Skip to main content

What did Grand Theft Auto III mean to you?

Hollander Cooper, GamesRadar

Sophia Tong, GamesRadar

Now, maybe if I had started from the beginning, I might have been somewhat interested in the story, but I was passed the controller, and the first thing I did was steal a cab. (I had assumed that was the whole point of the game, since, you know, it’s called Grand Theft Auto.) I then proceeded to run over as many pedestrians as I could in a row, just to see how long I could last before getting arrested. I did this multiple times and laughed at the sounds the pedestrians made as I ran them over – is that wrong? Needless to say, I never got very far, and my interest waned, because while it might have been funny the first few times, I did eventually get tired of mowing down innocent civilians.

Mikel Reparaz, GamesRadar

Liberty City couldn’t have been any more aptly named. Here, for the first time, was an enormous, detailed world to explore on my own terms, a giant consequence-free reality in which I was free – and, in fact, encouraged – to behave as though nobody was looking. Driving off cliffs, stealing planes and punching strangers for no reason was exhilarating, and it only got more exhilarating when I discovered cheats that would let me spawn tanks, make cars fly and experiment freely with the game’s weaponry. That it had a pretty interesting plot to follow once I got tired of messing with the citizenry certainly didn’t hurt, and GTA III remained my perpetual go-to game until Vice City came out a year later.

Above: The second I saw this screenshot and realized a 3D GTA was coming, I just about lost my shit

Sure, GTA III seems almost limiting in its scope now – Just one little city? No motorcycles or helicopters? One hard-to-find plane with no wings that handles like garbage? – and its controls (which Vice City quickly improved on) now seem kind of terrible. But so what if it was a little clumsy, and maybe even a little ugly? It was a giant playground that reacted semi-realistically to your every impulse, no matter how bizarre or twisted, and if that’s not worth a few trade-offs, then nothing is.

We’re betting more than a few of you have fond memories of your own. What did GTA III mean to you? Good or bad, share it in the comments below.

What devs think of Grand Theft Auto III
We ask notable game designers about their experiences in Rockstar's watershed game, and how it has shaped the industry