A Grand Theft Auto clone, also known as a GTA clone, is a term used by gamers and video game critics for a game that emulates, or has gameplay elements similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, following the success of Grand Theft Auto III in 2001. Specifically, a GTA clone is typically an action sandbox video game that usually contains a large free-roaming map that can be explored on foot or in a vehicle, with mission and side-missions displayed on a mini-map for the player.
Notable examples include the Saints Row series (2006-), The Simpsons Hit & Run (2003), Mafia (2002), and DRIV3R (2004), which was parodied and/or referenced several times in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
The term also applies to games that, although it does not involve violence or wielding weapons, it still has elements similar or otherwise lifted from the GTA III era, such as Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Tony Hawk's Underground (2003), Bratz: Rock Angelz (2005) (which one of the reviews even called "GTA for girls", and, coincidentally, uses the same RenderWare engine as the GTA III series), Bratz: Forever Diamondz (2006) and Jaws Unleashed (2006).
As a result of such similarities, Rockstar has placed several Easter eggs to mock the competition.
In Grand Theft Auto III, Claude is tasked with a mission called "Two-Faced Tanner", where they must kill an undercover cop (that Asuka describes as "strangely animated"). This "Tanner" character is described as being "totally useless outside of his car", a reference to the uselessness of on-foot action in Driver 2. Rockstar even went as far as to give Tanner female walking animation.
In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, during the mission "Autocide", the targets that Tommy Vercetti must kill are subtle references to the main characters of Driver 2 (Dick Tanner, after Tanner), The Getaway (Marcus Hammond and Franco Carter, after Mark Hammond and Frank Carter), and True Crime: Streets of LA (Nick Kong, after Nick Kang Wilson). DRIV3R responded by including enemies named "Timmy Vermicelli" (after Vice City protagonist Tommy Vercetti), who wore waterwings, since no one in the GTA series could swim before GTA: San Andreas.
As a mockery of DRIV3R, San Andreas included a mission where, while breaking into Madd Dogg's mansion, there is a man playing a video game and making fun of the way the main character walks (Tanner's walking animations were often criticized) and asking how "Refractions" (A spoof of Reflections Interactive, the designers of the Driver Series) could have "made something this bad".
Luxoflux, makers of True Crime: Streets of L.A., also responded by putting up billboards in their game mocking the Rockstar Games logo used to advertise jockstraps around Los Angeles, California. In response to the "Jockstrap" billboard, another San Andreas Easter egg mocks True Crime, which was depicted on several billboards in the city of Los Santos as "True Grime". This is also evident in the "TRUEGRIME" vehicle cheat code in San Andreas that spawns a garbage truck on input, mocking True Crime. One mission features Ryder, before entering and robbing a house, crying "Yeah, yeah, we gotta do it ninja style.", a coin phrase for the True Crime protagonist, Nick Kang. And in a cemetery in San Fierro, gravestones with "R.I.P. Opposition, 1997-2004" can be seen, as Rockstar implies that San Andreas has "killed" the competition.