In our hunt to find the best Grand Theft Auto game of all time, we’ve ranked the GTA series by their Metacritic review scores – and the results are rather interesting!

Everyone has their favorite GTA game, and while we’d say that some picks are out of the left field, none are objectively wrong. But when it comes to overall review scores, some games in the franchise certainly tower above the rest.

All GTA Games Ranked

With twelve GTA games and several additional standalone expansions released to date, a new Grand Theft Auto fan is spoiled for choice when it comes to looking for something to play.

But if you’re wondering which title is worth playing first, it’s worth considering how each game is reviewed.

GTA 5 Michael Trevor Franklin in Los Santos

Here’s a list of all GTA games, ordered from worst to best, at least according to each title’s official Metacritic score:

14. Grand Theft Auto Advance

Metacritic Score: 68

Grand Theft Auto Advance is by no means a bad game, but it was certainly held back by the platform it released on.

Making a series debut on the Game Boy Advance, GTA Advance returned to the top-down perspective that the franchise initially was known for.

GTA Advance Gameplay

However, considering that GTA Advance released on the same day as San Andreas, one of the most beloved entries in the series, it was certainly overshadowed by greatness.

Advance is a prequel to GTA 3, set in Liberty City. It follows Mike, a small-time criminal who must battle both the Uptown Yardies and the Colombian Cartel in order to avenge the death of his partner-in-crime.

And despite having plenty to offer, it’s easily the most forgettable entry in the franchise.

13. Grand Theft Auto 2

Metacritic Score: 70

GTA 2 is an unusual game in the series, as players still debate what time period it takes place in.

In-game references to the upcoming millennium suggest that it is set in 1999, yet some characters that die in the story are listed as having passed away in 2013 on the game’s official website.

GTA 2 Gameplay

What’s more, while vehicles still look the same as they did in the original GTA, some weapons are rather futuristic! As such, this is the only game in the series not to have a confirmed place on the Grand Theft Auto timeline.

Given that the title takes place in a city called ‘Anywhere, USA,’ it’s likely that this confusion was actually intentional on Rockstar’s part.

Although GTA 2 didn’t review poorly, it was criticized for its graphics and control scheme, leading Rockstar to massively step up its game for the next mainline entry.

12. Grand Theft Auto

Metacritic Score: 7.6

The original GTA released in 1997, four years before the founding of Metacritic, and as such, the game doesn’t have any official critic reviews on the site. Metacritic user reviews place the title at a 7.6 out of 10.

This was the game that kicked off the GTA franchise and set the tone for the series to come. Players could explore Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City from a top-down perspective – three cities that would become synonymous with the series.

Grand Theft Auto 1 Cover

GTA also released two additional Mission Packs, set in London in 1969 and 1961 respectively. However, these are also unrated on the site.

It’s clear that the original Grand Theft Auto paved the way for some of the series’ most beloved games to arrive. But we wouldn’t be quick to return to it today, unless we were seeking a nostalgia trip.

11. Grand Theft Auto Online

Metacritic Score: 80

If you’re wondering why GTA Online is so low down this list, the reason is simple. Metacritic’s Grand Theft Auto listing is based on the 2013 release of the multiplayer offering for GTA 5.

GTA Online Characters and Cars

Nowadays, GTA Online has had a whopping ten years of live service content added to it. It has been upgraded twice for new console generations and has added story that takes Los Santos into the present day.

What’s more, GTA Online is now completely standalone. We think if it were reviewed again today, the scores would be far higher.

10. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Metacritic Score: 86

Liberty City Stories barely makes it into the top ten GTA games on this list, and yet a Metacritic score of 86/100 is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at.

GTA Liberty City Stories Toni on a Bike

This direct prequel to GTA 3 allows players to take control of Antonio ‘Toni’ Cipriani, revealing what the Leone Crime Family member was up to before the events of the earlier game.

Initially a PSP exclusive, critics praised Liberty City Stories for its graphical prowess on a handheld device and for proving that GTA can indeed work on a portable console.

9. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Metacritic Score: 86

Vice City Stories is a prequel to the original GTA: Vice City, making it the first game in Rockstar Games’ 3D timeline chronologically.

GTA Vice City Stories Shooting

At the time, Official PlayStation 2 Magazine UK called Vice City Stories “the greatest game on PSP,” leaving much of the PS2 back catalog looking ordinary.

Both Liberty and Vice City Stories reviewed a little worse when it came to their PS2 ports, but their PSP releases were known for being top-quality games.

8. Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Metacritic Score: 89

Since GTA 4’s DLC were later released as standalone games, it’s only fair to include them on this list.

The Ballad of Gay Tony was the second expansion released for the title, featuring a brand-new story that connects with the base game in multiple places.

Grand Theft Auto The Ballad of Gay Tony

Despite working well as a standalone game, many critics praised the DLC for its upbeat nature and how it complements GTA 4’s darker themes.

IGN called the expansion the ‘perfect way to close out the GTA 4 IV saga,’ and frankly, it’s hard not to agree.

7. Grand Theft Auto 4: The Lost and the Damned

Metacritic Score: 90

The Lost and the Damned was GTA 4’s first DLC, and at the time, it was heavily praised for being the new gold standard for game expansions.

GTA 4 The Lost and the Damned

It also added some much-needed improvements to the series as a whole, most notably offering mid-mission checkpoints that meant players didn’t need to restart an entire mission from the start upon dying.

Offering over 20 new story missions, new characters, weapons, and more, The Lost and the Damned earned its praise, and its biker gang-themed story is still one of the best the franchise has to offer.

6. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Metacritic Score: 93

Following up on the success of the PSP games, Chinatown Wars made the series’ debut on the Nintendo DS. And once again, Rockstar Games proved that it was more than capable of making the franchise work on portable consoles.

GTA Chinatown Wars Cars and Helicopter in Liberty City

In Chinatown Wars, players explore Liberty City from a top-down perspective but with a fully rotatable camera, which sets it apart from the older GTA titles.

What’s more, a story focussing on the Triads, as well as a new drug dealing system, helps Chinatown Wars tread fresh ground and gives the game a truly unique feel.

5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Metacritic Score: 95

Vice City claws its way into the top five GTA games of all time, and we’re sure nobody will argue with this title’s ranking.

Set in the titular Vice City, which is based on Miami in the ’80s, this game featured the first-ever voiced protagonist in the GTA series: Tommy Vercetti.

gta vice city tommy vercetti ocean view hotel

The Vice City map became so iconic that Rockstar has chosen to return to it in GTA 6, and the fan response so far has been incredible.

Critical reviews of GTA 3 were exceptional, with many praising it as a sequel to the iconic GTA 3 that dwarfs the game in almost every regard.

4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Metacritic Score: 95

Although San Andreas has the same Metascore as Vice City, we’re placing it higher on the list due to having more critical reviews, as well as having a higher user score overall.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas CJ and Big Smoke

GTA San Andreas is still, to this day, the favorite game of many a Grand Theft Auto fan. In the two years between Vice City and San Andreas, Rockstar Games was able to develop a massive map, the likes of which the series had never seen before.

What’s more, the game added some incredible new features, such as swimming, stealth, scripted minigames, and weight/muscle gain. In fact, some fans hope that the ability to change your protagonist’s body size returns in GTA 6!

3. Grand Theft Auto 3

Metacritic Score: 97

GTA 3 was undoubtedly the turning point of the entire Grand Theft Auto series. This was the series’ first entry into full 3D, and it’s still seen as a landmark game in developing the open-world genre.

At the time, gamers had never seen anything like GTA 3, which led to a lot of perfect reviews for the title.

GTA 3 Claude Car and Plane in Liberty City

That’s not to say it wasn’t deserving of them, but we now know that GTA 3 was only a taste of what was soon to come.

For developers and fans alike, this was a turning point for gaming, and the title quickly became a system seller for the PS2, which had come out the year prior.

As such, the Metacritic score for GTA is probably higher than it would have been if the game released a few years later. But there’s no question that GTA 3 deserves its spot on this list for making the series what it is today.

2. Grand Theft Auto 5

Metacritic Score: 97

Grand Theft Auto 5 is a game that needs no introduction. By now, most gamers have been playing it for over a decade, and the title is only now just starting to feel the tiniest bit dated.

Released across an unprecedented three generations of consoles, GTA 5 upped the ante in every possible way.

GTA 5 Franklin in Los Santos

With a bigger map, three playable characters, and more ways than ever to enjoy the game’s open world, it was a technical marvel at the time of its release.

To this day, it is still the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time, reaching $1 billion in sales in the first three days on the market.

In 2013, the game received perfect 100/100 scores from the likes of IGN, Eurogamer, PlayStation Official Magazine, and many more. And if it were released today, a decade later, we’re certain its scores wouldn’t be much lower.

1. Grand Theft Auto 4

Metacritic Score: 98

Surprised to see GTA 4 at the number one spot? You shouldn’t be.

It’s fair to say that GTA 4 is darker and grittier than the series tends to be, but as a result, its story was better than ever, with an incredible cast and script.

Like GTA 3 before it, GTA 4 went above and beyond all previous open-world games, making Liberty City one of the most believable and beloved gaming worlds of all time.

Niko in GTA 4

In addition, this was the first Grand Theft Auto game to offer players choices throughout the story – with real consequences behind each decision.

For many fans, Grand Theft Auto 4 is one of the best games of all time, and the only reason we don’t talk about it as much today is because GTA 5 exists. In their reviews, several critics describe GTA 4 as a work of art, and even today, it’s clear to see why.

From what we’ve seen of GTA 6 so far, it’s sure to blow all previous titles out of the water. But fans will always have their favorites, no matter what Rockstar Games’ newest release has to offer!

author
Managing Editor
With almost a decade of experience in video game journalism, Max is a well-versed writer from Manchester, United Kingdom. His expertise shines in his comprehensive coverage of GTA 6, providing fans with the latest news and developments regarding the highly-anticipated sequel.
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