We’ve all seen a Western film or two. This genre blew up in the first half of the 20th century, though they’ve been around since the late 19th century. Even that isn’t the true beginnings of the genre, as these original Western movies were influenced by the content of live productions like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which began many years earlier.
Actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Gary Cooper all became household names thanks to their involvement in Western movies. Even Chuck Norris, who has had a more diverse career, is best known for his role in Walker, Texas Ranger, which depicted a modern day cowboy.
The Western movie genre is no longer as popular as it once was, partly thanks to the much more diverse range of options for moviegoers to enjoy. However, our fascination with cowboys and their way of life lives on today through video games.
Here are just some of the popular titles that help us step into the Wild West today.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Often described as “Grand Theft Auto on horseback”, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an open-world game that’s set in the Wild West. You play a cowboy who is a member of an outlaw gang who, in between taking part in criminal activities, enjoys more sedate activities like camping out under the stars.
It features many of the things you will have seen in classic Western movies, such as rounding up outlaws and tying them to a railway track, mass brawls, and hunting.
The game’s narrative is much deeper and more diverse than others though. Rather than looking at region during the heyday of the cowboy, it depicts the more turbulent times that were endured by the people living in the American frontiers as they transitioned to more modern ways of life.
Unlike in Rockstar’s other major open-world game, Grand Theft Auto, players generally have a much closer relationship with their “ride” in Red Dead Redemption 2. In GTA, cars are generally seen as disposable, while players form a bond with their horse in this cowboy game, just like would have been the case in real life. It’s a similar mechanic to what you can find in other horse games, but in a GTA-style open world.
Wild Draw Saloon
Wild Draw Saloon is quite a different game to Red Dead Redemption, but one that many fans of the Wild West will enjoy just as much.
It is a cowboy-themed video slot game that packs in all the typical imagery you associate with Western movies, including a background that emulates a 19th century saloon, complete with an innkeeper polishing glasses and some card-playing cowboys in the corner.
It contains a feature that is seldom seen in slot games. At the beginning, players are the choice of four different protagonists, two two cowboys and two cowgirls. Whoever they choose will appear on the reels of the slot and act as the Wild symbol. It’s not just about looks though, as each one changes the makeup of the symbols on the reels, creating an element of strategy.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Although it’s a little dated now, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a fun Western-themed first-person shooter.
Released by Ubisoft back in 2013 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 and then re-released in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, it follows the story of a bounty hunter in the Wild West.
It’s a face-paced title that lets players fire era-specific weapons like revolvers, bolt-action rifles, and shotguns in a range of different Western settings, including saloons, deserts, timber forts.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is more than just a Western-themed shoot ’em up though. It explores the way legends were created and how people had a tendency to exaggerate or twist the truth when they tell a story to make it sound more exciting or paint themselves in a better light. Levels can often be replayed as the narrator of the story gets challenged by others, leading to changes that end up being more difficult the second time you run through them.
While the graphics look a bit dated, they’re still pretty decent and the other elements of the game more than make up for this. It’s one that fans of the Wild West will enjoy.