Rockstar Games have been pleasing fans with their genre-defining titles for over two decades, but their legacy is far more than just Grand Theft Auto. It’s time for them to acknowledge this directly.
The impact of the Grand Theft Auto series is undeniably stratospheric. Long before the word “Rockstar” appeared into the open-world cosmos, their original moniker of DMA Design was splashed across the cityscape cover of 1997’s Grand Theft Auto. Initially developed as a title known as Race ‘N’ Chase, the key elements that fans would come to love, were deep in the DNA of the developer’s intent. With Grand Theft Auto 3 revolutionizing the industry in 2001, it is understandable why after all these years, Rockstar Games are still streamlining their focus on these flagship titles.
Yet, while it should be a time for celebration and nostalgia with the announcement of the GTA Definitive Edition remasters, it feels like another missed opportunity for their back catalog. Rockstar didn’t win over players with the Grand Theft Auto series alone, their success was afforded to them by their eye for publication too. If the Grand Theft Auto series was a pivotal moment for the open-world genre, then I don’t think it is too far a step to say the much-beloved Max Payne series did the same for third-person-shooters.
Born from the same era of cinematic presentation ala Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid, the hunger to experiment with the boundaries of relaying a stylistic narrative was heavily felt in Remedy’s noir-driven addition to the genre.
Blending gorgeous John Woo / Tsui Hark adjacent ideas with at-the-time stunning visuals, Max Payne and its criminally underrated sequel (The Fall of Max Payne) have more than earned their place in the pantheons of Rockstar’s oeuvre. Even if you want to play the Remedy developed era or Rockstar’s self-developed and published Max Payne 3, you’re going to struggle in this day and age.
Unless you’ve still got a seventh-generation console or a capable PC, Max Payne 2 and 3 are unavailable to be consumed via the Microsoft Store or the PlayStation Network. Sure, other titles in their library such as L.A Noire and Bully have received some remaster / port treatment, but even then those efforts didn’t feel substantial.
In the case of Bully, the version available for PlayStation 4 isn’t even a port of the Xbox 360 Scholarship Edition, but merely the PlayStation 2 version running via emulation. For a developer that revels in the support and opinions of their fanbase, why is it that Rockstar continues to remain quiet on anything that isn’t Grand Theft Auto?
Money is king
The most obvious culprit for Rockstar’s dismissal of their previous IPs is money. Grand Theft Auto 5 is raking in tonnes of revenue, going eight years strong, thanks to the enormous success of GTA Online. Aided by the in-game purchases of Shark Cards, a form of digital currency purchased with actual cash, GTA 5 and GTA Online reportedly brought in over $3.37 billion of revenue for Rockstar Games and parent company Take-Two Interactive in FY2021 alone. Grand Theft Auto 5 is an unstoppable force, whether you like it or not.
So much to the extent that like the Definitive Edition remasters, it will be getting another port to the current generation of consoles. Taking a few cues from the Bethesda book of releases, Grand Theft Auto 5 has become a staple for any generation of consoles, much like Skyrim alongside it. However, it doesn’t just have to be GTA that dominates the spotlight. It looks like the fans feel the same too, as the Expanded and Enhanced trailer for GTA 5 was released to a devastating amount of dislikes and unimpressed fans.
Controversial titles like Manhunt, the Max Payne trilogy, and even the original Red Dead precursor, Red Dead Revolver are all ripe to be revisited with fresh eyes and next-generation concepts. While the likes of Max Payne may prove more difficult due to licensing agreements between Remedy and Rockstar Games, there was a time when games like Red Dead Revolver proved that Rockstar could tap into a more over-the-top and outlandish style of aesthetic, approach, and gameplay.
Rockstar Games are so much more than Grand Theft Auto. Of course, I, like millions of others, have enjoyed countless hours of cruising the streets of Vice City or soaring across the skies of San Andreas in a Hydra jet. But beyond the horizons of Liberty City, there are equally respected and innovative games waiting their turn for a well-earned reappraisal. Hopefully, there will be a day when their wider library is more accessible and hell, maybe even sporting a bit of next-generation polish. Your move, Rockstar.