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Every Grand Theft Auto Game Ranked Worst To Best

"Grand Theft Auto" is a legendary franchise, to say the least. Over the years, the series has evolved from limited top-down gameplay to a more open-ended sandbox approach, and Rockstar Games hasn't looked back (aside from some portable titles, that is).

In many "GTA" installments, players can spend hours on end ignoring the main story. Whether it be gambling away money in Las Venturas or hitting the clubs, "Grand Theft Auto" never disappoints in the extracurricular activities department.

That's not to say the main stories are slouches, though. The majority of "GTA" games feature deep and engaging storylines filled with memorable missions and characters. No two "Grand Theft Auto" games are the same, so newcomers are bound to find a title that resonates with them. Those longing for a return to the 80s might gravitate towards "Vice City," whereas West Coast enthusiasts will want to explore "San Andreas." "Grand Theft Auto" is able to accommodate all players — something that can't be said of many gaming franchises.

Of course, not every "GTA" game is an equal success. With that being said, here are the all of the "GTA" games ranked from worst to best.

16. Grand Theft Auto Advance

Digital Eclipse headed up development for this portable "Grand Theft Auto" spin-off. "Advance" was meant to bridge the gap between the series' early bird's-eye-view games and the later 3D ones. The Game Boy Advance game serves as a prequel to "GTA III" and transplants its mission structure and vibe into a 2D space.

Mike is the main protagonist, who wants out of his current position in the Liberty City mafia. After his friend dies in a car bomb explosion, Mike has to put his retirement plans on hold for revenge. The story is told through static cutscenes featuring word bubbles for dialogue. Although limited by tech, the story is overall a decent romp that deserves its place in the "GTA" canon. Craig Harris of IGN especially praised the game's surprisingly "well-written dialogue."

Gameplay isn't so remarkable, however. The Game Boy Advance restricts the overall design, with Worthplaying pointing to the game's faulty camera as the main issue. Due to the system's screen size, it's difficult to anticipate oncoming cars and turns. For a game centered on car-jacking and driving, this is a real dealbreaker. 

Meanwhile, YouTuber Slayercoon's review noted the abhorrent framerate, which he called "unacceptable." With a small screen size and limited color palette already making this game a bit of chore, the technical issues are the nail in the coffin. There are some fantastic portable "Grand Theft Auto" games, but "Advance" just doesn't hold a candle to any of them. A grand vision of crossing the different eras of "GTA" is ultimately held back due to the limitations of the GBA.

  • Release Date: Oct. 26, 2004
  • Available On: Game Boy Advance
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player

15. Grand Theft Auto: London 1961

"London 1961" was a mission pack expansion for "GTA: London 1969," which was in turn an expansion for the original game. Rather than parody real-world locations, these expansions directly emulates London.

Right away, the game does bring some improvements to "Grand Theft Auto," including the addition of speed power-ups. YouTuber Infinite Backlog has highlighted the cheats in the game as one of the biggest highlights, which are acquired by altering the name of the playable character with the desired cheat name. These extensive cheat options can remove all the police in the game or give your character every weapon. 

The game was originally a free download for PC, making the total package quite the steal. "1961" is comprised of 8 missions, and a multiplayer map for Deathmatch mode. Oddly enough, however, "London 1961" isn't the most easily installable game. It requires players to own not only the first "GTA" game but also "GTA London: 1969," which creates some barriers to entry for newcomers wanting to jump in.

"GTA London 1961" is a game that went under the radar for even the most hardcore fans. It's an odd deviation from the norm, and its brutal timed driving missions and reused assets from "1961" make it more of a curiosity than anything else.

  • Release Date: March 31, 1999
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

14. Grand Theft Auto London: 1969

"London 1969" preceded "1961" and was a substantially bigger game. It also avoided some issues found in its successor.

For starters, missions aren't as grueling — the timed driving challenges are omitted from this entry. Another leg up over "1961" is the fact that only the first "Grand Theft Auto" game is required for players to install the expansion and play. This, coupled with an extensive list of new London-bound missions, paints "1969" as the superior expansion.

Though the overall package is better, "London 1969" suffers from a lackluster camera. The in-game camera zooms while driving, and can make gameplay confusing (per Infinite Backlog). Again, not the best design decision for a game in which driving is essential.

On the positive side, "GTA" does revel in its London setting. Charming alterations are added to the usual design elements, such as a "You're Knicked" screen that pops up when the player is arrested. This swaps out the classic "Busted" line that originated in the first "Grand Theft Auto." Another clever change noted by PC Gamer "You're Brown Bread" showing up during a death scene, rather than "Wasted."

Unfortunately, hindered by obsolete camera controls, and design choices, the game's legacy is carried solely by its British setting and break from "GTA" conventions.

  • Release Date: April 6, 1999
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player

13. Grand Theft Auto 2

"Grand Theft Auto 2" marked the last top-down game before the main series switched to 3D. Its strongest facet is its open-ended approach to game completion. Gaining money is the primary task and determines player progression. As a result, missions become optional avenues for money, and free roaming is now a viable option to complete the game. Causing all kinds of havoc nets cash that can be used to unlock other parts of the map.

This sequel had some novel ideas are novel, but it's biggest flaw comes from navigating the 2D space. In "GTA 2," arrows conveniently lead the player to locations for the next mission. These same arrows cause problems, though, as they don't account for walls or other obstacles. Because of this, players may find themselves fighting the map's layout and driving into walls more than they'd like.

There are no other tools to aid the experience either. Something like a mini map would have done wonders to alleviate the problem, but as ColourShedProductions laments, players "have to rely on the physical map." Yes, a fold-out map that was included when purchasing the game.

"Grand Theft Auto 2" was ultimately a product of a simpler era of game design, and many of its issues were addressed in the future 3D entries. Regardless, "GTA 2" was an intriguing turning point in a lot of ways.

  • Release Date: Sept. 30, 1999
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

12. Grand Theft Auto

The father of the entire franchise, Rockstar laid a lot of groundwork for the whole series in the very first "Grand Theft Auto." Language, violence, and player freedom make up the traditional "Grand Theft Auto" experience, and that can be found here — just with some baggage.

An open sandbox means total freedom in the gaming world, and this 1997 game thrives on that chaos. There is nearly endless replayability to be found while wreaking havoc in the game's three districts.

"Grand Theft Auto" set a precedent for its sequels, for better and for worse. It is a grand project in concept but Rockstar's vision is hampered by some undercooked gameplay. As noted by GameSpot, the controls are "needlessly cryptic." The face buttons on the controller move the player, while directional buttons determine which way the character is facing. Those more familiar with the modern entries might have a tough time adapting.

This game also features issues that popped up in other 2D entries. Vague navigation, an inconsistent camera, and poorly optimized controls are all complications that the early bird's-eye-view titles never got quite right.

Of course, "Grand Theft Auto" was just the beginning, but so much of what makes the series special was there from the start. The core concept of marrying linear action-packed levels with exploration and experimentation went a long way. The words "Wasted" and "Busted" are iconic now, and have appeared consistently in the franchise ever since. The years have taken a toll on the original "Grand Theft Auto," but its influence cannot be understated.

  • Release Date: Oct. 21, 1997
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation, Game Boy Color
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

11. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Converting game franchises to a portable system can be tough, as evidenced by "GTA Advance." "Liberty City Stories," however, makes good use of the handheld platform. This prequel to "GTA 3" is an impressive PSP romp (later ported to PS2) that nearly lives up to its console predecessor.

In "Liberty City Stories," players take control of Toni Cipriani, who returns to Liberty City after murdering a made man. Unfortunately, the characters aren't all that interesting in this go around. Some reviews have argued that the storyline is missing the depth of other titles. This can be seen as a missed opportunity when returning to classic environments and beloved characters.

The game does deliver in the visuals department, with IGN praising the overall presentation and giving it props for looking great on a portable device. Of course Liberty City would look better in later games, but for the time, this PSP rendition was nothing short of a marvel.

Since the game takes place prior to "GTA 3," one might expect the map to be copied and pasted from that game. Fortunately, "Liberty City Stories" defies expectations, and map comparison videos have been made to show off the differences. For instance, in sticking with the prequel angle, there are several construction sites that hint at future buildings seen in "GTA 3."

"Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories" does what it sets out to do: put a fully functioning modern "GTA" game on the PSP. While the story leaves a bit to be desired, taking Liberty City on the go was still quite a feat.

  • Release Date: Oct. 24, 2005
  • Available On: PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
  • Metacritic: 88 (PSP), 78 (PS2)

10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

The PSP's second "GTA" venture centered around a visit to Vice City, a fan favorite destination. A hazy, sunlit Florida is captured well on the PSP and its PS2 port, although it isn't without its shortcomings. According to CGR Undertow, a lack of people and a worse draw distance causes the world to be "not as detailed" as fans would hope. Luckily, the subpar visuals aren't quite enough to make players want to skip over another sunlit "GTA" adventure.

"Vice City Stories" becomes more of an essential Rockstar outing due to its story. Vic Vance is a compelling protagonist whose motive of raising money to help is sick brother is admirable. However, he's faced with opposition from all sides. Rockstar Games describes Vic as someone caught between two fates, a character who must "build an empire or be crushed." 

The game also embraces its prequel time period more than "Liberty City Stories." Vic Vance is the brother of Lance Vance from the original "Vice City." This results in a more intimately connected spin-off that connects directly to the original title. All in all, the PSP had a solid library of GTA spinoffs.

  • Release Date: Oct. 31, 2006
  • Available On: PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
  • Metacritic: 86 (PSP), 75 (PS2)

9. Grand Theft Auto Online

What is there to say that hasn't already been said about "Grand Theft Auto Online?" Still running strong nearly a decade after launch, its massive lifetime sales have made it the most successful "GTA" of all time. However, despite the heavy amount of content and regular updates, truly enjoying 'Grand Theft Auto Online" can come at a cost.

Dedicated players have been very vocal about how the live service places too much of an emphasis on grinding. The gradual increase in needing to grind has especially frustrated newer players. Polygon argues that newer players are typically "restricted to older content" because of the price barriers in the game, which must be overcome with real or in-game cash.

Regardless, "GTA Online" is nearly limitless in terms of replayability. Creating race tracks, playing sports with friends, and hitting the casino are just some of the endless possibilities that the "GTA 5" online mode has to offer — and that's before you get into the game's intricate heist missions. Gameranx has commended these multiplayer missions, noting that the heists can get "pretty complex with planning and scripted events."

"GTA Online" has seen its fair share of controversy, but it's notable for its seemingly endless content.

  • Release Date: Sept. 17, 2013
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, 
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Online Multiplayer

8. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

"Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" is a miracle. Everything about the game seems like it would feel immediately dated: a cel-shaded art style, optimization for the DS, and a return to the old top-down perspective. "Chinatown Wars" somehow defies the odds, besting every 2D "GTA" game while joining the ranks of Rockstar's best works.

This game seems to have taken everything from the original "GTA" games and sought to improve every element of them, including the awkward camera and navigation. "Chinatown Wars" fixes this issue by enforcing a canted angle. Rather than directly atop the player, the camera is now positioned in such a way that provides increased vision. While admitting that the camera can occasionally be oscured, GameSpot felt that the new camera system "does a superb job" of keeping track of the player.

"Chinatown Wars" also ratchets up the action, with Kotaku loving the sheer amount of mission variety present, giving way to action-packed challenges involving guns, flamethrowers, and chainsaws.

"Chinatown" is a bit of a rarity when it comes to its platforms. The game can be played on the DS, PSP, and Mobile devices, and each version has its own pros and cons. The DS was designed with touchscreen controls in mind, while the PSP version has more missions and a sharper screen resolution. Lastly, iOS and Android devices provide something of an in-between experience with the added convenience factor of having it right on your phone. Because of this, there's quite a debate among fans regarding which version is superior.

  • Release Date: March 17, 2009
  • Available On: PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, Mobile
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
  • Metacritic: 93 (DS), 90 (PSP), 91 (iOS)

7. Grand Theft Auto 4: The Lost and the Damned

In the vein of the "Stories" spinoffs, Rockstar decided to revisit the world of "GTA 4" through extra content. The first of these came in the form of "The Lost and the Damned," which follows "GTA 4" side character Johnny Klebitz. Now starring in his own quest line, Johnny and his biker gang wreck havoc in Liberty City in a story that directly coincides with the events of "GTA 4."

Motorcycle traversal is the main hook of the game, and IGN was pleased by how much the vehicles improved over "GTA 4." Bikes are now easier to handle as Johnny rides onto curbs and off ramps. Mission layouts are also tailored to fit these motorcycles, making them more essential, rather than a gimmick.

Another triumph for the offshoot title is the crew that Johnny rides with during missions. Gamesweasel has highlighted how fellow gang members will aid Johnny and grow over time, noting that these characters will "actually improve in combat as they go on missions without dying." This makes players feel even more like they're a part of this Liberty City faction.

"The Lost and the Damned" goes a few steps further beyond the likes of "Liberty City Stories" and "Vice City Stories." Johnny's exploits are so well-conceived that this spin-off feels less like an add-on and more like an entirely new game.

  • Release Date: Feb. 17, 2009
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

6. Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony

One of the most impressive aspects of "The Lost and the Damned" is how it presents a whole other side to Liberty City. The second expansion pack for "GTA 4" achieves the same. Swapping the biker life for the nightclub scene, "The Ballad of Gay Tony" follows the character of Luis Lopez as he becomes the bodyguard for Liberty City socialite, Tony Prince.

In many ways, "The Ballad of Gay Tony" ups the ante from "The Lost and the Damned." While Johnny's game had motorcycles as the big draw. Luis' escapades largely involve the skies above Liberty City. Parachutes are incorporated into a number of specific challenges, but they also offer players a new way of moving around the city in free-roaming play. Although parachutes might seem like a dicey proposition, some reviews have specifically commended the easy and simple controls for parachuting, making their addition one of Gay Tony's largest successes. As with "The Lost and the Damned," a checkpoint system makes the story much more of a breeze to play through, and you'll rarely find yourself having to start a mission from the beginning.

As for the nightlife aspect of the game, Luis is able to act as club protector with his new bodyguard job. Kotaku's review noted that even the "menial labor" of running these joints is surprisingly fun. Like "The Lost and the Damned," "The Ballad of Gay Tony" is a phenomenal expansion to the original "GTA 4." Due to a different perspective and series-changing gameplay additions, "Gay Tony" stands toe-to-toe with some of the best mainline entries Rockstar has ever produced.

  • Release Date: Oct. 29, 2009
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

5. Grand Theft Auto 3

"Grand Theft Auto 3" was a truly groundbreaking entry, introducing a number of new ideas that are still utilized today. Gone away is the old 2D style of the first two "GTA" games. Now players control protagonist Claude Speed from a third-person perspective, giving more of an up-close-and-personal feel to shooting and driving. The revamped camera and mini-map also makes interacting with the first rendition of Liberty City a joy.

Over the course of the game, Claude is presented with a number of diverse challenges, like having to plant bombs under cars or avoid heavy fire while speeding through a parking lot.

"GTA 3" was ahead of the curve in many ways, incorporating the mechanic of stealing cars to make quick getaways. As noted by The Completionist, carjacking quickly became a crucial aspect of traversing the sandbox map, and it's simple to pull off. Claude tosses drivers and takes over cars with just a simple press of the triangle button. However, for the first time, the player can have their car stolen by an NPC. 13 weapons, 56 vehicles, and 3 distinct regions of the map add up to create an experience that welcomes exploration and experimentation.

"GTA 3" rarely gets boring, partly thanks to its hilariously entertaining radio stations. Gamer Bolt applauded the game's addition of radio commercials, sketches, and tons of catchy music. There's something oddly special about driving around and jamming out to classical music or listening to Andy Dick's "Gardening With Maurice" segments. 

Even knowing the sequels that followed, "GTA 3" stands out as a hugely impressive and influential game.

  • Release Date: Oct. 22, 2001
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic: 97 (PS2), 93 (PC

4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" essentially takes what worked in "GTA 3," cranks it up to 11, and places it in a 1980s Miami-inspired setting.

The most notable additions to this sequel are the various businesses that can be found and purchased across the two districts of Vice City. These each come with their own line of missions, and acquiring businesses is vital to success in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." Doing so eventually unlocks the final mission and the game's explosive ending.

Another big change is the amount of voice acting, particularly from the main character. The mute Claude Speed is replaced by a chatty Tommy Vercetti, who is voiced by Ray Liotta. The drug-filled journey in "Vice City" is carried by Tommy and the crazy roster of characters he meets. Danny Trejo, Dennis Hopper, Luis Guzman, and Burt Reynolds all make up the eclectic cast, which partially led to Vice classifying the game as having been "expensively produced."

Alongside celebrity appearances, the PS2 title embraces pop-culture references. Many of the story beats and characters take inspiration from the likes of "Carlito's Way," "Scarface," and of course "Miami Vice." It's is extremely self-aware and it's apparent that Rockstar Games has an affinity for 80s culture.

Lastly, it'd be a travesty not to mention the 80s soundtrack, which LADbible hailed as the best video game tracklist of all time. 80s hits flawlessly encapsulate the time period. Although later ports had to remove tracks — namely Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" — there are more than enough jams to go around.

  • Release Date: Oct. 27, 2002
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic: 95 (PS2), 94 (PC)

3. Grand Theft Auto V

Three "Grand Theft Auto" games released for the PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s, whereas one "GTA" game is releasing its third PlayStation port in 2022. It's no wonder, though, since "Grand Theft Auto 5" is one of the best games of all time according to aggregate sites like Metacritic.

Rather than featuring one protagonist, Michael, Franklin, and Trevor are the three playable characters. Each has their own individual motives, and it's impressive how Rockstar managed to make them distinctive all three. Michael is a retired criminal in witness protection, Franklin is an up and coming hopeful kingpin, and Trevor is... well, Trevor. PC Gamer praised Rockstar's storytelling in "GTA 5" as nothing less than "ambitious."

The three protagonists can be switched on the fly and have different abilities. Michael slows down time during shootout and Franklin can manipulate time while driving. Trevor enters a rage state that alters how much damage is dealt and taken. 

Los Santos is absolutely massive and serves as an amazing playground for story and free-roam gameplay. Story missions are mostly great, aside from a few dumb moments. Free-roam has been praised by outlets like Push Square for offering almost limitless possibilities, including random side missions and plenty of dark secrets to uncover.

This is a game that's been persevering for nearly a decade, and it's clear to see why. Although there's anticipation brewing for GTA 6, it's hard to visualize any sequel being as impressive as "GTA V."

  • Release Date: Sept. 17, 2013
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Another substantial leap forward for the franchise, "San Andreas" presented some of the most memorable map designs, scenes, and characters yet.

Taking inspiration from the West Coast after two East Coast-set games, the map of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" stands out even now. Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas are all a blast to explore, and the game cleverly familiarizes the player with the new locations over time with its mission structure.

Lead protagonist CJ is fully customizable, ranging from altering his wardrobe to beefing up his stats at the gym. CJ's appearance will even shape his behavior, changing how he carries himself in public and adding another innovation to the series.

Missions are designed extremely well and produce a good variety, but some of the missions feel practically impossible. Not only that, but failing a mission causes the player to drive all the way back to the starting point. This can break up the pacing, which is unfortunate because "San Andreas" has some excellent missions.

Even so, the story and characters in "San Andreas" are rock solid. CJ is great; his snarky comebacks mesh well with other figures, like the always-uptight Officer Tenpenny. Voice acting is a big factor in making these characters so memorable. Christopher Bellard, Clifton Powell, Samuel L. Jackson, and James Woods all bring their A-game in bringing the huge personalities of "San Andreas" to life. These aspects alone make "San Andreas" one of the most replayable entries in the series.

  • Release Date: Oct. 26, 2004
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player, 
  • Metacritic: 93 (PC), 95 (PS2)

1. Grand Theft Auto 4

"Grand Theft Auto 4" is all around the most solid "GTA" game ever. Combat received a major overhaul from previous games, YouTuber Crowbcat has posited that the in-game physics are the best in the series, and Kotaku has argued that it has a stronger story than "GTA 5."

Firstly, Niko Bellic is a remarkably charming protagonist and functions as the game's straight man. When encountering his cousin Roman or zany side characters like Brucie, Niko actually has some difficulty dealing with their antics. He means only business when setting out for revenge against a man who betrayed him while striving to find the American Dream. The player will have to make unexpected choices as Niko Bellic, eventually leading to heavy consequences in the game's dramatic ending.

Even without the stellar storyline, "GTA 4" gives fans all of the trappings of a great sandbox open world game. The latest interpretation of Liberty City is an actualized metropolis that feels lived in. Characters that are met during the adventure are later befriended and available to partake in activities. Dates, bowling, and Ricky Gervais stand-up shows add up to a city with a ridiculous amount to see and do.

While previous "GTA" games had received knocks for awkward third-person shooting, "Grand Theft Auto 4" refined the series' aiming and cover, which earned it praise from the likes of GameTrailers.

"GTA 4" marked a total rebirth, spawning two excellent expansions and paving the way for "Grand Theft Auto 5," and Rockstar Games as a whole.

  • Release Date: April 28, 2008
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Genre: Action-adventure, Sandbox
  • Game Modes: Single-player