It’s appropriate that we’re paying our respects to the GTA series now, with the fifth installment arriving in just two weeks on consoles. If you ever needed a series to point to as proof that mobile games are catching up with consoles, it’s Grand Theft Auto. From Chinatown Wars to Vice City, there’s something perfect about bringing sociopathic mayhem with you wherever you go.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
In January 2010, iOS owners could download the ultimate version of Rockstar’s top-down, open-world crime game, Chinatown Wars. Not only did the iOS version have the PSP’s sharper graphics, but it also included the DS’s touch-based minigames, like filling molotov cocktails at the gas station or scratching lotto tickets for extra cash. The story was gritty and violent, the action intense, and the price more than reasonable. By the end of 2010, nothing else had surpassed Chinatown Wars, so we chose it as our 2010 iOS Game of the Year.
Key Quote: “This iPhone iteration of GTA:CW combines the touch-based functionality of the original DS game and high-quality graphics from the PSP port to make the best version of the game yet.”
Grand Theft Auto 3
It was nearly two years after Chinatown Wars before we saw another GTA game on the App Store. Marking the ten-year anniversary of the original game’s launch on PS2, Grand Theft Auto 3 brought the entire 3D crime saga to iOS with every mission intact. You could perform hits for the mob, steal cars for cash, or hijack a cop car and become a vigilante. We were concerned that the PS2 controls would be too cumbersome on a touchscreen, but Rockstar did a solid job of only using screen space for context-sensitive actions, and combining some button presses into onscreen swipes. There have been GTA imitators on the App Store, like Gangstar and Payback, but nothing beats the original GTA 3.
Key Quote: “Grand Theft Auto 3 is great for so many reasons– the snappy R-rated script, the professional voice acting, the satirical radio commercials, the catchy soundtrack, the wide variety of missions, the endless amount of mayhem you can cause– that there’s no doubt it’s a game for the ages.”
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
If GTA 3 represented a modern-day, crime-filled New York City, Vice City transported players to a Miami-like paradise that probably only existed in movies and TV shows from the 80s. Scarface and Miami Vice were the main inspiration instead of The Sopranos. In Vice City, you still had total freedom to drive where you like, with the added bonus of being able to steal motorcycles and planes as well. Plus, you could invest in Vice City real estate, which opened up special missions and locations. With San Andreas being the setting for GTA V, who thinks that we might be lucky enough to see the next last-gen console game, GTA San Andreas, on the App Store later this year?
Key Quote: “Ten years after it first launched, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is still regarded as one of the best games ever made, and this mobile port actually does it justice. Whether you’re pursuing wacky side missions like delivering pizzas on a scooter, or major story points like storming a drug lord’s mansion, Vice City constantly offers new surprises.”
Tomorrow, we’ll feature the turn-based strategy games of 2K, including Civilization Revolution.
This article is part of a series about the best games on iOS, 2008-2013. You can read the rest here.