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Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a video game series created by Scottishmarker game programmer Dave Jones, later by Dan Houser and Sam Houser, and game designer Zachary Clarke and primarily developed by Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design) and published by Rockstar Games.

The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, driving, and occasional role-playing, stealth and racing elements and has gained controversy for its adult nature and violent themes. The series focuses around many different protagonists who attempt to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonists are commonly characters who have betrayed the protagonist or their organization, or who has the most impact impeding their progress.

DMA Design began the series in , and it currently has nine stand-alone games with two expansion packs for the original and two expansion packs being released for the latest console installment, Grand Theft Auto IV. Film veterans such as Michael Madsen, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Gary Busey, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, James Woods, Joe Pantoliano, Frank Vincent, Robert Loggia, Kyle MacLachlan and Peter Fonda have all voiced major characters in many instalments in the series. The name of the series and its games are derived from grand theft auto, a term referring to motor vehicle theft.


The name "Grand Theft Auto" is a reference to the American legal term for vehicle theft.

The games allow players to take on the role of a criminal in a big city, typically an individual who rises through the ranks of organized crime through the course of the game. The player is given various missions by kingpins in the city underworld which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Assassinations, and other crimes feature regularly, but occasionally taxi driving, firefighting, pimping, street racing, bus driving or learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft are also involved.

In later titles, notably those released after Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is given a more developed storyline in which they are forced to overcome an unfortunate event (e.g. being betrayed and left for dead), which serves as motivation for the character to advance up the criminal ladder and ultimately leads to the triumph of the character by the end of the storyline.The Grand Theft Auto series, belonging to a genre of free-roaming video games called "sandbox games," grants a large amount of freedom to the player in deciding what to do and how to do it through multiple methods of transport and weapons. Unlike most traditional action games, which are structured as a single track series of levels with linear gameplay, in GTA the player can determine the missions they want to undertake, and their relationships with various characters are changed based on these choices. The cities of the games can also be roamed freely at any point in the game, offering many accessible buildings and minor missions. There are exceptions: missions follow a linear, overarching plot, and some city areas must be unlocked over the course of the game.

Grand Theft Auto III and subsequent games have more prevalent voice acting, and radio stations, which simulate driving to music with disc jockeys, radio personalities, commercials, talk radio, pop music, and American culture.

The use of vehicles in an explorable urban environment provides a basic simulation of a working city, complete with pedestrians who generally obey traffic signals. Further details are used to flesh out an open-ended atmosphere that has been used in several other games, such as The Simpsons Hit & Run, which has less emphasis on crime or violence.


The Grand Theft Auto series may be divided into canons, based on the inclusion of a numbering after the recognizable title name (e.g. Grand Theft Auto III) after the original Grand Theft Auto s release, and to a certain extent, the type of graphics engine used.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto, the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series, was created by Scottish video game developer DMA Design, and was released for Microsoft DOS/Windows in 1997/1998 and also for the PlayStation . The game is set in three different fictional cities, Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City. A reduced Game Boy Color port was later released.

Subsequently, two expansion packs were offered, both under the name of Grand Theft Auto: London 1969. Although the concept of eras was not formally implemented until Grand Theft Auto III, it can be inferred that Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961, the second of the expansion packs, is the last game of the first Grand Theft Auto era canon.

Grand Theft Auto 2

The second game in the series, Grand Theft Auto 2, was developed for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation and Dreamcast and released in 1999. Set in the indeterminable future, it featured updated graphics and somewhat different gameplay based upon the player's appeal to various criminal organizations.

A reduced Game Boy Color port was also produced. Unlike the other games of the Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto 2 was the only game released in its era of bisentenial gaming. It is also the only game to have a "T" rating for a PlayStation Console. It is also the only sequel to have a digit in the title instead of a Roman numeral.

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III was released in October 2001, and served as the breakthrough for the franchise. The game's setting takes place around that time, in fictional Liberty City, which is loosely based on New York Citymarker, but also incorporates elements of other American cities. Grand Theft Auto III brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). For the first time, the problem of navigating in the huge sandbox game was solved by implementing a constant GPS triggered mini-map that highlights the player's position as well as those of current targets. Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. The gameplay engine expanded the explorable world of GTA III, using a mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay), but GTA III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and plot (in previous games, there was speech only in short animated cut scenes between levels, while other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen).

After the success of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released in 2002. This game was set in 1986 in Vice City, which was based on Miami, Floridamarker. The game's plot focuses on the cocaine trade during the 1980s. Vice City was the first game to introduce fully functional flying vehicles that could be used by the player, such as seaplanes and helicopters. It also featured a variety of new weapons and vehicles.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, released in October 2004, is set in 1992, focusing on California gang life and the awakening of the drug epidemic brought on by crack cocaine. The setting was in the fictional state of San Andreas, which was based on some Californiamarker and Nevadamarker cities, specifically Los Angelesmarker, San Franciscomarker, and Las Vegasmarker. Their counterparts are Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas respectively. The game also included a countryside in between Los Santos and San Fierro and also between Los Santos and Las Venturas, and a desert in between Las Venturas and San Fierro.

Grand Theft Auto (unofficially referred to as Grand Theft Auto Advance), for the Game Boy Advance, was also released in 2004. Originally developed as a top-down conversion of GTA III, became an original game. Unlike the Game Boy Color ports of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, Grand Theft Auto did not tone down the violence and profanity common to the GTA series. The game received an "M" rating from the ESRB. It was developed by an external developer, Digital Eclipse.

In 2005 and 2006, Rockstar released two games for the PlayStation Portable, both developed by Rockstar Leeds. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III and set in Liberty City in 1998. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on 6 June 2006.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories was released for the PlayStation Portable on 31 October 2006 and set in Vice City in 1984, two years before the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. A PlayStation 2 port of the game was released on 6 March 2007. It is the last installment of the third generation series, and the final game in the Grand Theft Auto III canon.

In in-game chronological order (not the order they were released in) the third generation Grand Theft Auto games are:

Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV was released on 29 April 2008, after a six month delay. It was the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released simultaneously for both Sony and Microsoft's video game consoles. In August 2008, Rockstar announced that it was going to publish GTA IV for PC. GTA IV s game engine is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (also known as RAGE) used in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis and the Euphoria physics engine. The game once again takes place in a redesigned Liberty City that very closely resembles New York Citymarker, much more than previous renditions.

Microsoft officially announced a "strategic alliance" with Rockstar Games over the rights to episodic content through their Xbox Live service at their X06 event. This content was released as Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned on 17 February 2009, and it is available for download, exclusively for the Xbox 360. The expansion adds some new elements to the existing game and focuses on Johnny Klebitz, the vice president of "The Lost" motorcycle gang.

The second Grand Theft Auto IV Downloadable Content installment was called Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony and was released on October 29, 2009. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is a compilation pack released for the Xbox 360 at the same time as The Ballad of Gay Tony. It contains The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony on one disk and does not require an original copy of GTA IV.

Grand Theft Auto IV was also the first Grand Theft Auto game to include online multiplayer. In most games, a customisable character is used to play, and money earned in game is translated to levels, with more customisation available to higher levels. The game does not offer split screen or LAN multiplayer modes on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, but there is LAN on the PC mode. Up to 16 (32 on PC) players can play together, doing a variety of games including death match, cops 'n' crooks, races, deal breaker, and Mafia work to name just a few.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released on the Nintendo DS, and was announced at the E3 Nintendo Press Conference on July 15, 2008. This game has several new features, such as touch screen mini-games. The game was released on 17 March 2009 in North America and 20 March 2009 to Australia and Europe. The game is rated 18+ by PEGI and the BBFC (Europe, UK) and M by the ESRB (North America). A PSP version was later announced on 22 June 2009 and was released in North America on 20 October 2009.Lately, Rockstar Games founder, Dan Houser has confirmed that the next game in the Grand Theft Auto series is in development and the development team has already chosen a setting and a plot but he didn't confirm which console it will be released on .

In chronological order the fourth generation Grand Theft Auto games are :

Summary of Games

Era Title † Developer Primary platform Availability Year
Sony Microsoft Nintendo Other
First DMA Design, Tarantula Studios PS1 Windows Game Boy Color DOS 1997
London, '69 DMA Design, Tarantula Studios, Rockstar Canada, Runecraft PS1 Windows None DOS 1999
London, '61 DMA Design, Tarantula Studios, Rockstar Canada, Runecraft None Windows None None
Second DMA Design, Tarantula Studios PS1 Windows Game Boy Color Dreamcast
Third DMA Design, Rockstar Vienna PS2 Windows, Xbox None None 2001
Vice City Rockstar North, Rockstar Vienna PS2 Windows, Xbox None None 2002
Advance Digital Eclipse None None Game Boy Advance None 2004
San Andreas Rockstar North PS2 Windows, Xbox None None
Liberty City Stories Rockstar North, Rockstar Leeds PSP, PS2 None None None 2005
Vice City Stories Rockstar North, Rockstar Leeds PSP, PS2 None None None 2006
Fourth Rockstar North, Rockstar Toronto PS3 Windows, Xbox 360 None None 2008
The Lost and Damned Rockstar North None Xbox 360 None None 2009
Chinatown Wars Rockstar North, Rockstar Leeds PSP None DS iPhone, iPod Touch
The Ballad of Gay Tony Rockstar North None Xbox 360 None None

It is important to note that all of the games' titles begin with "Grand Theft Auto".

Games in green mark the beginning of a new era, and all those that follow in yellow are in the same era as the preceding green field.


The series has courted a great deal of negative controversy. Former lawyer Jack Thompson has been involved in a number of attempts to get families of murder victims to hold the Grand Theft Auto series accountable for the death of their loved ones. Due to his conduct in this and related cases, Thompson was disbarred in 2008, and was fined more than $43,000 by the Florida Bar Association.

On 20 October 2003, the families of Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede, two young people shot by teens William and Josh Buckner (who in statements to investigators claimed their actions were inspired by GTA III) filed a US$246 million lawsuit against publishers Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive Software, retailer Wal-Martmarker, and PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment America. Rockstar and its parent company, Take-Two, filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, stating in U.S. District Court on 29 October 2003 that the "ideas and concepts as well as the 'purported psychological effects' on the Buckners are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause." The lawyer of the victims, Jack Thompson, denied that, but failed in his attempt to move the lawsuit into a state court and under Tennesseemarker's consumer protection act. Two days later, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, and the case was closed.

In February 2005, a lawsuit was brought upon the makers and distributors of the Grand Theft Auto series claiming the games caused a teenager to shoot and kill three members of the Alabamamarker police force. The shooting took place in June 2003 when Devin Moore, 17 years old at the time, was taken in for questioning by police in Fayette, Alabamamarker regarding a stolen vehicle. Moore then grabbed a pistol from one of the police officers and shot and killed him along with another officer and dispatcher before fleeing in a police car. One of Moore's attorneys, Jack Thompson, claimed it was GTA's graphic nature—with his constant playing time—that caused Moore to commit the murders, and Moore's family agrees. Damages are being sought from branches of GameStop and Wal-Martmarker in Jasper, Alabamamarker, the stores from which GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, respectively, were purchased and also from the games' publisher Take-Two Interactive, and the PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment. The case is currently being heard by the same judge who presided over Moore's criminal trial, in which Moore was sentenced to death for his actions.

In May 2005, Thompson appeared via satellite on the Glenn Beck program on CNN's Headline News. Thompson mentioned Devin Moore and said regarding Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City "There's no doubt in my mind [...] that but for Devin Moore's training on this cop killing simulator, he would not have been able to kill three cops in Fayette, Alabamamarker who are now dead and in the ground. We are suing Take-Two, Sony, Wal-Martmarker, and GameStop for having trained Devin Moore to kill. He had no history of violence. No criminal record."

In September 2006, Thompson brought another lawsuit, claiming that Cody Posey played the game obsessively before murdering his father Delbert Paul Posey, stepmother Tryone Schmid, and stepsister Marilea Schmid on a ranch in Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker. The suit was filed on behalf of the victims' families. During the criminal trial, Posey's defense team argued he was abused by his father, and tormented by his stepmother. Posey was also taking Zoloft at the time of the killings. The suit alleged that were it not for his obsessive playing of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the murders would not have taken place. Named in the suit were Cody Posey, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, and Sony. The suit asked for US$600 million in damages.

In 2009, a six-year-old boy, who claimed he had learned to drive from the game, took his family's car on a 10 mile trip before he crashed.

According to the The Guinness World Records 2009 and 2008 Gamer's Edition, it's the most controversial videogame series in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it, which include accusations of glamorizing violence, corrupting gamers, and connection to real life crimes.

Sixth Generation

Every console game released starting from Grand Theft Auto III each had its own variety of diverse controversies. There were three original console installments in the sixth generation of video games. Some of the controversies stemmed in this generation include extreme violence, hate crimes, and deliberate sexual indulgence.

General Violent Notoriety (Grand Theft Auto III)

The controversies and complaints began with the release of Grand Theft Auto III. Some controversy can be attributed to publicist Max Clifford, who planted sensational stories in tabloids in order to help sell the game.

There is also criticism from the focus on illegal activities in comparison with traditional "heroic" roles that other games offer. The main character can commit a wide variety of crimes and violent acts while dealing with only temporary consequences, including the killing of policemen and military personnel. Opponents of violent video games, such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Boseman, believe that players will try to emulate this behaviour , while proponents believe it provides an emotional outlet, as such actions in real life would have serious consequences.

Critics have also targeted the exploitative and violent attitude toward women. Although not encouraged to do so, main character Claude may utilize the services of prostitutes, and then subsequently murder and rob them if the player wishes. This utilization has been subsequently carried on in every single game in the series and is more graphic in IV.

Alleged discrimination against Haiti (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City)

The sixth game in the series, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, also came under criticism. One mission in particular, in which the player must instigate a gang war between Haitian and Cuban gangs, has been controversial. Haitian and Cuban anti-defamation groups criticized the game.

Jean-Robert Lafortune of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition is quoted as saying that "The game shouldn't be designed to destroy human life, it shouldn't be designed to destroy an ethnic group," for this and similar scenarios, including lines in the game's script such as "kill the Haitian dickheads" during an altercation between the player and a Haitian gang. After the threat of a lawsuit by the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, Rockstar removed the word "Haitians" from this phrase in the game's subtitles.

Sex (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas)

San Andreas contained a sexual minigame that was cut from the game, but remained in the game code, which was discovered in both the console and Windows versions of the game. Dubbed the "Hot Coffee mod", the minigame allowed players to have sex with their in-game girlfriends.

After the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, modders managed to find the unused code in the game and released unofficial patches for the Windows & Xbox (with a modchip) versions and PlayStation 2 version with the use of an Action Replay code enabling the player to engage in these sexual mini-games (dubbed "Hot Coffee" in reference to a euphemism for sex used in the game). These mini-games were never intended to be playable in the final version of the game, but were left partially intact in the game's code. This prompted application of an AO (Adults Only) ESRB rating to the version of the game containing the leftover code. Take-Two Interactive was forced to re-release the game in order to restore the M (Mature) rating. A class action lawsuit against Take-Two was also filed as a result of the "Hot Coffee" code.

Drunk Driving (Grand Theft Auto IV)

One of the controversies involved with this game that had details of the gameplay was Mothers Against Drunk Driving's (MADD) criticism of the ability to drink and drive as a new feature. MADD had even requested ESRB to change the rating of the game from "M" for ages seventeen and up to "AO," for adults only, because they felt it was inappropriate for children, even at the age of seventeen, to experience drunk driving in any way, shape, or form, including those that were fictional and not physically harmful to anyone. If Rockstar were to comply, Grand Theft Auto IV would be the second game in the series to have the rating converted from "M" for those seventeen and older to "AO" for those eighteen and older. In the final game, drunk driving is a playable event, but protagonist Niko Bellic loudly (and drunkenly) proclaims that it is a "bad idea" and that he "should know better", a level of remorse he does not show when committing theft or murder.

Full-frontal nudity

The Lost and Damned expansion pack was condemned by US parents group Common Sense Media who issued a public warning against the pack's content due to a full-frontal nudity scene during one of the cut scenes. They claimed the game was "more controversial than its predecessors" because it featured "full frontal male nudity".

Similar games

Critics sometimes treat the release of Grand Theft Auto III as a revolutionary event in the history of video games, much like the release of Doom nearly a decade earlier. Subsequent games that follow this formula of driving and shooting have been called Grand Theft Auto clones. Some reviewers even extended this label to the Driver series, even though this series began years before the release of Grand Theft Auto III.Grand Theft Auto clones are a type of 3D action-adventure game,Sources that refer to GTA-style games as action-adventure games include:


ii. ;


iv. ;

v. where players are given the ability to drive any vehicle or fire any weapon as they explore an open world. These games often incorporate violent and criminal themes. Notable games that are sometimes seen as Grand Theft Auto clones are the Saints Row series, The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Getaway, The Getaway: Black Monday, Crackdown, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, Mafia II, Wheelman, True Crime: Streets of LA, True Crime: New York City, Scarface: The World Is Yours, The Simpsons Hit & Run, and Just Cause which uses the GTA style of gaming.


Ever since 2001, the Grand Theft Auto series has been a gargantuan success, both critically and financially. It has generated perfect or near perfect reviews and scores on almost all of the games, and has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, as of March 2008. The Times Online reported that Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest console installment, recorded 609,000 copies in first-day sales, in the UK. In its first week, Grand Theft Auto IV sold approximately 6 million copies worldwide and grossed over $500 million.

The series has broken several records, resulting in Guinness World Records awarding the series 10 world records in the Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include Most Guest Stars in a Video Game Series, Largest Voice Cast in a Video Game (GTA: San Andreas), Largest In-Game Soundtrack (GTA: San Andreas), and Most Successful Entertainment Launch of All Time (GTA IV). Guinness World Records also ranked Grand Theft Auto in third place on their list of top 50 console games of all time based on initial impact and lasting legacy.

Scores and Sales

Game Scores Sales Acquired Label(s) First released
IGN GameSpot
First Era
6.0 8.0 1 million
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 7.5 5.9 1 million
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961 5.9 7.5 1 million
'2' Era
6.8 6.9 2 million PlayStation Greatest Hits 1999
'III' Era
9.6 9.6 15 million PlayStation 2 Greatest Hits 2001
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 9.7 9.6 30 million PlayStation 2 Greatest Hits 2002
Grand Theft Auto 8.5 6.5 100,000
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 9.9 9.6 33 million PlayStation 2 Greatest Hits, Xbox Platinum Hits 2004
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories 9.0 8.6 10 million PlayStation Portable Greatest Hits 2005
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories 9.0 8.4 5 million PlayStation Portable Greatest Hits 2006
'IV' Era
10 10 25 million
PlayStation 3 Greatest Hits, Xbox 360 Platinum Hits
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned 9 8.95 323,000+
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars 9.5 9.5 89,000
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony 9.2 9.5 N/A
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City 9.2 9.0 N/A

Grand Theft Auto IV is the first and only game in the series to be awarded a "10" by IGN. This is unique for the series because IGN rarely awards games with perfect scores. The most recent game that IGN awarded a "10" to before Grand Theft Auto IV was in 1999, to Soulcalibur. However, later in 2008, another game was awarded a "10," which was Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Games in green mark the beginning of a new era, and all those that follow in yellow are in the same era as the preceding green field.

See also



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