Of all the video game series that have made their mark on the industry, few have elicited as many disparate reactions as Grand Theft Auto. To some, the series is the apex of interactive media; the ultimate expression of virtual freedom, and the cathartic chaos that this freedom can result in. To others, it’s one of the biggest smoking guns behind all of the misanthropy and violence present in today’s youth, in addition to being a vile and artless product in its own right.
If there’s one aspect that nearly everyone agrees on, it’s that Grand Theft Auto is among the most successful properties in the history of its medium. In the two decades that it’s graced consoles, handhelds and PCs, the open world series has remained a fixture on most sales charts, with its most recent entry, Grand Theft Auto V, having generated more revenue by itself than most franchises manage over their entire lifetime.
To most gamers today, this thoroughness with which the series currently dominates the industry is as normal as Mario is Italian. Yet to those that have been paying attention to it since its inception, it’s still a mighty impressive feat. For up until the late 2000s, a day didn’t seem to go by where the series wasn’t embroiled in some sort of scandal created by its most egregious detractors – or its very own developers. This is the history of Grand Theft Auto.