I consider Grand Theft Auto to be “The Father of Open-World Sandbox Games.” But before Grand Theft Auto became known for its immense amount of details and gorgeous worlds, the game started as a top-down view game with pixelated graphics. With that said, in this GTA I Overview, we’re going to look at the very first Grand Theft Auto game!
Grand Theft Auto: Story
The first Grand Theft Auto game does not have a lot in terms of narrative. It focuses more on the chaos a player can cause throughout the game’s levels. Grand Theft Auto I does not even have a singular character.
The game offers a preset of characters, and for this reason, we’ll refer to the protagonist as “The Player.” The game takes place throughout the various cities of modern-day Grand Theft Auto Games, namely Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City.
The story begins in Liberty City, where the player works for a gang owned by Robert “Bubby” Seragliano. After working and finishing enough missions, Cabot will contact the player, revealing that they double-crossed Sonetti and will pay the price if it occurs again.
After those events, the player once again needs to finish several jobs before Bubby calls and informs the player that someone kidnapped Sasha. At this point, players can choose whether to rescue Sasha or not.
Finishing another set of missions will make Bubby call the player again to come to see him. This time, the police almost caught Bubby and the player, so Bubby booked the player a flight to San Andreas.
Upon arriving in San Andreas, Uncle Fu will contact the player to begin a sequence of missions until they can gather enough points to see Uncle Fu himself. After a short stint with Uncle Fu, the player will now work for El Burro. Doing a few missions for El Burro will cause him to be grateful for the player’s actions and reward him afterward.
The last city or level in the first Grand Theft Auto game is the classic representation of Miami, Vice City. Most of the missions for Brother Marcus involve assassination and killings.
As usual, when the player meets the required amount of points, Brother Marcus invites the player and says that he thinks that he won’t be seeing the player for quite some time, and that ends the game.
Grand Theft Auto: Gameplay, Graphics, and Controls
Grand Theft Auto’s gameplay is much different from what we love and know today. The game has a pretty weird control scheme. In the original PS1 version, you press the X button to move forward and Triangle to move backward.
You then use the left and right D-pad to turn left or right. You press the square button to enter a vehicle, and you cycle with your weapons through the L1 and L2 buttons.
Graphics, Presentation, and Sound Score
Grand Theft Auto I is in top-down view with 3D modeled environment; however, Rockstar presented the people, the cars, visual effects, and everything else in 2D sprites. Given that this was a relatively old game, in my opinion, it’s one of the best and most well-presented top-down view games for its time.
It’s not fascinating now, but the way Rockstar presented the game was great, and they did a great job of implementing an open-world environment with a mix of 2D and 3D elements.
The sounds in this game are phenomenal, not by today’s standards, of course. You can see how Rockstar is a master of their craft since they managed to cramp in sound details from cars to music playing on the streets, etc. Remember, this is a game from 1997, and to have this much care for sound design speaks volumes.
Rockstar introduces the three main cities of the Grand Theft Auto Franchise as levels in this game. To advance in a level, you need to rack up points by doing missions or causing chaos around the city. Doing so will cause your multiplier to go up, giving you more opportunities to score more points.
Dying is not an option here because you’ll lose all of your scores if you do. You’re instantly dead if you aren’t wearing any armor and get shot once. If you die multiple times throughout a level, you’ll reset the entire city and lose your progress.
Cops and Wanted Levels
The cops are relentless in this game. Unlike recent Grand Theft Auto games, you can hide in a corner, and you’ll lose your wanted level. However, in the first Grand Theft Auto game, your wanted level never goes down unless you pick up a cop bribe in specific parts of the city or you enter a spray shop.
This aspect is beyond unfair as cops chase you relentlessly and can one-hit kill you if you’re unprepared. It ups the stakes of staying alive, as if you get wasted, you’re essentially back to square one.
Grand Theft Auto only has five weapons which are:
- Fist- Fists are not fatal in this game; you can only incapacitate enemies by using this weapon.
- Pistol- These are slow-firing weapons but kill with one shot. The ammo for pistols is abundant throughout the city.
- Machine Gun- This weapon has a rapid-fire rate but is only exclusive to some locations, and ammo is rare to find. Police use this weapon when the player amassed four wanted levels.
- Rocket Launcher- This weapon can only destroy vehicles; it will set buildings aflame if shot at them.
- Flame Thrower- This weapon can quickly destroy cars and kill people; very handy for killing mobs.
Players can trigger missions by answering telephones, going to a particular spot, or entering a specific vehicle. Once the player accepts a mission, you’re stuck doing the mission until the objectives are complete, or the player fails/gets wasted/gets busted.
At the start of every mission, the NPC will provide a series of instructions that the player must follow. Time limits are rare in this game, but when missions offer a time limit, you’ll be forced to take necessary risks and increase your wanted level in the process.
Despite being almost 25 years old, there’s an included and limited multiplayer content in Grand Theft Auto. It involves the usage of a LAN connection, which allows you to battle against your friends in a shootout.
What Grand Theft Auto game would be complete without cheats, right? The implementation of the cheat system here is weird, as you can only have one active cheat at a time, and you need to enter the cheat code at the “Name Entry” screen. Nonetheless, here are the cheats you can use in Grand Theft Auto I.
Access San Andreas parts 1 and 2
T H E S H I T
All Cities parts 1 and 2 except Vice City.
|All Cities + All Weapons (Infinite Ammo) and 99 lives|
All Weapons, Armor and a Jail Card
Five Times Multiplier
|Level Select with Extra Options|
Liberty City parts 1 and 2
Wanted Level Max ($)
Unlock all cities
|All weapons, armor, and ‘Get outta jail free card.’|
Press ‘*’ for all weapons
|Raise point values|
View FMV sequences
|Enable offensive language|
Disable offensive language
A Few Gameplay Caveats
Driving and Camera Angles
Driving in 2D is a nightmare, to say the least, especially if you don’t know your way around the city. Grand Theft Auto has bikes in them, which, as you can guess, one bump can instantly crash you and send you flying.
There’s also this weird camera angle that zooms in whenever you’re driving slow, making it much harder to see the path ahead. You need to pick up speed to make the camera zoom out; however, it still isn’t enough to tell a player to prepare for a turn.
You can also expect the camera to zoom in whenever you turn instantly. For some reason, Rockstar also decided to add a “shaking camera” effect which makes it a bit unbearable at times.
One more annoying thing when playing through the game is that there’s no minimap of any sort. Sometimes, you’ll be stuck going around in circles since there are instances where you need to use a particular bridge to get around the other side of the level.
Nonetheless, with all the mayhem you can cause in the game, you still need to use your brainpower to remember a few landmarks to get around the city properly.
Grand Theft Auto I: Playable Platforms
Rockstar initially made Grand Theft Auto I for the PC as a DOS (Disk Operating System) game in November 1997. A month later, Rockstar surprised its fans by releasing the game on the Playstation, and they even made a port of the entire game two years later for the Game Boy Color.
The PC version came out previously as a part of the Rockstar Classics, which is free; however, the service is not available as of now. Also, Steam removed the ability to purchase the game from its store. So what now? How would you be able to play Grand Theft Auto I with your shiny RTX 3090?
Two Methods to Play Grand Theft Auto I Today
Grand Theft Auto I: Max Pack
Toshiba-3, a member of the GTAForums website, created a Grand Theft Auto: Max Pack, which includes Grand Theft Auto I plus its mission packs. The entire collection is meant for newer operating systems such as Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, and as an added bonus, I tested the pack, which works wonders with Windows 11 x64.
One thing that I did notice while playing through the game is that it does not natively support your controller, so you have to download an entirely different software to emulate a PC Keyboard input and map it directly to your controller. If you’re interested in that, Igor Bogdanoff created a preset for the controls (similar to the Playstation controls.)
Grand Theft Auto I: PSX Emulator
If Toshiba-3’s method did not work for you, the last way I would suggest is downloading a PSX Emulator like the ePSXe. If you have the original disc of Grand Theft Auto I for your Playstation, you can rip its content and run it through the emulator directly. A more convenient method is by finding a “ROM” website, which preserves retro console games.
One of the perks of playing through an emulator is that it instantly recognizes your controller, and you can easily map the controls by yourself. Also, you can upscale the entire game to 4K if your PC can handle it.
Grand Theft Auto I: Alternatives
If Grand Theft Auto I’s clunky “cinematic” camera is too much for you, I’ll be recommending a few games that have a similar feel to the first Grand Theft Auto game. These games are all available on Steam and can basically run on potatoes.
Rustler (Grand Theft Horse)
Rustler is a game I truly adored for its comedic touch, and it’s basically Grand Theft Auto set in the medieval era. Coupled those elements with a bopping soundtrack, you’re in for a treat.
There are a few caveats here and there, but overall it’s a decent game, and I highly recommend this game if you want to scratch your “Old-School Grand Theft Auto Itch.”
Hotline Miami is a bit different from Grand Theft Auto’s open-world gameplay. However, it offers stunning visuals with a better story than the original GTA game.
The brutal killings and executions in this game feel satisfying. With death coming in a single bullet hit to you, it’s a game about trial and error plus a points system, reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto I.
Ape Out feels like a distant relative of Hotline Miami, except its Hotline Harambe. The sprites may not look appealing, but Ape Out’s gameplay makes up for it.
You only have a few options for killing enemies here, mainly relying on melee grabs and push. Ape Out has a procedurally generated environment, making every run unique from the other.
12 is Better Than 6
12 is Better Than 6 is another distant relative of Hotline Miami set in Mexico. The art style reminds me a lot of Paper Mario put in a top-down view, with a black, white, and red line-art aesthetic (red for the blood, of course. Like Hotline Miami, its core revolves around the one-shot, one-kill mechanic.
Have you ever wanted to play Grand Theft Auto I with superpowers? Well, Mr. Shifty is the game for you. It’s a top-down beat ’em up game where you climb up a tower, killing enemies throughout each level. Mr. Shifty can warp in and out of combat and even through walls, which is a fun aspect.
Upon maxing out your special meter, Mr. Shifty gains the ability to stop time. Even though it is repetitive since you don’t gain powers upon advancing through the levels, it still works (oddly enough.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Would You Recommend Playing Grand Theft Auto I for New GTA Players?
Answer: There are a lot of quality-of-life changes in later installments of the series, and I think you’re not missing out a lot in terms of a story narrative or even gameplay elements if you skip Grand Theft Auto I.
It’s a game that you can entirely skip, and if you really want to play a top-down Grand Theft Auto game, I would highly recommend starting with Grand Theft Auto II or Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
Question: Which Protagonist Would You Recommend In Grand Theft Auto I?
Answer: Grand Theft Auto I has eight different protagonists that you can choose from. Unfortunately, there’s no difference in which protagonist you pick at the beginning of the game.
There are no stats, story, or even gameplay deviations if you decide to go for a particular protagonist. So I recommend any one of the protagonists as long as you feel more “drawn” to them.
Question: How Do You Play Grand Theft Auto I on PC Today?
Answer: Unfortunately, Steam removed Grand Theft Auto I due to compatibility issues with current systems. A user named Toshiba-3 created a Grand Theft Auto “Max Pack,” which involves mission packs London 69 and London 61.
The author mentioned that it should work with the latest version of Windows as he built it on Windows 10. Other than that, you can try to use a PSX Emulator, which works 100% of the time.
Grand Theft Auto has a few hits and misses; however, we need to respect that this is the birth of a franchise juggernaut that we know and love today.
If you found this article interesting, here are a few more helpful overviews that you can read!