Red Dead Redemption 2 has convinced me to give GTA 6 a try

Lucia looks at the backseats of a car
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Across my three playthroughs of Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar Games’ profound and soul-shattering Western has never failed to stir my heart and bring tears to my eyes. Its intimate, human storytelling and weighty, believable characters have stuck with me years after the fact; their trials and tribulations are forever etched into my memory.

This had an unexpected side effect. Previously, I’d slept on Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Sure it looked like a laugh, but as a lover of story-driven games, it never occurred to me to see the series in those terms. Friends would always tell me how, in the GTA games, you could “do anything” and “go anywhere.” To me, they were always sold as fun open-world power trips rather than anything more narratively substantial. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 showed me that I’d been wrong. After spending 70 hours with the game’s roster of sad cowboys, I came to realize that Rockstar was capable of a lot more than I’d given it credit for. So when the GTA 6 trailer finally arrived, rather than letting it pass me by, I watched the preview with no small amount of excitement.

On the surface, despite coming from the same developer, it may seem as though there’s little to connect GTA 6 and Red Dead Redemption 2. One is a modern-day crime game, while the other is, essentially, a period drama. However, my time with the Western showed me firsthand that Rockstar is not only capable of shaping a realistic game world but is also exceptionally skilled when it comes to filling that world with deep, relatable characters with rich lives.

Sure, the state of Leonida, the fictionalized version of Florida where GTA 6 is set, won’t have gallant rogue Arthur Morgan or self-righteous ideologue Dutch van der Linde, but it’ll almost certainly have comparable characters of its own.  

Time and place 

Arthur Morgan

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

What gives the cast of Red Dead Redemption 2 their zest is how effectively they slot into the winding political turmoil that engulfed the post-Civil War United States. Lenny Summers, who acts as something of a little brother figure to protagonist Arthur Morgan, is constantly forced to contend with the violent and tumultuous racial politics of the time. Dutch van der Linde’s own ideological quest to escape the long arm of the law is also rooted in a very real contemporary anxiety surrounding the expanding scope and powers of the Federal Government. 

Rockstar had huge scope to create a believable and politically loaded story.

1899, the year in which Red Dead Redemption 2 is set, places the game slap-bang in the middle of a period of rapid industrialization and centralization. As the Library of Congress puts it, “Americans who were born in the 1840s and 1850s would experience enormous changes in their lifetimes” thanks to a “technological revolution.” 

It’s no coincidence then that Rockstar had Dutch van der Linde born in 1855. His tendency to see civilization as a “mess” and his romanticized view of outlaw life is rooted in a response to the realities of the period. His deeply held ideological beliefs spill out across the main story, irrevocably changing the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. Red Dead Redemption 2 is as much about ideas as it is about six-shooters, and this gave Rockstar huge scope to create a believable and politically loaded story, grounding its characters in reality to make them all the more accessible and resonant. 

Here and now

Lucina in an orange shirt

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Modern-day Florida is no less tumultuous or fraught than the old West. Albeit for different reasons. Under right-wing populist governor Ron DeSantis, travel advisories have, according to CNN, begun to warn potential visitors that “the state is ‘openly hostile’ toward people of color, immigrants, women and LGBTQ+ community members.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that “cost of living concerns have become an issue” for Florida residents. “Rents are going sky-high. Property insurance, whether you live near the coast or not, is becoming less available and less affordable.”  

It’s in this context that the opening line of the GTA 6 trailer becomes all the more poignant. When asked “Do you know why you’re here?” our hero Lucia responds: “Bad luck, I guess.” For a woman of color in a fictionalized version of Florida, this bleak sentiment rings true in a powerful way. 

Rockstar has an opportunity to address issues of sexism and racism with an elevated level of intimacy and directness.

With political tensions and economic struggles rife across real-world Florida, this opening line gave me hope that GTA 6 wouldn’t shy away from the same sorts of delicate political topics that Rockstar approached in Red Dead Redemption 2. By framing GTA 6’s narrative from the perspective of a Floridian woman of color, Rockstar has an opportunity to address issues of sexism and racism with an elevated level of intimacy and directness. In practical terms, this means we may well be in for a truly gripping story that reflects the struggles and turmoil faced by marginalized people in the modern-day US.  

An ariel view of Vice City at night

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Political and social commentary is hardly new for the GTA series. Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser famously intended GTA 5 to showcase “the endpoint of the American dream.” However, as veteran gaming reporter Stephen Totilo put it in his review of the game back in 2013, GTA 5 takes place in a “parody version” of reality which is “there to entertain you.” It’s a form of biting satire, sure, but it’s a step removed from the more immediate drama of the likes of Red Dead.   

GTA 6 feels like it could take a step further, directly addressing the messy and complex power structures that make places like Florida unwelcoming for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks. Whether or not the game manages this when it releases in 2025, I know that I’m deeply excited to see what Rockstar’s cooking up. Given the studio’s successful efforts to bring relatable human drama to the old West, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s also capable of bringing the same nuanced storytelling to Leonida. 

Looking for more thought-provoking games? Our lists of the best story games and the best RPGs may be what you’re looking for. 

Cat Bussell
Staff Writer

Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on,, and, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.