Top 100 Games of All-Time: #65

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Release Date: October 26, 2004

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #67 (+2)

What It Is:

The wildly successful follow-up to both GTA 3 and GTA: Vice City. It’s the final PS2 era GTA game before the next true numbered sequel on PS3/360. It contains all the mayhem and destruction of the other GTA games along with irreverent humor and taking place in the 90s. The protagonist CJ starts out as a gang member and works his way up the social ladder until he’s in charge of everything, all the while being harassed by Samuel L. Jackson as a cop (among other harassments, like say the infamous David Cross and his toy airplanes).

There’s tons of weapons and cars and it’s the first time San Andreas and Los Santos were put on the GTA map – the predecessors to GTA V’s versions. There’s also the fictional version of Las Vegas (Las Venturas) that is one of my favorite locales in all of GTA (and I’m hoping we get a hi-def version of it in GTA VI someday). There’s gang missions, story missions, side missions where you torch a weed farm, and all sorts of other capers and hijinks. A classic 90s soundtrack blares through whatever genre of radio you like to listen to (Radio X or The Dust for me) and I guess there’s also the infamous Hot Coffee mod. It’s a true open world experience where San Andreas is your oyster in a time before open worlds had checkpoints and towers to climb.

Why It’s Important To Me:

While GTA has always been a single player affair (up until the success of GTA Online) I’ve always considered GTA a local co-op game. During the PS2 era, me and my friends would load up a GTA and just fuck around by messing with cops or stealing tanks and seeing how long we could last. And once the inevitable six star assault killed us, we’d pass the controller to the next person and see what chaos they could cause. Eventually we’d do an actual mission or two to unlock some cool new stuff and then go back to shooting rockets at civilians or parachuting out of planes onto a military base.

GTA: San Andreas was the epitome of the “fuck around and find out” gameplay once all three cities were unlocked. We’d ride to the top of Mt. Chiliad before driving whatever we had off a cliff and laughing as it either exploded in slow motion or we somehow miraculously survived. CJ was highly customizable in his look, and you could own all sorts of cool cars. At the time, San Andreas felt like it was the peak game world where you could do anything you wanted and really make your own fun. A true “open world” that had first been envisioned in GTA 3 and it was just an absolute blast to play with friends.

My Strongest Memory:

Fuck David Cross and his stupid model airplane.

Why It’s #65:

GTA V has been the gangbuster GTA, persevering for nearly a decade due to GTA Online and its updates. But San Andreas was not only the formula-setter and blueprint for success, but it was the one I spent the most time playing with my friends. I only tangentially got into GTA Online due to not having many people to experience cooperative mayhem with, so I have many more strong feelings towards the late college nights where we’d fuck around in San Andreas. It’s the #1 GTA in my heart and I’ll always have a place for it on the top 100. Catch me listening to Tom Petty while cruising outside of Los Santos any day.