Grand Theft Auto 2
1999 | Dreamcast, PC, PSone, Game Boy Color
The setup: The other GTA that nobody played, Grand Theft Auto 2 continued the top-down, points-for-kills action of its predecessor, but this time gave it a little more structure. Instead of just taking on random jobs for crime bosses, you'll need to curry favor with seven gangs, chief among them the Zaibatsu corporation, which affects how they treat you as you stomp through their territory. Other than that, though, it's largely the same game with a significant visual upgrade, a more overtly goofy sense of humor and a live-action opening movie.
The rides: A bunch of quasi-futuristic cars and trucks that feel a little smoother and a lot faster than the vehicles in the original GTA.
The criminal: An amnesiac ex-convict named Claude Speed, who may or may not be the same mute sociopath that stars in GTAIII.
The town: The sprawling near-future metropolis of Anywhere City, which was carved up into downtown, industrial and residential districts.
The music: Still tied to the cars you drive, although the PC version enables players to switch between the game's 11 stations. The stations themselves feature an eclectic mix of pop, rock, hip-hop and electronica. This was also the beginning of a tradition: weirdo DJs for each station, who chat with listeners and generally make asses of themselves.
The violence: The guns, explosions and blood are all noticeably cooler and more realistic than in the first game, but still pretty cartoony. Also, it's not just the cops who'll chase you when you do bad things this time around - depending on how long and bloody your spree gets, you'll face gradually tougher levels of law enforcement going all the way up to the army.
Why it's the best: It's a big improvement over the first GTA, and takes itself even less seriously. It's faster, too, and slamming through crowds of pedestrians and watching the reward points explode all over your screen is still an undeniable thrill. The whole gang-rivalry dynamic adds some depth to the anarchic structure, and gives players a choice in whom they want to work for and betray - which later games in the series don't.
Why it isn't: It's still hard as hell to control cars on a 2D plane, even if the visuals are considerably better. There's still not much of a story, either, no matter what the opening movie implies. Also, you can't even save your game until you have $50,000 to your name, which is weak.
Does it hold up? It's better than the original, but let's be realistic - it's not going to hold its own against anything in the following pages. Try it out for yourself and see.