is a Wide Open Sandbox
series of games by Volition
. In the tradition of Grand Theft Auto
, you portray a criminal, and proceed to commit countless acts of murder, grand theft auto, reckless driving, vandalism, arson, assault, insurance fraud, theft, possessing restricted firearms, treason, and yes, even jaywalking and public drunkenness
. It has been described as the antithesis to the increasingly realistic and story driven Grand Theft Auto
series. Saints Row doesn't want you to think about the realities of life in a modern street gang, it wants you to wear a hot dog suit as you run over old ladies with a golf cart.
Games in the series so far:
Examples across the series:
- 100% Completion: An odd case, as each game tracks your completion, but not all content counts toward your percentage. As a general rule, missions, strongholds, activities, and collectibles count toward 100% completion, but diversions, challenges, assassinations, vehicle thefts, stunt jumps, barnstorming, and property ownership do not.
- Action Girl: Lin in the first game has her moments, and if your character in SR2 is female, then especially her. In SR3, Shaundi becomes one. In SR4, Kinzie becomes one in the simulation and Asha is one all the time.
- Affectionate Parody: The franchise has always approached things with tongue firmly in cheek, but by the third game, things have gone far enough toward Silliness on the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness that it's effectively a parody of open-world crime-based games in general. Saints Row IV could accurately be called the Airplane! of videogames, with almost too many references, obvious and subtle, to list here.
- A Crib Owner Is You: Every game in the series has this, but the way it is used varies from game to game. In 1, all of the cribs are rewarded with story progression, with most being unlocked after beating a rival gang. In 2, a few cribs are unlocked at the start and the rest must be bought at different locations around the city. They can also be upgraded with different decorations that are bought from within the crib itself. In The Third, cribs are unlocked in a similar way as the first game along with a downgraded form of crib customization that only changes the exteriors of the buildings. Finally, in IV, cribs were removed from the sandbox in favor of a single spaceship hub outside of the main world.
- A.K.A.-47: A couple are shoutouts, the others are clearly certain weapons with a different name.
- Alas, Poor Villain: A few stand out.
- Shogo Akuji comes across as one. Once his father arrives from Japan, his arrogant attitude feels like a complete facade to cover up his internal misery. After all, his father states outright, to Shogo's face, seemingly whenever possible, that he is actively and constantly ashamed of Shogo's very existence as a member of his family. Considering that his presumed death at the hands of Gat only comes when he confronts Gat and the Boss in a fit of rage after his bastard of a father mourns not just the loss of his surrogate son (Shogo's second-in-command Junichi), but also the fact that all he's left with is Shogo. He says this. To Shogo's face. Left at a Despair Event Horizon, Shogo tries to kill the heads of the Saints, thinking them the cause of all his problems.
- A bit of an Ensemble Dark Horse for this category, but Maero can qualify as well. He tells Vogel that his reasons for wanting the Saints wiped out isn't because they're stealing from him, encroaching on his territory, etc, but because, "...they killed my girlfriend and crippled my best friend." This is after the Boss initiated the entire conflict by scarring Maero's face with toxic waste after Maero gave him a partnership offer he didn't like.
- Alien Invasion: The plot of Saints Row IV centers around one.
- Alternate Continuity: The DLC campaign Enter the Dominatrix is framed with the Saints discussing and commenting on the cancelled project like a DVD extra, often joking about how crazy it is even by SRIV standards.
- Anyone Can Die:
- Dabbled with in the first game with the death of Lin and when Playa is apparently killed in the final mission
- Brought out in full force in the second. Sometimes by your hand, regarding Julius.
- The Third smacks you in the face with this trope, courtesy of losing Johnny Gat halfway through the second mission.
- Averted as of Saints Row IV, where it's revealed that Johnny survived.
- The Third keeps it coming afterwards in the final mission: if you choose to chase after Killbane instead of going after Shaundi and Viola on the statue, it WILL blow up. And so will they. Along with Mayor Burt Reynolds (who you'll find out is there with them if you choose to save them).
- Saints Row IV takes the cake with this one as Oleg from the Third dies... along with EVERYONE else on the planet when Zinyak destroys Earth for The Boss' insolence.
- Arc Number: In every game of the franchise, the number 31 is used prominently.
- Arc Words: The Pyramid is referenced multiple times during Saints Row 2. You and Gat break into and destroy it during one of SR2's final missions.
- It can be heard during radio advertisements, and often mumbled about by the bums and homeless people in their mad ranting.
- "It's our time now: let's get this shit started!" is said in all 4 games, in the first by Julius, and in all the rest by the player character.
- Art Evolution: There's a rather big change between the 2 and The Third designs.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Zigzagged. Some gang-bosses turn out to be powerful boss-characters, while others are just weak administrators dispatched with ease, or even executed in a cutscene. The player character himself can be said to be an embodiment of the trope from the second game onwards, but notably, he was kicking ass BEFORE he became the leader of the Saints, too. Meanwhile, Julius - the original leader - is killed in a cutscene, and rarely ever kicks any real ass, much as he talks the talk.
- A one-person example of the zig-zag would have to be Phillipe Loren from the third game. Leader of a huge criminal syndicate called The Syndicate, he's able to kill Johnny Gat offscreen, and subsequently acquires an Eyepatch of Power... but then the tables gets turned, and you kill him more or less accidentally in a cutscene.
- The apex example would be the Boss in Saints Row IV, where you're the superpowered president of the United States. President! Superpowers!! The only way to grant you more authority and more asskickery would be if Boss became the leader of the alien race and took control of their technology. And then he does just that.
- Back Seats are Just for Show: Hardtop cars with two doors but four seats can't be used to carry more than two people, but the same seating arrangement for convertibles can be used since gang members hop over sides.
- Badass Crew: You don't fuck with the Saints. By the third game, they've amassed enough power that, depending on player actions, they can openly challenge the United States military in a second Civil War. By the time the fourth game rolls around, the previous possibility is moot, because they are in charge of the United States military.
- Bare Your Midriff: Lin and Tanya in the first game, and Shaundi and Jessica in the second. You can also dress the Playa like this, if you wish.
- Bash Brothers: Johnny Gat is probably the only person in the world capable of keeping up with the Playa in terms of combat pragmatism and sheer kill totals. At the beginning of Saints Row 2, Gat is on trial for three hundred eighty seven murders. "I figure with the statute of limitations it really should be closer to two fifty." In cutscenes, the Boss and Gat can clear a room of mooks as fast as a bomb strike.
- A fake interview with him (is there any other kind when it comes to fictional characters?) reveals his kill tally is actually around 16,000, at least according to him. But would you call him a liar?
- The Boss could serve as this to Johnny if the player so chooses.
- Berserk Button: Please do not fuck with Boss' crew; if you do, it's likely that you'll end up in the trunk of a car about to be crushed...
- Don't call Phillipe Loren French. He's Belgian.
- Killbane likes being called Eddie just as much as Phillipe Loren likes being called French.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Common throughout the games.
- The first game has gang leaders Angelo Lopez, Benjamin King (who has a Heel-Face Turn and is usurped by Tanya Winters), and Joseph Price (although his uncle William Sharp is arguably the true mastermind of his operations). The overall Big Bad of that game is de-facto mayor of Stilwater, Richard Hughes, who comes in when the gang leaders are dealt with.
- The second game has The General, Maero, and Kazuo Akuji. In a format similar to the first game, once they are dealt with, Ultor executive Dane Vogel takes the stand, having manipulated two of the gangs throughout the story.
- The third game has the Syndicate, which means the rival gangs are all working together. The Ensemble is with STAG and their leader Cyrus Temple (though he acts detached from the Syndicate, rather than with them). The Syndicate is led by Phillipe Loren, but he's really a Disc One Final Boss and Killbane takes his seat as Syndicate leader.
- Big Bad: In IV, there is one main villain, named Zinyak. He's an alien. And at least 10 feet tall.
- Bilingual Bonus: Dex's annoyance with people calling them "the Los Carnales".
- Black and Grey Morality: It's a game about street gangs. What did you expect?
- One of the reasons for the Saints' huge popularity at the start of SR3 is that Stilwater is much better off (arguably) without three warring gangs and a corrupt corporation scheming to Kill the Poor. In fact, the population expects a little hijinks from the Saints now, with SWAT officers asking Saints undertaking criminal activities to please put down their guns... after autographing them.
- Black And Black Morality in the second game. At least the Saints in the first game were explicitly there to stop the other gangs from causing too much of a ruckus. The Boss is explicitly out for himself, especially when s/he kills Julius.
- Back to Black and Grey Morality in the third game; the Saints can even be outright heroic at times, if the player so chooses.
- Black Best Friend: The first game has Dex, who is the most level-headed of the Saints' inner circle. In the second and third games, there's Pierce, who gets no respect.
- The fourth game has Pierce again, but also Kieth David (as Kieth David), and Benjamin "Motherfucking" King, who are both on quite friendly social terms with The Boss.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: In the original game, the special weapons, unlocked by completing the Hitman assignments, are a gold-plated large handgun, and a platinum plated shotgun, RPG-1, and riot shotgun. You only get one in the second game — a shotgun disguised as a pimp cane.
- All of the special weapons in the second game, however, are distinctly better looking and very different from the average/normal guns. Not exactly bling, but some of them are pretty shiny.
- The third game has customization options to all the weapons that add more bling to each gun (and the baseball bat too).
- The fourth game takes this Up to Eleven and allows you to change the look of almost every weapon to bling to your personal taste.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall/Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Julius refers to the main character as "Playa".
- Player him/herself does this over now being able to talk, as do others such as Lampshading his/her different looks by asking "Did you do something to your hair?"
- Most of the fourth installment is set inside a simulation of Steelport. There are many references to everything being "a game".
- Broken Bridge: Averted in every instance that "wide open" sandboxes have come to conventionally rely on them. The game illustrates how unnecessary cramping player freedom is to maintaining narrative flow. Each story arc still unfolds chronologically, at the player's own pace. And if you don't want to be driven by the story, you can go everywhere, and you'll find a Minigame Zone when you get there.
- The third game plays with the trope. It's averted for the vast majority of the game. Near the end, it appears to be played straight when the city is put under martial law, but all that happens is several bridges are raised and blocked off to seal off Downtown. There's nothing at all to stop the player from swimming across the river, or flying over, or boating over, or just ramping a car across. Unlike other games that instantly give you a 5-star wanted level if you try to evade the bridge, this game only gives you a 1-star that is little more than a minor inconvenience..
- The game takes the trope literally in the "Return To Stilwater" mission when the Luchadores blow up the Hughes Memorial Bridge.
- Bullying a Dragon: Anytime people start talking shit to the Boss or try to confront the Saints, the end results are truly horrifying.
- Butt Monkey: Donnie, from both games. Whenever he shows up, you can bet your bottom dollar that something bad will happen to him. The second game also has Pierce. He has ideas ripped off him mid-sentence and is never listened to.
- At one point, he calls you up to tell you that the Brotherhood are bringing in a bigass pile of guns on a boat. Shaundi calls up mid-way through that call to tell you the exact same thing before he does, and he told her in the first place!
- The first Ronin mission has him trying to plan an elaborate Ocean's Eleven style robbery, only to have The Boss and Johnny tell him it's much more fun to bust in with guns.
- Even funnier considering it's the exact same plan used in San Andreas' over-elaborate casino heist.
- Buxom Is Better: Adjust the "sex appeal" slider in character creation and a female Boss can end up with some absurdly large breasts.
- Car Fu: Aside from the obvious usage of this trope, the series also has an "evil cars" cheat which makes pedestrians in cars and motorcycles chase you down in an attempt to run you over.
- Cardboard Prison: When you get busted, you respawn at the nearest police precinct, less a chunk of your cash.
- Character Customization: You can customize nearly every aspect of your character. The system is so good (especially in the second game) that a lot of people have made celebrities and posted the formulas on message boards and YouTube.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Gang colors. To elaborate, the Saints use purple; the Vice Kings and Ronin use yellow; the Rollerz and the Deckers have blue; Los Carnales, the Brotherhood, and Morning Star all use red; and the Sons of Samedi and the Luchadores use green. This is also reflected in the color schemes of their vehicles.
- Ironically, "Karma Chameleon" uses those colors, and sure enough, when you listen to the song on The Mix 107.77, as the song is ending the DJ will sometimes lampshade the colors mentioned in the song to the three gangs that took over Stilwater in absence of the Boss.
- Ultor has a thing for black and orange in the second game. See the Masako "special-ops" teams in particular.
- STAG in the third is primarily white with some splashes of orange here and there.
- Even neutral NPC gangs, such as bikers.
- Though the Pimps avert this, they instead follow Dress-Coded for Your Convenience, sharing a broad, feathered pimp hat and a half-buttoned shirt.
- In the fourth game, The Saints still wear purple, but in the simulation "red is evil" and "blue is good". This is a shout out to a certain other movie that was set in a simulated world.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Inverted. Both weapons and vehicles controlled by the player are noticeably more durable than those controlled by NPCs, to the point that the player can use one tank to take out three other tanks without much trouble.
- Cool Old Guy: Zimos, the oldest pimp in Steelport; he even has Auto-Tuned voice.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Benjamin King is a little like one in the first one, but Ultor Corp. is this full stop in the second game, especially Dane Vogel.
Dane Vogel: "It's like my father said, if you're gonna build an ivory tower, you're gonna have to kill a few elephants."
- Not to mention you can sometimes hear him calling The Mix and requesting Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", calling it his theme song. This continues even after his demise!
- Coup de Grāce Cutscene: The defeat of every rival gang boss (in all games) gets one of these.
- Crapsack World: Stilwater: Pretty on the outside, really fucking nasty on the inside. From Bad to Worse in Saints Row 2, what with the Saints no longer being a vigilante gang.
- Crowd Song: Early in the SRTT, Boss and Pierce sing What I Got. During the credits 5 of the Playa's voices sing.
- In the fourth game, there is a duet with The Boss and Pierce of Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract, with The Boss doing the Paula Abdul portions. And again later, there is a second sing-a-long to Biz Markie's Just a Friend. Which Zinyak interrupts and "ruins" the song.
- Darker and Edgier: While the first game had its moments, particularly the death of Lin, despite arguably being funnier, the second game goes further, particularly the Ronin missions "Bleeding Out" and "Rest in Peace" and the Brotherhood Missions "Red Asphalt" and "Bank Error In Your Favor".
- Deadpan Snarker: A bunch, mostly from the Boss.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: See Cardboard Prison; replace "busted" with "smoked" and "police precinct" with "hospital".
- Denser and Wackier: The first game was more or less straight-up; the second game started introducing all sorts of strange, funny elements. The third game goes completely off the rails, and the fourth doesn't even care (you're president of the US, you have superpowers, and an alien invasion is coming; need we elaborate?).
- This is even lampshaded in the mission A Remote Chance:
The Boss: He's (Killbane) more afraid of Angel than me?
Shaundi: Yeah, no offense, but you look kinda ridiculous.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Stefan does this in the radio ads for Impressions, the clothing shop where you shop for clothing, and Foreign Power (FOREIGN POWER!).
- Depraved Bisexual: The Female Boss is heavily implied to be one.
- As of IV, so can a Male Boss thanks to every character being romanceable.
- Derivative Differentiation: The gradual increase in Denser and Wackier elements helped to set the games apart from Grand Theft Auto.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Most people on the street seem to know your character is the leader of the Saints (and many of your actions), yet no one seems to care much (including rival gangs) unless you start stirring up trouble. In fact, as the game progresses, some pedestrians on the street compliment Playa on their actions.
- In The Third, The Boss even has his/her own fans!
- Double Entendre: Oh so many. Friendly Fire (weapons), On the Rag (natural clothing store), Peep This (theater), Phuc Mi Phuc Yu (faux Asian food store, which sells Sum Yung Guy and Sum Old Guy), Sloppy Seconds (second-hand clothing), Rim Jobs (car mechanics), Mourning Wood Cemetery, and Freckle Bitch's menu and radio ad. There's also TNA Taxis' (and Big Willy's Cabs') phone response. Not to mention the phone numbers for the aforementioned taxi services, which are 555-455-8008 (ASS BOOB) and 555-819-8415 (BIG BALS) respectively.
- Early Installment Weirdness: It's actually kinda weird looking back at the first game and how seriously it took itself. Even the second didn't get too outlandish and, though tongue in cheek, kept it's feet on the ground. By the third game the developers cranked the silliness Up to Eleven and kept on rolling with it into the fourth game.
- Enemy Chatter: Gang members will often talk amongst each other when not in combat.
Ronin Mook: Why are we called the Ronin? We 'have' a leader.
- In 4, the chatter of the mooks in the Asha rescue mission is hilarious especially considering the context of the parody.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Saints, especially in the second one.
- Escort Mission: Drug Trafficking, Escort, Snatch, and Heli Assault (in the second game). Along with a bunch of story missions.
- The series is a generally unfrustrating example of traditional escort missions, at leaast for the story missions. Escorts are treated as homies and so can be revived if they fall.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: And dammit, it's awesome. This is actually lampshaded in the second game. Sometimes pedestrians, when having their car stolen, yell, "I left my hydrogen tank in there!"
- More than awesome, they're almost better than grenades, simply because the enemy so often supplies you with them and the blast is bigger. The only thing which makes them not better is that it takes three or four shotgun shots (at the beginning, at least) to make an enemy car explode.
- It gets just odd in the third game. At one point, you ride a human pony cart, don't ask, and get chased after by other human pony carts. When you shoot them enough, they explode too.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Zombie Lin in Saints Row, Zombie Carlos in Saints Row 2, and Zombie Gat in Saints Row: The Third. And in Saints 2, you can go to any of your cribs and play a fun little minigame called Zombie Uprising, which is pretty much the Saints Row world's answer to Dead Rising.
- The Third also has a zombie voice option. After the mission "Zombie Attack", an island is permanently infested with zombies. There is also a cheat — 'brains' — that causes ALL pedestrians to turn into stumbling, mindless, undead.
- Evilis Cool: The back of the original Saints Row case says "Saints Row - Sinners Welcome". That should tell you all you need to know about this series, even though Saints 2 has a couple "You Bastard!" scenes, culminating when the player kills Julius, who calls out the player on their new evil murdering ways.
- Evil vs. Evil: To paraphrase from Snatch, "Do you know what "nemesis" means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by a horrible cunt... the Boss."
- Exploding Barrels: Too many to count. Crucial to the Trail Blazing activity in Saints Row 2, where hitting them will cause huge explosions with your flaming ATV.
- Face-Heel Turn: The second game shows you that Julius is responsible for the explosion that nearly killed you at the end of Saints Row, believing that the player wouldn't give up the life. He was right — and he gets murdered by the player. It can be argued that this is the point where the player character does a Face-Heel Turn and crosses the Moral Event Horizon. Dex also attempts to set the two of you up for execution by the Masako squad in the game's secret mission.
- Troy is an interesting case. At first, he is one of the Saints, then it turns out that he is the reluctant undercover cop who doesn't want to sell out the gangs. The second game reveals him trying to do good, but is frustrated with the gangs and Ultor leaning on him, and trying to make amends with Julius. Gat mentions after Troy became Chief everyone who targeted him in prison left him alone, Troy keeps the Boss on life support after the bombing and can even be called out to help the reformed Saints, despite being more psychopathic and evil than the original Saints were.
- Faceless Protagonist: Your character's voice, gender and appearance is completely dependent on what the player chooses in the character creation screen. During the intro missions for The Third and IV, you haven't had the chance to create your character yet, so you play as this during this one mission, by having the Boss wear an outfit that completely covers his body and either having him/her wear a voice changing mask (Third), or having the communicator malfunction (IV).
- False Flag Operation: One Vice Kings mission in the first game involves you and Johnny dressing up in yellow (Vice Kings colors) and causing mayhem.
- In the second game, the Boss and Shaundi disguise themselves as electrical repair technicians in order to sneak into the monitoring room in the Police HQ so they can tap into the CCTV network and track down The General's limo. Amusingly, the uniforms are purple so they can still represent the Row, even while undercover.
- And of course, Troy, who was trying to bring down the gangs from the inside.
- In the third, this is taken to an extreme (just like the rest of the game) when you get a complete plastic surgery to look like Cyrus and infiltrate the STAG Airship. Even more over the top if you were playing as a female character, since it goes beyond plastic surgery and into a sex change operation... just to do one mission!
- Five-Man Band:
In Saints Row: