GTA III was the first game that propelled the GTA franchise to superstardom, but GTA 5 pushed the envelope. Fans of the game love to compare titles in the franchise for fun and analysis. The massive expansion of the series mandates a critical look into the games.
Both GTA III and GTA 5 have a Metacritic score of 97/100. Obviously, the two games didn't age equally, and that score is more reflective of the time period the games were made in. However, it's important to understand the various elements that define the two games.
GTA III is still a good game. This article isn't meant to dissuade players from enjoying it. Instead, the article focuses on how much the franchise has improved its legacy. Without GTA III, there would obviously be no GTA 5. However, fans can still have their opinions about gameplay, story, and characterization.
GTA III vs. GTA 5: How the series has evolved
In essence, GTA 5 has greatly improved upon the original GTA III formula. GTA III was revolutionary for its time, so it should be interesting to eventually see GTA 5 viewed in a similar vein of being outdated. Surprisingly, GTA III isn't entirely outclassed by GTA 5, so it's best to start where GTA III shines by comparison.
Surprisingly, the story in GTA 5 isn't that remarkable. It's one of the weakest in the series for some fans, as splitting the storyline between three protagonists is messy at times, with some people like Franklin feeling woefully underdeveloped thanks to this split.
GTA III's story is simplistic, but some fans might prefer that over what they might perceive as a convoluted mess. There's nothing wrong with a revenge story, so this is one of the very few categories GTA III still holds up well to GTA 5.
However, side characters don't get much of a story in GTA III, so one downside is worth mentioning.
Unsurprisingly, most fans would prefer GTA 5's radio stations over GTA III's. However, that wouldn't be a fair assessment, as musical taste is subjective. GTA III has some classics, like Paul Engemann's "Push it to the Limit" and Giacomo Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro."
Still, there are noticeably fewer songs in the game as a whole compared to GTA 5's selection.
The main drawback to GTA III's radio stations compared to GTA 5 is how bland the commercials are. GTA is well-known for funny, witty commercials, but GTA III's writing isn't as strong as GTA 5's, leaving their DJs also to seem unimpressive.
GTA 5 might not be perfect graphically, but it should be more than impressive enough to stand the test of time. GTA III, by comparison, is noticeably dated. GTA III doesn't use an art style to be timeless, so its attempt to be more realistic doesn't work in GTA III's favor.
Ignoring technical limitations, GTA III's world is also not exciting to look at. The city is lifeless at times, which is only further exacerbated by its outdated graphics. GTA 5 will be outdated in the future, but the cities are full of life.
As a result, GTA 5 is more charming, as everything from vehicles to NPCs look significantly better.
GTA 5 has the most extensive map out of any GTA title. One might argue that Blaine County shouldn't count, as there are large areas of nothingness. But the city of Los Santos helps GTA 5 feel significantly more alive than GTA III's Liberty City.
Unfortunately for GTA III, it just doesn't compare to GTA 5 in this manner. GTA III still holds a lovely world. It's only that GTA 5 has perfected the world more efficiently by comparison. This doesn't include other GTA titles that have great maps.
GTA III also doesn't have much to do other than missions and Hidden Packages, which hurts its gameplay.
GTA III was a huge improvement over GTA 2 in terms of gameplay. It masterfully approached the 3D sandbox-style that would be distinctively known as "the GTA style." Other games of a similar style would later be criticized as a "GTA clone" if it wasn't a GTA game, no matter how minor the similarities were.
GTA 5 has over a decade of other gameplay additions bundled up over GTA III. It isn't fair to compare the two games in this manner, as there's an enormous gap in all categories. Some things, such as story and music, are subjective.
Things like graphics, while prominent, can be forgiven with top-notch gameplay. However, GTA III doesn't have the charm other old games like GTA Vice City have, which greatly hurts its appeal to the current generation.
GTA III's characterization is, quite frankly, abysmal. It's not a rare sight for players to forget some of the GTA III characters' names, given that they seem to exist solely for giving out missions.
By comparison, GTA 5's cast is full of interesting people that seem far more alive.
GTA III is still a good game, but it's surprising to see how poorly it fares more than a modern GTA title. Like Super Mario 64, other older games can still charm new fans within their respective series, but GTA III isn't as exciting.
The next game in the franchise, GTA Vice City, is still beloved today, so there should always be some GTA III fans willing to defend its universal praise (at the time).