Red Dead Redemption II is one of the best games we’ve played all year. Outside of its lengthy, moving story campaign, there’s a huge amount of things you can do. We decided to put together a list of 101 such activities, distractions, and things worth investigating for those of you who have beaten the game or simply want a break from the massive story campaign.
The majority of these entries are spoiler-free. The ones that aren’t are herded at the very bottom in a single section and have a spoiler warning in bold right before you hit them. With that in mind, happy trails, friends.
Get a haircut: Arthur’s hair sure is shaggy. Why not stop in Valentine and give him a trim. If you’re feeling fancy, maybe apply some pomade or give our hero a handlebar mustache? He can pull it off. Probably.
Become a master chef: Sure you can hunt down deer, wolves, birds, and other animals for their meat but why stop at some plain steak? Gathering herbs from the world will allow you to spice up those meals and even give you stat boosts. Become the Gordon Ramsay of the West.
Be a Bully, Part The First: Try antagonizing everyone in the camp. You might get some surprising results when you push someone’s buttons too much.
Stick up a stagecoach: See that stagecoach on the road there? Why not ride over and aim your shotgun at the driver’s face and let him know that this is a robbery! If he’s wise, he’ll give you everything in his pockets. If not, well, his mistake to make!
Steal a stagecoach: Ok, let’s say the aforementioned robbery doesn’t go well. You’ve hidden the bodies in the reeds like a smart murderer. Why leave the stagecoach there, ownerless and road garbage? After you progress a little of the way through the story, there’s a fence at Emerald Ranch that will buy coaches off you for easy money.
Royal Flush, baby: Why not try your hand at some poker in one of the saloons and impress your opponents with your mad skills. Granted, if you suck, you can always just stand up, shoot the winner in the face, and take back your money! Everybody wins! Well, actually, just you. You’re the one doing the winning. Nobody else.
Gimme the loot: Like the original Red Dead Redemption, there are treasure maps to find and buy that can lead you to some goodies. There’s gold in them hills, so get to it, partner.
Fend off a robbery: One of the random events in the world involves you getting robbed on the road by one of the gangs that runs around. You can let yourself be robbed, if you’re in a pacifistic mood, or you can show them why you’re the fastest draw in the West.
I call it Vera: Being a Western, you bet your horse there’s a bunch of guns for you to add to your arsenal. However, you can also visit the local gunsmith to customize every weapon, down to what color the metal is and what you want engraved in the stock. Why not make that revolver real special by making the handle nickel-plated?
Be a real dastard: Did you know you can lasso people and then hogtie them? Why not leave at least one of those foolish bandits standing after a battle, hogtie him, put him on some tracks and wait for the train to come while you twirl your mustache all evil-like?
All the scorched horses: Head over to that one place near Saint Denis where horses are literally becoming immolated. No, really.
Take a bath: Being an outlaw is hard, dirty work. Literally. Get knocked down in a fist fight during a thunder storm and you’ll probably find yourself covered head to toe in mud. Townspeople will even comment on your smell if you let it stick to you, the jerks. No biggie. Just find a hotel. Most of them offer baths where you can rub the stink off you.
Seaman: Fishing in Red Dead Redemption 2, like most of its systems, is surprisingly complex and deep with different baits working for different fish throughout the world. But you’re already a master horse breaker and deadly gunman, one in dire need of a hobby. Why not relax from all the murder and mayhem by becoming an immaculate fisherman?
Slow ride, take it easy: Saint Denis is a haven of technology innovation at the turn of the century. One of those miraculous devices is a trolley, making public transportation a breeze. Let your poor horse rest a bit and take a ride around town to soak up the Frenchiness of the city.
Into the wild: Sometimes you just need some space, away from the loud, obnoxious folks at the Van der Linde camp. Luckily, there are deserted mountains to the north. Bundle up and take off, exploring the frozen woods by day and pitching a campfire at night to cook any game you’ve caught.
House call: There are various homes throughout the world (look for smoke rising from chimneys) that you can enter while their residents are sleeping and burgle their cabinets for pocket watches, gold, and anything else you can find to sell to a fence. Just make sure to be quiet or your sneaky home invasion might suddenly turn into an unexpected murder.
The weirdo trade: Algernon Wasp is located in Saint Denis and tasks you with tracking certain feathers and orchids. That might sound like a dull task but you get something really cool for completing it, so indulge this wacko.
Jet Set Radio Past: There’s some curious graffiti on the walls of Saint Denis buildings. The first one is near the trapper in the market. Keep looking around the city for two more of them and the map will spawn a mysterious new X somewhere in Saint Denis. Go there and get ready for something special.
You’ve got to love yourself a fire: There are bandit camps throughout the world that spawn independently near you from time to time. You’ll know they’re bandits as you creep up on them because of conversational clues. You’ll often want to invade these camps for the goods they contain but instead of wasting bullets and putting yourself in danger, why not lob a fire bomb dead center in the middle of the place and watch the fireworks.
Smoke signals: One of the easiest ways to spot areas worth exploring is smoke rising in the sky. If you’re galloping across the plains and see a pillar of smoke, that means that something—a camp, an event, a group of idiots that need to be shot, a sidequest—is nearby for you to investigate.
I am a scientist: You don’t have to hunt animals if you don’t want to (outside of one mission). It’s a pricier choice, with you having to often buy food from stores, but it’s doable. However, you can still study them if you don’t want to hurt the animals you come across in order to complete your compendium.
Herbology 101: You’ll also need to sniff out and pick every plant you come across in the world to complete that big book of yours.
Take a train ride: Train rides exist in cities as one of the game’s few fast travel methods. However, you can also just relax and enjoy the scenery if you want…or, and this is a bonkers idea but WHAT IF…
Drive a train: Yep. You can literally throw the conductor through the window and steal the locomotive for yourself to ride around the world and ring the bell as much as you want.
The not-so-great train robbery: You can also just rob any train you see too. Besides going from passenger to passenger and holding them up, all trains also have special cargo compartments filled with valuables. You just need to plant some dynamites on the safe to blow it. Oh, and get ready for armed resistance too. Most trains have guards ready to fight you tooth and nail for the riches, not to mention the lawmen and bounty hunters who will be riding in as reinforcements.
Die savagely: Sometimes someone says the wrong thing to you and you lose your cool a little bit and suddenly there are some dead people on the floor, a smoking revolver in your hand, and the cops are on the way. Whoops. Building up your bounty and getting into intense shootouts in the middle of Saint Denis or Valentine can lead to some great emergent stories, like the time one of our editors shot a lawman as he came up the stairs and he crumpled dramatic, stumbling down the stairwell Gone With The Wind style. Hold out as long as you can and see just how high you can get that bounty up to.
Who burgles the burglars: Several stores throughout the world have seedy underground operations going on — like moonshine trading — that you can crash in on to steal their profits for yourselves. Keep an ear out for NPCs in the open world that you help in emergent events, like freeing someone from a paddy wagon. They’ll often clue you in on these criminal enterprises.
Top of the food chain: There are ‘legendary’ animals all over the map that represent the toughest beasts to bring down. You’ll be able to find them on the map by looking where the animal drawings with crowns are. Head there to track and square off against the animals that put the king in kingdom.
Jurassic Park: To the Northeast of Flatneck Station, you’ll find a bizarre site: an old woman excavating for dinosaur bones! Talk with her to start a quest to find 30 bones littered throughout the map. You’ll need to use your hunter vision to find them all.
It’s time to du-du-duel: While most duels in Red Dead Redemption II are random and happen whenever an NPC is irate with you, you can try to jerryrig such sequences. The easiest way to bait an NPC into a duel is cheating at poker (and getting caught) or knocking characters off horses and insulting them until they whip out their pistols.
Couldn’t drag me away: Like the aforementioned Stagecoach fence, there’s also a horse fence in the world that you get access to after you progress through the story a bit. That fence is located north of Clemens Point, after you complete a certain mission in Chapter 3. You can bring whatever horses you lasso there, both those on the plains or those you’ve stolen from towns in the dead of night.
Fancy yourself a collector: The weapons at the gunsmith aren’t the only ones you can find in Red Dead Redemption II. Littered throughout the world, in both missions and locations, are rare weapons you can’t purchase. A lot of them, too. To find one of the rarer ones, complete the Gunslinger missions for Calloway (who you can find in Valentine).
Spirit tracks: When night falls, head to the northwest part of Lemoyne and find the sign that says Lemoyne. See those tracks? Okay, wait until 3:00 AM (you can check the time by hitting down on the D-pad) and ride along the tracks. You should see something very interesting.
Press all the buttons: This might sound dumb but listen, Red Dead Redemption II has a habit of burying a lot of relevant information under its tutorials. So take some time, go to a clearing somewhere, and just press all the dang buttons to see what might happen. For example, one of our editors (the tall, lanky dumb one) didn’t realize until he already beat the game that you could use iron sights on any weapons by holding down on the D-Pad.
The latest in fashion: Hold on to your pelts, especially the good ones. While it might be tempting to sell them, the trapper in Saint Denis can make great frontiersmen gear for you to wear, including a raccoon hat!
The KKK won’t take my baby away: Members of the Ku Klux Klan roam Red Dead Redemption II’s map, especially in the south. You can stumble upon them having rallies or trying to raise crosses to burn. Why not let them know what you think of their prejudiced and regressive philosophies with a stick of dynamite or a hail of bullets?
Poke the bear: There are certain animals in Red Dead Redemption II who do not take kindly to your presence. Messing with alligators or bears in particular culminates in one of the most disturbing animations we’ve see in games – one that’s worth triggering at least once for just how shocking it is.
Arabian nights: The best horse in Red Dead Redemption II, when it comes to stats, is easily the white Arabian breed. You can buy one for a hefty price in Blackwater but why not be a true cowboy and track one through the mountains around Lake Isabella. Get ready though, this well camouflaged steed will put up a fight for its freedom.
The sickest of stunts: The physics and systems in Red Dead Redemption II are the promising foundation to a lot of hilarious, accidental deaths. Experimenting with riding your horse around jagged, rocky territory or pushing people to get a sense of how weighty and manipulated the physics can be. For some examples of sick stunts, watch this collection put together by our mischief maker lads Kyle and Leo.
Make it an Olympic sport: The lasso is a great tool even when you’re not hogtying people. Maybe there’s a bandit who’s giving you a surprising amount of trouble that you want to make an example of. Tie him up and drag him with your horse while he kicks and curses you. If you’re on a mountaintop, you can drift around the edge, let go of the lasso, and send him flying in a downright diabolical maneuver.
Lend me your ear: The soundtrack is kind of astounding. Listen as you go from region to region to hear how the music changes to encompass the vibe of each place.
Wrath like the cold rain: There are seven gangs in Red Dead Redemption II that are out and about to commit various misdeeds. Why not show them why the Van der Linde gang is the king around these parts? Take down all the hangouts and put these fools in their place.
Canonized: It’s real easy to become a notorious outlaw but why not experience the flip side of that and become a saint of the West by doing good deeds and staying your violent hand. Bring bounties in alive and help people to boost your honor rating.
Howdy partner: Piggybacking off the last point, a quick way to raise your honor in small increments is to greet everyone you come across politely. No really. It makes you a better person. We’re not joking.
Unchained: Chain gangs play a surprisingly large role in Red Dead Redemption II’s open-world. You can come across them in the world and shoot of their locks if you feel so inclined, with the NPC giving you some helpful information about locations worth investigating. There’s also a sidequest on the outskirts of Rhodes involving two prisoners that’s absolutely worth doing.
Hammer in the morning: The Appleseed Timber Company is a camp of lumberjacks and construction workers that are near Monto’s Rest. You can go there to sell any extra expendables you have (like whiskey and medicine) for a higher price than other sellers but you can also interact with the camp in ways that lets you help build it up. Be sure to return to Appleseed from time to time to see how it changes.
Got a dime, buddy: There are a handful of homeless NPCs in Valentine, Rhodes, Saint Denis, and the world at large. Giving them money not only boosts your honor but they all remember Arthur and will comment on their relationship to him. The beggar you find in the wilderness will give cryptic statements on Arthur’s future.
Bonding time: A handful of main story quests will often give you the chance to ride back to camp or do some other activity (like fishing) with whoever you’re with after they’re complete. While it might be tempting to skip these events so you can go explore the world on your own, you should do them as a number of them are funny and poignant.
Science experiment: So you’ve shot someone in the middle of nowhere. It happens. But what happens next is probably far more interesting. Stick around and keep an eye on the body. The game has a shockingly advanced (and stomach-turning) decaying system. Blech. Neat but yeah, woof.
A lesson in respecting personal space: Find a horse that isn’t yours. Stand behind it for a few seconds.
Every dog has his day: While horses and other animals in the wild might not take too kindly to your presence, dogs and cats in the various towns will adore you and even let you pet them. Whatever you do, do not harm them (you monster) or you’ll have all sorts of hell at your doorstep.
What lies beneath: There’s something going on in the basement of the gunsmith in Rhodes. Swing by there and circle the building for a bit.
The show must go on: In Blackwater, Saint Denis, and on the outskirts of Valentine you’ll find various theatrical shows you can attend. Be sure to catch at least one from every location. Arthur can also boo or cheer on the performers, if you’re feeling like a particularly vocal critic.
So many little dots: If poker isn’t your thing, there are also plenty of dominos boards throughout the world, including one at camp.
Step into the Twilight Zone: Near the bottom of Saint Denis, you’ll find a local crackpot named Marko Dragic around a pond. Be sure to do his quests. All of them. Trust us on this.
Rootin, tootin: You’ll find a couple of big-talking gunslingers throughout the world who want to challenge you to a shooting contest, often involving you blasting a certain number of bottles or birds before they can. Oblige them and use Dead Eye to put them in their place.
Window shopping: Yeah, you can go over to the shopkeep in general stores and flip through a catalog to buy whatever items you want. However, you can also walk around the store and literally buy things off the shelves, making the whole experience much more immersive.
Trials of fire: There’s a whole collection of challenges for you to take on if you want (kill three enemies with throwing knives in rapid succession, rob four stores in a single day). As a whole, they’re hit or miss, but some of them are very fun, particularly the bandit section. Complete them all for a special reward.
The Good, The Bad, and the Clever: Wanna use your brains instead of brawn to make a fair amount of cash? Northwest of Fort Wallace, there’s a place called Widow Rock. You should find some cave paintings and Arthur will jot them down, kickstarting a quest that requires you to find certain objects throughout the world and culminates in something special.
Strike a pose: There’s a photo studio in Saint Denis where you can pose Arthur in his best (or worst) digs and take some great pictures.
Extra, extra read all about it: Throughout most cities there are newspaper boys on the corners selling editions that keep up with the exploits of the Van der Linde gang and the world at large. Why not take a breather, buy a copy, and see what other people think about the gang’s adventures and misdeeds?
Hair of the dog: True to both The Old West and Rockstar’s open-world games, there are bars everywhere in Red Dead Redemption II. Get Arthur hammered to witness goofy antics.
And the law won: Maybe you want to take a break from being an outlaw for a bit. Luckily for you, there are bounties in every city for you to chase down. On the wanted dead or alive bounties, bring them back alive to earn a big honor boost.
The photographer’s assistant: Southeast of Strawberry, you’ll find an odd looking fellow with a camera. Talk to him to engage one of the most extensive (and weirdest) side quests in the game.
Arthur Morgan, super sleuth: Why be a cowboy when you can be a detective? Available after Chapter 2, this mission is accessible from a cabin on the outskirts of Valentine. Head there to moonlight as a detective on the case of a vicious killer.
Create a fashion ensemble: Your horse can carry three outfits. Typically it’s a good idea to have one winter jacket for whenever you ascend into the mountains but the other two outfits are free game, so why not go wild and have clothes for all occasions on-the-go?
Get in (or out of) shape: Arthur can gain or lose weight depending on how much he’s eating, with stat bonuses/hits applicable to both conditions. Chomping down on a bunch of deer meat at the campfire is a quick way to make Athur bloat if you want to see the differences.
Dirt in the chamber: One of the central gameplay mechanics involves making sure your weapons are maintained by cleaning them with gun oil. However, at least once, you should watch one of your weapons degrade over time to see the visual effects of not cleaning them. It’s another testament to just how much thought Rockstar put into the little details.
The first rule of Fight Club: Sure this is The Old West but you don’t need to settle all your disputes with bullets. Sometimes knocking the lights out of that fellow who just insulted you is more satisfying.
Bandito: Wear your bandana around town to hear unique comments from everyone, even when you’re not committing a crime.
You talking to me: Find a mirror. You’ll see Arthur has a prompt for talking to himself. Hilarity ensues.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee: One of the stranger encounters in Valentine, near the general shop, is an amusing questline involving two brothers trying to impress a woman they both love. Arthur gets roped in. Definitely worth doing for the laughs.
Gotta Collect ‘Em All: There’s a fellow at Flatneck station who needs help finding all the collectible cards that come with the cigarette packets you find throughout the world. Lend him a hand and you’ll net a fair amount of cash.
Dear diary: Arthur keeps a journal where he recounts EVERYTHING he comes across in the game, offering not just summaries of quests from his perspective but also drawing interesting locations and animals he sees. Be sure to stop and read it every now and again.
The refuse of the past: There’s an old man sleeping outside of the train station in Rhodes on a bench. Chat him up. He needs you to recover some precious items from his old plantation. Oblige him for one of the most interesting excursions in the game.
Put some hair on that chin: Is Arthur’s beard not growing fast enough for you? For some zany hair growth buy the hair tonic for the general store and grow yourself a beard much more quickly.
Six pieces, sixteen pigs: You might be disappointed to learn alligators won’t eat bodies. However, pigs definitely will. If you’re morbidly curious, drop a body near a gathering of pigs, and watch as they surge like porcine piranha toward the new meal.
The Macgyver School Of Thought: Sometimes you want to fish but you don’t want to fish, if you know what I’m saying. If you want to catch a bass or something but without the fuss of using a rod, just use your bow instead or (better yet) throw a stick of dynamite in there! Presto!
Deck Out My Ride: Stables aren’t just useful for housing your various horses. You can customize them to a ridiculous degree, from stirrups to blankets to even dying their manes and tails.
Giftwrap: Certain weapons, specifically rifles, come with the option to stick a wrap on the stock. Outside of the visual boon, you also decrease the degradation effect for that weapon, meaning you won’t have to clean it as much.
Evel Knievel: Are you standing on a ledge above your horse? Jump off the ledge for a special surprise. Just don’t miss!
A thousand words: While it’s not easy to find initially, there is actually a photo mode in Red Dead Redemption II. Progress past chapter one and you’ll get access to the camera in your inventory, which you can use to take standard shorts and selfies.
Be a Bully, Part The Second: So you’ve been rude to everyone in camp (including young Jack), why not try win strangers over with your smarm out in the open-world? Arthur’s rudeness can be very amusing. Just don’t be surprised when someone pulls a gun on you because of an off-color remark.
Secret shopping: While the tailor offers a ridiculous number of outfits, it doesn’t have all of them. Be sure to check out general stores for clothing in various places for area and honor-specific outfits.
The easy way: There are a lot of cheats for Red Dead Redemption II, if you want to spice things up a little with infinite ammo or all unlocked outfits. You can find a whole list here.
The outer limits: There’s an interesting sci-fi oriented quest that begins in a shack north of Emerald Station. If you find some corpses inside, you’re in the right place. Search for a hidden note to find the next step.
Bring me a dream: There are 20 dream catchers hidden throughout the game among the tree branches of dead trees. Find all 20 and you’ll unlock a useful item for the bow.
Cave o’ bones: Want to see something spooky and furry? Chill around Roanake Valley at night. Chances are you’ll hear a howl and see something quite horrifying. Follow it, if you dare.
From the land of the ice and snow: Tired of being a cowboy? Why not try the Viking life? In an old tomb to the northwest of Annesburg, you’ll find a useable Viking helmet (cool), axe (YES), and comb (ok, sure why not?).
You did know me: In the west section of the bayou, near the Kamassa River, you’ll find a shack with a painting inside of it. Return to it often during the game, with every chapter. The payoff is worth it.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead. These particular events relate to main story events in the game or take place in the post-game. Don’t read unless you’ve beaten the game or don’t care about spoilers.
Time goes by: Arthur can make certain choices during the main game that will have consequences in the post-game when you play as Marston. There’s on in Saint Denis involving donating to a charity, for example. The homeless people Arthur interacted with during the main game will also remember him. Explore to find all these callbacks.
Vacation, all I ever wanted: Chapter 5 takes a diversion to an island off the coast of Cuba called Guarma. Be sure to enjoy the sights as much has you can while you’re there. There’s no going back.
Calm before the storm: Whenever you see white quest markers in camp, or with your gang member’s names attached to the, be sure to do so before you go on with the story. People have a habit of not hanging around long in Red Dead Redemption II so foregoing those quests means you could lose them forever.
The simple life: Once Beecher’s Hope is built you can perform chores around the ranch like shoveling manure or feeding the horses hay.
Reunited: After the main game, some of the members who have survived the events of that story are still alive and well in the world. The credits sequence after the post-game gives clues to where in the world they are.
Blood on memory lane: Want to relive the incredible mansion shootout (you know which one) or some other level from the game? Go into the story menu and click on the various chapters to get the chance to replay any of them and try and get a gold medal for each one.
Man’s best friend: While it might be tempting to ride and own a whole stable of horses, be sure to enter the last mission with a horse you’ve bonded to a maximum level with for a special cutscene.
An old flame: One of the side stories you can do is have Arthur reconnect with an old love, Mary. After the first mission, the rest of these are optional, so be sure to do them because if you miss one in a chapter, they fade from the world.
Now it’s a party: Certain missions end with the camp throwing a party. You might be tempted to leave and have Arthur hit the hay so you can start the next part of the game. Don’t do that. Be sure to hang around until the celebrations are over to see some special character interactions.
The fallen: While there are several gang members living after the events of Red Dead Redemption II’s main story, several weren’t so lucky. See if you can find their graves.
Hey, I remember this place: Though you’ll have a ridiculous bounty if you go there before the epilogue, you can visit places from the first Red Dead Redemption including the McFarlane Ranch (No Bonnie, sorry) as Arthur if you want a hit of nostalgia.