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Grand Theft Auto ranked from worst to best

With the continued success of GTA Online and a rumoured GTA Trilogy remastered, let’s take a look back at every Grand Theft Auto auto game, ranked from worst to best.

It’s been more almost a decade since we last got a full Grand Theft Auto release, discounting the remastered version of GTA V and the launch of GTA Online (which, really, is a game in and off itself). The series has a long and storied history, having in many ways defined the open-world genre, and having raised the stakes for in-game storytelling, gameplay depth, and, surprisingly, even online multiplayer.

With GTA Online still completely blowing away the competition — and raking in millions in the process — it seems as though there’s no stopping the GTA juggernaut. And with the recent report of a GTA Trilogy remaster, it’s clear that GTA is a true juggernaut of the entertainment industry.

So how do the games rank? Which GTA game is the best? Let’s take a look at the franchise and rank all of the entries from worst to best (although it’s worth nothing that to be the “worst” in the GTA franchise isn’t a bad thing … it just means there are games better).

12. Grand Theft Auto 2

gta ranked

Like its predecessor, GTA 2 is a solid old-school action game, but it lacks the detail and depth to compete with modern GTA games. Still worth a play for sheer nostalgia alone.

11. Grand Theft Auto

grand theft auto ranked

This is the game that introduced the series. It till stands up today as a sensational top-down action game, but it doesn’t quite match the likes of Chinatown Wars.

It got two mission packs in London, 1961 and London, 1969.

10. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

grand theft auto ranked

Just like its sequel, Liberty City Stories lacked the excitement and originality of other GTA games. It looks and plays great, though, and showcased quite well how powerful the PSP was at the time.

But some of its missions really, really sucked. That one with the chainsaws? Urgh.

9. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

grand theft auto ranked

The PSP GTA games are serviceable, but looking back they’re not quite the high-quality games many thought they were when they were released.

Mainly, they suffered from poor mission design, something that was kind of buried beneath the excitement of a portable GTA experience.

Vice City Stories isn’t a bad game — it’s actually fantastic — but by GTA standards it lacks that memorable overall experience to propel it above the rest.

8. Grand Theft Auto: The Lost And Damned

grand theft auto ranked

It’s not great, but you can’t ignore how The Lost And Damned changed industry and consumer perceptions of downloadable content, although many a publisher still can’t quite figure it out.

The story was solid and the missions well-designed, and it was a refreshing breakaway from what the original GTA IV game offered.

7. Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad Of Gay Tony

grand theft auto ranked

This downloadable episode for GTA IV was a bit of an ode to the players that had stuck with the game for so long. It brought with it a strong story, cool characters and some explosive gameplay that was missing from Niko’s adventure.

The helicopter mission? Priceless! And multiplayer is expanded a bit, too.

6. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

grand theft auto ranked

I love this handheld gem. It’s great on PSP, too, but not quite as refined as it is on DS. It’s perfectly designed for the hardware, and the surprisingly good story, along with the game’s deep gameplay and snazzy visuals, certainly make it one of the best games on both the DS and PSP, and also better than the other PSP GTA entries.

5. Grand Theft Auto III

grand theft auto ranked

This game was basically the reason you bought a PS2, at least among my friends it was. It was the definitive open-world action game back at a time when the open-world action game wasn’t really a thing, at least for mainstream audiences.

It redefined and set a standard for the genre that still remains today. A true pillar of PS2-era game design.

4. Grand Theft Auto IV

grand theft auto ranked

I have a soft spot for GTA IV. I know not everyone loves it — it lacked the “fun” of other entries in the series — but it’s still an outstanding game in its own right, telling a wonderful story within a stunning virtual recreation of NYC.

Except for Roman. I hate that guy.

3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

grand theft auto ranked

Vice City is a better Scarface game than Scarface.

There I said it.

Okay, so it really is way up there as far as game worlds and stories go, and Tommy Vercetti is definitely one cool cat. Rockstar somehow managed to better the acclaimed GTA III and take the GTA series to new heights with Vice City, just as they have done with every game in the series since.

2. Grand Theft Auto V

grand theft auto ranked

What isn’t there to like about GTA V? You get three fantastic characters, all memorable and fun in their own right, and an amazing virtual recreation of Los Angeles and surrounding townships.

Rockstar clearly took advantage of the popularity of what was (at the time) the most beloved GTA entry in 2004’s San Andreas. By bringing gamers back to that much-loved game world, GTA V was always going to be a huge success.

Even today it continues to be among the most sold games at retail, despite being more than three years old. Such is the popularity and quality of the experience and its GTA Online offerings.

1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

grand theft auto ranked

I remember San Andreas’s launch quite vividly: sitting in my lecture, I snuck out early, raced down to EB Games and picked up my reserved copy. I was so excited that I was even oblivious to the EB Games’ sell-on techniques: I forked over an extra $30 for a gameplay guide, which wasn’t helpful at all.

CJ has to be one of the best game characters ever, and the game world, at least at the time, was absolutely mesmerising. The opening stanza stealing a bike and riding through the back streets of Los Santos? Outstanding!

Now it’s your turn: Your favourite GTA game? Least favourite? Tell us in the comments below!


Sunday 15th of August 2021

The first GTA is badly underrated. I'd also have chinatown wars higher on the list. But anyway it doesn't really matter because they're all pretty good.


Sunday 15th of August 2021

Good list, probably agree with it mostly but wonder if the GTA IV DLC deserves to be ranked separately? They are really expansion packs, not full games, and so you have to wonder if they should be included as part of the entire GTA IV experience and thus have the game ranked higher on the list.

Sapporano Ridge

Sunday 15th of August 2021

@Alex, Remember the memes of Roman? In hindsight he was actually the perfect sidekick.

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