The success of the recently released Red Dead Redemption 2 left many gamers wondering what other great cowboy/western themed games are available. Early examples of games with the cowboy/western theme were usually shooters or run ‘n gun style games because of the hardware limitations of the time.
With the release of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox console hardware had finally gotten powerful enough to deliver the cowboy experience gamers had been asking for – an open world to explore, a real plot involving revenge won through the barrel of a six-shooter, and the ability to ride your faithful horse around the game world. So here is a list of the best cowboy/western themed games ever made. If a title worthy of this list was left-out be sure to leave a comment below and let your voice be heard.
Gun.Smoke was an arcade game released by Capcom in 1985. It is best known for being frustratingly difficult and for its unique control scheme regarding shooting your guns. Gun.Smoke was released for the NES in 1988, and this release saw a few improvements to the gameplay.
First, the player is required to buy a wanted poster before the stage bosses will appear. The game was also given more of a story-line, and merchants were added so players could purchase better weapons - which were only temporary. The difficulty was also dialed down to make the game more balanced. This was one of the first cowboy-themed games, and it’s a title that is still remembered fondly.
9 Sunset Riders
This arcade game was a western-themed run-and-gun that was released by Konami in 1991. Sunset Riders was later ported to the Sega Genesis in 1992 and the Super Nintendo in 1993. The player had their choice of four different cowboys, each with a different weapon.
Sunset Riders was playable by up to four players simultaneously and was purely cooperative (you couldn’t hurt your fellow players). The game is fast-paced and has some of the most colorful graphics you will ever see in a video game. If you want to give this game a try, play the Super Nintendo version as it is closest to the arcade original.
8 Mad Dog Mcree
Mad Dog Mcree was a full-motion video laserdisc arcade game released by American Laser Games in 1990. The player uses the pistol attached to the arcade machine to shoot the bandits on screen in this rail-shooter. This game is probably best remembered for its campy acting and the fact it was ported to nearly every disc-based console/computer in the 90s. The best home port was actually the SegaCD version. It has very grainy video, but unlike the other home ports, the player had the option of using the Sega Menacer light gun instead of a standard controller. The game was so well received that a sequel was released in 1992.
7 Desperados: Wanted Dead Or Alive
Desperados is a cowboy game that let the player control up to six characters in a style similar to real-time strategy games of the time. It was released for the PC in 2001 by Infogrames and received very good reviews. The game uses a top-down isometric view and had very nice hand-drawn graphics. The player needed to be strategic in Desperados; the enemies’ line of sight was made visible to the player via cones that changed color depending on how much they noticed the player’s movement. There was a sequel released in 2006, and a third installment is planned for a 2019 release for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Outlaws was a first-person shooter released for the PC by Lucasarts in 1997. While the game looks primitive by today’s standards, the cut-scenes are very well done. The player controls a U.S. Marshal as he avenges his murdered wife and tries to rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped by outlaws.
Outlaws was the first game to allow players to zoom in with a scoped weapon. This game has won several awards for its soundtrack, which is an orchestral arrangement. The music and visual style of Outlaws is very reminiscent of the spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone – which is a very good thing.
Gun is a 3D open-world game originally released by Activision in 2005 for several consoles and the PC. In Gun, the player controls an Apache gunslinger named Colton White as he seeks vengeance against a group of outlaws with considerable political influence. The game was well received and is considered by many to be better than Red Dead Revolver; a western-themed game developed by Rockstar, and better known by its sequels – the Red Dead Redemption games.
The game features actual figures from the late 19th century, such as Jose Chavez y Chavez and Dave Rudabaugh. Any fan of the Young Guns movies will recognize those names. Outlaw also featured voice-acting by several famous Hollywood actors like Ron Perlman and Thomas Jane. This game is a seriously underrated title that deserves an HD remake.
4 Cowboys Of Moo Mesa
This is the only game on this list that lets the player control an actual cow-boy. The characters in this game are anthropomorphic cow people that live in an old west setting. This game was an adaptation of a cartoon of the same name and was released in the arcades in 1992 by Konami.
This game closely resembles the other Konami game on this list – Sunset Riders. Like Sunset Riders, Cowboys of Moo Mesa features very colorful graphics and large, well-animated, sprites. Also like Sunset Riders, the player can choose from a cast of four cowboys; each with different weapons and stats.
3 The Oregon Trail
This was the original cowboy game. The Oregon Trail is an edutainment PC game released by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (which sounds more sinister than it should) in 1974. The game was originally developed by Don Rawitsch in 1971 as a teaching aid for a middle school history class he was teaching.
The game became so popular in local schools that in 1974 MECC hired Rawitsch to improve the game for a commercial release. The Oregon Trail is many gamer’s first video game experience, and it is still available today in a heavily revised form as a mobile app.
2 Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger
The Call of Juarez series began in 2006 when it was released by Ubisoft for the PC. The series has since branched out to the Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Gunslinger is the latest in the series, being released in 2013 for the PS3 and Xbox360. This is a first-person shooter that is criminally underrated due to Rockstar Games’ more popular Red Dead series.
The game is played through a series of flashbacks experienced by an aging gunfighter named Silas Greaves. Gunslinger features many of the same features found in the Red Dead series – such as slowing time down to aim your weapon. The ending has an interesting twist that is completely unexpected.
1 The Red Dead Series
Rockstar Games released the first in the series, Red Dead Revolver, for the PS2 and Xbox in 2005. The game received good reviews, but it wasn’t until the release of Red Dead Redemption in 2010 that the series gained wide-spread notoriety. In the second game, the player controls former outlaw John Marston as he is forced to work for the Bureau of Investigation to avoid going to prison.
The game is a 3D open-world adventure game that features an enormous game world for the player to explore. The third in the series, Red Dead Redemption 2, was released in 2018 and is considered not only the best in the series but one of the best games for this generation of consoles. If you like cowboy/western themed games, this series is a “must play”.