Everything You Need to Know About Grand Theft Auto

Get the low-down on this action-packed, violent role-playing game. By Caroline Knorr
Everything You Need to Know About Grand Theft Auto

Sex, violence, and drugs: Grand Theft Auto has it all. This role-playing game includes over a dozen titles and is one of the most controversial -- and popular -- series on the market. Its stories revolve around a criminal underworld (such as the mafia), and players are cast in the role of gang members who must commit brutal crimes to rise through the ranks. These acts are carried out without remorse or consequences -- which is why Common Sense Media recommends GTA only for adults. 

Now that many of the games have been released in app form, the price of entry -- compared with console versions -- is a lot more accessible for young players. If your kid is interested in GTA, read the full Common Sense review.

Grand Theft Auto V, Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360 (2013)
From a technical and design perspective, Grand Theft Auto V is excellent. But its mature themes -- players kill not only fellow gangsters but also police officers and innocent civilians -- make it solely for those with a clear understanding of dark fantasy.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire (2013)
This version is a direct recreation of the console hit of the same name, minus some of the content and features. It's still plenty violent, though. Players lead a life of crime, shoot police officers (as well as civilians and drug dealers), drink and drive, and have sex with prostitutes.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android (2012)
This mobile version of the console hit is slightly less expansive but just as violent as the original. The game glamorizes the drug trade and is loaded with violence, sex, and obscenities. For adults, it's a very well-made action game that deserves the praise it has received for being "interactive cinema."

Grand Theft Auto III, Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android (2011)
The original GTA III makes a smooth transition to the iOS world -- although little has changed beyond the control scheme. You're still shooting indiscriminately and behaving lawlessly. Even the songs on the radio are filled with expletives.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (2010)
This app game depicts the world of organized crime and lets you join in the unlawfulness. Drugs and illegal acts are a regular part of the gameplay. There is also simulated sex with prostitutes.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD, Devices: iPad, (2010)
Violence, sex, and drugs are still alive and kicking in this app version. Positive role models -- as well as any kind of restraint -- are MIA in Chinatown Wars, where you murder others for hire and kill both civilians and police officers.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony, Platforms: Xbox 360 (2009)
As with its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony has lots of violence, blood, and killing (but no nudity). Adult fans of the game appreciate its memorable characters, irreverent dialogue, daring missions, and a fully interactive open world ripe for exploring.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, Platforms: Xbox 360 (2009)
Just when you thought GTA couldn't get any more controversial, it throws in a shocker: full-frontal male nudity. Needless to say, the content is designed for mature gamers and for those who enjoy the virtual, visceral thrill offered by past GTA games.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Platforms: Nintendo DS (2009)
It might look cartoon-like, and it's available on a platform embraced by young children, but this game is just as violent as the console versions. Players use the DS touchscreen to make weapons, including a Molotov cocktail, or assemble a gun before assassinating an enemy with it.

Grand Theft Auto IV, Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (2008)
This is the first version of the series to feature high-definition graphics, making it even more immersive and realistic than previous versions. You can shoot at cops, drive into pedestrians, or request services from a prostitute and a lap dance from a stripper.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Platforms: PSP (2006)
Though limited to the small screen of a portable system, this installment features all the violence, sex, drugs, obscenities, and criminal behavior of its console cousins. The PSP has the graphics, sound, and display capabilities to create an immersive experience -- and GTA: LCS puts those capabilities to work for a decidedly adult game.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Platforms: PSP, PlayStation 2 (2006)
Despite the game's amazing depth and detail, Vice City Stories is another unabashedly adult game that revels in explicit content. Players are involved in contract killings, gang wars, torture, and drive-by shootings, and ethnic caricatures abound.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Platforms: Windows, Xbox (2004)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas boasts an exceptional soundtrack, a well-written story line, and a slew of plot twists and other surprises. It also portrays just about every illegal act that a criminal could think of in full, living 3-D graphics, including murder, theft -- and much worse.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox (2002)
Although clever pop-culture references to the 1980s make this game creative and appealing, the graphic nature of its story line makes it shocking. Players pimp women, sell drugs, and strong-arm rivals with the help of shotguns, AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and a deadly chain saw (among other weapons).

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About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (16)

Teen, 17 years old written by Jack J.

It all comes down to how you decide to play it. you could just roam around in your car, or you could spend all your money on strippers. I would say about 15+.
Teen, 17 years old written by nordicviking

I play, GTA V, which takes place in a pseudo-Los Angeles/California immersive world. While I do not recommend this game for anyone under the age of 16, it's not fair to judge this game based on it's reputation. Yes, this game does include sex, drugs, criminal activity, even semi-terroristic activity, however it is fictional. I do not recommend this game to those who are not mentally sound, or mature enough to enjoy it's dark humor. Aside from all it's violence and sex, it's a very well thought out game, which is enjoyable to play. Everything from the cars and in-game electronics such as the iFruit Phone, or Lifeinvader are very realistic to their real life counterpart. GTA V's humor is generally sarcastic and is cynical to real life (which makes it particularly funny), GTA V still has a sense of realism. For example: FIB (FBI in San Andreas), in GTA "FIB" stands for Federal Investigation Bureau, thus the acronym is "FIB," in-which the word fib is a synonym of the word lie. All in all, the game is fun, enjoyable, but only for the right audience. I recommend 16+ (mentally sound, mature, and can enjoy it's humor) due to it's content.
Adult written by Aaron H.

This game is absolutely terrible. Dont buy it.. Going online ia complete chaos cause you have someone trying to kill you ever minute you are on for no reason. Also you wont be able to buy anything cause you need a shark card which cost too much money.. Also please tell me why an add-on or even a shark carD.. COSTS MORE THAN THEY GAME?!?!?!
Teen, 17 years old written by Fallsalot

Best game ever I got it on my birthday I i can't stop playing it but it has sex and strong language so probably age 14 is good
Teen, 17 years old written by Fallsalot

Best game ever I got it on my birthday I i can't stop playing it but it has sex and strong language so probably age 14 is good
Teen, 14 years old written by sweetgamer_575

This game is horrible for kids 17+ i mean they curse every sentence u can have sex take a striper home and pay hookers u commit horrible crimes and u have to assasinate people horrible game for kids but fun overall
Parent of a 7 and 10 year old written by Connor B.

GTA 5 is not a kids game. Gta has it all sex, nudity, swearing it has it all.This game is not for KIDS!
Teen, 13 years old written by Aquatic Bee

Grand Theft Auto is not a kids game. In it you take place as a horrible person that is crazy. You can shoot officers , kill fellow gangsters. But you also murder innocents. Blood , guns , drunk driving , alcohol , sex and nudity! There is worse but explaining it will not be easy. As you can see Grand Theft Auto is NOT a toy. Also not a game for kids alright.
Parent written by Dammir

There are many ways one can play GTA. I have introduced it to my child as a game where one can drive an ambulance and save pretend lives, drive a fire-truck and extinguish "pretend fires." I think it is a fun game, however I do not like doing violent missions, and I do them just to unlock the whole game and never while my child is present.
Teen, 14 years old written by Jack King

This is a terrible, crime-promoting game. It has led many teenagers, including some of my friends to commit crimes and think it's ok.
Teen, 16 years old written by Thatnotsogrumpyteen

I think the game is very good and should be for 13+ because the sexual content of the game can be easily avoided and the strong language can be muted, but we hear swearing in various films or tv series every day, some of which are rated 12 so why shouldn't this game. As for the violence, it's not the worst and definitely isn't gory, it is possible to run people over and kill them, but it's not graphic.


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