Feature: Grand Theft Auto: Our Favorite Games in the Series
Posted by Dave Letcavage
Nearly 16 years of crime-spree goodness to choose from
It’s September 17th, and you know what that means, right?
(Grand Theft Auto V is officially upon us)
To celebrate the launch of the year’s biggest game, members of our staff have each selected their favorite entry in the GTA series, and written a bit about why that particular game is so special to them. From the original PC release to the pocket-perfect mayhem that infiltrated the Nintendo DS, no entry was off limits, regardless of what console it was released on. So join us as we indulge in guilty pleasures and share with you our most criminally good times spent in the world of Grand Theft Auto.
Grand Theft Auto III
For my money, Grand Theft Auto III was the first game to make you feel as if you were actually a part of a living, breathing city. Other titles attempted it, but generally ended up still feeling like the standard level-based games that you'd expect, only there was a bit of location traversal in place to break things up. GTA III made you feel as if you could do anything at any time. Almost as if you could just give up the mobster life at any time, get a flat, and go and take on a more standard type of work. Incidental parts, such as the radio stations and somewhat realistic weather effects, all helped to add to that feeling, too. The original Grand Theft Auto was revolutionary, and GTA III is the only title since then that has truly shaken things up. Vice City, San Andreas, and GTA IV were all great games of course, but GTA III is absolutely unforgettable.
Runner-up: Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
You don’t need me to tell you that Grand Theft Auto III was a revelation. When it was released I remember dedicating hours upon hours to aimless exploration and rampant destruction, completely losing track of time; but for some reason I didn’t invest much of myself in the missions. All of that changed with Vice City. I’m not sure if it was the contrast between crime and 80’s flamboyancy, the silly cast of characters, the comforting soundtrack of the decade’s popular tunes, or simply the tropical setting….Vice City was like a drug that grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. Who am I kidding? I think the actual reason I enjoyed this one so deeply could be summed up in two words: Gary Busey. It’s that kind of crazy that I need in my Grand Theft Auto experience. So if what we’ve seen of GTA V so far is any indication, it’s Trevor’s Johnny-Knoxville-meets-Jack-Nicholson level of insanity that may capture my heart and lead a new GTA to the top of my list. Here's to hoping.
Runner-up: Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
It's hard to go wrong with any of the games in the Grand Theft Auto series. It's also extremely difficult to nail down a favourite (I tend to jump around) but there's something to be said about the unflinching ambition of San Andreas. It was the first time Rockstar brilliantly pieced together a seamless world without any interruptions, aside from cutscenes and in-door environments. Currency in the franchise usually didn't have much of a purpose but in San Andreas, you could customize CJ with a plethora of clothing items, tattoos, hairstyles and more. You also had to remember to make sure he exercised after eating fast food for a whole week or he'd get fat, physically altering his appearance, which at the time, I hadn't seen before in a video game. I remember being completely blown away by the sheer size of the city and spent an unhealthy amount of hours occupied with various side-missions and quests. San Andreas wasn't designed to revolutionize the sandbox open-world game as much as GTA III did, but it practically refined it to a near perfect level with better storytelling and improved gameplay mechanics. With an almost seemingly endless amount of content to see and do in the game, San Andreas was the most fun I had playing a GTA game.
Let's just say my expectations are ridiculously high for GTA V, especially since they're bringing the playground back to Los Santos.
Runner-up: Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS)
I've never been a fan of the GTA series. It's just not my style of game, so it was only my obsessive collecting that led me to pick up Chinatown Wars on release. However, the cartoonish art style and top down view lent some charm to the game that I always felt was missing from its grittier predecessors. Hotwiring cars with the stylus and touchscreen felt very natural and there was something wonderful about playing such an adult title on what is generally regarded to be a very 'safe' console. Then I discovered the drug dealing and I was HOOKED. I still have fond memories of the hours (days...) I spent driving from one end of the city to the other trying to get the highest margin on ecstacy, coke and weed. Humourous, charming and innovative, Chinatown Wars is not only my favourite game in the series, but also easily one of my favourite DS games.
Grand Theft Auto
The original and best, in my opinion. Revolutionary and controversial in equal measure, the original GTA took the practically unheard of concept of an open world setting and almost perfected it in its first attempt. It also set the foundations of one of the most un-PC franchises by turning the usual cops versus robbers scenario on its head by giving you control of the villain, able to gun down police and pedestrians alike, and let's not forget the extra point bonus for mowing down a line of Hare Krishnas in one go - Gouranga! Large maps, plentiful missions and a cracking opening theme song, GTA was near perfection when it first appeared back in 1997. Despite its top-down setting, many of the features still prevalent in today's roster of GTA games first began in this fun, original beauty, which is still very playable to this day. There are more attractive GTA games on offer, but Grand Theft Auto on the PlayStation will always hold a place in my heart as one of the most enjoyable and beloved things from my childhood (despite the 18 certificate ).
Runner-up: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Now it's your turn to share with us. What's your favorite entry in the GTA series? Let us know in the comments below.