Which Far Cry Game to Play First

Image credit: Ubisoft

The Far Cry series is one of the best shooter game series around, with dozens of games and spin-offs. If you’re curious to see for yourself what all the hype is about, you might be wondering which game to start with. We’re here to provide a bit of guidance so that you can start with the Far Cry game that’s right for you.

Story-wise, it doesn’t really matter which is your first game. The Far Cry series are only very loosely tied to one another via secondary characters and the occasional Easter Egg. This means you can safely go into any of the Far Cry games blind and not worry about potential spoilers or getting lost in a flood of references to other games.

One important thing that sets Far Cry apart from other series is that the villain isn’t just central to the narrative, they’re the main driving force. They’re so important that the quality of a game’s villain often has great influences over the community’s opinion of a Far Cry game. We’ve included a popular quote from each villain so you can get an idea of what they’re like.

When it comes to gameplay, the community mostly agrees that you can safely skip the first two games. They haven’t held up well over the years. Far Cry 3 is the game that really shaped what the franchise is, and all titles after Far Cry 3 follow the same basic template, their main differences being secondary mechanics and the number and variety of side tasks.

While the spin-offs are decent, we don’t recommend starting with them (bar one exception, which we’ll get into below). They tend to be shorter experiences with smaller maps and less interesting characters. Some of them also tie into mainline games in the series, so you’ll be going in without any narrative context.

That leaves us with five games: Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4, Far Cry 5, Far Cry 6, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (the only spin-off that we recommend). So, which should you start with? Let’s get into each game.

Quick Summary

Before we go into detail, here’s a quick overview of all the main pros and cons for each of the Far Cry games on this list. Is co-op important to you? Do you care about story over gameplay? This table will help you get a gist of whether or not you might like a game.

GameProsCons
Far Cry 3Best story
Best villain
Disappointing co-op
Least content
Far Cry 4Interesting setting
Great co-op
Awesome movement tools
Story pacing issues
No story missions in co-op
Far Cry 5Loads of content
Campaign supports co-op
Weak cast
Far Cry 6Great weapons mod system
Co-op is given lots of love
Loads of content
Villain doesn’t get much time to shine
Far Cry 3: Blood DragonUnique & colorful setting
Over-the-top tone and writing
Hilarious one liners
Memorable characters
Mostly linear
The shortest game in this list

Why You Should Start with Far Cry 3

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting sh*t to change.”

Vaas, Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 is the first game that showed what the franchise was really capable of, both as an open-world action shooter and as a vehicle for a great video game narrative. It’s a peak the series has yet to match; fans largely agree that Far Cry 3 is the best in the series, and even years later, it’s highly recommended as a first foray into the franchise.

In Far Cry 3, you play as frat boy Jason Brody enjoying a tropical vacation with his family and friends. Things go awry when a skydiving adventure ends with the group captured and tortured by pirates. That may not sound like an especially original premise, but it’s presented with polish and helped by great writing.

The experience is elevated by some prime performances, particularly from the main villain, Vaas. The pirate leader is sadistic and dangerously charismatic, driven to the edge by his own incestuous shame and trembling sanity. Unpredictable and violent with a dark sense of humor, Vaas steals the show every time he’s on screen.

Far Cry 3 also helped shape what many call the Ubisoft open-world formula. You probably recognize it: an expansive map that’s unlocked piecemeal (usually by climbing a tower and scanning the surroundings), scattered collectibles, enemy camps to raid, and countless side missions. It’s a blueprint for endless distraction, and Far Cry 3 perfected it.

You can’t go wrong picking Far Cry 3 to kick off your exploration of this seminal sandbox series. It’s one of the best open world games that you’ll play. The shooting feels great, the map is huge and jam-packed with enough content to last you for days, and it has the strongest story and cast in the franchise.

Why You Should Start with Far Cry 4

All this leopard print and blood looks like someone massacred New Jersey.

Pagan Min, Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 doesn’t have as memorable a story as 3, but movement feels incredible, and the mountain range setting is both beautiful and fun to explore in ways no other location in the series can match. There are pacing problems, but the overall narrative is gripping and the characters are interesting. The free-roam co-op is the cherry on top.

While not as popular as Far Cry 3 (for reasons I’ll get into below), Far Cry 4 is a worthy successor. Like its predecessor, Far Cry 4 features a great character-driven plot, an intriguing villain motivated by a strong ideology, and excellent gunplay and exploration.

One major change for number four was the increased involvement of its player character in the narrative. Far Cry 3 was carried by its villains, with Brody little more than a capable player vessel. In contrast, Ajay Ghale is no stranger in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, and his family has personal history with the game’s colorful villain, Pagan Min.

Fans are split as to whether or not fleshing out the protagonist’s lore was a good idea. Many enjoyed seeing Kyrat through the eyes of a local estranged from his homeland, while others preferred the non-descript anymen that starred in previous Far Crys.

While the quality of its story may be up for debate, Far Cry 4 certainly doesn’t disappoint on the gameplay side. All the tenets of an Ubisoft open-world game are there, but in a setting that’s entirely unlike anything seen in previous Far Cry games.

The mountains of Kyrat give the game a dangerous verticality that makes simply getting from A to B a fun challenge. The game gives you access to the best mobility utilities early on, which makes getting up, down, and around Kyrat’s cliffs and valleys a blast. Plus, the shivering climate means fascinating winter wildlife and snow vehicles.

Kyrat is also just plain stunning. It’s colossal and ancient, a stark white and gray landscape with bursts of the bright gold and blue banners of its two warring factions. In keeping with the Ubisoft formula, it’s crammed with more content than you know what to do with. The cool part is you can go through it all with a friend.

Far Cry 4 was the first game in the series with a multiplayer co-op game mode set in the same world as the primary campaign. Far Cry 3 only has a six-level mini-co-op campaign with entirely different characters. Although main story missions are disabled in Far Cry 4’s co-op, you can still gather resources, conquer outposts, and take on side missions.

Why You Should Start with Far Cry 5

I told you that God wouldn’t let you take me.

Joseph Seed, Far Cry 5

It may not have as strong a story as Far Cry 3 or the gorgeous landscapes of Far Cry 4, but Far Cry 5 has the richest combat mechanics, tons of fun content and side activities, and supports co-op in its campaign. The co-op, in particular, is excellent, and if you’ve got a buddy to run through the game with you, Far Cry 5 is a great title to get you into the series.

After four mainline games set in exotic places around the world, Far Cry 5 brings the series to a place that’s a bit more familiar: rural America. Set in South Montana, Far Cry 5 serves up a rotten slice of Americana in a tale that involves a doomsday cult and its corrupt evangelical leader.

Far Cry 4 tried to bring the player-character to the narrative fore, with mixed results. Far Cry 5 returns the hero to a secondary role, allowing the game’s villain, Joseph Seed, to take charge of the story. Seed is mesmerizing, dangerous, and fueled by a twisted ideology born from personal tragedy. In other words, he’s your typical Far Cry villain.

That isn’t to say Joseph Seed is a bad antagonist—he’s well-developed, interesting, and at times genuinely terrifying. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by one of the weakest supporting casts in the franchise. The Seed siblings are simple cult fanatics who blindly carry out Joseph’s demands, and the game treats them with a significance that doesn’t feel deserved.

Compared to Vaas and Pagan Min, Joseph Seed and his religious nuts feel downright tame.

Of course, as important as story is to a Far Cry title, there’s also the matter of the actual gameplay. It doesn’t disappoint. Far Cry 5 has loads of attachments and throwable items, allowing for dozens of builds to support different play styles. All these add-ons also give you a reason to invest serious time in activities outside of the main mission.

There are way more side quests and camps to clear in Far Cry 5, though they’re mostly optional. Much of the content is also replenishing, so you’ll never run out of things to do, which can be intimidating if you’re playing solo. It’s clear, though, that all this content was made to accommodate the game’s full co-op support, which is where Far Cry 5 shines.

Almost the entirety of the primary campaign in Far Cry 5 can be played co-op with a friend. After completing a few missions at the start of the game, you can invite a friend to hop into your session and help you take down Seed and his cult members. Honestly, the co-op is so good that it’s easy to ignore the game’s narrative flaws.

Why You Should Start with Far Cry 6

There are lions, and there are lambs. Rule, or be ruled. A Castillo must be a lion, for Yara is full of lambs.

Anton Castillo, Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6 is the latest in the series, and while the jury’s still out as to where it stands in the Far Cry gameography, current player sentiment is very positive. What is clear is that Far Cry 6 is a solid addition to the series, with new key mechanics that make it the fastest and most chaotic game of the bunch.

Set in a fictional Caribbean nation in turmoil, Far Cry 6 stars famous TV villain actor Giancarlo Esposito in a rousing a performance as dictator Anton Castillo. As with all Far Cry villains, he holds a very specific image of what the world around him should be but with the power and position to shape it.

The Far Cry series is known for its powerful villain characters, but, perhaps as a response to criticism that Far Cry antagonists tended to hog the spotlight, Far Cry 6 dials down Anton’s screen time. It’s a shame, too, because he’s one of the most compelling villains the series has had in a while, and Giancarlo Esposito absolutely oozes charisma.

Many of the new tools and mechanics are inspired by a guerilla spirit, like the Rides, which are killing machines cobbled together from scrap. There’s an electric buggy with wings that can glide off cliff sides and a janky minigun made from a used motorcycle engine. Even the Supremos—essentially ultimate abilities—have a grittiness that exudes a raw violence.

Mowing down underlings is a lot more complex, too. Enemies have resistances and weaknesses, which encourages using your entire arsenal. It hurts the solo campaign a bit, as it rewards a one-size-fits-all loadout instead over specialization, but in co-op, where killing responsibilities can be divvied up with a buddy, it’s a lot more interesting.

Why You Should Start with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

And then what? Retire into the suburbs? Mow the lawn every Saturday and watch football on Sunday? That ain’t you, Rex. You don’t mow down lawns, you mow down lives!

Col. Ike Sloan, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Blood Dragon is the black sheep of the Far Cry family. It’s a linear experience, with a plot inspired by B-movies from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s also crazy good fun; expect A-tier dad jokes and nonsensical plot points that resolve due to parallel dimensions, cyborgs, or whatever. If you bounced off the other games, Blood Dragon might be zany enough to grab you.

Blood Dragon, which is a standalone expansion for Far Cry 3, is a mechanically stripped-down version of the original. It’s meant to be a shorter, more focused adventure, and so its world is smaller, there are fewer side quests and collectibles, and the level design is always pushing you toward the next objective.

It’s set in the “future” year of 2007 (Blood Dragon released in 2013) in a techno post-apocalypse and stars Sgt. Rex “Power” Colt, a military man on a mission to find a government agent gone rogue. Players explore a neon-colored island filled with cyber-soldiers and the titular Blood Dragons, which are reanimated dinosaurs that can shoot lasers from their eyes.

As you can tell from that short description, this isn’t a game that should be taken seriously. The writing is sharp and refreshingly self-aware, with other Far Cry games and characters as the butt of its (often childish) jokes. And if you love a good one liner, you’re in for a treat, because almost every conversation has a corny and endlessly quotable line for you.

Blood Dragon is edgy, subversive, and absolutely hilarious. For those overwhelmed with the sheer freedom in your typical Far Cry game, Blood Dragon is a great compromise. The narrower scope allows the writing and characters to really shine, and since there aren’t as many side-objectives to distract from the main story, the pacing feels tight and satisfying.

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