With the July 4th holiday come and gone, we've still got quite a weekend to enjoy here – but why waste it with something sub-standard? Case in point – Disney's The Lone Ranger film takes the 60-year old Western theme and drowns it with over-the-top special effects, a storyline that jumps all over the place, and a performance by Johnny Depp so stoic, it's almost like he's back in the land of Edward Scissorhands (but with a dead crow replacing the hand blades).
So don't waste your time on a subdued effort like that when you can celebrate the Wild West the way it was meant to be done – in video games. Red Dead Redemption is obviously your best bet, a Western done just right in terms of theme and action, as well as visuals and dialogue. But if you want a little something more old school, we've got you covered.
Here now are our six favorite classic Western games, each with something a little special to offer, whether you want to gun down varmints or bring a friend along for the ride. Because even cowboys need a posse every now and then, right?
A shooter disguised as a Wild West game, Gun.Smoke is one of Capcom's more entertaining games from the arcade/NES heydays. You control a cowboy that can shoot forward or to either side, taking on all sorts of criminals before eventually getting to bosses that provide huge bounties upon defeat. Along the way, you can acquire a few power-ups, including a horse that allows you to take a few extra hits. If you missed out on this game the first time around, don't worry – you can rediscover it through Capcom's Arcade Cabinet for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Draw!
Back in the "old days" of gaming, if you wanted Wild West action, there was only one place to go – Outlaw. Based on the arcade game of the same name, Outlaw is a two-player shootout, where friends are pitted against one another, shooting bullets to hit their opponent while dealing with a number of destructible objects, including wagons and a whole mess of cacti. Though the game seems prehistoric by today's standards, back then it was a lot of fun, establishing the roots for competitive shooters as we know them today. We just wish we could still destroy wagons…
Sunset Riders (Konami)
Konami's four-player shoot-em-up is still the stuff of legend. At one point, it was scheduled for release on Microsoft's Game Room compilation for Xbox Live, but then the developer was shut down, and hope was lost. At least you still have the Genesis/SNES home versions and the arcade game to turn to. Up to four players can jump into this wild shoot-em-up, running along the topside of a cow herd and shooting at anything that moves. Oh, and let's not forget stopping into bars and getting a quick little "power-up." Thanks, darlin'.
Express Raider (Data East)
Who says you never get to be the bad guy? In Express Raider, there are opportunities galore. You play a bank robber who mounts a daring takeover of a moving train, avoiding signs in the process while taking on opponent after opponent. Some are more challenging than others – like the guy pushing a stack of crates your way – but beating them with punches and kicks is a ton of fun. We love the bonus stages as well, where you get to work on your shooting skills while collecting cash. All in a day's work.
Mad Dog McCree (American Laser Games)
At one point, American Laser Games thought it would be a good idea to make light gun shooter games using real actors, having them mimic activities as if they were in a real gunfight. The first game to use this process was Mad Dog McCree, which features some of the worst acting you'll find in a video game. But that's what makes it so special – it's unintentionally hilarious as you watch each situation play through, even if you're on the losing end of a bullet. A special HD version (careful with that wording) is available for download now on PlayStation Network. If you've got a Move controller, feel free to draw, pilgrim.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Oddworld Inhabitants)
If we're going to give a nod to Wild West games, we dare not forget about the Stranger. The star of Stranger's Wrath really helps it go along, especially in the game's second half, when the story takes a genuinely surprising turn. The game also benefits from creative gameplay, whether it's winding up a bad guy into a vacuum or using living ammunition to bring them down to size. Its exquisitely drawn world and fantastic voice work go a long way as well. You can check out a new HD version of this game on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita now. We highly suggest doing so.
See you next week on The Games of Summer!