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In 1997, when controversy was still running high over the "immoral" content of games such as Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Carmageddon, Scottish games studio DMA (of Lemmings fame) came out with a game to top them all. Called Grand Theft Auto, it allowed the player to take the role of a ruthless criminal working his way up the ladder of organised crime. The game offered an overhead view of a city, through which your character could walk or drive; the basic objective was to gain enough points—or rather, in the context of the game, earn enough money—to progress to the next level. The lowest-paying activity was damaging cars by fender-benders or by shooting them; more money was earned by stealing cars, destroying cars, and running down pedestrians; more still by selling the stolen cars down at the docks and by killing police officers.

The main source of income, though, was by accepting missions from a faceless, voiceless criminal boss, by either answering certain phones or getting into certain cars. It wasn't necessary to complete or even accept these missions (which could be done in whatever order the player wished), but doing so was worth a lot of money, and raised the amount of money the lesser activities were worth. The missions included such noble exploits as robberies, assassinations, drug-running, kidnappings, and blowing up buildings. All the while, the player had to keep from losing all his lives, as well as keeping out of the clutches of the police.

Ironically, the first game wasn't all that gruesome - simple blotches of red on the pavement marked your kills, and the detail regarding damage to your current car was not high. Still, the game was a massive success, almost entirely on the basis of the controversy it generated. This was deliberately contrived by the game's publishers: they hired publicist Max Clifford to create a furor in the media, which resulted in a huge demand for the game.

In 1999, two expansions were released: Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961. Both were essentially the original game with somewhat different art design, a new setting (London in The Sixties), and a batch of new missions. Also that year came Grand Theft Auto II, which was almost the same as the original but set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, with the chance to save your game (at a steep cost), much improved graphics, and a finicky "Respect" system whereby you could strengthen your standing with one of three gangs by carrying out acts against the other two.

Grand Theft Auto III was an entirely different ball game. It's probably not a coincidence that DMA were now working on a new console and attached to a new publisher: the wealthy Rockstar Games division of Take Two Interactive. First and foremost, the overhead view was done away with, bringing the game into three dimensions instead and allowing for a LOT more gore. An overhead camera could be selected for those who liked the old way, but only in that particular game. Vice City and onwards did away with the option fully.

Also, an actual story was implemented, about a thug who escapes from a prison van, and plots revenge against his traitorous partner in crime/ex-girlfriend while establishing himself in the underworld of Liberty City. Voice actors were brought in for the first time—not just any actors, but respected character actors such as Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, and Michael Rapaport. The number, variety, and complexity of the missions were raised. The radio stations started using licensed material and send-ups of radio commercials and DJ chatter.

The game's success paved the way for a series of games which blurred the line between expansion pack and sequel. DMA, now wholly incorporated into Rockstar as "Rockstar North", came up with two more titles. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City moved the action to a cheery mockery of '80s Miami, introduced motorcycles, and was the first entry where the lead character spoke (with the voice of Ray Liotta, no less). After that came Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, set in early '90s California with a flavor that was less Goodfellas and more Boyz N the Hood. It allowed the player jet aircraft and more than enough airspace to get the use out of them, as well as three cities (expies of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas) with vast, open countryside in between. That, and casting Samuel L Muthafukkin Jackson as the Big Bad. Meanwhile, Rockstar's other studios crafted Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (a prequel to GTA3) and Vice City Stories (a prequel to Vice City) for the PlayStation Portable, and Grand Theft Auto Advance (another GTA3 prequel in the original overhead style) for the Game Boy Advance.

The series' seventh-gen debut, Grand Theft Auto IV, reset the series' canon and went in a Darker and Edgier direction, and saw a return to Liberty City, now fully redesigned to look more like its inspiration. It was the first GTA to have online multiplayer, and it also had two DLC mission packs, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, made for it. Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars, set in the same canon, returned to overhead action for the Nintendo DS, the PSP, and Apple's iDevices. In addition, many of the 3D-era games from the series saw mobile and seventh-gen re-releases which were ported by contract developer War Drum Studios; the mobile port of Liberty City Stories was developed by Lucid Games.

The next major installment in the series, Grand Theft Auto V, was first announced on November 2, 2011 to a lot of hype. Set in a redesigned San Andreas comprising of Los Santos and its adjacent countryside, the game has players take on the roles of not just one but three playable characters, whose abilities can be put to use when the situation warrants it, and participate in six audacious heists whilst under pressure from a corrupt government agency.

Compare Mafia, a more grounded and realistic take on the organised crime genre, and Saints Row, which initially started as an entry to the then-burgeoning open-world crime game, but has since evolved into an over-the-top, campy pastiche of a series. Also, there's Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, both considered to be Spiritual Successors to the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

Not to be confused with the Ron Howard movie of the same name, though you can blame (or thank) that movie for why this likely won't have a film adaptation.

Now has a character sheet.

Works within this series (details on games with their own pages)
The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the Grand Theft Auto (series) franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.

Note: If a trope only applies to a single game in the series, and that game has its own page (see above), then place it on that page. If the trope applies to the many radio stations, TV stations, internet websites, et cetera in the GTA universe, put it under GTA Radio.

  • AKA-47: Averted in San Andreas with the Desert Eagle, AK-47, and TEC-9, and Vice City with the MAC-10, TEC-9, and MP5, (but NOT the M4, the model used in both games is a Colt Model 733) but played straight with every other weapon.
    • Played straight in the IV-era games, which sees generic names applied to all weapons. The AK-47 is aptly named "Assault Rifle", while hilariously, the M4 is called "Carbine Rifle".
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The biker gangs in Vice City and Vice City Stories, and the Lost Brotherhood and the Angels of Death in IV.
  • Alternate Continuity: Starting with IV.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Asuka and Maria in III are implied to be lesbian lovers. Likewise, in IV, it is suggested strongly that Elizabeta is a lesbian.
  • Anti-Hero: Just about every main character in every GTA game falls into this trope, along with plenty of side characters. In the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes it is Type V, though CJ and Niko Bellic can be considered to be a type IV.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A minor character in the original GTA, Samuel Deever, was arrested for suspected cannibalism during a stakeout, urinating on a superior officer's desk, theft of impounded narcotics, malicious wounding of fellow officer on five separate counts, incestuous practices, sexual harassment, reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol, kidnapping, alleged sodomy of a superior officer and enjoying all of the Police Academy movies.
  • Artistic License: Law: Oh, quite a bit of it. The most notable being that as you are driving down the streets causing many fender benders as you weave through traffic the police don't react or pull you over unless you actually hit their car. Evidently "Leaving the scene of an accident" isn't against the law in this universe, but the reason this is the case is that you would spend the entire game evading police for hit and run rather than playing. Also, the police don't seem that interested in you running red lights, making illegal U-turns, or driving on the wrong side of the street. Or on the pavement.
  • Ascended Extra: GTAIII‍'‍s arms dealer Phil Cassidy and corrupt cop Leon McCaffrey in Vice City and Liberty City Stories respectively.
  • Back Seats Are Just for Show: Cars with 2 doors but four seats can't be used to carry more then two people.
  • Badass: Too many to list. Every main character, for starters, as well as plenty of side characters.
  • Ballistic Discount
  • Band of Brothels: The Sex Workers Outreach Project USA didn't take too kindly to Disposable Sex Worker. Their complaints were written off as coming from a Weird Trade Union.
  • Bang Bang BANG
  • Bank Robbery: Occurs in Vice City and IV. The prologue of III is set up by a bank robbery gone bad. San Andreas has CJ committing a string of robberies (including at least one at a bank) with Catalina, as well as robbing a casino in a Shout-Out to Ocean's Eleven.
  • Big Applesauce: Liberty City.
  • Big Bad: Catalina in III, Sonny Forelli in Vice City, Officer Tenpenny and Big Smoke in San Andreas, Massimo Torini in Liberty City Stories, Sgt. Martinez and The Mendez Brothers in Vice City Stories, and Dimitri Rascalov in IV.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The good guys tend to be criminals and the bad guys tend to be even worse criminals.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Played straight for much of the series.
  • Brand X: Played for laughs—in keeping with the game's satirical tone, there are parodies of just about every consumer product in America, from fast food to sneakers to friending networks. To list them all would require a separate page, since they number in the hundreds.
  • Broken Bridge: Played straight in almost every game starting with III (with the exception of Chinatown Wars). In the original GTA you can jump the Broken Bridge in a Ferrari Itali. And indeed, in III, the bridges to Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale are literally broken.
  • Bulletproof Vest: In every game, these act as basically a second health bar when you pick them up. Big Smoke also wears one when you fight him at the end of San Andreas, as does either Dimitri or Jimmy Pegorino (depending on which ending you chose) at the end of IV.
  • Camera Centering: A side effect of using the side view buttons while driving.
  • Camera Lock On: All the 3D games.
  • Canon Welding: The game Manhunt is set in the same continuity as the GTA III canon.
  • Captain Crash: It's surprising how many cab rides in IV end up knocking a light pole over as they drop you off.
  • Car Fu: One of the most effective ways to finish some of the missions is to just run the fool over.
  • Cardboard Prison: When you are arrested, you are simply taken to the police station, stripped of your weapons, and charged with a fine (a hundred dollars in past games, and ten percent of your cash in IV).
  • Chainsaw Good: The chainsaw in Vice City is a one-hit kill weapon, limited only by the fact that the player can't run while wielding it. The chainsaw in San Andreas is slightly less powerful, but still incredibly deadly. Chinatown Wars gets rid of the speed limitation, making for maximum "split tiny tiny people in half" carnage.
  • Church of Happyology: The Epsilon Program, first referenced in San Andreas.
  • City of Adventure: Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. And Anytown, USA.
  • City of Weirdos: You can generally walk around brandishing any weapon you want without drawing attention to yourself. Also, you can indulge in any amount of destruction and carnage, but people will walk past the wreckage without a curious glance. Blow up something and they'll flee in terror... for a few hundred yards, then they forget all about it.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Particularly San Andreas, which is justified in that it helped the "gangbanger" theme. III and Vice City had surprisingly little use of the F word.
    • The uncensored version of the first game also had this, with Bubby (your boss on the first two chapters) and Deever (on "Bent Cop Blues) being the worst offenders. Other bosses are actually quite calm and clean with their language.
    • Ditto for GTAIV as well.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The radio and television shows and in-game websites all depict the GTA world as an over-the-top whacky Crapsack World to rival the likes of Futurama and South Park. This is rather jarring when compared to the (relatively) realistic behavior and human motivations of the characters you actually interact with in the game's cutscenes and storyline, at least in the later games in the series (San Andreas and GTA IV in particular).
  • Confessional
  • Continuity Nod: Tons. Some of the radio DJs alone have their own stories spanning multiple games.
  • Cool Car: Several varieties in all games, just waiting to be stolen.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Zaibatsu Corporation in GTA 2, Donald Love in III and Liberty City Stories, and Avery Carrington in Vice City.
  • Corrupt Politician: GTA loves to give us senators who dress up in women's clothing and have kinky sex, get caught on film, then murder their way out of scandal.
  • Media Research Failure: The game does allow for some horrific violence, but almost never is the player actually required to kill innocents. The actual plotline victims are nearly always gangsters. Tell that to the media.
  • Crapsack World: 90% of the population is either a criminal or morally corrupt. In IV The kicker: Niko still considers Liberty City better than the Balkans.
  • Crew of One: Tanks.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Oh yes it does. However, IV deconstructs this, while Chinatown Wars averts this trope altogether.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The games have different control schemes depending on the system. IV makes it even worse with the change in the driving system.
  • Dead Baby Comedy: A sizable chunk of the game's humor is either this or social satire. Seeing both together can be quite jarring.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tommy Vercetti in Vice City, Niko Bellic in IV and Huang Lee in Chinatown Wars.
  • Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: See Cardboard Prison, but replace "arrested" with "killed", and "police station" with "hospital". Oh, and in IV, you don't even lose your weapons when you get killed.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Asuka, from Grand Theft Auto III.

"Oh, Asuka, you have a massager."
"That's not a massager."

  • Dirty Cop
  • Disposable Sex Worker: And how.
  • The Don: Salvatore Leone from III is the best example.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Good luck getting from one side of town to the other without driving like that. You may be polite the first couple times, but on your umpteenth attempt of a tough mission where you have to drive all the way back to the start point to try again, and you've gotten really angry... well, let's just say the title will fit more and more.
  • Drunk Driver:
    • In IV, you can get drunk at a bar with a friend. The screen gets very blurry, and you swerve all over the road. If the cops see you, they start chasing you.
    • In Vice City, Tommy Vercetti has to drive Phil Cassidy to the hospital after a boomshine accident. Problem is, Tommy is messed up from merely smelling the boomshine, and the cops think he's drunk (which he is). And the screen gets all blurry and the car hard to control.
    • San Andreas did something similar with the last of The Truth's first set of missions, though it's not "drunk" so much as it is "high from the marijuana field you just torched," and the effects aren't as severe as in the Vice City example.
    • Vice City Stories has "Purple Haze", where Vic gets knocked unconscious, falls face-first into a pile of cocaine, wakes up a few minutes later having inhaled a fair amount of it, and has to carry out the rest of the mission (retrieving a stolen van full of drugs) while coked out of his head. The effect is pretty much the same as the drunk effect from previous games, except a purple tint is also applied to the screen.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Rather obvious in III.
    • Returns to some degree in IV.
  • Dumbass DJ: Pretty much all of them.
  • Eagle Land: The setting of every GTA game, with the exception of the London expansions for the original. Played as Type 2, without exception.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first two games were 2D, overhead. III had "Rampages" giving you a free weapon and X time to destroy X cars/people.
  • Easter Egg: A huge amount.
  • The Eighties: In Vice City and VCS.
  • Emergency Services
  • Escape Convenient Boat: Many, though the boats are rarely actually all that convenient. IV, however, plays this straight a couple of times.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Before IV, cars that took enough damage would star flaming and explode within a few seconds. In Vice City and San Andreas, this could even happen if you stomped on the roof long enough. Somewhat averted in IV, where, after enough damage, the car's engine will die. They'll still explode given enough extra rounds though.
  • Every Car Is Rear Wheel Drive: Averted by the 3-D installments, with many cars having different drivetrains.
  • Everything Fades
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Real estate mogul Avery Carrington is a stereotypical Texan, right down to the cowboy hat.
  • Everything's Built With LEGO: Grand Theft Auto: Lego City.
  • Excuse Me, Coming Through: All of them have this in some fashion.
  • Face Heel Turn: Nearly every game has at least one.
  • Feelies
  • Free Rotating Camera: Standard since San Andreas.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: A lot of the protagonists, particularly in the III-era games start out as small time thugs but end up becoming some of the most notorious crime lords in their respective cities
  • Gaiden Game: GTA Advance, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, without a doubt.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: GTA2 was the only game to avert this. There, if you killed members of a particular gang while free roaming, your respect with them will go down, and eventually they will stop giving you missions and start shooting you on sight. In every other game, you can kill a hundred members of a gang, and then take a mission from them five seconds later.
  • Gang-Bangers: While your archetypical 'bangers are present, organized crime isn't treated as particularly different. As such, Claude and Niko are the only protagonists not affiliated with any one gang throughout their game.
  • Gatling Good: The minigun in Vice City, San Andreas, and Chinatown Wars.
  • Genre Busting
  • Guns Akimbo: In San Andreas, you can dual wield the standard pistol (although not the Desert Eagle or silenced variant), the sawed-off shotgun, and the standard sub-machine guns (but not the MP5) after you max out your skill with each respective weapon. Also appears in Chinatown Wars and GTA 2 with the dual pistols.
  • Hammerspace: This is where the protagonists store their arsenals. Slightly resized since Vice City, and IV puts limits on how much ammo you can carry. Niko Bellic is still able to pull helmets out of hammerspace every time he climbs onto a motorbike, however.
  • Hammerspace Police Force
  • Heroic Mime: Claude (unnamed until San Andreas—and an actual mute). He is also believed to be the protagonist in GTA2, thus making his full name Claude Speed.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Oh. So. Much. Even in IV, which had unknown actors for the major parts, they still cast celebrities to do DJ work for the radio stations (the big ones being Juliette Lewis for the indie rock station, Iggy Pop on the classic rock station, and Daddy Yankee on the Latin station). San Andreas has Axl Rose as the DJ for K-DST.
  • Hide Your Children: For obvious reasons, children simply do not exist in the GTA universe(s). Also a recommendation for when you're playing the game.
    • There were meant to be children and even school buses in GTAIII, but they were dropped when the production was delayed after 9/11.
  • Hollywood California: The state of San Andreas, with some Nevada mixed in for good measure.
  • Hookers and Blow
  • Hot Pursuit
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: See Hammerspace.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: Since III, the FBI gets sent in at 5 wanted stars; this is usually the death knell (at least on land). Later sequels gave the FBI hulking (and fast) black SUVs, which means you can't even evade them.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Donald Love is discovered to be one in Liberty City Stories. In GTA2, you get to gather a bus full of "ingredients" and drop them off at the hot dog factory for the Russian Mafia.
  • Inspired By: In more than one of the games, you get a mission where you drive an ice cream van. It's hinted at that these are fronts for drug dealing. Older readers in Scotland will remember the Ice Cream Wars.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: At a rate of one minute per second in the GTA III canon games, and at one minute per two seconds in IV.
  • It's Always Spring: Justified in Vice City by virtue of the fact that Miami is actually like this. Not so much in III though...
    • San Andreas is a particularly Egregious example. One mission has CJ going to Liberty City, where we see snow on the ground (the only time that snow has ever appeared in a GTA game), implying that it's winter at the time of this mission. Yet when he returns home, there's no snow anywhere, not even atop the state's highest mountain.
    • Averted in IV, which takes place in October. All the clothes in the game are long sleeved (mostly jackets and coats), the leaves on the trees have already turned, and there are times where you can see the characters' breath. A specific quote in The Ballad of Gay Tony puts the events of the games after October 3.
  • It's Up to You: Subverted in games where you have a gang, who will happily take down anyone that they see attacking you. Played straight in missions, though. This is especially glaring in the bank robbery mission in Vice City, for which you need to recruit a gunman, a safe cracker, and a driver. None of whom perform their roles and require the player to do them.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: In Vice City and San Andreas, the katana is one of the best melee weapons, as it's a one-hit kill most of the time.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Game: The covers of III, Vice City, San Andreas, and Chinatown Wars.
    • In Chinatown Wars‍'‍ case, the girl on the cover does appear in the game. She just dies like five minutes after she first appears.
  • Land Down Under: A Running Gag in the series, starting with III, is a fictional war between the US and Australia, which the US won handily. Radio ads for the AmmuNation gun store, for example, mention weapons "from when we whooped Australia's ass!" This could be seen as a Take That against Australia's overzealous Media Watchdogs, although the gag dates back to before the Australians earned their reputation for video game censorship.
  • Law of Cartographical Elegance
  • Lemming Cops: Oh, the irony of this particular trope appearing in these games considering some of the developer's older titles...
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • In III, Claude wears only two outfits—a prison uniform (which he only wears in the first mission, or after you enter the proper cheat code), and a black leather jacket with olive drab cargo pants. In later games, the player character has a wide variety of outfits, but most other characters still wear the same outfit whenever you see them.
    • The cutscenes in Vice City seem to assume that you are always wearing the default outfit. For example, the first time you meet Big Mitch Baker he tells you "You don't look like the law, so that's bought you a minute," even if you are wearing the police uniform. The exception is the last Cut scene, which assumes you're wearing the Mr. Vercetti suit.

Ken Rosenberg: It looks like you ruined your suit! And Tommy, that was a beautiful suit!

  • Made of Explodium: More noticeable in some games than in others.
  • Made of Iron: The final boss of San Andreas, Big Smoke, takes several dozen assault rifle bullets to the face to kill and serves as a traditional boss fight (complete with health bar) in a game series which has generally avoided such conventions. In contrast, the final shootouts against Lance Vance and Sonny Forelli in Vice City, Sgt. Martinez and Diego Mendez in Vice City Stories, and Dimitri Rascalov or Jimmy Pegorino in GTA 4 were against reasonably realistic opponents, who had somewhat more health than standard Mooks, but who still went down after a second or so of concentrated gunfire.
    • Most of the player characters also fall into this. Tommy Vercetti, for example, could jump out the 30th floor of a high-rise office building and live. The main exception is Niko, who, in keeping with IV‍'‍s increased realism, can't survive falls greater than a couple of stories, and gets cut down by gunfire fairly quickly.
    • Also more or less averted in GTA 1 & 2. While you could withstand more punishment than the average Innocent Bystander, you were still relatively fragile and could often be instantly killed by explosions, long falls, fire or simply being run over.
  • The Mafia: With the exception of Vice City Stories, they appear in every game in the series, either as good guys, bad guys, or both.
  • Mafia Princess: Maria, although she abandons this lifestyle in III.
  • The Mafiya: Appears in GTA2, and features heavily in the plot of IV, where they wind up becoming the Big Bad.
  • The Men in Black: Mike Toreno in San Andreas certainly qualifies. In IV, there is a shadowy government agency using a paper company as a front (a possible Shout-Out to Heroes) that gives Niko work and ultimately helps him find the man who betrayed him in the Balkans. Niko's first girlfriend, Michelle (or Karen, or whatever her name is), also turns out to be working for them, as Niko finds out when she takes down a drug deal he was involved in.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Vice City and San Andreas. It's debatable, though, because they were so much bigger than III, and added so many new elements to gameplay (especially San Andreas), that many fans will argue that they are the superior games. The Stories games, however, fall very cleanly into this trope.
  • Murder Simulators: Only because it's hard to disassociate this game from the idiocy of Jack Thompson. Thanks to him, it is the Trope Namer in a roundabout fashion.
  • The Nineties: The early '90s in San Andreas, and the late '90s in LCS.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Any PC who isn't a Villain Protagonist.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: This series loves this trope.
    • In Vice City, you get Pastor Richards, an Expy of Jim Bakker and other corrupt televangelists, Jack Howitzer, a parody of '80s action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone (who reappears in San Andreas), and Love Fist, a gleeful mockery of every Hair Metal band ever.
    • In San Andreas, you've got rapper Madd Dogg (three guesses as to who he's an expy of, and the first two don't count—oh, and he's voiced by Ice-T), and Cris Fromage, a parody of L. Ron Hubbard.
    • Averted somewhat in Vice City Stories; Phil Collins appears as himself in a few missions, complete with an ingame performance of "In The Air Tonight".
    • IV, meanwhile, gives us Samantha Muldoon (a Madonna-esque pop singer who has adopted pretty much half the babies in Africa), Jill Von Crastenberg, Cloe Parker, and January Natasha Vasquez (parodies of famous-for-being-famous celebritarts like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian), Tony McTony (a club-friendly rapper whose lyrics are only about money, bling, guns, pimped-out cars, and hot bitches), and Brandon Roberts (a big-name actor who associates himself with liberal causes solely to enhance his public image—oh, and he's also a Scientologist member of the Epsilon Program).
  • No Communities Were Harmed: New York is called Liberty City, New Jersey becomes Alderney, Miami becomes Vice City, Los Angeles becomes Los Santos, San Francisco becomes San Fierro, Las Vegas becomes Las Venturas, and California becomes San Andreas.
  • No Name Given: The player character in III, until San Andreas revealed his name to be Claude. Before that, he was often referred to as "Fido" by fans.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: The first game in the GTA III canon to be released was chronologically the last game in the series, while the last game in that canon, Vice City Stories, was chronologically the first.
  • Not My Driver
  • Oil Slick: Can be used in GTA2 by the player to cause any vehicle make a sharp left or right turn, often crashing into a wall.
  • One-Man Army: Getting your first 100 kills is easy, the first 1000 not too much harder unless you deliberately act the good citizen.
  • Only in Miami: Vice City, baby.
  • Parody Commercial: Wouldn't be GTA without them.
  • Police Are Useless: Are they ever! But you're certainly lucky they are.
  • Police Brutality
  • Production Throwback: The signature "comic panel" cover art since III requires no introduction. Less known is the equivalently long-running tradition of featuring a helicopter on the upper left panel, which makes Chinatown Wars‍'‍ cover art appear a little out of place (The Lost and Damned‍'‍s group shot is exempted, and Advance doesn't count).
  • Punch Clock Villain: The player character.
  • Quad Damage: In the III-era games, the steroid pill slowed down time and made melee attacks ultra-powerful.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The game is, obviously, a popular target for Moral Guardians because of the violence, the language and the sexuality. It largely escapes charges of racism or sexism or xenophobia by making sure no race, gender or nationality escapes the lampooning. Everyone is gleefully stereotyped.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: In every game up to Vice City, you get money for smashing up cars. (Not to mention just about every other illegal activity your character does.)
    • With "Rampages" (and their forerunners, "Kill Frenzies"), the player is given a weapon with infinite ammo, a target and a time limit.
  • Rocket Jump: The "Rhino boost" in III, Vice City and the Stories games is a variation on this. When driving the Rhino tank, you can turn the turret around so that it is pointed behind you. The recoil created by firing the cannon provides you with a speed boost, which easily turns one of the slowest vehicles in the game into one of the fastest. Combine that with the fact that any vehicle that the Rhino so much as bumps into explodes, as well as the vehicle's astounding durability (it takes innumerable rocket hits to finally destroy it), and the Rhino practically becomes a Game Breaker. San Andreas nerfed this ability, though it came back in the later Stories games.
  • Running Gag: Repeated references to the number 69.
  • The Scapegoat: Seems to have replaced Doom and Mortal Kombat as this for teen violence.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Usually played straight. In every game from III to Vice City Stories, if you picked up a prostitute, the only sign that they were having sex was the car rocking; if you changed the camera angles, all you saw was the protagonist and the hooker sitting next to each other. In San Andreas and IV, whenever the protagonist has an Optional Sexual Encounter with one of his girlfriends, the camera is outside with the player overhearing the action. However, there are some notable aversions. When you pick up a prostitute in IV, you can swivel the camera around and see exactly what she's doing. And in San Andreas, one player found and unlocked the code which allows the player to actually participate in the sex, causing a firestorm of moral outrage. (And selling another Eleventy-Zillion copies.)
  • Shout-Out: Mainly to classic crime films, like Scarface, Goodfellas and Boyz N the Hood. The games also occasionally make offhand mentions to Carcer City, where Manhunt, another Rockstar game, was set.
  • Silent Protagonist: Claude from III. This is naturally lampshaded during his cameo in San Andreas.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty far on the cynical end, especially in IV.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: In III and onward, this happens when you hit a stunt ramp at top speed. IV allows this at any moment, provided you're in the (nigh-unusable) cinematic camera.
  • Soft Water: Any game where the protagonist doesn't have Super Drowning Skills. If only they averted this...
  • Status Quo Is God: Some rules of the series have been set in stone via Word of God:
    • Playable characters unique to one specific era - like say, Tommy Versetti or Big Smoke - will ever appear outside their own era. NPCs occasionally will, but not playable characters. The one exception here is Lazlo Jones, who has purposely been made an exception to prove the rule.
    • There will never be a game set in any country other than America. They had this sort of thing before in the 2D-era with Grand Theft Auto: London 1969, but all future games will take place in their fictionalized version of the United States. Rockstar has stated that the games are intentionally meant to parody American culture and society.
    • You will never be able to play as good guys or as police. This is not an "official" edict of Rockstar, but rather a statement made by an insider. While some fans might not like that - seeing as the police in the game do have some cool uniforms and cars - such fans are playing the wrong game. GTA always - and will always - be about playing as a bad guy.
    • You will never see real car brands in the game, period. The licensing deals required for music alone is a very expensive headache for Rockstar, and they have no desire to do the same with cars. Besides, using made-up brands fits the Eagleland theme previously alluded to.
    • GTA prides itself on a game that is Rated "M" for Manly, which is why all playable characters to-date have been male, although a few notable female NPCs have appeared. While leaks and rumors state that a female protagonist is possible in the future, it is not likely there will ever be a main protagonist that is female. Feminist views aside, Rockstar doesn't see a way to make that fit the theme.
    • There will never be a game set in the future. Again, they love to parody American culture, and you can't faithfully lampoon a prediction of future American culture.
    • No celebrities in lead roles. They used to do this, and they have even commented that this was a mistake in hindsight. They'd prefer the characters be unique individuals that are not identified as the actors who do their voices.
  • Strawman Political: Rockstar uses this against both sides, having liberal and conservative strawmen bashing each other on the radio, although the right does seem to get the worst of it. And that's all we're saying on that subject.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Until San Andreas.
  • Take Over the City: In each game you're defeating every possible opposing faction. Though Tommy Vercetti in Vice City is perhaps the straightest example of actively aiming for this goal.
  • Take That: The games are filled with Take Thats against other open-world titles. For example, in III, one mission had you killing an undercover cop named Tanner, who is said to be useless outside of his car—a reference to Driver 2, which was trashed for its on-foot controls. San Andreas, meanwhile, had a billboard reading "True Grime," and a scene with a security guard playing a video game console and proceeding to insult "Refractions" for making such a bad game (Driv3r). "Tanner, you suck ass!"
    • Also, the War Memorial in San Andreas has, at the very top, "R.I.P Opposition 1997-2004".
  • Tank Goodness: Many players never bothered with the plot, instead using the "summon tank" cheat code and going on a rampage around the town.
  • The Taxi
  • Third Is 3D
  • Timed Mission
  • Too Dumb to Live: Many NPCs in this series arguably qualify, though how much is due to deliberate portrayal and how much due to Artificial Stupidity is unclear.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Appears as bad guys in III and LCS, and as allies in San Andreas. They are the main focus of Chinatown Wars.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: This game probably spawned more examples of this trope than any other.
  • Units Not to Scale: Every now and then in the GTAIII era, you'll walk past a storefront with doors either too tiny or a little too big for the character scale. These storefronts are simply filler they didn't have time to scale.
  • Universal Driver's License: Mostly averted in III, where the only vehicles available were automobiles and boats (and one plane that Claude can't get in the air[1]). Played straight, however, in Vice City, San Andreas and Liberty City Stories, where you had common thugs/mobsters hijacking airplanes, helicopters, motorcycles, and even jetpacks. Somewhat justified in Vice City Stories and IV, where the protagonists have military experience and have probably learned how to fly helicopters. Also somewhat justified in San Andreas as far as aircraft; pilot training is a later-game mandatory mission. Also justified by the fact that you have to gain skill with various vehicles before you can drive them competently.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda:
    • Oh God, San Andreas had a ton of these. Perhaps the most prolific were the rumors that Bigfoot (or a Sasquatch, or a Yeti) roamed the forests, and that there were "ghost cars" that drove around in the countryside. The former turned out to have been faked with judicious use of Photoshop, while the latter was a result of abandoned, wrecked cars spawning atop hills and then rolling down them (quick note: when cars spawn, they don't have their parking brake on). Other rumors included zombies (mostly the result of a building in San Fierro that housed a company called "Zombocorp"), UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Jaws, and a masked slasher who ran around the woods with a chainsaw.
    • IV also had a few. There were rumors that Lola, a prostitute who appeared on some of the promo art, could be found in-game, that a creature called Ratman could be found lurking the subways, and that an abandoned factory is haunted.
  • Vice City: The Trope Namer.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Really, it's what the games are all about. The crowner, however, may be a mission in San Andreas where you have to dump a foreman in a hole and bury him alive under cement. While he's in the port-a-potty. The reason? He had been catcalling CJ's sister Kendl, and she didn't like it.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: That doesn't mean that anything goes, however. Start killing a bunch of civilians and they'll eventually send tanks after you, although it would take a long time to get to that level of law enforcement aggressiveness. Killing cops or any other person of law enforcement shoots up your wanted meter tons faster than killing innocent people.
    • In Liberty City Stories, the cops were much more aggressive, with fast police cars (often four at a time) that would ram you constantly, spike strips every ten seconds, and deliberate aiming at the tires (which greatly decreased your car's performance). If any cop managed to get next to your vehicle door, you were insta-busted.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: This depends on the game. In the PSX titles, flamethrowers compensate for their short range with their One-Hit Kill properties; basically, once you're on fire, there's no putting it out. Later games have reduced the flamethrower's effectiveness; in Vice City Stories, a boss character more or less signs his own death warrant by wielding one.
  • Video Game Time: There's a timescale for days and nights and the passage of time in later games, but for timed missions they revert to timing with real time so they give you three minutes to drive to such and such place and this three minutes takes the equivalent of three hours.
  • Villain Protagonist: One of the main reasons for the series' original controversy. In later games, however, Rockstar began to favour anti-heroes.
  • Violent Glaswegian: The developers of the games, Rockstar North, are from Edinburgh. They were previously DMA Designs based in Dundee.
  • Viva Las Vegas: The city of Las Venturas in San Andreas is all about this trope, with most of the missions revolving around the Triad-run Four Dragons Casino and the Mafia-run Caligula's Palace.
  • We All Live in America: The games are filled with references to British (particularly Scottish) places, and British slang is sometimes heard coming from the mouths of the American characters. Also, III and LCS have The Yardies existing in the New York pastiche of Liberty City, despite being a primarily British criminal trope.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Both the Trope Maker and the Trope Codifier, to the point where the term "GTA clone" or "GTA meets X" was used to describe any open-world game in the early-mid '00s (much like "Doom clone" for first-person shooters in The Nineties).
  • Wretched Hive
  • Yakuza: Appears in GTA2 and LCS, and features heavily in the plot of III.
  • You All Look Familiar
  1. can, but requires extreme skill