Saints Row has always been a weird series. While the first tried to capitalize on the open-world bandwagon two years before Grand Theft Auto IV arrived on Xbox 360 and PS3, it was slowly starting to play the crazier madness that GTA IV had abandoned. It got to the point where you had to pilot a ship from the future in Saints Row 3, and Saints Row 4 became sort of a 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 stacks up against its older siblings, and to see , where each installment compares to the rest of the series.
5th Sacred Series (2006)
The original Saints Row came out in 2006, and boy does it show. Due to its dated graphics, stiff movement, and dated open-world design, the first game in the Saints Row series is a bumpy ride. The game desperately wants to be GTA III, but lacks a lot of the polish that made GTA III a classic.
The writing isn’t as fun or interesting as Rockstar’s title, nor is the gameplay as varied as later installments. It feels more like a game created by an AI than one with soul and passion like later entries. Even if you could get it on Xbox for a few bucks, you’re better off skipping that first foray and going straight to the sequels.
4. Saint’s Row (2022)
The franchise reboot was doomed to fan death before it was even announced. How do you top the fourth installment where you used super powers to fight an alien army? The only way up was down, which perfectly describes this latest game.
Saints Row 2022 is far from the disaster many have hyped, but it’s not the best in the series either. At its best, the newest game in the franchise is a perfect time killer when you need to blow off some steam. It looks and plays well, and the writing may elicit a chuckle from you here and there, but that’s not exactly what fans wanted out of a reboot.
3. Sacred Row 4
Saints Row 4 went all in on madness. Within the first hour you become President of the United States, Keith David is your Vice-President of choice, and you are thrown straight into an alien invasion. After all of this, you’ll find yourself in a Matrix-esque version of Steelport, armed with superpowers that allow you to run at supersonic speeds, use telekinesis, elemental explosions, and more. It’s an insanely good time, but it feels less like a Saints Row game and more like a sequel to Prototype or Crackdown.
Also, it’s hard not to compare Saints Row to other superhero games that have fallen a bit short. While the abilities were fun, they weren’t as flashy or fleshed out as in Infamous 2 or Prototype 2. Also, the various missions where you don’t have your powers make for an inconsistent experience.
Although Saints Row 4 was critically well-received at the time, it had a rather divisive feeling among fans, who felt the series jumped the shark. Still, if you find it on sale, it’s worth checking out.
2. Sacred Row 2
Saints Row 2 is often considered the culmination of the series. The game’s personality makes it a fan favorite, as it strikes a perfect balance between earlier GTA humor and the crazier antics of later Saints Row games.
The writing still holds strong and will keep you laughing throughout the 20-hour adventure. It’s hard not to feel your inner 12-year-old getting dizzy as you take on missions that spit out feces-filled sewage. Sure, its gameplay hasn’t aged either, as gunplay feels dated, but its mission design and focus on pure fun definitely make this entry worth checking out.
1. Saints Row: The Third
While some fans will tell you that 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 third part of the franchise finally took the silliness of it all and turned it into a full-fledged cartoon. In one minute, you jump out of a plane only to fight a street gang of masked luchadors, and you’re even transported to a Tron-like computer world. It makes for a crazy ride that gets better the longer you play. Thanks to the numerous new releases, it has also been refined the most, making it the most accessible and entertaining game in the series.
It starts out slow, with the first few hours being glorified tutorials, but once it picks up, it’s an adventure that’s hard to put down.