Rockstar Games has proven themselves to be more than just a game development studio over the past 22 years. They’ve become a benchmark to surpass, an institution envied by other studios.
Their open-world innovations, their storylines, their characters all exist as proof that Rockstar doesn’t half-bake anything. They make sure that anyvideo game they develop is one that pushes the boundaries of what can be done on gaming consoles, time and time again.
Indeed, Rockstar’s epic Grand Theft Auto anthology video game series is one of the world’s biggest and best-selling franchises. It has advanced open-world gaming with every iteration, leaving other studios clamoring to keep up with what they can pull off.
So, Rockstar Games is a bonafide industry titan. But of all their works, which ones truly sit atop as the best? Here’s our look at the absolute best Rockstar video games of all time.
10. The Warriors
The Warriors is an adaptation of the classic film, which was itself based on Sol Yurick’s book. Rockstar’s video game adaptation expands the story from the movie and shows a more fully-fleshed-out world inhabited by the street gangs of New York.
Blessed with a story that was already a classic, all Rockstar had to do was get the gaming mechanics right—and they succeeded, for the most part. It’s engaging and fun, and fans of the film will notice many actors returned to voice their characters. Can you dig it?
9. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Upon release, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a level up for the entire franchise, setting the foundation for higher heights.
It introduced us to a large property market and the gang culture of 1990s San Andreas (a decoy for Los Angeles), along with classic GTA characters like Samuel L. Jackson’s Officer Tenpenny. The game was a playground, the likes of which gamers hadn’t seen before.
The story isn’t as overtly memorable as some of the later entries in the franchise, but it was still as good a video game as it could have been. Oh, and it gave us planes!
8. Grand Theft Auto 3
GTA 3 was a huge step ahead for what would become the open-world gaming genre. Sure, open-world games existed before this masterpiece arrived, but it was with GTA 3 that Rockstar shoved their flag into the ground and goaded other studios to take it from them.
The leading protagonist was silent, the weapons were fun, and the story was forgettable, but it was all about how GTA 3 felt that made it so special. Few games have ever felt so good since.
A high-school epic for the ages, Bully isn’t exactly what it says on the tin; rather, it follows Jimmy on his journey through the underworld of the fearsome Bullworth Academy.
The game mechanics and controls are great as the player becomes deeply invested in the story, which really feels like a GTA game that happens to be set inside the microcosm of a school.
Few games are as original as Bully. And while it stirred up controversy upon release, both time and hindsight have caused it to become one of Rockstar’s most classic games.
6. Grand Theft Auto 5
“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Originally a quote about Alexander the Great, but just as fitting for Rockstar Games and how they must have felt after releasing Grand Theft Auto 5.
This open-world sandbox game was stunning in its scale and depth, not to mention the outstanding graphics and record-smashing sales. But in hindsight, GTA 5 isn’t the best game in the franchise.
Though the gameplay was fun—and Trevor was one of the greats—the game lacks a gripping panache, the kind of hold that would rank it among the best games ever made. However, that shouldn’t detract from the hours of sheer entertainment that it offers.
5. Max Payne
Apart from the fact that it’s a video game, Max Payne feels like it belonged in the cinema (even though Mark Wahlberg’s eventual film adaptation of Max Payne was critically panned upon release).
Max Payne’s narrative and the visceral nature of the character are some of the best examples of Rockstar’s commitment to telling morally complex yet brilliant stories, with the game spawning sequels thanks to its resounding success.
The gameplay still holds up—yes, even by today’s standards—and the adventure that the player embarks upon with Max has not ever been forgotten by those that caught it way back when.
4. Grand Theft Auto 4
An immigrant story based entirely in Liberty City (GTA’s version of New York City), Niko’s tale of family and betrayal is epic. With his bumbling cousin Roman by his side, the pair rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld to carve out their own piece of the pie.
GTA 4 was bold. It took away the planes of San Andreas and tightened up the sandbox, but Rockstar gave the game a deeper depth that moved open-world gaming forward yet again. The narrative was great, and it made an indelible mark upon gaming culture forever.
3. Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Revolver was the first game in the series. It was a good game, but nobody cares to remember it now… if only because Red Dead Redemption arrived on shelves. It was everything that gamers had ever asked for in a violent cowboy game.
The story is an incredible journey through the Old West—a tale of revenge, hatred, and government interference. We still remember the Clint Eastwood feel of playing as John Marston, hunting down Dutch van der Linde amid all kinds of bullet-storming incidents.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
There was no way that Red Dead Redemption 2 could be better than the first Red Dead Redemption game. It simply wasn’t possible. At least, that’s what we all thought.
And then—in true Rockstar fashion—Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived and blew everyone away from all sorts of angles. The long-awaited follow-up to the first game was bigger, deeper, and better than anybody expected it to be.
A prequel to the first game, Red Dead Redemption 2 gave us Arthur Morgan plus a fully interactive world plus the madness of Dutch van der Linde. The story was crafted to perfection, with the game featuring endless fun everywhere. And, once again, Rockstar pushed open-world gaming further than ever before.
1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
A shining beacon to the fact that any amount of open-world depth is nothing compared to a grand story. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City isn’t just one of the best stories Rockstar ever told—it’s one of the best stories ever featured in video game form.
Based on the classic film Scarface, we control Tommy Vercetti through the bowels of Vice City (Rockstar’s version of Miami), and there’s nothing that can prepare you for the twists and turns of his life.
It might be 20 years old now, but Vice City has never been bettered by Rockstar Games. It remains their best game because it’s still the most engrossing—and because killing Lance Vance never gets old.