GTA San Andreas is not just one of the most beloved titles in the history of the GTA franchise but in all of gaming. Some might suggest that GTA San Andreas has found new life on the internet, owing to the viral memes, but the truth is that its popularity never died out in the first place.
The game still manages to bring in new audiences with its brilliant comedic writing and over-the-top action. Despite its age, there are some features that Rockstar introduced in GTA San Andreas that could've been used in later titles in the franchise.
Features like CJ's ability to swim were an absolute game-changer at the time as Vice City fans would often have accidental drownings.
Top 5 things GTA 5 should have borrowed from GTA San Andreas
#5 - The Gym
This might not sound important, but given the choice, players would love to take Trevor, Michael, and Franklin to the gym and have them work their socks off. Not only was the gym a really neat addition to GTA San Andreas, it made the game world feel much more real and added a certain level of depth to CJ.
By going to the gym, the player was not only increasing some of CJ's stats but also giving him a complete makeover by putting on muscle. Each gym also had a melee specialist who teaches CJ new combat techniques and styles like MMA and kung-fu.
This made GTA San Andreas one of the deepest games in the series. GTA 5 could've used some of this depth in fleshing out the gameplay.
#4 - Control over character's appearance
In tandem with the previous point, GTA San Andreas allowed for a ton of player agency, especially with CJ's appearance in the game. Not only could players make him look extremely buff on regular visits to the gym, but they could also make him look quite overweight if he kept eating Burger Shot.
All of this affected the character's stats, adding a level of connection between the player and CJ to a level that was unprecedented. Each action taken by the player had a direct and visual impact on CJ, and that kind of cause-and-effect is extremely powerful.
GTA San Andreas proved that it was willing to take risks and experiment with new ideas and features. It paid off in a big way.
#3 - Gang Recruitment
This feature was rightly missing from GTA 5 as it didn't exactly mesh with the story it was trying to tell. CJ was deep with the Grove Street Families and was regularly involved in its operations and even took part in the many Turf Wars that would break out regularly.
Being an integral part of the Grove Street Families, CJ was able to recruit gang members to accompany him wherever he went. The number of members CJ could recruit was dependant on his Respect level, which would rise with each story mission or successful defense or attack in a Turf War.
The only former gang member in GTA 5 is Franklin, and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the gang life in his neighborhood. It made sense to not have this feature included, but that doesn't mean fans didn't miss it sorely in GTA 5.
#2 - Minor RPG Systems
GTA San Andreas was the first game in the series to start borrowing some RPG elements and give CJ some stats related to Health and Appearance. These included stats like Stamina, Lung Capacity, Driving, Stealth, etc.
Many would be carried over to GTA 5, such as Stamina, Drive, Stealth but many, especially ones to do with appearance, were missing. Stats such as "Muscle" and "Sex Appeal" were also missing.
GTA 5 had RPG elements that were just arbitrary health-related stats that players could upgrade over time. GTA San Andreas did felt a bit like roleplaying and an evolution of the sandbox genre, whereas GTA 5 felt like it scaled back the progress to put out a more focused narrative.
#1 - Las Venturas/San Fierro
No one has had a single bad thing to say about GTA 5's open-world as it is simply one of the best ever made for any video game. It has just the right amount of size needed to stretch a player's legs and is focused enough to not take away from the narrative.
Yet, many players couldn't help but feel sad at the loss of two of their beloved cities from GTA 5's version of San Andreas. The two cities not present in the game were San Fierro (inspired by San Fransisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas), extremely well-made cities with fantastic world-building.
While players still appreciated the addition of Blaine County, Sandy Shores, Paleto Bay, and others, the loss of the two cities from San Andreas was deeply felt.