The Best Saints Row Games, Ranked - VRGyani News and Media


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Best Saints Row Games, Ranked

The 3rd Street Saints, those lovable gangsters who serve as the protagonists of the Saints Row series, have been through more genre shifts than the Fast and the Furious crew. While the franchise began life as a Grand Theft Auto-alike, later installments have seen our heroes become superheroes in a virtual reality simulation, move their headquarters to a spaceship after the destruction of planet Earth, and become pawns in a battle between God and the Devil. That the new installment is said to be a reboot isn’t a surprise, because where do you go after you’ve literally punched Satan in the face?

With four mainline franchise titles and a sizable standalone expansion, let’s rank the Saints Row games from worst to best and see who walks away with the title of “The Boss”. And before you ask, no, we’re not including Agents of Mayhem, because that game now rightfully resides in the ash bin of history.

5) Saints Row

Released in 2006 on the Xbox 360, the original Saints Row was a contender looking to take Grand Theft Auto’s crown as the king of open-world gangster games. While the run-and-gun gameplay and rags-to-riches story were passable, if hopelessly familiar, and the game’s take on street culture was like something out of a bad ‘90s hip-hop video, one element clearly pointed towards the path these games would wholeheartedly embrace in establishing their own identity: humor. The Insurance Fraud side activity, in which players hurl themselves into oncoming vehicles for a payout, was a hilarious diversion that seemed to simultaneously admit defeat and one-up GTA with a philosophy later installments would take to increasingly incredulous heights: If you can’t beat them, at least try to make them laugh.

4) Saints Row IV: Gat Out of Hell

The shortest entry in the series, Gat Out of Hell is a standalone expansion to Saints Row IV that sends our protagonists to (you guessed it) Hell in order to rescue their boss who has been kidnapped to marry Satan’s daughter. While it retains the fun superhero vibe from Saints Row IV, Gat Out of Hell’s crime is that it has no missions - it’s essentially a bundle of side activities stretched over a paper-thin narrative. Completing these activities builds up a meter representing Satan’s wrath towards the player. Build it up enough and you’ll unlock a cutscene and the next “chapter” of the “story”, but with no mission structure, players may find themselves hard pressed to care.

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3) Saints Row IV

Somebody at Volition clearly loved 2007’s Crackdown, Microsoft’s superhero-powered take on sandbox open-world action, because Saints Row IV apes the mechanics, right down to the addictive orb-collecting to upgrade abilities. How does a gangster acquire superpowers you ask? Oh you know, the usual way - become President of the United States after subverting a terrorist attack, suffer an alien invasion that results in the destruction of the planet, and become trapped in a virtual reality simulation of Steelport, the city from Saints Row: The Third.

Over the top and loaded with pop culture sendups, Saints Row IV cobbles elements from the aforementioned Crackdown, The Matrix, Mass Effect, Prototype, Metal Gear Solid and many more in a zany, willfully ridiculous brew that while entertaining, can certainly overstay its welcome. But any game that stars actor Keith David as himself (and your villainous Vice President) knows what it's about, and for that alone Saints Row IV deserves props.

2) Saints Row: The Third

Literally the through-line between the over-the-top superheroics of Saints Row IV and the more grounded approach of Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third is best remembered for its intro sequence, which has the player skydiving into a penthouse party while Kanye West’s “Power” blasts through the speakers. Capping off the original trilogy, the Saints have risen from the streets to become a marketing entity with sponsorships and branding. After a job to rob a bank goes awry, the Saints find themselves in a new setting, the city of Steelport, where they’ve got to start from square one and rebuild their empire.

A power fantasy with supremely enjoyable mechanics and the intelligence of a 13-year-old high on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust and Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Saints Row: The Third is nothing if not a very good time. Whether dropkicking civilians out of their vehicles, slugging baddies in the nethers with a giant purple dildo (just one of the many ridiculous weapons in the game, including a grenade launcher that shoots mind-controlling mollusks) or rampaging through the city in your birthday suit (with a dedicated streaker button!), Saints Row: The Third is a sugar rush in game form, a guilty pleasure mainlined straight into your lizard brain. Sure, some of its “edgier” elements haven’t aged well and you may want a hot shower afterwards, but there’s no denying that Saints Row: The Third delivers a mean dopamine hit.

1) Saints Row 2

The heart and soul of the Saints Row universe, Saints Row 2 proved the franchise could step out from GTA’s shadow and forge its own identity. Narratively, the series has never been stronger, with its tale of the run-down Saints battling their way back up to the top of the food chain providing relatable human struggles and friendships in terms later games never approach. In terms of gameplay, Saints Row 2 still cops from GTA (specifically GTA IV) in good measure, but where GTA as a series was actively striving to present itself as mature, Saints Row 2 leaned into its juvenile side with side activities like the Septic Avenger, in which you ride shotgun in a septic truck and spew raw sewage on mansions, civilians and police cars for cash. Insurance Fraud makes a welcome return, as well as Trail Blazing, where the player dons a flame-proof set and rides a flaming vehicle through checkpoints, setting everything in their path alight. It’s the balance between the mayhem and the more mundane that makes Saints Row 2 the little bowl of porridge in the franchise: just right.

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