The Grand Theft Auto franchise has created a legacy that spans over 20 years within its catalog of titles. Ever since the original Grand Theft Auto came out, Rockstar, formerly known as DMA Design Limited, has worked hard to become one of the gaming industry juggernauts of today. Though the last Grand Theft Auto title to release was Grand Theft Auto 5 in 2013, the astounding success of the series proves fans should expect to see Grand Theft Auto 6 before the century is through. Most of the titles ever released in its series were between 2001 and 2009 with about 9 Grand Theft Auto titles being released if fans count The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony as a singular release.
With a series as long as Grand Theft Auto, there are bound to be drastic differences between the earlier titles in the series and the more recent ones. In Grand Theft Auto‘s case, it can be chopped up into different universes. There are the 2D universe games encompassing the earliest GTA titles, followed by the 3D universe games during the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox era, with finally the HD universe encompassing the last few titles. It is within each of these universes that the stories between each game are confined, with characters sometimes making cameos in other games within the same universe.
- Grand Theft Auto 1
- Grand Theft Auto: London 1969
- Grand Theft Auto: London 1961
- Grand Theft Auto Advance
The original Grand Theft Auto came out in 1997 and was an experimental wonder, mixing genres and giving the player the freedom to tackle missions from any angle they could think of. With the success of the original GTA, DMA got to work on expansion packs GTA: London 1969 which saw release on both the PlayStation 1, and GTA: London 1961 which only saw a PC release. One unique aspect about the original GTA was the fact that players could select who they wanted to portray as, as the game starts off with different protagonists to select from. This would be one of the few times Grand Theft Auto featured the choice of a female protagonist.
Where the original Grand Theft Auto would be considered in the 2D universe, the 2D Grand Theft Auto Advance would be considered in the 3D universe. This is because GTA Advance takes place a year before the events of GTA 3 in a much more toned-down version of Liberty City. Originally GTA Advance was going to be a port of GTA 3 but it was changed due to the amount of effort that would be needed to port every mission onto the console. GTA Advance carried many of the core mechanics from the first two GTA titles and featured some new mechanics from GTA 3 such as Vigilante missions. Though it was released after GTA: San Andreas, the limitation of the hardware made it feel like a multitude of steps were taken backward.
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
- Grand Theft Auto 2
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars continued the trend of Grand Theft Auto for handheld consoles first available on the Nintendo DS and shortly after the PlayStation Portable. GTA: Chinatown Wars was a success unlike its GTA Advance counterpart, being applauded for its creative use with the Nintendo DS’s touch screen. Though the game featured the classic top-down view of older GTA titles, players had the ability to spin the camera around dynamically during gameplay. This was a welcome addition as GTA: Chinatown Wars was played in a fully 3D world portion of Liberty City.
Grand Theft Auto 2 plays very similarly to the original GTA which makes sense as the expansions for the original were released only months before GTA 2’s release. Grand Theft Auto 2 however didn’t do much to improve on the core gameplay design which ended up hurting its review score. GTA 2 had a PC port that included multiplayer with up to 6 players, and later a port for the Game Boy Color that had to be trimmed down due to the hardware limits. One unique aspect of GTA 2 was that it featured cutscenes from a live-action short which was meant to set the tone for the game.
- Grand Theft Auto 3
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto 3 was when the franchise took its first step into the 3D world, taking place in a reimagined Liberty City. Though Liberty City would be reimagined multiple times later, this was fans’ first taste of it directly from the streets as opposed to a bird’s eye view. The shift from 2D to 3D prompted many new creative decisions that changed how Grand Theft Auto would play forever. The game featured a fully voiced cast, a reworked combat and driving system, and a much richer story. GTA 3 was praised for its revolutionary game design winning multiple awards, despite the game’s violent portrayal.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories are very similar to GTA: Episodes from Liberty City in that they are side stories that take place in the main game’s main city. GTA: Liberty City Stories takes place in GTA 3’s Liberty City and features little more than a new story and multiplayer. GTA: Vice City Stories also includes a new story within a revisited Vice City, and also includes newer features such as the ability to bribe police and hospital staff to keep weapons when busted or wasted. One major addition is Empire Building which allows the player to operate properties taken over from enemy gangs.
- Grand Theft Auto 5
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
Grand Theft Auto 5 is the last GTA game to come out and the only one to have come out in the 2010s. Though Grand Theft Auto Online could be considered its own game by this point, both were released around the same time in 2013. GTA 5 was a global success upon release, breaking video game sale records and satisfying fans who have long awaited a revisit to the popular San Andreas region. Though the game was a major success, breaking the promise of single-player DLC hurt Rockstar’s reputation as the game had a multitude of possibilities for more content. Though this would satiate some fans through its online service.
After the success of GTA 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released quickly becoming the best-selling game of that year. GTA: Vice City improved on its predecessor by introducing more gameplay elements that added to the dynamic open-world game. It introduced the ability to drive motorcycles, fly helicopters and planes, and purchase assets. The scope of GTA: Vice City felt larger than GTA 3 and Vice City is a place fans would love to revisit in the HD era as, aside from a couple of cities in GTA: San Andreas, has not been remade in the HD universe as of yet.
Grand Theft Auto 4 was a major shift in the direction of GTA games, featuring a more realistic and grittier style of gameplay. This culminated in its DLC later on bundled as Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City. This bundle included two side stories The Lost and Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony which explored different perspectives of GTA 4’s Liberty City. Both feature entirely new stories with new and returning characters which take place parallel to GTA 4 instead of a different time period. Though both are applauded for their execution, the only real drawback was their comparatively short length.
- Grand Theft Auto 4
- Grand Theft Auto Online
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
As mentioned before, Grand Theft Auto 4 ushered in the HD era with a revisit to the beloved Liberty City, full of new gameplay mechanics and the first GTA game to use Rockstar’s RAGE engine. This new game engine is notable in that it features a more realistic approach to the gameplay, from the movements of the characters to how the vehicles are handle. Among these changes came new additions that added to the realism approach such as the new character ragdoll and vehicle crash physics. This shifted GTA away from the more arcadey style it had become accustomed to, to a grittier focus, suitable for the nature of its narrative.
Grand Theft Auto Online is the multiplayer element fans had been dreaming of as it allows players to play with their friends with little restrictions. Multiplayer in GTA games before were limited to PC and with few players, or couch-coop in the case of San Andreas, or sometimes not even implemented as a feature. Though Grand Theft Auto 5 sadly never saw single-player DLC, GTA Online has seen major support for its service since 2013 and as of now, it has essentially become a criminal empire simulator. Among the multitude of stories a player and their friends could explore, there are also countless community-made mini-games that players can also take part in ensuring there is always something to do.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for its time was a masterpiece in design and what was capable for the time. Not only did it expand upon what its predecessors introduced, but it shattered expectations by including 3 cities, a desert, a mountain, and many wilderness areas in between. On top of this, players had the ability to customize their main character like nothing before, where the player had to manage the weight and muscle, as well as build the skills necessary to take on various tasks. This also includes haircuts and beard styles, tattoos, clothing, making for a truly personalized experience. This amount of character and world depth has barely been reproduced and fans are still awaiting a true revisit to San Andreas in its entirety.
Grand Theft Auto 6 is rumored to be in development for unspecified platforms.
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