There are few games series as deep and expansive as Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto. The GTA games serve as the base for many other open-world games, including Ubisoft's Watch Dogs. This guide is designed to help first-time players jump into GTA without getting lost in the franchise's complicated history, giving an overview of all major entries in the series up to this point (with one exception). As such, some readers might expect spoilers for each entry (and there are some sizeable ones) but fear not; this feature will be spoiler-free by omission wherever possible.
The History of Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto has been around since 1997. The original was a top-down 2D title released on PC which saw players take control of criminals with the ultimate goal of robbing banks and getting away with the loot, all without getting killed by the police. This first game was a commercial and critical failure and it would take another four years for its sequel to see release on the PlayStation 1. While this first entry had no relation to any other games in the series (despite sharing many assets), GTA 2 established an ongoing storyline, introducing new elements such as multiple playable protagonists and locations tied together through a shared universe.
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After releasing Vice City, San Andreas, and Liberty City Stories, Rockstar forgot about their cash cow franchise until 2008, when they released Grand Theft Auto 4 on PC and Xbox 360.
By now, open-world games were well established as major competitors to linear titles thanks to titles like Crackdown, and in famous so when GTA 4 Mod APK was out, critics and gamers were expecting a polished experience. Rockstar delivered yet again but would wait another five years to release the next main entry, this time releasing the PC version at the same time as Grand Theft Auto 5.
The latest installment has seen record-breaking sales, becoming one of the top-selling games in history. It also marked a shift away from the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generations which had been ongoing for over half a decade.
This guide will cover all of these titles plus both online multiplayer experiences - Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare expansion, providing links to further reading on each title where possible. As such, you can pick up from either end if that suits you better.
Those looking only for the latest entry can scroll up to the beginning of this article, while those who want to read about all entries now know where to start. Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to the first main entry in the series.
The first Grand Theft Auto was released on PC back in 1997, with a PlayStation port following almost a year later. A top down 2D game set in three fictional U.S cities - Liberty City (based upon New York), Vice City (based upon Miami), and San Andreas (based upon San Francisco) players were tasked with completing missions assigned by gangs throughout each city, building up notoriety with particular factions until they were ready to be challenged for control of the city.
These missions were fairly simple, usually seen through the eyes of one criminal working for that faction. Killing pedestrians and cops didn't matter much, as you'd respawn nearby shortly after death. Missions saw players doing things like killing gang members or fellow criminals, stealing drugs, and robbing stores.
There wasn't much to discover in these cities outside of the main storyline - unless you count rampages (which allowed you to kill as many civilians as possible with limited weapons before reaching an end point) but there was at least some replay ability thanks to two different endings depending on your actions throughout the game.
It wasn't until 2002 that another title bearing the GTA name was released; this time introducing crime families which would return in later installments. This game was named Grand Theft Auto City - London 1969.
Grand Theft Auto 2 took what the first game started and improved upon it significantly, offering missions not just from gangs but also police forces which would become your arch-nemesis for the duration of each game.
The top-down view remained similar though this time player could explore three different cities instead of one, with different gangs operating in each city too. Like before, rampages returned as well as side missions to collect various items around the level.
A major complaint about GTA 1 & 2 is that they were incredibly short games compared to future releases - most playthroughs last less than an hour even on difficult settings which starts to make sense when you consider how quickly rampages can be completed.
Grand Theft Auto III changed the entire approach to the series, shifting from a top-down perspective to a third person and introducing a fully-fledged 3D engine. Liberty City retained many of the features from GTA 1 & 2 though this time around it was rendered as a truly open world.
The graphics were much improved as well thanks due to the new hardware as well as an expansive soundtrack - each radio station now had several songs which spanned various genres for players who wanted something more than just electronic music.
Vehicular customization returned with a vengeance in addition to building your own vehicle from scratch via parts scattered throughout each city. Of course, there were still cars available throughout but you no longer needed to win races to unlock them - you simply could if desired.
While the game's main story was shorter than previous games, it offered hours of side missions ranging from vigilante missions which involved mowing down pedestrians with an RC car to dropping off hookers at certain locations for cash. Other things like finding hidden packages or unique jumps helped increase replay ability even further; these would be seen in every mainline entry up until GTA V.
Players also had new abilities such as scaling ladders and shooting while on foot or in a vehicle, helping make combat feel more fluid. The biggest change however was not technological but rather how players interacted with nearby NPCs who had their own lives; everything from socializing (by initiating conversations through various commands) to dating (if you can get them back to your apartment) was an option in addition to simply killing them.
In the end, GTA III was a massive improvement over the first two titles in the series and is often considered not only one of the best games for its console but also among the greatest games of all time.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was next, taking place roughly six years after III in a fictionalized Miami inspired by 1980s action flicks.
The game offered more of the same with some notable differences; players could now purchase properties such as businesses to increase profits, with several allowing for outright skipping of a payday after you've completed enough missions.
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