more serious.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 had been expected for years, as RDR’s fans were quite clear in their desire for another Rockstar romp through the Wild West.
Eventually Rockstar started teasing RDR2, and there was much rejoicing even before the actual reveal. And when it finally came in late 2018 it turned to be a beautiful, detailed to a fault game that once again delivered a great story.
RDR2 takes place well before its predecessor, and although John Marston is an important character, we’re playing as Arthur Morgan, another member of the, at the time still very active, Van der Linde gang. Don’t worry, Arthur is at least as fleshed out and identifiable a character as John was, and tons of customization option can help you make Arthur unique.
Definitely not our first rodeo
So there you have it: our list of western-themed games about cowboys, outlaws, high noon duels, and all that… jazz? Country music? You get the idea.
We got some classic westerns, a healthy dose of weird west fiction, even a trip to another planet and an irradiated future which looks like 1950s and behaves like 1850s. Any enthusiast of western stylings should be able to find something worth checking out. The only thing missing are literal cowboy games about herding cattle, but who knows what the future has in stock?