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The Top 7… Weirdest westerns

2. Rising Zan

The western: An idealistic young gunfighter fights to save his town from a gang of vicious criminals who’ve come from out east…

The weird: … the Far East, actually. As the story goes, young Johnny was a badass adventurer until the day he met a gang of ninjas, against whom his trusty six-shooter was no match. So he did what any red-blooded frontier boy would, and spent the next several years in Japan – sorry, “ZIPANG,” as the game calls it – studying to be a samurai. Somewhere along the line, he changes his name from “Johnny” to “Zan” – or, more accurately, "The Super Ultra Sexy Hero ZAN!"

 

If you really want to know more about that, you should really check out the game’s awesome theme song, which pretty much explains the whole backstory in excruciating detail:

Once he heads back home to the West, Zan discovers that a gang of Japanese (Zipangese?) weirdos who speak in monosyllabic gibberish have taken over his hometown and started massacring the inhabitants for what we assume are reasons.

This of course gives Zan license to slice them and their ninja henchmen apart in a gruesome display, occasionally making his sword cartoonishly large for more efficient murderfication. That’s just the tip of the weirdness iceberg, though, as he quickly goes on to fight giant fire-breathing dudes in turbans, floating straw dummies and walking bomb detonators that chant what sounds like “MAGIC! MAGIC!” And he does it for style points, years before Devil May Cry popularized the concept.

Also, this happens:

And this:

And late-‘90s catchphrases:

And also this, whatever the hell it is:

What were we talking about again? Westerns? Yeah, that’s pretty f**ked up for a western, huh? But is it the weirdest?

Well, there's one more entry to go, so... no. No it isn't.


1. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

The western: A bounty hunter known only as Stranger heads out into the untamed wilderness to capture wanted thugs, but eventually becomes a fugitive himself once his terrible secret is revealed.

The weird: Well, this is an Oddworld game, so it’s pretty safe to say nobody wandered into it expecting a Roy Rogers adventure. Where to begin? Let’s start with Stranger himself, who starts out looking like a weird cross between Clint Eastwood and a llama:

His job, such as it is, is to hunt down vaguely reptilian, redneck outlaws for money. This he does with his fists, his unnatural agility and a wrist-mounted crossbow that shoots tiny, but potentially lethal, critters that roam the canyons and prairies Stranger explores.

Also, the simple, salt-of-the-earth townsfolk he’s capturing these goons for are all faintly disgusting chickeny things…

… which Stranger can punch in the head whenever he’s really strapped for cash.

So, OK, that’s only mildly weird so far, right? Definitely not as weird as Rising Zan, and certainly not as laughable as Silverload. But again, this is an Oddworld game. So once you get used to the mild strangeness of the “Wild West, but with monsters” setting, it’s got another loop it wants to throw you for.


Above: And it has nothing to do with where those guys got their hats

The following is a spoiler, but given that Stranger’s Wrath is a five-year-old bomb, we figure most of the people who were ever going to play it already have. See, the reason Stranger’s doing all this bounty hunting is because he’s saving up for a special operation. It turns out the Stranger is the last of a centaur-like species known as the Steef, which makes him the most sought-after bounty of them all. Long story short, his identity is discovered, he becomes a fugitive and is taken in by a clan of fish-like American Indian allegories who worship him as their savior.


Above: Also he gets to wear badass armor after that point 

From there, it’s a bittersweet story about environmentalism, water rights, native rights and massive, D-Day-style raids against literal corporate overlords, which is a pretty far cry from the game’s more formulaic, bounty-hunter-western beginnings. Oddly, though, it never really stops being a western, in structure or in setting, and it certainly never stops being weird. Factor in that it’s one of the most criminally overlooked games of the last generation (that isn’t Okami), and we couldn’t not give it the No. 1 spot.

May 17, 2010

 




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40 comments

  • INFINITYGAUNTLET - July 28, 2010 7:22 p.m.

    Always felt that Darkwatch was underappreciated, myself. And everything Oddworld is just a pure classic in my book. Excellent list/read!
  • bonerachieved - May 20, 2010 6:25 p.m.

    I loved Stranger's Wrath. Such a good game. I'm about to go back and replay Oddworld: Munch's Odyssey.
  • shyfonzie - May 20, 2010 2:57 a.m.

    God hand guy gets too much enjoyment from his special moves.
  • TheBoz - May 19, 2010 9:17 p.m.

    Freddy Pharkas I have very fond memories of it, was one of the earliest PC games I ever bought. When I saw article I was looking out for that game big time. I think I got bored after a couple of weeks and just had it gathering dust ever since. True classic. Downloaded it recently off Abandonia for free.
  • LizarDAZZLE - May 19, 2010 5:47 a.m.

    oi.... Again wit deh ohkemees... Kids these days just can't seem to stehp talkin' ehbouht der wolves end pehntbrushers can dey, Jenkins? Ironically my, reCAPTCHA was Mr Monicker. pretty ironic.
  • Cyberninja - May 18, 2010 10:07 p.m.

    rising zan reminds me of redsteel 2
  • RebornKusabi - May 18, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    Considering I actually bought both Okami and Valkyrie Chronicles when they released, is it any surprise that I also got [OddWorld: Strangers Wrath] too when it came out? It helps that I liked the Oddworld series beforehand and that I tend to like games that actually TRY something new relative to the genre they base their games around. reCAPTCHA: tuscany highlights (lolwut?/)
  • sleepy92ismypsn - May 18, 2010 5:25 p.m.

    I dont think i've played a wastern but as soon as i get a ride im going to pick up Red Dead Redemption. I've been wanting to try some of the oddworld games. Mainly abe's oddysey, but i remember watching a video about strangers wrath with commentary from one of the devs.
  • FreekinIdiot - May 18, 2010 1:19 p.m.

    Is that a jaundiced Michael J Fox in Silverload?
  • MaynardJ - May 18, 2010 11:34 a.m.

    I would buy Stranger's Wrath if only it were playable on the 360. It should be on XBLA as an XBox Original, like that other oddball gem Psychonauts.
  • Skidd777 - May 18, 2010 11:27 a.m.

    Hell yeah, Stranger's Wrath is one of my favourite games of all time.
  • philipshaw - May 18, 2010 11:21 a.m.

    I played the darkwatch demo and it was strange but not as weird as God Hand which I own and have played through. Silverload looks awful. Also the person in the bar looked a bit like Mikel Reparaz
  • FrozenImplosion - May 18, 2010 10:18 a.m.

    Yay! Right when I saw the title I thought Stranger's Wrath. That was like my favorite game on the xbox!!
  • Llanthas - May 18, 2010 7:55 a.m.

    "weirdos who speak in monosyllabic gibberish have taken over his hometown and started massacring the inhabitants for what we assume are reasons." Best line of the week. LOL well done, sir... I'm going to use it in future conversations.
  • Lolspamm0r - May 18, 2010 6:15 a.m.

    I loved Stranger's Wrath, i kind of miss it now that my Xbox is broken...
  • gmilf71 - May 18, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    Dude I effin' love Darkwatch. Definitely one of my favorite western (the other being Red Dead Revolver) maybe even one of my favorite FPS.
  • lucklesswonder - May 18, 2010 3:37 a.m.

    Darkwatch was pretty good, but Stranger's Wrath was amazing. Found a copy on the cheap at Best Buy, and it still holds up.
  • allthegoodnameswheretaken - May 18, 2010 2:55 a.m.

    Successful RAPE!
  • Grif - May 18, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    If Darkwatch came out today I would probably give it a play through,

Showing 1-20 of 40 comments

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