Three Grand Theft Auto classics are racing to the ninth gen and Nintendo Switch this fall, a Kotaku exclusive reveals. Rockstar is applying the finishing touches on remasters of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas using the Unreal Engine, with new Scottish subsidiary Ruffian Games Limited (now Rockstar Dundee) leading the fold. The re-releases are expected to be digital-only.
The trilogy will incorporate updated graphics with the vintage feel and design of the original, resulting in a curious mishmash of past and present. The remastered versions are said to resemble common user mods of PlayStation 2-era Grand Theft Auto titles. Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar’s parent company, had previously invoked the authority of the DMCA in preparation for three remasters in active development; videos of classic GTA mods on Twitch, YouTube, and related platforms were removed at the developers’ request. Sources close to Kotaku confirm these mystery games to be three of the highest-grossing entries in Grand Theft Auto, ending months of media speculation.
The project has more at stake than fans realize. Rockstar is relying on the success of the Grand Theft Auto trilogy to substantiate future remasters of the studio’s other tentpole games, including Red Dead Redemption, as well as ninth gen ports of Grand Theft Auto V and GTA Online for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. The original plan was more about quality updates than making an extra buck, and surprisingly less ambitious. Rockstar wanted to reward GTA patrons for keeping online play on GTA V alive almost a decade since the title was released on the PlayStation 3 — a seventh-gen console — and offer classic remasters as thanks. In the process of reworking the trilogy, however, developers felt it deserved a major re-release of its own, similar to a port.
The remastered Grand Theft Auto games were scheduled to hit shelves in January, but like everything else in corporate, had to be pulled back in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did it hamper development and require the assistance of other in-house studios, but it also made planning the release more difficult to time given projected release dates for other upcoming titles. Even among competitors, entertainment follows its own carefully orchestrated timetable; as a rule of thumb, creators are discouraged from overlapping with other projects on queue, both to increase exposure and to maximize profit. The proliferation of the Delta variant complicated matters a step further, however, giving the trilogy a new release date toward the end of the year.
The Grand Theft Auto remasters have a comprehensive release, spanning not only current-gen consoles and hybrids, but also PC, mobile devices, and Cloud gaming services like the Google Stadia. Reworking old titles into more powerful engines is decidedly more complicated, hence Rockstar’s decision to prioritize console release over platforms with less oppressive graphical needs and more modest CPU power. PC is a different beast altogether and may demand more tweaking than even your standard PlayStation 5. Rockstar has been so engrossed in eliminating the need for mods by introducing remasters that other projects haven’t had much elbow grease; system updates in Red Dead Online has been scarce precisely because. GTA VI is still in development, though.
The remastered versions of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas will be released as a digital bundle for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia, and mobile smartphones and tablets. To Claude, Tommy, and CJ: welcome home, boys.