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GTA Clones That Are Actually Great

The "Grand Theft Auto" series is going into its 27th year, and over the last three decades there are only a few games that can boast the same levels of success. "Grand Theft Auto 5" was the fastest-selling game in the world on launch, garnering nearly a billion dollars in the first 24 hours alone, and it's still one of the most successful games of all time in 2023 — "Grand Theft Auto 5" is only outranked by "Tetris" and "Minecraft". But the series has been successful for virtually its entire existence, and naturally the game's pioneering approach to the open world and crime-doing formula was eventually going to be emulated by others to varying success.

The term "GTA Clone" is often used as an insult against games that bear even a slight similarity to Rockstar's seminal series. It's hard to deny the influence of "Grand Theft Auto" on a lot of these titles, sure, but the truly great ones stay unique — these aren't games that tried to rip off "GTA" and failed, these are games that were just deeply inspired by it.

Some, like "The Simpsons: Hit and Run," brought the free-form open world of "GTA" to a younger audience, while others took inspiration and ran with it in a completely different direction, like the "Saints Row" games. Whatever it was, the "GTA" formula has proven time and time again to be a hit with all types of gamers, and these five are the best alternatives when looking for something aside from "Grand Theft Auto Online" to sink your teeth into.

The Simpsons: Hit and Run (and Road Rage)

Of all the ultra-mainstream brands that have received video game spin-offs, "The Simpsons" has been particularly spoiled. The "Simpsons" games have been pretty good over the years,  though since the release of "The Simpsons Game" — which was based on the movie — the series has seen nothing but mobile games. Before 2007, fans were treated to two particularly fantastic games for the GameCube and PlayStation 2: "The Simpsons: Hit and Run" and "The Simpsons: Road Rage."

"Hit and Run" was much more of a direct "GTA" clone than "Road Rage," which bore more similarities to "Crazy Taxi" and let players take passengers to specific locations throughout Springfield in contained super-levels. "Hit and Run" has missions and cutscenes that are presented almost exactly like the early 3D "Grand Theft Auto" games, as well as the ability to walk around, kick NPCs, and generally just be a nuisance to Springfield. Both took a page out of the "GTA" series' book and featured plenty of destructive city chaos, but in different ways.

Those looking for a more lighthearted and comedy-first approach to the "GTA" formula, who also want to explore and complete "GTA"-like missions, should try out "Hit and Run." Though fans have wanted a sequel for a long time now, the only way to play this take on "GTA" is on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and original Xbox. "Road Rage" is much more hectic and gives players less freedom, but there's arguably more vehicular mayhem — if that's what draws you to "GTA," "Road Rage" just might be your bag instead.

The Saint's Row series

The Saint's Row series started off extremely close to the "GTA" formula, but over time it's carved out its own unique approach and hardly resembles Rockstar's monolithic series. In fact, "Saints Row 4" sees players gain super powers and become the President of the United States, but the other games stick a bit closer to reality — well, mostly. "Saints Row 2" was a little bit more ridiculous than the first, "Saints Row 3" turned it up to 10 and was almost a comedy game as much as it was a "GTA" clone, and "Saints Row 4" turned it up to 11. After a long break, the series came back last year with the rebooted "Saints Row," which was divisive amongst both critics and fans.

If you're looking for a game that's a bit more cartoony in its comedy than "Grand Theft Auto," "Saints Row 2" is a good one to check out. It came out around the same time as "Grand Theft Auto 4" and its bloom-ridden, slightly blurry graphics will surely bring players back to the Xbox 360 era in a moment not unlike Anton Ego's revelations at the end of "Ratatouille." But, it's a bit broken and outdated in a lot of ways nowadays. Instead, look to the more developed combat and open world of the third "Saints Row" game, which was more inspired by "Grand Theft Auto 5." "Saints Row 4" and the rebooted "Saints Row" were a bit divisive, but players who value better graphics may enjoy them nonetheless.

Scarface: The World is Yours

"Scarface: The World is Yours" was something of a sleeper hit during the PlayStation 2 and Xbox days, and even saw a re-release on the Nintendo Wii. For a brand tie-in game that came out two decades after the titular movie, and for what is essentially a clone of "Grand Theft Auto," it's surprisingly decent — and set records for the amount of swearing in a video game. The controls aren't terrible, the story isn't bad, and the gameplay is actually pretty satisfying when it comes to gunplay and the open world, especially for a game from 2006. 

Players can do just about everything that "GTA" offers in "Scarface: The World is Yours," as well as a few new things more directly related to "Scarface," but the driving, combat, and missions systems are all familiar. It takes place in Miami after the events of the movie. That might not make sense at first, because Tony Montana dies at the end of "Scarface," but to keep the mob movie's story going, the game alters the ending.

Interestingly, one of the few differences between "Grand Theft Auto" and "Scarface: The World is Yours" is the ability to kill innocent people. The ability to kill bystanders and civilian NPCs is one of the most historically controversial parts of the "GTA" series, but for the "Scarface" game these characters can't be hurt at all. For as nuts as Montana is, he apparently draws the line at driving on public sidewalks.

LEGO City Undercover

Most "Grand Theft Auto" clones take themselves very seriously, adopting the gangster or mob theme and twisting it deeper into mature territory. Games like "The Simpsons: Hit and Run" proved that same formula could be toned down for general audiences, though, and with the release of "LEGO City Undercover," that theory was proven again. 

For a LEGO game, "LEGO City Undercover" is a relative feat. Almost every other LEGO game follows the "LEGO Star Wars" formula with missions, studs, unlockable characters, and more, typically based on a well-known franchise like "Indiana Jones" or "Batman." For "LEGO City Undercover," the developers looked to "GTA" and made an explorable open world in the signature LEGO style. In fact, unlike "Scarface: The World is Yours," innocents can still be injured and killed in "LEGO City Undercover," possibly making it an even closer clone of "Grand Theft Auto" than the M-rated movie tie-in. 

Despite being aimed at general audiences, "LEGO City Undercover" is worth checking out as a very serious, responsible adult because it's just fun. The LEGO games have never lacked in the sound design, gameplay, or art departments, and in a lot of ways "LEGO City Undercover" is the epitome of the company's stylistic approach. While fans wait for a possible sequel one day, the original "LEGO City Undercover" is still available on most major platforms, like the Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4.