Today’s release of Far Cry Primal will let you experience that patented Ubisoft open world action in a new way, dialing it back 12000 years to the early Neolithic. Machine guns and jeeps are out of the picture, elegantly swapped out for bows and mammoths. It’s the tenth (more or less) Far Cry game since 2004, and perhaps the biggest break from the tried-and-true formula of the past. It’s still recognizably a Far Cry game, though, for better or worse. It’s time to flip through the history book and relive all of these games, ranking them from the worst (and, uh, most racist) to the best. Hopefully we can make it through without any bear and/or badger attacks distracting us.
1 of 10
10. Far Cry 3: Its writer claims Far Cry 3 is a dark satire parodying the dude bro culture of games and the white savior trope. Instead it comes off like an uncritical perpetuation of both. This is a game where, no matter what you do, the "noble savages" who you've been saving either convince you to murder your friends before also murdering you, or else are symbolically killed via the death of their leader when you and your friends decide to go back home. Yes, there's a lot of opportunity for unexpected thrills and memorable moments in the game's open world, but the story is beyond tone-deaf. In trying to mock or shame its audience, Far Cry 3 reveals its own moral bankruptcy.
2 of 10
9. Far Cry Vengeance: This Wii remake of Far Cry Instincts: Evolution was savaged when it came out in 2006, and it's easy to see why: it's an ugly, broken mess. The only saving grace is the Wii controls, which always worked for first-person shooters.
3 of 10
8. Far Cry Paradise Lost: This old-school on-rails shooter was made for arcades and has almost no connection to Far Cry beyond the setting. It's a competent shoot-'em-up for Father's Day at Dave & Buster's, but you'll probably want to pump those tokens into something that'll give you tickets.
4 of 10
7. Far Cry Instincts: Evolution: A too-quick follow-up to the Xbox-only Far Cry Instincts can't shake the feeling of a blatant cash grab. If DLC was a standard in 2006 it's hard to imagine this short campaign would've been released on disc. It was also released for the 360 along with Instincts under the name Far Cry Instincts: Predator; although perhaps a better bargain than buying the two Instincts for the Xbox, it's still thoroughly inessential.
5 of 10
6. Far Cry Instincts: This Xbox remake of the original Far Cry brought the game to consoles. It captured enough of what made Far Cry special, but with some concessions made to the less-powerful hardware. You can still see why the PC version was so acclaimed, though, and this remained the best console version of Far Cry until Far Cry 2 came out three years later.
6 of 10
5. Far Cry 4: This one tries to compensate for some of the missteps of Far Cry 3 by making its hero a member of the game's indigenous culture and giving the background characters a bit more agency. That means it's not embarrassing or offensive, but it's also maybe a bit too dry, with characters delivering speeches that might sound good but don't really mean anything. It also might suffer a bit from the Ubisoft game design formula, with an almost overwhelming amount of objectives and side business to tend to, but the action's more unpredictable aspects remain thrilling for a time, and a newfound focus on verticality makes it feel like enough of a deviation from previous games in the sequence.
7 of 10
4. Far Cry: The first was a PC hit over a decade ago in large part because of its state-of-the-art graphics and impressive enemy AI. That sounds incredibly trite written out like that, but they were both genuinely impressive 12 years ago. Designers are still trying to figure out how to make enemies act anything like real people would, and Far Cry represented some small but significant baby steps in that process. It's the kind of game that stood out in its day but felt almost entirely unremarkable within a few years as technology continued to improve.
8 of 10
3. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon: Remember what I said about how Far Cry Instincts: Evolution would've been DLC if it was released even just a couple of years later? Blood Dragon came out like seven years after Evolution and was still a stand-alone joint, so maybe I'm wrong. Of course Blood Dragon isn't just more Far Cry 3: it changes almost everything about the game in its pursuit of retro '80s action absurdity. Although initially exciting, Blood Dragon isn't as smart or funny as it thinks it is, and its one big joke wears thin pretty quickly. Still, this shameless indulgence of nostalgia and ridiculousness nails this specific vibe, and doesn't just offer up more of the same. Part paean, part parody, part temper tantrum over the complaints to Far Cry 3, Blood Dragon at least tries to reinvigorate the whole Far Cry thing, even if it's transparently a dead end.
9 of 10
2. Far Cry Primal: Speaking of reinvigoration, that's part of Primal's aim. This prehistoric take on the formula drops the guns and puts a new focus on stealth and hunting. It perhaps doesn't break enough from tradition—it's as familiar and overstuffed as any Ubisoft open-world game—but the parts that it gets right stand out as some of the best in the entire line. Primal isn't great, and its strong attempts to attain some kind of effectively unknowable realism basically sums up everything annoying about these games and the big action blockbuster segment of the industry as a whole. It shins when it commits to its prehistoric vision and ignores the unnecessary story and surplus of busy work, though, and offers the potential of a new and unique off-shoot, with the promise of future refinement and the possibility of growing into its own fully-formed beast.
10 of 10
1. Far Cry 2: This is the only great Far Cry game (and, indeed, one of the greatest games of the last decade) because it somehow avoids the trap that most games fall into when they try to criticize or comment on violence. Unlike Far Cry 3 or something like Hotline Miami, Far Cry 2 doesn't glorify its own violence. It is not "fun" in the traditional sense. Instead of setting up an interactive shooting gallery with an underprivileged third world country as a backdrop, Far Cry 2 explores the chaos of its fictional African country and the desperate people who inhabit it. There are no right sides, and although the game is built heavily on player choice, there are really no good decisions for you to make. It's brutal to play because the kinds of things shooters ask us to do should feel brutal, and its setting gives it real-world resonance without callously exploiting tragedy. It is more or less uncompromising, which is exceedingly brave and rare in a medium that's built almost entirely on flattering and empowering the player.