By 2001, the gaming industry was already producing open-world games. Sega had one of the most beautiful 3D games in Shenmue on Dreamcast, Nintendo had an ingenious Ocarina of Time, and on the PlayStation, there was a Driver in which you could drive around the city, and in two you could even get out of the vehicle. However, the explosion in popularity of the open-world title is most often attributed to one very influential game - Grand Theft Auto 3, which appeared on the PlayStation 2 20 years ago today.
Younger generations of players may not be aware that GTA was once a 2D game with a bird’s eye view. That changed forever with the arrival of the third installment, after which the series became planetarily popular. Moving to a three-dimensional environment for the GTA series was a huge thing. The game became more convincing in the depiction of the living city of Liberty City (otherwise an imitation of New York), and the gameplay was expanded with new features such as jumping, shooting from a vehicle, and of course - having fun with the ladies of the night.
The story followed a thief named Calude, who was betrayed by his co-worker Catalina after the robbery. Claude’s path to revenge led us to collaboration and conflict with the criminal milieu of Liberty City. In Rockstar, they used it to demonstrate to the player what he can do in the game, and they continued to use this way of combining story and gameplay in their later games.
By switching to 3D we finally got recognizable characters who had a voice, all except the protagonist who was silent the whole time. Rockstar was able to design a story based on mob movies and series with them. One of the inspirations for the game was the television series Sopranos.
In an open world that mimics the real New York, Rockstar was also given the opportunity for social criticism, and it was expressed in a variety of ways, most commonly through sarcastic radio shows. That segment also became a trademark of later Rockstar games.
Still, the game couldn’t talk openly about everything. Just before the game came out, on September 11, 2001, there was a terrorist attack on a shopping mall in New York City, which caused GTA 3 to be postponed, and some things in the game were changed after that. Despite this, GTA 3 caused numerous controversies and negative reactions from various quarters upon its release. The game has been accused of inciting violence, degrading portrayal of women, and a host of other things.
It’s possible that the negative publicity helped Grand Theft Auto 3 more than hurt it because the game was a big hit and sold in the millions. A year later Rockstar had two best-selling games on the market - GTA 3 and the sequel to GTA: Vice City. This is no longer the case in the video game industry.
GTA 3 ultimately sold more than 15 million copies by the end of 2008 and is considered one of the most important games of the last decade. No wonder it has served as inspiration for several other series such as Saints Row, Just Cause, Mercenaries, and others.
In addition to the PlayStation 2 release, the game later appeared on PC and Xbox, and for the tenth anniversary of its release, it also appeared on Android and iOS platforms. This year, the game will get its “definitive” release as part of a remaster called Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, along with two other cult GTA games from the turn of the century.