In the dead of night, I ride on horseback along a densely wooded path. The dim moonlight provides me with just enough vision to see the twists and turns of the road ahead. It’s quiet. There are no owls hooting, coyotes yelping, or wolves howling; just the rhythmic thudding of my horse’s hooves against the trodden dirt road.
All of a sudden, a glowing white blip on my mini map catches the corner of my eye. I bring my horse to a screeching halt and dash through a forest of tall trees to investigate the point of interest. Emerging from the brush, I find a clearing with a giant stone that has the words “Do You See?” painted across it in white. Intrigued, and a bit terrified, I draw my revolver from my holster and slowly creep around the rock, only to find a severed head with a rolled up document crammed in its mouth. I remove it and open it up, thus beginning my hunt for the most demented psychopath in the country.
Red Dead Redemption II is chock full of amazing moments like this, which is why I haven’t touched any other game since its release back in late October. Sure, its main storyline is more compelling than that of any game I’ve played in recent memory, but where this masterpiece really shines is its Stranger Missions. From tracking down circus animals to fist fighting a pinheaded sideshow attraction to helping a photographer capture the beauty of nature, these missions are incredibly diverse, bizarre, and, most importantly, downright fun.
In no particular order, here are my favorite Stranger Missions in Red Dead Redemption II:
My personal favorite, which is why I referenced it in my opening anecdote, “American Dreams” puts you on the hunt for a sick, deranged serial murderer whom has an affinity for dismembering bodies. It’s True Detective meets Seven in a Wild West setting. To capture the sicko responsible for the gruesome scenes you’ll find, you need to piece together fragments of a map that will lead you to his hideout. Each map fragment is found in the mouths of the severed heads you’ll see at the murder scenes. When pieced together, a message on the back reads “Will you come find me?”
You do find him in his hideout, which is covered in blood, guts, and cut up body parts. He ambushes you, leaving you seemingly helpless, but you’re able use your head (and some other poor sucker’s) to best him. You then capture and deliver him to the jail in Valentine, but things go awry when he attacks the sheriff. Just remember to shoot him at this moment. I tried to melee, but the game didn’t let me, so the sheriff had to kill the killer himself and refused to give me a reward. If you shoot the killer like you’re supposed to, you’ll earn a cool $20.
Arcadia for Amateurs
A nice change of pace from all the robbing and gun slinging, “Arcadia for Amateurs” has you help a bumbling photographer named Albert capture amazing moments in nature. What I appreciate most about this Stranger Mission is its diversity. One part has you protect Albert from a pack of wolves, while another has you heard a group of horses across a field so he can capture a perfect shot. My only complaint is Albert’s lack of gratitude, especially seeing that you save his life multiple times. He always thanks you for your help, but never gives you any real reward. Be that as it may, the experience alone is worth it for this one.
He’s British, of Course
One of the more humorous Stranger Missions, “He’s British, of Course” tasks you with helping Margaret, a crossdressing English circus performer, capture his escaped “exotic” animals. As exciting as that sounds, you quickly end up discovering that these animals are just American wildlife in disguise (i.e. the “zebra” is a mule with black stripes painted on it and the “tiger” is a cougar painted orange and black). However, there is a twist. In the last leg of this mission, you need to track down the escaped lion, which ends up being an actual lion that you need to kill before it disembowels you with its claws. After blowing this majestic beast’s head off, you return to a disappointed Margaret. You then strong arm him into rewarding you, and, out of fear, he gives you a gem that can be sold at a fence for $250.
The Smell of Grease Paint
Another bizarre one, “The Smell of Grease Paint” starts with you beating the crap out of a pinheaded simpleton and ends with you hunting down a runaway dwarf magician named Magnifico. Being a skilled magician, Magnifico is a slippery bastard. As you chase him through the forest, he’ll show you his best disappearing act while simultaneously taunting you. Eventually, you catch him and return him to his performing group. Miss Marjorie, the group’s leader, then invites you to watch their next show at the Saint Denis Vaudeville Theater. If you decide to take her up on her offer and sit through the group’s brilliantly absurd performance, you will be rewarded after the show with a “thank you” note from Marjorie and $40 cold hard cash.
A Bright Bouncing Boy
This one starts off a bit boring, but the payoff is worth its yawn-inducing beginning. You begin by helping an inventor named Marko Dragic demonstrate his remote control boat for a group of potential investors. After a successful demonstration, an elated Dragic invites you to visit him at his laboratory. If you take him up on his offer, you need to visit his lab at night during a lightning storm to trigger the next part of the mission. After helping him place some conductors and flip some switches, you return to the lab to find out that his latest invention is a robot boy (really did not see that one coming).
Things take a turn for the creepy when you revisit the lab a few days later to find Dragic’s dead body and no sign of his latest invention. You then can pick up an electric lamp of Dragic’s corpse and use it to track down the missing robot boy. Eventually, you find it short circuiting at the top of a mountain eerily crying for its “papa”. Bravo, Rockstar. Bravo.
The Noblest of Men and Women
This was the first Stranger Mission I started, and it’s also one of the best. It begins when you meet an author named Theodore Levin in a saloon in Valentine. He is writing a biography about a famous gunslinger named Jim “Boy” Calloway and needs your help finding stories to include in his book. You’re tasked with tracking down four of Calloway’s former accomplices, whom are scattered across the map. When you find them, you either need to speak with them about their relationships with Calloway or kill them so they can’t refute anything written in the book.
I love this mission because it forces you to explore the map and offers up some of the best rewards. In addition to picking up some cool custom revolvers, you get half the proceeds of the book, which ends up being a nice chunk of change. There is also a Bully Easter egg on the revolver you get from Calloway. Engraved in the powerful handgun, which is probably the best weapon in the game, is Canis Canem Edit; the name Bully was released under in Europe. Bully 2 coming soon? I sure hope so.
The Artist’s Way
A hilariously arrogant and perverted French artists makes this one of the most memorable Stranger Missions in the game. You first meet Charles Châtenay, the artist, in a saloon in Saint Denis and befriend him over a couple of drinks. After a few more encounters with him, you learn that he is sleeping with half the married women in the city, and their husbands aren’t too happy about it.
Ultimately, you are forced to protect Charles at his gallery after he reveals a series of nude drawings of the married women in attendance. After you kick some ass and take some names, Charles decides that it’s best for him to leave town. You help sneak him onto a ship, kicking some more ass along the way, and bid him adieu. Later on, you receive a letter from him detailing his new life in a tropical paradise. He also lets you know that the drawing he gives you in part one can be sold for a decent amount of cash.
Two buffoonish brothers try to one up each other for the affection of a woman named Helen, and Arthur manages to get himself caught in the middle. This hilarious Stranger Mission features some of the funnies dialogue in the game as the two idiots bark some pretty creative insults at one another. To prove their bravery, they’ll have you do everything from shooting bottles off their heads to kicking them in their genitals.
The final feat of strength involves them enclosing themselves in barrels and having Arthur push them off a waterfall. Hilariously enough, they both live and come to the realization that their brotherly love is more important than the affection of Helen. They walk off laughing with their arms around one another and leave her behind.
The Iniquities of History
Short and sweet, “The Iniquities of History” starts in Rhodes when you strike up a conversation with a drunk derelict named Jeremiah Compson. He goes on and on about how the bank took away his livelihood, and then asks you to go to his repossessed house to collect a few items: A pocket watch, a pistol, and a ledger. You go to the house, dispose of a couple of annoying scavengers, collect the items, and uncover a disturbing secret.
Turns out Compson was heavily involved in the slave trade. You return to him at his campfire and confront him about his past. The mission ends with you throwing his ledger in the fire and watching him fall to his knees whimpering. I took it a step further and put a bullet through his brain because I don’t take kindly to racism or slavery. Funnily enough, doing so actually increased my honor.
Have you played any of the above missions? What did you think of them? Are there any you liked that I didn’t include? Share your thoughts in the comments below!