How to best describe Twisted Metal? After all, modern gamers probably haven’t heard of this IP and it’s mostly 90s/ early 2000s gamers who have fond memories of it to this day. I like to think of Twisted Metal as a car brawler, it’s essentially Mortal Kombat with vehicles.
And the vehicles in Twisted Metal are no joke. You’ve got these absolutely ridiculous machines on wheels that defy all laws of physics while shooting endless barrages of rockets and bullets.
Apparently, the developers came up with the idea while they were trapped in rush hour LA traffic and joked about clearing a path with guns and explosives.
Recently, I heard Sony is working on a live-action Twisted Metal series. Maybe it will bring about a resurgence in interest for this awesome game. To celebrate the legacy of what is possibly the best car combat game ever, I created a list of Twisted Metal games ranked from worst to best.
Which is the best Twisted Metal game? You’ll have to read this article to find out. Keep in mind the fact that these are my personal choices, based on what I look for in a Twisted Metal game.
Twisted Metal Games: Ranked Worst To Best
Let’s kick things off with entry number 8. This is the game that started it all, and possibly the one that has aged the worst.
8. Twisted Metal
|Release Date||November 5, 1995|
This game established the basic mechanics as well as the general theme of the game. In 1995, there was really nothing like it. You even got a barebones plot to explain why so many unhinged lunatics are fighting each other with tricked-out murder machines in an arena.
However, there were many things that were removed from the game because Sony deemed them to be “controversial”.
Like the ending cutscenes that show what happens when each character gets their wish granted by Calypso. Some of these cutscenes would later be reintroduced as hidden items in Twisted Metal: Head On.
While the original game was a ton of fun back in the day, these days it feels old and clunky. Not just because of the graphics that feel dated even by 1995 standards, but because of the awful vehicle handling.
Every car feels like it’s roller skating on ice with a drunk guy behind the wheels and running into walls bounces you off like a ping pong ball.
7. Twisted Metal III
|Release Date||October 31, 1998|
Now, I will mention right at the start that this is by no means a “terrible” game. However, it doesn’t feel like a proper Twisted Metal game. Instead, it’s more like a generic racing game with combat.
I know that’s hard to digest when you’ve got all these cars driving around in purpose-built arenas firing rockets at each other. The visuals have been improved over 1 and 2, but there isn’t any charm in the vehicle or character design.
Twisted Metal III was also built by a totally different studio, and David Jaffe wasn’t involved in its design.
The game does have some redeeming qualities. Like its soundtrack, for example. Twisted Metal III has some of the best heavy metal riffs you’ll ever listen to within a video game.
And while it does have the worst level design in the entire series, it also features some of the best level designs at the same time.
6. Twisted Metal 4
|Release Date||October 31, 1999|
Once again, a sub-par addition to the otherwise legendary franchise. Much like its predecessor, the storyline is very different from that of Twisted Metal 2. And it was also an American exclusive, so players in PAL regions couldn’t get their hands on this game.
I will say though, 989 studios improved on many of the weaknesses that fans complained about in Twisted Metal III. Take, for instance, the levels. You’ve got so many memorable ones like the carnival stage, oil rig, and bedroom.
You also get levels that are exclusive to deathmatch mode and unavailable in tournament mode. Controls feel tighter and more responsive compared to Twisted Metal III, so cars don’t float around as much.
Twisted Metal 4 also introduces car customization and a ton of new characters.
5. Twisted Metal Small Brawl
|Release Date||November 26, 2001|
This is a project that David Jaffe worked on personally, although the development didn’t go very smoothly. There were delays, internal interference, and many unfortunate mishaps along the way.
Overall, it’s still a fun game but not anywhere close to the 2nd one in terms of replayability or style.
Small Brawl is basically a version of Twisted Metal from the perspective of kids, you drive RC cars instead of normal-sized ones.
And the characters themselves are a lot more cartoonish/ light-hearted. It still has the funny and sarcastic tone of Twisted Metal but without any of the excessive violence/ horror.
4. Twisted Metal (2012)
|Developer||Eat Sleep Play|
|Release Date||February 14, 2012|
The last true Twisted Metal game, this one was released on PlayStation 3. Of all the entries in this list, 2012’s Twisted Metal has the best graphics. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering it was made for the new console gen.
Most importantly, the gameplay feels crisp and fast-paced. I would say it plays better than 2 and even Black. One awesome new mechanic is your assistant who rides shotgun with you in the vehicle.
This person sticks their head out of the roof or window and acts as a secondary gunner. You also have destructible environments and a ton of new weapon types.
Twisted Metal 2012 manages to strike a nice balance between the more upbeat nature of 2 and the serious tone of Black.
3. Twisted Metal: Head On
|Developer||Incognito Entertainment (PSP), Eat Sleep Play (PS2)|
|Release Date||March 24, 2005 (PSP) and February 5, 2008 (PS2)|
The first Twisted Metal for a handheld game console, Head On is in many ways a true successor to Twisted Metal 2. David Jaffe came back to do the writing. The plot of Dead On directly follows the story after Twisted Metal 2, ignoring the events of III and 4.
The graphics are pretty good for a portable console game, and there are upgrades to be made as you clear each stage.
You can upgrade vehicle stats and weapon damage which might make your ride feel a little overpowered in the late game. Boss fights are also designed very well and cutscenes have this nice comic book vibe to them.
2. Twisted Metal 2
|Release Date||October 31, 1996 (PS2) and November 13, 1997 (PC)|
|Platforms||PlayStation 1, Windows PC|
Arguably the biggest improvement made by a sequel in any vehicle combat game. Twisted Metal 2 fixed the slippery handling of the first game and improved graphical fidelity while retaining all the positives.
It also boasts a better soundtrack compared to the first game along with much better storytelling and improved level design.
The developers learned from their mistakes with the first game and it shows in the sales figures. To this day, Twisted Metal 2 is the most commercially successful Twisted Metal game.
Animated endings, combo attacks, special weapons- these are all things that Twisted Metal 2 introduced to the series.
1. Twisted Metal: Black
|Release Date||June 18, 2001|
Between this game and Twisted Metal 2, I was hard-pressed to find a clear winner. There are things that 2 does better than Black, but I feel Black is the better game overall.
If nothing else, the atmosphere and gameplay are leagues ahead of any other game in the Twisted Metal franchise.
Visually, it’s a massive upgrade from the 4 games that came before it. And the characters all feel grittier, almost like creatures from some dark horror fantasy. This tense and horrifying mood is also reflected in the Intendro, brooding soundtrack for this game.
Gameplay-wise Twisted Metal: Black curb stomps every other game on this list except for the 2012 PS3 game. It’s fast, and the weapons actually pop out before firing so you can see the mayhem you unleash by pressing a button.
Vehicle handling feels excellent, and it plays more like a fighting game than a racing game (which is how Twisted Metal should be).
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is Twisted Metal Small Brawl a spin-off?
A: Not really since David Jaffe himself pitched the idea for a more cartoonish version of the original games. It uses the same engine as the first two games but feels more clunky.
Plus, the challenging gameplay of Twisted Metal 1 & 2 is absent which is why Small Brawl feels very forgettable.
Q: Wasn’t a version of Twisted Metal 1995 also released for Windows PC?
A: Yes, and it is Japan exclusive. It certainly won’t run on modern computers unless you’re willing to do a lot of tinkering.
Originally, the PC version was intended to be a showcase for NVIDIA’s then-new NV1 graphics accelerator.
Q: What’s the difference between the PlayStation and PC versions of Twisted Metal 2?
A: The PlayStation version of Twisted Metal 2 has slightly better translucency and water effects, along with extra details in certain stages. The PC version supports higher resolution and better framerates, plus it lets you save game progress and play online.
Q: Are there other games like Twisted Metal out there?
A: Definitely. In fact, Twisted Metal’s success inspired a bunch of car combat clones from various game developers. Carmageddon and Wreckfest are the first two alternatives that come to mind.
Q: I grew up as a gamer in the 90s, but never saw copies of Twisted Metal III or 4 in my local game stores. Why is that?
A: Because both III and 4 were both released exclusively in America. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed out on much because they are 2 of the least liked Twisted Metal games. But if you really want to play them, emulation on PC is your best bet.
Even though Twisted Metal 2 sold better, I feel like Twisted Metal: Black plays better. Its quicker combat makes for a more interesting multiplayer experience, while the character designs look grittier and more menacing.
The decision was really tough to make, but I feel like Twisted Metal: Black should be the winner of this showdown.
Graphically, Twisted Metal: Black still holds up to this day and you’re guaranteed to have a fun time with it if you own a PS2. Or you could try emulating it on PC if you have a backup copy of the CD-ROM.
The new 2012 game is fine and might have the best gameplay of any entry in the series. However, its story is where the game falls apart.
And you had a really limited selection of characters upon release for multiplayer mode, plus the online servers were extremely unreliable.