A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Missions glamorize and sensationalize criminal life and illegal activities including thievery, murder, and drug use. The game's aim is to entertain players by allowing them to role-play as criminals carrying out acts that are frequently extremely violent, including torture.
Positive Role Models
No playable or secondary characters serve as decent role models. All are actively involved in or otherwise connected to the criminal world. Most of their decisions -- to shoot police officers, take advantage of women, kill fellow hoods, and even torture -- are driven by greed, self-interest, and a lack of respect for other people and their rights as humans.
Among three playable anti-heroes, one is a Black man. He falls into a stereotype as an ex-gangster, though the White protagonists also have criminal backgrounds. Gender balance skews heavily male; women are largely treated as sex objects and disposable. Characters also strongly skew White, despite fictional setting of Los Santos being based on Los Angeles, where White residents are the minority. But non-White and non-Black characters of color do arrive through appearances by a Mexican cartel and a Chinese gang. Homosexual characters (and references to them) pop up now and then, though they're rarely cast in favorable light -- such as a pair of brothers having sex in a van.
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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 & Scariness
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 clothing and environment. One scene involves the player's character graphically torturing another, using methods including waterboarding and pliers. Screams and moans of pain are frequent.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
Players can spend real-world money on in-game money, letting them buy things within the game without earning money by completing tasks and missions. This is the latest and most updated title of a game originally released in 2013, which is also the latest chapter of a long-running franchise.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players can direct characters to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol. Effects of pot include the character commenting on how weed doesn't faze him, even though his vision becomes brighter and objects become haloed with light. In one instance, the player's character hallucinates alien monsters. Imbibing alcohol results in a wonky camera meant to simulate dizziness and loss of balance. Players can drive while drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Grand Theft Auto V is an adult action game for Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows platforms. It brims with gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, and drug and alcohol abuse. 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 characters use marijuana and drink alcohol, both of which impact their perception of the world. All of the main characters are criminals who think of themselves first and others rarely at all. Online modes allow players to create their own avatar and embark on a criminal career that includes armed robberies, corruption, and murder. There's some diversity within the cast, including people of varying skin colors, backgrounds, and sexual orientation, but virtually no characters here could be considered appropriate role models. Few games are more clearly targeted to an adult audience.
Is It Any Good?
This isn't a game for kids. Beyond its glamorized depiction of crime, greed, and violence, Grand Theft Auto V is filled with mature satire both obvious and nuanced -- some of which hasn't aged very well -- that younger audiences are bound to take at face value. That said, it's also an expertly designed game that remains surprisingly playable and engaging. It gives players a vibrant and authentic world bursting with activities and things to discover, tight controls that seamlessly transition between various actions, and a cleverly designed story that puts the player in the shoes of three separate characters, pushing each narrative forward at its own pace. Newly added features in remastered versions of the game -- ranging from vastly improved loading times and enhanced audio to subtle new haptic feedback and contextual trigger sensitivity when using the PlayStation 5 controller -- have helped this game remain relevant and widely played much longer than most.
GTA Online is bound to be where most folks spend the bulk of their time, though. Newer editions allow players to skip the opening part of the story mode altogether -- which was required in earlier editions in order to teach people how to play -- and jump straight into Rockstar's multiplayer universe, where almost nothing's scripted and pretty much anything goes. What's more, the new Career Builder gives players $4 million up front and lets them set themselves up as a gun runner, the operator of a shady nightclub, a corrupt CEO, or a bike gang leader. GTA Online provides endless opportunity for players to indulge dark criminal fantasies while testing their mettle against other players. Just keep in mind, though, that just about everything here -- online and off -- is geared for adult audiences. And even then it won't be to all tastes. Grand Theft Auto V is well made and entertaining, but unequivocally inappropriate for kids.
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.