The Grand Theft Auto series has for almost two decades set the standard for the open-world genre. The franchise almost single-handedly put Rockstar Games on the map, and continues to be among the most beloved, played and critically acclaimed video game series’ of all time.
That its best traits aren’t exclusive to open-world shenanigans and core gameplay features says a lot about the quality and depth of each entry: from the characters, to the stories, and even the cities themselves, Rockstar continues to break the ceiling of industry standards and gamer expectations.
Part of what makes Grand Theft Auto so appealing and fun is the unbridled freedom of exploration and discovery, fuelled by rich game worlds that have a secret waiting to be discovered around every corner.
Some of these secrets are purposefully designed to get the community talking, sharing and theorising, while others are, rather comically, almost exclusively derived from fan creativity: there’s no official word on the legitimacy of some of the more detailed, interesting and downright ridiculous fan theories floating about.
You certainly can’t blame the community for looking at GTA games this way: Rockstar’s intent has always been to parody American culture, often doing so with sneaky and subtle Easter Eggs hidden throughout the game world.
Some of these Easter Eggs have grown into monumental conspiracy and fan theories, and while most (all) are utterly insane, there’s almost always an element of consistency and realism that makes one think that maybe — just maybe — the theory has some actual weight.
Whether or not Rockstar would actually go to such great lengths to blend all of its games, characters and game worlds together to form such coherent theories is up for debate, but considering the scope and depth of their games, it’s not so ridiculous.
With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the best — and most ridiculous — GTA fan theories floating about.
Fan Theory #1: GTA V is just a testing ground for GTA 6
You can add this fan theory into “maybe but probably not but I wouldn’t be surprised” territory, because it doesn’t sound that far-fetched.
There’s no denying Rockstar’s pedigree as a game developer. The studio knows exactly what its fans want, and it has a pretty good track record in meeting deadlines and fan expectations.
There is one exception, however, and that’s been with GTA V.
The GTA V community and fanbase is somewhat split: while GTA Online continues to dominate the charts and rake in the big bucks for Rockstar and parent company Take-Two, there probably isn’t a single diehard GTA Online player that wouldn’t prefer some single-player DLC, or perhaps even GTA 6.
The simple explanation as to why we haven’t received anything in the way of GTA V DLC is that:
- Rockstar is working on Red Dead Redemption
- GTA Online is making too much money and they don’t want to disturb that
- GTA 6 is just far too ambitious that it’s going to take many more years to develop.
Makes sense, right? We probably shouldn’t expect any less. But of course there’s a fan theory floating about.
Rockstar’s approach with GTA V is certainly at odds with what it did with GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption: both games had deep multiplayer offerings, but they also both got large single-player expansions. GTA V, on the other hand, hasn’t, with Rockstar focusing exclusively on GTA Online.
The reason for that — according to a tinfoil hat fan conspiracy — is because Rockstar is constantly analysing data from GTA Online and GTA V, and this in-turn is helping them shape what will be the company’s greatest ever creation: GTA 6.
Okay so this doesn’t sound all that crazy: GTA Online has proven to be super successful, and it makes sense that the company would simply keep it active and self-sustainable while they take all of the data and focus on GTA 6. Think about what they could gather from that data regarding the different play styles of gamers.
The idea that GTA V was always just a testing ground for GTA 6 seems too far-fetched, and it certainly is: Rockstar definitely had single-player DLC plans before GTA Online proved to be so successful. That the company may simply be using GTA Online now as a resource to build GTA 6? That’s certainly plausible.
Fan Theory #2: The islands of GTA act as metaphors
I like this fan theory not only because it’s fun and it really ties into the whole tone and style of Grand Theft Auto, but also because it’s just straight-up bonkers and demands that we throw out any potential technical limitations that the developers may have faced.
As you would surely know, every GTA game world has been surrounded by a body of water. These major cities obviously aren’t connected to a country — although they could simply be set off the mainland — which makes one think that they are self-contained countries.
Now of course, the reality of this design decision is that Rockstar didn’t want to break player immersion, and so instead of having invisible walls, it simply surround its virtual cities with water, in which you’ll drown or be eaten by a shark should you try to venture too far off land.
So while you won’t be able to trek endlessly beyond the border of the city, at least you don’t smack into an invisible wall: there’s a realistic “roadblock” there to stop you from progressing (a shark in GTA V, for example).
Of course Redditor angrypuppy had to take it a step further, however, offering up a theory that really gets you thinking.
They theorise that the worlds of Grand Theft Auto, and, specifically, GTA V, are surrounded by water because they represent the close-mindedness of Americans.
“In GTAV while walking around the streets you hear people consumed entirely by celebrities, media, social media, gossip, etc. In the grand scheme of things these issues aren’t at all important, yet the citizens of Los Santos are entirely preoccupied with them,” they say. “So Rockstar is basically saying that the American people don’t really care for what’s happening outside of their little world. They don’t actually live on an island, but they might as well because they are isolated from the actual problems that plague the rest of the world. They are individualistic, ignorant, and oblivious to the rest of the world, so they might as well live on an island away from it all.”
It certainly seems like something Rockstar might actually bother to do, although I also think the technical limitations thing makes more sense for obvious reasons. But it sure is convenient that this proposed metaphor ties in with the GTA series’ love for parody and satire of American culture.
Fan Theory #3: You’re actually moving and driving very, very slowly
This one can go straight into the, “Yeah, nah” pile, but it’s still somewhat interesting if you fantasise about life in a GTA world.
Grand Theft Auto games are all sorts of crazy, what with their game worlds filled with narcissists, raving criminals and organised crime syndicates.
Crime just seems to run rampant, and people seem petrified of even the slightest indiscretion: just watch the pedestrians run around all over the places, arms flapping wildly in the air.
The big question is why the police in GTA games don’t chase after you for road violations like speeding and dangerous driving. They only seem to care if you hurt someone.
The obvious answer to that question is that, well, it’s a game: having the police up in your grill every time you put the pedal to the metal probably wouldn’t make for a very enjoyable game.
Another reason could be because the police of the GTA world have better things to do, and they’re not going to chase you just because you ran a red light: so long as you didn’t hurt anyone, they don’t care.
One GTA fan, however, has proposed something entirely different: you’re never actually speeding in the worlds of GTA.
That’s because, in the standard GTA game world, one second is equal to one minute in real time. So, while it may seem like you’re speeding past other cars, it’s actually taken you, like, three minutes in the game world to overtake one car.
The problem with this theory is that, aside from it making too much sense — because, admit it, it does — it dismisses the number one rule of video games: stop trying to break the number one rule of video games!
No one knows what that rule is, but nonetheless, this theory broke it.
Fan Theory #4: GTA V’s characters are descendants of John Marston
This theory seems to have a little weight to it, but it could also just be that Rockstar loves one specific gameplay feature above all else.
It theorises that GTA V‘s main characters — Michael, Trevor and Franklin — are all descendants of John Maston from Red Dead Redemption.
This theory has been brought up a number of times, and gained a bit of traction from Redditor IrishMerica, who decided to send us all into a meltdown of mind-f***ery.
John Marston has a special ability in Redemption called “Dead Eye”, which allows him to slow down time and target enemies at a ridiculous rate and with increased accuracy and effectiveness. Essentially, when John breaks out into Dead Eye, he goes all Neo on everyone in sight and can target, mark and shoot multiple enemies down at once.
Moving over to GTA V, we see that each main character has a special ability. Franklin can slow down time while driving; Trevor takes less damage while dealing out more; while Michael can slow time while shooting.
They are all, in some way, inspired by Redemption’s Dead Eye feature.
That’s not even the most interesting aspect of this theory, so stick with me.
In Redemption, Marston has three personalities, as theorised by IrishMerica.
- He’s a family man that wants to get back to his family. Michael is also a family man, looking to mend broken relationships with his wife and children.
- He wants to better his lifestyle and get out of the grind and troubles of everyday life. Franklin is looking to move on and out from his neighbourhood, onto bigger and better things.
- John is also a tough, ruthless and at-times merciless cowboy who won’t hesitate to attack and kill those who get in his way. Trevor is similar, but he also shares the above two traits with John.
Now the simple explanation for all of this is that it’s just a coincidence, and that the “special abilities” simply work well in the open-world setting and alongside the core gameplay mechanics. Further, while the personalities of each character are diverse, unpredictable and interesting, they are all riddled with cliches and video game tropes.
Also factor in that GTA V was written by the same people that wrote Red Dead Redemption, and it’s easy to see why there are such similarities. Then again, that could act as further evidence that they are descendants, so let’s just put this into the “Plausible” pile for now, shall we?
Fan Theory #5: The ‘Redemption’ in Red Dead Redemption is on Franklin’s bookshelf
One Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto V has actually opened the door to multiple theories, but this one is certainly the most interesting.
In Franklin’s house on the hill — that big apartment that you eventually unlock — there is a book on the shelf called “Red Dead”, written by “J. Marston”.
Now this ties into the theory that each Rockstar game is set within the same universe, so we’ll bundle both theories into one, and dissect the book on the shelf and theorise why it exists in the first place.
The theory goes like this (WARNING: Spoilers ahead):
At the end of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston is gunned down. His son, Jack Marston, eventually grows up (as humans do) and avenges his father’s death.
We see that once John is killed, he has almost achieved that “Redemption” that he sought: he wanted to make a better life for him and his family, and in doing so, his son was able to make something of himself.
As such, Jack became a writer, and wrote “Red Dead”, a book that chronicles his father’s life.
That would, of course, be the ultimate “Redemption” for both John and Jack: to the tell the world their story.
Anyone that’s played Red Dead Redemption should appreciate this theory, because it gives John that much-needed resolution.
Of course it suggests you accept the theory that all Rockstar games are set in the same universe. The book could be purely fiction, and the author could have named the main character after themselves, but that isn’t as fun.
Fan Theory #6: GTA is set in a dystopian world
This is one fan theory that is just too crazy to believe, but also so ridiculous it’s hard not to take seriously, because you just know the creator went to great lengths to make the connection.
Zpopee on Reddit came up with the idea that the GTA universe is set in a dystopian world in which the 1933 Business Plot succeeded.
The Business Plot, for those of you who don’t know, was said to be a movement in which a bunch of bankers and some fascist party members teamed up to overthrow the US government and remove then-President FDR from power.
As you might imagine, the plot was considered to be a hoax and not real in 1933, but that hasn’t stopped people to this day proclaiming that the US was extremely close to becoming a dystopian corporate wasteland.
So how does this connect to GTA? This is where the fun starts.
Basically, it theorises that, should the Plot have succeeded, the US President would have needed to have changed the wealth distribution mechanisms, and force through rampant pro-consumer legislation to encourage people to spend money.
This would in turn lead to a rise of the corporations, who would eventually take power and slowly monitor and take control of the people through subliminal messaging.
Eventually, these corporations would become un-unionized, and mass deregulations would lead to widespread monopolization across most industries.
It gets better: the people of this world would become so used to these messages, and so desensitised, that the corporations would eventually stop trying to sneak messages and mind-control tactics into their advertising, and would instead just come straight out and say what they intended to do.
That’s why in the GTA universe, companies like “GetaLife”, “LifeInvader” and “Pisswasser” exist, because people are either too stupid to notice, or too controlled to care.
Let’s also factor in the general nastiness and insanity that is the GTA universe: greed is promoted as being the be-all and end-all of life, and everyone wants to be rich and have everything. People seem to be entirely focused on themselves, with little to no care for anyone else. Happiness is exclusively tied to the “American dream”: money.
People stop caring, which leads to shows such as “Fame of Shame” and “America’s Next Top Hooker”. Radio stations are filled with talk-back, with callers detailing the most disgusting, awful things imaginable. But aside from some minor angst and disgust, no one really seems to care.
Interestingly, the theory also stretches into other Rockstar games: children are taught to fend for themselves, thrown into an under-funded schools system whereby the private school system is essentially the one and only way for your children to get an education. However, as seen in Bully, rules are rarely if ever enforced, and if they are, the punishments are rarely severe.
It all seems like a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly one of the more detailed and interesting, so be sure to check out the thread for yourself for a little more information.
Fan Theory #7: GTA games are just movies
This theory could probably explain why the entire GTA universe is so crazy and, well, “Hollywood”.
kitterpup on Reddit theorised that every GTA game is simply a Hollywood movie: none of it’s real, we’re just playing for the cameras!
They come to this conclusion a number of ways.
Firstly, the cars in GTA games just seem too realistic and not anywhere near diverse enough. In some areas of the cities you’ll see lines of SUVs, while in others you’ll see Lamborghini equivalents.
Then there’s the weapons: the fact you can walk into an alley-way to find a rocket launcher suggests it was all part of the script and it was placed there for the convenience of the scene. Or so the theory goes.
Characters never seem to die; the police never seem to catch the bad guy; organised crime seems “cool” and, well, organised. None of it seems real.
Then there are the cities themselves. We touched on this in an earlier theory, but this one suggests that the reason each GTA city is surrounded by water is because Hollywood didn’t want to fork out the cash to base the films in an entire country, so they restricted them to single cities.
Finally, let’s look at the protagonist: never “normal”, rather interesting, and everything always just seems to ‘work out’.
Now of course, all of this could be explained by the fact they’re VIDEO GAMES. Also consider this: the idea is that a video game has been created to represent a series of films that have been made within the worlds of the video games we’re playing.
Still with me? Didn’t think so.
Talk about a mind-f***.
Fan Theory #8: GTA V’s characters represent three generations of GTA games
This is perhaps the most widely-accepted GTA fan theory going around.
CitizenWolfie theorises that the three main characters in GTA V — Michael, Trevor and Franklin — each represent three different generations of GTA game.
Let’s break it down into the three characters.
Trevor: Trevor is, for lack of a better term, an old school maniac. He represents the older, original, top-down GTA games. He is seen as a throwback to these games due to his “Kill Frenzy”-type side-missions, in which his special ability is linked to specific targeted objectives.
Franklin: Franklin represents the PS2 era: he’s your typical rag-to-riches GTA character. In GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas, we had characters — each from different backgrounds — who wanted to make a better life for themselves. It’s easy to compare Franklin to CJ, but he’s actually a combination of all three main characters from those three games. His superb driving ability also harks back to those games, which had more refined, focused objectives related to driving when compared to modern GTA games.
Michael: Michael represents the “new” GTA. He is the aftermath of the “GTA lifestyle; a man who has risen from the bottom and done it all in the criminal world, done some terrible things in the past and is trying really hard to change his ways, only to find that things aren’t always so easy,” as is theorised.
Interestingly, Rockstar actually came out and confirmed that these three characters were designed to each — in some way — represent the different generations of GTA, so put this under the “confirmed” pile.
Fan Theory #9: Your GTA Online character dies or is locked up before the events of GTA V
This one has all sorts of holes in it, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
It theorises that the character you create in GTA Online is actually a character in the world of GTA V before the events of that game (which has been proven), but that they die or are locked up before those events take place.
That would make sense to a degree, because you meet a number of different characters from the campaign in your GTA Online playthrough.
GTA fans had been looking for reasons as to why your character meets these GTA V characters, but the simple explanation, as with many of these theories, is that it’s a game and it shouldn’t matter.
The problem, however, was that interactions with the likes of Lamar and Trevor in GTA Online are never explained in the main story of GTA V. This prompted people to believe that your character simply dies or is rotting away in jail.
This entire theory breaks down, however, when Lester mentions in GTA V that he knows of someone that Michael and the crew might be able to use for a heist, but that he’s too unreliable and unpredictable.
That’s an obvious tease from Rockstar to suggest that, yes, you character does exist in the world of GTA V, and, no, they aren’t dead or in jail: they’re just not important enough to be part of the main story. Sorry!
Fan Theory #10: Rockstar is actually making fun of us
When you look at all of these fan theories and consider just how utterly crazy and stupid some of them are, you have to wonder if Rockstar is actually in on the joke.
Let’s take this theory — yes, a theory about a theory — by Redditor Black_Hipster. They theorise that GTA V is just indulging the conspiracy theorists, and that none of the fan theories are actually true.
They point to known and proven hoaxes such as Bigfoot and Ratman as to reason why Rockstar is taking the piss.
Players can also hear talk-back callers on the radio stations in GTA V who theorise about conspiracy theories.
This entire theory is based on the whole Mount Chiliad conspiracy.
With the mountain, we see ghosts and aliens, but nothing at the top of the mountain. Why?
Black_Hipster suggests it’s because there’s nothing there: Rockstar is simply poking fun at the community’s obsession with conspiracy theories. I can just imagine them rolling around in large piles of money, laughing uncontrollably.
Do you have any wacky/believable/proven GTA and Rockstar theories to share? Sound off in the comments below!