Saints Row has always been a weird series. While the first attempted to capitalize on the open-world bandwagon two years before Grand Theft Auto IV arrived on Xbox 360 and PS3, it slowly started to play up the wackier insanity that GTA IV abandoned. It got to the point where Saints Row 3 had you piloting a ship from the future, and Saints Row 4 became a sort of spiritual successor to old superhero games, like The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
Now, with a back-to-basics reboot in people’s hands, it’s time to take a look back at the franchise to see where the newest one stacks up against its older siblings while also seeing where each installment compares to the rest of the series.
5. Saints Row (2006)
The original Saints Row came out in 2006, and boy, does it show. From its dated visuals, stiff movement, and outdated open-world design, the first game in the Saints Row series is a rough ride. The game so badly wants to be GTA III but lacks much of the polish that made GTA III a classic.
The writing isn’t as funny or interesting as Rockstar’s title, nor is the gameplay as varied as later installments. It feels like a game that was created by an AI rather than one with soul and passion, like later entries. Even if you were to get it for a few dollars on Xbox, you’re better off skipping this first outing and going straight for the sequels.
4. Saints Row (2022)
The franchise reboot was doomed to fan rage before it was even announced. How do you top the fourth installment, which had you fighting against an alien army with Super Powers? The only way up was down, which perfectly describes this newest game.
Saints Row 2022 is far from the disaster many have been hyping, but it’s also not the best in the series. At best, the latest game in the franchise is a perfectly fine time-killer if you need to blow off some steam. It looks and plays fine, and the writing may get a chuckle from you here and there, but this isn’t exactly what fans wanted from a reboot.
3. Saints Row 4
Saints Row 4 went all out in terms of insanity. Within the first hour, you become president of the United States, Keith David is your vice president of choice, and you’re thrust right into an alien invasion. After all that, you’re set in a Matrix-like version of Steelport and are gifted with Super Powers that let you run at supersonic speed, use telekinesis, elemental blasts, and more. It makes for a crazy good time, but it feels less like a Saints Row game and more like a sequel to Prototype or Crackdown.
Additionally, it’s hard not to compare Saints Row to other superhero games, where it came up a little short. The abilities, while entertaining, weren’t as flashy or fleshed out as something like Infamous 2 or Prototype 2. Furthermore, the various missions where you don’t have your powers makes for an inconsistent experience.
While critically well-received at the time, Saints Row 4 had a more divisive feeling from fans, who felt the series jumped the shark. Still, it’s worth a look if you find it on sale.
2. Saints Row 2
Saints Row 2 is often considered the pinnacle of the series. The game’s personality makes it a fan favorite, as it creates a perfect balance of earlier GTA humor with the zanier antics of later Saints Row games.
The writing still holds up strong and will get you laughing throughout its 20-hour adventure. It’s hard not to feel your inner 12-year-old getting giddy when you partake in missions where you’re spewing sewer water filled with poop. Sure, its gameplay hasn’t aged as well, with gunplay feeling dated, but its mission design and focus on unadulterated fun makes this entry well worth checking out.
1. Saints Row: The Third
While some fans will tell you Saints Row 2 is the best in the franchise, Saints Row: The Third is the one that finally broke away from anything resembling GTA and truly became its own thing. The franchise’s third installment finally embraced the silliness of it all and became a full-on cartoon.
One minute you’re sky diving out of a plane, only to fight against a street gang of Masked Luchadors, and you even get transported into a Tron-like computer world. It makes for a crazy ride that get’s better the longer you play. It’s also seen the most refinements, thanks to the numerous re-release, making it the most accessible and enjoyable game in the franchise.
Saints Row: The Third starts slow, with the first few hours being glorified tutorials, but once it picks up, it’s an adventure that’s hard to put down.
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