The funny thing about inventing a genre of videogames is that, until it becomes completely played out, every game that emulates your formula is going to be attached to your name. Games that feature a wide-open, freely explorable world, for example, will have a hard time avoiding the label of "Grand Theft Auto clone," especially if their worlds are littered with vehicles to steal and drive.
In the six years since Grand Theft Auto III, a slew of games have tried to become "the next GTA," but so far none have really succeeded. There have been a lot of admirable attempts, though, and with the advent of the Xbox 360, a few have even outpaced GTA technologically. Their advantage might not last long though, as the original series will answer back in October with the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Until then, though, we've got a lot of pretenders to the throne to sift through. So why not judge each one on its own merits and figure out which one's been doing the best job?
Obviously, we had to place some restraints on what games made the list. Just having an open, destructible world isn't enough, so games like Superman, Spider-Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction are right out. We also wanted to limit the list to the best games in the genre, which is why we've ignored stinkers like The Getaway: Black Monday, True Crime: New York City, Mafia (sorry PC guys, but the console versions sucked) and Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico (which became a much better game when they stripped out the clunky carjacking and renamed it Chili Con Carnage, incidentally). Now that the rules are clear, let's introduce the contenders.