Since its explosive release for the Xbox 360 in 2006, the Gears of War series has been one of the gold standards in cinematic shooters. With its blend of thrilling multiplayer and epic campaigns, this franchise has long been an Xbox fan-favorite. It was a grittier, third-person alternative to the similarly popular shooter, Halo, with its satisfying finishers and smooth covering system. Still, this series has seen a turbulent history with ups and downs - much like the lands of Sera and its COG fighters.
Studios Epic, The Coalition, and People Can Fly have tweaked and refined the formula, while experimenting with new modes and mechanics. This has culminated with the more open-world Gears 5, as well as Splash Damage's Real-Time Strategy (RTS) spin-off Gears Tactics. But which Gears is the best of the bunch, and which one is better off as cannon fodder for the Locust? Find out in this ranking of every Gears of War game, from worst to best.
Author's Note: This list will offer a definitive ranking of each Gears entry. It will exclude the compilation pack Ultimate, which features a spruced-up version of the original Gears of War.
7 Gears Of War: Judgment (2013)
People Can Fly's take on Gears of War was, to its credit, a neat experiment on the franchise, which was due for some fresh ideas. Still, the game mostly failed to hit its mark with fans, who weren't keen on the tweaked mechanics and lack of strength-boosting Active Reloads. The campaign, which centered around a young Baird, mostly fell flat, as did most of the multiplayer options.
Still, the game at least had the interesting new OverRun mode - about the only redeeming factor for most. This mode offered a fun new twist on competitive romps, with its blend of action, tactical, and survival gameplay, and the ability to assume the roles of unique COG and Locust types.
6 Gears Of War 4 (2016)
Similar to the previous entry, The Coalition's new spin on the Gears formula was a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was enjoyable playing a campaign showcasing a rebuilding Sera taking place several years after Gears 3. Yet, this is tempered with a few blemishes throughout. This includes what's often considered to be lackluster writing, uninspired scenes, and robotic "DeeBee" foes that felt out of place.
The multiplayer aspect proved typically fun, though its abundance of explosives made for an overly chaotic experience at times. The smattering of technical issues certainly didn't help either. But at the end of the day, Xbox One's Gears debut has some gorgeous visuals and consistently appealing gameplay on the whole.
5 Gears Tactics (2020)
It's tough to measure up to the greats when it comes to RTS games on the PC, with the gold standard of StarCraft and Age of Empires. While it doesn't quite reach those lofty heights, Gears Tactics is a solid tactical squad game and an interesting new take on the IP.
Now, it remains to be seen whether this will translate smoothly to console via the upcoming Xbox One port. Regardless, this is an intuitive and fun experience on PC. With four squad members to control plus plenty of action and depth, there's much to captivate players without being too overwhelming.
4 Gears 5 (2019)
While Gears 4 dipped its toes in new concepts, the bombastic Gears 5 isn't shy about tweaking things in a major way - and it mostly succeeds. Though its open-world elements ring tepid to some, it's refreshing that they exist at all. They break up the linear elements and allow for more freedom.
The game fleshes things out with various unlockables and customizations throughout. These come in the form of multiplayer goodies, as well as an upgrade system for the robotic companion, Jack. In addition to side quests, Jack adds a bit of depth and strategy to the solo mode. With an epic campaign centered around Kait Diaz, crazy weapon additions, and new multiplayer modes, there's much to love about Gears 5.
3 Gears Of War (2006)
Put simply, there's a reason this game got a spruced-up remaster a mere decade after its initial release. On the one hand, credit must be given for this groundbreaking, game-changing debut. In hindsight though, the original Gears of War feels a bit rough around the edge to modern eyes. One can't help but feel that the joy from Gears 1 largely stems from nostalgia versus being objectively great, especially with its technical issues, spotty AI, and dull landscapes.
However, there's something to be said about the simplicity of it all and the absence of the bells and whistles of future games. There are no fancy Diggers or Cryo Cannons here - just Boomshots, chainsaws, and shottys. Gears 1 balances grandiosity with accessible gameplay, and the multiplayer is still as fun as ever... assuming one can find anyone on its empty servers these days.
2 Gears Of War 3 (2011)
Following the renowned Gears 2, this 2011 release was perhaps one of the most hyped, anticipated games for Xbox 360. Did it deliver? Mostly. Epic's final Gears game may not quite reach the spectacular levels of its predecessors and yet, there's still plenty of that familiarly delightful gameplay to engage in.
Notably, Gears 3 didn't push many boundaries like future sequels. For most fans, that was just fine because the refinements, larger scale, and awesome new weapons and maps were more than enough. With that said, Gears 3 does introduce the ever-pesky Lambent to add variance to the combat. Epic also revs up the campaign to absurd degrees and fleshes out the new Horde Mode with tactical elements.
1 Gears Of War 2 (2008)
This is truly Gears at its peak. It's still not a flawless effort, but with such enjoyable gameplay, tightened-up mechanics, and memorable maps, it seemed a no-brainer to give the franchise's first sequel the number one spot.
Who could forget those intense showdowns in the Ruin corridors, or the chaotic clashes in Jacinto? This superb level design extends to the campaign, with memorable scenes that include a journey through a huge Riftworm. This is enhanced with perhaps the darkest, most emotional narrative yet. The game takes the elements that work from the first game while fleshing things out and adding polish where needed.
NEXT: 10 Gears Of War Memes That Are Too Funny For Words