GTA games in order of the years they are set in

GTA games gave had different settings and myriad characters (Image via LoadGamePL, YouTube)
GTA games gave had different settings and myriad characters (Image via LoadGamePL, YouTube)

The GTA franchise has demolished all previously held records for sales and holds a position in pop culture that only a handful of games in the history of the industry have been able to.

Not only in terms of financials, but Grand Theft Auto has also been culturally influential and has changed the course of the industry, perhaps forever. The release of GTA 3 saw a significant shift in the industry as it ushered in the era of the open-world game.

It is a genre that continues to dominate the gaming zeitgeist today, and GTA is held up to be the finest example of what it is capable of. The franchise has gained this level of reverence through its technical brilliance and storytelling.

Rockstar Games has crafted endlessly enjoyable and breathtaking worlds, characters, and stories that have captivated audiences for decades. GTA has experimented with different time periods, skipping back and forth, continuously looking to raise the bar.

Here's a look at each mainline entry in the series in chronological order, should players want to play all of them in sequential succession.

GTA games, in order of the years they are set in

Note: The GTA series need not be played in chronological order since not all stories lead into one another. They act as individual, self-contained stories, albeit with recurring characters from other games in the series.

#1 - Grand Theft Auto Vice City: 1986


Even though Vice City came out in 2002, it is the oldest game in the series in terms of timeline. Barring GTA Vice City Stories, it is the oldest mainline entry in the franchise, set in 1986.

The setting of 80s Vice City inspired by Miami makes for one of the most beloved open-world locations in gaming history. From a lush, eccentric, and eclectic soundtrack to the architecture and clothing, everything is perfected to a tee, which shows just how immaculate Rockstar is when it comes to attention to detail.

#2 - Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: 1992


GTA San Andreas was set right when West Coast Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap began to dominate the charts with acts like N.W.A. In Seattle, the Grunge scene began to explode with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, and all of it is perfectly captured in this game.

GTA San Andreas truly is a time capsule of the highest order, and it takes just five minutes for the player to be utterly awestruck at the brilliance of Rockstar's open-world.

Each aspect of the world is handled with great care, and Los Santos continues to be one of the best ever ideas by Rockstar.

#3 - Grand Theft Auto: 1997


Note: The year Grand Theft Auto II is set is unclear, as no mention of it is made during the events of the game.

The first game in the series and the grand-daddy of the franchise, GTA burst onto the scene in a violent flash of blood, skid marks, and bullets. The core gameplay loop benefitted from the simple, accidental addition of the police's behavior, which led to one of the greatest franchises in gaming.

The first Grand Theft Auto might not have been the most polished title by any stretch of the imagination, but it did its job well, and the GTA franchise was off to a decent start.

#4 - Grand Theft Auto 3: 2001


The two games that followed, San Andreas and Vice City, did not have a numbered title and were the only two titles in the series to have been set in an older period.

If the pattern is to be believed, then every game in the series with a numbered title is set at the time of its release. However, that logic begins to waver a little when considering just how long games take in development in the modern era.

GTA 3 was set right at the start of the new millennium and feels every bit the 2000s as a game possibly can. With baggy cargo attire to a slick, blueish tint over the game, GTA 3 is indeed a great time capsule for players to experience the 2000s all over again.

#5 - Grand Theft Auto 4: 2008


GTA 4 marked the series returning to modern times after visiting San Andreas and Vice City in 1992 and 1986. The fourth numbered title was the biggest change in the game's creative direction since the earliest days of the franchise.

The series took a much darker turn and a far more serious story than the series had told up to that point. Niko Bellic's story truly struck a chord with fans and critics and still sits atop the series as the highest-rated GTA game on Metacritic.

#6 - Grand Theft Auto 5: 2013


Perhaps the most seminal entry in the series, even more so than GTA 3, Grand Theft Auto 5 has truly set the bar for every open-world game that has come out since. The game has stood the test of time amazingly well and never feels like it has been seven years since it was released.

Its commentary and satire remains as relevant as it was back then, albeit a little less layered or nuanced. Regardless of its flaws, GTA 5 remains a fantastic achievement for Rockstar and a timeless entry in the franchise.

#7 - Grand Theft Auto Online: 2013 and beyond


The fact remains that Grand Theft Auto Online is much more than PvP deathmatches and adversary modes. The game tells great, over-the-top stories and even picks up the pieces from the story mode.

It was meant to be a prequel to 2013's GTA 5 but has moved past that and into 2020 with the Cayo Perico Heist DLC.

For The Biggest GTA 6 Map Leaks, Click Here.

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Edited by Ravi Iyer