In case you’re one of the three people in the world who hasn’t heard, Grand Theft Auto V made its way into the hands of would-be crime lords everywhere last week. Rockstar Games’ latest opus has received great reviews, is one of the highest-ranked games on Metacritic, and made a record $1 billion (insert Dr. Evil pinkie here) in three days.
But what if you’re one of those rare people who don’t care about the Grand Theft Auto games? Where can you turn to fulfill that maladjusted itch for digital money, fame, and the occasional murder spree while wearing a hot dog costume? Here, in no particular order, are seven alternative crime games that are available now.
Saints Row IV
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher: Deep Silver
Play this instead of GTA V if: You always thought GTA could use more dildo bats
Let’s just get the easy pick out of the way. The Saints Row franchise is often directly compared to GTA, but that’s only because the two share so much in common. Both are sandbox games that drop you into a modern metropolis full of toys, hand you a storyline to follow (if you actually care to), and then stand back and say, “Go nuts.” Except Saints Row takes the go nuts thing and turns it up to 11. You can be an infamous street gang boss, the president of the United States, Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard, and Neo all at the same time. You can drive tanks, mechs, and spaceships. You can run very, very fast and leap tall buildings in a single bound. You get weapons that shoot rockets, black holes, or dubstep. Its main villain recites classic literature over the radio. Then, just when you think you’ve seen everything, it turns into an old-school text adventure or a 16-bit beat-em-up. Want a sandbox game that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Saints Row IV is for you.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Platforms: PS3, Vita
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Play this instead of GTA V if: You’re a fan of Saturday morning cartoons
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the fourth game in the stealth platform series about a larcenous, anthropomorphic raccoon and his criminal cohorts, Bentley and Murray. As the name implies, the story involves travelling to places like feudal Japan and medieval England to repair the Thievius Raccoonus, a book that chronicles the Cooper family’s light-fingered exploits throughout history. Unlike GTA, Sly Cooper is a light-hearted game full of charming characters and harmless cartoon violence. Its humor comes with some fine voice acting, and the various collectibles scattered throughout will keep you busy for a while. Plus, it supports crossbuy, so if you own a PlayStation Vita and a PlayStation 3, you’re essentially getting two games for one low price. Score!
Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Play this instead of GTA V if: You think all of your heists should be accompanied by jazzy piano music
If someone were to make a retro Ocean’s 11 video game, it would probably look a lot like Monaco. This is a cooperative indie stealth action title where you pull off heists as one of eight colorful characters: the Locksmith, the Cleaner, the Pickpocket, the Mole, the Hacker, the Gentleman, the Lookout, and the Redhead. It won the Seamus McNally Grand Prize at the 2010 Independent Games Festival, and it features a ragtime piano score from Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory. It’s also chaotically fun. Each level of Monaco is a disaster waiting to happen. Your co-op partners might get spotted. Patrol dogs might take a left instead of a right and sniff you out. An employee might rush in to answer a phone call the second you start cracking a safe. Suddenly, your blocky, pixelated pilferers are all lying dead on the ground, and you’re forced to start over again. Monaco is a tough game, but it’s charming and addictive. And like most indie games, its price is a total steal.
Platforms: PS3, PS Vita, PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Dennaton Games, Abstraction Games
Play this instead of GTA V if: You miss Grand Theft Auto III’s ‘80s setting
Hotline Miami is a love letter to the ‘80s. It’s a brutal and surreal noir dipped in neon pink. As the unnamed protagonist, you receive mysterious messages on your answering machine asking you to “visit” a certain address — “visit” being subtle slang for “slay anything that moves.” A variety of creepy animal masks both hide your identity and confer bonuses that alter your gameplay in subtle ways, with 35 different weapons adding in another layer of strategy as you complete your missions. You’ll wind up dead as often as your opponents, though, making each level an exercise in patience, frustration, and experimentation.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Overkill Software
Play this instead of GTA V if: You’ve watched movies like Heat and Point Break more times than you can count
Payday 2 is a cooperative first-person shooter similar to games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island. It does away with things like “plot” or “character development,” opting instead for pure action. You and up to three of your buddies pick a target using the all-new Crime Net system, and then you case the joint and get to work. You can try the stealthy approach or go in guns blazing using one of four skill trees – the charismatic Mastermind, heavy Enforcer, gadget-crazy Technician, and the super stealthy Ghost. Weapon modifications, character upgrades, and multiple solutions for each job give this budget title a fair amount of replay value.
Killer is Dead
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Play this instead of GTA V if: You’re a diehard Suda 51 fan
Mondo Zappa is an elite assassin with a cybernetic arm in a futuristic setting where moon travel is commonplace, trains are occasionally haunted, and women will sometimes sleep with you if you leer at them with x-ray specs and give them gifts. And if you’re still reading this paragraph, you just might like Killer is Dead, the latest action game from Japanese developer Goichi Suda (aka Suda 51). Over the course of 12 episodes, you’ll use a variety of mostly satisfying button-mashing techniques to execute an array of bizarre characters, like a man who can summon a tiger from a tattoo on his chest. The game’s cel-shaded visuals are very stylish, very violent, and very sexualized; dating missions called “Gigolo Mode” up the creep factor and may offend some, but those who can handle it might enjoy filling Mondo’s blood-splattered shoes for a couple of hours.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix London, United Front Games
Play this instead of GTA V if: You always wanted to see GTA in an Asian setting
Sleeping Dogs was a surprise hit in 2012. The open-world action game is an homage to Hong Kong movies that could have easily been dismissed as another GTA clone if it weren’t for its Eastern setting and its strong combat. Its hero is the quintessential undercover cop with a tragic past who works his way through the criminal underworld one seedy mission at a time. It’s not original; in fact, a lot of Sleeping Dogs’ story and gameplay mechanics are lifted from other media. But if you’re the type of person who’s seen movies like Internal Affairs, Mad Detective, and Election more times than you’re comfortable admitting, you might enjoy getting lost in Sleeping Dogs’ neon alleyways.
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