Rockstar Games: Greatest Portable Hits
The world's most infamous publisher, pint-sized.
According to multiple sources, some highly anticipated Rockstar game comes out tomorrow. L.A. something or other, with lots of guns, dead bodies and dames (ask grandpa what those are).
No surprise that it's on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Rockstar usually needs powerful tech to achieve its massive goals, but the publisher also has a rich portable history across a variety of platforms. In fact, some of the company's biggest franchises have appeared on Game Boy Advance and the iPhone.
There were definitely missteps along the way. Rockstar probably doesn't want you to know about Austin Powers: Welcome to My Underground Lair! for Game Boy Color, and we'll spare the powers that be the humiliation. Instead, we're proud to present the best portable Rockstar games.
Max Payne (Game Boy Advance- 2003)
Nintendo's Game Boy Advance will go down in history for having one of the best video game libraries of all time, largely because publishers were willing to take risks.
Case in point, Max Payne, the tale of a cop out for revenge. Rockstar borrowed ideas from the console shoot-em-up and created a miniature version custom built for GBA. Although you view the action from an isometric perspective, it still offers a thrilling experience full of blood and drugs. Definitely one of the system's best third party games.
Grand Theft Auto Advance (Game Boy Advance- 2004)
While on the subject of GBA, Rockstar and Digital Eclipse squeezed a bit more juice out of the tiny handheld with Grand Theft Auto Advance, a super violent prequel to GTA III on PS2. What's especially cool about this title, aside from it being huge, is the homage to the first two games in the series. Knowing a 3D adventure was impossible, Rockstar went with a top down perspective while incorporating elements from the newer games, like vehicle-based side missions, the weapons and heads-up display. There are no radio stations, but come on, the GBA is only capable of so much.
The Warriors (PSP- 2007)
This is arguably Rockstar's most underrated game. Everyone wants to discuss the impact of the GTA franchise on pop culture (and vice versa), or marvel at the technical achievements in Red Dead Redemption. The Warriors, meanwhile, gets swept under the rug. It was more of a one note effort that didn't produce sequels.
That doesn't mean that it failed to entertain. On the contrary, Rockstar did a wonderful job transforming the beloved 1979 film into a video game, capturing the different gangs and feel of New York. Most importantly, it's fun to bash someone's brains in.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP- 2005)
When Sony's PSP debuted in the U.S., critics complained about a lack of killer Apps. Rockstar forced most of them to change their tunes with Liberty City Stories. Whereas GTA Advance played like one of the older games, this was more like GTA III, a fully 3D adventure with cut scenes, radio stations, custom soundtracks and even an Ad Hoc multiplayer mode. It was a bit crude, but given the time, this was one of the big reasons to buy the system.
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (PSP- 2005)
Rockstar's celebrated racing franchise made a solid first impression on PSP, allowing gamers to race over 60 customizable vehicles through Detroit, San Diego and Atlanta. What separated it from other PSP speedsters is the ability to free roam through each environment in search of opponents.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP- 2006)
After achieving success with the first GTA game on PSP, Rockstar capitalized on this momentum with Vice City Stories, another free roaming and 3D title with key enhancements, including speedier load times, empire building, improved targeting and the option to bribe cops. We also enjoyed the 1980s style presentation, complete with 105 licensed songs. Nice touch.
Midnight Club: L.A. Remix (PSP- 2008)
The second portable Midnight Club upped the ante with impressive recreations of L.A. and Tokyo. Beyond that, players can race a variety of cars and bikes, then tweak these vehicles using body kits, paint styles and rims. Other cool features, like variable weather patterns, a Career mode and four-person multiplayer helped to make L.A. Remix one of the PSP's premier racers.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS, PSP, iPhone, iPad- 2009, 2010)
With two critically acclaimed PSP Grand Theft Autos under its belt, the next installment appearing on Sony's handheld seemed like a sure thing, at least until Rockstar threw everyone a curve by announcing Chinatown Wars for the DS, complete with touch screen mini-games and a drug dealing subplot, along with the usual assassination and vehicle stealing missions. DS, a kids system? We think not.
Of course, it was only a matter of time until the publisher brought anti-hero Huang Lee to other handheld platforms, even going so far as to release the game on the App Store.
Beaterator (PSP- 2009)
On second thought, The Warriors may have some competition for most underrated Rockstar effort in the form of Beaterator, the oddly titled but surprisingly enjoyable music making tool that lets players create songs within minutes, thanks to a user-friendly interface and well over 2000 audio clips; recording artist, Timbaland, co-produced it. Not nearly as exciting as a new GTA, but a solid experience overall.