Video Game: Grand Theft Auto

Take it to the edge, there's nowhere to hide
And call up the boys, let's go for a joyride
— Lyrics from the first game's theme song, "Gangster Friday" by Craig Conner

In 1997, when controversy was still running high over the "immoral" content of games such as Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Carmageddon, Scottish games studio DMA (of Lemmings fame) came out with a game to top them all. Called Grand Theft Auto, it allowed the player to take the role of a ruthless criminal working his way up the ladder of organised crime. The game offered an overhead view of a city, through which your character could walk or drive; the basic objective was to gain enough points — or rather, in the context of the game, earn enough money — to progress to the next level. The lowest-paying activity was damaging cars by fender-benders or by shooting them; more money was earned by stealing cars, destroying cars, and running down pedestrians; more still by selling the stolen cars down at the docks and by killing police officers.

The main source of income, though, was by accepting missions from a faceless, voiceless criminal boss, by either answering certain phones or getting into certain cars. It wasn't necessary to complete or even accept these missions (which could be done in whatever order the player wished), but doing so was worth a lot of money, and raised the amount of money the lesser activities were worth. The missions included such noble exploits as robberies, assassinations, drug-running, kidnappings, and blowing up buildings. All the while, the player had to keep from losing all his lives, as well as keeping out of the clutches of the police.

Ironically, the first game wasn't all that gruesome - simple blotches of red on the pavement marked your kills, and the detail regarding damage to your current car was not high. Still, the game was a massive success, almost entirely on the basis of the controversy it generated. This was deliberately contrived by the game's publishers: they hired the notorious tabloid publicist Max Clifford to create a furor in the media, which resulted in a huge demand for the game.

In 1999, two expansions were released: Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961. Both were essentially the original game with somewhat different art design, a new setting (London in opposite ends of The Sixties), and a batch of new missions. Also that year came Grand Theft Auto II, which was almost the same as the original but set Twenty Minutes into the Future, with the chance to save your game (at a steep cost), much improved graphics, and a finicky "Respect" system whereby you could strengthen your standing with one of three gangs by carrying out acts against the other two.

Grand Theft Auto III was an entirely different ball game. It's probably not a coincidence that DMA were now working on a new console and attached to a new publisher: the wealthy Rockstar Games division of Take Two Interactive. First and foremost, the overhead view was done away with, bringing the game into three dimensions instead and allowing for a LOT more gore. An overhead camera could be selected for those who liked the old way, but only in that particular game. Vice City and onwards did away with the option fully.

Also, an actual story was implemented, about a thug who escapes from a prison van, and plots revenge against his traitorous partner in crime/ex-girlfriend while establishing himself in the underworld of Liberty City. Voice actors were brought in for the first time — not just any actors, but respected character actors such as Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, and Michael Rapaport. The number, variety, and complexity of the missions were raised. The radio stations started using licensed material and send-ups of radio commercials and DJ chatter.

The game's success paved the way for a series of games which blurred the line between expansion pack and sequel. DMA, now wholly incorporated into Rockstar as "Rockstar North", came up with two more titles. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City moved the action to a cheery mockery of '80s Miami, introduced motorcycles, and was the first entry where the lead character spoke (with the voice of Ray Liotta, no less). After that came Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, set in early '90s California with a flavor that was less Goodfellas and more Boyz n the Hood. It allowed the player jet aircraft and more than enough airspace to get the use out of them, as well as three cities (expies of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas) with vast, open countryside in between. It also cast Samuel L. Muthafukkin Jackson as the Big Bad. Meanwhile, Rockstar's other studios crafted Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (a prequel to GTA3) and Vice City Stories (a prequel to Vice City) for the PlayStation Portable, and Grand Theft Auto Advance (another GTA3 prequel in the original overhead style) for the Game Boy Advance.

The series' seventh-gen debut, Grand Theft Auto IV, reset the series' canon and went in a Darker and Edgier direction, and saw a return to Liberty City, now fully redesigned to look more like its inspiration. It was the first GTA since 2 to have online multiplayer, and it also had two DLC mission packs, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, made for it. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, set in the same canon, returned to overhead action for the Nintendo DS, the PSP, and Apple's iDevices.

Grand Theft Auto V was released on 17 September 2013, amassing over a billion dollars in sales over three days, and became the fastest selling entertainment blockbuster in history. Taking criticism of GTA IV's downer tone to heart, Grand Theft Auto V follows the story of three new villain protagonists fighting to better themselves in a cynical, morally bankrupt world in and around the city of Los Santos. In addition to many new activities and gameplay refinements, such as the ability to switch to other player characters instantly, the new Grand Theft Auto Online boasts a compliment of up to a thousand missions and other diversions.

Compare Driver, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, Saints Row. Also, there's Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, both considered to be Spiritual Successors to the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

Not to be confused with the Ron Howard movie of the same name, though you can blame (or thank) that movie for why this likely won't have a film adaptation.

Now has a character sheet. You can vote for your favorite game here.

Works within this series (details on games with their own pages) listed by Alternate Continuity:

2D era

3D era

HD era


This series has examples of the following tropes:

Note: If a trope only applies to a single game in the series, and that game has its own page (see above), then place it on that page. If the trope applies to the many radio stations, TV stations, internet websites, et cetera in the GTA universe, put it under GTA Radio.

  • A.K.A.-47: Averted in San Andreas with the Desert Eagle, AK-47, and TEC-9, and Vice City with the MAC-10, TEC-9, and MP5, (but NOT the M4, the model used in both games is a Colt Model 733) but played straight with every other weapon.
    • Played straight in the IV-era games, which sees generic names applied to all weapons. The AK-47 is aptly named "Assault Rifle", while hilariously, the M4 is called "Carbine Rifle".
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The biker gangs in Vice City and Vice City Stories, and the Lost Brotherhood and the Angels of Death in IV.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Go on a killing spree? Police will shoot, fair enough. Steal a bunch of cars with police nearby? Police will shoot, still kind of fair. Pushing past someone or lightly tapping a cop car? Police will shoot.
  • Alternate Continuity: Starting with IV.
    • And the III/Vice City//San Andreas continuity is separate to the original game.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Asuka and Maria in III are implied to be lesbian lovers. Likewise, in IV, it is suggested strongly that Elizabeta is a lesbian.
  • Anti-Hero: Just about every main character in every GTA game falls into this trope, along with plenty of side characters.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A minor character in the original GTA, Samuel Deever, was arrested for suspected cannibalism during a stakeout, urinating on a superior officer's desk, theft of impounded narcotics, malicious wounding of fellow officer on five separate counts, incestuous practices, sexual harassment, reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol, kidnapping, alleged sodomy of a superior officer and enjoying all of the Police Academy movies.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The civilian AI will attempt to dive out of the way should you try to run them over with a car, but most of the time, they will dive into your path, getting themselves killed and getting the cops pissed off if they happen to see the unintentional act.
  • Artistic License Law: Oh, quite a bit of it. The most notable being that as you are driving down the streets causing many fender benders as you weave through traffic the police don't react or pull you over unless you actually hit their car. Evidently "Leaving the scene of an accident" isn't against the law in this universe, but the reason this is the case is that you would spend the entire game evading police for hit and run rather than playing. Also, the police don't seem that interested in you running red lights, making illegal U-turns, or driving on the wrong side of the street. Or on the pavement.
  • Ascended Extra: GTA III's arms dealer Phil Cassidy and corrupt cop Leon McCaffrey in Vice City and Liberty City Stories respectively.
  • Back Seats are Just for Show: Cars with two doors but four seats can't be used to carry more than two people.
    • The same goes for coach buses, semis, freight helicopters — you name it.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Quite a few female characters throughout the series, including prostitutes and female pedestrians. Of course, you can also do this yourself in V's online mode if you choose to play as a female character.
  • Bad Ass: Too many to list. Every main character, for starters, as well as plenty of side characters.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Mr. Whoopee. Toggle the jingle by honking the horn!
    • The truck debuted in GTA2 as a means of luring out the asylum inmates, and as targets in the bonus mission. It appeared in GTA III in the same capacity, except overweight mobsters are lured to their deaths this time around.
    • It doesn't appear in GTA IV, but Mr. Tasty takes it's place.
    • A running gag in Vice City is Tommy's inability to run a legal business, even if it's frozen yogurt. When you buy the Cherry Popper factory, it turns to be owned by a crazy old woman who hates children, and the ice cream trucks sell drugs instead. It's also impossible to sell ice cream to kids, even if you wanted to, considering there are no kids in the game.
  • Ballistic Discount
  • Band of Brothels: The Sex Workers Outreach Project USA didn't take too kindly to Disposable Sex Worker. Their complaints were written off as coming from a Weird Trade Union.
  • Bang Bang BANG
  • Bank Robbery: Occurs in Vice City and IV. The prologue of III is set up by a bank robbery gone bad. San Andreas has CJ committing a string of robberies (including at least one at a bank) with Catalina, as well as robbing a casino in a Shout-Out to Ocean's Eleven.
    • Plays a big part in V, where the player can make a number of decisions about carrying out the job and split the workload between any of the three playable characters as is demanded by swapping between them freely.
  • Big Bad: They pop up regulary in the games.
    • Catalina in III.
    • Sonny Forelli in Vice City.
    • Vinnie and King Courtney in Advance.
    • Officer Tenpenny and Big Smoke in San Andreas.
    • Massimo Torini in Liberty City Stories.
    • Sgt. Martinez and The Mendez Brothers in Vice City Stories.
    • Dimitri Rascalov in IV.
    • Billy Grey of The Lost and Damned.
    • Wu Lee in Chinatown Wars.
    • Ray Bulgarin in The Ballad of Gay Tony was a Greater Scope Villain in IV.
    • Devin Weston (for Michael), Harold "Stretch" Joseph (for Franklin), Wei Cheng (for Trevor), and Steve Haines (for everyone) in V.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: Various incarnations of Liberty City, first visited in the original title and recurring twice since then. GTA3 proudly proclaimed it "the worst city in America", and its sister city is Beirut.
    • IV toned it down somewhat, given that it's based more on the "cleaned-up" New York of Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg rather than the Wretched Hive that it was in The '70s. Of course, this means that this trope has been replaced with stereotypes of modern New York, such as the city's gentrification into The Theme Park Version of itself, its "nanny state" attitude to things like guns and junk food, and its post-9/11 police presence. Case in point: the Statue of Liberty's stand-in is a monument to "Happiness", i.e. crass commercialism.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The good guys tend to be criminals and the bad guys tend to be even worse criminals.
  • Black Comedy: A sizable chunk of the game's humor is either this or social satire. Seeing both together can be quite jarring.
  • Bland-Name Product: The vehicles in the games are all fictional versions of real-life cars; the Lamborghini Countach becomes the Infernus in Vice City, for example, while the Range Rover becomes the Huntley in San Andreas and IV (the Huntley Sport in the latter). Naturally, some of the most common mods for the games are those that replace the vehicles with their real-life counterparts.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Played straight for much of the series.
  • Brand X: Played for laughs — in keeping with the game's satirical tone, there are parodies of just about every consumer product in America, from fast food to sneakers to friending networks. To list them all would require a separate page, since they number in the hundreds.
  • Broken Bridge: Played straight in almost every game between III and IV. In the original GTA you can jump the Broken Bridge in a Ferrari Itali. And indeed, in III, the bridges to Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale are literally broken.
    • CJ is warned not to exit Los Santos at the start of San Andreas, or else Tenpenny makes good on his threat to pin a cop's murder on him. Realistically, this only results in a maximum wanted level and an unavoidable trip back to Los Santos. CJ is only allowed to leave when Tenpenny changes his mind, tosses a bag over CJ's head, and kicks him out of Los Santos. Las Venturas, however, is unreachable due to a hurricane warning which has shut down San Fierro's bridges.
    • In keeping with GTA's tradition of rewarding cheats, you can access the entire San Andreas map early; just hop the airport fence and steal a Shamal. (CJ isn't rewarded with access to planes until much later in the game)
    • Finally averted in V, where the entire map is opened at the beginning of the game and there are no convenient bridges or invisible walls blocking Los Santos off from the countryside.
      • Although a later event in the game creates a broken bridge until it is resolved, in which Trevor kidnaps Martin Madrazo's wife, causing him and Michael to be restricted to Blaine County under threat that he will send his goons to kill either one of them when one enters Los Santos
  • Bullet Proof Vest: In every game, these act as basically a second health bar when you pick them up. Big Smoke also wears one when you fight him at the end of San Andreas, as does either Dimitri or Jimmy Pegorino (depending on which ending you chose) at the end of IV.
  • Camera Centering: A side effect of using the side view buttons while driving.
  • Camera Lock-On: All the 3D games.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Advance. Neither its characters nor plotline are referenced in the rest of the series, and many fans either deny its existence or do not even know it exists.
  • Canon Welding: The game Manhunt is set in the same continuity as the GTA III canon.
  • Captain Crash: It's surprising how many cab rides in IV end up knocking a light pole over as they drop you off.
  • Car Fu: One of the most effective ways to finish some of the missions is to just run the fool over.
  • Cardboard Prison: When you are arrested, you are simply taken to the police station, stripped of your weapons, and charged with a fine (a hundred dollars in past games, and ten percent of your cash in IV).
  • Chainsaw Good: The chainsaw in Vice City is a one-hit kill weapon, limited only by the fact that the player can't run while wielding it. The chainsaw in San Andreas is slightly less powerful, but still incredibly deadly. Chinatown Wars gets rid of the speed limitation, making for maximum "split tiny tiny people in half" carnage.
  • Church of Happyology: The Epsilon Program, first referenced in San Andreas.
  • City of Adventure: Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. And Anytown, USA.
  • City of Weirdos: You can generally walk around brandishing any weapon you want without drawing attention to yourself. Also, you can indulge in any amount of destruction and carnage, but people will walk past the wreckage without a curious glance. Blow up something and they'll flee in terror... for a few hundred yards, then they forget all about it.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Particularly San Andreas, which is justified in that it helped the "gangbanger" theme. III and Vice City had surprisingly little use of the F word.
    • The uncensored version of the first game also had this, with Bubby (your boss on the first two chapters) and Deever (on "Bent Cop Blues) being the worst offenders. Other bosses are actually quite calm and clean with their language.
    • Ditto for GTAIV as well.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The radio and television shows and in-game websites all depict the GTA world as an over-the-top whacky Crapsack World to rival the likes of Futurama and South Park. This is rather jarring when compared to the (relatively) realistic behavior and human motivations of the characters you actually interact with in the game's cutscenes and storyline, at least in the later games in the series (San Andreas and GTA IV in particular).
  • Confessional
  • Continuity Nod: Tons. Some of the radio DJs alone have their own stories spanning multiple games.
  • Cool Car: Several varieties in all games, just waiting to be stolen.
  • Cool Guns: Ditto. This is especially the case in V, where many oddball weapons have been added as free DLC through the online mode.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Zaibatsu Corporation in GTA2, Donald Love in III and Liberty City Stories, and Avery Carrington in Vice City.
  • Corrupt Politician: GTA loves to give us senators who dress up in women's clothing and have kinky sex, get caught on film, then murder their way out of scandal.
  • Crapsack World: 90% of the population is either a criminal or morally corrupt. In IV The kicker: Niko still considers Liberty City better than the Balkans.
    • Not just in terms of the storylines and characters, the player themselves (through the protagonist) lives in a world where he can go on a rampage in a tank, kill several cops, get arrested, but only get a fine and a slap on a wrist, before he's released out to do the same thing all over again.
    • If you play GTA Online, you get to experience this from the perspective of one of the many pedestrians you've previously mowed down carefree, as you remain fully vulnerable at all times to any other sociopath in the lobby.
  • Crew of One: Tanks.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster : Oh yes it does. However, IV deconstructs this, while Chinatown Wars averts this trope altogether.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: The games have different control schemes depending on the system. IV makes it even worse with the change in the driving system.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tommy Vercetti in Vice City, Niko Bellic in IV and Huang Lee in Chinatown Wars.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: See Cardboard Prison, but replace "arrested" with "killed", and "police station" with "hospital". Oh, and in IV, you don't even lose your weapons when you get killed.
  • Defeat Means Respect: This is a fairly regular trope, particularly in Vice City, where you set up a crew by proving you're better than each of your specialists in their specialty.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Asuka, from Grand Theft Auto III.
    "Oh, Asuka, you have a massager."
    "That's not a massager."
  • Difficult but Awesome: The "Rhino boost" from the 3D era gamesnote  allowed you to get a speed boost while driving the Rhino tank by turning the turret around so it faced behind you, then firing it and allowing the recoil to propel you forward (similar to a Rocket Jump). This turned the Rhino from one of the slowest vehicles in the game to one of the fastest... which, when compounded with its already terrible handling, made it nearly impossible to control. But damn if it isn't awesome propelling the Nigh Invulnerable wrecking ball that is the Rhino straight into traffic at a speed to rival the Infernus using the power of a tank cannon. This is especially true in Vice City and VCS, where the long boulevards mean you can cross half the map doing this.
  • Dirty Cop
  • Disposable Sex Worker: And how.
  • The Don: Salvatore Leone from III is the best example.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Good luck getting from one side of town to the other without driving like that. You may be polite the first couple times, but on your umpteenth attempt of a tough mission where you have to drive all the way back to the start point to try again, and you've gotten really angry... well, let's just say the title will fit more and more.
  • Drunk Driver:
    • In IV, you can get drunk at a bar with a friend. The screen gets very blurry, and you swerve all over the road. If the cops see you, they start chasing you.
    • In Vice City, Tommy Vercetti has to drive Phil Cassidy to the hospital after a boomshine accident. Problem is, Tommy is messed up from merely smelling the boomshine, and the cops think he's drunk (which he is). And the screen gets all blurry and the car hard to control.
    • San Andreas did something similar with the last of The Truth's first set of missions, though it's not "drunk" so much as it is "high from the marijuana field you just torched," and the effects aren't as severe as in the Vice City example.
    • Vice City Stories has "Purple Haze", where Vic gets knocked unconscious, falls face-first into a pile of cocaine, wakes up a few minutes later having inhaled a fair amount of it, and has to carry out the rest of the mission (retrieving a stolen van full of drugs) while coked out of his head. The effect is pretty much the same as the drunk effect from previous games, except a purple tint is also applied to the screen.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Rather obvious in III.
    • Returns to some degree in IV.
  • Dumbass DJ: Pretty much all of them.
  • Eagleland: The setting of every GTA game, with the exception of the London expansions for the original. Played as Type 2, without exception.
    Torneo: I'll be a nice guy and I'll lose! And then what'll we have? Communism in Ohio! People sharing! Nobody buying stuff! That kind of bullshit.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first two games were 2D, overhead. III had "Rampages" giving you a free weapon and X time to destroy X cars/people. The first game was brutally Nintendo Hard due to you being a One-Hit-Point Wonder and having limited lives while armor only protected you from three bullets.
  • Easter Egg: A huge amount.
  • Earth Drift: Occurred over the course of the III era. Grand Theft Auto III had a reference to the city of Miami and to the then-newly elected president George W. Bush; later installments had almost no real life persons (barring figures like Ronald Reagan that are intrinsically tied to the setting, and Phil Collins' cameo in Vice City Stories), and Miami was replaced with Vice City in the next game. Then Grand Theft Auto IV comes out, which does away with even more real-life stuff — the FBI is replaced with the FIB, SWAT is replaced with NOOSE (which is also based on the Department of Homeland Security), all guns are A.K.A.-47 now, and the president in 2008 was Joe Lawton, who is stated to be a buffoon and cwhose father was also president several decades prior.
  • The '80s: In Vice City and VCS.
  • Emergency Services: The "Firefighter", "Vigilante", and "Paramedic" missions can all be played by driving a firetruck, police vehicle, or ambulance respectively.
  • Escape Convenient Boat: Many, though the boats are rarely actually all that convenient. IV, however, plays this straight a couple of times.
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender: Starting with the third game, each installment mocks the sad state of society, the sad state of people who refuse to take part of society, minorities, white people, gay people, straight people, transpeople, feminists, misogynists, you, game developers, religion, atheists, cults, the military, the government, those against the government, foreign art, and old people. About the only thing not mocked is Britain. It's like Bret Easton Ellis and Todd Solondz teamed up with MAD Magazine and Charlie Brooker to make gangster flicks.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Before IV, cars that took enough damage would star flaming and explode within a few seconds. In Vice City and San Andreas, this could even happen if you stomped on the roof long enough. Somewhat averted in IV, where, after enough damage, the car's engine will die. They'll still explode given enough extra rounds though.
  • Every Car Is Rear Wheel Drive: Averted by the 3-D installments, with many cars having different drivetrains.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Real estate mogul Avery Carrington is a stereotypical Texan, right down to the cowboy hat.
  • Everything's Built With LEGO: Grand Theft Auto: Lego City.
  • Excuse Me Coming Through: All of them have this in some fashion.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Nearly every game has at least one.
  • Feelies: The "tourist" maps. These were rendered somewhat obsolete in GTA3, though the psx titles were borderline impossible without them. Even if one stuck to the general rules (remember the names of neighborhoods, use highways for fast travel), the destination markers would intentionally mislead you.
  • Free Rotating Camera: Standard since San Andreas.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: A lot of the protagonists, particularly in the III-era games start out as small time thugs but end up becoming some of the most notorious crime lords in their respective cities
  • Gaiden Game: GTA Advance, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, without a doubt.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: GTA2 was the only game to avert this. There, if you killed members of a particular gang while free roaming, your respect with them will go down, and eventually they will stop giving you missions and start shooting you on sight. In every other game, you can kill a hundred members of a gang, and then take a mission from them five seconds later.
  • Gang Bangers: While your archetypical 'bangers are present, organized crime isn't treated as particularly different. As such, Claude and Niko are the only protagonists not affiliated with any one gang throughout their game.
  • Gatling Good: The minigun in Vice City, San Andreas, and Chinatown Wars.
  • Genre-Busting
  • Guns Akimbo: In San Andreas, you can dual wield the standard pistol (although not the Desert Eagle or silenced variant), the sawed-off shotgun, and the standard sub-machine guns (but not the MP5) after you max out your skill with each respective weapon. Also appears in Chinatown Wars and GTA2 with the dual pistols.
  • Hammer Space: This is where the protagonists store their arsenals. Slightly resized since Vice City, and IV puts limits on how much ammo you can carry. Niko Bellic is still able to pull helmets out of hammerspace every time he climbs onto a motorbike, however.
  • Hammerspace Police Force
  • Heroic Mime: Claude (unnamed until San Andreas — and an actual mute). He is also believed to be the protagonist in GTA2, thus making his full name Claude Speed.
  • Hide Your Children: For obvious reasons, children under the age of 18 are very few and far between in the GTA games, only showing up as story characters (like Louise's infant daughter in Vice City Stories and Tracey in V) — and even then, they're rare. This is also a recommendation for when you're playing the game.
    • There were meant to be children and even school buses in GTA III, but they were dropped when the production was delayed after 9/11.
  • Hollywood California: The state of San Andreas, with some Nevada mixed in for good measure.
  • Home Version Soundtrack Replacement: Completely averted, as Rockstar have managed to license all their songs for inclusion in the games in perpetuity. This is significant, because on Steam the games can go on sale for as little as $2.50 each, when the music included in the game, if used on a TV series without a special contract, would result in royalties making a DVD boxset cost hundreds of dollars, which is why shows like Daria, Cold Case, and Malcolm in the Middle have had trouble releasing DVDs.
    • ...Or so it seemed. Some sort of licensing issue with "Wanna Be Startin' Something" has resulted in pulling Vice City from Steam and other digital outlets.
    • This does, however, create some strange implications with the increasing Earth Drift the series has; several songs they've licensed include references to real world locations that don't exist in the GTA universe, such as New York and Los Angeles.
  • Hookers and Blow: A frequent feature of the series.
    • Deconstructed in V, however. The wealthy and affluent Michael is living a pretty clean life in Rockford Hills, while his dingy and strung-out partner Trevor is a drug addict with mere pennies to his name living out of a dilapidated trailer in the middle of nowhere.
  • Hot Pursuit
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: See Hammer Space.
  • Iconic Logo: The series initially started with widely varying logos for each game, but III gave the series an identifying Pricedown-styled logonote  that stuck with every game since.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: Since 2, the FBI gets sent in at 5 wanted stars; this is usually the death knell (at least on land). Later sequels gave the FBI hulking (and fast) black SUVs, which means you can't even evade them.
    • Even the sky won't protect you; in San Andreas, the air force gets called in.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Donald Love is discovered to be one in Liberty City Stories. In GTA2, you get to gather a bus full of "ingredients" and drop them off at the hot dog factory for the Russian Mafia.
  • Inspired By: In more than one of the games, you get a mission where you drive an ice cream van. It's hinted at that these are fronts for drug dealing. Older readers in Scotland will remember the Ice Cream Wars.
  • Instant Gravestone: Later games (third game onwards) have a variation. Bodies will eventually fade away and be replaced by a Chalk Outline (irrespective of whether the police have arrived at the scene or not).
  • In-Universe Game Clock: At a rate of one minute per second in the GTA III canon games, and at one minute per two seconds in IV.
  • It's Always Spring: Justified in Vice City by virtue of the fact that Miami is actually like this. Not so much in III though...
    • San Andreas is a particularly egregious example. One mission has CJ going to Liberty City, where we see snow on the groundnote , implying that it's winter at the time of this mission. Yet when he returns home, there's no snow anywhere, not even atop the state's highest mountain.
    • Averted in IV, which takes place in October. All the clothes in the game are long sleeved (mostly jackets and coats), the leaves on the trees have already turned, and there are times where you can see the characters' breath. A specific quote in The Ballad of Gay Tony puts the events of the games after October 3rd.
  • It's Up to You: Subverted in games where you have a gang, who will happily take down anyone that they see attacking you. Played straight in missions, though. This is especially glaring in the bank robbery mission in Vice City, for which you need to recruit a gunman, a safe cracker, and a driver. None of whom perform their roles and require the player to do them.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Zaibatsu is a recurring name in the GTA series, which is kind of like an American company naming itself "NGO". They were the de facto rulers of Anywhere City in GTA2, controlling everything from the army to its power resources. The crimp in the U.S. economy is starting to be felt in Vice City, with radio adverts guilting people for purchasing "cheaper, more efficient" Maibatsu cars instead of shoddier American-made ones. Grand Theft Auto 3 poked fun at oversized SUVs with the Maibatsu Monstrosity, a small monster truck marketed toward insecure, middle-aged men and soccer moms who misplace their cars in parking lots.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: In Vice City and San Andreas, the katana is one of the best melee weapons, as it's a one-hit kill most of the time. One mission in San Andreas ends with CJ dueling a mob boss on a cargo ship with katana. Or you could just shoot him.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: The covers of III, Vice City, San Andreas, and Chinatown Wars.
    • In Chinatown Wars' case, the girl on the cover does appear in the game. She just dies like five minutes after she first appears.
    • IV had the lollipop girl, and V looks to keep the tradition with the smartphone-and-peace-sign bikini girl.
  • Land Down Under: A Running Gag in the series, starting with III, is a fictional war between the US and Australia, which the US won handily. Radio ads for the AmmuNation gun store, for example, mention weapons "from when we whooped Australia's ass!" This could be seen as a Take That against Australia's overzealous Media Watchdogs, although the gag dates back to before the Australians earned their reputation for video game censorship.
  • Law of Cartographical Elegance
  • Lemming Cops: Oh, the irony of this particular trope appearing in these games considering some of the developer's older titles...
  • Limited Wardrobe
    • In III, Claude wears only two outfits — a prison uniform (which he only wears in the first mission, or after you enter the proper cheat code), and a black leather jacket with olive drab cargo pants. In later games, the player character has a wide variety of outfits, but most other characters still wear the same outfit whenever you see them.
    • The cutscenes in Vice City seem to assume that you are always wearing the default outfit. For example, the first time you meet Big Mitch Baker he tells you "You don't look like the law, so that's bought you a minute," even if you are wearing the police uniform. The exception is the last Cut scene, which assumes you're wearing the Mr. Vercetti suit.
      Ken Rosenberg: It looks like you ruined your suit! And Tommy, that was a beautiful suit!
    • Averted even more in the fifth installment, where the main characters aren't the only ones with multiple outfits.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Fifteen games across three universes in a massive open world setting, this is to be expected. The relevant wiki lists over 2000.
  • Loads and Loads of Sidequests: The series in general, with its trademark Wide Open Sandbox gameplay, falls into this. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the biggest offender in this regard, as the story missions only count for a very limited percentage for the 100% Completion.
  • Made of Explodium: More noticeable in some games than in others.
  • Made of Iron: The final boss of San Andreas, Big Smoke, takes several dozen assault rifle bullets to the face to kill and serves as a traditional boss fight (complete with health bar) in a game series which has generally avoided such conventions. In contrast, the final shootouts against Lance Vance and Sonny Forelli in Vice City, Sgt. Martinez and Diego Mendez in Vice City Stories, and Dimitri Rascalov or Jimmy Pegorino in GTA 4 were against reasonably realistic opponents, who had somewhat more health than standard mooks, but who still went down after a second or so of concentrated gunfire.
    • In the case of Big Smoke, it's justified due to him snorting crack before you run into him, thus he wouldn't feel anything unless his body completely gives out. The body armor he wears also makes the trope more true.
    • Most of the player characters also fall into this. Tommy Vercetti, for example, could jump out the 30th floor of a high-rise office building and live. The main exception is Niko, who, in keeping with IV's increased realism, can't survive falls greater than a couple of stories, and gets cut down by gunfire fairly quickly.
    • Also more or less averted in GTA 1 & 2. While you could withstand more punishment than the average Innocent Bystander, you were still relatively fragile and could often be instantly killed by explosions, long falls, fire or simply being run over.
    • Trevor in GTA V is this when using his special ability.
  • The Mafia: With the exception of Vice City Stories, they appear in every game in the series, either as good guys, bad guys, or both.
  • Mafia Princess: Maria, although she abandons this lifestyle in III.
  • The Mafiya: Appears in GTA2, and features heavily in the plot of IV, where they wind up becoming the Big Bad.
  • The Men in Black: Mike Toreno in San Andreas certainly qualifies. In IV, there is a shadowy government agency using a paper company as a front (a possible Shout-Out to Heroes) that gives Niko work and ultimately helps him find the man who betrayed him in the Balkans. Niko's first girlfriend, Michelle (or Karen, or whatever her name is), also turns out to be working for them, as Niko finds out when she takes down a drug deal he was involved in.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Vice City and San Andreas. It's debatable, though, because they were so much bigger than III, and added so many new elements to gameplay (especially San Andreas), that many fans will argue that they are the superior games. The Stories games, however, fall very cleanly into this trope.
    • According to Word of God, the idea was to give each city featured in the original GTA its own game, starting with GTA III. Hence the two sequels are called Vice City and San Andreas instead of IV and V, respectively. Once they had completed this inofficial trilogy, they continued numbering their games. But why GTA III isn't simply called GTA: Liberty City is anyone's guess.
    • GTA London plays this trope more straight.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first few GTA games were known for their zany, over the top humor and for not taking themselves too seriously. Then IV came along and the humor was toned down in favor of gritty realism and drama. Many fans did not like this change, so it appears from the trailers that ''[GTA V will return to a more lighthearted tone.
  • Murder Simulators: Only because it's hard to disassociate this game from the idiocy of Jack Thompson. Thanks to him, it is the Trope Namer in a roundabout fashion.
  • The '90s: The early '90s in San Andreas, and the late '90s in LCS.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Any PC who isn't a Villain Protagonist.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: This series loves this trope.
    • In Vice City, you get Pastor Richards, an expy of Jim Bakker and other corrupt televangelists, Jack Howitzer, a parody of '80s action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone (who reappears in San Andreas), and Love Fist, a gleeful mockery of every Hair Metal band ever.
    • In San Andreas, you've got rapper Madd Dogg (three guesses as to who he's an expy of, and the first two don't count — oh, and he's voiced by Ice-T), and Cris Fromage, a parody of L. Ron Hubbard.
    • Averted somewhat in Vice City Stories; Phil Collins appears as himself in a few missions, complete with an ingame performance of "In The Air Tonight".
    • IV, meanwhile, gives us Samantha Muldoon (a Madonna-esque pop singer who has adopted pretty much half the babies in Africa), Jill Von Crastenberg, Cloe Parker, and January Natasha Vasquez (parodies of famous-for-being-famous celebritarts like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian), Tony McTony (a club-friendly rapper whose lyrics are only about money, bling, guns, pimped-out cars, and hot bitches), and Brandon Roberts (a big-name actor who associates himself with liberal causes solely to enhance his public image — oh, and he's also a Scientologist member of the Epsilon Program).
    • V, being set in a pastiche of Los Angeles, has too many to list here.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: New York is called Liberty City, New Jersey becomes Alderney, Miami becomes Vice City, Los Angeles becomes Los Santos, San Francisco becomes San Fierro, Las Vegas becomes Las Venturas, and California becomes San Andreas.
    • GTA III's Liberty City is loosely based in New York City, but includes elements of other American cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit, among others.
  • No Name Given: The player character in III, until San Andreas revealed his name to be Claude. Before that, he was often referred to as "Fido" by fans.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: The first game in the GTA III canon to be released was chronologically the last game in the series, while the last game in that canon, Vice City Stories, was chronologically the first.
  • Not My Driver
  • Nutritional Nightmare: The food in the game is incredibly unhealthy across the board, as befitting a parody of modern overstuffed America. In particular, Burger Shot stands out as openly advertising a 6 pound burger designed to give you a heart attack, while in V, the Ego Chaser energy bar has over 20,000 calories.
  • Oil Slick: Can be used in GTA2 by the player to cause any vehicle make a sharp left or right turn, often crashing into a wall.
  • One-Man Army: Getting your first 100 kills is easy, the first 1000 not too much harder unless you deliberately act the good citizen.
  • Only In Miami: Vice City, baby.
  • Parody Commercial: Wouldn't be GTA without them.
  • Police Are Useless: Are they ever! But you're certainly lucky they are. Gets hilarious if they manage to cause more destruction than you during chases. However, this is averted in V in the fact that they are very accurate, in addition to the fact that people have tested the police crusier and found it faster than most supercars.
  • Police Brutality: Even without a wanted level, police would rather run you over instead of braking if you're in their way.
  • Pop the Tires: A possible tactic in the series since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In fact, Crazy-Prepared players might just preemptively take out the tires of stationary vehicles near the mission to prevent their opponents to escape by driving them.
  • Production Throwback: The signature "comic panel" cover art since III requires no introduction. Less known is the equivalently long-running practice of featuring a helicopter on the upper left panel, a tradition which Chinatown Wars' cover art has only recently broken out of (The Lost and Damned's group shot is exempted, and Advance doesn't count).
  • Punch Clock Villain: The player character.
  • Punny Name: The series is loaded with places and vehicles which have names that are thinly veiled terms relating to sex. The tw@ internet cafe, Sanchez dirtbike, Camel's Toe casino...
  • Quad Damage: Prevalent in early games. 1 has the Speed Up power-up, 2 has the Double Damage, Fast Reload, Invisibility and ElectroFingers power-ups (alongside the "Invulnerability*" power-up), and III and Vice City has the adrenaline pill which slows down time and make melee attacks ultra-powerful. For V, trigger Trevor's special ability to increase your damage tolerance while dealing a lot more to your foes.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: Up until V, which contained a fully-featured score, the series is rather famous for its complete lack of background music - only a few, very rare cases up until V featured any sort of non-digetic music.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: In every game up to Vice City, you get money for smashing up cars. (Not to mention just about every other illegal activity your character does.)

    With "Rampages" (and their forerunners, "Kill Frenzies"), the player is given a weapon with infinite ammo, a target and a time limit.
  • Road Block: This can be found in some games, mainly Vice City (where the roads are blocked due to an hurricane threat) and San Andreas (where the roads are blocked due to an earthquake some time prior to the game events that has destroyed most bridges). In the former, it serves as an effective Broken Bridge, but in the latter, since your character can swim, there's also a Border Patrol in the shape of a wanted level whenever you leaved the unlocked area.
  • Rocket Jump: The "Rhino boost" in III, Vice City, and the Stories games is a variation on this. When driving the Rhino tank, you can turn the turret around so that it is pointed behind you. The recoil created by firing the cannon provides you with a speed boost, which easily turns one of the slowest vehicles in the game into one of the fastest. Combine that with the fact that any vehicle that the Rhino so much as bumps into explodes, as well as the vehicle's Nigh Invulnerablity (it takes innumerable rocket hits to finally destroy it), and the Rhino practically becomes a Game Breaker. San Andreas nerfed this ability, though it came back in the later Stories games.
  • Rule of Fun: The protagonists never run into bumper-to-bumper gridlock that would prevent progress. Ever.
  • Running Gag: Repeated references to the number 69.
  • The Scapegoat: Seems to have replaced Doom and Mortal Kombat as this for teen violence.
  • Sequence Breaking: The fans have come up with several ways you can get into the initially blocked off sections of the city in III and Vice City.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Usually played straight. In every game from III to Vice City Stories, if you picked up a prostitute, the only sign that they were having sex was the car rocking; if you changed the camera angles, all you saw was the protagonist and the hooker sitting next to each other. In San Andreas and IV, whenever the protagonist has an Optional Sexual Encounter with one of his girlfriends, the camera is outside with the player overhearing the action. However, there are some notable aversions. When you pick up a prostitute in IV, you can swivel the camera around and see exactly what she's doing. And in San Andreas, one player found and unlocked the code which allows the player to actually participate in the sex, causing a firestorm of moral outrage. (And selling another Eleventy Zillion copies.)
  • Shout-Out: Mainly to classic crime films, like Scarface (1983), Goodfellas and Boyz n the Hood. The games also occasionally make offhand mentions to Carcer City, where Manhunt, another Rockstar game, was set.
  • Silent Protagonist: Claude from III. This is naturally lampshaded during his cameo in San Andreas.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty far on the cynical end, especially in IV.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: The series has gone up and down like a yoyo. The first several games were pretty silly, GTA III crept a little towards the serious, Vice City was big silly fun, San Andreas mixed both to great effect and GTA IV was very serious and dark. The Lost and Damned became even darker and more depressing, while The Ballad of Gay Tony was more lighthearted. The next game, GTA V, is set to be centered on the economy and be a lighter shade of seriousness than IV.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: In III and onward, this happens when you hit a stunt ramp at top speed. IV allows this at any moment, provided you're in the (nigh-unusable) cinematic camera.
  • Social Climber: Progression in Wide Open Sandbox games forces characters to be this. It's all about building connections, nursing favors and networking so you can get better opportunities. In Grand Theft Auto, the Player Character starts poor but eventually becomes super-wealthy, his mission-givers also show the same progression. The joke among critics is that the inventory often resembles real-life portfolio or property and asset management, albeit in a criminal vent.
    • The most extreme example is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas where the hero Carl Johnson grows up in a Los Angeles slum with poor weapons and neighbourhood gun-fights, graduates to building a garage in San Fierro while working with the Triads, moonlights with a corrupt American agent and then becomes a wealthy entrepreneur in the casino business while tussling with the Italian Mob for turf while at the same time being the proud owner of an abandoned airstrip.
    • After this game, the makers generally tried to complicate progression by pointing out that, as in Grand Theft Auto IV it comes at a personal cost, or in the case of Grand Theft Auto V, showing in the case of the hero - Michael - someone who already has climbed the social ladder to start with but isn't very happy.
  • Soft Water: Any game where the protagonist doesn't have Super Drowning Skills. If only they averted this...
  • Spiritual Successor: The 3D games are this to Body Harvest, DMA Design/Rockstar North's previous 3D open-world game.
  • Strawman Political: Rockstar uses this against both sides, having liberal and conservative strawmen bashing each other on the radio, although the right does seem to get the worst of it. And that's all we're saying on that subject.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Cops, hostile gangsters and other unfriendly people will charge the player without hesitation regardless of how many corpses you've made, how heavily armed you are or other conditions unfavorable them. One-Man Army on a vantage point armed with a minigun with no cover for aggressors? Nah We can still take him!
  • Super Drowning Skills: Until San Andreas.
  • Take Over the City: In each game you're defeating every possible opposing faction. Though Tommy Vercetti in Vice City is perhaps the straightest example of actively aiming for this goal.
  • Take That: The games are filled with Take Thats against other open-world titles. For example, in III, one mission had you killing an undercover cop named Tanner, who is said to be useless outside of his car — a reference to Driver 2, which was trashed for its on-foot controls. San Andreas, meanwhile, had a billboard reading "True Grime," and a scene with a security guard playing a video game console and proceeding to insult "Refractions" for making such a bad game (Driv3r). "Tanner, you suck ass!"
    • Also, the War Memorial in San Andreas has, at the very top, "R.I.P Opposition 1997-2004".
  • Tank Goodness: Many players never bothered with the plot, instead using the "summon tank" cheat code and going on a rampage around the town.
  • The Taxi
  • Third Is 3D
  • Timed Mission
  • Too Dumb to Live: Many NPCs in this series arguably qualify, though how much is due to deliberate portrayal and how much due to Artificial Stupidity is unclear.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Appears as bad guys in III and LCS, and as allies in San Andreas. They are the main focus of Chinatown Wars.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: This game probably spawned more examples of this trope than any other.
  • Units Not to Scale: Every now and then in the GTAIII era, you'll walk past a storefront with doors either too tiny or a little too big for the character scale. These storefronts are simply filler they didn't have time to scale.
  • Universal Driver's License: Mostly averted in III, where the only vehicles available were automobiles and boats (and one plane that Claude can't get in the airnote ). Played straight, however, in Vice City, San Andreas and Liberty City Stories, where you had common thugs/mobsters hijacking airplanes, helicopters, motorcycles, and even jetpacks. Somewhat justified in Vice City Stories and IV, where the protagonists have military experience and have probably learned how to fly helicopters. Also somewhat justified in San Andreas as far as aircraft; pilot training is a later-game mandatory mission. Also justified by the fact that you have to gain skill with various vehicles before you can drive them competently.
    • Heh, well in the real world no, the average military member doesn't just have "learn to pilot a helicopter" as part of their military requirements. Its a very specalized skill (and almost always an officer specialty, Vic and Niko were enlisted). However this being the world of GTA...
  • Vice City: The Trope Namer.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential Really, it's what the games are all about.
    • The crowner, however, may be a mission in San Andreas where you have to dump a foreman in a hole and bury him alive under cement. While he's in the port-a-potty. The reason? He had been catcalling CJ's sister Kendl, and she didn't like it. Despite this, you're usually not encouraged to kill innocents, though.
    • Grand Theft Auto V now extends the cruelty to animals, where you have the option of running them over with a vehicle if shooting doesn't cut it.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: That doesn't mean that anything goes, however. Start killing a bunch of civilians and they'll eventually send tanks after you, although it would take a long time to get to that level of law enforcement aggressiveness. Killing cops or any other person of law enforcement shoots up your wanted meter tons faster than killing innocent people.
    • In Liberty City Stories, the cops were much more aggressive, with fast police cars (often four at a time) that would ram you constantly, spike strips every ten seconds, and deliberate aiming at the tires (which greatly decreased your car's performance). If any cop managed to get next to your vehicle door, you were insta-busted.
  • Videogame Flamethrowers Suck: This depends on the game. In the PSX titles, flamethrowers compensate for their short range with their One-Hit Kill properties — basically, once you're on fire, there's no putting it out. Later games have reduced the flamethrower's effectiveness; In Vice City Stories, a boss character more or less signs his own death warrant by wielding one.
  • Video Game Time: There's a timescale for days and nights and the passage of time in later games, but for timed missions they revert to timing with real time so they give you three minutes to drive to such and such place and this three minutes takes the equivalent of three hours.
  • Villain Protagonist: One of the main reasons for the series' original controversy. In later games, however, Rockstar began to favour anti-heroes.
  • Violent Glaswegian: The developers of the games, Rockstar North, are from Edinburgh. They were previously DMA Designs based in Dundee.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The city of Las Venturas in San Andreas is all about this trope, with most of the missions revolving around the Triad-run Four Dragons Casino and the Mafia-run Caligula's Palace.
  • War On Cops: Depending on your wanted level, you could have a legion of cops (with SWAT and even the military) chasing you down. Of course, you have the option to fight them all with no restraints.
  • We All Live in the United Kingdom: The games are filled with references to British (particularly Scottish) places, and British slang is sometimes heard coming from the mouths of the American characters.
    • III and LCS have The Yardies existing in the New York pastiche of Liberty City, despite being a primarily British criminal trope.
    • The games have signs reading "Maximum headroom X meters", while the American phrasing would be "Maximum clearance".
    • In V, the pop music station Non Stop Pop FM features tracks by Mis-Teeq, N-Joi, Modjo, and All Saints, all of whom were successful in the UK but fairly unknown in the US, despite the station being based in a pastiche of Los Angeles.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: While not the Trope Maker, it is the Trope Codifier, to the point where the term "GTA clone" or "GTA meets X" was used to describe any open-world game in the early-mid '00s (much like "Doom clone" for first-person shooters in The '90s).
  • Wretched Hive
  • Yakuza: Appears in GTA2 and Liberty City Stories, and features heavily in the plot of III and Chinatown.
  • You All Look Familiar
  • Zerg Rush: The only strategy the police from all games use. Send waves after waves of reckless cops until the player gives up, runs out of ammo or suffers Death By A Thousand Cuts.