Skip to main content

Best Saints Row skills: How to pick the best combat skills for your playstyle

How to unlock new skills in Saints Row and which ones to equip

What are the best skills in Saints Row? In Saints Row, gaining new skills is a fairly linear process. But with only four active skill slots available, you'll still want to be selective about your choices, particularly as you progress further through the game and have more options open to you. On this page we'll give you our picks for the best skills to take with you into a fight.

Liam recently chatted to Alice about their favourite thing in Saints Row.Watch on YouTube

How to unlock new skills in Saints Row

In Saints Row, you gain a new skill every time you level up. Saints Row doesn't have a skill tree as such, but each time you level up, you'll get your mitts on the next skill in line; and, naturally, bigger level number equals more impressive skill. Ed described this as being akin to a battle pass system after playing the preview, and it's a good comparison if you want an idea of how linear skill progression in this game is.

Not to be confused with Perks (which are earned in various different ways and equippable to slots of your choosing), Skills are basically tricks or special weapons which you can deploy in combat under certain conditions. Although they're not separated in any way in-game, you'll quickly come to realise that there are functionally two types of skills in Saint Row: equippable and passive.

Passive skills provide permanent boosts to your maximum health and flow (more on that in a moment). Once you have reached the appropriate level to unlock one of these skills, there's nothing else you need to do to reap its benefits from there on in.

Equippable skills are your special weapons and combat tricks, and you can equip up to four of them on the hotbar for use in combat. However, you can't go using them just any old time; you need to accrue enough flow first. Flow is accumulated basically any time your character successfully performs a violent or dangerous action; you'll notice a percentage metre filling up while in combat, and the Saints' fleur-de-lis icon will briefly flash up at the bottom of the screen when the metre hits 100%. You can then perform a regular takedown move to regain some health (by pressing "E" on keyboard / "Y" on gamepad), or deploy one of the skills on your hotbar (1-4 on keyboard / D-pad on gamepad).

Saints Row skill list

  • Pineapple Express (Lvl 2, equippable): Grab an enemy, drop a grenade down their pants, and throw them.
  • Smokescreen (Lvl 3, equippable): Drop a smoke screen at your feet to confuse your enemies.
  • Proximity Mine (Lvl 4, equippable): Place a sticky mine that explodes when enemies are near. Damage increases shortly after placement.
  • Health Upgrade 1 (Lvl 5, passive): Maximum Health increased permanently.
  • Tough Mother (Lvl 6, equippable): Gain a temporary health boost to absorb damage from enemies and negate staggers.
  • Frag Out (Lvl 7, equippable): Throw an explosive anti-personnel device.
  • Flow Upgrade 1 (Lvl 8, passive): Maximum Flow increased permanently.
  • Flaming Punch (Lvl 9, equippable): Ignite your fist for an explosive punch.
  • Health Upgrade 2 (Lvl 10, passive): Maximum Health increased permanently.
  • Transfusion (Lvl 11, equippable): While active, heal yourself and your friends by hurting your enemies.
  • Overscope (Lvl 12, equippable): Pull out a powerful sniper rifle. Headshots explode and damage nearby enemies.
  • Impulse Trap (Lvl 13, equippable): Throw an anti-gravity device that lifts enemies into the air, making them vulnerable to a quick shot.
  • Flow Upgrade 2 (Lvl 14, passive): Maximum Flow increased permanently.
  • Health Upgrade 3 (Lvl 15, passive): Maximum Health increased permanently.
  • Berserker (Lvl 16, equippable): While active, your melee attacks do more damage.
  • Intercession (Lvl 17, equippable): Call in some Saints to help you fight.
  • Quick Draw (Lvl 18, equippable): Pull out a powerful revolver then shoot to quickly gun down up to four enemies
  • D4th Blossom (Lvl 19, equippable): Spin around and fire bullets in every direction.
  • Flow Upgrade 3 (Lvl 20, passive): Maximum Flow increased permanently.

Saints Row best skills

Generally speaking, the higher your level, the cooler the equippable skills you unlock. However, you are free to equip any four skills you like to that hotbar, so you're not obliged to get rid of one you like just because it unlocked early as you advance into the late game. No doubt your preferences will be largely informed by your playstyle, and as you get into the high teens in terms of levelling, you'll find at least one great skill that suits you no matter how you like to play.

If you're like me and revel in melee combat, you'll definitely want to keep Berserker on-hand, and I'm also a big fan of Transfusion because (again as a melee fan) being able to self-heal by punching someone is often indispensable. Speaking of which, Flaming Punch is a relatively low-level melee skill and limited by being one-and-done, but such good fun that you'll forgive me for wanting to keep it around.

People who are mainly playing the game for the story have made an interesting choice, but might want to keep Intercession on speed-dial, figuratively speaking. This skill allows you to summon some members of your gang, who will happily do the next bit of the fight on your behalf if you want to take a quick breather.

Finally, if you're looking to inject some bullet hell chaos into your enemies' lives, I can't recommend D4th Blossom strongly enough (just make sure your friends aren't standing too close). Impulse Trap is another good one for keeping the other guys on their toes (or should I say off them, cymbal-crash), because apparently even with most of the bananas sci-fi trappings of the more recent pre-reboot Saints Row games stripped out, they couldn't resist giving you a gravity mine to play with.

While you're on the lookout for Saints Row advice, why not check out our guide to the game's extensive character creator, as well as our guide to meeting up with your friends in Saints Row multiplayer?

Read this next