Ranking The Max Payne Games From Worst To Best

"I wouldn't know right from wrong if one of them was helping the poor and the other was banging my sister."

Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3

We’re as excited as everyone else is about the announcement that Remedy will be working with Rockstar Games once again to develop remakes of Max Payne 1 & 2, two seminal shooters from the early 2000s that have gone on to inspire countless third person shooters over the years. The legacy of Max Payne is undeniable, and to see one of the all-time greats return is absolutely special but which Max Payne game is the best so far?

The Max Payne franchise sees former DEA agent and NYPD detective Max Payne utilising his penchant for stylish violence to carve his way through the criminal underworld, either across New York or in Brazil. With just a few games, the legacy that the series has spawned is undeniably, with games like Stranglehold and El Paso, Elsewhere taking the gameplay formula and adding their own twists on it. Few third person shooters have the same influence and pull that Max Payne wields, which is why the announcement of some remakes is incredibly exciting.

While there’s not many games in the Max Payne franchise as of right now, there is a lot of contention regarding which game in the series is actually the best, which is why we’re here to decide definitively which Max Payne game kicks the most ass. It’s definitely going to be a tight ranking, but if nothing else, it’s a chance to celebrate an amazing series while we wait years for the remakes to drop.

Here’s the best games in the Max Payne series, ranked from worst to best.


Max Payne Ranked

4. Max Payne (GBA)

Max Payne GBA
Source: GameplayPS9 on YouTube

Developer: Mobius Entertainment
Publisher: Rockstar
Platform(s): Game Boy Advance

You probably didn’t know that Max Payne was ported to the GBA, but it was, and as it stands, it’s a competent and enjoyable version of the original game. While it’s an isometric shooter instead of a traditional third person shooter, completely due to the GBA’s hardware limitations, Max Payne still manages to retain the iconic slow motion action that fans would love from the franchise.

Despite being a blob of pixels, Max still shoots with the best of them on GBA, but it’s still a pale imitation of the original version of Max Payne. It’s a worthwhile port, sure, but at the end of the day, you’re likely going to want to play the big boy version instead, especially considering some of the levels were removed.

While it was still positively reviewed, it would receive the worst reviews of the series, aside from the mobile game, but let’s not get into that one.


3. Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Rockstar
Platform(s): PC, PS2, Xbox

When the original Max Payne burst onto the scene, fans were naturally abuzz at the potential for a follow-up, and they certainly weren’t disappointed when Remedy released Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne.

Set two years after the original game, the sequel sees Max teaming with a fugitive by the name of Mona Sax to investigate a conspiracy across New York. Naturally, that involves a metric crap ton of shoot-dodging, as there’s goons that need to be shot.

Remedy would improve upon the incredible gameplay of the first game in Max Payne 2, along with a more emotionally complex story as the game explores the burgeoning relationship between Max and Mona. If there was to be complaint, it’s that Max Payne 2 didn’t quite have anything as memorable as the first game’s nightmare sections, and the story length was also on the short side, but even the weakest mainline Max Payne game is still better than most.


2. Max Payne

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Gathering of Developers, Rockstar
Platform(s): PC, PS2, Xbox, Mobile

The game that started it all, Max Payne is an all-time classic.

Haunted by the death of his family and framed for the murder of his NYPD partner, Max embarks on a one-man, renegade crusade across New York to find the truth about who killed his family, along with a conspiracy regarding a drug called V. From the graphic novel panels to the iconic slow-motion shooting, Max Payne is an utter masterclass. Also, it’s the birthplace of that iconic Max face/grimace, modelled after the game’s creative lead Sam Lake. Facial scans clearly didn’t improve much after that one.

In fairness, Max Payne is a little bit dated now to revisit, as the gunplay has clearly been improved upon in subsequent installments. It isn’t unplayable by today’s standards, not by any means, but the news of a remake was certainly a welcome one. Still, the game’s atmosphere and compelling story make Max Payne one of the best games in the entire series. Heck, it’s one of the best shooters of all-time.


1. Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3

Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Would it be too much to call Max Payne 3 a perfect shooter? Almost definitely, as the game’s story is a bit of a mess, especially compared to the other entries in the franchise. Despite that though, Max Payne 3 is the tightest and most enjoyable version of Max Payne’s third person shooting gameplay, with Rockstar’s take on the game being the best iteration of Max Payne there is.

Set a decade after Max Payne 2, the third entry sees a middle aged Max recruited into private security in Brazil. Hoping for a new start, Max unfortunately finds himself amidst yet another conspiracy, one that Max might find himself swallowed up in. It’s a dark and ultimately cynical game, more so than any other entry, but the power of the game’s Euphoria engine makes Max Payne 3 the undoubted highlight of the entire franchise.

Long may it reign, until the remakes of Max Payne 1 & 2 likely knock it off the pedestal.

READ MORE: Killing The Payne: Looking Back At The Max Payne Series

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