The GTA series of games span three decades and sales of tens of millions across games consoles, PCs and mobile devices but what’s the best GTA game ever?
5. GTA III (2001)
It’s difficult to now imagine that before the release of GTA III, GTA wasn’t the huge money-spinning series of games that we now know. The original games, starting with Grand Theft Auto in 1997, sold well and got some good reviews, but they were never the blockbusters they’d later become.
GTA III was a landmark title when it hit the PS2 in 2001 and the first in the series to use a 3D engine. It pioneered the open world acton genre and, according to Take-Two, went on to sell 14.5 million units across the PS2, PC and Xbox.
Set in the same fictitious US city of Liberty City introduced in the first GTA game, GTA III was highly controversial upon release and cited as glorifying violence, including murder and carjacking. However, this controversy probably only served to increase the game’s success and it was the first GTA game to feature real licensed songs.
The original GTA games may have set the template for the series as a whole but GTA III was the template for the success to follow.
4. GTA: Chinatown Wars (2009)
The most recent GTA game, Chinatown Wars was originally released for the Nintendo DS early in 2009, with a superior PSP version following six months later and a version for the iPhone at the start of 2010.
Chinatown Wars is almost a return to original GTA games by showing the action from above but it still also retains an element of 3D. The game takes place in the same version of Liberty City seen in GTA IV and although the game can be played through in under ten hours, it’s considered the best portable GTA game so far with an average score of 90% on Metacritic.
3. GTA: Vice City (2002)
Using an improved version of the 3D engine from GTA III, Vice City is considered by critics and fans to be a better game that its predecessor and includes more weapons and vehicles, including motorcycles and helicopters. Players can also purchase properties around the city, some of which can serve as hideouts/save game positions and others are business which can generate income.
Key to the success of Vice City, was the game’s 1980′s setting and it’s compelling story following Mafia member Tommy Vercetti. It also included a vastly superor soundtrack with 80s music from Michael Jackson, Pointer Sisters, and Bryan Adams, among others.
GTA: Vice City was another PS2 exclusive upon release and didn’t arrive on the PC and Xbox until the following year. According to Take-Two, the game has sold 15 million units, mostly on the PS2 where it’s one of the five best selling games of all time on that platform.
2. GTA IV (2009)
Arriving with a bang April 2008 on both the PS3 and Xbox 360, GTA IV officially broke industry records, selling 3.7 million units on its first day of release alone and earned over $500 million its its first week. It has since sold over 17 million units.
Despite still being the highest rated game of all time on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 (according to reviews on Metacritic), many fans were disappointed with GTA IV as it didn’t progress the basic gameplay very far over previous games and actually featured fewer vehicles, weapons and missions than GTA: San Andreas released five years earlier.
However, GTA IV remains an incredible accomplishment as the city of Liberty City has never looked so real and the story of Nico Bellic from Eastern Europe is involving and filled with many varied missions and interesting side-characters. GTA IV also replaces the use of public telephones in previous games by giving Nico a mobile phone and access to an in-game Internet as ways to receive missions and features another rich soundtrack, with music from Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Sister Sledge and others.
1. GTA: San Andreas (2004)
Released in 2004 on the PS2 and the following year on the PC and Xbox, GTA: San Andreas is the best-selling, most varied and most popular of all the GTA games so far. Sales by March 2008 had reached 21.5 million units according to Take-Two, and Guiness World Records list it as the third biggest selling game of all-time.
Taking place in the fictitious US state of San Andreas, this was the first (and so far only) GTA game since the original to feature three different cities. Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas were based on Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas respectively and players could not only travel between them using highways and trains but also travel across the rest of the state and visit small towns, a dam and a military base but also even climb a mountain.
GTA: San Andreas was the first GTA game to allow the player’s character to climb and swim and featured 211 vehicles that could be commandeered (including airplanes, trains and tanks). CJ could also be customised with clothing, haircuts, tattoos and more (which could affect how other characters in the game react to him) and San Andreas included some Role Playing Game elements by allowing CJ to develop increased skills in driving, combat and stamina.
Using an enhanced version of the 3D engine introduced in GTA III, the game again included a fantastic soundtrack with music from the likes of James Brown, Guns N’ Roses and Snoop Dogg.
GTA: San Andreas is, by far, the most complete GTA game released so far.
Controversial and groundbreaking, the GTA games are landmark entertainment titles for adults. The first two games in the series can be experienced for free by PC owners from the Rockstar Web site and GTA: San Andreas can be enjoyed from the Xbox Live Marketplace. GTA: Chinatown Wars can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.
This article was originally published by the author on Suite101 and is republished with permission.