When it comes to massively popular open-world video games, few are more noteworthy than Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row. Both of these franchises have massive fanbases, and even in a genre that receives a glut of games every year, these feel a step ahead of the pack every time. But which one will provide you with more bang for your buck? Here’s our guide to whether Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto is the better open-world option.
It perhaps shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that we believe Grand Theft Auto wins the open-world battle with its eyes closed. The franchise essentially set a landmark for what an open world was capable of, and no matter how they fare today, the original open-world trilogy offered new gameplay concepts and possibilities that had never been seen before. These concepts would be further expanded on as the franchise would continue to grow with new titles.
The latest entry in the franchise, Grand Theft Auto V, ups that with a monumental open world that can be played on by yourself, or with friends. You can pull off heists, complete story missions, and engage in all kinds of absurd actions with a few friends. Grand Theft Auto’s worlds are massive in size and scope, but also easy to navigate and offer plenty of variety in gameplay.
Meanwhile, Saints Row does a fine job on the open-world front but doesn’t feel that distinct in the pantheon of similar games set in similar cities. The locales in the series feel more dull and forgettable, without nearly the level of variety that Grand Theft Auto offers up. As far as living up to the very genre that these two belong to, Grand Theft Auto consistently redefines and still does its best.
Winner: Grand Theft Auto. Hard to top places like Los Santos.
This is the one section where Saints Row has a bit of a leg up. Have you ever wanted to play an even more chaotic version of Grand Theft Auto? One that goes above and beyond the wackiness scale to become one of the most absurd things you’ve ever seen in a video game? Where every action sequence is nonsense, but it wouldn’t work the same if they somehow made sense? Well, if you answered “yes,” Saints Row is the perfect place to go.
This is a franchise that wears its bizarro nature on its sleeve like a badge of honor. While Grand Theft Auto takes some time between the craziness to ground itself, Saints Row has hardly ever known what it feels like to touch the ground. Every subsequent Saints Row game feels like it tries to add more and more to the gameplay of the previous entry to become even more ridiculous than ever.
Look no further than the weapons to exemplify how this series shines in its combat. While Saints Row 2 didn’t go much further than weapons like the Pimp Slap, Saints Row: The Third included the Shark-o-Matic. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a weapon that summons a shark to eat enemies. That wasn’t even the strangest weapon there; Saints Row: The Third also introduced gamers to the Penetrator, a baseball bat constructed with a giant, er, purple dildo!
In the case of Grand Theft Auto, while the combat works for the game as a whole, all of its weaponry feels grounded in the real world. It’s gritty, sure, but it doesn’t quite have the same entertainment value; there’s certainly no satisfying feeling of, say, letting a shark eat your enemies. There’s a greater sense of catharsis and gratification within the combat of Saints Row, and it makes this the easier choice.
Winner: Saints Row. Gratifying combat and awesome weaponry – shark gun and purple you know what!
Story and Characters
While both follow similar open-world styles, these games are in completely different solar systems as far as tone, story and characterization are concerned. Grand Theft Auto definitely provides the goods with its gameplay and breadth of content, but it’s a franchise that’s also willing to stop in its tracks to tell you a deep, impactful story. Saints Row, on the other hand, is concerned with nothing other than giving you a good time. It doesn’t want to try to make sense or relent on its vision of giving you the wackiest, most over-the-top experience a game could ever provide.
Grand Theft Auto doesn’t forget about the writing, though, and while it’s a game where you can create a lot of mayhem, it knows how to ground itself enough to tell a story. In fact, underneath the surface of its inappropriate nature, the Grand Theft Auto series can actually tackle mature themes with more care.
Throughout the Grand Theft Auto series, you get to meet very complex characters that, at times, can be pretty unsympathetic, but they’re still interesting to follow and stick out as memorable pieces of the overall product. There are a lot of dark things going on throughout the stories in this series, and it offers something pretty fantastic for those looking for more than just chaotic action.
Saints Row, on the other hand, never quite nailed the storytelling in the way that Grand Theft Auto did. Its wackier direction might help its humor land a bit more than some of Grand Theft Auto’s more childish moments, but that feels like a minor consolation prize. Even with Grand Theft Auto’s occasionally silly moments, Saints Row could never match the depth that Grand Theft Auto pulls off. This one’s not even close.
Winner: Grand Theft Auto, by a pretty vast margin.
When it comes down to pure quality, Grand Theft Auto comes out as the winner every time. The series has had numerous games that are among the most critically acclaimed titles ever created, and it’s plain to see why. These are brilliantly crafted open-world titles with vast locales that remain interesting and varied despite their massive sizes.
Grand Theft Auto makes a further case for itself with a deeper sense of storytelling and characterization. With such impactful writing, it feels like the franchise has more to offer than the momentarily thrill that Saints Row’s wackiness provides. That fantastic blend of gameplay and story helps make Grand Theft Auto the complete package of a video game.
Truth be told, with all that Grand Theft Auto offers, Saints Row may not have stood much of a chance anyway. It’s a series that’s literally been called a “GTA clone” ever since its inception. Combine that with the newest game receiving a pretty tepid response from players, and it’s plain to see who wins out in this one.
Sure, Saints Row may offer an incredible level of creative freedom and customization, and its absurdist charm may help make it a pretty memorable experience, but it’s easy to see why Saints Row isn’t the complete package in the same way that Grand Theft Auto is. They certainly have their differences, but in the end, those differences allow Grand Theft Auto to leave Saints Row in the dust.
But which franchise do you find yourself more drawn to? Start a discussion in the comments below!