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As you're probably aware, Red Dead Redemption comes out this week, and hopes are running high that it could mean a dramatic shift in popularity for westerns as we know them. Regardless of whether or not it's a hit, though, videogame westerns – too frequently dismissed by jaded critics as a genre that always sucks and always sells like shit – have been with us for a long, long time. Long enough to diversify, experiment and get really, really weird. To celebrate all this bold innovation of what's always seemed like a stale genre, we've dug up a selection of the most unusual, unorthodox and flat-out bizarre westerns we could find.
Oh, and while we realize it's going to be the first thing that pops into a lot of your heads, we'll just say up front that Custer's Revenge isn't one of them.
Above: No. NO. WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS AGAIN F**K YOOOUUU
The western: A cartoon sheriff with a sunny disposition and a Dudley Do-Right chin has to battle endless gangs of outlaws who threaten the peace in his little town…
The weird: … which is made up entirely of cowboy-themed robots. Not Westworld-style killer robots, or robots that were built for some reason, but friendly cartoon robots who herd hovering metal cattle, are hilariously protective of prize geraniums and try to rob rickety wooden trains.
In other words, it’s an extremely conventional cartoon western, except for all the robots. And that opens up all sorts of questions; why would robots, which we can assume are advanced AI constructs, choose to live in the primitive frontier civilization of the 1800s? Why do they spend their days roughhousing with six-shooters in antique clapboard towns? And why, for the love of Christ, do they cultivate hovering robot cows?
Above: Seriously, what are they going to do? Eat them? Milk them?
Are there offscreen humans somewhere who’ve created these beings to unknowingly play-act for their amusement? Or are we looking at a bleak future world, in which the machines left behind by an extinct human race remember just enough about their former masters to act out a sad mockery of half-remembered civilization? The more we think about it, the more this seems like a creepy treatise on machine intelligence instead of an innocent 16-bit shooter in which cartoon robots cheerfully blast holes through one another.
Above: It couldn’t just be that making everyone into robots makes this kind of violence excusable; that'd be too obvious