The Rise and Fall of Saints Row

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After breaking ground with first-person shooters like Descent and redefining video game destruction with Red Faction, developer Volition, Inc. dipped its toes in a then-up-and-coming genre, the open-world adventure. Saints Row, formerly codenamed Bling Bling, served as the studio’s entry into the space, whose foundations were settled years prior by Rockstar Games’s Grand Theft Auto 3. Upon release, then, Saints Row quickly drew comparisons to the popular PlayStation 2 title; however, the so-called GTA clone introduced a few tricks not seen in other open-world games of the day. A slew of character creation options along with impressive physics significantly mixed up the gameplay possibilities, providing Saints Row a wholly unique identity.

Acclaimed sequels Saints Row 2, Saints Row the Third, and Saints Row IV further separated Volition’s “gang simulator” from the pack, with each new instalment leaning deeper into the franchise’s wackier elements. And as the accolades mounted, so, too, did the commercial success, resulting in Saints Row becoming one of publisher THQ’s most profitable properties. But not even the cash made off the backs of the Third Street Saints could keep the financially troubled THQ afloat.

The publisher’s bankruptcy in 2012 hardly impacted the series, though. Under the ownership of new parent company Deep Silver—and later Embracer Group—Volition produced three additional Saints Row experiences, including a 2022 reboot that never gained favour from hardcore fans. To some, the “GTA copycat” that eventually reinvented the genre suddenly lost its lustre, and for that, the brand suffered mightily. Within a year of the reboot’s debut, Volition closed up shop, leaving the future of the Saints in a state of uncertainty.

This is the Rise and Fall of Saints Row.

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