Metacritic is a useful tool for gauging how good a video game is, especially when it comes to ranking the GTA games based on their average critic reviews.
The top five highest-rated GTA games are surprisingly close in terms of overall scores. There is only a difference of 3% between the highest-rated GTA game and the fourth and fifth highest-rated games. Most GTA titles are critically acclaimed, and they're often considered some of the best video games out there, period.
This list will only consider the game's highest rating. For example, GTA 4 has a higher score on the PS3/Xbox 360 than it does on PC. In this case, the former score will be considered, and the latter one will be ignored.
Also, only their Metascore is considered; user score is irrelevant to their rankings on this list, although they can be mentioned when it's interesting to do so.
The five highest-rated GTA games based on their average critic reviews on Metacritic
3) (tied) Grand Theft Auto Vice City: 95% (PS2)
Seeing the first entry on this list be rated as third and tied with another title isn't an error. With an overwhelmingly high score of 95%, it's surprising to see a game like GTA Vice City rated this "low." It was Metacritic's 2002 PS2 game of the year, though.
It's interesting to note that this game is rated lower than GTA 3, despite making several improvements over it. However, fans should keep in mind that GTA Vice City wasn't as revolutionary as GTA 3 was.
3) (tied) Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: 95% (PS2)
It's worth noting that GTA San Andreas has the highest user rating on Metacritic out of any GTA game. The PS2 version has a user rating of 9.1 out of 10, which isn't too far off from the average critic rating of 95 out of 100.
Still, GTA San Andreas is often one of those GTA games that many fans claim as their personal favorite. It's a genuinely legendary title full of iconic moments and exhilarating gameplay.
Hence, it's not surprising to see it rated so highly (even when compared to other top-tier GTA games).
GTA San Andreas was also Metacritic's 2004 PS2 game of the year.
2) (tied) Grand Theft Auto 5: 97% (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One)
GTA 5 is tied for second place in this list with another game. Still, every serious gamer is aware of what GTA 5 is and how successful it was. This terrific title got a high Metascore of 97 out of 100 for four separate consoles, which showcases how exemplary this game was.
This is the most recent single-player GTA title released, and it's a top-notch game to play through. It's easy to see why over 150 million people have bought GTA 5, which makes it the single most successful GTA game ever released.
2) (tied) Grand Theft Auto 3: 97% (PS2)
It might be hard to believe, but GTA 3 was one of the most influential 3D games ever created at one point. It was a revolutionary game that kickstarted GTA's plunge into mainstream recognition, and it helped make the series evolve to the franchise gamers know and love today.
Even if some believe that it has aged poorly, its critic ratings are reflective of the time it was released. The context will never change, which makes GTA 3's high Metascore of 97 out of 100 extremely impressive.
It's tied with GTA 5 on this matter, which is hard to believe for some gamers.
1) Grand Theft Auto 4: 98% (PS3/Xbox 360)
GTA 4 barely edges out as the number one GTA game of all time when it comes to the average critic reviews on Metacritic. However, it makes sense when looking at it retroactively.
This game introduced the HD universe to the GTA series, which was a massive deal at the time. Better graphics, more realistic physics, and a new shift in storytelling helped cement GTA 4 as a radically new, yet exciting alternative to GTA San Andreas.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.