The success of Red Dead Redemption II’s narrative could inspire Grand Theft Auto VI, leading to a more engrossing story, with better characters.

The third-person sandbox shooter Red Dead Redemption II, released in 2018, ties players to a gang of colorful characters whose backstories are linked to the quests and environment of their living world – innovations in gameplay that the next Grand Theft Auto game could do worse to emulate when telling its story of glamorous outlaws and the costs of defying the law.

One Rockstar game series takes place in the twilight of the Wild West: the other takes place in a modern, crime-riddled metropolis. Despite the difference in eras, the Red Dead and Grand Theft Auto franchises both put players in the wish-fulfilling roles of characters who can break the rules of society. For that reason, each new release of a GTA title has gone on to influence the narrative and gameplay of the next RDR title and vice versa.

Red Dead Redemption II, a prequel to Red Dead Redemption, focuses on the PC outlaw Arthur Morgan and the criminal capers he commits as part of the Van der Linde outlaw gang. Just as GTA players can steal cars, ride across cities and pick fights with police, players of RDR II can lasso horses, fight off US Marshals and plot heists with their fellow outlaws. It’s this relationship players have with NPC outlaws that arguably constitutes RDR II‘s biggest innovations.

Red Dead 2’s Characters and Story React to What You Do

Red Dead Redemption II’s narrative heart rests with the Van der Linde outlaw gang and how their family-like bonds are tested by the encroachment of civilization upon the Wild West. Each outlaw in this group has their own stories and goals affected by the actions players take. By focusing its plot around a similar team of criminals, GTA VI could also immerse players in their world of crime by giving each criminal activity a human face to sympathize with.

Red Dead Redemption II‘s game environment draws lots of inspiration from the sandbox gameplay pioneered by the Grand Theft Auto series. Players can hustle, talk with, and fight anyone, and the wilder they act, the more law enforcers try to crack down on their behavior. Red Dead Redemption II builds on this open-world model through side-quests linked to the stories and pasts of the main characters. The player’s approaches to Red Dead Redemption II’s side-quests are governed by a subtle ‘honor’ system that shifts the attitudes of both NPCs and the player character, Arthur Morgan. If GTA VI borrows from Red Dead II‘s example, PCs and NPCs would feel more like living characters.

GTA VI Could Challenge the Player’s Moral Compass

Freedom to do whatever one wants is a kind of power – and power has a tendency to corrupt the unwary.  As the story of Red Dead Redemption II progresses, the Van Der Linde Gang slowly descends into evil, and Arthur Morgan (alongside the player)  must choose to embrace or reject the gang’s new dark path. GTA VI may (and should) wind up taking a different path from Red Dead Redemption II‘s tragic end, but by drawing on the themes of Arthur Morgan’s path to redemption, it can ask its tough questions and reward players for exploring both their brighter and darker natures.

Details are still scarce on what form Grand Theft Auto VI will take. It may draw heavy inspiration from Red Dead Redemption II or it might go in surprising directions. Whatever the future holds, the best possible Grand Theft Auto sequel will draw on the core concepts that made Red Dead Redemption II great – a sandbox environment that’s not just a sandbox, where the freedom of its outlaw protagonist isn’t constrained by arbitrary rules, but given consequences by supporting characters free to act and respond to the player in unique, surprising ways.