Unless you’ve either never played a video game before or have been living in a cave on Mars for the past 20 years, then you’ll know what Grand Theft Auto is all about. It’s an open-world sandbox that allows you to live the life of a successful criminal, robbing, and killing to your black heart is full of illicit joy, which isn’t bad for a game that only exists because the original concept, Race N Chase, was such a massive disappointment to the developers that only had one redeeming feature. Whenever there were too many cops called on you, the game went crazy, and the Five-O became feral and tried to ram you into oblivion.
Since that glorious day when the glitch was discovered GTA has gone onto become the single most prominent franchise in the history of gaming and has spawned eight main titles as well as a ton of spin-off’s and DLC, except not for GTA V it seems. So today we take a look at them and rank them accordingly.
The Best Grand Theft Auto Games Ranked
Let’s begin at the beginning. GTA I is still a fun game to play if you fancy dusting off your old PS One, but in comparison to the way the franchise has grown into the behemoth that it is today then it can’t hold a candle to its decedents. Made up of six levels that are split over three cities, the concept is simple enough. Reach a certain amount of points by completing jobs that you receive via telephone, and you move on. You can do whatever you want but have restricted lives in which to achieve your goal, so maybe a killing spree isn’t the best way to go. It did introduce us to Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas though and as we know, those locations went on to be very important to the world of GTA.
Released in 1999, GTA II was pretty much more of the same but considering how much fun the original was fans didn’t seem to mind that it was a cut and paste job. It did have a few innovations up its sleeve to stop it from becoming stale. It was the first game that allowed you to do missions for separate gangs, meaning that you had to balance how you approached this as the more missions you did for one specific crew, the more the others would distrust you. It also introduced side missions like being a taxi driver and had a saving system that meant you didn’t have to wait until you finished the city before it kicked in. Which was nice as that was a huge pain in the ass the first time around.
I’m not sure how this worked around the rest of the world as it was seemingly released as an expansion pack, but in the good old United Kingdom, you could go out and by this on a disc. How do I know this? Well, because that’s what I did so as far as I’m concerned it’s part of the main series. GTA London is a blast, and there’s nothing better for a Brit than seeing some Cockney Gangster offer you a mission to do someone’s ‘ead in, guv.’ It came with 36 new missions as well as 30 new vehicles and was as close to Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels as you could get.
I loved GTA IV. It was a brave move on Rockstar’s behalf to take a series that had been light and breezy in concept, well as light and carefree as a game about being a criminal can be, and try to inject a heavy dose of realism into it. The story of Nico is brilliantly told as he tries to get out of a life that has caused him nothing but the pain only to get pulled back in at every turn, but it wasn’t without its faults. People didn’t like the driving physics, they didn’t like the fact you had to foster friendships, and they didn’t like the fact it wasn’t San Andreas which is a shame as underneath all the negativity and tiny niggles lays a great game. Just make sure you leave time to go bowling.
If GTA I lit the fire on what would become the most prominent gaming franchise in the known universe then GTA III poured petrol on it, surrounded it with dynamite, and blew the shit out of it with an RPG. It cannot be underestimated just how much of an important game GTA III is and how it changed the face of the business from there on out. A third-person perspective, 3-D graphics, and a perfectly written story were just some of the dramatic changes that the third outing gave us. It also controlled like a dream and gave us an open-world experience that we’ve now come to take for granted in every game that utilizes the same premise. It truly was ground-breaking.
GTA: San Andreas
It’s strange to think of now, but it took Rockstar until GTA: San Andreas before they took their criminal activities into the world of gangs. Up until this point it had all been about the singular protagonists working for the likes of the Mafia and other outfits, but with this game, they decided to have a crack at representing life in a crew and, as you would expect, they nailed it at the first time of asking. As C.J you roll with the Grove Street Families as you fight turf wars, do missions, and generally make a nuisance of yourself. It also introduced role-playing elements into the mix, allowing you to choose how C.J looks from head to toe, including his weight. So you could feasibly become the size of Big Smoke if you want to but who wants to look like a rat bastard?
GTA: Vice City
Even to this day GTA: Vice City is a fantastic experience and one you should go back to time and again. It’s not just the story of Tommy Vercetti and how he plays the Mafia who betrayed him like a fiddle. Nor is it the banging 80’s soundtrack or the fact it still plays like a new generation game. It’s the fact that’s there just so much to bloody do. The main missions, the side missions, the taxi missions, the firemen missions, the list is endless as are the possibilities. And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t wish that Ray Liotta would narrate their life?
Oh come on, you can’t say you’re that surprised to find this sitting in the top spot. Can you? GTA V is a masterpiece. It’s the game that not only set the bar but changed it for any open-world game to follow. The amount of stuff to do is off the scale and, until Red Dead Redemption was released, it was the most beautiful thing the human eye had ever laid eyes on. It also broke from tradition and gave you three protagonists to play as which was mind-blowing. It also spawned the beast that is GTA Online, something that still rakes in millions a week for the company even now, nearly six years later. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few bank heists I need to plan for.