The Top 5: Grand Theft Auto Games

Hello dear readers! Alex here, taking over the reigns for Sean to make this week’s Top 5 a truly memorable one! Since it’s Grand Theft Auto week this week, I figured that we should post something about our five favorite Grand Theft Auto games. But, something interesting happened.

One of our editors had never played more than four Grand Theft Auto games, with one other editor having not played any of the games in the series and sitting out on this one… which means Sean and I are the only people who are truly qualified to finish our lists! You might think, “Well, Grand Theft Auto V came out this week,” so we’ve compiled a list of every single Grand Theft Auto game in existence below, to hammer the point that there’s definitely enough to cover one’s list:

  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
  • Grand Theft Auto 2
  • Grand Theft Auto III
  • Grand Theft Auto Vice City
  • Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories
  • Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

That being said, it’s time to find out what games made it on our lists. And let me tell you now… it’s going to be an interesting Top 5!


I sadly haven’t even played 5 games on that list. So here’s my top 4:

4. Grand Theft Auto III – This was my first Grand Theft Auto title. At the time, I hadn’t really played an open-world game, and didn’t comprehend the extent of what I was seeing. I realized it was a blast to screw off and do police missions or whatever I felt like.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV: Lost and Damned – While it took place in the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, I felt like I didn’t relate to any of the main characters. Some of the changes, like the riding formation, felt video-gamey enough to be different, but this felt like more of the same. Not too bad, I guess.

2. Grand Theft Auto Vice City – I really got into the characters on display here. The change in tone when Tommy takes over the mansion is very good fun, especially given the ignoble circumstances on which you’re thrown into Vice City. I really enjoyed the journey and plot more than any kind of gameplay improvements.

1. Grand Theft Auto IV – I can sum up how much I like this game in a short excerpt of actual play. I took my lowrider to the skate park, and I did some sweet jumps and 180’s. I may have hit a guy, but whatever. I loved doing sweet tricks. About thirty minutes later, I had fought off some gang members, and low on health, I headed to the hot dog stand to recover my health. While ordering the dog, the guy I hit at the skate park came behind me and walloped me with a baseball bat, sending me to the hospital. None of that was scripted.

Grand Theft Auto IV
Niko Bellic. He’s a good guy. Victim of circumstance and bad luck, but a good guy.



I’m starting my Top 5 with a bit of a caveat. While I’ve played the following games extensively, at least for about 20 hours each, I’ve never actually finished any of them. The thing is that there is simply too much distraction for me away from the main story that I never wind up going back to it, despite how much I would like to. That being said, I am aware of the story beats and endings of each game and feel that I know the games well enough to make a good determination of which ones I like. Onward, to the list!

5. Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories – The first portable 3D Grand Theft Auto game released after Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories does a really good job of emulating the play style of the GTA III trilogy. It also happens to be the first time Rockstar used an in-house engine for their 3D GTA games, putting aside RenderWare’s limitations and creating their own solution so that the game can run on something as small as the PSP. A technological marvel, in its own right.

4. Grand Theft Auto III – No one could’ve predicted how big this game was going to be… unless, of course, it was the assistant manager of the local mom and pop store that I used to work at. Grand Theft Auto III had the perfect mix of grit and comedy only allowed by emergent game AI, a developer buzz word at the time, and we’ve since really improved on this idea. Without Grand Theft Auto III, a whole genre of games wouldn’t be available to us.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV – The world got to know Niko Bellic really, really well… and I’m grateful for that experience. Featuring a huge maturity in terms of motif, storytelling, and gameplay for the series, Grand Theft Auto IV was even more immersive than San Andreas, despite pulling back on the series’ zaniness and customizability. Characters were more fleshed out and feel like they’re part of your life, and the depictions of the various boroughs in Liberty City are nothing short of incredible.

2. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – As much as I loved Grand Theft Auto IV’s loving depiction of Liberty City, nothing is as memorable in series history to me as going to a Cluck N’ Burger, fattening my CJ up, and working it all off at the gym. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas’ ambition is so big that we probably won’t ever see a game that’s as detailed in its scale from Rockstar in a very long time. It basically represented three cities: Los Angeles (Los Santos), San Francisco (San Fierro), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas) in one game. And while Grand Theft Auto V may hold the record for being the biggest open world game out of the entire series, the difference in culture in each of these three featured cities in San Andreas make this an experience to beat. And this is even without mentioning the controversial Hot Coffee mod.

1. Grand Theft Auto Chinatown WarsGrand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is the one Grand Theft Auto game that I own on three different platforms: the DS, PSP, and iOS. Featuring an original title track by Ghostface Killa and Doom, an awesome accompanying soundtrack, characters that you’d love to hate, and a storyline that’s undeniably Grand Theft Auto, Chinatown Wars honors its predecessors’ innovations by taking what everything Rockstar has learned in the prior years and placing it back to the series’ top-down roots. And you know what? It works extremely well! So well, in fact, that, again, the game got ported to almost every single portable platform this gen that can play games. It’s also the highest rated DS game of all time. San Andreas may have won thanks to its scale and the things you can do, but Chinatown Wars wins my list because it immediately draws you into its world regardless of what platform it’s on. With that said, excuse me while I play more of this game…

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars
There’s simply no excuse: Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is on multiple portable platforms. Go get it NOW!



My contribution is pretty limited this week because I didn’t play enough of the early or portable Grand Theft Auto games to consider them. I suppose if we had waited a few weeks, Grand Theft Auto V would have made the list! The question is, which spot would it have taken?

5. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City – This one pretty much makes the list by default, given my limited experience with the early and portable GTA games. At the very least, The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are an excuse to spend more time in the Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV. But given that each of these games expanded upon GTAIV with new gameplay elements including new weapons, vehicles, and radio stations, and that they each feature new characters and storyline missions, you could really do a lot worse than Episodes from Liberty City.

4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – I had a lot of fun with Vice City. It is one of my favorite video game representations of the 80s! The sights, the sounds, the music, the neon… it was totally tubular! The game also did a great job of taking the next logical step after Grand Theft Auto III. The control and visuals were improved across the board, and there were a ton of new gameplay features added throughout to make the city feel more alive and to give the player plenty of things to do. Ice cream, anyone?

3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this one on the top of my colleagues’ lists. San Andreas was a monster of a game. It would have probably been a big enough game if it took place entirely in Los Santos, the Los Angeles based city of the GTA universe. But that was only one of the game’s three cities! There was also San Fierro, based on San Francisco, and Las Venturas, based on Las Vegas. Not only was it the biggest game in the series to date, it also had some great new features. It was the most RPG-like of the GTA games, with character customization, relationships and skills that level up to affect things like driving, shooting and stamina. But my favorite part was growing my gang and participating in gang wars throughout San Andreas, fighting for control over each of the territories. I missed that in Grand Theft Auto IV.

2. Grand Theft Auto IV – Niko! My cousin! …let’s go bowling! Okay, so maybe they tried a little too hard to distract you in Grand Theft Auto IV, but personally, I was happy to be distracted. I went bowling, I played pool, I threw darts and I took girls out to Cluck’n Bell. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was happy to be distracted by side missions like “acquiring” exotic cars, killing criminals or participating in street races. And when it came time to actually play through the main storyline, I found it to be the best Rockstar had yet produced for a GTA game. Start to finish, I probably played more hours of GTAIV than any other game in the series, and I still plan to play more of it.

1. Grand Theft Auto III – What can I say? I’m a sucker for genre defining games. Grand Theft Auto III may not have been the first game to combine driving, shooting, action and an open world, but it was by far the most successful at it. It’s safe to say that Grand Theft Auto III is responsible for the popularity of modern open world action-adventure games. Those games also borrow heavily from many of the genre’s basic mechanics that were established in Grand Theft Auto III. We owe a lot to that game.

Grand Theft Auto III
The granddad of them all. Without Grand Theft Auto III, there wouldn’t be an open world genre.



5. Grand Theft Auto Vice City – Building on the foundation in Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City really set the standard and tone for the rest of the series. The release of this game was the beginning of the release of a new GTA being an event that millions of gamers wanted to be a part of. If GTA III made the franchise a household name, Vice City cemented its place as a pop culture icon. The 80’s music and setting, the send up of 80’s excess and being flat out parody of the already over-the-top 80’s gangster movie classic, Scarface, Vice City’s appeal is nearly impossible to deny.

4. Grand Theft Auto – Yes, the original, top down, sprite based crime sim was crude in its graphics, ambitious in its scope and amazingly fun in its gameplay. From the moment I pulled someone out of their car a lifelong fan was born and I owe it all to this game.

3. Grand Theft Auto III – This is the game that started the phenomenon and for very good reason. Never before had anything like it been attempted on consoles and by moving the world into 3D graphics, the violence and humor were a huge risk that paid off in spades. Truly one of the most remarkable games of all time.

2. Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar took a lot of flack for reeling in the over the top antics of the previous titles and instead opted to tell a much more personal story of the American Dream seen through eyes of immigrant Niko Bellic. The former criminal escaped to America to leave the life behind him but found that he couldn’t escape his past. It’s a fantastic story with humor and tragedy and by far the most mature Rockstar tale to date.

1. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – Building on the promise and scope of the previous 5 titles, Rockstar unleashed their magnum opus, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Taking place is a satirized version of Los Angeles in the 90’s, San Andreas blew the previous games in the series out of the water. The music was awesome, the character customization was awesome, the story was awesome, the world map was awesome. Everything was blown up to awesome size AND it had Area 51 and a mother f***ing jet pack! Awesome from start to finish.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
It might look dated, but Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has a ton of unique features that are absent from recent GTA games.


See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? If you haven’t played any of the other games on our lists, I’d highly recommend doing so because they’re just as good as the main titles in the series. So tell me, dear readers, do you have 5 Grand Theft Auto games you can put on your list?


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