Rockstar's GTA franchise is no stranger to controversies.
Controversies among the GTA franchise are a core element of its identity as a franchise. Considering the history of controversies within the GTA franchise is surprisingly vast, the biggest controversies are the ones players often wonder about. This article will focus on the more noteworthy controversies that have significant ramifications on the history of GTA.
Not all controversies are bad. Some have had positive effects on the GTA franchise, but negative controversies are the ones fans often remember the most.
The five biggest controversies that the GTA franchise and Rockstar have been involved in
#5 - By the Book
"By the Book" is a GTA V mission where Trevor Philips has to torture a man to extract valuable information. Among the several torture options was waterboarding which made several critics uncomfortable and understandably so. There are elements of satire thrown into the mission, particularly political jabs regarding the effectiveness of torture.
However, while journalists do acknowledge that, they also say that it was done in poor taste, and it could have been executed better if that was Rockstar's intent. GTA has always been known to be a violent series, but "By the Book" took it up a notch as GTA V's most noteworthy controversy.
#4 - GTA 1
Technically, the controversy around GTA 1 was paid for by Rockstar (known as DMA Design then). They paid Maxwell Clifford, an English publicist, to spread rumors about how violent this new game was going to be and how parents should be aware of it. True enough, people were aware of this unknown game series.
GTA 1 sold over one million copies in 2000, which was amazing for an unknown game with no heritage to speak of. Some fans would argue that this controversy is the prime example of bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. Without this controversy, GTA could've been a more niche series like several other violent games nobody remembers to this day.
#3 - Killing prostitutes and taking back one's money
GTA III was looked down upon by several moral people believing that the violence it inspired was bad for society. However, as far as controversies go, it was the act of accepting prostitutes and then killing them afterward to get back most of one's money that most people seemed to have an issue with. Players didn't have to do that, but the fact that players could do it made some people very uncomfortable.
The Australian version of GTA III doesn't allow players to pick up prostitutes anymore, but that is just one part of the world. GTA has been censored a few times due to controversies, but this particular controversy was condemned by a lot of the media back in the day. The National Organization for Women hated it as well, as they saw it as violence towards women and condemned Rockstar Games for allowing it to happen.
#2 - Haitian & Cuban representation
Both Cubans and Haitians are portrayed in the best of ways in GTA Vice City, but particularly the portrayal of the Haitians that stirred up the most controversy. The Haitian Centers Council and Haitian Americans for Human Rights hated how they were portrayed in GTA Vice City. They even organized a protest in New York around November 2003 to show their displeasure.
Future versions of GTA Vice City would have the violence described towards the Haitians toned down, with dialogue being edited to reflect that. Considering some fans of GTA Vice City would argue that the Haitian and Cuban representation was a low point in the entire game, it was only fair that some of it could be corrected in future versions.
#1 - Hot Coffee
While sex plays a large role in the GTA series, it has been absent for players to see for plenty of obvious reasons. Likewise, there is a reason why the Hot Coffee minigame was abandoned early on. Unfortunately for Rockstar, they didn't fully remove the minigame, so modders could easily trigger it to happen again. This meant that most players wouldn't be able to do it, but the sheer outrage towards it was easily the most controversial in the GTA series.
There was a time where GTA San Andreas would've been considered to be labeled as "Adults Only," which would've killed sales massively with such a strict restriction. Considering most players wouldn't have been able to see it, it was strange that the media portrayed it as something everybody could've seen if they had this wicked game. Critics of the GTA franchise already disliked it for several controversies, but Hot Coffee added so much fuel to the flames that it was terrible for Rockstar, as it cost them nearly $20,000,000 in lawsuits.
Note: This list is subjective and reflects only the writer's opinions.