Saints Row: The Third, the game historians will one day recognize as the first time a GTA-style release was actually funny, is currently free on the Epic Game Store.
Originally released in 2011, last year saw the GTA-like open world murder-fest get a remastered version, upgrading the graphics to how you wrongly remembered them looking from the first time around. Costing $40, some felt it a steep ask for a decade-old game—those people will likely be more amenable to its current price of nothing at all.
Saints Row: The Third was, I will contentiously argue, the first good Saints Row game. The first game was a nasty, revolting misogynistic mess of utterly embarrassing frat-boy nonsense. The second game had a hefty hangover of this, but also included a minigame that allowed you to spray thousands of gallons of human shit across picket-fenced neighborhoods, so was significantly better. The third, or indeed The Third, finally realized the series’ purpose: not to try to awkwardly be best friends with an uninterested GTA, but to instead become pure, joyous idiocy.
It was, in the most peculiar way, an incredibly mature exploration of incredible immaturity. Utterly puerile, bursting with low-brow gags and undeniably offensive jokes about strip clubs and enormous purple dildos, it was also a game that allowed so much silliness to be a part of its core that at one point it turns into a text adventure.
It’s sexist. Let’s not pretend it isn’t. It’s uncomfortably so in places. But at the same time, it was one of the first times I can remember playing a game as a female character, and having the game notice and refer to her as such, including in all recorded dialogue. In fact I played as a Latina woman, and again, I’d be hard-pressed to think of another game pre-2011 that included that as one of a number of choices. Meanwhile the Saints gang has as many women as men, and they’re interestingly varied and depicted. This was stuff other games simply weren’t doing. Which makes it something of a shame that all other women in the game were inevitably in their bras, and being called “bitches.”
I shall now further infuriate all dedicated Saints Row II fans—inevitably already leaving comments before they’ve read this far—by saying that the actual best game in the series was Saints Row IV, because it took the absolute lunacy of The Third, and cubed it, including the funniest script of any game I’ve ever played. That was a game that hired the original actors to recreate the They Live fight scene. You can’t top that.
I’m somewhat disappointed to learn that developers Volition consider the series to have gone too crazy, intending to reel it back in for next year’s franchise reboot. Boo, I say. Cowards, I call them. There is always a stupider place to go, and yet almost no games ever go there.