The Best Grand Theft Auto Game Isn’t GTA 5

By Jason Collins | 3 months ago

best grand theft auto game

The Grand Theft Auto gaming franchise has been a fan-favorite ever since the original Grand Theft Auto was released in 1997 for MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows. The mere mention of MS-DOS should tell you something about the franchise’s age, as well as its longevity — there’s a good reason why it stuck around for 25 years. Over the years, the franchise released seven main entries in the series, totaling 19 games overall. However, Grand Theft Auto V proved to be the most popular of all, considering that it’s going strong for more than eight years now and shows no signs of stopping. Does that make it the best Grand Theft Auto game?

The numbers don’t lie, and Grand Theft Auto V generates so much profit that Rockstar Games is even developing the next-gen ports of the game for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, and its online component, Grand Theft Auto Online, just received new story content. However, with Rockstar Games finally announcing the development of the highly-anticipated Grand Theft Auto 6, we believe it’s a good time to talk about the series’ less prominent gem — Grand Theft Auto IV — and why it’s the best game in the franchise.

best grand theft auto game IV

Although Grand Theft Auto III was the game that received massive praise from the critics, most players believe that GTA: Vice City can only be paralleled or even superseded by its successor, San Andreas. However, according to Metacritic rating, driven by the fans of the game, Grand Theft Auto IV ranks the highest; though by just a point higher than a tie-rating between GTA III and GTA V. The game returned players to Liberty City, the game’s fictional iteration of New York City, which was the location of the original Grand Theft Auto game, as well as GTA III, GTA: Chinatown Wars, and GTA: Liberty City Stories.

However, Grand Theft Auto IV’s version of Liberty City was much more detailed and denser. The entire city may be smaller than GTA V’s Lost Santos, but it’s definitely more aesthetically pleasing, with more enterable interiors and without annoying loading screens associated with such access. It was truly an open-world iteration of the city that never sleeps. It’s even more memorable as it managed to perfectly capture the grim feeling of being alone in a big metropolis and a stranger in someone else’s land. This leads us to Nico Bellic, the game’s protagonist.

grand theft auto gameplay

Like every previous installment in the GTA franchise, Grand Theft Auto IV featured only one main protagonist. The game offers a more relatable protagonist within a more somber narrative, similar to what Rockstar Games did with Red Dead Redemption. Bellic is an ex-Yugoslav soldier with a lot of dark secrets associated with the civil unrest and wars in the Balkans plaguing his past. Nico is an immigrant to Liberty City, a stranger in someone else’s land who gets drawn into the dark and terrible crime underworld. The first rule of good writing is to develop a character with whom the audience can sympathize and become invested in their story.

And that’s precisely what Grand Theft Auto IV did with Nico Bellic. Compared to GTA: Vice City’s cocky and temperamental Tommy Vercetti, and GTA V’s spoilt Michael and Franklin, along with depthless Trevor, Bellic was much grittier, grounded, and relatable to an average adult player. Of course, you could go on all the rampages and killing sprees that the franchise is known for, but Nico’s reluctance to resort to violence and his inner desire to leave all the killing and destruction back in the 1990’s Balkan civil wars became apparent in nearly all cutscenes in the game.

grand theft auto 6 movie characters

We’re not saying that Michael, Franklin, and Trevor are badly developed characters, but they obviously lack depth, which is reasonable considering that Rockstar wished to incorporate three playable characters into GTA V. Some sacrifices had to be made. But that’s not the only segment in which Grand Theft Auto IV beats all other installments. The game’s narrative is better compared to other games. It told a much more serious story that could’ve very well taken place in the real world, sans escaping unpunished after all of the aforementioned rampages and killing sprees.

Compared to the Hollywood-esque over-the-top storytelling that the rest of the games are known for, the narrative of Grand Theft Auto IV tells a darker story of an American dream and the subsequent shattering of that dream. In reality, the game wasn’t as groundbreaking from a technical standpoint, though it had reasonably good graphics for its time; better than GTA V had in 2013’s standards. It also offered way more in terms of single-player content, compared to the rest of the series, thanks to The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony expansion packs that brought in two new stories and a plethora of guns, cars, and soundtracks.

In summary, Grand Theft Auto IV is a fantastic video game, and a clearly superior installment in the franchise, at least from the storytelling viewpoint. It was more than just surface-level action; it offered more depth, a fantastic protagonist, and an impeccable soundtrack. Those impatiently waiting for Grand Theft Auto 6 can cut their waiting time by re-visiting this Grand Theft Auto gem and hope that the new game matches the quality of storytelling offered in Grand Theft Auto IV.

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