The series we’ll be taking a look at today is a legendary one. Gears of War was lauded as one of the best games of all time, became an Xbox bestseller and greatly influenced the action game genre. What can Marcus Fenix say except “You’re welcome”?

Granted, Gears of War wasn’t the first game to feature cover mechanics, as it was preceded by Kill Switch; still, it was the first game to execute this gameplay model flawlessly. Going from a barricade to barricade, flanking enemy units, using all the tools and weapons at your disposal – this was an action game unlike any other on the market at the time. You couldn’t just barge in, that would mean swift death at the hands of your foes.

Aside from the now-iconic Marcus Fenix and his pals: Dominic Santiago, Damon Baird and Augustus Cole, one of the main characters in the Gears of War franchise is the legendary Lancer rifle that features a chainsaw bayonet for gory executions of the enemies you managed to surprise.

And them hostile folks are some of the meanest and ugliest nasties around. The Locust Horde emerged from the undergrounds of the planet Sera and nearly decimated the entire humanity.  The Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) protects the last pockets of survivors and seeks to end the Locust threat once and for all, but it comes at a great cost of ravaging human settlements and cities. The games in the series (if you were wondering how many Gears of War games are there, here’s your answer: six major installments, including a prequel, as well as two strategy spin-offs) focus on COG’s efforts to destroy their sworn enemies and save humanity, as well as discover how the Horde came to be. After all, them Locusts are all strangely humanoid…

Aside from the single-player campaign (which you can complete with a buddy – the co-op mode in these games is fantastic), the games feature competitive multiplayer modes (team and objective-based for the most part), as well as the famous Horde mode where you need to fend off waves of attackers with a bunch of other players. The multiplayer component in the Gears of War franchise is consistently an amazing one, letting you enjoy them for hours on end after you’re done with the single-player campaign.

It’s just too bad that Gears of War 2, 3 and Judgment are Xbox exclusives. All the other games on this list luckily ended up on personal computers.

Now, let’s take a look at the entire series and let’s see which of these games is the best one. Keep in mind that they’re all great and even the “worst” installments on this list are actually very, very good. The main problem with the series is that it became stale over the years, with very little innovations in the gameplay department, which was still consistently praised nevertheless. Let’s dive right in and find out how Gears of War games ranked according to us, shall we?

Gears of War series
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition 2015-08-25 Adventure The Coalition
Gears of War 2 (Xbox One) 2008-11-07 Adventure Epic Games
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360) 2011-09-20 TPS Epic Games
Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, Windows 10) 2016-10-11 Action & Shooter The Coalition
Gears 5 (Xbox One, Windows 10) 2019-09-10 Action The Coalition
Gears 5 (PC) 2019-09-10 Action The Coalition
Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox One) 2013-03-19 Action & Shooter People Can Fly, Epic Games
Gears Tactics (Xbox Series X/S, Windows 10) 2020-04-28 Strategy Splash Damage, The Coalition

Gears Pop!

Release date:2019-08-22
Developer:Mediatonic, The Coalition

What do you get if you mix Clash Royale, Gears of War and Funko Pop! figures? Well, this game is the answer!

Gears Pop
Image credit: Mediatonic, The Coalition

The first title on this list is a cutesy free-to-play RTS that lets two players duke it out on small arenas and send Funko Pop!-inspired units into battle. It’s basically Clash Royale reskinned, a game where you need to storm enemy towers and destroy them to win the battle. There’s one difference, though – Gears Pop! features the cover mechanic made famous by the Gears of War franchise.

The game has been shut down in April 2021, so it is no longer available on the market for you to play. To be honest, this is probably the “worst” title on this list. It wasn’t a bad release, it’s just that it was too similar to Clash Royale to stand out on its own, probably.

Key features
  • Clash Royale-based gameplay mixing tower rush and cover-based mechanics
  • You could send Gears of War-themed Funko Pops into battle
  • Microtransactions were also a part of the experience (ugh)
  • The game is now defunct and no longer available to play

Gears of War: Judgment

Release date:2013-03-19
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:People Can Fly, Epic Games

This Xbox 360 exclusive is the answer to the pleas of fans of Damon Baird and Augustus Cole who wanted to see how their stories in the COG began.

Judgment has a pretty interesting story setup. Baird and his Kilo Squad have used a lightmass missile without proper authorization. The punishment for that is death. The team testifies before the COG military tribunal and the game itself is you reliving the flashbacks of what happened.

Gameplay-wise, it’s your traditional Gears of War fare: a nice third-person shooter with cover-based mechanics. You need to make good decisions in order to win. One interesting thing about the game, though, is the fact that you are rated based on your performance: kills, head shots, gibs. You can get up to three stars in each missions. Get forty of these and you’ll unlock a special Aftermath campaign set after the events of Gears of War  3.

All in all, it’s a very nice installment in the series. Nothing too original, just more of the same with a couple of twists, but it’s a well-made, enjoyable game which will surely be enjoyed by the fans of the series. It’s just too bad that it’s a console exclusive.

Key features
  • A prequel story featuring Damon Baird and his Kilo Squad as the protagonists
  • The main campaign consists of six chapters, each featuring a number of missions
  • You can also unlock a special Aftermath campaign as well
  • Two new multiplayer modes

Gears Tactics

Release date:2020-04-28
Developer:Splash Damage, The Coalition

Time for a “proper” strategy game on this list. Gears Tactics is more on the X-COM side: it’s a grueling tactical experience where you need to make your next moves very carefully in order to win.

Yeah, it’s a turn-based strategy as opposed to the third-person shooters the series is known for. Your task is to complete various missions (main and side ones) and make sound tactical decisions along the way. You command soldiers who fall into five different classes, upgrade their gear and level them up, destroy Emergence Holes using grenades, and so on. Your goal? Stop the Locust, of course!

Does the fact that Gears Tactics is so low on on this list mean that it’s bad? Oh, by no means! It’s a well-made title which fans of turn-based affairs will surely like, if not love. The only problems with this one are the fact that it only features a single-player mode and can get a little stale and repetitive at one point. Other than that, it’s worth checking out, especially if you love the franchise, but would like to try a fresh take on these games. Finally, some innovation!

Key features
  • A turn-based tactics game set in the Gears of War universe
  • Difficult, complex gameplay
  • The Veteran Mode, available upon the game’s completion, lets you change some rules and make your next playthrough feel fresher
  • It’s single-player only, unfortunately

Gears 5

Release date:2019-09-09
Developer:The Coalition

Who made the Locust Horde? What are its origins? The last main installment in the Gears of War series so far seeks to answer these questions.

The gameplay here is a typical GoW fare, of course, with cover-based, tactical combat where you can use various weapons and the environment to your advantage. But you can also explore various hub worlds, either on foot or using a vehicle known as the Skiff, complete side missions, search for collectibles and find upgrades for a robot named Jack that accompanies you and has certain abilities that can help your squad, including scanning for enemies, cloaking your team, and so on.

There are also several multiplayer options here as well, including several cooperative modes (local split screen is also available). In general, there’s plenty of content here, the gameplay is pretty much top-notch, and the audiovisuals are pretty fantastic, too. So, why so low? Despite all these advantages, the game’s plot is kinda meh according to the reviewers and Gears 5 in itself suffers from the lack of true innovations. It’s a very good game, nevertheless.

The game has received a DLC titled Hivebusters, a short, but sweet and fun campaign that serves as the origin story of the Scorpio Squad.

Key features
  • A mixture of linear missions and open-world exploration
  • Various multiplayer options, including cooperative modes
  • Looks and sounds great
  • It’s still a fantastic tactical shooter, even if far from innovative

Gears of War 4

Release date:2016-10-11
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:The Coalition

So, Gears of War 3 ended and twenty five years have passed since then. What’s happening on the planet of Sera these days?

Alright, the main foes seem to have been vanquished, but the fossil fuels are now gone and the entire planet suffers from powerful windstorms known as the Windflares. The general populace has been locked down in walled-off cities, but there are some Outsiders who aren’t part of the COG and raid their territories for resources. You play as J.D. Fenix, the son of Marcus Fenix, who has to face a new threat to the humanity, with lots of help from his friends, of course.

In general, the game follows the same gameplay model as the previous games in the series, but there are some new additions, including new weapons. The Windflares also have an impact on what’s going on. The stronger the storm, the more impact in has on combat and weapons. Naturally, you can complete the campaign with a friend through either a local or an online cooperative mode.

Is Gears of War 4 worth it? It sure is! As usual, the gameplay is fun. Audiovisuals are top-notch. What else do you need here? Reviewers have criticized the campaign and plot, however. Granted, it’s not as good or fresh as the original trilogy, but it’s still a nice game to try out once you’re done with the previous installments and want more Gears.

Key features
  • A new campaign taking place twenty five years after the events of Gears of War 3
  • Powerful Windflares have a pretty big impact on the environment and combat
  • The gameplay is still fun, even if lacking in innovations
  • You can complete the main campaign with a friend in the co-op mode, as usual

Gears of War

Release date:2006 (Xbox 360), 2007 (PC)
Developer:Epic Games, Psyonix (additional work), People Can Fly (PC version)

Ah yes, the OG. The first Gears of War quickly became a sensation and inspired action games for years to come with its mix of third-person action and cover-based tactics.

Gears Pop
Image credit: Epic Games, Psyonix (additional work), People Can Fly (PC version)

The game introduced Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago and their pals to the world. Set on the planet of Sera, Gears of War pits you against the enemy known as the Locust Horde who have emerged from the underground fourteen years ago and have nearly decimated the human race.

It’s a fun game where you need to use the environment and a wide variety of weapons to your advantage. The enemy AI is very decent and the combat scenarios pretty challenging. There are also many interesting things going on between the shootouts to keep things interesting, including some vehicular sections. The PC version of the game even features an additional chapter and other extra content, including new maps and the King of the Hill multiplayer mode.

All in all, it’s a fantastic game with stellar gameplay. Why so low on the list then? Well, it’s because its sequels were even better!

The Ultimate Edition of the game, boasting a visual overhaul and some extra content, has been released in 2015 on Xbox One and in 2016 on PCs.

Key features
  • Excellent gameplay and a fantastic single-player campaign
  • You can also complete it with your friend in the co-op mode
  • Great multiplayer component
  • Fantastic presentation, including Kevin Riepl’s memorable music

Gears of War 3

Release date:2011-09-20
Developer:Epic Games

The third game in the series as a second one on the list? This is due to one fact: it’s an amazing game, but it suffers from the lack of innovation.

Yes, the gameplay remains largely the same, featuring tactical combat that is all about ducking behind covers, as well as using the environment and the tools at your disposal to your advantage. Now, however, you can tag the enemies you want your AI-controlled squad mates to focus their fire on.

The story also serves as a conclusion to the trilogy. It’s a riveting tale featuring the iconic characters from the series. Will humanity survive? Will the Locust Horde and other threats posed to the planet Sera will be destroyed for good? Well, you’ll find out once you beat the game. It’s a great experience with plenty of emotional moments.

It’s just too bad this game never saw a PC release…

Key features
  • A riveting campaign concluding the original trilogy with a story conceived by Karen Traviss
  • Fantastic gameplay, as usual
  • You can gain experience throughout the game to unlock characters and weapon skins in the multiplayer mode
  • Various DLCs have been released as well

Gears of War 2

Release date:2008-11-07
Developer:Epic Games

This one is probably the best Gears of War game. It improves upon pretty much every aspect of its revered predecessor and provides an incredibly intense – and sometimes very emotional – campaign that fans of action games in general will surely love.

The story here takes place six months after the events of the first Gears of War game. The Locust Horde has been seemingly destroyed, but it was a pyrrhic victory. Entire cities have begun disappearing and the humanity has been decimated by a mysterious new disease known as the Rustlung. Your goal: take the fight to the Locust and end this threat once and for all!

There are new weapons in the game, new characters and enemy units, as well as fresh additions to the multiplayer component. You can also complete the game in a drop-in drop-out co-op mode as well. Long story short: there’s plenty of content here.

Gears of War 2 is just insanely good, much like its predecessor. It’s considered one of the best games ever made. It’s just too bad it never saw a PC release!

Key features
  • Improves upon the first Gears of War game in pretty much every aspect
  • A fun campaign with lots of fresh elements
  • The multiplayer mode is also outstanding here
  • The game’s soundtrack has been composed by Steve Jablonsky who replaced Kevin Riepl

So, this is it. The end of the list of all Gears of War games, rated from the worst to the best. As you can see, however, none of these games are “bad.” They’re all fantastic experiences, with the only problem being that the series has become somewhat stale from Gears of War 3 onward.

If you’re itching for more, well, there are some novels and comic books, as well as a board game, Gears of War: The Board Game, released in 2011 by Fantasy Flight Games.

Are there any plans for the future of the series? While it doesn’t seem like there are any new games in the works, there are talks of a film adaptation, as well as an animated series. Will they be any good? Only time will tell.