GTA San Andreas is perhaps one of the most seminal titles of the 2000s, perhaps even more so than the games that succeeded it.
Even though it was set in the 90s, the game serves as a perfect time capsule of the 2000s and how the open-world genre started to come into its own.
Many games, post-GTA 3, have attempted to replicate the kind of effect Rockstar Games had with varying degrees of success. Within a span of four years, Rockstar Games managed to release three GTA games: Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas.
That kind of output would rarely ever be seen again by the publisher, and it is a wonder that neither game felt like it suffered from the lack of a longer development cycle.
To this day, GTA San Andreas is often seen as one of the most polished and enjoyable games of its time.
This article dissects what made San Andreas the cultural landmark it has become today.
5 things GTA San Andreas did better than other games of that time
1) Character customization
One of the most striking features from GTA San Andreas was the level of character customization afforded to the players. From hairstyles to CJ's muscle mass, players can alter just about anything and roleplay as CJ in the game.
Clothing was also a huge addition to the GTA franchise as players could now give CJ all sorts of bold fashion choices and tailor his look according to their taste. This, in turn, made players feel more connected to CJ, which is always a plus in video games.
Rockstar Games have established that there is no other studio that can execute satire quite like them. The GTA franchise is home to some of the most edgy yet sincere satire that is a great example of how to blend comedy with gameplay.
Comedy has famously been a hard thing to land in a video game. But Rockstar Games have consistently proven that they can rise to the challenge.
Even in 2021, GTA San Andreas, owing to great performances from the entire cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, is one of the funniest games one can play.
While titles like Grim Fandango are great examples of witty and intelligent humor, GTA San Andreas seems more accessible.
While it is definitely not a priority for all games to be replayable, it certainly helps the game stand the test of time. GTA San Andreas is replayable to an insane degree, given its fun campaign. So much so that players still replay the campaign in 2021.
While it is replayable, the length of the campaign isn't exactly conducive to back-to-back playthroughs. Instead, the game is perfect for an annual playthrough as many can often forget the best parts.
San Andreas doesn't feel as clunky as other games of its time despite its age, making it the perfect candidate for a revisit.
4) Size and Scale of the Map
While Vice City and Grand Theft Auto III were extensive maps with a decent amount of variety, GTA San Andreas took it to a whole other level.
Not satisfied with just one self-contained city, Rockstar Games decided to flesh out an entire state with multiple cities within it.
Los Santos acted as the primary location for the game's events, with pivotal moments occurring in parts of the state such as San Fierro and Las Venturas. This adds a ton of variety to the game and makes it feel that much larger.
That kind of variety and size was rarely ever seen before and became the benchmark for future games.
5) Interaction with the game world
Whether it was visiting restaurants, gentleman's establishments, or an Arcade, GTA San Andreas's gaming world feels tactile as the player can interact with it.
From maintaining relationships and even going on dates, GTA San Andreas allows the player to truly experience the game world.
For this reason, players can form a strong connection with the game, resulting in the game feel life-like. It certainly helps a game that is trying to emulate and satirize aspects of real-life cities.