With Far Cry 6 landing this October, there are bound to be some newcomers to the series wondering where to get started. Whether it's because of Giancarlo Esposito's (Breaking Bad, The Mandalorian) starring role as the villain, El Presidente, or the exceptionally cute wheelchair dog Chorizo, if you're new to this long-running franchise, we've got you covered. This is one of my favorite franchises, and I've put several hundred hours into it over the years, so below is a quick recap of what each game offers in terms of story and gameplay, followed by a summary of my thoughts on where you should get started.
Far Cry (2004)
Unless you are already a fan, do not bother with Far Cry 1. While it presented a lot of neat ideas, and the basis of what would become the "Ubisoft open world formula," it hasn't aged well. Impressive at the time of release in 2004, and pushing the Cryengine to its limit, Far Cry set up the franchise's tentpole features (like exploration, upgrades, and biomes) in a solid way, but the clunky gameplay just isn't worth the admittedly interesting story. You'll follow former Spec Ops officer Jack Carver to an unnamed tropical island to rescue a journalist who's gone missing, and take down a mad scientist conducting horrific genetic experiments. It's very much the epitome of the mid-2000's string of "buff white military man with big guns power fantasy." Again, these graphics were really impressive in 2004, but today... well, we'll just say they haven't aged as well as we'd have liked.
This game was actually developed by Crytek, not Ubisoft, so it's perhaps interesting in that retrospective sense as well. I recommend watching a Let's Play on Youtube if you're very interested. Far Cry was re-released as Far Cry: Instincts, Far Cry Instincts: Predator, and Far Cry Evolution - these are altered version of the game that were made to run on different hardware and provide different gameplay experiences. If you're dead set on playing, try to track down a copy of Far Cry Instincts: Predator, which includes the features of all the different versions as well as a more open map. Be wary though, it's brutally difficult.
Far Cry 2 (2008)
Far Cry 2 wasn't quite as well received as its predecessor, due almost entirely to technical issues. Super long load times, constantly respawning enemies and lack of the ability to save freely were compounded by textures not loading in properly, crashes, broken DRM, corrupted save files and disappearing NPCs. Some of these issues were fixed in a patch in summer of 2009, but be aware some may persist in the PC version. Disregarding technical complaints, Far Cry 2 was a smash hit among fans and transported players to a war-ton Central African nation. Far Cry 2 also introduced the map editor on PC, in which custom maps could be created for the multiplayer Arcade Mode.
What Far Cry would eventually turn into didn't quite begin here, but with the world becoming more open you can begin to see it all take shape. Far Cry 2 offered a number of features that never appeared in the series again; a swath of playable characters from different countries, class-based abilities and of course the infamous gun jamming mechanic. Far Cry 2 chose to sacrifice a lot of quality-of-life features for immersion and feels more like a survival game than a power-fantasy action game, and some fans absolutely adore it for that. Far Cry 2, and every other game that follows it on this list, was developed in-house by Ubisoft. A working version of Far Cry 2 for PC that does not require DRM can be found on GOG Galaxy, or it can be purchased for Xbox consoles through backwards compatibility.
Far Cry 3 (2012)
Ah, finally. We have arrived at what most fans consider to be the crown jewel of the franchise. Far Cry 3 is when the series finally found its footing and nailed the basics of the formula that would continue to support it for the next decade. Jason Brody, the bro-iest frat boy in the history of spring break, is on a yacht party with his rich, elitist brothers and college friends in the Pacific tropics when he suddenly finds himself trapped on the Rook Islands, a remote island nation. A psychopathic, wildly charismatic pirate king named Vaas (Michael Mando) has taken him and his friends hostage and plans to sell them into slavery. Jason escapes the camp and is rescued by the native Rakyat tribe, who bestow the ancient power of the Tatau onto Jason in exchange for a promise. Jason must overthrow Vaas and drive the pirates off the island, and the tribe will track down where Jason's friends are being held so he can rescue them. Personally, I found the experience of playing as a spoiled, rich, white boy cast into a life or death warzone with his friend's lives at stake fascinating. It's a subtle study of what kind of person you'll reveal yourself to be under that kind of pressure, and there's a reason fans largely agree it's the best story in the franchise.
From this point on, the name Far Cry came with a few promises: a psychopathic but charismatic villain who graces the cover, a foreigner protagonist getting thrown into a civil war, map-revealing towers, bandit camps, a choice of stealth or assault combat, using traps, bait and wild animals to aid you, fully multiplayer co-op campaigns, vehicles, skill trees, crafting gear from hunting animals and an unrestrained, completely open world. This is also when Far Cry started allowing itself to dip into the supernatural, which it will lean to as we get farther into the series. Far Cry 3 is still a fantastic game in 2021 and can be played on PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox, or PC.
Far Cry: Blood Dragon (2013)
Blood Dragon is a standalone expansion of Far Cry 3 in which players will take control of an American cyborg super-soldier named Sargent Rex "Power" Colt to infiltrate a dystopian post-nuclear world based off the sci-fi action and macho men movies of the late 80s (Predator, Rocky, Die Hard, Terminator). There's a lot of lasers, robot dinosaurs, big guns and even bigger muscles. Gameplay is basically a simplified version of Far Cry 3, and the entire experience lasts about 5 hours. I personally didn't really enjoy it, as I felt the charm wore off about 30 minutes in, but fans of the series largely had a good time with it. I do not recommend starting with this one. You can play it without owning or playing Far Cry 3, and it's available on PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox or PC as well.
Far Cry 4 (2014)
Though not many agree with me, Far Cry 4 is hands-down my favorite game in the franchise. Perhaps I am a bit biased - this is the only western video game in history in which you play as an Indian protagonist. And an Indian protagonist raised in the US, nonetheless! You'll follow Ajay Ghale, who brings his mother's ashes back to Kyrat (a fictionalized fusion of Nepal and Kashmir) to throw into the river. Abducted upon arrival by psychopathic but charismatic dictator Pagan Min (Troy Baker), Ajay escapes and joins the Golden Path resistance group to overthrow Pagan Min and finally lay his late mother to rest. The player must choose between warring factions within the Golden Path, led by the pragmatic Amita and the idealistic Sabal, and determine the fate of Kyrat by backing the right person. In a twist, it turns out that Ajay's father, who died before his birth, founded the Golden Path 26 years prior, and there might just be a mysterious connection between Ajay's mother and Pagan Min himself.
Mechanically, Far Cry 4 largely improves upon the gameplay elements of Far Cry 3 with the addition of ride-able elephants, air vehicles and a spectacular "true" ending I demand you look up on Youtube. The story of the base game, however, falls flat towards the "regular" ending and goes out with more of a whimper than a bang. But hey, you get to fight a few Hindu gods, including one that throws tigers at you. You can find Far Cry 4 on PS3, PS4, Xbox and PC.
Far Cry Primal (2016)
Far Cry Primal is the first and only full-length spin-off of the franchise to date. Taking place right around 10,000 BC in the Carpathian Mountains of Central Europe, Primal follows a tribal hunter named Takkar who is separated from his tribe. With the help of a gatherer Sayla, he learns the arts of taming animals and relies on teamwork with the wildlife to take down the cannibal Neanderthal king Ull. As its set in prehistoric times, Primal is missing two of the main staples of Far Cry: guns and cars. Never fear! Takkar is handy with both spear and bow, and with the help of fauna such as woolly mammoths, rhinos, elk, bears and saber-toothed tigers he has a full suite of abilities with which to take out cannibal camps.
A lot about this game works surprisingly well, and some of it does not. The lack of weapon variety is one of the big issues, leading to stagnation in playstyle about halfway through. The other issue is that the story kind of sucks. It's hard to care too much about these cave people as characters because, well, they're mostly Neanderthals. They don't have the same needs, wants, and goals as us big-brained homo-sapiens. Overall, Primal was a weird but mostly successful experiment and is worth a playthrough after you've tackled the main series games. You can find it on PlayStation 4, Xbox and PC.
Far Cry 5 (2018)
Rather than sending an American to a faraway place, Far Cry 5 sends an unnamed, voiceless protagonist to Hope County, Montana to face off against the Project at Eden's Gate, an alt-right extremist cult that has taken over the county and cut off outside communications. Far Cry is famous for having a charismatic villain be the star of the show rather than the protagonist, and that trend certainly continues in Far Cry 5. Father (Greggory Michael Bryk), formerly known as Joseph Seed, is so maniacally faithful in his own power that the player will begin to wonder if he actually is an avatar for God. You’ll be gunning down a seemingly endless supply of Peggies (cultists) to reach him and his three siblings, John, Jacob and Faith before they take over the entire county. You are going to get kidnapped about 18 times during the course of the game, and you are going to hate it more every time.
As previously stated, I am an American. I have some experience with places like Hope County in real life (I lived in a small town in rural Kentucky for a year) so I’ll speak to the authenticity of the settings. Ubisoft obviously put in the work to get them exactly right. I believe that Hope County is a real place. However, there’s nothing groundbreaking going on here — this game takes a lot of features of the previous games and perfects or streamlines them, but offers very little that’s new, and Ubisoft refuses to commit its narrative to a single theme. You will get to travel around a beautifully rendered open world recreation of rural Montana, blow things up, use cool guns, handle the best first-person bow and arrow in video games, and hunt some crazy animals with your friend Cheeseburger, the diabetic bear. Father holds the plot together single-handedly with sheer charisma. If you enjoyed the others, get this one. If you didn’t, don’t. You can find Far Cry 5 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Far Cry: New Dawn (2019)
Far Cry New Dawn is, like its predecessor Blood Dragon, a shorter game. I can't speak about the premise without spoiling Far Cry 5, since New Dawn is a direct sequel, but just believe me when I say it falls flat. New Dawn tries to lean on two new charismatic psychopath villains, twin sisters Mickey and Lou, but kind of drops the ball on them. They're definitely sadistic enough, but seem to lack the charisma to carry the poorly paced and meandering story. The map is also the same map from Far Cry 5 , but nature has retaken the land and ruined the familiar buildings. New Dawn was met with general apathy from fans, with many feeling that the story was lacking and the gameplay was recycled from the previous game with no notable improvements. I'd skip this one unless you're an ultra fan of Far Cry 5. You can find it on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
So... Where do I Start?
This was all a very long-winded way to say: begin your journey with Far Cry 3. It's the inception of the formula that's worked well for the series and put it on the map as a major AAA franchise, and features the best story in Far Cry history as well. A lot of you may recognize Michael Mando from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, as well, so that'll be a nice treat. Far Cry 3 still holds up pretty well, and with adjusting a few settings and installing a few mods the PC version can deliver a pretty modern experience while retaining the charm of the PS3/360 generation. I recommend playing Far Cry 3, then 4, then 5, then Primal. If you're a fan of 80's action movies and the idea of Duke Nukem shooting lasers at a T-Rex, try out Blood Dragon. If you're really feeling the series after that, try out Far Cry 1 and 2 (although I still recommend a Let's Play is a better way to experience the original Far Cry). And just skip on New Dawn. No one will blame you. You've got just enough time to finish all of them before Far Cry 6, my personal most anticipated game for the year, is on shelves!
Far Cry 6 releases on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Google Stadia and Amazon Luna on October 7, 2021.