Grand Theft Auto is Rockstar's flagship title with millions upon millions of fans worldwide. While many joined the community in the years since the launch of GTA 5, it was already a well known mainstream hit before with a history of successful releases, spin offs, imitators and controversy.
We decided to tackle the gargantuan task of putting together a ranking of GTA titles - these rankings are entirely subjective and may differ from your experience with each game. We tried to approach this ranking as objectively as we could.
Being top 5 in a franchise with many more releases means even the 'worst' on this list is by no means bad - they're classics one and all. All the GTA games mentioned are unique and fun, regardless of their standing in this particular list.
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5. Grand Theft Auto 3
Just about every GTA top list will include Grand Theft Auto III (GTA 3) in some way. The GTA series started out with a top-down 2D perspective but transitioned into a 3D open-world game with the introduction of GTA 3. GTA 3 was a revolutionary game for the franchise, and arguably the genre. It introduced a lot of new game mechanics that are still used in today's GTA games.
GTA 3 introduced a protagonist with a personal story to follow from a third-person perspective. This story element of the game further enticed many. Overhauled camera controls and the mini-map were well received, paving the way for the continuation of improved UI and controls in the games that followed.
The world of GTA 3 has no shortage of activities to do and secrets to find. If you ever feel bored with the main storyline, you can take a break and play in some other way, like becoming a taxi driver. In addition to the main story quests, you also had the option of side quests which kept the players engaged throughout the game.
The game gave the players full autonomy, from shooting pedestrians with rocket launchers to launching grenades at the cops. Chaos has become the central theme of GTA games, in which many players found their joy.
4. Grand Theft Auto 4
Grand Theft Auto 4 undoubtedly had its moments and was one of the most critically acclaimed titles in the series for its time. GTA 4 received a lot of criticism regarding its textures and overall color tone, but has stood the test of time nonetheless. The most notable of the criticisms include the driving mechanics - following the realistic physics approach left driving extremely difficult.
Despite the bugs, the realistic physics did feature a lot of other fun stuff such as the introduction of ragdolls. Blowing up vehicles and shooting to see the fiery embers and authentic muzzle flashes was a sight to behold. The game's physics arguably were among the best, that some say surpasses even that of GTA 5 today - as long as you don't count driving.
With the new and improved physics, GTA 4 also received a complete combat overhaul. The improved versions of the same combat system and the weapon selection wheel mechanic can be seen in GTA 5. GTA 4 also introduced two new notable expansions to keep the player base engaged. The expansion packs were not small either, being complete storylines of their own.
Story-wise, the game followed Niko Belic, an eastern European ex-soldier who moves to Liberty City to pursue his American dream. No matter how bland the colors are in GTA 4, there is no denying that Rockstar has done New York city justice in the form of an enhanced Liberty City. Grand Theft Auto IV is also one of the turning points in the franchise as it helped Rockstar learn their mistakes which were later seen as improvements and fixes in the sequel GTA 5.
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the second release of the 3D era, following GTA 3. It takes everything GTA 3 had and improves upon it. GTA: Vice City captures the 80s era perfectly, with an immaculate setting and ambiance. This is what makes this game so memorable for many.
In the wake of GTA 3's "not-so-talkative" protagonist, Vice City features a fully voiced Tommy Vercetti. Tommy is voiced by the famous Ray Liotta, one of the lead actors in many similarly set movies such as 1990s Goodfellas. Not only is the main protagonist voiced by a notable actor, but the rest of the cast lineup also includes well-known celebrity names such as Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman, Dennis Hopper, and William Fichtner. Rockstar has invested a good amount in the personality production of this game, and it paid off.
GTA: Vice City aims to represent Miami city in the 80s, which it did exceptionally well. The game welcomed the pop culture of the time and took inspiration from several movies, such as Scarface. GTA: Vice City captures the story of Tommy well, from getting betrayed through to reaching to the top.
On top of GTA 3 improvements, Vice City also introduced businesses that the players can purchase. Each business also has its own storyline, and acquiring them is mandatory to progress through the game's main story. GTA Vice City also offered buildings players could enter, including ammo shops and even shopping malls. This added an extra layer of immersion and personality to the game.
Unlike GTA 4, GTA Vice City has a rich environment with vibrant colors and neon-lit streets of Miami. GTA: Vice City was the first game in the series to introduce ridiculous and unconventional cheats, such as driving on water and flying vehicles. The cheat codes got even more comical with the release of the newer GTA games following Vice City, which have become a staple of the series.
2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
GTA: San Andreas is another notable title in the series that is considered a significant improvement from GTA: Vice City. Building upon GTA: Vice City, San Andreas offered some of the most memorable moments in gaming history. From character to map locations, everything about San Andreas is iconic.
GTA: San Andreas takes inspiration from the West Coast, and shows the eccentric LA, San Francisco, and Vegas in the form of Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas, respectively. The map in San Andreas is three times bigger than the one in Vice City, and sports a range of exciting points of interest with a lot to explore. The game is designed to proficiently introduce new locations to the players as part of the story missions.
While Vice City had limited clothing options, GTA: San Andreas takes it to another level with the new protagonist, Carl Johnson, also known as CJ. You have complete autonomy to customize CJ as per your liking. Whether it's a new haircut you want or a specific outfit, you can do it all. You also can choose different clothing and jewelry and accessories like glasses.
You can also take CJ to the gym, where he can work out to look more buff, which in turn increases his physical melee damage, and you can eat at restaurants to restore your health. It was the first time Rockstar introduced RPG-lite mechanics into a GTA game, making it even more immersive by introducing pedestrian dialogues based on your looks and health. Whether you're thin or healthier, you will get remarks based on your looks. Your apparel also welcomes either positive or negative feedback from the pedestrians.
What makes San Andreas so memorable are the characters it features. Some of the best artists are involved in making San Andreas so life-like, starring the likes of Christopher Bellard (CJ), Samuel L. Jackson (Officer Tenpenny), and James Woods (Mike Toreno). There is always something to explore in San Andreas. Along with the main storyline, it also includes side missions and properties you can buy.
Even after the success of GTA 5, San Andreas remains one of the favorites with many considering this to be the best GTA game of all time.
1. Grand Theft Auto 5
Grand Theft Auto 5 is another landmark in the series, improving upon all that came before. It scales the map excessively yet in a reasonable enough capacity for players to enjoy. It has beautiful landscapes and a stylized modern society showcasing our current-gen lifestyle. It is apparent that GTA 5 especially learned a lot from the mistakes of GTA 4.
GTA 5 was the most ambitious, with three protagonists instead of the conventional solo act. All three protagonists have their own storyline but are intertwined with each other. The best part about the whole game is that players can control all three and get their perspectives.
The game has its fair share of personality - fun fact: Shawn Fonteno, who voiced Franklin, is the cousin of the famous Christopher "Young Maylay" Bellard, who voiced CJ in GTA: San Andreas. With GTA 5, not only are the visuals outstanding, but so are the gameplay mechanics. GTA 5 has a lot to offer in terms of story and side missions. The map is huge with plenty of secrets, including easter eggs.
One of the most revolutionary advancements in the franchise was the introduction of GTA Online, which was a massive upgrade over what we had in GTA 4 under the same name. GTA Online offered custom character creation and customization and cutscenes that included your custom characters. GTA Online has heaps of content to keep the players engaged for years, such as businesses that help you make money in GTA Online, supercars to collect, secrets, mysteries, collectibles, and so much more.
GTA 5 has taken over the gaming industry and has set the benchmark for the AA scene, and even for Rockstar itself. To this day, the game thrives. Rockstar has recently released GTA 5 for the new-gen consoles with the addition of Career Builder Mode for a head start for newer and returning players.
As the rumors about GTA 6 continue to stir, it is pretty difficult to imagine how Rockstar will overcome such a timeless game. Whatever the next game is, Rockstar knows the expectations are at an all-time high.