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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Top 7

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  • TheElephantManchurianCandidate - May 17, 2010 9:45 p.m.

    Can't wait to hear this on Talkradar hopefully with some audio from these crazy games
  • Whizkid103 - May 17, 2010 9:47 p.m.

    Even though I hate Westerns, this was a really good article. I never realized how weird western videogames are.
  • Destruco33 - May 17, 2010 9:55 p.m.

    I am proud to say that i still have my Oddworld: Strangers Wrath
  • RonnyLive19881 - May 17, 2010 9:57 p.m.

    Strangers Wrath made buying an Xbox justifiable for me Lol. I originally got one for Conkers Live and Reloded but that game sucked(I still had the N64 version and it was the better version imo) so I was stuck with a console I thought I would never use until I got Stranger's Lol. It was so amazing and had some of the best graphics of the time!
  • Wriggly - May 17, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    @Destruco33 I can say the same, too bad it doesn't work on my 360, because I never got around to finishing that awesome game. I think God Hand was weirder than Stranger's Wrath and Rising Zan put together.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 17, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    I played a demo of Darkwatch. It was... interesting. It had some cool parts.
  • Pruman - May 17, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    Always with the Okami references...I bought the game, what more do you want from me?
  • MitsuharuSan - May 17, 2010 10:07 p.m.

    Do more than just have bought the game - it's worth it.
  • garnsr - May 17, 2010 10:21 p.m.

    Isn't Stranger's Wrath one of the Xbox games that are unplayable on 360? That makes it even less likely anyone will try it out. I can't even play mine anymore, since my Xbox conked out. I liked the Tin Star part best, it never really got around to the game, it was just a tirade about the oddity of the premise. Good stuff.
  • LordsOfTechno - May 17, 2010 10:26 p.m.

    This top 7 was just one big excuse to listen to "Johnny No More" again... well that's my excuse for singing along to the theme anyway. Rising Zannnnn~ Samurai Gun Man! Rising Zannnnn~ Johnny No More! :D
  • FlyinHawaiian13 - May 17, 2010 10:31 p.m.

    I wanted to play Strangers Wrath so bad when it came out but i didn't have a xbox.
  • Zombie711 - May 17, 2010 10:36 p.m.

    I thought red steel 2 was kinda weird. Ninjas in modern Utah who don't have acces to any guns from after the 30s
  • Lionsheadbeer - May 17, 2010 11:24 p.m.

    Where's Mad Dog Macree?
  • Hurricrane - May 17, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    man, I LOVED Stranger's Wrath. Too bad we will never see anoything more of it... poor Oddworld Residents :(
  • JoeMasturbaby - May 17, 2010 11:55 p.m.

    i bought darkwatch after an entire year of looking for it, and when i got it in the mail it froze at the first level every time. :( ive yet to actually play it.
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 17, 2010 11:56 p.m.

    The guys have reiterated time and time again on the podcast that they have considered all possibilities, as opposed to 'forgetting' entries, but I KNOW that they didn't think of Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Hustlers of Briny Gulch. That was a good Western game.
  • zer0hvk - May 18, 2010 12:29 a.m.

    I've yet to play many of these games, maybe I'll play some of them someday, great article Mr. Reparaz! Can't wait to hear all of you comment on these games on TalkRadar 102!
  • ventanger - May 18, 2010 1:45 a.m.

    Corny as hell I'll admit, but that Rising Zan theme was pretty kickass.
  • WickedSid - May 18, 2010 2:16 a.m.

    Punching chicken-like dudes in the head... for money... my dream job. Giant strawberries in an apocalyptic western that has dudes with glowing arms the spank Girls(?) whilst fighting them... pretty weird... Clint Eastllama who is secretly the last of his species and in turn is revered as a saviour by Native American allegories... That is where I draw the Line Monsieur Reparaz, Clint Llamawood definitely sounds better than Eastllama. Or does it...? Dunn, dunn, duuunnn!!!!
  • Dehumanization - May 18, 2010 2:20 a.m.

    Where is the game DUST? I love the drunk and the chinese guy that gave you money when you had none. "You have no dollar...a go..gogogog...hopeless case.."