With the reveal of Grand Theft Auto V by way of fancy new trailer, Erik and Joey decided the best way to celebrate the news was by ranking some of our favorite GTA titles. We recognize that these games are all loved in their own unique ways, but we figured it was high time we sat down and actually figured out which ones we loved most.
We’ll say that we love all of the GTA games for their own reasons. But we also know some are more equal than others.
You’re going to disagree with the list, but that’s sort of the point. Defend your favorite entry’s honor in the comment section below.
Grand Theft Auto III
Systems: PS2, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
We’re aware that the other entries on this list wouldn’t exist without Grand Theft Auto III being the trendsetter. GTA III made what open-world gaming is today, no question about it. That’s why it deserves a spot in the top five Grand Theft Auto games. However, as great franchises tend to do, innovation and expansion was applied to each subsequent entry, leaving GTA III in the dust as a nothing more than a pioneering relic. But we’re not idiots, we sacrifice a virgin to that relic every single year, thanking it for the path it’s led us down.
And now, a reading of a passage from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which seems apt...
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Grand Theft Auto: Ballad of Gay Tony
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
The Ballad of Gay Tony felt like an awesome ode to seedy night clubs and the American Dream. The characters worked extremely well throughout this expansion, and the main line of story was one that was actually worth following from start to finish. We loved this title for its over-the-top play (with things like base-jumping), and found that its objectives sometimes rivaled those of GTA IV.
In the end, though, The Ballad of Gay Tony was nothing more than an add-on. It was lengthy, sure, but we wanted so much more from the players and the settings within.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Systems: PS2, PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, Mac OS X
San Andreas was massive and varied. For a lot of GTA fans, and we totally recognized this going into making this list, San Andreas stands as the best entry in the series. While we would never look down on someone that shared that opinion with us, we would certainly move to disagree.
It’s a great god damn game, you have to know that we believe that fact. It’s enormous, the missions are well paced and there is an absolute shit ton worth of content and mechanics to enjoy once you boot the title up.
However, that gift is also a curse. For us, lovers of focused storylines and tight play, San Andreas was almost too big. We know, this is like hating Thanksgiving for featuring so much food, but you have to see that we loved the games above this one for being more tightly wound and easily ingested.
Now, that said, GTA: San Andreas absolutely stands as the best valued game in the franchise. There’s so much to do here that the price of entry is never too steep. If you’ve never played this game, do yourself a favor and give it a go.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Systems: PS2, Xbox, PC, Max OS X
What do you get when you mix Miami Vice with Grand Theft Auto? You get Vice City, that’s what. This interactive celebration of ‘80s culture and cocaine easily stands as one of the best entries in the Grand Theft Auto series.
Firstly, and maybe most importantly, this is the first Grand Theft Auto where the player actually got to play a fully-voiced character in Tommy Vercetti. No long were you the voiceless lacky who just took orders without question. Vercetti was a man with a vision and he sought it out to the bitter end. Because of Rockstar’s choice to make Vercetti a well-rounded character, Vice City’s narrative remains one of the strongest in the series.
But Vice City didn’t just deliver in the story department; the game was also the most ambitious GTA title to date when it released in 2002. The game world was huge with plenty to keep gamers busy. And the experience was made infinitely better by the game’s incredible soundtrack, which, if we’re being honest, easily ranks as one of the best soundtracks ever put in a video game.
What other game can you kill a hooker to Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings?” The answer: none other game. None. Other. Game.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
We know we’re going to get a lot of flak for Grand Theft Auto IV topping out our list. Many feel the last entry in the series scaled back the scope too much after players got a taste of how expansive a Grand Theft Auto game can be with San Andreas. However, we’ll make the case that that’s why Grand Theft Auto IV is so good.
Rockstar knew the story they wanted to tell and set out to tell it using an open-world formula they had refined through years of trial and error and experimentation. The scale of Grand Theft Auto IV wasn’t too small, nor was it too big. It was perfect, just like the story Rockstar told, one of how the illusion of the “American Dream” can truly crush a man’s spirit.