For some GTA fans, GTA San Andreas is the greatest GTA game ever made.
Although there will be disagreements about this, there are some aspects about GTA San Andreas that stand out compared to the rest of the series. It isn't just blind nostalgia, either, for GTA San Andreas introduced some genuinely exciting features that fans of any era could enjoy. However, it isn't just the features that are worth talking about.
It's the complete package that makes GTA San Andreas so endearing and memorable to the masses. Older GTA titles have a tendency to fall off hard in terms of relevancy, but GTA San Andreas has some distinctive differences that make it special.
What makes GTA San Andreas so special?
There isn't just one thing that makes GTA San Andreas special. The complete package of GTA San Andreas makes it stand out to the millions of players who have enjoyed the game. While its graphics are nothing special, the rest of GTA San Andreas is so great, that fans are willing to overlook its flaws.
Some video games have legions of fans that enjoy them for the sake of blind nostalgia. While one could argue that a certain degree of GTA San Andreas's popularity is because of nostalgia, it would be foolish to say that it's simply blind loyalty.
GTA San Andreas was a revolutionary game for its time. If one was to look at video games as a whole and the impact certain video games have made on the industry, then they would see GTA San Andreas somewhere there. It wasn't just a highly-rated game; it was a GTA game that introduced a myriad of new features that have become cornerstones of the modern GTA franchise.
It's especially important to compare GTA San Andreas to GTA Vice City and GTA 4, the mainline GTA games that came before and after it, respectively.
The new features
Every GTA game introduces something new. However, the transition between GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas is arguably the biggest change between the two GTA titles from the 3D era onward. By comparison, the differences between GTA III and GTA Vice City felt so minimal.
- A massive amount of customization (tattoos, hairstyles, individual clothing apparel, vehicles, body shapes, and fighting styles)
- More vehicle-based side missions (Burglary and Pimping)
- Gang warfare
- RPG-esque stats
- Swimming & diving
- More collectibles
- The ability to take flight from airports as a passenger
- Rhythm-based minigames (dancing & hydraulics)
- Gambling in a casino
- Local multiplayer (home consoles only)
- Manual aim for all weapons
- And a few other features
As a result, GTA San Andreas feels more alive compared to the previous titles. It did remove a few features from GTA Vice City, but GTA 4 removed a lot more features from GTA San Andreas by comparison.
The later games will have better graphics and physics, but the core gameplay would never be changed from one mainline game to another as much as it was from GTA Vice City to GTA San Andreas.
Story and characters
GTA San Andreas has arguably the most memorable cast out of any GTA game. Villains like Big Smoke and Officer Tenpenny are memorable for how they are as individual characters, especially since some of the quotes they spew are so iconic.
Other GTA games have betrayals taking place, but they're not as heartfelt or memorable as what Big Smoke and Ryder did. Seeing somebody like Stretch go against Lamar and Franklin didn't have the same impact given the way GTA 5's story was set up. By comparison, the player is given several missions attached to both Big Smoke and Ryder.
Big Smoke and Ryder aren't the only characters in GTA San Andreas. Mike Toreno was an iconic character, given that he was a law enforcement character that aided the protagonist in his quest. Then there are other memorable characters like The Truth, Wu Zi Mu, Sweet, and that's just a small section of the cast.
GTA San Andreas is still enjoyable to this day
Other GTA titles can be considered archaic or unplayable in some ways by modern GTA fans, but GTA San Andreas is far less likely to be bundled up with the rest of those games.
There are plenty of side activities for players to enjoy in GTA San Andreas, so they won't feel so empty once they beat the game. The missions themselves are varied, with even the frustrating missions being memorable long after a player beats the game.
If a player ever feels as though GTA San Andreas doesn't bring in enough on its own, then they are more than welcome to try out the thousands of mods that greatly enhance the gameplay experience. There are top-notch mods for graphics and gameplay features alike, which is more than what could be said for some other games.