[[caption-width-right:350:And the MoralGuardians did weep...]]

Ah yes, the game that began what is now one of the most successful and most critically acclaimed series in all of video game history. In 1997 a studio named DMA Design (now Rockstar North), previously responsible for ''VideoGame/{{Lemmings}}'', gave ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' to the world. In an era of violent "controversial" games like ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}'' and ''VideoGame/MortalKombat'', ''GTA'' had waltzed in and stole the immoral crown.

The player is a career criminal, steals cars, kills anyone in the way, and, worse still, is [[WideOpenSandbox free to go about this as he or she pleases]]. Predictably, the cries of moral outrage drew curious gamers in like moths to a flame and ''GTA'' literally sold on its reputation alone. A reputation that DMA had ''deliberately'' fuelled -- they hired notorious British publicist Max Clifford to [[NoSuchThingAsBadPublicity drum up controversy]] for the game.

The game itself is played from an overheard perspective of the city with the objective of earning cash. Earn enough money to progress to the next level, and new cities will be unlocked. How the player goes about this is up to them, since points are earned by stealing cars, murder and general mayhem. The story-based missions aren't required to progress, but they do provide the largest source of income. Basically a [[MediaWatchdog watchdogs]] nightmare.

In 1999, Rockstar released a "Mission Pack" for the game -- basically an ExpansionPack that requires inserting the original ''GTA'' disc in order to boot up -- dubbed ''GTA London: 1969''. As it turned out, this was Rockstar's last foray into developing expansions for their little UsefulNotes/PlayStation gem, despite copies of ''GTA London'' boldly sporting the ''Mission Pack #1'' subtitle to this day.

A second expansion, dubbed ''London 1961: Mission Pack #2'', was released for the PC, and is notable for requiring the ''GTA London: 1969'' disc to play, making it a rare single-player expansion of an expansion. Short and quite buggy, it is not well-remembered.

!! Grand Theft Auto provides examples of:
* AdamSmithHatesYourGuts: By the time you reach Vice City, the cost of repairing/respraying vehicles is ridiculously exorbitant.
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: The dossier on Bizarro World {{Series/Columbo}}, otherwise known as Deever, shows documented instances of cannibalism during a stakeout, urinating on a superior officer's desk, theft of impounded narcotics, malicious wounding of fellow officers on five separate counts, incestuous practices, reporting for duty while drunk, alleged sodomy and enjoying all of the ''Film/PoliceAcademy'' movies. Monster!
* AllGaysArePromiscuous: El Burro. Not only does he constantly call you "cutie", but he eventually invites you over to his place to "thank you personally." This evidently forces you to flee to the opposite coast.
* BadBoss: Samuel Deever, to truly absurd degrees.
* BaldOfEvil: Your first boss's main rival, Sonetti, is noted for his baldness. He later sends a bald henchmen to threaten you. Sonetti himself does not appear; however, the FMV intro to ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto2'' showcased a bald mafia don, perhaps a callback to the original.
* BiTheWay: [[PhraseCatcher Bubby's wife, Skye,]] flirts with the player regardless if you choose a male or female character.
* BigBrotherIsWatching: According to the manual, the player's actions are being filmed live from a news helicopter, thus the top-down perspective.
* {{Bizarrchitecture}}: Vice City's street network is an exhibit of this, and as a result the city is notoriously difficult to navigate.
* ButThouMust: In Vice City's second chapter, "Rasta Blasta", the Rastas give the player a choice to work either for the authorities or for them. If you choose to work for "Babylon", attempting the next mission will make you blow up a limo containing Deever's mistress (oops), and you'll have to work for the Rastas.
* TheChewToy: You, arguably. No matter how well you perform for your current boss, you'll always get [[TorchesAndPitchforks run out of town]] for some reason or another.
* ClusterBleepBomb: When you finally meet Deever face-to-face, it's ostensibly for some well-earned praise. Instead, he launches into another round of vulgarities as cars honk in the background.
* DarkActionGirl: The playable characters Divine, Katie, Mikki and Ulrika. They're not available in PS version.
* DirtyCop: It's a little oblique, but Vice City's kingpin, Samuel Deever, is ''not'' affiliated with the Vice City Police Department. According to his online bio, he was sacked for committing a laundry list of criminal acts -- however, he avoided serving any jail time because the V.C.P.D. was reluctant to sentence one of their own, and he maintains close ties with the department. His one appearance occurs directly underneath the Police headquarters. He could give a rat's ass.
* DisproportionateRetribution: The citizens of Vice City won't settle for any ordinary car alarm, [[ExternalCombustion no no]]...
* DreadlockRasta: Brother Marcus, the mellowest of gangsters you come across.
* DummiedOut:
** In the original ''GTA'', there was supposed to be a tram in the San Andreas level, but it was left out, although its tracks were never removed from the map. Despite not appearing in-game, the graphics of the vehicle can still be found in the game data.
** There were also plans to include a helicopter in ''GTA''. Unused graphics for it exist.
** The developers had an idea for a petrol bomb item for the original game, but everything except graphics was either deleted or not implemented.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The first game, and its London expansion packs are noticably wackier and "video game"-esque than the more realistic 3D games that would follow. Also, along with its sequel, this game has limited continues, unlike later games' infinite continues; the player would get a literal GameOver text after wasting all continues. Also, the original ''Grand Theft Auto'' is the only single-player campaign in the series where it is possible to play as a female.
* EvilOldFolks: Chinatown's crime boss, Uncle Fu.
* ExpositoryThemeTune: "Gangster Friday" (more commonly known as "Joyride", as named in ''GTA III''), a pastiche of gangsta rap composed by DMA Design's in-house Craig Conner does a good job explaining the game's premise.
* GameBreakingBug:
** Police cruisers sometimes become stuck to the player's car during a pursuit, racking up a high collision count and exploding, killing you ''and'' them instantly. This is somewhat mitigated by sticking to the side roads and avoiding 8-lane highways when your wanted level is high.
** In the PC version, there was a bug where entering a garage on certain missions would crash the game when the camera focused on it. A common workaround was to drive away from it, causing the camera to refocus on the player and drive back into the garage,
* {{Gayngster}} / MeaningfulName: El Burro.
* GoldenSnitch: Mowing down a conga line of tambourine-playing Hare Krishnas. This is surprisingly hard to do, but you'll net a giant bonus. They were replaced by hippies and Elvis impersonators in ''GTA London'' and ''[=GTA2=]''.
* [[IHaveYourWife I Have Your Mutt]]: The extortionist who kidnaps Bubby's beloved pooch.
* InexplicableTreasureChests: Crates containing [[PowerUp [=PowerUps=]]].
* InvisibleBlock: Leading to [[spoiler:a tank]] in San Andreas.
* TheMan: The Rastafari gang refers to all authority figures as "Babylon".
* MobWar: Bubby vs. Sonetti.
** In San Andreas, a war erupts when No Chin (yes that's his name) tries to usurp Uncle Fu, leading to a split within the Triad families. No Chin goes on the run, and you'll have to fight through all of his loyalists to unearth him.
* MoralGuardians: DMA basically sat down and decided to make a game that would infuriate {{Media Watchdog}}s and parent groups alike. And make a fortune off it.
* MurderIsTheBestSolution: Deever's answer to everything. A memorable mission involves driving one of his cadavers to an empty lot; he keeps murdering people offscreen as you drive along, requiring you to go fetch ''more'' bodies and add them to the growing pile of cars.
* [[NeverBringAKnifeToAGunFight Never Bring Bruce Lee to a Gun Fight]]: There is a sequence in San Andreas where you have to "interrogate" No Chin's associates to make them spill his location. They mockingly shrug off your punches ("Round-Eye is trying to tickle my face!"), but run off like babies if you fire an uzi round.
* NintendoHard: The final level opens with a {{timed mission}}, albeit a very manageable one. The following missions have time limits and {{Bullet Hell}}s that challenge even experienced players.
** The entire game is quite a lot harder than its sequels - the character is a OneHitPointWonder, the powerful weapons are rare and can be lost easily, and failed missions can't be retried, which is made worse by the inability to save during a level.
** Also, even a one-star [[WantedMeter wanted level]] doesn't dissipate on its own, and the [[CriticalExistenceFailure cars explode immediately]] after receiving enough damage, without the [[EveryCarIsAPinto catching-on-flames-first cue]] present in later games. Although, they get really slow and emit a weird sound when they're about to explode.
** Partially subverted in ''London 1969'': most of the logistically-based difficulty factors, such as the save system, remain but the police in London don't set up roadblocks making wanted levels much less of a hassle, and while the player is still a OneHitPointWonder, this is mitigated by most missions focusing on driving rather than combat.
* NoCommunitiesWereHarmed: Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City stand in for New York, San Francisco and Miami.
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: Everyone in Liberty City knows him as Bubby. However, Rockstar gives his full name as [[OverlyLongName Robert Michael Peter Luke Frances]] [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Darth]] [[OverlyLongName Bruno Seragliano]].
* PlayerNudge: Especially in the first level where newcomers might wander around for a long time without jobs.
* PunnyName: Too many to list. Most are fake Asian surnames (Hung Well, No Chin, Hang Yu).
* RecycledSoundtrack: Head Radio's [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md-rbUbmw8c&t=6m24s countdown theme]] is recycled from, of all things, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSqJZGDgCLE&t=1m4s the music]] for the [[Creator/{{ITV}} Tyne Tees]] StationIdent at the time.
* PresidentEvil: The Babylon gang is really the US Government, and is led by the president.
%% RefugeInAudacity
* RewardingVandalism: And every other crime for that matter...
* SchizophrenicDifficulty: The intricate street map of Liberty City, with its many islands and bridges, forces the player to study the map hard to complete even some otherwise easier missions. After that, the wide streets and simple grid layouts of San Andreas and Vice City are no problem.
* ShoutOut: [[ShoutOut/GrandTheftAutoClassic All on this page.]]
* TheUnintelligible: The meeting with your final boss, Brother Marcus, is a bewildering slew of Jamaican jive. The long and short of it is: [[AWinnerIsYou You Have Completed A Great Game]].
* UnwittingPawn: DMA Studios hired publicist Max Clifford to stir up controversy in the media. The moral elite responded as they desired, giving the game all the publicity it could ever need. Many people bought the game ''solely'' because of the media outcry surrounding it. The MoralGuardians were simply pawns.
* VideoGameFlamethrowersSuck: Averted in the first ''GTA'' title. Explosions of any kind are a death sentence; your character flails about for a few seconds, then collapses into a pile of ash. In fact, the flamethrower is ''so'' potent, you're as likely to set ''yourself'' on fire while wielding it.
* WholesomeCrossdresser: The Rasta leader, Brother Marcus. (Otherwise known as Sister Elijah on Saturday nights.)
!!Grand Theft Auto: London 1969/1961 provides examples of:
* AfroAsskicker: One of the player avatars, who is coincidentally the same guy featured on the loading screen and game manual.
%% ArmedBlag
%% UsefulNotes/BritishCoppers
* TheCaper: Stealing the Crown Jewels from Buckingham Palace.
* ClockTower: None other than Big Ben. A heist mission involves changing the time on the clock's face.
* CreepyTwins: The Crisp Twins, a parody of the real-life [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kray_twins Kray twins]]. Albert does all the talking, whilst Archie [[TheVoiceless never speaks]].
* DummiedOut: The PlayStation version of the final level, "Dead Certainty", is missing two vehicle missions: one in a Myni, and one in a James Bomb.
* EmptyQuiver: A stolen (and drive-able) ICBM carrier.
* EvenBadMenLoveTheirMamas: Your first mission is to steal a scooter as a present for the Crisps' mum.
* FameGate: Which the missions are available to you depend on how much respect you have from each gang. There are three gangs in each level, and killing members of one gang decreases respect with that gang, and increases respect with another gang. Once your respect becomes negative with a gang, the gang stops giving you missions, and might even start shooting at you.
* FissionMailed: Collecting a van filled with explosive sex dolls results in this. Evidently, you play the role of a LovableSexManiac; Albert Crisp lampshades it when you get out of the hospital, warning you not to repeat the same offense with a second van ("I ''know'' what you're like.")
* ForeheadOfDoom: Harold Cartwright. He's reavealed to have once had a Beatles moptop in ''London 1961''.
* {{Gayngster}}: Albert Crisp.
* GoneSwimmingClothesStolen: ''GTA '61'' has you doing this to a rival gang boss, Chalkie.
* GuideDangIt: The final mission. Your instructions are to blow up a car, but the directional arrow only points you to where the car was previously parked. You're given no description of what the car looks like, either. (It's a green Crapi, the most commonplace heap of junk in the game.)
* LastChanceToQuit: Lenny Smith, a rival ganglord, attempts this after you pursue him up a fire escape. Before you kill him, Smith warns that the Crisps are growing distrustful of you. As it turns out, Smith turns out to have been ProperlyParanoid.
%% LondonGangster
* MagicPlasticSurgery: The enigmatic Lord Lucan requires you to drive him to one of these doctors.
* MeaningfulName: "Midnight", the guy hired to help you cause a citywide blackout.
* NormallyIWouldBeDeadNow: The Crisp twins survive a rocket-propelled grenade to their car, before issuing a ScrewThisImOuttaHere.
* ObviousBeta / SchizophrenicDifficulty: The ''London 1961'' expansion pack is heinously difficult, due to its unrealistic [[TimedMission timed missions]].
* SeriousBusiness: Albert is betting on a football match, but the goalie is rubbish. Solution? Drive a car inside the stadium during practice and [[DisproportionateRetribution run him over]].
** Driving van all over town to collect ingredients for Sid's picnic. And then you're expected to pick up the leftovers.
* StockBritishPhrases: The whole game's only bleedin' loaded with them! This is, of course, in keeping with its setting, a pastiche of British gangster movies.
* WearingAFlagOnYourHead: Jug Swinger (better known as "Shaguar" in ''Film/AustinPowers'' parlance), a Jaguar-type roadster with the Union Jack emblazoned on it.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: Your first boss, Harold Cartwright, is ordered to be killed in the final level.