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Grand Theft Auto III: Looking Back At The First "Real" GTA

On its 10th anniversary, it's only right that we should pay homage to one of the most groundbreaking games in video game history.

It was late 2001. I remember it well; I was still working at EB (yes, kiddies, there was a time when GameStop wasn't the only game retailer around), and we were nearing the one-year anniversary of the PS2. We knew several unbelievable games had already arrived that year, but we had no idea that much later, 2001 would be viewed as one of the greatest years ever.

Twisted Metal: Black, Red Faction, Onimusha, Silent Hill 2, Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, ICO, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Max Payne, Baldurs Gate II, Halo, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, Phantasy Star Online, Black & White, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Paper Mario...the list just went on and on and on. And then the end of the year came and gave us Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Final Fantasy X, and Grand Theft Auto III.

In those days, the Internet wasn't ablaze with a million articles and pieces of media; there was coverage, of course, but nowhere near the extent of what we see now. So maybe that's why when I heard about GTAIII, I didn't really care. Despite my recent branching out into many different genres, I was still an RPG fan at heart. And of course, I remembered the first few GTA titles; the top-down driving games that I didn't like in the least. The first two games earned 7s from critics and while some gamers really enjoyed the experiences, neither exactly had a big impact. I knew GTAIII was going 3D but then again, so was everything in those days.

I mean, big deal. I had caught a few screenshots in a magazine that made me look twice, but that's about it. When it hit store shelves, it started to sell...and sell...and sell. My coworkers would come in grinning like loons and jabbering about GTAIII and how it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, at this time, we still didn't know that Final Fantasy X would make it out in 2001; initially, it was slated for a January release. But that was the first time in memory that Squaresoft had actually pushed up a game; it ended up coming out in the last week of December. I didn't know that would happen, though, and everyone who came in the store kept talking about GTAIII... They just wouldn't shut up.

So I got it. FFX seemed further away than it ended up being and for some reason, I wasn't into Metal Gear Solid at the time (that all changed with MGS3, by the way). Within an hour, I was wandering around this massive city...not doing anything, just wandering around like a tourist, goggle-eyed. I hadn't even done anything beyond the first mission, but I knew I was looking at the next step in gaming. The world wasn't just huge; it was detailed. People walked on the sidewalks, cars drove down the street, there were different buildings and businesses and landmarks. I was gleeful. It was the only way to describe it. And then later, I realized other parts of this huge map would open. Good God.

It was a heady experience, to say the least. The freedom was intoxicating. Never before had I played a game where I could quite literally do anything I wanted to do. No, I couldn't walk into buildings but that was a minor drawback in my eyes because the city was just so huge. If I wanted to go over there and just punch someone in the head, I could. If I wanted to go in the opposite direction and get in a car, I could. Then there was the freedom associated with the missions. Example:

There was a mission where you had to nail this guy who's in a car, driving in a bit of a convoy. You have to get him before he reaches his destination; a mansion on the hill by the water. I first tried sniping him through the window of his car as he drove past, but that proved problematic. Then I got an idea: I sped on ahead of the convoy and got to the mansion way ahead of time. I jacked every car in the area and stacked them in the driveway. On either side of the driveway was this tall hedge that nothing could get through. So when they arrived and tried to push their way through the pile of cars, I just tossed a single grenade and ran. Gigantic chain reaction of explosions and then- "Mission Accomplished."

And thus began my love affair with GTA, and I'm hardly the only one. So thank you, Rockstar, and congratulations to GTAIII on its 10th birthday. Many happy returns. :)

Related Game(s): Grand Theft Auto III

Tags: gtaiii, grand theft auto iii, rockstar, grand theft auto

10/22/2011 10:03:34 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (31 posts)

NonProphet
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 10:48:55 AM
Reply

Awesome article. I too remember GTA 3 with great fondness and the same sense of awe when it was first released. I would bring my PS3 over to my buddy's house where a bunch of us would meet up and we would all play for hours and hours. It really was groundbreaking.

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thj_1980
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 10:55:08 AM
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i remember this game, it was amazing and one of the reasons I wanted to get a ps2.

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H0TSHELLZ
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 10:55:36 AM
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THE ONLY REASON I EVEN GOT A PS2 WAS BECAUSE OF THIS GAME !!!

San Andreas still the best in the series IMO, Hey SONY can i get a HD version like ICO and Shadow ??

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Red 5
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:45:52 PM

Hi:

I would prefer a "HALO Remake" for such a GREAT Game like Grand Theft Auto III - San Andreas.
Red 5.

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Beamboom
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 2:18:52 PM

That's not up to Sony, but I'd love a hd version of the greatest GTA too.

Last edited by Beamboom on 10/22/2011 2:19:26 PM

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mk ultra
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 11:13:33 AM
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This was my reason for getting a PS2.

This game actually brings back alot of painful memories for me because my father had passed unexpectedly while i was playing it. Come to think of it, it was probably the best game that could of been out in that stage of my life. I remember virtually beating someone to death with a baseball bat never felt so good. That's probably not a good thing.

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mk ultra
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 11:35:31 AM

Wow, taking a second look at that list makes me feel all nostalgic for my sophomore year in highschool. I'm gunna go dust off my copy of Rouge Leader and wonder what happened to that amazing franchise.

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Oxvial
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 11:30:00 AM
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When this was released I thought N didn't have a chance on Sony that gen.

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TheCanadianGuy
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 11:53:09 AM
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fantastic thank you ben for posting a GTA 3 article today!. this is without a shadow of a doubt my all time favorite game.
i'll never forget the first time i played it christmas 2001 day i got my ps2. i remember just being completely blown away by the freedom they gave you and everything you could do was totally mind boggling.
IGN has been celebrating with some great stories all week to.
i loved the 10th anniversary trailer Rockstar put together. at the end when they thanked all us GTA fans for our support i almost got misty eyed. heres to the past 10 years of GTA (raises glass) and heres to the next 10!
and what better way to celebrate then by an announcement for GTA V or GTA 3 HD c'mon Rockstar

Last edited by TheCanadianGuy on 10/22/2011 11:55:54 AM

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Rogueagent01
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:15:43 PM
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I like the article but I am one of those that still to this day would rather play 1 & 2 over any of the 3d versions. GTA III definitely caught my interest and I bought it day 1 at that time but it just bored me and then San Andreas was the nail in the coffin for me, just the same game over and over again. Rockstar always seemed ambitious but just could never deliver for me to this day.

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Nas Is Like
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:45:14 PM

I don't understand how you can find San Andreas, for example, boring. I was hooked onto that game, played it for months at a time. It had so much content, missions to do and just a high replay value.

I don't know what you were playing but it couldn't have been San Andreas.

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Rogueagent01
Sunday, October 23, 2011 @ 1:19:44 PM

@Nas Is Like

It's as I said I found them to be boring even the first two got boring to me after awhile. Just because it hooked many of the commenters here doesn't mean it hooked everybody. GTA III was fun right off the bat but after a little while it just felt like a novelty and then each subsequent title was little more than a graphical upgrade to me. I'm not expecting anyone to agree with me when the article is about GTA but I also feel that I can say how I felt as well.

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mike rlz
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:17:05 PM
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I think we all remember that TV ad for GTA III with that italian aria playing in the background, the car flying through the air :)


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mk ultra
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 2:22:05 PM

I completely forgot about that ad till you just mentioned it. What a great ad. The Guns N Roses SA ad was good too.

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Vivi_Gamer
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:28:36 PM
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Wow I did not know 2001 had SO many titles, possibily one of the best years for gaming ever.

As for GTAIII, It was certainly a groundbreaking title. I know the series had titles before it, but it just never felt real until this bad boy came along. Reasons being the perspective, I just do not like top-down perspective games. Also, there was more of a story involved with GTAIII rather than just going to the phones to do little odd jobs (which it had too.) I still remember the betrayal within the introduction, which seemed very cinematic at the time.

I spent so many hours just exploring the open map and causing chaos in the streets. Teh game has just never got boring. I could play it right now and be consumed for hours, while in GTAIV I just found stale by the time I got to the main island.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:34:36 PM

I know, I think a blind gopher designed the city in GTAIV.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:33:53 PM
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Ahh, so many after parties with the boys playing this game long after sobriety had become an unfortunate circumstance of the past. I'll always remember it fondly. That city is still better set up than GATIV for gamers that like to have police standoffs.

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Deleted User
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:50:50 PM
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I'm embarrassed to admit this but I've never played Grand Theft Auto III. My first experience with GTA was one of those top down games on the Dreamcast but I never got around to III. Vice City was my first real GTA game. Maybe I should dl III off of Steam.

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Red 5
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:53:54 PM
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Hi:

Ben, as always, excellent way to say something like this. I'm in love too (jejejeje) with Grand Theft Auto III Series BUT, for some reason... I just couldn't play the game without felling sick or queasy. The best I did was watch my brother playing the Game with that "fu***** dumb" (thanks C.J.), doing whatever he wants.
Red 5.

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AcHiLLiA
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 12:57:08 PM
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I remember playing GTA3 back in the PS2 days, it was one of the best games/graphics back then.

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bebestorm
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 1:23:29 PM
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GTA 3 blew me away and I still love it though Vice City is the best.

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LegendaryWolfeh
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 7:49:31 PM

This right here. Vice City is an always will be the best gta ;)

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Beamboom
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 2:31:39 PM
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GTA3 was THE milestone for me. The major "before/after" in my gamer life.
After GTA3 a regular, linear game never was the same again, and the lack of room for player creativity became unbearable up to this day.


Last edited by Beamboom on 10/22/2011 2:38:10 PM

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PharaohJR
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 2:55:21 PM
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good article. when i bought my ps2 GT3 was my 1st game. i had to go over friends houses to play GTA3 my stepmama at the time didnt like the idea of a virtual world that allowed any action lol.

i remember 1st playing GTA3 & my friends just hyping me up about it i didnt believe nothing until i seen it on the screen.... i sat there with the controller in my hand like WOW THIS IS GOT DAMN CRAZY. i remember playing the 1st two on playstation but those couldnt hold my time like NFS hot pursuit & GT1 & 2 did. it was GTA3 Gt3 & Tekken that separated me from nintendo.

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Alienange
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 3:41:06 PM
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A wacky story with player freedom in each mission. It didn't get better than that in 2001.

Nice article too. I love the enthusiasm for good gaming.

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FxTales
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 3:53:24 PM
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I never thought beating someone to death with a baseball bat would ever be funny, nor hitting them with a car, but in that game it was, it really was.

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Lawless SXE
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 8:29:38 PM
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Love the article. Never played GTAIII. Played VC to about halfway through on my brother-in-laws PS2, and San Andreas to about 80% completion until I ran into a mission I couldn't complete and lost the disc. Gone to 100% on both LCS and VCS on PSP though, and GTA IV, I like but cannot, for whatever reason, love.

All I can say, is kudos Rockstar in making one of the most popular and memorable series in gaming, and I hope to see it continue.

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clockwyzebkny
Saturday, October 22, 2011 @ 10:50:02 PM
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i remember playing Driver thinking, it would be really cool if we could get out of the car, shoot people, cause mayhem etc...and the GTAIII came out. I was in love

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___________
Sunday, October 23, 2011 @ 1:36:29 AM
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ahhhhhhhh good ol GTAIII.
now that was a GTA game, not that crap they called GTAIV!
or chinatown wars.......
i wish R* would give us a HD colection, or at least a HD remake of vice city.
by far the best GTA ever released!!!!!!!

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Nasty80
Sunday, October 23, 2011 @ 9:11:20 PM
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I remember it was 3 of my friends and i, we would take turns to see who could get the most stars and stay alive the longest. Man that was a blast, and we would do this for hours.

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DrRockso87
Monday, October 24, 2011 @ 10:30:23 AM
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I'd give anything for an HD collection so I can relive these games again. I miss the tank (which unfortunately I doubt will reappear in Grand Theft Auto V).

Plus, grabbing trophies in this game would be sweet. Ugh, just do it already, Rockstar! I want nostalgic memories back. You're already giving iPhone/Android gamers a chance. Bring it to the PS360 already!!

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