Grand Theft Auto III launched 20 years ago to rave reviews and mainstream media controversy around its realistic depiction of violence and mayhem in an open-world parody of New York City. Next week Rockstar Games is bringing it back, now as a remastered artifact from a bygone era. Has it aged like fine wine, or like a box of old Reader’s Digests?
On this week’s episode Lisa Marie, returning guest Isaiah Colbert, and myself look back at GTA III, its spin-off Vice City, and its even better follow-up, San Andreas, to discuss what the games meant to us then and whether we think they’ll still resonate as part of the upcoming GTA Trilogy. Will games satirizing a Michael Mann movie through the lens of early-aughts MTV hold up, come off as even more cringe, or worst of all just be boring?
We talk about what it was like being dropped into such immersive 3D worlds during the PS2 era, and whether GTA’s violence, which was so shocking to many at the time, now seems almost quaint. “GTA III’s innovation was to build its game around a transgressive identity—the criminal—and let you loose,” wrote Jeremy Gordon for The Ringer in a recent retrospective. “Its success would shape not just the genre over the next 20 years, but with it, the entire video game industry.” It’s GTA’s world and we’re just living in it, as evidenced by GTA 5 selling over 150 million copies across the world and the fact that GTA 6 trends on social media at least once a week.
The episode is bookended by discussion of some more current topics, including the poor initial showing of Switch Online’s N64 games, Sony’s recent State of Play, and the latest in the ongoing fallout around the allegations at Activision Blizzard. We also share some game recommendations based on what we’ve been playing. TL;DR: Dungeon Encounters, Voice of Cards, Haven, Gone Home, and Immortals Fenyx Rising are all worth your time if you haven’t gotten to them already,
Remember that new episodes come out every Friday, so like and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher to get them as soon as they become available. You can leave a review, too, or drop us a line at [email protected] if you have questions, want to suggest a topic, or tell us what you love or hate about the show. Or if you want to deliver your hot takes in real time you can reach us on Twitter: I’m @ethangach, Lisa Marie is @lisamarie_lynn, and Isaiah is @EyeZehUhh. See you next week!