Rockstar Games knew they had an absolute goldmine on their hands with GTA 3 and its expansive open world. While games like the excellent and seminal Ocarina of Time had experimented with fully realized 3D spaces, players had never seen a city within a game at the scale of Liberty City.
Fans were awestruck at just how much detail, diversity, and variety Rockstar was able to craft with GTA 3. Soon after, word got out that open-world games were truly the future of AAA games. And many tried replicating the kind of energy of the GTA games to varying degrees of success.
By no means does Rockstar have the monopoly on cities in games, but they have consistently delivered the benchmark against which every game is compared to. For instance, Cyberpunk 2077 is still compared, perhaps unfairly, to GTA 5's Los Santos and Blaine County, simply for how well-realized Rockstar's cities are.
This article takes a look at the inspirations behind the iconic open-world cities of the GTA franchise.
Note: This article is subjective and solely reflects the opinion of the writer.
Real-life cities that have inspired the cities of GTA
#1 - Liberty City - New York
Liberty City was one of the first fully-realized open-world locations that GTA fans visited, and it was an absolute shocker. Modeled majorly after New York, Liberty City never fails to impress with regards to its detail, architecture, and overall feel.
The city was revisited in GTA 4, and the version of the city in that game is nothing less than extraordinary. Liberty City was not only the perfect location with regards to the tone of the game, but it also served as a great contrast to the locations players had visited prior to GTA 4.
The city almost feels oppressive, as it bears down on the player with each passing minute. There is a level of coldness attached to Liberty City, but it is also a vastly popular cultural hub for all kinds of art and movements, much like its real-life counterpart.
#2 - Vice City - Miami
For many across the globe, their perception of Miami is based largely on their experiences in GTA Vice City. The game takes major cues from real-life locations as well as locations from the movie Scarface, which was shot in Miami.
It's based on an extent where the game includes perfect recreations of the locations from the movie. 80s Miami serves as one of the best ideas for a game setting as it lends itself to a brilliantly nostalgic yet fresh experience.
The game, with its neon and 80s aesthetic, was perhaps single-handedly responsible for the Retrowave movement. Vice City will go down in history as one of the best open-world cities of all time.
#3 - San Andreas - State of California
GTA San Andreas took it several steps further, as Rockstar wasn't just content with one city and chose to have an entire state. This meant that there would be several cities and even counties (in GTA 5) present in the state of San Andreas, which is absolutely mind-boggling.
The central hub of both GTA San Andreas and 5 was Los Santos, which was modeled mostly after the city of Los Angeles. Other cities such as San Fierro were based in San Fransisco, while Las Venturas was based on Las Vegas.
While it isn't geographically accurate for Las Vegas to be a part of the state of California, it is down to artistic freedom that Rockstar chose to do that.