Grand Theft Auto is my favorite game series of all time. That sounds like a basic answer to a tough question, but I’ve put a lot of thought into it, almost as much time as I’ve given to the series. Not only have I played through all of the single-player games multiple times, but I am also still quite addicted to Grand Theft Auto Online. Rockstar has other IPs obviously, as we prepare for the release of , another good series with a few less entries, and the Red Dead Redemption 2 trilogy, which is so much fun. The company has become known for their sprawling open worlds, attention to detail, and tons to do in these rich environments, but they have also produced a ton of racing games, a music tie-in title with Timberland, and even did Max Payne Table Tennis.
However, they only seem to be remembered for the mainstays. This means many people have missed out on the rest of their works, older games that laid the foundation for these newer titles, and those great projects that just went under the radar. Those gems outside of their main series are what I want to speak about today, in hopes that someone will pick them back up and see the genius of the company’s secondary library.
The Best Rockstar Games, Ranked
How would you rank Rockstar’s secondary library for the PlayStation? Let us know in the comments below!
Rockstar Library Rankings
Rockstar's Secondary Library Ranked
1. LA Noire (2011)
It feels weird playing a cop in a Rockstar game, but this is a chance to clean up the streets of Los Angeles and rise through the ranks of the police department from beat cop to various divisions as a detective, and experience some fascinating cases that are all a deep look into the darkest parts of human nature. This crime thriller embodies so many of the classic elements and stories of noire, while its use of flashbacks and tone drive a wonderfully fresh feeling tale. It focuses on an unlikable character, Cole Phelps, but the captivating interrogations, excellent attention to detail in the environments, and recreation of 1947 L.A. construct a world that is hard to ignore. Team Bondi developed this title, and Rockstar supposedly took interest in publishing it due to the advanced facial motion scan technology, which is still incredible to look at.
Reading suspects expressions is the key, but sometimes choosing which answer can be tricky, as the character’s responses don’t always match. The game is slow paced, requiring the player’s attention, and is possibly the most linear open world game with the company’s logo on it. This drama guides the audience through the narrative to a perfectly noire ending that doesn’t allow the player to interact with it much. Though I have some problems with the title, it’s different and inspiring, and Rockstar keeps saying
L.A. Noire is important as a franchise to the company, so where is that sequel?
2. Oni (2001)
An attempt at a unique title that blends third-person shooting and a heavy dose of the beat-em-up genre, this is a forgotten piece from the PS2 library made by Bungie (West) and brought to consoles by Rockstar. It’s flush with bullets and a fluid melee system that makes the combat quite enjoyable and the game worth playing.
Oni itself pulls many in with the gameplay, but it can be quite difficult due to being overwhelmed by enemies and a lack of saves. The other winning part of this title is its story, following Konoko in this dystopian future where most of Earth is uninhabitable and there is an oppressive police force that needs to be taken down.
The game’s anime aesthetic is heavily influenced by
Ghost in the Shell, giving it an intriguing look to go along with the world it attempts to build. The animations were smooth because of a specially built engine that helped make combat flow even better visually, but it couldn’t quite handle too much action on screen. It often dropped frames when the real brawls started. The rest of the visuals were unfortunately bland, and the level design was poor but intriguing, as Bungie hired two actual architects to help with the building layouts. Many things had to be cut, including the promised multiplayer, even after the project missed its first release window. It’s a versatile game and a fun experience, but could have been even better with the right touches.
3. Midnight Club II (2003)
Rockstar has tried their hand in the racing genre with several titles, from
The Italian Job and Monster Truck Madness to the slightly entertaining Smuggler’s Run series, but their best effort comes in the form of the Midnight Club games. I find that the second entry could easily be considered the peak of the series, but Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is also worth giving a shot for sure. Developed by Rockstar San Diego, this feels like a better version of Burnout Paradise, with a free mode that lets players explore before selecting their race opponent. The gameplay itself is fine-tuned as it embraces speed and sharpened reflexes . Midnight Club II doesn’t block off roads during a race, which means learning various routes and shortcuts is important, as well as strategy about where to make use of the nitrous oxide for the best result. The roads can be quite tricky, facing off against other racers and aggressive traffic, but earning new cars and motorcycles is incredibly rewarding and the customization of those vehicles may be the best part. There are fun characters full of personality to challenge—even if they lean too heavily on their stereotypes—a great soundtrack, and potentially hours of fun for the player to explore and challenge themselves. All of that combined with the excellent gameplay makes this title a benefit to the genre.
“Make sure your brakes are ready to bleed!”
4. Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy (1999)
Skate or Die knockoff part of the title. This Rockstar Published game is from Z-Axis, and had the unfortunate luck of coming out too close to the first Tony Hawk game, being completely overshadowed by it, except by critics and diehard fans of the sport. Skate and Destroy is seen as the more difficult game in the genre with tougher controls that focuses on simple technique, but that can still be fun and is incredibly rewarding.
Many remember this game for being chased by police officers and dogs once time runs out, or having to bail without breaking a board and maybe a few bones. The level design is really on point, mimicking visions of real locations, and the hip hop soundtrack is spectacular and helps make the game with a wonderful track list that encapsulates previous and current hits of the genre. This is a fun overlooked challenge, all to try and make the cover of
Thrasher magazine. It’s a shame that the Game Boy Color version was canceled and fans never got a follow-up, but if the company can make a game out of Table Tennis, maybe there is still hope for a sequel. Until then, why can’t I get a skateboard in GTA Online?
5. Bully (2006)
The premise for this title almost feels like Rockstar parodying their own work, where players take control of young Jimmy Hopkins as he attempts to rise through the ranks and climb the social ladder of Bullworth Academy and its various social groups while running rough shot over the surrounding town. Rockstar Vancouver crafted a fascinating narrative on a much different scale than fans were used to with a higher focus on societal aspects, romantic relationships, and where attending classes is actually important.
The school has a gothic aesthetic and is populated by fleshed-out characters. While offering various activities, the world simply feels clever and deep, well worth exploring. Gameplay is fun, minus some of the minigames or temperamental camera, but has a solid targeting system and never feels too hard. Being from Rockstar, the game had a good bit of controversy surrounding it, even though no one had actually played the title, it was thought to be overly violent and sexual.
Bully was scary enough to draw out the famed video game opponent Jack Thompson and be banned in Brazil, but continued on to sell well and proved to subvert the expectations of many. It’s certainly worth playing, and rumors still swirl about a possible sequel with the recent casting news, as well all hope to head back to school.
6. The Warriors (2005)
I had to try a game based on one of my favorite movies, and had no clue that Rockstar Toronto would be able to capture the spirit of the film so well, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The Warriors film is psychological in some ways, thrilling to see what will happen to these overwhelmed heroes as they try to make it back to their home turf after being blamed for a crime they didn’t commit. However, the game also makes it a fun action-adventure beat-em-up title. This was Rockstar’s first game to appear in HD, and it showed off some nice dark visuals and character models, while many of the original voice actors from the 1979 movie returned to give it some excellent audio.
The Warriors game is a prequel that then goes through the events of the movie, adding some fun details and interactions, but it worries more about keeping the tone than doing anything too creative. The gameplay is excellent, even if a bit heavy on the button mashing, while evolving these characters is fun. Main story missions feel gripping, but the side activities are a bit too abundant and will eventually seem repetitive, like busy work from the man. It's a rare good movie-licensed game, but if fans want the full licensed soundtrack, they will have to pick up an original copy of the game, as some tracks were removed from later editions due to copyright issues, but that is no reason to miss out on this fun brawl.
“Can you dig it!?”
7. Manhunt (2003)
Potentially the company’s darkest and most violent title, Rockstar North’s
has left a lasting impression, for better or worse. This dark tale of death row inmate James Earl Cash being forced to create snuff films or be killed is a harrowing adventure seemingly inspired by stories like Manhunt The Running Man. It’s a stealth game with a survival horror setting that requires the player to use weapons of opportunity to perform different levels of gruesome executions. Players are encouraged to stick to the shadows, as gameplay outside of the stealth mechanics feels like it loses something. It heavily encourages the silent and deadly approach, making guns harder to use as well as tough to aim with.
There are some great moments in the game, an excellent boss fight with Piggsy, and a stellar performance by Brian Cox as Starkweather, but I particularly loved that players could use the mic to distract enemies, which felt inventive. The title strikes a great tone, but it only hits that one note. There is a sequel that tries to do more with the concepts and new characters, but I’m not sure that one is worth anyone’s time.
This is one of Rockstar’s most controversial games, having been banned in several countries, and even falsely implicated in a murder that took place in the United Kingdom. The trouble wasn’t just outside of the company though, as employees inside Rockstar had threatened to mutiny over decisions made with the title, and several team members felt like they went too far.
Manhunt pushed the line for violence, but it is also visually intriguing and a lot of fun for mature players.