The Grand Theft Auto franchise has achieved sweeping popularity and fame, with good reason – they are some of the most engaging games out there, filled to the brim with exciting content.
The latest instalment, GTA 5, is best characterized by this. With hours upon hours of single-player content already making it a colossus of a game, once you’re done you can go back and play it again with cheats enabled or hop into the multiplayer Online mode.
But you can’t take GTA 5 with you when you leave the house.
Thanks to the wonder of technology, most of us walk around throughout the day with a device in our pocket that packs exponentially more computing power than with what NASA put man on the moon. The mobile games market has boomed in recent years, and there is a staggering selection of games that players can choose from for their smartphones, tablets and other devices.
With such a vast library, there’s bound to be something for GTA fans in there, right?
Luckily, even though you can’t take GTA 5 on the go, you needn’t leave the whole franchise behind. Rockstar Games have ported Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories to mobile platforms.
We grouped them together into one entry simply because otherwise all entries on this top 5 list would be GTA titles, and we want to offer a wider perspective than that.
All of the games received a graphical touch-up and reworked controls to fit in with the touchscreens these devices sport. Other than these changes, the full content of all games are present – all the missions, all the vehicles, the full map, everything. The complete GTA game experiences are stuffed into your mobile device, allowing you to take the adventures of iconic characters like Tommy Vercetti and CJ wherever you go.
Depending on who you ask, San Andreas is arguably still the best GTA game, even if GTA 5 achieved heights of success no other game can rival. We can see where they’re coming from. San Andreas’ map size was a huge step up from all previous games, and CJ and his gang are such iconic characters that you just can’t not get emotionally invested in their story.
Is this cheating? We think not. Chinatown Wars, an official GTA title, was originally released for the PSP and Nintendo DS and thus isn’t a mainline title like 3, Vice City and San Andreas.
Additionally, it features visuals and gameplay that is unlike most other titles in the franchise. For one, it uses a cel-shaded cartoony art style reminiscent of the cover-art characteristic of GTA, and is played from an isometric, top-down perspective.
It’s still GTA though, and available on mobile platforms. Its story is markedly different from most GTA plotlines and received a great deal of praise, and the different perspective does nothing to dull the classic GTA gameplay – remember, the franchise began as top-down.
Incidentally, Rockstar has released games other than GTA titles on mobile.
Bully, a game which shares many gameplay features – albeit in vastly different presentation – with the GTA franchise, is also available. Bully is also an open world game filled with side-activities backing up the main missions, filled with quirky characters and is a satirization of the real world. Only, it trades the large American metropolis for a small English school town, the guns for slingshots, the cars for bikes and the crime for mischief.
Bully takes place in the town of Bullworth, which houses a boarding school of the same name, where Jimmy Hopkins is sent in the hopes that his behaviour will get whacked into shape. Instead, he gets embroiled in the conflicts between the various cliques in the school, and makes a mortal enemy of Gary Smith.
The ensuing shenanigans, pranks, and other typical college nonsense is spun into a hilarious and engaging storyline. In the meantime, you can explore Bullworth and partake in a number of side activities, such as attending (and disrupting) classes to gain special abilities.
Gangstar is one of the most popular, and one of the oldest, GTA clones on mobile platforms, and beat Rockstar to the punch, having been around longer than the official ports.
Gangstar, cringy name aside, wears its inspiration on its sleeve with no attempt to hide the fact that it’s a GTA cash-in. Instead, it revels in the fact.
Multiple instalments have been released – some free with in-app purchases, others paid – set across a wide array of fictionalized versions of real world cities rife with gang crime, violence, fast cars and plenty of ammo to go around.
While the earlier Gangstar games were rough and content-bare, their success allowed for the more recent games to be of a higher quality. Gangstar Vegas, for example, actually has a proper storyline and enough gameplay features to feel worthy of its own fame.
Grand Gangsters is a less ambitious GTA clone (which even nicked the first word in its title) that wants to be an impulse-play game instead of something deep to get engrossed in.
Grand Gangsters takes the very core of the GTA gameplay loop – the stealing of cars and getting away from police – and builds a game around just that.
This is the kind of game you just play a quick few minutes of while waiting for the bus. There isn’t a vast overarching narrative that demands your attention and needs to be played somewhat consistently lest you lose track of what’s what and who’s who. This is fast food in video game form and it’s flavored with GTA.
Alongside these titles, you’ll find a horde of cheap and utterly broken GTA clones flooding most mobile application services and the vast majority of them aren’t worth your time.