Like its previous incarnations, we're expecting Grand Theft Auto 5 to win a plethora of awards and to clean house in the sales department. The Grand Theft Auto series is synonymous with stellar soundtracks, explosive, redefining open world gameplay, pushing the bar in terms of system capabilities and giving anti-gaming politicians (curse you all!), reasons to bring down the hammer on video games. We're presenting the 10 Best Grand Theft Auto Games to remember what makes this flagship series so phenomenal -- its breaking of boundaries. While most major first-person shooter and action franchises have borrowed from each other and have started to blur into a mesh of the same regurgitated gameplay, GTA has been the lead pioneer in an area of gaming where it remains the undisputed and ever-exploring king. So don't forget the location of the nearest Ammu-Nation, watch out for the cartel, and don't accidentally sideswipe the LCPD as we tear through Liberty City, Vice City and Los Santos in a list of the 10 Best Grand Theft Auto Games.
Grand Theft Auto
PlayStation, Game Boy Color, PC - 1997
The crime story to kick off our list of the 10 Best Grand Theft Auto Games was the first offense of this stellar franchise. Originally titled "Race'n'Chase", the first GTA broke the mold and offered an open world filled with crime and missions to accomplish. You would pick a character (who did not really matter since the onscreen character looks the same regardless of choice), and do missions for crime bosses whom you would contact via payphone (phone missions would be an ongoing series staple). How you arrived at the site of the mission was up to you, but the events that occurred were pretty much straightforward. Just imagine how ridiculous "Race'n'Chase: The Ballad of Gay Tony" would have sounded.
Grand Theft Auto 2
PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PC - 1999
Take the first GTA, throw it a few years into the future, give your character advanced weaponry, have him work for seven conflicting gangs, and watch the chaos ensue. The interesting part of the gang system is that in each district, there are three rival gangs fighting for power. Doing missions for one gang would cause your affiliations with the others to decrease. GTA 2 also offered side missions, such as taxi driving, which became an alternative source of income throughout the rest of the series.
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
GTA: London threw a monkey wrench into the mechanics of the original title with one simple concept: England (along with one-third of the entire world), drives left handed. This means that steering wheels are located on the right sides of their vehicles and traffic moves along the left side of the street. With tons of cultural references, Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 started up a lot of the societal parody, sarcasm and over-the-top hilarity that have become integral parts of GTA's entertainment value.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
PSP, PlayStation 2
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories had you play as Victor Vance, the brother of Vice City antagonist, Lance Vance. Despite Victor's death in Vice City's opening, playing as him in this prequel title allowed us to understand the dynamics of the Vance crime family and furthered our understanding of one of the series' worst backstabbers. When Vice City Stories debuted on the PSP, we were able to feel the magic of the crime-filled '80s on a handheld, which meant neon on the go.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
PSP, PlayStation 2
In this prequel to GTA 3, you played as Toni Capriani. If you try to pronounce his name with a heavy accent, you get Tony Soprano, who was the main target of Rockstar's satire in this title. Toni's ventures revolved around the Yakuza, and the Leone and Forelli gangs of Liberty City, resulting in Toni's eventually offing of the mayor and becoming a top player in the Leone crime family (who are all major characters in GTA 3). Based on his namesake, Toni had a mother that kept downsizing his ego and constantly berated him in a familiar restaurant setting.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
PSP, Nintendo DS, iOS
In the middle of the 10 Best Grand Theft Auto Games, we have a title that tried to both go back to the series' roots and expand on them in ways that were previously unexplored. Chinatown Wars implemented cel-shared graphics, a series first. While drug dealing is not new to Grand Theft Auto, Chinatown Wars put it at its forefront. An interesting concept was the DS version's utilization of the touchscreen. In order to steal a car, you had to either hotwire it, use a screwdriver on its ignition or hack its computer (if it was a newer vehicle). With tons of other ingenious uses of the touchscreen, Chinatown Wars brought about an amazing, portable GTA experience.
Grand Theft Auto 3
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
The title that sparked both a revolution and controversy in the world of gaming. What Final Fantasy 7 was for role-playing games, Grand Theft Auto was for open world titles. Rockstar, known as DMA Design at the time, took the gameplay of the previous entries and removed the series' fixed, top-down perspective. Taking inspiration from headlining racing games, such as Driver, and third-person shooters, like Syphon Filter, Grand Theft Auto 3 surpassed its influences and became an influence on its own right. Throughout the following decade and a half, GTA 3's own influences can be seen all across open world, action-adventure, crime-based, and third-person gaming. We'll never forget the betrayal in the opening, crossing the bridge or the first time we got an uzi, got into a car, pulled in the camera and did a drive-by.
Grand Theft Auto 4
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Grand Theft Auto 4 reflected a clear growth in Rockstar's development teams. The excessive customizations and leveling systems of San Andreas were gone. Instead, Niko was able to surf the internet, use email, date girls and, most importantly, use a cellphone. The implementation of the cellphone allowed players to call friends for small chitchat, ask for supplies/backup and access GTA 4's multiplayer. The online multiplayer of GTA 4 was great and had a variety of matchtypes for players to engage throughout all of Liberty City. The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned DLC added tremendous value to the game long after Niko's story was finished. Ultimately, GTA 4 left us questioning the American identity and reflects how the American dream truly works. Nevertheless, GTA 4 brought us Brucie. 'Be Genetically Different, Baby!'
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Xbox, PlayStation 2
Out of all the previous Grand Theft Auto titles, the story of CJ and the Grove Street fam is one of heart and camaraderie. San Andreas takes place in 1992 across the locations of Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas (LA, San Fran and Vegas, respectively). Each city tried to replicate the aesthetics of their real world counterparts. The story follows Carl "CJ" Johnson returning to Los Santos after his mother died, only to find his old gang in shambles with corrupt cops and rival gangs (the Ballas and Vagos) plaguing their the crew's every move. From hot coffee, getting buff, getting fat, jetpacks, swimming, leveling up to car tuning and gang warfare, San Andreas offered tons of variety. We can't wait to see what happened to Grove Street and the rest of Los Santos two decades later in GTA 5.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
Reigning supreme at the top of our list of the 10 Best Grand Theft Auto Games is the brightest of the bunch (figuratively). Tommy Vercetti was the most ruthless out of all of GTA's protagonists, so its only right that this neon-wearing Scarface be the Don of the GTA library. Vice City taught a generation of gamers raised on Pokemon the full nostalgia of the '80s. As a matter of fact, Vice City's Flash FM radio was one of the only ways most of us were ever able to hear Michael Jackson on the radio. Even though GTA 5 will take place on the other side of the country, we hope it'll finally shine some light as to happened to the Vercetti Gang.
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