Rockstar. It's a word that when uttered either triggers memories of your favorite 70s rock band, or if you're a gamer, it reminds you of one of the best, if not the best video game publishers to ever do it. Regardless of what comes to mind first, Rockstar is one of the most prolific and important video game publishers ever, and much of that has to be attributed to their eclectic library of games.
Before I ever picked up a controller for the first time, Rockstar had already become a household name with classics like GTA III, Max Payne, and Midnight Club. But with a library so vast, and so perfect, one must wonder what game stands atop all the other masterpieces.
Rockstar started out in the late 1990s, and before the decade even ended they released the first Grand Theft Auto and a slew of other games that put them on the map. Sure, most of them are practically eye-sores now, but little did any of us know that this was just the first taste of something truly special to come.
The groundwork was there even in the first GTA; the soundtrack was bumping and the personality was lively, but Rockstar didn't really start perfecting it all until the early to mid-2000s. Max Payne, Bully, The Warriors... the list could truly go on and on.
But you aren't here for a history lesson; instead, we're going to rank every important Rockstar game the company has ever released. And sorry in advance but we're leaving those god-awful Austin Powers games out, though we're sure none of you are complaining. Well with all that build-up out of the way, let's jump in.
28 Smuggler’s Run
Rockstar doesn’t have a lot of bad games, but Smuggler’s Run might be the worst. The game came out in 2000 and the game sees you take the role of a smuggler who happens to make runs. From there, you take on an array of missions with a variety of different vehicles.
Think Excite Truck, or a really, really stripped back version of any of the Forza Horizon games.
Despite coming last, it’s not all too bad as it had some pretty innovative elements for the time, but it’s definitely in the bottom-half of Rockstar’s library.
27 Italian Job
Probably another game that many of you might be unfamiliar with, The Italian Job was a game based on the film. While both released in 2003, the movie was likely the only one that people wanted to remember that year.
The game was broken up into a few different modes giving players a good amount of content, but it was more or less a good amount of bad content.
This squeezes by Smuggler’s Run only because the story-based missions play out like Crazy Taxi and the world had a lot more personality. Still a pretty bad game, though.
26 Wild Metal Country
Possibly the most obscure and truly out there game that Rockstar has ever released, Wild Metal, or Wild Metal Country as it was known after Rockstar acquired the franchise, is a game that many would probably gawk at today.
It’s like one of those free but very broken games that you play to pass the time in computer class.
But if you get past the awful graphics, then there’s definitely fun to be had here, as taking on your friends in tank-combat is a good time no matter what.
Despite this game ending up so low, it’s probably one of the best examples of Rockstar trying something really out of their comfort zone. Beaterator isn’t really a game, it’s more a utility for those looking to produce music on their PSP.
It’s the type of game that one of your producer/DJ friends might’ve messed around with if they happened to own a PSP. Rockstar collaborated with rapper and producer Timbaland on the game, and despite this game being quite niche, it’s great in the sense that it offered so many practical tools.
24 Grand Theft Auto
This game was definitely something at the time. I wouldn’t say revolutionary by any means, but definitely an important game for Rockstar. The sad truth of it all is that Grand Theft Auto just doesn’t really hold up at all today. The camera is absolutely nauseating, the controls were frustrating, and the story is pretty trite.
However, while this game didn’t stir up the controversy or gaming-buzz that later entries would do, the idea of this game was interesting enough to help it sell rather well. And you just can’t forget the soundtrack that this game boasted.
23 Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis
Rockstar might’ve ended well with the last gen consoles with the releases of Red Dead Redemption and GTA V, but they started off a little flat with the surprising release of a... ping-pong game.
Perhaps it was the best table tennis game ever made, but you and me both know that isn’t really saying much.
Being a ping-pong fan (or table tennis for the professionals) I do have a guilty pleasure for this game but it was nothing more than Rockstar testing their brand new engine on a slightly significant game. Still, they poured their hearts into it.
22 Grand Theft Auto II
Grand Theft Auto II was the next mainline game in the franchise and like most good sequels, it improves upon most of the shortcomings of the first entry. The top-down view makes a return but it was never much of a gripe for me in the first place, so if you get past that you’re in for a pretty good time.
The controls are simple, the camera was thankfully fixed, and while this game sold rather well it didn’t do enough differently from the first to truly make it a great game.
21 Smuggler's Run II: Hostile Territory
Smuggler's Run II essentially polished all the rough spots of the first game and delivered a game that was a lot more enjoyable than the first. While it was received well from a critical standpoint, it didn’t really have any staying power.
The game finally had a personality and a world that felt fun to explore, yet it still fell short compared to Rockstar’s other racing franchise. Really, the only thing noteworthy about this game today is that it was relocated due to the attacks on the WTC.
20 Midnight Club: Street Racing
So about that other Rockstar racing game... well, growing up I wasn’t the biggest Midnight Club fan, as I always preferred the much more fast-paced and hectic Burnout series. But with that being said, the influence this franchise has had is beyond ridiculous at the point.
Without this game, there just wouldn’t be a Need For Speed: Underground, and even games like Burnout might’ve been altered down to the core. This game introduced the world to Fast and the Furious-styled racing games and the game offered the framework for future racing games to come.
19 Red Dead Revolver
This is a game that might’ve proved to be completely insignificant if it weren’t for the later entries that we've all come to love, but now it’s something you just can’t ignore. Red Dead Revolver is okay at best, and that might be being a little generous.
Take Red Dead Redemption and make it a lot more cartoony and arcade-like, and you more or less get Red Dead Revolver. This game has moments, but you’re not missing much by avoiding it.
18 Grand Theft Auto London 1969 & 1961
Easily my favorite top-down GTA game despite it really boiling down to DLC for the original Grand Theft Auto. The game released before GTA 2, so all of the things we credited that game to fixing, really should be brought up here.
Plus you just gotta love to see Rockstar embracing the British culture and putting their own spin on it.
Instead of “Wasted” or “Busted” you’ll see “You’re Nicked” and “You’re Brown Bread!”. This game is actually a ton of fun and I’d recommend it to any GTA fan.
17 Midnight Club II
Rockstar has an almost flawless track record with sequels, so it was no surprise that Midnight Club II was bigger, badder, and groovier than the original.
Midnight Club II gave us more or less the same gameplay from the first but the graphics had a notable upgrade. This game might not hold up to well today, but at the time it was easily one of the best racing games on console. Plus Rockstar knocked it out of the park once again with yet another dope soundtrack.
16 Manhunt 2
Manhunt 2 is the successor to one of the most notoriously gross games of all time. While the second game didn’t garner as much controversy as the first, it was still just as brutal if not more this time around.
You play as Daniel Lamb, a mental patient dealing with amnesia who is now forced to take out patients and doctors in an effort to escape and find out who he really is. The game is like most mid-2000s stealth games, except the violence is turned up to full volume. It’s not as good as the first, but it’s a fun time if you have a strong stomach.
15 L.A. Noire
When Rockstar tends to deviate from the franchises it tends to lead to mixed results, but L.A. Noire was definitely one of the good ones. Released in 2011, the game places you in a noir-styled setting of Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Finally giving us the cop’s perspective, L.A. Noire is an action-adventure game that offers tough choices that sometimes feel morally ambiguous. The game is still regarded as one of Rockstar’s best and the popularity of the re-releases for the current-gen consoles confirms that.
14 Max Payne 2
Remedy Entertainment is the studio behind the critically acclaimed Alan Wake games, and the recently released Quantum Break. But before the studio got tied up with Microsoft they were most notably famous for partnering with Rockstar to make the Max Payne franchise.
Max Payne 2 is perhaps one of the most polarizing in the franchise, the game offered a style, atmosphere, and Matrix-like combat that we really hadn’t seen in any games before. It was dark, story-centered, and is quite possibly one of the most underrated games in an already underrated franchise.
13 Midnight Club: Los Angeles
This game is easily my favorite in the Midnight Club franchise, so personally, I’d put it higher on this list. But regardless, Midnight Club: LA was one of the best racing games on the last generation of consoles and it’s the last game we saw come out of the franchise.
Midnight Club: LA was one of the most polished looking games in the franchise and is easily one of the best in the franchise.
The problem most find with the game is that it wasn’t nearly enough of a step-up from the last entry in the franchise, and we kind-of gotta agree.
12 Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3 just barely squeaks past the second due to building upon the style and atmosphere that the second game set-up. This time around the game was handled by Rockstar themselves as Remedy had already gone on to work with Microsoft.
The story reaches a satisfying conclusion in Max Payne 3, and there really isn’t any studio other than Rockstar that could add their own little quips while making the game still feel like Max Payne. It’s the best graphically, and it feels the most modern putting it at this spot on this list.
11 Grand Theft Auto 3
Well hello there, 3D graphics, how are you? Grand Theft Auto 3 is quite possibly the most innovative game in the franchise offering a framework that would be used in every GTA game since its release.
Grand Theft Auto 3 released almost two years after the second and completely shook the gaming world.
The game was universally loved and was probably the first entry to really propel GTA into the global spotlight. And this was the first game that was absolutely soaked in controversy making it one of the most important games in Rockstar’s library.
10 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto III might be the most innovative in the series, but it’s no secret that its sequels improve upon its formula in almost every way. Once Rockstar got the ball running with the GTA franchise, it seemed as though they could do no wrong.
From the opening moments of GTA: San Andreas, you know you’re in for a real treat. You go to rob a casual-looking pizza place and the cashiers flip the script and run you out with shotguns of their own. This game has some of the best moments, characters, and missions in any GTA game.
While the GTA games have had their fair share of controversy over the years, nothing really beats out the game that was Manhunt. Even if you’re a rather desensitized person, you’re going to find yourself uncomfortable with this game. It’s void of life, and the empty bleak world that you’re put in almost seems perfect for this game.
You’re tasked to end everyone in your path in the most sadistic ways imaginable just to get enough footage for a director’s film. Did I mention this game was gross? With all that being said, this game is essential to Rockstar.
8 Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition Remix
Well if we’re going to talk about the best of the best that Rockstar has to offer then it’s impossible to forget about Midnight Club 3. My one big gripe with Midnight Club: LA was that it never felt as lively and as atmospheric as the third.
The third entry is the franchise hitting its peak potential and delivering one of the best racing games ever made. The world is electric in this game, and this time the cars feel faster and control better than ever. Oh, and you already know that I’m absolutely in love with this game’s soundtrack.
7 Grand Theft Auto IV
You’d think that somewhere along the way Rockstar would lose the momentum with GTA games and have a misstep somewhere. Well, you’d be wrong, because these games just kept getting better and better, and after all that, they still got better.
GTA IV is probably my personal favorite in the franchise, as you take the role as the fan-favorite Niko Bellic.
I’d need a full dissertation to truly explain the greatness of this game but just know to never go bowling with Roman, because that’s apparently all he ever wants!
6 Max Payne
Sometimes you just can’t beat the OG, and while it’s a close call between all three games, we’d say the first is the best in the Max Payne franchise. This was not only a groundbreaking game in terms of that trippy Matrix-styled combat, but the story was also the strongest here.
This game is far from the prettiest in the franchise, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the strongest games in a franchise. This game set up the rest of the franchise so perfectly and I still can’t get over the broody, bleak atmosphere that it established.
5 Grand Theft Auto Vice City
Soundtrack, soundtrack, soundtrack! I know some of you must be tired of hearing me brag about the soundtracks in some of these games, but being a huge music buff I just have to appreciate the attention to detail that Rockstar puts into the music choices in their games.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City quite possibly has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.
Well besides that there really isn’t much to talk about... well, except for the fact that this game is 99% perfection. If it weren’t for those stupid helicopter missions, it would easily be the best.
4 The Warriors
“Warriors… Come out to play-aya!” Although I’m a huge fan of the film, there’s no disputing that this is one of Rockstar’s best games. Quite possibly one of the best film to games ever created, and it was so good that it even expanded the lore; probably can’t say that for any of those Harry Potter games out there.
This is one of the best 3D brawlers to ever come out and it’s a game that we could guarantee any GTA fan would love. The film and the game are criminally underrated so we really recommend picking both up for a weekend; you can thank us later.
3 Bully: Scholarship Edition
If you were like me, and couldn’t play GTA when you were a kid due to that "M" rating, then you most certainly had Bully: Scholarship Edition. This game was the adolescent version of GTA, and put you in the shoes of Jimmy Hopkins, the town delinquent and school bully.
Except Jimmy really wasn’t a bully and was kind of just misunderstood, as he might call it.
This game is a gem, from pranking school teachers to hanging out with cheerleaders. Whether you were a jock or a geek in high school, you get to live out your wildest fantasies in this masterpiece of a game.
2 Grand Theft Auto V
I know all the hipster gamers are rolling their eyes as they see how high up this game is. But whether you hate this game because of how crazy popular it is or because of its pay-to-win online formula, you still have to admit how crucial this game is to Rockstar and gaming in general.
Not only is it one of the best-selling video games of all time, but it’s also probably the strongest GTA title.
The story is absolutely breathtaking here, and sometimes it felt so cinematic that it felt as though it was transcending gaming. At the risk of sounding pretentious, GTA V is a work of art and is easily one of the best games ever made.
1 Red Dead Redemption
Well, it’s really the only title that could top GTA V and the rest of Rockstar’s almost-perfect library. Red Dead Redemption is the correct answer when asked what’s Rockstar’s best game.
The story is better than most Oscar-winning movies, the gameplay is flawless, and the graphics are eye-watering.
And it has one of the best, if not the best, video game endings of all time. This is a gamer’s game, and it’s probably one of the first games I’d direct someone to if they wanted to see the best of what video games have to offer.