Grand Theft Auto turns 25 years old


Anniversaries can often be bittersweet things, showing both how far something has come while also reminding us of good old times and how long has passed.

Grand Theft Auto has, as a franchise, turned 25 years old today on November 27, marking a quarter century since the release of the first title in the series in 1997.

Initially developed by DMA Design, which would go on to become Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto saw the light of day as a 2D top down game, seemingly vastly different from the record breaking AAA behemoth it is today - but the groundwork for all of that was already laid way back when.

Fans have been in for a wild ride over the years, especially if they've been following the GTA franchise for a longer chunk of its lifetime. With the immense and still-growing popularity of the most recent entry, Grand Theft Auto 5, many members of the community haven't experienced the older titles - the recent remasters notwithstanding.

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A still from the GTA 2 promotional short film. Not quite the GTA movie we all want, though.

Across the three eras the fandom recognizes - the 2D, the 3D and HD eras - what it means to be a GTA game has both transformed entirely, while fundamentally staying the same. We're still jacking cars in realistic but over-the-top fictionalized versions of the real world, put through a lens of satire and crass humor.

Over these 25 years, the GTA franchise grew its bibliography to include 15 distinct games, many of which received various re-releases, remasters or repacks, launching across a staggering 23 platforms in some shape or form.

Most console generations in recent memory have their own definitive and iconic GTA experience - though some would argue that GTA 5 stretched itself out across a few too many.

Praised throughout the years for their replayability, accessibility and sheer amount of content, the Grand Theft Auto games have raked in commercial and critical success after success, with just about every mainline game considered to be a classic title of their times and lasting gaming icons.

Many fans would argue that San Andreas is the best GTA game to this day - but then, the same can be said of every title.

Through the power of inertia and, more often than not, controversy, GTA has become a household name, played by millions who might not otherwise be particularly engaged in video games as a whole, and known even by those who don't play at all.

Achieving true mainstream popularity decades before gaming is the common media staple of every household it is today, the reach of GTA went further than just about any other gaming brand out there.

Various parties tried again and again to have the games banned in various countries over Grand Theft Auto's 25 year history - something the developers and creators view with outright pride. The series never shied away from touchy topics, and delivered scathing social commentary set to the backdrop of some juvenile jokes that riled plenty of feathers.

GTA 6 will have big shoes to fill when it comes out whenever it's out, as its predecessor has pretty much broken every gaming record out there.

With the constant stream of GTA Online updates showing absolutely no sign of slowing down, combined with the next mainline entry of the series coming sometime in the nebulous future, it is clear that the series' long past will be followed up by a long future, too. We're hard pressed to come up with anything that could nuke GTA's popularity at this point, and with the constant upward soar of the gaming industry as a whole, another 25 years seems like a given at this point.

Happy birthday, GTA!

Arthur Vanauken
Arthur got into gaming with Grand Theft Auto decades ago, and while his genre palate has expanded since, GTA remains his bread and butter. Writing about breaking news and covering the newest updates, he jumps into the chaotic virtual streets of Los Santos in his free time when not cultivating other hobbies.