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  • Accidental Aesop: For a game that created a lot of controversy, there is a very strong anti-drug message in that all of the gangs besides the Colombian Cartel want the drug SPANK destroyed instead of duplicated and one mission has you faced SPANK addicts suicide bombers who are too strung out to even know what they are doing.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Did Claude really shoot and kill Maria at the end of III? When God finally got around to answering questions about it, he just shrugged.
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    • Adding to that did Claude do all of what he did just to get back at Catalina? Or did he genuinely care about Maria enough to save her from Catalina's doom? The Shrug of God ending complicates this further.
    • Claude's character in general is extremely open to interpretation given his status as a Silent Protagonist. Cold blooded maniac? Emotionless monster whose only joy is violence? Evil Genius with standards? It's really up to the player to decide.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • Any mook with an M16 is this. They can shred you apart and waste you in seconds before you can get a chance to react. Even if you have full armour/health, you can be killed in seconds if you're careless.
    • Mafia goons earn this distinction with flying colors once you have earned their eternal vendetta against you. They all have shotguns and even if you're in a vehicle, they'll immediately recognize you and open fire. Two solid shots will end your drive in a deadly explosion, unless you are in a Rhino tank or have unlocked special vehicles that are bulletproof. Additionally, if you're on foot, their shotgun blasts will likely knock you down and prevent you from moving while they close the distance. They will probably knock you down again if the shots don't kill you. Simply put, after you kill Salvatore, you'll never be able to set foot in the Saint Mark's district ever again. For this reason it's absolutely imperative that you finish all of Portland's side missions (e.g. Ambulance, Taxi, and Vigilante) before you unlock Staunton Island.
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  • Disappointing Last Level: Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale are increasingly less detailed compared to Portland's bustling activity, varied scenery, and things to do. This is probably why Liberty City was revamped from the ground up in Grand Theft Auto IV, even if that effectively meant putting the game in its own continuity.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Asuka for her dominating personality and being one of the very few bosses who shows respect to Claude, most fans wished she was involved in the other 3D era games.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Grand Theft Auto III stands out from most games in the series in that it has not one, but two major female crime bosses in Asuka and Catalina. Both are also very attractive, with the latter receiving a Fanservice Pack by way of a revealing top and visible thong in the Xbox and mobile ports.
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  • Franchise Original Sin: Grand Theft Auto III was hardly the first violent, M-rated video game to raise eyebrows; Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Duke Nukem have it beat on that front by several years. However, it was the first such game to become a mainstream pop culture sensation on the level of Pokémon and Super Mario Bros.. It was both acclaimed by critics and railed against by Moral Guardians for the then-unprecedented freedom it offered to gamers, which included all manner of violence and debauchery. Ignoring the many direct ripoffs that came out in the early-mid '00s, the success of Grand Theft Auto III has been pointed to as being responsible for the proliferation of Rated M for Money attitudes among both developers and gamers who demanded more "mature" (i.e. "rated M for Mature") content in games.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • The M16. It is extremely unbalanced, deals a lot of damage and can shred apart cars, people and any form of law enforcement with its ridiculous rate of fire. It's no surprise why it was nerfed in Vice City.note 
    • The Shotgun. It can destroy a vehicle with just two or three shots, it can easily knock down any pedestrian on foot, and its blasts can stunlock. It is not as powerful as the M16 but still a very lethal weapon. It's even worse when you know how to lag cancel the firing/reloading animation by switching or toggling lock-ons. This trick however is rendered impossible to do in the mobile version with the touch controls and near-impossible to perform consistently with a controller thanks to using an automatic targeting system.
    • The Rhino Tank. Without the use of cheats it is extremely hard to acquire — you have to either beat the game or reach a full six-star wanted level and steal one from the military, with the latter that can be used to complete the emergency vehicles side-quest to allow you to drive one before beating the game — but once you are in one...
      1. Every vehicle, including all law enforcement (besides other tanks), blows up when it touches it.
      2. The turret is as strong as a rocket launcher, blowing up anything in one shot.
      3. You have unlimited ammo.
      4. The tank is EXTREMELY hard to blow up by law enforcement and gang members (though it is extremely vulnerable to fire, like from Molotovs), and reaching a 6 star wanted level is a breeze.
      5. Firing the turret creates recoil, which slows you down if it's pointing forward. If you point the turret backwards, however, firing it repeatedly will make you go absurdly fast.
    • The drive-by shooting mechanics. Just get an Uzi and let 'er rip.
    • The Banshee. It isn't the fastest car in the game and it has very low health, but its incredibly high acceleration and good handling make up for that, especially since a decent portion of Liberty City is made up of short, tight streets. Combine this with how there is an easy spawn for the Banshee on Portland Islandnote , and the car is fairly common on the other two, you will never need another car in most scenarios.
    • On the PC version, players can take advantage of the free aiming controls the mouse and keyboard scheme has to offer, not only for being able to strafe around enemies, but also the pin-point accuracy with weapons, which the game wasn't designed around for.
  • Goddamn Bats:
    • The Triads. They're likely going to be the first gang you piss off. They're not very tough by themselves, armed only with bats and pistols, but their territory covers almost half of Portland, making moving around it for the remainder of the game's first chapter a pain.
    • Some pedestrians will start attacking the player when provoked by using explosives or blowing up vehicles that also end up killing others.
  • Good Bad Bug:
    • Due to the way normally unusable special vehicles and garages work, you can gain access to a number of cars with unique properties by first wrecking said cars near a garage and then using a sufficiently heavy vehicle to push them in far enough that the door closes: once it opens back up, they'll be as good as new and their doors will be unlocked, allowing you to drive around in the only car in Liberty City with working door locks the police can't figure out how to open when trying to bust you or ones that're immune to bullets, flames and/or explosions.
    • The PC version makes the Firefighter mission unintentionally much easier due to the way the replay function works. You put out a fire, hit F1 the moment another car on fire is reported, rinse, repeat. The game thinks the replay is an actual fire being put out, giving you credit.
    • Also on the PC version has a bug with the pause menu that makes the "Vigilante" mission. If you pause the game near the suspect's vehicle, you can cause the suspect to bail out and cause him or her to run away. This is really useful to get the police bribes at your hideout.
    • Ordinarily you hold down the Sprint button to haul ass when on foot, until Claude slows to a run again (even hunching over and panting if you come to a stop). However you can mash the button to sprint infinitely, which renders finishing the Paramedic sidejob completely pointless, except to give your fingers a rest if you lack a turbo controller.
  • Growing the Beard: No kidding. The first two games were, while very innovative, significant games and fairly charming in their own way, were still extremely rough, nigh-on impossible, clunky, dated, and simplistic games that largely only sold well due to the massive amounts of controversy they had caused. Meanwhile, III brought the series into 3D in glorious form, massively increased the length, scope, and depth, brought in incredible production values with legitimately well directed, well-acted cutscenes, added in much of the humor and satire the series is known for, and restructured the game into a format that, while still challenging at times, was much less unforgiving and sadistic than the first two games were. While "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny is in effect these days, there's a good reason why Grand Theft Auto III is considered one of the greatest and most influential games of all time and turned the series into one of the industry's biggest juggernauts.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Les Yay: Asuka and Maria certainly seem to be more than friends, but it's never confirmed outright.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Hey, I'm bored. When are ya gonna drill me?"
    • "MO' MONEY, MO' PROBLEMS!"
    • "I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM AND I'M HUNGRY!"
    • "You want the chainsaw, gringo?"
  • Moral Event Horizon: See here.
  • Narm: In the final story mission, the shot of Claude sucker-punching a Cartel who's about to shoot him is done in slow motion. This was likely to make it appear more dramatic, but the effect looks sillier than anything with the game's dated graphics and the fact that this was reserved for the death of a nameless mook. Never mind how the thug takes his sweet time shooting an unarmed man at point blank range.
  • Nightmare Fuel: See here.
  • Polished Port:
    • The PC version features support for higher resolutions and greater draw distance, the ability to use your own MP3s for the game's music, and adds a new control scheme for keyboard and mouse that works wonders for the game's combat. It does however have some glaring issues, such as broken widescreen support, missing lighting effects, compatibility issues with newer Windows systems, and in the Steam version, cars are rendered much darker for no discernible reason while fixing the headlights bug. Thankfully, these issues can easily be fixed thanks to ThirteenAG's Widescreen Fix, SilentPatch, and SkyGFX, while GInput can bring back classic console-styled controls and more for modern XInput controllers.
    • The original Xbox port has lower draw distance and somewhat different lighting compared to the PlayStation 2 release, but more than makes up for these cutbacks with revamped visuals featuring higher poly models with articulated hands on characters, higher resolution textures, specular lighting and reflections added to many vehicles, enhanced effects, and also features the ability to use your own music stored on the system's hard drive.
    • The version available on Android and iOS devices has completely customizable controls (both touch interface and external controllers are supported), visuals comparable to the Xbox port, adjustable graphics for ease of use on a large range of devices, minimal loading, improved graphics on the higher settings, and new to the Android and iOS version, the ability to move the camera around freely while driving, plus a freely accessible in-game map of Liberty City with makers of important locations such as the safehouses, Ammu-Nation, and Pay 'n' Spray shops, which the previous versions lack.
  • The Scrappy:
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Gang hostility. As you go through the story, you'll eventually anger a gang into shooting you on sight, and there's no way to undo this. By the end of the game, all but two of them note  will want you dead, and you can't go anywhere in the city without being shot at (and you can forget about going into St. Marks District where the Demonic Spiders are), which can make completing some side missions difficult if not outright impossible. Later games in the series let up on this by reducing the number of gangs that want to kill you (it's exclusively the Haitians after finishing the Gang War sidequest in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the military if you enter the base without the police uniform), or introducing ability to take over turfs (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas).
    • This is the first Grand Theft Auto game to have the infamous Sprint Meter. However, completing the Paramedic sidequest grants you infinite sprinting ability. Or you can also just hammer the Sprint button for infinite sprint anyway, due to an oversight.
  • Scrappy Weapon:
    • Your Good Old Fisticuffs are the last thing you want to bring to a gun fight. You're better off with the mediocre pistol, which is already the weakest gun in the game. Corrected in Vice City with a rich assortment of melee weapons like the speedy Katana.
    • The pistol is out classed by every other firearm in the game. With mediocre rate of fire and only decent damage, it's immediately rendered obsolete by the Micro Uzi, as the latter is also usable from inside a vehicle and boasts more than twice the rate of fire. Vice City corrected this by offering the Colt Python as heavy-hitting magnum upgrade over it, in exchange for zero mobility while firing, and a smaller magazine.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • Inevitable, considering the game's age and how both the Grand Theft Auto series and Wide Open Sandbox have evolved over the years. Liberty City is comparatively small, the shooting mechanics are very simplistic, the story is disconnected and is of an Excuse Plot than anything, and the missions feel very basic in comparison to the set pieces employed in future titles. But back when it was released, this was considered to be a very Crazy Awesome game that allowed for an unprecedented level of freedom with how it combined driving, exploring, and shooting in one seamless package, with nigh unlimited Video Game Cruelty Potential to boot.
    • While Grand Theft Auto III has a good share of laughs, most of them are relegated to the radio. Story cutscenes focus mostly on the boss in question briefing Claude on his next objective, and they seldom feature the interactions between characters that are necessary for humor. Even the jokes on the radio are notably dry and down to earth. Considering how Denser and Wackier things would become in the future, Grand Theft Auto III feels notably somber and oppressive in comparison.
  • That One Level:
    • "Bomb Da Base Act II" is an early mission taking place a bit before unlocking Staunton Island. You have to snipe the Cartel and help 8-Ball plant the bomb inside a freighter. Granted, it's not that hard once you know which gang members to shoot at, but a first-time player will most likely fail this mission once or twice.
      • That said, this mission's difficulty drops significantly once you realize there is an Adrenaline pickup hidden amongst the mobile trailers that are located near the mission site.
    • "Espresso-2-Go!" is another timed mission with its nine targets all over Liberty City and a strict time limit. One of which is in Shotgun-toting Mafia territory and they will shoot at you. If your car catches fire and it's a fast car or you have a wanted level, you might as well forget it and restart the mission. Made a lot easier if you use the bulletproof Patriot given to you by Ray to get around.
    • "Waka-Gashira Wipeout!", in which you need to waste Kenji. The problem is that not only is he heavily guarded, but you have to kill him and his guards without ever leaving a car, rendering your body armor and any weapon other than Uzi useless in this mission. This does however become a lot easier when you realise that you can kill him using the splash damage of a rocket launcher through the roof below him, although one isn't normally accessible at that stage of the game.
    • "Pay Day for Ray" can be a very hard mission, considering that it is not only time limited, but you have to go to several pay phones far from each other around Staunton Island and the game doesn't feature any map to help you with that.
    • "S.A.M." is a mission in which Claude need to take down a plane using a rocket launcher. You have two options to do it, get a boat and take down the plane by the sea (which makes it very hard to aim, considering the distance and speed of the plane) or head straight to the landing strip in the airport, where several heavily armed mooks wait for you. After the plane is destroyed, Claude's wanted level will raise a lot and he will have to go back to the construction site with law enforcers after him. It may get a little easier after you get Ray Machowski's bulletproof Patriot, but this is still a pretty hard mission.
  • That One Sidequest:
    • "Big 'n' Veiny". You have to follow a long trail of, um... magazines in a van with a high chance of tipping over. You have a time limit which goes up by one second for each magazine you pick up (so at least you can skip a few). The longer you wait to do this mission, the harder it gets: if you wait to do it until you get to Staunton Island, the route will take you through three gang territories (Diablos, Triads, and Mafia), whose members will shoot your van. And if you happen to build up a wanted level, forget it... The good news is that this mission is optional.
      • It can also be made considerably easier if you know where the trail of magazines ends, because you can push the van over to your destination; the timer doesn't start until you enter the van.
    • All the missions requiring a visit to Mafia territory after killing Salvatore are optional, and thank goodness for that. Those easy Marty Chonks missions? You better hope there aren't any shotgunner wiseguys along the way.
      • "Rigged to Blow" by D-Ice luckily averts this, for the most part. While the final destination of the job is within the Mafia territory, the gang AI for the duration of this job was altered to 'neutral'. This is a good thing, since the rigged sports car you're driving (under a time limit) can't take much damage before blowing up, meaning the job would be practically impossible to complete otherwise.
    • The Paramedic mini-game is easily at its hardest in this game, due to the wonky physics. There is no map, and the island layouts can thus be very confusing. The game also doesn't take the city layout into account, instead only calculating the timer according to their distance from the hospital, meaning that if you're given 30 seconds to reach an NPC who is nearby but can't be reached without a detour, you're pretty much fucked. Because of this system, Portland is probably the easiest island to complete the minigame in; but the aforementioned Mafia makes that impossible if not done right at the start of the game or immediately after Salvatore Leone's final mission.
      • All of the vehicle checkpoint missions except "Multistorey Mayhem" are this:
      • "Patriot Playground" has you go off-roading in Portland to collect 15 checkpoints off the coast near Saint Mark's. Each checkpoint adds 20 seconds to the timer. If you do this after kill Salvatore and cause the Leone Family Mafia to become hostile, then you'll have to avoid the roads near Saint Mark's. One of the checkpoints is right above the tunnel entrance near the el train in Saint Mark's.
      • "A Walk in the Park" is anything but. Not because of the mission in question, but it's a Luck-Based Mission on whether the Landstalker flips over or not. If it does, then the mission ends.
      • "Gripped!" has the checkpoints spread near the coast of Shoreside Vale. It's the danger of either accidentally rolling over the Patriot or driving into the water that is the real hazard. Much like the previously-mentioned "Patriot Playground," some of the checkpoints are near cliffs.
  • Uncanny Valley: Since it's the first 3D game in the series, you may notice that many, MANY character models including Claude himself never blink, neither their eyes move. To make things even worse, non-cutscene models have their faces completely frozen!
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: The Ax-Crazy Big Bad Catalina is voiced by soul singer Cynthia Farrell in her first acting role outside advertisement jingles and voiceovers. Tropes Are Not Bad however, as Catalina turned out to be one of the most memorable characters in the franchise and her voice acting is easily one of the highlights in this game.

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