GTA III Era
The GTA III Era refers to six Grand Theft Auto games: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto Advance, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
These games are grouped together mainly because they use the same game engine, have the same aesthetics, follow the same game structure and have interlinking characters, locations and storylines. This is also known as the third generation of GTA games from 2001 to 2006.
Games in the GTA III Era
Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto III (2001) was set in fictional Liberty City (based on New York City) in 2001. This game brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. While not the first of its kind, the gameplay engine had expanded the explorable world, doing away with a traditional game structure where the player faces a "boss" at the end of the level and moves onto a new level, opting instead for more realistic mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay) but GTA III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and storyline (before, there was speech only in short animated cutscenes between levels, other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen). Pop culture also is cemented into GTA III, drawing many aspects and ideas from popular films and shows such as Scarface, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos.
Grand Theft Auto III sold very well and became the first blockbuster game in the series, setting the precedent for subsequent GTA titles to be very successful. GTA III also attracted heavy criticism for its violence against police and its indifference to innocent bystanders, making future games in the GTA series synonymous with violence. Following the success of GTA III, the rest of the games in the GTA III Era are stand-alone prequels, as all take place before GTA III chronologically.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), was set in 1986 in Vice City (based on Miami). Influences for the game include movies such as Scarface, Carlito's Way and the TV series Miami Vice. In fact, the entire basic storyline of the game is an homage to Scarface, including the climactic gun-fight in the main character's mansion at the end. GTA Vice City was an improvement on the scale of GTA III, although featured very little in the way of terrain.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) was set in 1992 in the fictional state of San Andreas (based on California and Nevada) consisting of three cities: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). The player is also able to return to Liberty City during one mission. Inspiration came from movies such as Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society, and early 90s west coast gangsta rap culture and groups such as N.W.A.
GTA San Andreas expanded on previous RPG elements, adding the ability to dress the player's character, exercise, and tattoo him. These elements also have an effect on gameplay as other characters would comment on the player character's physique or clothes. The character could also swim (something missing from previous games).
GTA San Andreas also attracted heavy controversy when it was discovered that a sex minigame that was cut from the game could be enabled (See Hot Coffee). As a result, GTA San Andreas was pulled from a number of retail outlets and was re-rated from "M" (Mature) to "AO" (Adults Only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) - the first game in the series to be given an AO rating. Rockstar has since released an edited version of the game for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, and has reclaimed the "M" rating.
Grand Theft Auto Advance
Grand Theft Auto Advance (2004), originally intended to be a top-down conversion of GTA III for the Game Boy Advance, it ended up becoming its own completely original adventure, set roughly a year before GTA III. The game was set in Liberty City. It is disputed whether GTA Advance belongs in the GTA III Era, because it does not look like the other games, and is for a completely different format.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006), the second PlayStation Portable game, was released on October 31, 2006 and set in 1984 Vice City. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on March 6, 2007.