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GTA games in chronological order

(image credits: Mikel, youtube)
(image credits: Mikel, youtube)
Rahul Bhushan
Modified 18 Sep 2020, 17:45 IST

The GTA franchise has made a massive impact on the industry. Each release in the GTA franchise is a global event in gaming, with fans awaiting the games with bated breath before their release.

All the GTA games have a shared universe, meaning, they all take place within the same world. This is most commonly seen as characters from other games in the series make appearances sporadically in other titles.

In addition to this, the GTA series doesn't strictly follow a strict timeline of events with each game. For example, the next GTA game is rumoured to be set sometime in the early 80s, which is obviously in stark contrast to GTA V's 2013 setting.

Therefore, we take a look at the mainline entries in the GTA series and see which game's events took place first in the timeline of the series.

GTA Games in order of the year they are set in

Note: Grand Theft Auto II was set in an unspecified year. Therefore it is not placed on the timeline of events in the series.

1) Grand Theft Auto Vice City- 1986


The 4th installation in the famed GTA franchise was the first one to experiment with a dated setting. The game was set in Vice City, which takes significant inspiration from the real-life city of Miami.

Dan Houser and his love for the 80s shine through in GTA Vice City, even taking major cues from films like Scarface and Carlito's Way to craft the neon-drenched cityscape and characters.

The game, although, the 4th one to be released, is indeed the first one chronologically.

2) Grand Theft Auto San Andreas- 1992

The next game in the series after GTA Vice City also refused to go back to the modern setting of previous games in the franchise.


Set right around the time of the rise of Grunge music from Seattle and Gangster Rap from the West Coast, GTA San Andreas is the perfect time capsule for the early 90s.

Games that are dated by design never run the risk of becoming outdated or obsolete, as many of the games set in the modern era do.

3) Grand Theft Auto- 1997

The first game in the series is surprisingly not the first game in chronological order, as it was set during the year of its release, 1997. The game is a whole lot of fun, especially when younger players first get to experience the game.

Discovering dated technology such as pagers, which is a huge part of the game, is very characteristic of the late 90s.

4) Grand Theft Auto III- 2001


GTA III's release was one that was plagued with a lot of controversy as the game's release coincided with the September 11 attacks, leading Rockstar to alter a lot of the game's content.

The game was set relatively close to the year of the game's release and was revolutionary. Its open-world structure set the benchmark for other games in the genre to be measured against.

The game was able to succeed on a lot of levels, leading the industry to evolve and adapt the open-world genre as the most commercially viable one.

5) Grand Theft Auto IV- 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV took the series back to modern times after San Andreas and Vice City's trip down the memory lane. The game was more grounded in reality than any other title in the GTA franchise.

Very characteristic of this period, in both films and movies, was the weird obsession with desaturated colour palettes and the need for everything to be "dark and gritty".

While Grand Theft Auto IV also fell under that umbrella, it has still managed to retain the series' charm better than most other games that followed the trend.


6) Grand Theft Auto V- 2013

GTA V is the most recent game in the franchise, and it has been seven years since audiences have gotten another game in the series. It is also set in modern times, and is slowly but surely running the risk of becoming outdated with time.

While the game isn't considered outdated by any measure, the game's soundtrack in the Radio stations is, in fact, seven years old at this point.

GTA V is truly representative of modern times, and much of the game's satire holds true, even in 2020.

Published 18 Sep 2020, 17:45 IST
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