Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) (Rockstar Games, 2010)
Game Changers is a semi-regular column featuring games which have had a significant impact on me over the years. Games that were so incredibly stunning and awe-inspiring, they changed my conception of what a game could be at the time. Previously, I have written about Out Run, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Street Fighter Alpha 3.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the Wild West. Growing up, one of my favorite things to do (whenever I wasn't playing games or practicing spinning toy pop-guns like a gunslinger) was kick back and watch some great Westerns on TV. "Back to the Future, part III", "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr", "Tombstone", the legendary Clint Eastwood "Man with No Name" trilogy ("A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"), and of course, the John Wayne classics like "Rio Bravo", "El Dorado", and "True Grit" (to name more than a few). These films (and one show) are some of the finest examples the genre has to offer. They are far from the only cinematic representations available, however.
When it comes to games, the options are much less prevalent. When I was young, there were really only two Western games that I found to be any good, Sunset Riders and Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters. Both were multiplayer Arcade titles from Konami and both were really great games. They also both came out in the early '90s and quickly received multiple home console ports.
I acquired them (for my Sega Genesis and Sega CD, respectively) pretty much as soon as I found out about them. I spent a lot of time playing both of them and they still remain two of my favorite games to this day. But the early '90s was a fairly long time ago. Gaming changed a good bit as the years marched on.
Tons of great new games came and went but almost none of them featured an Old West setting. The incredibly few that did were either not available on the platforms I owned or were just not very good. I started to think I might never play a great modern Western game. But finally, in 2010, Rockstar Games released perhaps the greatest Wild West game of all time, Red Dead Redemption.