If Not GTA VI, What Will Rockstar’s Next Game Be?

By Mark Delaney, 3 months ago
I've been playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption lately, in anticipation for both the sequel coming next month and as part of our ongoing TA Playlist game of the month. I'll save most of my thoughts for the forums and the upcoming podcast (you know, the one you're subscribed to), but suffice it to say I think Rockstar's ambition and realization of their goals are almost unrivaled in video games. It's been a joy to return to this game for the first time since 2013 in what is now my third full playthrough. The sequel has all the hype in the world surrounding it, and yet few doubt the likelihood of another Rockstar masterpiece. That sort of expectation doesn't get handed out like flyers after a concert. It's earned over many years of top-tier game development.

Naturally, that means whatever a tight-lipped studio like Rockstar is working on will forever be a big deal. Common sense says the next game to come out of the famed studio will be Grand Theft Auto VI. After that, however, is anyone's guess. With rumors swirling in all directions for years regarding projects, one of which was always the now very real Red Dead Redemption 2, I thought it would be fun to speculate on what might come next from one of the industry's titans.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is nearly here, then it's probably GTA VI time. Then what?Red Dead Redemption 2 is nearly here, then it's probably GTA VI time. Then what?

With the seemingly safe assumption that GTA VI is next in line three or four years from now, what comes after that? Here are my best guesses, ranked according to likelihood.

Unranked: Midnight Club, Manhunt

Among the most prominent games the label has put out as in-house works, these two come to mind as the types that are definitely done. GTA has, at this point, built into it a racing suite more interesting than a strict racing game like Midnight Club could ever do on its own. It doesn't feel like Rockstar would want to make a game in the genre post-GTA V.

Meanwhile, Manhunt's quiet sequel weirdly ended up on the Wii to little fanfare. These days, even as games are often exceedingly violent, Manhunt still feels like a step above the rest, like watching a snuff film. It's a very uncomfortable series and not one I feel Rockstar is willing to create anymore in a modern gaming climate — and I understand I say that in the same universe where you can still kill sex workers for refunds in GTA, but Manhunt felt more nihilistic than almost anything that's ever been done, and that's just not likely to happen again from a major studio.

5. Max Payne

After taking over the full project from Remedy for Max Payne 3, they seemed to tell the anti-hero's farewell story. Playing Max Payne 3 felt like they had wrapped it all up as a neat and tidy trilogy. Could they bring the series back for more? Possibly. Max would be even older than he already was, but in a series where someone that drunk and high can shoot guns that well, I guess they're not too concerned with realism.

Ultimately, it feels like there's some want for another Max Payne game, just not nearly enough need. Rockstar isn't one to drag out a narrative. I expect it stays a trilogy. Now, can we please get Max Payne 3 in the backward compatibility lineup?

4. Agent

Do you remember Agent? You'd be forgiven if not. The game has a long and speculative history. First titled as early as 2003, the game was at one point due out for PS2 and Xbox. It then went totally quiet until 2007 when Sony revealed that Rockstar was working on an exclusive for the PlayStation 3. Two years later, Agent was officially revealed as a Cold War-era spy thriller when Sam Houser himself, hardly seen at any E3 in recent years, took the stage to debut the title.

Over a decade later and obviously the game still hasn't released. Nowadays, Rockstar stays quiet about whether or not the game is even still being worked on, and if so, for which consoles, but as they re-registered two previously expired trademarks in 2013, and then again in 2016, it's not outlandish to think the game is still being made. The reason it's lower on this list than those details may have you feel it should be is because it seems everyone who was ever associated with the project over the past decade speaks of it as though there's nothing to say or they express great uncertainty that it will ever be made in full, like it never got far out of the earliest phase of development. Concept art leaks over more than a decade and a logo are all we've ever gotten, and it may be all we ever get.

3. New IP

I'm putting this one right in the middle of the likelihood rankings because I could really see it go either way. Maybe Agent morphs into something else (or maybe it already has), or maybe Rockstar decides to finally create one of several other games they've likely been sitting on for years. Parent company Take-Two seems to give them quite a long leash to choose their own adventure, and with that freedom maybe there need not be a sequel at all, but a totally new IP that may become the next big franchise.

Just having that yellow logo on the corner of the box art is enough to sell millions of copies, so there's little financial risk involved in terms of at least making one's money back and probably then some. Beyond that, would a new IP sell comparably to GTA V? Probably not, but nothing will until GTA VI anyway, including Red Dead Redemption 2, so I don't think fiduciary duty needs to only be defined as making the most money ever and always, or else we'd only get GTA sequels in the first place.

2. Bully

After RDR2 was finally unveiled, many began speculating that Bully would (or at least should) be next in line for the long-awaited sequel treatment. While Red Dead fans had to wait eight years between titles, 2019 will mark 13 years since Bully released, and there certainly won't be a Bully 2 in 2019, if there ever is one at all, which means they'll be waiting for even longer than that.

A new Bully with modern technology could be a lot of fun for Rockstar and for players. Rethinking the elements of the school day, playing hooky and skateboarding across town, dodging hall monitors and teachers, just generally being a juvenile delinquent, it all has the air of something with which Rockstar could do awesome things. Like much of this list, whispers of a sequel have been present for a while, and it does feel like one of the most possible thanks to the structure being quite like that in Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead. They've only put out two games since 2013, but they've both been sandbox titles, and Bully fits that bill better than most.

1. L.A. Noire

Of course, there is one title that fits the bill better than even Bully, and that's L.A. Noire. Not only does it have the sandbox, open-world layout to its advantage, something which I believe is of great importance to Rockstar right now, but it has another clear trend in its favor as well. What do Max Payne and L.A. Noire have in common? I'll give you a minute to guess.

Give up? They were both published by Rockstar, but developed by other teams. In the case of Max Payne and its first sequel, it was Remedy that built them. L.A. Noire was built by the now defunct Team Bondi. Maybe it's just because it's how I look at it, but I think Rockstar sees Noire as a game they could do a lot to improve on with a sequel. There was a lot there for a solid game but overall it was a rather up and down affair. Could Rockstar take the reins of L.A. Noire like they did with Max Payne, develop it in-house, and bring it to life in a whole new way? Of everything on this list, this one feels most likely, even as others have some more physical evidence to their existence.

What do you think Rockstar's next project will be? Maybe more importantly, what do you want Rockstar's next project to be?
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.