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.