There’s no denying that Rockstar is one of the greatest video game development companies of all time. They have an incredible string of games behind them, and each product they release is almost a guaranteed winner. In an age when releases are becoming less and less predictable (see the disastrous launch that was Cyberpunk 2077), Rockstar remains a shining example of guaranteed quality and value.
The company released two games throughout the 2010s – Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2. Both amazing games and both instant classics. But which title is the better game remains a source of debate and contention.
10 RDR 2 – The Story
No one has ever really come to the Grand Theft Auto series for a good story. The stories aren’t bad by any means – in fact, some of them are quite great and have aspirations to be taken seriously on their literary merits (Grand Theft Auto IV). And while Grand Theft Auto V had a fun and engaging story, the one found in Red Dead Redemption 2 was simply superior.
It was more expansive, it was more meaningful in a thematic sense, and above all, it was far more emotional and tragic. Tragedy goes a long way.
9 GTA V – The World
The world found in Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous one indeed. However, some people have been critical towards the map, often pointing out the long slogs between locations, the general emptiness and barrenness, and lack of things to “do.”
That’s certainly not the case with Grand Theft Auto V. Not only does it have a meticulous and lovingly recreated Los Angeles, but it’s incredibly dense and packed with things to do, people and things to see, and random events that make the world feel lived in.
8 RDR 2 – The Characters
The three main characters of Grand Theft Auto V are quite good, and Trevor is an undeniable icon of gaming. But the cast of Red Dead Redemption 2 is simply on another level. Like GTA V, it contains a beloved protagonist in Arthur Morgan.
But unlike GTA V, its side characters prove just as captivating and interesting. Everyone is given a unique personality, subplot, and/or character arc, everyone has their “thing” and everyone proves memorable – from secondary protagonists Dutch and John all the way down to Lenny and Kieran.
7 GTA V – The Pace
If there’s one thing that Red Dead Redemption 2 is often criticized for, it’s the sluggish pace. The game is very meticulous in its tone and pacing, resulting in long stretches of serene horse riding (some may say boring stretches), needlessly extended animations when foraging and skinning animals, cooking food and crafting items, etc.
On the other hand, Grand Theft Auto V is a no-holds-barred adrenaline shot, both in terms of story and gameplay. In some respects, RDR 2 is the better “experience” but GTA V is the better game.
6 RDR 2 – The Graphics
It’s a foregone conclusion that Red Dead Redemption 2 looks better than Grand Theft Auto V. GTA V is five years older after all, and in the larger gaming timeframe, five years can be a lifetime. Red Dead Redemption 2 looks better in nearly every aspect, whether it be fine detail in things like hair, clothing, environments, weapons, or in the exquisite lighting system.
Various stills from RDR 2 could legitimately make for great paintings. The same can’t really be said about GTA V (not that the game doesn’t have its fair share of beauty).
5 GTA V – The Lack Of Realism/Sense Of Fun
Tied with the “sluggish pace” criticism of RDR 2 is its strict adherence to realism. Some people find this an artful intent, others think it needlessly frustrating. To some, the game’s weirdly strict adherence to realism overwrites its sense of fun, limiting imagination and creativity (not to mention slowing the pace to a snail’s crawl).
GTA V doesn’t have this problem. If RDR 2 is a prestigious Oscar-bait drama, then GTA V is a goofy comic book movie. It’s unhinged, it’s glorious, but above all else, it’s a ton of fun to play.
4 RDR 2 – The Dialogue
There’s nothing wrong with the dialogue in Grand Theft Auto V. It’s serviceable and it certainly does the job. But there’s nothing really great about it as it doesn’t stand out in any meaningful way. The dialogue of Red Dead Redemption 2 looks positively Shakespearean in comparison.
The pace and flow of the conversations are wonderfully captivating, the wording poetic and beautiful, and the game is filled with memorable quotes like, “Maybe when your mother is finished mourning your father I’ll keep her in black. On your behalf.”
3 GTA V – The Online Component
Everyone loved the main component of Grand Theft Auto V, but the online portion has taken on an unbelievable life of its own. The online game has remained incredibly popular for seven years now and shows no signs of letting up. It has raked in billions of dollars and is still played by millions of players.
In fact, it could very well be the greatest open-world online game of all time – or at least the most popular. It’s what everyone had been wishing for since GTA III in 2001.
2 RDR 2 – The “Life”
Many people criticize the open world of Red Dead Redemption 2 for being too large and too expansive, with some horse rides taking fifteen or twenty minutes. This was intentional. Luckily, Rockstar has peppered the game with an incredible amount of detail, and there’s always something fun to see.
That includes unique points of interest, random events and attacks, a beautiful view, some creepy and unexplainable sight, or even just that animal so desperately needed crossing the path. It’s a lively world.
1 GTA V – The Experimentation
GTA V stands out in the Rockstar canon for its experimentation – specifically, the three protagonist system. Rockstar took a major risk in making three protagonists and forcing the player to cycle between them. It could have been horribly sloppy and confusing, and it could very well have ruined the game.
But this is Rockstar, so of course, the experiment paid off in numerous unique ways. It was a wonderful idea, it worked flawlessly, and it must be commended.
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