The Best Entries in the GTA Franchise

“Grand Theft Auto” is one of the most influential franchises in the Video game industry. Selling well over 253 million copies the Rockstar Games series is one that never falls short in the eyes of fans. Producing hit after hit, by merging the video game world with film, pop culture and real-life history it’s easy to see why every release has the video game stores packed on the opening day of distribution. Being 16 titles in, with the amount of success the franchise continues to obtain, this is one franchise that is showing no signs of slowing down. Let’s take a look at the top ten games of the “Grand Theft Auto” series.

10: Grand Theft Auto: The first of the series is the game that introduced us to every city that we the gamers would run jump shoot steal and drive through for the next twenty years.  The first set the foundation for the future. The top view sandbox game gave us three characters to choose from to cause mayhem in Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. The open world Sandbox title was a game at the time like no other, which was a living breathing virtual city. The first “GTA” basically allowed you to roam the streets of a city you would find in “Sim City.”

 9: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories: “Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories” set in 1998 showed the rise to back to into power of Toni Cipriani, an underboss of the Leon Crime Family of “GTA III”. The game takes place three years prior to the “GTA III” story but four years after Toni “whacked” a made man. Though there wasn’t much of a difference between this title and “GTA: III,” the story was enough to satisfy. The game’s subplot is the battle between the mafia crime families of Liberty city, the odd jobs and task you perform is all with the end goal of Toni gaining back his position of power in which he was replaced from. Reminiscent of the “Godfather” trilogy, there is plenty of cliche mob movie task to complete the likes of leaving a bomb under a rival Mafia car, pretending to make someone a made man just for a hit (much like the film “Casino”) and rigging trucks with explosives. The game was a solid sequel to “GTA: III” but was a bit of a step back from “GTA: Vice City” and “GTA: Vice City Stories” which followed. 

8: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories: Bringing us back to Vice city for the second time, this time four years prior to “GTA: Vice City.” This installment’s leading role is Vic Vance, older brother of the traitor antagonist Lance Vance of  “GTA: Vice City.” Taking place in the early ’80s, “Vice City Stories” allows us to experience the growth of Vice city through the rising drug trade. Even though the game still keeps its “GTA” style with a mixture of high paced action and comedy it takes a more gritty approach by allowing the player to buy up territory to move cocaine and defending that same territory to keep rival drug dealers and gangs from moving in. 

7: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony: “Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony” takes us through the nightlife of Liberty City. Playing as a club bouncer and personal bodyguard of night club owner Gay Tony, the game places heavy emphasis on the late-night party scene. Though it keeps the game’s newer more gritty “GTA” feel with the usual Intensified shootouts,  this entry is more upbeat and up-tempo. Out of the three “GTA IV” titles, this one here is the more light-hearted of the three games story wise. The more in-depth the game goes, the more time you spend trying to help Gay Tony rebuild his self-esteem and reclaim his fall from grace as one of the most notable club owners of the city.

6: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned:Releasing around the time of when the FX tv series “Son of Anarchy” was making waves, Rockstar put out “GTA IV: The Lost and Damned.” “The Lost and Damned” showed how dark and dirty the series can get by taking you on a ride along with the Lost Motorcycle club. “The Lost and Damned” was the first of two spin-off titles to release in the “GTA” new realistic era. The first appearance of the MC protagonist Johnny was in Niko’s “GTA IV” story, which added to the elements of how real the in-game city actually is. You now have a smaller storyline character with their own story going on simultaneously as the main character. This title gave gamers a different perspective of the same exact city that they just spent countless hours on until the game’s finale. 

5: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Going from the dark grayish northern city color tones to the bright neon lights, women in bikinis, and beautiful beach weather. Sounds like Miami in its heyday and this is exactly the Vibe “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” was going for. Taking us on a DeLorean ride back to the late 80’s “Vice City” gave gamers the true “Miami Vice” feel. The hit TV show and movies like “Scarface” played a major influence in the main storyline of this game. “Vice City” was the first to introduce the entering of building in the franchise and buying of property. Adding the properties for purchase to the game made the urge to earn more in-game money actually purposeful other than to just buy unlimited guns and ammunition for your rocket launchers. 

4: Grand Theft Auto III: “Grand Theft Auto III” is the Marlon Brando (Godfather) of sandbox style gaming. Often imitated, but not duplicated, the formula “GTA III” came in with changed open-world gaming. The free roaming aspect alongside a storyline that Rockstar created and paired with a third person instead of the top-down perspective was one that put the franchise at the top of the gaming food chain. “GTA III”  is a story built on betrayal and payback after a bank heist gone bad sends our no-name mute protagonist (in future games revealed as Claude) to jail. After an ambush on the convoy transport to the state penitentiary, the player is set loose to roam the streets of the now three-dimensional third-person Liberty City. To accompany the story, the game was cast with recognizable voice actors such as Michael Rapperport, Michael Madsen,  Robert Loggia and  Joe Pantoliano to name a few. The entire game through and through is filled with twist, turns backstabbing, and every single character scheming their way through things that it’s fitting of the in-game tagline “Liberty City, USA the worst place in America.”

3: Grand Theft Auto IV:We make our return to the revamped remodeled and renovated version of Liberty City, which is modeled based off New York City and all five of its Boroughs. The visual aspect of the game is beautifully crafted. With a virtual replica of NYC landmarks such as the Coney Island Ferris wheel, the Globe at The former Queens County World’s fair and the massive Central Park, the game captures the true essence of New York City. “GTA IV” brought a new dynamic to the franchise, a more realistic approach to the gameplay. To add to the in-depth story like its predecessors, producers created a cinematic feel. From start to finish the game felt more like an AMC television series than an actual video game. The game felt more natural and human with the addition of building relationships between our protagonist Niko Bellic and every major character you meet in the game. Allowing the gamer to hang out and spend time with the other characters created this emotional attachment which ultimately caused the gamer to make tough decisions when it comes to a two-way path as the game progresses. Even though the game keeps its traditional “GTA” swagger with the splash of subtle comedy the mission gunfights and shootouts felt more intense a lot more intense with its cover and shoot mechanics.

2: Grand Theft Auto  V:“Grand Theft Auto V”  Is the first since the original “GTA” to introduce us to the use of three characters. Playing as Michael, Trevor, and Franklin, unlike the first “GTA,” you’re actually able to use all three characters in one story mode and even in some missions simultaneously. Much like the revamped version of Liberty City, in “GTA V” we get an updated San Andreas which is very much Southern California. Los Santos, modeled after Los Angeles, gives the player the same west coast feels we got when playing “GTA: San Andreas.” Continuing the emphasis of visual appeal much like “GTA IV,” “V” host the virtual city of Los Angeles which includes the famous Muscle Beach on Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier. The major player here though is the interweaving storyline between all three playable characters which actually adds more depth to an already deep story. Navigating one protagonist through an entire open world city is a handful but now having to navigate three just increases the mayhem and madness. This especially the case because at any point you can drop in on any of the characters living their own life outside of your control.

1: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” was the innovative change the series needed. The storyline matched that of each of the previous titles, but the story though major wasn’t the defining moment making this game the best. What makes “GTA: San Andreas” the best “GTA” game in the series is the customization factor and the domino effect it would cause. It wasn’t that the series was going stale, but it opened up the gamers minds to see that in “Grand Theft Auto” anything was possible. With the customization of the character Carl “CJ” Johnson alone, the gamer actually became CJ. You could get haircuts, lift weights, get tattoos, change your clothes, lose and gain weight. The idea of having to eat in a video game just blew many gamers away and changed the landscape of future “GTA” games. Along with that amount of customization, they continued and expanded on the purchasing of property from houses, lofts, business across three major cities (Las Santos, San Fierro, and Las Ventures)  and even casino property in the Las Ventures (Las Vegas) portion of the game. With the biggest map in the series at the time and no loading screens when traveling through cities, towns and to each of the three states, San Andreas opened up the floodgates for endless possibilities of what was to come.

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