Grand Theft Auto V

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Grand Theft Auto V Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Crime, violence, sex, drugs, and alcohol = not for kids.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 867 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1079 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Although elements of Grand Theft Auto V focus on teamwork and strategic reasoning, we don't recommend it for learning because of the graphic violence and mature themes.

Positive Messages

Glamorizes and sensationalizes criminal lives and activities, including thievery, murder, drug use. Its aim is to entertain players by allowing them to role-play as criminals carrying out acts that are intensely violent and usually quite selfish, including torture.

Positive Role Models

No protagonists or associates serve as a decent role model. All are actively involved in or otherwise connected to the criminal world. Most of their decisions -- to shoot police officers, to take advantage of women, to kill fellow hoods, to torture -- are driven by greed and self-interest. 

Diverse Representations

Among three playable anti-heroes, one is a Black man. He falls into stereotype as an ex-gangster, but he sits in good company, as the other two White protagonists also have criminal backgrounds. Gender balance skews incredibly male, and women are largely treated as sex objects and disposable. Characters also strongly skew White, despite the fictional setting of Los Santos being based on Los Angeles, where White residents are the minority. That said, non-White and non-Black characters of color do arrive through appearances by a Mexican cartel and a Chinese gang.

Ease of Play

Most of the game is of average difficulty for an M-rated action game, though specific missions likely will test players' skills and tenacity. Helping ease things along is a polished and intuitive interface unlikely to cause most experienced gamers any grief.

Violence

In the role of criminal characters, players employ an extensive array of realistic weapons ranging from pistols and shotguns to machine guns and grenades, killing hundreds of people including gangsters, police, and innocent bystanders. Cars can be used as weapons, too, both purposefully and accidentally, as players race through crowded streets slamming into anyone who gets in the way. Blood often sprays from injured and dying characters, staining their clothing and the environment. One scene involves the player's character graphically torturing another, using methods including waterboarding and pliers. Screams and moans of pain are frequent. 

Sex

An optional strip club mini-game shows women naked, save skimpy panties. They push their breasts toward the camera, and players can direct their avatars' hands to touch the strippers' bodies when bouncers aren't looking. Sex workers attempt to sell themselves on the street. Many female characters are clad in revealing clothing. Men and women are shown having sex, though they aren't naked. Some scenes imply masturbation, fellatio, even necrophilia, including pleasured moaning sounds. Men's genitals are shown, though in nonsexual context.

Language

Frequent coarse language includes very strong words, including hundreds of instances of "f--k" and the "N" word. Other words, including "s--t," "c--t," and "c--k," appear frequently as well. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A player has several opportunities to make his character smoke marijuana and drink alcohol. Effects of pot include the avatar commenting on how pot doesn't phase him, even though his vision becomes brighter and objects become haloed with light. In one instance the player's character hallucinates alien monsters. Result of imbibing alcohol is a wonky camera designed to simulate dizziness, loss of balance. Players can drive while drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Grand Theft Auto V is an M-rated action game brimming with gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, and drug and alcohol abuse. It isn't a game for kids. Playing as hardened criminals, players kill not only fellow gangsters but also police officers and innocent civilians using both weapons and vehicles while conducting premeditated crimes, including a particularly disturbing scene involving torture. Women are frequently depicted as sexual objects, with a strip club mini-game allowing players to fondle dancers' bodies, which are nude from the waist up. Players also have the opportunity to make their avatars use marijuana and drink alcohol, both of which impact their perception of the world. None of the main characters in the game makes for a decent role model. All of them are criminals who think of themselves first and others rarely at all. Few games are more clearly targeted to an adult audience.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 and 16-year-old Written bykevinjohnson123 September 19, 2013

GTA 5 Review

As per usual, only half of the true story is told by these review websites, much like common sense media. To be honest, as long as your child is over thirteen a... Continue reading
Adult Written byMiami809 February 17, 2014

GTA 5 Is actually not that bad for a kid 10+

It depends on your child, everyone is different. Like my boys, they grew up watching shows with me like the Big Bang Theory & Scrubs witch has a lot of... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byMaster of skyrim September 21, 2013

the truth

Well I think this is going to be a hard review,everyone this is grand theft auto is in the name personally I think this game gets a bad rep but if you let your... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byRiga June 21, 2019

A great game but definitely not for kids

Grand Theft Auto follows the lives of three criminals, Trevor, Michael and Franklin. This game I’d just like to say is phenomenal, this tells the story of these... Continue reading

What's it about?

Rockstar Games' decidedly adult-oriented GRAND THEFT AUTO V puts players in the shoes of a trio of criminals in Los Santos, a fictionalized version of Los Angeles. One protagonist is a middle-aged gangster who begins the game as a recently retired criminal; another is an unpredictable, drug-addled psychopath; and the third is a young man just starting out on a life of crime. Players have the ability to switch freely among these men as they work through a dramatic criminal saga that sees them carrying out heists, stealing cars, taking revenge on rivals, and killing anyone who gets in their way, including police officers and innocent civilians.

The immense world they inhabit is sprawling and free for players to roam, providing them the liberty to do anything they want -- from piloting boats and ATVs in rural settings to playing golf and tennis at local country clubs -- whenever they like. Though story-progressing missions, which are usually major criminal acts, are always available, a primary part of the game is exploration, allowing players to find side quests ranging from tow-truck jobs to murder mysteries. An online mode not yet released at the time of this writing will allow up to 16 players to engage in many of these activities as a group.

Is it any good?

From a technical and design perspective, Grand Theft Auto V sets new bars. The world it presents is unrivaled in authenticity and vibrancy. It feels fluid and alive. Time passes organically, characters' lives progress, and there is a simply astounding quantity of side activities in which to engage. It's quite possible to explore the state of San Andreas for hours without moving the main story forward a stitch. In fact, that's part of the fun. And it's all been polished to a glossy sheen. The controls feel great, the visuals are lush, and a brilliant graphical interface empowers players, giving them all the information they need -- and only the information they need -- exactly when they need it. However, the writing isn't quite as sharp as it has been in previous installments; the humor is a bit broader and less sophisticated, and the main characters aren't as well developed (probably because there are now three), but this only impacts the overall experience a little. It remains a very impressive game.

Keep in mind, though, that much of the content is unequivocally geared for adult audiences. And even then it will not be for all tastes. Grand Theft Auto V puts players in the roles of criminals who show little remorse for their evil actions, and often even take pleasure in them. It's a dark fantasy with the potential to prove immense fun for those who are able to clearly distinguish between right and wrong. It is not a game for younger players with developing psychologies. And adults who don't have a taste for role-playing a life of crime should probably give this game a wide berth.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Do you think violent games have a different influence on the behavior of those who consume them than do violent movies, books, or music? How do you decide when violence becomes too much for your kids? 

  • Families also can discuss role models in games. Anti-heroes make for popular protagonists across all media but might be viewed differently in games, since players actually perform their dirty deeds rather than simply observing them. Can an anti-hero ever be a good role model?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and adventure games

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