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Ranking all the 3D Universe GTA games based on how good they were

The GTA franchise comprises many classic games (Image via Rockstar Games)
The GTA franchise comprises many classic games (Image via Rockstar Games)

The GTA 3D Universe comprises several games from 2001 to 2006, many of which cemented the series as one of the all-time greats. These titles often invoke nostalgia for old-school fans, and it is easy to see why when one grew up with them and saw their competition at the time. As far as rankings go, it will primarily be about how good they are to play through today.

Here’s a quick overview of every game in the 3D Universe:

  • Grand Theft Auto III
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  • Grand Theft Auto Advance
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
  • Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition

The Trilogy is just a remaster of III, Vice City, and San Andreas, but it does feel different enough to be ranked differently.


Ranking every 3D Universe GTA game

7) Grand Theft Auto: Advance

It's unquestionably the most forgettable game past GTA III (Image via Rockstar Games)
It's unquestionably the most forgettable game past GTA III (Image via Rockstar Games)

Believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto: Advance is part of the 3D Universe. The 3D Universe is merely a timeline that started with the first 3D game (it does not mean that every game in it is 3D). Aside from that common misconception, Grand Theft Auto: Advance is a GTA game that was the lowest-rated game on Metacritic before the infamous GTA Trilogy came out.

It was only available on Game Boy Advance, and it was a return to the 2D-style gameplay that many gamers would not particularly care for today. It has some interesting elements (like some decisions affecting mission layout), but the overall gameplay isn't too reinvigorating by itself.


6) Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition

The graphics are a mixed bag; sometimes they're a huge improvement, and in other cases, they are just laughably bad (Image via Rockstar Games)
The graphics are a mixed bag; sometimes they're a huge improvement, and in other cases, they are just laughably bad (Image via Rockstar Games)

The GTA game is still incredibly buggy and nowhere near as polished as the original three titles. Still, they would feel more familiar to fans of the modern GTA experience compared to Grand Theft Auto: Advance. Besides that, it did introduce a few quality-of-life features that do genuinely improve the game in a few ways (like instant restarts when failing a mission).

It's just that this remaster just isn't good compared to the original games past a few quality-of-life improvements and Unreal Engine lighting. Performance issues and some glitches can make it unpleasant to play through, to say nothing about this game's terrible reputation compared to other modern games.

By comparison, the original three titles were better received than 99% of the titles they were up against at the time. Patches have helped the game, but there is still a long way to go.


5) Grand Theft Auto III

Claude was a silent protagonist, which some people might not care for (Image via Rockstar Games)
Claude was a silent protagonist, which some people might not care for (Image via Rockstar Games)

The game that started it all for the 3D Universe. The transition from 2D to 3D was surprisingly flawless, compared to other series that attempted a similar change. Of course, it is the most dated of the games out of this selection (but it is not as buggy as the GTA Trilogy).

It lacks many quality-of-life features (such as the ability to bail out of moving vehicles) that later games in the series would have. The storyline is still good, and the dark atmosphere still makes the game feel gritty in a good way.


4) Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

One of the less-talked about prequels (Image via Rockstar Games)
One of the less-talked about prequels (Image via Rockstar Games)

Liberty City Stories is set in the same location as Grand Theft Auto III (with some minor differences), even featuring many of the same characters. Not only that, but it has several quality-of-life features that were missing in the game, along with some neat features such as motorcycles.

One downside this game has is that its animations in cutscenes are very stiff and rigid, making some missions seem low-quality (even if the objectives are fine by themselves). Still, it does basically everything the previous game did, except with some modernized touches.


3) Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

This game is just so charming, even today (Image via Rockstar Games)
This game is just so charming, even today (Image via Rockstar Games)

GTA Vice City might not have been as revolutionary as Grand Theft Auto III was for its day, but it's certainly more replayable today. All GTA fans already know how great its soundtrack and audio are, but this title also takes place in the beloved Vice City, which is a colorful setting that is fun and easy to explore.

Its cutscenes don't feel as rigid as Liberty City Stories, and its numerous improvements over its predecessor make Grand Theft Auto: Vice City feel like the more complete package overall.


2) Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

It still has that colorful 80s vibe (Image via Rockstar Games)
It still has that colorful 80s vibe (Image via Rockstar Games)

Vice City Stories is to Vice City as Liberty City Stories is to III. This game is basically an improvement across the board compared to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as it has:

  • Swimming
  • More combat options
  • The option to pay a bribe of $2,000 to keep all weapons when getting Wasted
  • The ability to change clothes in a safehouse

Both are great games in their own right, but Vice City Stories is one of the most underrated games in the series. The Empire Building feature was a fun alternative to San Andreas's Gang Wars feature. Not to mention, it allowed players to save in more locations compared to Vice City's safehouses and assets.


1) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

It's still an all-time great (Image via Rockstar Games)
It's still an all-time great (Image via Rockstar Games)

This game has what so many other titles in the 3D Universe are lacking, such as:

  • In-depth customization
  • Various RPG-like stats
  • New fighting styles
  • Swimming
  • Diving underwater
  • Girlfriends
  • In-game video games
  • Basketball
  • Usable pool tables
  • Dancing
  • And a whole lot more

It was unquestionably the most modernized game in the 3D Universe before the GTA Trilogy, although its Definitive Edition variant can feel rough to play, though it feels noticeably less polished than the original.

GTA San Andreas is a game that many gamers will love for many more years to come and is, in some ways, the pinnacle of old-school Grand Theft Auto games.


Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.

For comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, check out SK GTA Wiki

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Edited by Saman
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