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Perhaps you’ve encountered the news about a recent remaster of Saints Row: the Third, or saw this game talked about in your pocket of the Internet, but you’ve never checked it out completely. Whatever your reasons, below you’ll find everything you need to know to start your adventure with the Third Street Saints.
80% of the series is an open-world third-person action-adventure game set in urban landscapes. The first two games takes place in the fictional city of Stilwater, while the third and fourth entry take place in Steelport (sort of, we’ll get to that). The fifth game is an odd one, because it takes place in the actual hell, although the playable region still mostly looks like a city.
Answering the question “how many Saints Row games are there” is further complicated by the existence of Agents of Mayhem, which technically takes place in the same universe, but a different timeline. It makes sense in the context. For the purposes of this short guide, we consider SR games to go from 1-4 with Gat out of Hell on top. Five games.
You might also be interested if you need to play all the games in the series. The answer to that is: no, not necessarily. While certain characters in later games will be unfamiliar (particularly in SR4), it doesn’t impact the fun negatively and the games are rather blatant in explaining who’s who. All Saints Row games are focused on the mythical Here and Now and deliver some handy exposition when the past becomes important.
That being said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to play all of them, preferably in order, if only to see the Boss’ complete journey and to enjoy the robust character customization a few more times.
With the overview established, let’s take a quick look at each game separately to see how the series, and the stories, progressed through time.
The GTA inspiration was perhaps the strongest in the first Saints Row, but the game also already had the features which would keep returning throughout the series. You can design your character from the ground up, play dress-up to your heart’s content, collect and customize cars in your garage. As you complete missions and side-activities you gather Respect and increase the influence of your gang.
On the story front, the player is a newly inducted member of the 3rd Street Saints, a small gang caught in the crossfire between three bigger groups fighting over Stilwater. With the aid of the player character and the series’ regular Johnny Gat the Saints, led by Julius Little, claim the territory from other gangs. The finale has several interesting twists setting up the next game in the series.
Saints Row 2 expanded on everything introduced in SR1 in impressive ways. The city is bigger and more detailed, with plenty of shops to buy and to buy from, combat is refined, and you have Cribs where you can collect money, change your clothes, or replay missions you liked. The customization is also expanded greatly, and now includes even the way your character is going to move.
The story picks up five years after the first game ended, with your character waking up from a coma in a prison infirmary, from which they quickly escape to begin the game properly. The main driving force of the game is re-establishing the disbanded 3rd Street Saints and winning the city back from gangs that appeared in the meantime. There’s also a pesky Ultor corporation to deal with…
Saints Row 2
Aside from the committed tonal shift towards open ridiculousness, the main difference introduced in SR3 is the player character progression. Now as you gain Respect levels (which can now be earned easily by doing certain cool stuff) you’ll gradually gain access to purchasable upgrades, which eventually basically turn you into an unstoppable engine of chaos.
The story takes the Saints to a new city, Steelport, and given them a chance to fight against non-Saint gangs once again (including Matrix wannabe hackers, and luchadores), but you can also help the city with a zombie problem, meet Burt Reynolds, and visit a virtual reality. There are even some choices to make, including one that can make the ending unreasonably awesome.
Saints Row: The Third
Saints Row IV turns up the wackiness up to eleven. The map is roughly similar, but there are superpowers, aliens, extensive virtual reality, and a dubstep gun. There are also Choose-your-own-adventure mini-stories, one-button spaceship romances… It’s very silly, but also incredibly entertaining whether you soar through the skies, turn people into gold statues, or force them to dance.
The story is as wild as everything you do in the open world and involves an alien invasion led by a very charismatic overlord, an unexpected return of several characters, and Keith David as himself. The game uses the tropes of both virtual reality and space science fiction, which creates a very entertaining mix. The tone might be a bit too much for some people, however, it’s very over-the-top.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV How the Saints Save Christmas (DLC)
Gat out of Hell took the action to Hell, and the two biggest changes relative to previous games. One: you don’t play as the Boss, instead you can control either Johnny Gat or Kinzie Kensington. Second: you can FLY. You must gather Satan’s Wrath to proceed through the story, but the good side is that you can call demons to do your bidding every once in a while, and you wield deadly sins as weapons.
The reason Boss in unavailable is because they’ve been kidnapped by Satan who wants his daughter to marry them. Yes, it’s a thing. The story involves recruiting characters who dwell in hell, including Blackbeard and Vlad the Impaler, among others. The vents of Gat out of Hell lead to the creation of the Agents of MAYHEM timeline, but that’s another matter entirely.
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell
That concludes the general overview of the series. There are, of course, more things to these games than we’ve covered. Things such as multiple voices you can pick for The Boss, the collectibles hidden around the cities, or a wide variety of land, water, and air vehicles. They also have multiplayer, letting you beat a few of them in co-op or enjoy specialized co-op missions.
The important part is that if you check out the Saints Row series you’ll get a great competitor for Grand Theft Auto V which found its own niche in over-the-top action and humor. If you’re looking for something light-hearted in the vein of GTA, Saints Row is your best bet.