Every Rockstar Game Ranked Worst to Best
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Every Rockstar Game Ranked Worst to Best

They’ve helped change the way we play video games, but which Rockstar Studios game is the best of the best?

Rockstar Games has been thrilling gamers for over 20 years. They’ve reshaped how we think about games by introducing concepts like “open-world” and “sandbox.” They’ve always pushed boundaries with mature content. Even as other developers tried to copy their style, Rockstar kept setting the bar higher, proving why they’re one of the best blockbuster game makers.

But Rockstar’s game collection is more interesting than you might think. If you dig deeper into their history, you’ll find some forgotten gems. Some of these games should stay lost, but others are just waiting for people to rediscover them. They’re definitely worthy of the Rockstar logo, known for making some of the most exciting and acclaimed games of our time.

Before we jump into the list, it’s important to note a few things:

This list will only feature games that were both developed and published by Rockstar. This means that games like the initial two Max Payne titles and Space Station Silicon Valley won’t be included. However, titles from developers that Rockstar later acquired and integrated, such as Angel Studios, Inc., will be considered.

20. Evel Knievel

A game inspired by the legendary stuntman Evel Knievel could have been a real blast. However, this rather obscure Game Boy Color title aimed to deliver that excitement but ended up feeling like a poor mix of Excitebike and a forgettable platformer.

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The only thing that keeps this game from being at the very bottom of the list is its sheer oddity. I mean, who would have thought of an Evel Knievel game where you ride your motorcycle through Alcatraz or leap over a bunch of hillbillies while occasionally attempting to replicate Evel Knievel’s real-life stunts? It’s definitely something out of the ordinary.

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19. Wild Metal

Rockstar took on the task of publishing the Dreamcast version of a DMA title that has mostly faded into obscurity over the years. However, back in its heyday, Wild Metal did manage to catch the attention of a few gamers. This game brought an interesting twist to the world of vehicular combat with its tank vs. tank battles, offering a fresh take on the genre along with enjoyable multiplayer options. Moreover, the game’s expansive levels hinted at Rockstar’s early foray into open-world gaming.

Unfortunately, when you delve into the game itself, it’s a bit of a disappointment. Wild Metal is far from visually appealing, struggles in the performance department, and the limited action it provides fails to captivate players. It’s become more of a relic from its era than a timeless classic, with little to hold one’s interest in the present day.

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18. Beaterator

Beaterator stands out as an eccentric addition to Rockstar’s collection. Essentially, it’s a modified music mixer tool designed for the PSP. Don’t expect much traditional gameplay here because the core of this title feels more like an intricate application than a game that gamifies music mixing.

While Beaterator is undoubtedly ambitious and unique (words that often come up even when discussing Rockstar’s less stellar releases), it’s hamstrung by several technical limitations. These issues not only hinder its effectiveness as a music tool but also push it dangerously close to being dismissed as a video game. It’s a missed opportunity considering the potential for a more engaging experience with the technology at hand.

17. Smuggler’s Run

Smuggler’s Run deserves credit for its role as a PS2 launch title, which was fairly impressive in its own right. The game’s expansive, open levels provided gamers with a glimpse of the new console’s capabilities, and the chance to assume the role of a smuggler (or any kind of criminal) was a rare and intriguing proposition in gaming at the time.

However, despite its faint resemblance to what we now associate with modern Rockstar games, Smuggler’s Run is ultimately held back by its simplistic driving and racing mechanics, which mainly serve as a means to guide players through the vast environments for technical showcase purposes. It falls into the category of games from that era that might briefly entertain nostalgic players for a mere five minutes before the realization sets in that it lacks lasting appeal.

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16. State of Emergency

While it’s true that Rockstar wasn’t the developer of State of Emergency (credit for that goes to VIS Entertainment), the presence of the Rockstar logo on the game’s box was a significant deal during a time when Grand Theft Auto 3 was taking the gaming world by storm. Despite initial similarities to GTA 3, particularly in terms of its violent nature and controversial content, the State of Emergency failed to live up to those expectations. Gamers anticipating an open-world crime epic were met with a relatively confined, arcade-style 3D beat-’em-up game. Unfortunately, the game was plagued by subpar controls and repetitive gameplay.

However, it’s worth acknowledging that the State of Emergency wasn’t entirely without merit. Occasionally, it showcased glimpses of a more enjoyable arcade-style experience, almost resembling the kind of action-packed gameplay one might expect from something like Smash TV. This game served as a reminder that not everything that attempts to push boundaries and provoke can achieve the same level of success.

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15. GTA Advance

In contrast to the Game Boy Color adaptations of GTA and GTA 2, GTA Advance stands out as its own distinct game. This title serves as a prequel to GTA 3 and strives to capture elements of that game while adopting a top-down visual style reminiscent of the franchise’s earlier entries. Remarkably, from a technical standpoint, it pushes the boundaries of what the GBA hardware could achieve, although it’s worth noting that it was released in 2004, towards the end of the system’s life cycle.

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Regrettably, GTA Advance’s defining feature has always been its existence rather than its gameplay. Unlike the GBA adaptations of Tony Hawk and Max Payne, this game’s impressive technology falls short of delivering the console-like gaming experience it aspires to provide. Revisiting the top-down GTA games is always a challenge, but GTA Advance can’t even rely on the “for its time” label that often elevates older games in the series.

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14. Midnight Club: Street Racing

Similar to Smuggler’s Run, Midnight Club found itself in a situation where it was technically impressive but lacked a clear direction. It was part of the PS2 launch lineup and brought ambition and an intriguing concept (it actually predated the Fast and the Furious franchise in tapping into the emerging street racing trend). However, despite its promise, the game struggled to fully realize its potential. 

Midnight Club introduced a roaming and challenge system that was conceptually interesting but fell short in terms of entertainment value. The races themselves suffered from somewhat floaty driving mechanics that always felt slightly off, detracting from the overall experience.

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While it’s true that Midnight Club was one of the stronger titles in the somewhat lackluster PS2 launch lineup, most players were better off opting for Ridge Racer V instead. Nevertheless, this game marked the beginning of one of Rockstar’s more intriguing and underrated franchises, a story we’ll delve into shortly.

13. Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory

While Smuggler’s Run 2 was undoubtedly an improvement over its predecessor in almost every aspect, it also highlighted the limitations inherent in the series’ core concepts. The game hit the shelves just a week after the release of Grand Theft Auto 3, and as a result, it felt outdated right from the start. Navigating deserts in dune buggies and occasionally collecting packages simply couldn’t compete with the expansive experiences offered by modern GTA games.

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However, it’s worth noting that Smuggler’s Run 2 did have some impressive physics for its time, and its unique multiplayer modes often go underappreciated. As we move closer to discussing must-play and historically significant games, Smuggler’s Run 2 doesn’t quite fit into either of those categories.

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12. Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 stands out as a rare Rockstar sequel that not only fails to significantly enhance its predecessor but arguably falls short in comparison. The game’s expanded shooting mechanics actually detract from the overall experience, and it neglects to address some of the major technical issues that plagued the original. Moreover, the heightened levels of violence in this sequel don’t quite have the impact one might expect; instead, they come across as somewhat cartoonish and shock-driven, undermining the original game’s most intriguing thematic elements (more on that later).

However, there are redeeming qualities in Manhunt 2. At its best, the game still delivers the stealthy thrills and scares that made the original title so memorable, with scattered moments that leave a lasting impression. It’s disappointing because this game feels like a missed opportunity from a company that should have been hitting its stride during that period.

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11. Midnight Club 2

Arriving a few years after the original Midnight Club, Midnight Club 2 takes the potential of its predecessor and transforms it into something far more engaging. The introduction of several new gameplay mechanics greatly enhances the driving experience in this sequel, and the world of Midnight Club 2 feels like a collection of well-designed courses rather than a haphazard assortment of streets and alleyways.

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Despite being a considerable improvement over the original game in every aspect, Midnight Club 2 does face some challenges when compared to its competition. Not only does it fall short compared to the later entries in the Midnight Club series, but it also lacks the sheer speed and unique gameplay features that set apart other arcade racing titles from the same era. Additionally, while the game certainly exudes style, some of its choices may appear more questionable in the context of 2023.

Every Rockstar Game Ranked Worst to Best

10. Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Table Tennis will forever remain an anomaly, primarily designed as a testing ground for Rockstar San Diego to explore the capabilities of the Xbox 360 hardware. Its game modes, characters, and gameplay are undeniably limited. While Rockstar had the opportunity to inject their distinctive style into the game, it chose a different path, resulting in a surprisingly straightforward gaming experience.

Nevertheless, for what essentially amounts to the Xbox 360’s modern take on Pong, Table Tennis manages to deliver a great deal of enjoyment. Its physics are satisfying, the multiplayer aspect is robust, and the game taps into a fundamental gaming pleasure that can bring a smile to your face. It’s more than just the joke game it’s sometimes perceived as, but it doesn’t quite transcend that classification by much.

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Coming up next are the final 10 games from our list of 20! Get ready for more gaming insights and reviews in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

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