Western is a genre that even when done by Europeans like Karl May or Sergio Leone, is still American to the core. How could it not be, Old West is one of the kind, a half-idolised time which gave rise to decades of movies made about its different facets, shaping the way the popular culture views it today.

…but what about western games?

Indeed, why are there so few video games in the genre? There are, of course, quite a few, but not nearly enough as from other genres, like fantasy or even historical fiction. Evocative as it is, western isn’t quite as explored in games. Even the successes of Call of Juarez and Red Dead series didn’t seem to change the climate much, so far.

But enough talk about what we don’t have, let’s talk quick draws and tumbleweed. Here come ten western games worth attention.

Ten western games worth checking out

GameRelease yearGenreDeveloperCheck price below

12 is Better Than 6
12 is Better Than 6 - logo box2019Action, Shooter, Shoot-‘Em-Up, Top-DownInk Stains GamesBuy now!

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - logo box2009First-person shooterTechlandBuy now!

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
call-of-juarez-gunslinger-box-30-10-20192013First-person shooterTechlandBuy now!

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive
Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive - logo box2001Real-time tacticsSpellbound EntertainmentBuy now!

Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout NV cover2010Action role-playingObsidian EntertainmentBuy now!

Gun
Gun game - logo box2005Action-adventureNeversoft, BeenoxBuy now!

Hard West
Hard West - logo box2015Turn-based tacticsCreativeForge GamesBuy now!

Hunt: Showdown
Hunt Showdown logo box2018First-person shooter, survival horrorCrytekBuy now!

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption - logo box2010Action-adventureRockstar San DiegoBuy now!

Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 22018Action-adventureRockstar StudiosBuy now!

12 is Better Than 6

PC
Nintendo Switch
Release year:2015
Genre:Action, Shooter, Shoot-‘Em-Up, Top-Down
Developer:Ink Stains Games

Starting the list lightly comes 12 is Better Than 6, 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 colour 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.

12 is Better Than 6 - gameplay

Shooting in the game feels authentic despite the aesthetic, because you need to manually cock your gun before firing, and the guns are as historically accurate as can be. You can also find metal breastplates, which give your 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.

Key features
  • Tense, fast-paced gunslinging
  • A unique hand-drawn aesthetic.
  • Historically accurate arsenal of guns, and also a rat with dynamite
  • Interesting story

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

PC
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release year:2009
Genre:First-person shooter
Developer:Techland

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 they make some questionable alliance to find it. All the while their old commander is hot on their tail.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - gameplay

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 deadly with his dual six shooters, while Thomas is faster and is more adept at long-range combat. Both brothers, however, are proficient in using chairs as an improvised weapon.

Key features
  • An Old West tale about brothers
  • Prequel to the original Call of Juarez
  • Each of the two playable brothers has a different playstyle
  • Strong storyline

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

PC
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Nintendo Switch
Release year:2013
Genre:First-person shooter
Developer:Techland

Breaking away from the unpleasant story of the dysfunctional McCall family, Gunslinger is a more cheeky, 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.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - shooting

Gunslinger is a very entertaining game, too. Silas can specialise 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 lets you just get loose.

Key features
  • Unreliable narration as a game mechanic
  • You decide which weapons skills you pick up first
  • The protagonist seemingly encountered a bunch of historical figures
  • Two endings

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive

PC
Release year:2001
Genre:Real-time tactics
Developer:Spellbound Entertainment

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 a sequel is being worked on by Mimimi Productions (of Shadow Tactics fame), it’s a good time to reminisce about that one time gunslinger John Cooper enlisted a few friends to take down an infamous bandit going by “El Diablo”.

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive - game screenshot

Cooper’s crew has a diverse array of skills, which the player needs to learn how to utilize in real-time scenarios. The game is mostly 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.

Key features
  • Several characters with unique skillsets
  • Creative tactical scenarios
  • Captures the western atmosphere really well
  • Lived to see a few sequels, including one by the creators of Shadow Tactics

Fallout: New Vegas

PC
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release year:2010
Genre:Action role-playing
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment

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 should you give the protagonist a horse, the image would be complete. 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.

fallout-new-vegas - shooting

Drop in a stylish duster or two, a hat, and a lever-action rifle and the image is complete. There’s a lot of room for roleplaying, if you want to, 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. The Mojave desert to journey through, and there are plenty of wrongs to right and rights to wrong.

Key features
  • A large postapocalyptic open world to explore
  • Strong 1950s aesthetic
  • Western influences
  • Lots and lots of dialogues influenced by your skills

Gun

PC
Xbox 360
Release year:2005
Genre:Action-adventure
Developer:Neversoft, Beenox

Gun was, in a way, Red Dead Redemption BEFORE Red Dead Redemption. It was an open-world game, back before open-world games were the industry standard, and it was unmistakably a western game. 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.

Gun - game screenshot

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 solid.

Key features
  • A solid Wild West open-world game from the mid-2000s
  • Exciting storyline full of twists and turns
  • Several notable actors voicing characters, including Ron Perlman and Thomas Jane
  • A couple of historical figures make an appearance

Hard West

PC
Nintendo Switch
Release year:2015
Genre:Turn-based tactics
Developer:CreativeForge Games

If you are familiar with the tabletop RPG Deadlands, Hard West is probably the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the Weird West in a video game form. It has magic, it has dark deals with what’s obviously devil, and they 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.

Hard West - game screenshot

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.

Key features
  • You can assemble poker hands to gain specific bonuses
  • Devil, curses, and amulets
  • Turn-based combat with some interesting and thematic options
  • An anthology of stories

Hunt: Showdown

PC
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Release year:2018
Genre:First-person shooter, survival horror
Developer:Crytek

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 permeates Hard West, although here it’s reflected through monster hunting.

Hunt: Showdown - shooting

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.

Key features
  • Plenty of authentic period weapons, some modified for monster slaying
  • Tense matches where monsters aren’t the only danger
  • Late 19th century setting
  • Player character progression comes with a risk-reward system

Red Dead Redemption

PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release year:2010
Genre:Action-adventure
Developer:Rockstar San Diego

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.

Red Dead Redemption - protagonist

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’s was just as filled with things to do, even if the tone was generally more serious.

Key features
  • It is to western video games what Unforgiven was to western movies
  • Tonnes of things to do outside of the main storyline
  • John Marston is an interesting, strongly defined protagonist
  • Solid Quick Draw mechanic

Red Dead Redemption 2

PC
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Release year:2018
Genre:Action-adventure
Developer:Rockstar Studios

Red Dead Redemption 2 had been awaited for years, 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.

Red Dead Redemption 2

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 character as John was, and tonnes of customisation option can help you make Arthur unique.

Key features
  • Exquisitely detailed open world
  • Arthur Morgan is a great protagonist
  • We meet Van der Linde’s gang before the fall
  • John Marston plays a large part in the story, as he should


It’s always almost noon in purgatory

There is one last game to mention, even if it isn’t released yet. West of Dead is an interesting shooter featuring undead flame-skulled gunman voiced by Ron Perlman, tonnes of undead to dispatch, and a cel shaded aesthetic strongly reminiscent of Mignola’s Hellboy comic books.

There. That’s out list complete. Hopefully you’ve found something that sounds like a good addition to your library. See you on the trail, pardner.