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Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series has become a controversial and well-known gaming phenomenon. The series is known for its extreme violence and commentary on pop culture. It has evolved from a 2D top-down game to become one of the most popular and robust gaming experiences. With Grand Theft Auto V set for release on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S in March 2022–following a recent delay out of 2021– and rumors of Grand Theft Auto 6 after that, we’re taking a look back at the series by highlighting the best GTA games. Below is a ranking of the Grand Theft auto series, from worst to most. Let’s dig in.
10. Grand Theft Auto
The game that started it all. Grand Theft Auto, which was developed by DMA Design before Rockstar was formed, was released in 1998 for PC. It involved driving around in a car and hijacking other cars. Then, you had to try and escape from the law. It was presented from a top-down viewpoint, which the series would abandon in its later entries. Although not a favorite among critics, the game was well-received by fans.
See our GTA 1 review.
9. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
2005’s Liberty City Stories is a prequel to GTA III that was originally released for PSP, and it’s remembered for being the first 3D entry in the series for a portable console. Liberty City Stories, which was also set in Liberty City is designed to make the most of the PSP’s hardware. We said that the game was able to incorporate “what made the big” GTA games so memorable in our review. Tony Cipriani is a mobster who is trying to make it in the criminal underworld. The franchise’s non-linear, open-ended gameplay continued in the game. With the primary directive to shoot first and then ask questions later, the game was a continuation of its tradition. In our overall review, Liberty City Stories is a technical marvel that combines so much of the GTA console experience in a handheld package.
See our GTA Liberty City Stories review.
9. Grand Theft Auto IV
The long-awaited follow-up to GTA: San Andreas, 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV is beloved by many upon its release for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This game introduced a more realistic representation of Liberty City. It was modeled after New York City. It was huge, and gave players more space to explore the world on a larger stage. The story was about Nico Bellic, an immigrant who struggled to adjust to his new life in America. Here at GameSpot, we scored GTA 4 a 10/10 and one of the best of 2008. GTA 4 was a compelling campaign that laid the foundation for GTA Online, which offers a multiplayer mode that allows players to compete or collaborate in an online environment. GTA Online would enjoy a runaway success with this feature, which was rewarded years later. GTA 4 introduced cover-based mechanics. This feature would be used again by Rockstar in Red Dead Redemption many years later and GTA 5. GTA 4 was a major step forward for the franchise, introducing new systems such as allowing players to make decisions that would affect the story.
And who can forget the constant calls to go bowling? GTA 4 will be remembered fondly for its expansions, The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned. These expansion packs were also a reminder of an era gone by. Today’s Rockstar tends to place more emphasis on online modes such as Red Dead Online and GTA Online than traditional expansion packs. This is much to the dismay of some fans.
See our GTA 4 review.
7. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
2009’s GTA: Chinatown Wars represented a departure of sorts for Rockstar, as the Nintendo DS and later PSP game was the first since Vice City Stories designed specifically for portable devices. The DS was the first game to make use of the touchscreen and second screen. This allowed for a unique presentation and layout. You play as Huang Lee, a Triad member. With its cel-shaded art style, and top-down perspective, the game broke with tradition. GameSpot loved Chinatown Wars. We praised it for not feeling like a portable version of GTA. Instead, it felt meaningful and worthwhile, and pushing the franchise forward with new features.
See our GTA: Chinatown Wars review.
6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
A prequel to Vice City, Vice City Stories debuted in 2006 for PSP before coming to PlayStation 2 the following year. Set in the year 1984 (two years before Vice City), the game follows the story of Victor “Vic” Vance and his efforts to develop a criminal empire in Vice City. Vice City Stories certainly improved on Vice City’s elements. Many critics noted that it gave Vice City more personality and offered players another way to have fun with their own criminal empire. Although Vice City Stories did not take the GTA series to new heights, it made the GTA experience portable.
See our GTA Vice City Stories review.
5. Grand Theft Auto II
1999’s GTA II followed up the 1997 original and once again plopped players into a fictional city with the aim of causing the most havoc and mayhem possible. GTA II was presented from the same perspective as the original. Rockstar’s emphasis on storytelling was no longer as important in modern times. Instead, players were asked to experience the basic fantasy of being a young criminal who only wants to commit violent and destructive acts. GTA II saw improved visuals, with cars and other elements looking better. GTA II also added a multiplayer mode, which allowed up to six players to compete on maps specifically designed for multiplayer. GTA II marked the end of an era for the franchise. The series will now be moving into a 3D open-world with subsequent releases.
See our GTA 2 review.
4. Grand Theft Auto III
2001’s Grand Theft Auto III represented a major shift for the series, which was still under development at DMA Design at the time. GTA III was the first game to move the series beyond the 2D top-down perspective of previous games. GTA III is set in a fictional New York City. It was highly praised for its ambitious open-world and non-linear gameplay. It was a hugely influential game that helped to change the direction of the gaming industry towards non-linear, open-ended sandbox games. GTA 3 featured an incredible (for that time) number of activities. It also had a great soundtrack, including Chatterbox, which was the franchise’s first venture into Hollywood talent for voice parts.
Rockstar delayed the game by a few weeks due to the September 11 terrorist attacks and made some slight changes like changing the flight path of a plane so it didn’t look like it could crash into a building. One mission that mentioned terrorism was also deleted. In our original review, we stated that GTA III “reinvents the series, updates the consoles and maintains every positive aspect of the previous two games. “
See our GTA 3 review.
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Released just a year after GTA III, 2002’s Vice City took players back in time to 1986. Vice City was named after Miami and featured Tommy Verceitti’s misadventures. Rockstar Games enhanced the non-linear, open-world structure of GTA III in Vice City by adding new features and systems to the earlier releases. Vice City was deemed one of the “most stylish and enjoyable games ever made.” It is one of the few GTA games that tells its story in the past. Many are curious when Rockstar will return to this period setting for a new GTA title.
See our GTA: Vice City review.
2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
2004’s GTA: San Andreas ranks highly on our list because it was a groundbreaking open-world experience when it was released on PS2 and Xbox. The game places you in the role of Carl Johnson (“CJ”) Johnson. GTA San Andreas made improvements to previous entries. It removed loading screens from locations and added swimming to the mix. The RPG system allows you to gain weight and exercise. We said that games can get stretched thin when they try to do too many things. But San Andreas is a strong package. The dialogue and characters are well-written and delivered. Also, the sound design was highly praised. GTA San Andreas was not everyone’s favorite game. Many may remember the Hot Coffee mod, which caused quite a stir among politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who demanded an inquiry. San Andreas’ legacy would live on, with Rockstar electing to use the same setting for its most popular game in the series so far, GTA V.
See our GTA: San Andreas review
1. Grand Theft Auto V (GTA Online)
Grand Theft Auto V makes the top of the list because it is the pinnacle of the series from a design, storytelling, and technical perspective. Released in 2013, the game has stood the test of time and remains immensely popular to this day, thanks in part to its GTA Online mode. Three playable protagonists made the game’s story unique. Each of the three protagonists, Trevor, Michael, and Franklin, came from different backgrounds. They each had their own perspectives and provided unique gameplay opportunities that kept the game fresh. The stories were connected in a satisfying manner at the end. GTA V takes place in Los Santos, a fictional Los Angeles, and the surrounding Blaine County. It allows players to enter a vast world that is alive with people, things to do, places and places to visit. The GTA Online mode offers a wealth of activities and quests to complete, including races, heists, PvP and many other challenges. The phenomenon that is GTA V is set to continue in March 2022 on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, where players can expect better visuals and an improved experience overall. When it’s released on those new platforms, it will be the third generation of consoles that the game has been released on, which is highly unusual but not surprising given the game remains a top-seller every month and has sold an astonishing 150 million copies to date.
See our GTA V review.
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