Where Red Dead Redemption 2 really sets itself apart is in the details. While there are plenty of open world games that allow your character to wander around and interact freely, there are only a rare few in which the developers have hand-crafted such incredible particulars. For example, not only might you hear about a show that’s playing in town, but you can actually buy a ticket and watch a full-length vaudeville act, complete with a freak show and an actress that performs a little show tune (and this is within a side quest). Some people could complete the main campaign and never bother seeing the show. No doubt, this is why Red Dead Redemption 2 is breaking sales records. So much care and feeding went into every single playable detail that you’d swear this world actually exists.
However, Arthur is only as involved as you want him to be. It is you, the player, that gets to decide what side-adventures he plays a part in and whether or not he even completes the side missions he starts. It’s a rich world and a weird one on top of that. Depending on the side quest, Red Dead Redemption 2 can be a comedy, drama, mystery, horror film, romance, or even a sci-fi adventure. Whenever you undertake a new mission, you have no idea where it might lead or who will be left standing at the end of it. According to players and critics, here are 13 Side Quests That Every Player Needs To Complete (And 7 That Aren’t Worth It).
20 Complete: Oh, Brother
You’re taking a stroll through the town of Valentine when you encounter two brothers trying to impress the same woman. With one look, they decide to get you involved in deciding which brother deserves the girl. One brother excitedly says: “Do I look like a coward to you? I mean, obviously, I do because I look like that milksop there…” To which the other brother retorts: “I apologize sir… for his SMELL.” Suddenly, they’re asking you to fire at bottles off their heads to prove their courage.
And so the rest of this weird mission goes, with two insecure brothers whose egos are only matched by their comical vocabularies. Before you know it, they’re threatening to throw themselves off a cliff. It’s not like Arthur to entertain fools, but these guys are just hilarious enough to make it worthwhile.
19 Complete: The Noblest of Men, And a Woman
In Valentine, you meet Theodore Levin, an author who is writing a book about the notorious slinger Jim “Boy” Calloway. The book isn’t going so well, largely because Calloway hasn’t been very cooperative or helpful in interviews. Levin drafts you on a mission to interview other colorful characters that have had experience with Calloway in order to help round out the book.
This ends up being quite the adventure, as everyone on the list is pretty dangerous, with some more likely to respond to interviewers with bullets rather than anecdotes. You’ll run into wild personalities like Flaco Hernandez, Billy Midnight, Emmet Granger, and Black Belle, just to name a few. There are great rewards on this mission as you’ll get at least three great weapons that are worth your while, all in a perilous quest that will continue to surprise you. Keep your trigger finger frosty.
18 Complete: The Mercies of Knowledge
The ethical part of scientific experimentation was still pretty dicey in this era. The field of electrical science has been particularly spooky in its development, with harrowing stories of Edison publicly using elephants to prove the powers of electricity.
In this mission, you run into an inventor in the northern area of St. Denis who needs an ample supply of moonshine. The bigger picture is that he needs a permit and a test subject to publicly demonstrate his latest invention: the electric chair. You would be right in guessing that he needs Arthur to help him get the permit and the test subject. In the inventor’s mind, he is creating a humane alternative to capital punishment, but it doesn’t work out so well, for all involved. It’s a morbid adventure, but you don’t really want to miss it.
17 Not Worth It: Of Men and Angels
Arthur, despite himself, often ends up doing the right thing. He certainly has no qualms about being violent, but he’s not some kind of sociopath either. It’s ironic, though, that so many feel comfortable asking Arthur for help having no idea of his highly criminal background.
In this mission, a nun asks Arthur for a simple charity: donate food to the poor. If you donate, the nun catches on quickly that Arthur doesn’t like when people see his soft side. She says: “You are wonderful, Mr. Morgan.” “That ain’t true,” he replies. “Oh, I meant wonderful but… so very [spooky]. As you wish.” That’s it. That’s the mission. The hardest thing you’ll have to figure out is whether you want to give her the canned apricots, the canned kidney beans, or the Bluegill fish.
16 Complete: The Ties That Bind Us
When you first encounter these two escaped prisoners on the lam, they are literally at each other’s throats. After calming them down a bit, you agree to help get the law off their back by collecting all the posters with their faces around town. After this is done, you expect them to go their separate ways, however, these two just can’t quit each other.
You run into them several more times, where it becomes apparent that they can’t survive without each other. They quarrel like an old couple, but when push comes to shove, there’s a lot of love there. It’s hard not to find these two adorable, and they provide a nice bit of comic relief to all the other serious goings-on. If you want to help them out, look for them southwest of Rhodes Town.
15 Complete: A Bright Bouncing Boy
This one is really quite special. In West St. Denis, you’ll encounter Marko Dragic, an obvious nod to the very real Nikola Tesla. Dragic wants your help showing off his breakthrough wave-based technology to potential investors. To you, he’s blathering on about a toy boat, but to him, he’s demonstrating invisible waves you can’t see that are controlling the boat remotely. Arthur is understandably skeptical, repeating with disbelief: “Invisible waves I can’t see.”
Later, he needs your help in capturing electricity from a nearby storm. Arthur is ignorant enough about electricity to not think twice about running around outside with metal rods. The third mission is straight out of early science fiction, and we won’t spoil it for you here; just make sure to follow the mission until the very end to learn the fate of the mysterious Marko Dragic.
14 Not Worth It: Do Not Seek Absolution
Arthur’s not sorry for all the people he’s hurt in the past, because in his mind, so many of them deserved it. But occasionally, he runs into a situation where he IS sorry because life is complicated, and deep down, he has a heart. Such is the case where he accidentally encounters Edith Downes in Annenberg, a woman he had previously shaken down to settle a debt. Arthur collected, but she and her grown son are now destitute as a result.
If you choose to help in this mission, you will do it against her wishes and most likely out of a sense of guilt. In the end, you will end up $35 poorer for your troubles. If you must for your conscience, then it might be worth it, but it’s a sad little quest for which you will get little thanks.
13 Complete: He’s British, Of Course
The title of this mission reflects what’s going on in Arthur’s head. If you run into a man in Lemoyne dressed as a woman who happens to be missing a few circus animals… well, he must be British. This circus performer begs for Arthur’s help in tracking down a missing zebra, tiger, and lion. The zebra and the tiger hold some hilarious surprises, but it’s the lion that will give you the most trouble, and resultantly, the most excitement.
It’s a man-eater, so you’ll have to use your tracking, hunting, and hiding skills to get the lion. You’ll learn quickly how NOT to trap a hungry lion in a barn and the reward is pretty good, too. It’s a nice and weird break from the typically “western” things you usually have to do.
12 Not Worth It: The Aberdeen Pig Farm
You wouldn’t take candy from strangers, right? So, why on earth would you take liquor and beef stew from strangers? Perhaps the smell of those delicious vittles made Arthur forget that there are weird folks out there that are up to no good. It starts out, innocently enough, with a plump guy wearing only his overalls inviting you into his and his sister’s remote cabin for supper. Maybe they’re just lonely? This just seems like a dumb move on Arthur’s part.
He’s a little too close with his sister, and on top of that, it seems like she’s putting the moves on you. However, it’s not long before you wake up after being poisoned, blacked out, and robbed of everything you own. You can get it all back, but you’re just recovering your losses. Avoid these degenerates, it’s not worth it.
11 Complete: The Smell of the Grease Paint
The circus act wasn’t the only traveling show in these parts. While stopping by a saloon at the Van Horn Trading post, you meet Miss Marjorie and her gigantic friend with a misshapen head, Bertram. Bertram is in the midst of ending the bartender when you manage to intervene and de-escalate the situation.
Miss Marjorie is the head of a freak show act, of which Bertram is a part, but she’s missing her little person magician, Magnifico. She wants you to track him down and wrangle him back into his contractual responsibilities for the show. If you do as asked, you can later see their show in St. Denis and get a $40 reward in a letter from Miss Marjorie. The developers actually made a little entertaining show for you to watch, so that alone is worth it.
10 Not Worth It: Good, Honest, Snake Oil
There’s a literal snake oil salesman that’s been peddling medicine that’s been sending folks to an early grave. The way the Sheriff sees it, that’s far worse than ending people in with ammo, so he sends you after him, but he wants him alive.
It’s not that the cause isn’t worthwhile, it’s just sort of a nothing mission, over in just a few minutes. You’ll find your man, he panics and jumps in the river. Then, you have to chase him downriver on horseback, lasso him in the water and endure his complaining all the way back to town. You’ll be rewarded about $50, so not a bad haul, but… it’s over soon and you’re not missing much if you skip it.
9 Complete: The Veteran
Arthur is no-nonsense and he tends to hold people at arm’s length. So, when he meets someone he has a genuine affection for, it’s really something special. It all starts when he encounters Hamish Sinclair, a one-legged war veteran out in the middle of Grizzlies East who needs help wrangling back his runaway horse. The infernal creature happened to run off with his prosthetic leg, too. Since Arthur can’t leave the poor guy without his leg or horse, he obliges.
After he returns the horse, Hamish invites him fishing and they make fast friends as Arthur can’t help but take a genuine shine to him. We won’t spoil the ending, but if you want to see what kind of person Arthur gets along with best, this veteran and outdoorsman would be on the top of his list.
8 Not Worth It: Brothers and Sisters, One And All
It’s a beautiful day in St. Denis. You’re making small talk with some church-folk: Brother Dorkins and Sister Calderon. Suddenly, a pick-pocketing kid takes off with Sister Calderon’s crucifix. The mission is simple: chase the kid and get the crucifix back.
The only thing is, this mission is more trouble than it’s worth. After you get the crucifix back, you run into Edith Downes, who promptly calls the law on you. Now, you’ve got to run and hide until the meter shows that the law has given up trying to find you. If you know what you’re doing, you can elude them. But, you still risk capture just for trying to do the right thing and get a nun’s crucifix back to her.
7 Complete: Arcadia for Amateurs
The inclusion of a wildlife photographer as a character is an ingenious way to highlight the natural splendor of the wilderness that designers created. When you first encounter Albert Mason southeast of Strawberry, he explains that he’s moved on from photographing people and instead, wants to capture shots of wildlife. Unfortunately, he’s not much of an outdoorsman, and while trying to take great pictures of coyotes and wolves, he needs you to defend him so he doesn’t end up a pile of bones picked clean of meat.
It’s a multi-part mission that finally ends with him attempting to get shots of eagles over a breathtaking view of the countryside. Albert is a bit of a dunce when it comes to nature, but he does have an amazing eye for pictures and it’s worth it just for the sight-seeing.
6 Complete: Fatherhood and Other Dreams
Arthur definitely has a heart, but he’s a bit of a weird romantic. However, what he lacks in his verbal expression, he makes up for in deeds as he is definitely a man of action. In this mission, he sells a brooch on behalf of his former flame, Mary. It’s more complicated than that, but you’ll see once you undertake the mission. After it’s done, you’ll have an opportunity to take Mary to the theater for a genuinely entertaining vaudeville three-act show.
Afterward, you’ll have a bittersweet exchange with Mary, who so desperately wants you to run away with her. But, you must remind her that you are a wanted man and you don’t want her mixed up in all that. It’s sad because you can see that they both want a fairy tale ending… it’s just not going to happen.
5 Complete: The Wisdom of the Elders
Sometimes, wicked people cover their tracks with a little supernatural camouflage; kind of like all the bad guys in Scooby Doo. West of Van Horn, Arthur gets drawn into a bizarre plot after rescuing a man near the river who appears weird. The villagers tell him that their region is cursed, and later, you are attacked by “demon dogs” and encounter a shaman who asks you to terminate some cursed charms. The shaman also told the villagers not to go near the old mines.
If you investigate, you find the mines are leaking poisoned water into the creek, which explains people and animals going nuts. The shaman works for a fuel company and is trying to get the illiterate townspeople to sign a contract to protect them from any liability. Arthur enacts a little frontier justice on the shyster, which is pretty sweet to watch.
4 Not Worth It: The Course of True Love IV and V
Getting involved as a go-between and defender for two star-crossed lovers from feuding families seems like the last thing that would be on Arthur’s list of things to do. And honestly, it really should. You’ll get involved with the acrimony of two well-off families that dislike each other’s guts in an earlier main story, but this later mission is completely optional. After you receive a letter from Penelope, you have the option of traveling to Butcher Creek to defend her and Beau from trigger-happy relatives on the train platform.
You’ll board a train the easy way or the hard way to ward off attackers trying to get to Penelope and Beau. In the end, you’ll receive a small reward that hardly seems worth continuing this soap opera gone wrong.
3 Complete: American Dreams
Arthur has seen quite a few unpleasant things during his short time on Earth, which actually gives him a lot of practical experience when it comes to figuring things out. In this mission, you’ll get to play detective when you discover corpses laying about, deliberately meant to be found with cryptic messages left behind.
You’ll have to follow some clues, solve some puzzles, and do a bit of sleuthing to get to the bottom of who is responsible. The perpetrator is a prophecy-style criminal and has his eye set on you for his next casualty. This is a hard R-rated mission for unsightly images. Once you solve the puzzle and meet the madman, be sure to stay on your toes as he’s out of his mind and you’re the only one that can bring him to justice.
2 Not Worth It: Money Lending and Other Sins
Your gang has a few outstanding debts it needs to collect, and your compatriot, Leopold Strauss, wants you to do it. As Arthur, you’ve shaken down a few people in your time, so it’s not a weird thing to ask. So, if you want, you can go through the list one by one and go collect the money. You can do that by collecting actual currency or just taking collateral such as horses and jewelry to satisfy the debt to Leopold.
It’s an ok mission, but the reward you get is embarrassingly small for all the work you do. If you complete the list, you’ll get more than if you just partially complete it. But honestly, you can skip this whole little side quest and you won’t miss much.
1 Complete: American Inferno, Burnt Out
This mission can only be completed after you complete all the main story missions. South of Strawberry and the Montana River, you’ll encounter Evelyn Miller, a famous author. He’ll invite you to his home, and you’ll run into a few disagreeable poachers along the way. Throughout the mission, you become Evelyn’s link to the outside world as he locks himself into his cabin to work on his book. He’ll need to be brought food about three times over the course of several days.
Evelyn is certainly passionate about his work as he ignores the needs of his body and literally writes himself into an early grave. After you find him passed away, you can collect a few things of value and then try to fulfill his last request. It’s a sad mission, but at least you can help him a little.
Have you experienced any other missions worth completing or neglecting in RDR2? Let us know in the comments below!