There are few franchises that have reached the stratospheric heights of success as Grand Theft Auto, whether this is in terms of sales, critical reception or just in in the incredible reach across the world. Pretty much everyone is familiar with the series.

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Of course, this rise to fame has not come without controversy, with many citing it as an example of how video games contribute to real life violence. As you might expect, I firmly believe that is a load of tosh.

What Grand Theft Auto is, in fact, is an open world, city-wide playground in which you find your way (violently) to the top of the criminal tree. Of course it’s aimed at an adult audience, but in terms of a franchise it’s an excellent, well-designed and groundbreaking series of games.

So imagine then us humble Xbox gamers being treated to a bundle that included three excellent titles in the series which were all given a polish, making them the definitive versions (at the time), looking and sounding better than on the PlayStation 2. Three for the price of one? Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy was a bargain. 

I actually never owned the trilogy myself; I had purchased the double pack and then Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (famous for its Hot Coffee mod) afterwards. To confirm, the trilogy consists of this game as well as Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

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Grand Theft Auto III was set in the classic location for the series, Liberty City. This was the first full 3D, open world entry in the franchise and it marked a massive departure from previous entries. It was a huge leap forward, and really showed just what was possible for video games in the new millennium.

The second game in the trilogy, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, is my absolute favourite. It’s still the best Grand Theft Auto game. Ever. It’s set in the ‘80s, and you play as Tommy Vercetti who, whilst seeking revenge, starts his mission to take over the city’s criminal enterprises. The game oozes style, and the soundtrack is famous in itself for boasting an excellent collection of songs, as well as genuinely hilarious talk radio. 

It’s down to features such as the radio stations, although they are a small part of the game, being given the same amount of love and attention as everything else, meaning they are more than a mere afterthought. The story is fantastic, and takes inspiration from classic films such as Scarface and Carlito’s Way, ending up as a ‘greatest hits’ of gangster films. There have long been rumours of an official remaster, and despite not ever being confirmed, it remains right at the top of my wish list. Please Rockstar, make it happen.

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The final title included is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game had a huge open world to explore, being much bigger than the two games before it. Quickly it became a fan favourite, and also provided a greater focus on the personal aspects of your playable character – this time around CJ – such as his fitness. The impact on your character directly linked to lifestyle choices provided further realism to the game, and again felt like a jump forward for a franchise that always seems to innovate.

The GTA Trilogy is something of a collector’s item these days, despite not being worth anything hugely significant. Saying that, at the time it represented amazing value for money and, something which is rare for a trilogy, three incredibly strong games. If you want to pick up a copy for yourself, we’d hazard a guess and say Amazon is your best bet.

If we flash forward to the present day, Grand Theft Auto V is poised to be the first game ever to be released across three generations. That is an incredible achievement and shows just how huge the series now is. However, it’s worth hunting down and playing each of the games released in the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, as the quality of the Grand Theft Auto games is consistent, each offering something different. And honestly, if you haven’t played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City yet, what on earth have you been doing?

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