Why GTA San Andreas is unquestionably the best game in the 3D Universe

An iconic masterpiece, even by Grand Theft Auto standards
An iconic masterpiece, even by Grand Theft Auto standards (Image via Rockstar Games)

Of all the Grand Theft Auto games in the 3D Universe, GTA San Andreas stands out as the best title of the bunch. CJ's journey through Los Santos to the other islands is something that many players still fondly look back to today. It's not just the story that's memorable. The gameplay is the best it ever was for a Grand Theft Auto game of its era, with several other titles lacking several key features worth discussing later.

Some people even love GTA San Andreas more than the titles in the HD Universe (like Grand Theft Auto V and Online).

It wouldn't be completely asinine to have that opinion, either. At the very least, it's worth looking at the 3D Universe as a whole and comparing it to CJ's game.

Note: Some aspects of this article are subjective.


How GTA San Andreas stands above the rest of the 3D Universe

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This is a list of all 3D Universe games worth analyzing in this article:

  • 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

It's a common misconception that Grand Theft Auto Advance isn't part of the 3D Universe. Technically speaking, the 3D Universe only refers to an in-game universe where all events, characters, etc. are tied together.

On a related note, the Trilogy is a remaster of three games, one of which includes GTA San Andreas, so the Trilogy won't be referenced much below.

One thing to say about the Trilogy: Definitive Edition is that it was very poorly received at launch. This was due to many bugs and very weak art direction and visuals for a remaster, which led to massive review bombing from audiences. Such an issue was never prevalent in the original titles.

Most protagonists couldn't swim like CJ could (Image via GTA Wiki)
Most protagonists couldn't swim like CJ could (Image via GTA Wiki)

Storyline discussions are subjective, making comparing them between games rather difficult.

However, players can still look at gameplay features unique to GTA San Andreas since that's content that's objectively missing in most other early to mid-2000s titles.

For example, swimming is absent from most of the aforementioned titles. Apart from GTA San Andreas and its remastered Definitive Edition, only GTA Vice City Stories features swimming. Even then, players cannot dive underwater in that game like CJ could in his own title.

An example of a unique mission type absent in other games (Image via ZMOONCHILD)
An example of a unique mission type absent in other games (Image via ZMOONCHILD)

Superior sales figures

Although modern sales data from Rockstar Games isn't publicly available for the old Grand Theft Auto titles, there are some 2022 metrics gamers could view.

According to Statista.com back in August 2022, these were the sales figures for the 3D Universe titles:

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: 27.5 million copies
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 17.5 million copies
  • Grand Theft Auto III: 14.5 million copies
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories: 8 million
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories: 4.5 million copies
Some sales figures from August 2022 (Image via Statista.com)
Some sales figures from August 2022 (Image via Statista.com)

Hence, it's also clear that GTA San Andreas sold very well compared to the rest of the 3D Universe.

Grand Theft Auto Advance wasn't listed above, as its data figures aren't easily accessible. VGChartz claims only ~240,000 copies were sold, but there is no verification for that figure.

Either way, only Grand Theft Auto V has better sales than GTA San Andreas.


Legacy

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GTA San Andreas is still widely talked about in various online communities today. For example, many popular YouTubers such as TheJizzy and nikitozz still publish successful videos. That's not even mentioning the game's massive modding scene.

No other 3D Universe game has nearly as many mods as GTA San Andreas. For example, GTA Inside has 6,055 files listed under "modifications." The same website only has 1,087 and 1,088 for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and III, respectively.

Unfortunately, the Trilogy's lack of popularity means many gamers still rely on the original game for all their modding needs. Needless to say, GTA San Andreas has a strong case to be made for being the best 3D Universe title.

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Edited by Yasho Amonkar
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