Rockstar Games announced on October 18, 2016 through their trademark teasers that Red Dead Redemption 2 was in production and originally planned to be released in 2017. The game was delayed into the next year with a final release date of October 26, 2018 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The game is a prequel set in 1899. At this time, outlaw gangs are disappearing and the wild west era is about to end. Players take the role of Arthur Morgan, the right-hand man of the Van der Linde gang. The gang struggles to survive as the law threatens to destroy its way of life once and for all. Characters from the previous game, including John Marston, Bill Williamson, and Dutch Van der Linde, are also present.
Gameplay will follow the traditional Rockstar open world, with some new improvements and additions. The morality mechanic from the previous game is greatly expanded. The player has a vast number of options for interacting with NPCs, who will remember those actions in future encounters and act accordingly.
Rockstar has emphasized how the world will continue without the player's direct intervention. Characters have daily schedules they fulfill. They have independent conversations with each other. The player will get the sense that the world exists without them. With these advancements, Rockstar is trying to create a more believable world than ever before.
The traditional gameplay is supplemented by a new base building system and a greater focus on multiplayer in the wake of GTA Online. Little is known about the multiplayer aspects of Red Dead 2, but the game is rumored to follow the multiplayer setup of Free Roam akin to Red Dead Redemption.
After a botched ferry heist in 1899, the Van der Linde gang are forced to leave their substantial money stash and flee Blackwater. Realizing civilization's progress is ending the time of outlaws, they decide to gain enough money to escape the law and retire. They rob a train owned by Cornwall, who hires Pinkertons to apprehend them. The gang performs jobs to earn money, as Dutch continually promises the next heist will be their last. Following a shootout with the Pinkertons in Valentine, the gang relocate to Lemoyne, where they work simultaneously for the Grays and Braithwaites in an attempt to turn them against each other. However, the families double-cross them: the Grays kill a gang member during an ambush, while the Braithwaites kidnap and sell Jack to Bronte. The gang retaliate and destroy both families before retrieving Jack from Bronte, who offers them leads on work but eventually double-crosses them. Dutch kidnaps and feeds him to an alligator as revenge, which disturbs Arthur.
The gang robs a bank in Saint-Denis, but the Pinkertons intervene, killing Hosea and arresting John. Dutch, Arthur, Bill, Javier, and Micah escape the city via a ship heading to Cuba. A torrential storm sinks the ship, and the men wash ashore on the island of Guarma, where they become embroiled in a war between tyrannical sugar plantation owner Fussar and the enslaved local population. After helping the revolutionaries kill Fussar, the group secured transport back to the United States and reunite with the rest of the gang.
Dutch obsesses over one last heist and doubts Arthur's loyalty after he disobeys him by liberating John earlier than planned, naming Micah, his top lieutenant, in Arthur's place. Arthur becomes concerned that Dutch is no longer the man he knew, as he is becoming insular, abandons their ideals, and murders Cornwall. He is faced with his mortality when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. Arthur reflects on his actions and how to protect the gang following his death, telling John to run away with Abigail and Jack and openly defying Dutch by aiding the local Native American people. When the Pinkertons assault the camp, Dutch becomes paranoid that a gang member is working as an informant. Several gang members become disenchanted and leave, while Dutch and Micah arrange one final heist of an Army payroll train.
Arthur's faith in Dutch is shattered when he abandons Arthur to the Army, leaves John for dead, and refuses to rescue Abigail when she is taken. Arthur and Sadie rescue Abigail from Milton, who names Micah as the Pinkertons' informer before Abigail kills him. Arthur returns to camp and openly accuses Micah of betrayal. Dutch, Bill, Javier, and Micah turn on Arthur and a newly returned John, but the standoff is broken when Pinkertons attack. The player can choose to have Arthur aid John's escape by delaying the Pinkertons or return to the camp to recover the gang's money. Micah ambushes Arthur, and Dutch intervenes in their fight. Arthur convinces Dutch to abandon Micah and leave. If the player has high honor, Arthur succumbs to his injuries and disease and dies while watching the sunrise; if the player has low honor, Micah executes him.
Eight years later, in 1907, John and his family are trying to lead honest lives. They find work at a ranch where John fights back against outlaws threatening his employer. Believing John is unwilling to give up his old ways, Abigail leaves with Jack. John takes a loan from the bank to purchase a ranch. He works with Uncle, Sadie, and Charles to build a new home and proposes to Abigail on her return. Afterward, learning Micah is still alive and formed his own gang, John, Sadie, and Charles assault his camp and find a recently arrived Dutch, who shoots Micah after a tense standoff and leaves in silence, allowing John to kill him and claim the gang's Blackwater stash to pay his debt. John then marries Abigail, and they start a new life on their ranch alongside Jack and Uncle, as Sadie and Charles leave for other pursuits.
The final scene shows Edgar Ross observing John's ranch, foreshadowing the events of Red Dead Redemption.