5 Best Crime Video Games Ever

Whichever side of the law they put you on, these are the absolute best crime games ever made.

There’s no shortage of incredible things video games let us do. The best games often allow us to enjoy experiences that would be impossible or deadly in real life. Maybe that’s why crime games have always been so strangely appealing.

As some of the best and biggest TV shows, movies, and books have proven, we are often more fascinated with the world of crime than many of us are willing to admit. Of course, there are limits to what those mediums can offer. We can watch Tony Soprano and Henry Hill live out that life we’re strangely fascinated with, but we have to check our darker desires to participate at the door before we go on a guided tour through that lifestyle.

That’s where crime video games come into play. They alone allow us to experience the highs of the world of crime without having to really deal with any of the negative repercussions or moral quandaries. Of course, a few of the very best crime games do force us to deal with the consequences of our actions in their own ways.

Before we get into this list, though, here are a few pieces of selection criteria to keep in mind.

We used a “cops and criminals” rule to assemble this list. Simply put, a game had to let you play as a cop or criminal (or both) in order to be eligible for consideration. From there, the more that game emphasized either committing or stopping crimes ultimately influenced its final ranking to some degree.
The rule above means that most superhero games, spy games, and military games were not considered eligible for this particular list.
For the most part, there is a “one game per franchise” rule in place for this list. However, we ultimately decided to put two GTA games on the list. It was just too hard to ignore all but one entry in gaming’s biggest crime franchise.
With that out of the way, here are the best crime video games ever made.

5. The Getaway
With due respect to every other subgenre of crime story, I have to say that there’s just something special about British gangster films. Movies like The Long Good Friday, Get Carter, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels tap into a certain style that is impossible to replicate in any other region. Unfortunately, there are very few crime games that truly utilize that same style. Fortunately, there is always The Getaway.

The Getaway tells the parallel (and often intersecting) stories of a former bank robber and a current police detective. From that seemingly simple premise emerges a genuinely compelling narrative that makes the most out of the game’s London setting through its various twists and turns.

At a time when GTA: Vice City was the toast of the gaming world, The Getaway’s limited open-world freedom and more narrative-based structure made it feel like an inferior offering in the minds of many GTA fans. Valid criticisms aside, this game’s atmosphere and specific style have yet to be bested. – Matthew Byrd

4. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Many games starring cops and criminals are the kind of open-world titles that let players stop (or commit) crimes anywhere they want. While you probably don’t think of survival horror titles when you think of video game cops and robbers, Condemned happens to be one of the absolute best “crime” games out there.

In Condemned: Criminal Origins, players control police investigator Ethan Thomas: an agent on the hunt for Serial Killer X. That classic set-up takes a hard turn left when Serial Killer X frames Ethan for murder. The continuing pursuit takes players on a tour of a city that is being eaten alive by a small army of deranged criminals.

Condemned: Criminal Origins is that kind of survival horror game that thrives on its atmosphere. Every area is brought to life with oppressive lighting and texture work, and combat is intentionally slow and simple to sow tension. Perhaps best thought of as an elaborate and lost X-Files episode, Condemned: Criminal Origins demonstrates just how grimy and terrifying the darkest corners of the world can be. – Aaron Greenbaum

3. Driver: San Francisco
While the original Driver gave many PS1 fans a fantastic cops and robbers game, that franchise eventually struggled to keep up as the crime genre evolved in the post-GTA 3 era. That’s why some of you may not know that 2011’s Driver: San Francisco is actually one of the most entertaining crime games ever made.

This truly bizarre title is built around the fascinating idea that the game’s lead character (an undercover cop) has fallen into a coma and now has the ability to inhabit other drivers. That gimmick not only affords you the ability to hop around the city and between vehicles with relative ease, but it allows you to sneak a peek into the lives of some truly strange side characters. This is just an incredibly creative take on the entire crime game concept that also happens to offer some of the most entertaining multiplayer modes this genre has ever seen. – MB

2. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Criminals going on drug-fueled rampages is a strangely popular trope in fictional media, but few games out there properly encapsulate that wild experience quite like Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.

Like Hotline Miami before it, Hotline Miami 2 is a top-down shooter that tasks players with slaughtering mobsters and pretty much everybody else. The story takes place in different time periods and stars a wider cast of characters, each as psychotic as the last. Remarkably, that structure doesn’t hinder this sequel’s storytelling. If anything, this game’s story is more straightforward than the first title.

While the narrative is slightly different, the original game’s incredible combat is almost completely unchanged. Players still have to plan out their raids tactically while also keeping a finger on the trigger. All the while, the color palette shifts through various neons. It’s enough to make someone feel like an invincible vigilante high on narcotics (until they die in one hit, that is). – AG

1. Scarface: The World is Yours
Scarface is a legendary crime drama starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who eventually becomes Miami’s drug kingpin. The movie ends with a truly epic shootout that sees Tony get shot in the back. In a truly wild twist, Scarface: The World is Yours asks you to play out a kind of “What If?” scenario in which Tony survives that shootout.

Scarface: The World is Yours is an open-world criminal management sim that picks up after the (reimagined) events of the film. Players can drive around the streets of Miami, gun down enemies, sell drugs for money, and slowly build a criminal empire via wheeling and dealing. Actually, it’s Scarface‘s various criminal empire-building mechanics that really separate it from pretty much every other crime game out there. Even the GTA titles don’t emphasize expanding your criminal network as well as Scarface does. -AG