A history of GTA and how it helped shape Red Dead Redemption

On the surface, the original Grand Theft Auto's modest, top-down design has little in common with Red Dead Redemption

A comprehensive look at Rockstar Games' enormously influential open-world video game franchise, Grand Theft Auto, and how elements from each of the GTA games ultimately helped shape what you experience in Rockstar's latest effort, Red Dead Redemption.



Grand Theft Auto (PS1, PC, GBC)

Metacritic Rating: N/A

On the surface, the original Grand Theft Auto's modest, top-down design has little in common with Red Dead Redemption, but a closer look reveals roots deeply woven through the wild west adventure. Right from the get-go GTA began the tradition of granting gamers the freedom to roam and wreak havoc as they saw fit; and while the first GTA's Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas were tiny blips compared to RDR’s sprawling New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth, the trio of explorable areas certainly hinted at epic things to come. Additionally, if you caused too much trouble during your GTA city-spanning exploits, you earned a "Wanted" level from the law -- sound familiar, cowboy?



Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 (PS1, PC) / London 1961 (PC)

Metacritic Rating: N/A

These expansion-like "Mission" packs didn't stray far from the formula introduced in GTA, but their play-extending value certainly serves as an early reflection of Rockstar's dedication to their properties and fans. Most armchair outlaws are still exploring Rockstar's latest content-crammed release, but the busy developer's already made the west wilder with Red Dead Redemption's Outlaws to the End mission-adding DLC.



Grand Theft Auto 2 (PS1, PC, GBC, Dreamcast)

Metacritic Rating: 70% (PS1)

The sequel to the game that started it all stuck pretty close to its predecessor's tried-and-true design. That said, Grand Theft Auto 2 introduced more complex relationships with NPCs; gangs could be manipulated, and "respect" lost and earned, depending on how you carried out missions. Not unlike the complicated rivalries and alliances forged in RDR, GTA2 made your standing in the world count. It could further be argued that RDR's well-balanced Fame and Honor system loosely ties into Rockstar's early experiment with making the world react to your kill sprees.



Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2, Xbox, GBC, PC)

Metacritic Rating: 97% (PS2)

Introducing millions of gamers to the violence-fueled franchise for the very first time, Grand Theft Auto 3 ushered in a new era of third-person, sand-box style gaming, and had fans marveling over the fact they could essentially do whatever they want. Its influences on future Rockstar titles, including Red Dead Redemption, are too numerous to count, but its framework has been endlessly tweaked and refined by both Rockstar and their competitors. Its most obvious contributions include its 3D presentation, third-person perspective gameplay, and wide open world, but its weapon variety, inspired characters, and engaging storytelling also serve as precursors to John Marston's Old West. Both games even share similar starts, as both RDR's Marston and GTA 3's Claude begin their twisted tales betrayed and bullet-riddled.



Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2, Xbox, PC)

Metacritic Rating: 95% (PS2)

If you've enjoyed your dealings with slippery snake oil salesman Nigel West Dickens or dysfunctional Irish in RDR, you can thank GTA: Vice City. While GTA 3 introduced its share of memorable characters, Vice City's personality-packed populace reset the bar; from main man Tommy Vercetti to his shady attorney Ken Rosenberg -- and especially old west throwback Avery Carrington -- Vice City's cast of crazies serve as a template for RDR's diverse line up of colorful characters. Vice City was also the first GTA to let gamers purchase properties, allowing them to save their game and prep their gear from different points on the map. Anyone who's rested up in their room in RDR's saloons knows the value of this feature.



Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Xbox, PC)

Metacritic Rating: 95% (PS2)

San Andrea's massive world hinted at the epic scale to come in RDR. And while the previous two GTA titles were big, San Andreas dwarfed them, while also giving the same detail-drenched attention to deserts, rivers and forests as the previous two titles' urban environments. On top of crafting a picturesque world practically fit for horseback riding, some of San Andreas' other notable tweaks to reappear in RDR include deeper character customization, the ability to set way-points, and the absence of loading times while traveling long distances.

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Matt Cabral

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