Each rendition of the radar features a portion of a location's map within the immediate vicinity of the player, and shows various blips, representing various points of interest, such as:
- A compass point pointing north (represented by a black "N" blip).
- Mission contact points.
- Mission targets. Initially indicated only by colored squares in GTA III, radars from GTA Vice City onwards specifically use squares for targets on the same physical level (altitude) as the player, and a triangle pointed upwards if the target is above or a downwards triangle if it is below. In GTA IV, the radar uses colored circles; if the target is higher or lower, there will be a small arrow inside the circle.
- Spray shops, gun shops, clothing stores and places where the player can purchase food.
- Savepoints and safehouses.
- Gang colors or territory (GTA San Andreas).
- Custom way points (GTA San Andreas onwards).
Floating pickups, such as police bribes, health, armor, and weapon pickups, rampages, and hidden collectibles are not displayed on the radar even though the player can see them in the game's environment.
The radar in GTA San Andreas is also adapted to support flight. When the player operates a helicopter or freefalls with a parachute, an altitude indicator will appear to the left of the radar showing the player's height from sea level. Additionally, if the player controls a fixed-wing aircraft, an artificial horizon (represented by a semi-transparent green horizon and a horizontal miniature wings) is integrated into the radar, and pitches and banks in accordance to the plane that the player controls. Rows of three yellow blips will also be added into the radar to indicate the position and alignment of the nearest aircraft runway.
From GTA IV onwards, the Health and Armor indicators, which were initially located on the upper right side of the heads-up display, are integrated into the radar, warping around the radar's circular border; the health bar and armor bar each take up half of the radar's circumference, and the health bar will become red and blink if the player's health is low. In addition, the radar from GTA IV onwards also indicates the extent in which law enforcement scouts for the player whenever they have a wanted level.
GTA III — GTA Vice City Stories
GTA IV — GTA Chinatown Wars
GTA Chinatown Wars (PSP version), being closer in design to the GTA IV version (Wanted level radar).