Grand Theft Auto IV



Murder, sex, drugs, drunk driving. Not for kids.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Needless-to-say, this GTA is like the others, allowing players to lead a graphic life of crime. Provides escapism into the underworld of crime and glorifies it by rewarding violence, misogyny, and mayhem.

Positive role models

You play as a gangster who has no regard for society's rules. You can cause mayhem and violence wherever you go. You can hire hookers, use them, and then kill them. You can shoot police officers.

Ease of play

This is a wide open world to explore, with adequate controls.


As with past GTA games, players can kill other humans, including police officers, or drive into pedestrians on sidewalks and parks. There is gang warfare, beatings, drive-by shootings, and bloody deaths all shown in gory detail.


This is a game that earned the ESRB rating of "Strong Sexual Content." While the game doesn't show women completely nude, it gets close, with women appearing in pasties, g-strings, and the like. You can get a lap dance at a gentlemen's club, where the woman is shown with her legs over her head spread eagle. You can gain "health points" by having implied sex with a prostitute in your car, where you hear what is happening and watch rhythmic actions of the couple from a distance, but don't actually see the act. Two scantily clad women can "entertain" you, and before they climb onto your lap, they gyrate provocatively and mimic the motions of having intercourse with each other. You can also have sex with your girlfriend at home, where you can hear but not see the specific act.


Pushes the envelope for graphic language including many instances of "mother f--ker," "f--k," sh-t," "assh-le." You can hear prostitutes offer to "suck your c--k real nice," as well as other explicit sexual references.


Game offers more than 100 songs in the GTA IV soundtrack (heard over the in-game radios) and they can be tagged within the game by using the in-game cell phone. If the player is registered at the Rockstar Socil Club, they will then be offered a link to purchase the song from

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Players can get drunk (and drive) in this game, but their vision will be blurred. They can drive around with pot-smoking characters.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this game isn't for kids in any way. This new version is as controversial as its predecessors, letting you lead a life of crime, shoot police officers, drink and drive, and have sex with prostitutes. It features pole dancers and lap dancers at a men's club and is laced with profane language that pushes the envelope (much of it peppered throughout the over 100 songs played on car radios in the game). The star rating given to this game is based on the quality of the gameplay within the context of adult gaming and isn't an endorsement of the violence within the game.

What's it about?

Without question, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV isn't for younger players because of its graphic violence, sexual themes, and coarse language. Yet the game will be extremely popular with adult gamers because this sequel lives up to its hype in the game-play department. Available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Grand Theft Auto IV lets you play as Niko Bellic, a tough-looking character who arrives on U.S. shores from somewhere in Eastern Europe, expecting to live the good life with his American cousin, Roman, who lied to Niko about his posh lifestyle in the New World. In fact, Niko is a scheming loudmouth who owes money to loan sharks because of gambling debts and lives in a cockroach-infested apartment the size of a walk-in closet. Nevertheless, Niko decides to help out Roman with his rundown cab stand and keep thugs off his back until he can figure out how to make money and connections in Liberty City, the same town as 2001's Grand Theft Auto III, modeled after New York City and New Jersey. Plus, you'll discover a few hours into the game there are other reasons why Niko left his homeland.

For the uninitiated, Grand Theft Auto games offer \"sandbox\" play, meaning you can virtually go anywhere and do anything in this fully realized 3-D city with pedestrians, traffic, and storefronts. Played from a third-person perspective, this includes carjacking any vehicle, listening to more than a hundred songs on car radios (as well as very funny DJ banter and commercials), and playing mini-games such as billiards, darts, bowling, or arcade games. Niko can go on dates, swim, surf the Net, and purchase clothing and weapons. But it's the seedy missions that unravel the lengthy single-player story. In-person or on his cell phone, Niko will be asked to perform missions that include escorting Roman's friends, taking out drug dealers, evading police cruisers, racing to one end of the city before someone else, flying a helicopter, or retrieving stolen money. And how you go about a mission may vary, such as carjacking a cop cruiser to gain access to the police computer to look up an informant: you can call 9-1-1 on your phone so a police car comes and then take out the cop; shoot at pedestrians until the police come; or stealthily steal a cop car from the police station.

Is it any good?


For the first time in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV offers high-definition graphics, including smooth animation and lip-synching, varying weather effects, and a new physics engine that models everything authentically. This sequel also adds more hand-to-hand combat and optional in-car GPS to help you better navigate this city. Without question, though, the biggest new feature is something gamers have been asking about for years: multiplayer. In Grand Theft Auto IV, up to 16 gamers can play online in a host of game head-to-head modes, like "Cops & Crooks," or cooperative missions like "Hangman's NOOSE." Xbox 360 gamers will also be able to download bonus missions and other content later this year, via the Xbox Live service.

Of course, the controversy this game will garner is unavoidable. As with past GTA titles you can shoot at cops, drive into pedestrians, or request "services" from a prostitute and a lap dance from a stripper. This sequel is also laced with plenty of foul language and you can drink and drive, though your cousin calls you a "bloody idiot" for doing so. Again, take heed of the "M"-rating. Aside from a slightly choppy frame rate at random times, where the action stutters for a bit, and hard-to-read green GPS directions on your mini-map, there is little to complain about with the gameplay mechanics of Grand Theft Auto IV. Adult gamers will find a single-player story that can easily last a month, not to mention the ability to hop online and play with friends. In short, this highly-polished sequel will gratify adults who will get a long "bang" for their buck. But don't let your kids anywhere near it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why kids -- who are not the intended audience -- play this game. What is it about the game that appeals to them? Do they understand why this game is inappropriate for young people?

  • You also might ask your kids if they think video game violence is different from TV or movie violence. What affect does it have on your kids when they initiate the violence within the game or do something clearly outside of the law? In the game, they can break the law with no consequence.

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Available online?Available online
Developer:Rockstar Games
Release date:April 29, 2008
ESRB rating:M for Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

This review of Grand Theft Auto IV was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love action adventure

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 9 year old Written byellcar_fairjudge March 15, 2011

Fine for anyone who comprehends real-life "right" from "wrong"

The Grand Theft auto series does not MAKE people "go bad". This game does have gratuitous amounts of violence, sex, drugs, etc. but it is FICTIONAL. I let me 9 year old play this while I'm in the roo because he understands its not real. He knows that violence and crime in real life has [major] censequences. Since playing this game, he has had NO negative life changes whatsoever. A game is NOT real life, get over it people and take some darn responsibility for what you do and stop blaming things that have NO effect on the utmost VAST majority of people who experience it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Parent Written byKevin Brachler March 8, 2012

The reasonable and logistic side of parenting.

I am the father of two boys, one is 11, the older brother is 13. I have played this game before, and yes, I think it has to be, the very best games to come out of Rockstar Studios yet. Yes, it is true that this game contains explicit content, such as violence, and its abuse of drugs. The thing is about some parents, they shield their child from everything, and the matter of fact thing about it is, all of them (99.9999% of the age over 10) know about this stuff. There is no use shielding your children, but rather expose them to it and show them the wrongs in it. My youngest son started playing this when he was 10, and I told him and reminded him the rights and wrongs in the explicit content was featured. I am an educator, and saw this game as an chance to show my children what is right and wrong, and the thing is, all of the kids can already tell what is right from wrong, unless they have god-awful parents. Kids want to play this game because of its sheer awesomeness. It is an insanely fun game, with just inappropriate content. You have to stop shielding your children and give them more responsibility and trust, and they will ultimately respect you for it. This won't turn your children into mindless psychotic killers like the media says it will. It is intended purely for entertainment purposes. All boys above 10 are old enough to start learning the difference between fantasy and reality, and this is an perfect chance to do so. I recommend this for ages 10 and up, and most boys are mature enough to know not to do the things featured in the games. Just remember, these games are for sheer fun, and they don't ruin your kid's brains with trash.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much swearing
Adult Written byPsychGuy July 9, 2011

Let your kids play this game......But with you involved.

I disagree with many of the comments about this game. I was 15 when GTA 3 came out. At the time, it was the most controversial game to date. I played GTA 3 all the time. When GTA Vice City came out when I was 16, I played that. I am 25 now. I have been playing violent video games since I was a young child. I have never commited a violent crime, killed a hooker, driven while intoxicated, ect. I was and still am a very good studnet. I am in grad school now. If you would listen to Jack Thompson then I should be in prison for commiting a violent crime due to my violent video game enjoyment. Why am I not in prison? Let me tell you why. I have intelligent parents who did not shelter me from the world we live in. They let me play video games, listen to "dirty" music, and they even openly discussed sex! "OH MY GOD! You must be a broken person! Your parents ruined you!" NOPE! My parents explained things to me. They would talk to me about the differences between reality and fantasy. I was not sheltered because sheltering your children is useless. One day, your child WILL leave home and will not be under the parents umbrella of protection and influence. What decisions will they make if the "Big Bad Scary World" was always closed off to them? Will they stick to their parent's strict ideals of censorship? Or will the dive right into the debauchery the world can offer? Now, I wouldn't let a 5, 6, or 7 year old play this game. Their minds are not yet developed enough to process the difference between fantasy or reality. It would be hard for a parent to explain this to a young child. But as for a 12 or 13 year old, it can be done. But, THE PARENT MUST BE INVOLVED! The parents need to explain what is wrong with the game; that the game is just fantasy! This game could be a good tool to use with teens. The role models in the game could be used to teach a teen. Yes, it really could! A role model is not always a person you look up to. A person/thing could be used as a role model of negative behavior. But, once again the parents need to be involved to teach this. I believe many parents do not want to take the time to teach life lessons. The parents will let the teachers, sports coachs, or whoever else to do the parenting for them. Many parents will let their young child get concussions at football practice and be rewarded for running into another human being; but they will not let their child play video games. Fake violence is worse than real life violence, aggresive behavior, and life long injuries? I think not. If your child wants to play this game and is above the age of 11 then let them. But, teach them that this game is fantasy. Teach them about the consequences of killing cops. Teach them that paying for a hooker will most likely get them a visit to the clinic with a nasty case of the Clap. Do not keep your child in the dark. Open the world up to them. Open the world up but with disclaimers and warnings. Don't be one of those parents that shelter your child. They will not turn into the next school gunman because of a stupid video game. The children need YOU to be there, to explain the complex world we live in.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide