Shack Chat: What is your favorite Western-themed video game?

The Shacknews crew chimes in with favorite Western-themed video games of all time.


Following up on last week's groundbreaking Shack Chat where we discussed our favorite open-world adventures, this week's discussion focuses on the Western-themed video games that made the biggest impressions upon our tender, malleable minds.

It likely goes without saying that interest in Red Dead Redemption 2 spawned this week's topic, though we will say that Rockstar Games' latest release was low down our list of focuses — mainly because, at the time of writing, none of us had really played it. So which Western games ranked most highly among the Shack staff? Keep reading to find out.

Question: What is your favorite Western-themed game, and why?

Mad Dog McCree: Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

My first instinct was to say Outlaws, because nothing will ever make me smile harder than the beckoning "Where aaaare ya, Marshallllll?" from the LucasArts shooter. You can and should pick it up (via GOG) if you haven't played it already, but there's one game even nearer and dearer to my heart than that: Mad Dog McCree. I spent a lot of time a local arcade/entertainment complex when I was a kid called Choo-Choo's (later Screen Play, but I digress) and one of my favorite arcade machines let me take on the role of the "stranger" looking for Mad Dog McCree.

Nothing beats being quick on the draw when it comes to this game, reloading in real-time, and cursing the doctor when he chides you for losing a life because you didn't shoot quickly enough. The "showdowns" even used special light guns to see if you were cheating with the gun in the wrong position (later simulated via the home versions, but not as well). The iconic arcade cabinet, the amazing box art, and the Western vibe all sealed the deal for me as one of my favorite Western-themed games of all time, and I find myself going back on various platforms, time and time again. Still not sure why there's not a new version since we get a crappy light gun game for every lukewarm action franchise out there, but...maybe someday.


GUN: Asif Khan, Chief Puppy Wrangler

GUN was p cool.

Sunset Riders: Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

I'm not going to lie. I was never that big into westerns. Sure, I liked Django Unchained and Tombstone well enough, but it was never my cup of tea. That extends into video games, where the genre never really captured my imagination.

But I do remember going to the local Shakey's Pizza Parlor as a kid and finding a few lone arcade machines. While I loved playing The Simpsons and Final Fight, those weren't around. What was available was a game called Sunset Riders.

Sunset Riders was very different from what I was used to, taking the beat 'em up and turning it into a shoot 'em up. Spamming the six-shooter was a lot of fun and I did get a kick out of the commitment to the western atmosphere, having the game's characters score power-ups by stopping inside saloons for a drink. Beyond the fast-paced action, I still have a soft spot for that animated art style, which makes me think it takes place in some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time alternate universe. Given that both games were made and released by Konami in the same year, the resemblance isn't surprising.

Greg's Arcade Corner video, released three years ago, noted that Sunset Riders hasn't been re-released on any of the modern consoles. That still remains true today. But with Capcom Outsending a love letter to its arcade classics through the Capcom Beat 'em Up Bundle, maybe Konami will think to follow suit someday and let the Sunset Riders ride again.

Sunset Riders
Sunset Riders

Sunset Riders: David Craddock, Long Reads Editor

Sorry, Mejia. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us. Actually, it is--us, and two other players if they care to join in.

I was lucky enough to live close to two arcades that were lined from wall to wall with classic games: all the Mortal Kombats, every iteration of Street Fighter 2 you could think of, and lots of shmups and beat-em-ups. One-on-one fighters and beat-em-ups were my favorites, but Sunset Riders wasn’t among them. Maybe it couldn’t compete with the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, The Simpsons, or Final Fight. Maybe the proprietors of my local arcades weren’t quick enough on the draw to add this to their lineup of ‘-ups.

Whatever the reason, I didn’t discover Sunset Riders until the emulation scene picked up speed--around the time I was in high school, during the late ‘90s. I missed out out. From its fun, colorful visuals to its gameplay that traded fisticuffs for lead, Sunset Riders was as much fun as the droves of other four-player brawlers that defined the ‘90s for kids my age.

The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail: Kevin S. Tucker, Definitely Not A Robot

Even though I've (apparently) been playing video games since around the age of two, not many games from that far back stick out in my mind today. Among the earliest gaming experiences I can actually remember are Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and The Oregon Trail. Like many kids growing up in the 90s, The Oregon Trail (the 1985 release, more specifically the 1992 DOS re-release) was available to play on school computers, presumably as part of a curriculum that highlighted just how easy it was to die in the Pioneer days.

As a school experience, The Oregon Trail was a great way to feel like goofing off at an age when that's basically all we were doing in school anyway. As a learning experience, however, it taught me about maintaining optimism when faced with severe loss: supplies lost when fording rivers, family members lost to typhoid or cholera, or my heroic, pixel-based analog perishing due to a simple snake bite.

It never really mattered how much effort I put forth back then — try as I might, I never actually beat the game — but The Oregon Trail did teach me that I could always learn from my mistakes, and do my best to not muck things up the next time around. Even though I wasn't aware of it back then, that attitude has stuck with me ever since, both in my gaming career and my professional career. With that said, hopefully I'll never have to contend with the likes of dysentery.


Outlaws: Chris Jarrard, Equestrian Genitalier

Outlaws is a western-themed first person shooter put out by Lucas Arts back in the original golden age of PC gaming. It followed a US Marshall who was tracking the guys who merc’d his wife and kidnapped his little girl. It combined solid first person shooter with that mid-90s Lucas Arts magic to provide an incredibly entertaining package.

The game ran on an updated version of the Dark Forces engine and was bookended by some impressive (at the time) animated sequences. Solid voice acting and an unforgettable soundtrack helped make the world feel more immersive. It also featured a reload mechanic that would not become widespread in the genre for many years to follow.

This is actually my second choice, but that dildo Kevin Tucker (I prefer the term “Masturbation Instrument” -- K-Tuck) picked Oregon Trail before I could. Still, 90s PC game fans and Lucas Arts aficionados owe it to themselves to hunt down Outlaws. It is one of a kind!

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption: Blake Morse, Reviews Editor

With the sequel launching this week this may seem a bit contrived, but since two other writers already picked Sunset Riders I may as well go with my runner up, Red Dead Redemption. Technically it’s the 2nd game in the Red Dead series of Rockstar games, but it so much more than just a sequel.

Where Red Dead Revolver had basically been a level-based wild west shootout, Redemption was a fully realized world chock full of side quests and mini-games. I still think the script for RDR is one of the most brilliant stories ever told in a video game and the ending left me patiently waiting for more.

There was an achievement for lassoing someone up and tying them to the railroad, you herded cattle, got into high-noon duels, and played a little high-stakes poker. And all that is barely scraping the surface of what was there. Red Dead Redemption is just a flat-out masterpiece of a game. I’ve never given a perfect 10/10 score to a game in my entire career as a video games critic and journalist. But, the only time I’ve ever regretted not giving a game a perfect score was when I reviewed RDR. I fully expect to have an even more rootin’ tootin’ good time with 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2: Bill Lavoy, Managing Editor

Well, since the only western-themed game I’ve ever played is Red Dead Redemption 2, and I just finished the Red Dead Redemption 2 review for Shacknews, I’m going with that. Nope, I didn’t even play the first one, even though I own it. I have a bad habit of that.

There’s not much I can say here that I didn’t already say in the review, but I guess I can freak out about it a bit more here. Red Dead Redemption 2 is amazing. I’m ready to put it on a level with The Witcher 3, and that is saying something for me. It’s combines one of the best narratives I can recall in recent memory with one of the most engaging open-world environments ever made. Every time I load into the game there are a dozen things I want to do, but I’m always getting distracted by something. I can’t pass a lake without fishing, or a buck without hunting it. If it’s even close to dusk and I’m not near a town, I’m setting up camp in the middle of nowhere. Red Dead Redemption 2 deserves every bit of hype it’s getting, just be careful where you ride your horse.

Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2: Sam Chandler, Guides Editor

I’ve not played a lot of Western titles, in fact, the list is probably Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption 2. Because of this, I want to make the case that Borderlands 2 is in fact a Western game, and it is in fact one of the best in the genre.

Any iconic Western includes a few things: a new frontier, bandits, shootouts, and earning cash. Borderlands 2 offers all of this in droves. Players take to Pandora (a new frontier) to search for the hidden vaults (gold rush), all while fighting off other would-be prospectors (bandits). Towns in Borderlands are hobbled-together using whatever the land provides, and any interaction with the local law enforcement can often end in a shootout in the streets.

My time in Borderlands 2 was some of the most enjoyable 4-player co-op gameplay I’ve had in a long time. Adventuring through this wild land with friends, discovering new powerful weaponry to use while I hunt vicious creatures, and earning thousands of dollars for taking down bandits was quintessentially Western.

While on the surface Borderlands 2 might appear like a standard RPG sci-fi game, it actually offers one of the best Wild West experiences. Now we just need to wait for a sequel.

Bioshock Infinite: Greg Burke, The Video Jerk

The American West is a setting that isn’t explored as often as fantasy, Sci-Fi, or other modern settings. There have been few games that take place during that time, but not a ton. My favorite Western-type game would have to be BioShock Infinite. Although some people might disagree, I find the time period in BioShock Infinite fascinating. The game’s story takes place in 1912, about 35 years after the peak of the American West. However, the game's main protagonist, Booker Dewiit, cleary shows signs that he was part of the American frontier — fighting wars on the western front with Native Americans and having significant experience with survival on the frontier. You can also see reflections in the city designs of Columbia that are very Western Era inspired. I feel the atmosphere and environment hint at a Western Era inspiration, which makes it pretty unique.

Wild Arms 3
Wild Arms 3

Wild Arms 3: Charles Singletary Jr, Phoned This One In

Charles is doing it for Shacknews at TwitchCon 2018 this weekend, but we have it on good authority that he enjoyed Wild Arms 3. In lieu of an elaboration, please enjoy this photo of Charles sporting his favorite cowboy attire. — Ed.

What do you guys think? Are we all perilously ignorant of Western gaming greatness, or do our picks highlight some of gaming history's hottest Western-flavored adventures? Let us know in the Chatty below.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

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