A brief history of Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online

Grand Theft Auto 5 and GTA Online are colossal open-world experiences containing a dizzying amount of things to see and do. You could say that there are too many features to list, but we're going to do it anyway - and supply guides on how to ace all of these game mechanics too. If you were ever wondering how to do something in GTA 5, or how to do it better, we'll have the answer for that below (or somewhere on the site).


Grand Theft Auto 5 (Story)

GTA 5 is the latest game in the long-running Grand Theft Auto series. Returning to Los Santos, which also appeared in GTA: San Andreas, the feature-rich open-world action adventure game follows the criminal exploits of Franklin Clinton, Michael De Santa and Trevor Phillips as they plan and pull a number of daring heists while getting mixed up in conflicts that run much deeper. When not playing story missions depicting their various escapades, you can spend time managing their businesses, playing side-missions, engaging in common criminal activity, hunting collectibles, and seeing the sights while taking fancy looking screenshots.

GTA Online (Multiplayer)

Once the possibilities of GTA 5 have been exhausted - or you're just more of a multiplayer person - there is a whole other side of this world to explore. Stepping over to GTA Online, you get to create your own character and hop into a pseudo-MMO that takes place in the same map, but with completely different activities and features, which have been expanded with several DLC packs over the years, big and small. Though fundamentally the same in broad strokes, there are several key differences between the two modes that change how you approach them as a player. We're going to take a look at everything both have to offer.

Expanded and Enhanced

On March 15, 2022 alongside the release of the Expanded & Enhanced port, GTA Online underwent what just may be the most significant transformation and change in its history - going standalone. Unshackled from the main, singleplayer experience, Online will live an independent life as a dedicated multiplayer game. Between this and its ever increasing popularity even after all this years, it is reasonable to assume that going standalone is a deliberate move to ensure that Online will outlive GTA 5, and will continue to be supported even once the franchise moves on - provided it'll still have the playerbase to warrant it. As things now stand, it definitely will.


Expanded and Enhanced also brought a wide array of improvements to both Online and Story Mode, including graphical enhancements, new content, UI overhauls, technical improvements and more.

Starting Out

GTA 5 and Online can be a lot to process for new players. The developers, Rockstar Games, did a good job of easing you into new features and providing tutorials, but it can still be rather intimidating. To get a better idea of the characters you'll be controlling - since there are three of them - you can check out our guide on Franklin, Michael and Trevor. Get familiar with them, because you'll be spending a lot of time together! After you have completed the prologue in the game, you'll be transported from chilly North Yankton to Los Santos and Blaine County, the huge open world the rest of the game takes place in. Since the map is massive, it's best to keep our interactive map handy so you never get lost.

Your Cellphone

When playing, you'll notice that a lot of features work through the in-game smartphone. All three characters - and your GTA Online protagonist - have access to their phones basically all the time, and it acts as a secondary menu. Alongside the numerous apps present on the phone and that are used for missions, buying items or adding backstory and lore fluff, you can actually call people too - or get incoming calls. It's handy to know what numbers mean who is calling, though usually there is ID attached to make things simpler.

General Guides

Some of you may choose to jump into GTA Online immediately after playing through the tutorial, skipping the story mode entirely. While we discourage this, we also can't stop you, so GTA Online guides covering the more basic elements of the game will be referenced here too. For those of you who have some mileage in the game already and will understand GTA-specific terms, our general use story mode hints and tips - and the GTA Online equivalent - will definitely come in handy!

Point of View

If you are playing GTA 5 on newer platforms - meaning anything other than the PS3 or Xbox 360 - you can switch over to first person view. The default is third person, and both modes have some advantages and drawbacks. Check out our guide to decide which works best for you.


You'll be doing a lot of fighting in GTA 5 and Online, and can expect more of a challenge in the latter when facing other players. Combat mostly involves shooting, but there are some melee weapons available, and you can get into fisticuffs as well. It pays to know your way around the mechanics and weapons very well.

Shooting is pretty standard fare in both third and first-person perspectives. You can aim down sights, switch between guns and reload without losing the bullets in the mag you toss if it isn't empty. There is a weapon customization feature, and several categories with various weapon types having their own ammunition.

The game has a large arsenal of weapons waiting to be picked up, bought or unlocked (the exceptionally powerful Railgun has its own separate process for this). When running around the open world, there's danger lying in wait in every corner, especially in Online where experienced players prey on newbies all the time, but you can get jumped by hostile NPCs during random events in story mode, too. Griefing is a constant problem in the multiplayer mode, usually done with the Hydra jet or other flying vehicles.

Fighting against other players in GTA Online is significantly different and more challenging than facing down the NPC opponents - except when they're the police, since the LSPD is apparently staffed entirely by omnipotent robocops who always know where you are and what you are doing - and will require different tactics and strategies, depending on game mode.


Vehicles are a huge part of GTA 5 and Online - the "auto" in the name sort of gives it away - with many game modes and missions revolving around driving and piloting various cars, planes, boats, bikes, helicopters, tanks and more. Sometimes vehicles are the key to success in certain situations, so it pays off to know your way around.

Story Mode

In story mode, vehicles generally matter only as far as your personal preferences are concerned. If a mission needs a specific vehicle, it is likely provided, or you already went about acquiring it in a previous mission. With enough money in your pockets - and we'll get to that later - you'll be able to buy any car you fancy for when you're just cruising around the open world, and naturally you can also steal them.

That said, just how much of a pounding a vehicle can take is important to know, as it can mean the difference between life and death - in Online as much as in story mode. If you like to make your own fun in GTA 5, there are plenty of scenic and hidden routes throughout the vast map that are interesting to explore and make for lovely photos. If you're one for off-roading, there are many lesser known trails around the north half of the map - some of which may be useful for sneaky, indirect approaches towards objectives in certain missions.

GTA Online

In Online, cars are more of a commodity, and finding specific models when certain missions call for them isn't as simple. Repo Work, where you'll hunt certain cars down for a character called Simeon, doesn't mark the car exactly on your map. It's useful to know where certain types of vehicles naturally spawn in the GTA Online map to make these missions easier.

Of course, there is also the eternal question of which car is 'best'. Since Online's already large library of vehicles just keeps growing with each DLC, the answer for this hasn't been the same as in story mode for years now. Whether you are thinking about dominating races or looking for the best getaway car, there is always a perfect car for the job. It just keeps changing.



Throughout GTA 5's storyline you'll encounter all sorts of mission types. Some will be mandatory for progressing in the story, others won't be. Some will include fighting, some will include driving, and some will be large, complex affairs like heists. Different mission types will feature different kinds of mechanics and objectives, which the game helpfully displays, but things are occasionally a bit more complex than usual.

The main missions that move the overall story plot forward in the most significant manner are the heists your plucky crew meticulously plans. These fall into the more complex category, and sometimes you might need a bit of help to get the best results.

As mentioned before, the content doesn't end with story missions though. If you are a completionist gunning for 100% Completion, or want to unlock all the Achievements - there are plenty! - then you'll sooner or later run into random events and side missions, like the murder mystery Michael gets mixed up in.

In terms of game mechanics, the interaction between the in-game stock market and Lester's Assassination Missions may be the most complex, but if you play your cards right you'll be swimming in cash.


Progression in GTA Online works a little differently, since there is no overarching narrative tying things together or dictating pace. You can do anything anytime, provided you have enough money. This can be more than a little daunting, since there is so much you can do in Online. When the game plops you into the open world after the tutorial with a million icons on your map, it's easy to get lost.

When starting out in GTA Online for the first time, it helps to know a few things about the game and buy a few key items, after which you can begin your long journey through the game's wealth of content in earnest.

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As you climb the ranks by gaining RP or Rank Points by doing... well, basically anything at all, you'll steadily begin to unlock new items and weapons.

Different activities will level up your various stats, all of which give you some kind of gameplay advantage, so it's a good idea to try and max these out as soon as possible. Though it may be tempting to jump headfirst into the newest and most lucrative content, you'll probably not have the funds for that starting out, and getting familiar with the simpler content - including jobs, races, contact missions and side activities like repossessing cars for Simeon - can be a good launchpad prior to getting into the more complex activities.

Heists were introduced to GTA Online via DLC, and though many popular and game-changing DLCs have followed, they still remain relevant to this day, and should be your number one way of getting money before you jump into the world of businesses. If you don't have a crew or group of friends, it may be daunting, but heisting with randoms isn't so bad. While Rockstar took things in a business-related direction for a while, between The Doomsday Heist, The Diamond Casino Heist and The Cayo Perico Heist, heists have once again entered the high-earning endgame content category. While still not quite competitive with efficiently run businesses, they're definitively viable ways to earn in-game, and with Cayo Perico, you can even do it solo.

Expanding on Cayo Perico's new solo trappings was late 2021's biggest DLC, The Contract, which brought a new depth of story content to the multiplayer mode, putting a solo narrative experience to the forefront.

Alongside these more serious "main" activities, you can also faff around in GTA Online even more than in story mode. There are a bunch of jumping challenges spread throughout the map, or you can hook up with VIPs and CEOs as a bodyguard or associate to earn something of a stable salary. Daily Objectives rotate every 24 hours and help spice up your sessions, with ample rewards for players diligently completing them all.

Once you do reach the heights of white collar crime and start grinding businesses, it will save you time and some gray hairs to circumvent the private lobby restrictions by loading into your own solo public session.

Making Money

Money makes the world go round, and in GTA 5 and GTA Online it is even more true than in the real world. It's always all about money. The story is about people wanting to get rich, and how they go about doing that. GTA Online is an endless stream of ways to make money and even more ways to lose it. In both modes, there are different mechanics to earn money - like the stock market in story mode and *vaguely gestures at everything* in Online - and over the years, players have gotten this down to a fine science. So fine, in fact, that GTA Online's set of features and activities can even be juggled in a way to make 500,000 GTA$ per hour.


For the completionists out there, GTA 5 is absolutely full of random little tidbits that you can collect - or need to, if you want 100% completion - that typically unlock some minor reward, but it's mostly for bragging rights. These collectible sets will add even more hours to the runtime of GTA 5, and they've even appeared in Online too.

In story mode, collectibles range from the creepy to the silly. There are several murder mysteries to wrap up, like the Infinite 8 Mystery and Leonora Johnson's murder. Thrill seekers can complete all of the parachute jumps, you can collect a series of psychoactive Peyote plants to briefly turn into an animal, or even transform into bigfoot. If you have a keen eye, you'll also notice the fancy but well hidden Monkey Mosaics throughout Los Santos, which can lead to unlocking special outfits.

As Online's content was expanded by DLCs over the years, collectibles kept being added to this mode too. Most of them are simply a means to unlocking an outfit, like the Epsilon collectible and movie props, while others also included monetary rewards like the playing cards or a different kind of in-game reward, like the signal jammers. You could also complete the slasher hunt, and collect a bunch of action figures - a decidedly cheaper hobby when done virtually than in real life. You can also hunt down a bunch of Playing Cards and Shipwreck Treasure Chests for some exclusive outfits.


GTA Online has been supported by free DLCs ever since release, uninterrupted - in fact we have a whole list of them right here. While this has meant that singleplayer never got DLC and never will, the absolute staggering amount of content added to the multiplayer mode makes up for it. Most bigger DLCs introduced entirely new game modes, mechanics, features and characters, demanding specialized guides for each, and we delivered.

Freemode Events gave the open world a good shakeup, adding, as the name suggests, a bunch of additional random events that trigger in Freemode, as opposed to separately blocked new content. Arena War fell squarely in the latter category, taking place entirely within the walls of the Maze Bank Arena where destruction derbies entertained the masses.


Though Heists were also added as DLC, they had become so ingrained as core content over the years that we covered them already when we spoke about Online. Considering their success, it is no surprise Rockstar revisited the concept. First came The Doomsday Heist, a DLC spread across three acts, that had GTA Online players save the world for a chance instead of robbing it blind (although you'll do that too!).

After the highly anticipated Diamond Casino DLC was released, it too was followed up with its own Heist. It isn't easy cracking the vault, with a complex set-up process and three optional approaches - named The Big Con, Silent & Sneaky and Aggressive, respectively.

The Cayo Perico Heist is the first heist that can be completed start to finish solo, including the scope out / intel and set-up (prep) missions which change the way the finale plays out. This is the most ambitious and involved heist in the game, with an appropriately huge payout. Occasionally a weekly bonus event signals the appearance of a jeweled panther statue, which if you loot during the heist your final payout will get a nice bonus.


A real game changing moment occurred in GTA Online when Further Adventures in Finance & Felony introduced a new era in the game's history - the era of businesses and really long DLC names. This update gave us our first criminal enterprise that was actually an enterprise, and had us selling crates of contraband goods from a warehouse. Several other updates would directly build upon this concept, including Import/Export (which was contentious due to the profits), Gunrunning and Smuggler's Run.

A dedicated Bikers DLC also incorporated the business mechanic and expanded on it in the process, by giving players multiple choices and different ways to make a fortune. This is where the game turned into a bit of an accounting simulator and spreadsheets were put together to work out the most efficient way to make money from bikers' businesses.

The whole business system ultimately culminated in After Hours. On the surface, this was a chill nightclub DLC about owning and running your own venue, but the real meat lay in the underground Nightclub Warehouse - a vast logistical center that allows you to control every single business you may have remotely from a single location, and to produce goods to sell automatically and for free if you make a few investments.

Rockstar Games took the whole business angle further with The Criminal Enterprises, adding a whole suite of new missions and functionality to the Executive, MC President, Gunrunner and Nightclub Owner roles. One of the biggest and longest-requested changes brought about by this DLC was allowing Selling and Sourcing missions in private sessions, giving players a way to avoid griefers. To counterbalance this, Rockstar added bonus rewards for completing said missions in public sessions, whilst also rebalancing payments across the board to level the playing field a bit.

Online Modes

GTA Online features a number of game modes that pit you against other players, or make you team up with them against NPC enemies. These are a fun way to earn some money and RP or just pass a bit of downtime. Most of these are just your usual multiplayer game modes like deathmatches or survival modes transplanted into GTA Online. However, you'll find some more experimental approaches to PvP among the Adversary Modes, which have been steadily added to over the years.

Online Story

Rockstar Games introduced a new direction to content in GTA Online in 2021, with the year's last, biggest DLC - The Contract. Bringing back Franklin from the story and Dr. Dre, playing himself, from the Cayo Perico Heist this update experimented with solo-focused narrative story content rather than multiplayer elements. With a greater emphasis on story missions for players to complete alone at their own pace, the update tested what a single player experience would look like within the Online framework.

Billed as just the first of many storylines to be played out as part of Franklin's new business agency, of which players are now part of, it's clear that Rockstar Games intends to use Online as a venue for more story content going forward as opposed to the much more multiplayer oriented DLC we've got up until this point.

PC Guides

The PC, as a gaming platform, offers some unique opportunities not possible on console. You can customize the controls to your liking, and the graphical options can make the game look exceptional - giving you the tools needed to tweak the game to run on weaker rigs, too.

Of course, there is a price to pay for the extra features on PC. The game can crash occasionally, and might need a little bit of fiddling to get up and running again. Crashes may be more frequent when you use community created mods (and be sure to do so safely), but they definitely help spice up single player if you ever run out of content.

Easter Eggs

A game as huge and expansive and GTA 5, and one that draws upon as much history as this series has, is bound to be filled with funny secrets and little gags hidden across the world by the developers. There are plenty of Easter Eggs that players have already found - who knows if any still remain undiscovered?

Ray Ampoloquio
"Hmm.. nice bike," as soon as he heard those words, Ray was hooked into the world of the GTA games. Since then, he's spent countless hours gangbanging the ballas and hanging out with Roman. He insists that GTA IV is the best Grand Theft Auto title of all time. Let Ray know your thoughts on Twitter or LinkedIn.