We look back at previous Grand Theft Auto games
Grand Theft Auto
The Grand Theft Auto series debuted in 1997 with the original Grand Theft Auto on PS1, Windows and Game Boy Color. This was during a time in which Rockstar were going by the name DMA Design, far from the powerhouse we all know and love today.
The game put the player in the role of a petty hood working his way up the criminal ranks in the three US cities; Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas. Played from a birds eye perspective GTA (as it was soon known) you are free to explore the three cities to either progress along the game’s story or simply do as you please, from causing chaos and destruction, to joy riding stolen cards or even go on a police killing murder spree.
It was this sheer freedom and emphasis on crime based gameplay that quickly catapulted the game into the limelight, thanks largely in part by being heavily featured throughout the press with several attempts at obtaining a complete ban on the game failing to stick. Outside of causing chaos for fun you’ll be asked to complete a long list of criminal activities to climb the ranks, from stealing cars to executing targets; all of which rewards the player with a higher score and only further aggravating critics.
Graphically the game has a very simple flat 2D appearance, with only large structures coming out from the ground. This simple graphical approach was one of the main criticisms placed upon the game, however it no doubt played a part in allowing the game to get away with the gore and previously unacceptable roleplaying behaviour (such as driving over a police officer with a truck, then petrol bombing it).
On the flipside to this, one of the most praised aspects was the audio presentation, with emphasis on the music track selection and decision to play them from a simulated car radio when driving. The highlight of these tracks for your viewing pleasure below…
Grand Theft Auto London
Two years after the release of the original GTA, DMA Design released both London 1969 (PS1 and Windows) and London 1961 (Windows exclusive). This mission pack aimed to extend the content of the original with settings reminiscent of London in the 60’s. Like the original the mission pack was dividing into sub-sections with short cut scenes between.
Once again the packs were best sellers and similar praise was given to the game's free-roaming gameplay, detailed open worlds and the fantastic audio presentation throughout.
Grand Theft Auto 2
Later that year gamers finally got the true sequel that they had been anticipating, in the form of Grand Theft Auto 2 for PS1, Windows, Dreamcast and Game Boy Colour.
This time the player was taken away from the familiar three locals of GTA to a retrofuturistic metropolis with no name, only ever referred as “Anywhere, USA”. This large world was split into three districts once again known as Downtown, Residential and Industrial. Uniquely the game could be played in two modes (on the PC version), noon or dusk, that would set the mood via lighting for the entire game. This feature was dropped for the PS1 mainstream release with only the noon setting available.
Much of GTA2 repeated and refined the gameplay of the original, with one of the largest new additions having the entire story and mission structure spread over seven gangs that were constantly in conflict, fighting over street ownership. GTA2 also introduced additional crime fighting forces such as SWAT teams, Special Agents and the army. Both of these features have gone on to become a staple to the franchise.
There were also steps made to bring the city to life, having the AI interact with the environment and seemingly go about their daily lives (before your reign of destruction ruins their day). A lot of the mini-games and side activities we know and love today also originated in GTA2 such as hidden packages and taxi driving.
This was also the first time the series got its taste of multiplayer too, with a choice of four multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Tag and Race. It’s surprising then that this advancement was dropped and missed an entire three game iteration in the series until GTAIV rolled around nine years later.
It’s remarkable to consider where Rockstar have since taken the series from such humble beginnings, whilst still managing to remain true to the formula and self-reference, refreshing a lot of the game's foundations such as the three starting cities Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas. Stay tuned for our next step in the Grand Theft Auto series, with the critically acclaimed GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas.
In the meantime both Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2 can be downloaded free from Rockstar’s website, so there is absolutely no excuse to miss out on having a peek at the origins of one of the most popular game series to date, if you haven’t already.
As well as our countdown articles, we also have our usual screenshots and videos for Grand Theft Auto V, which you can view over on our Grand Theft Auto V media hub page for the game.
View a full list our Countdown to GTA V articles.