I can’t believe it, but Grand Theft Auto V is launching in just a few weeks. The game is easily my most anticipated game of the year, even with next-gen consoles on the horizon. I have thoroughly enjoyed every Grand Theft Auto game since GTA III on the PlayStation 2, and it has been my favorite video game series ever since those days.
GTA V is shaping up to be nothing short of absolutely extraordinary. In fact, check out the latest trailer right here:
Can’t wait for Grand Theft Auto V? Well, that’s the purpose of this editorial piece. While purposely ignoring Rockstar’s own GTA-like franchises such as Red Dead Redemption and Bully, this editorial points out the 10 best GTA clones out there. If you can’t wait for GTA V for your open world free-roaming fix, then these games should tide you over.
Without further delay, here are the 10 GTA clones that are simply better than the rest, with the platforms they are available to play on so you can hunt down some copies and get on with the open world mayhem!
10. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (PS2/Xbox)
While definitely having more of a linearity and focus to it, it’s undeniable that developers Pandemic Studios took a few pages out of the Grand Theft Auto textbook when they created Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction for sixth generation consoles. The game puts players in the role of the titular mercenaries, and the playground of destruction in the title? Well that is in reference to the open world, of course.
Players are able to enter numerous vehicles and just drive around and cause mayhem, just like they can in Grand Theft Auto. Mercenaries is more of a straight-forward action game, but that’s the beauty of these GTA clones. Not only do they borrow the best elements from Rockstar’s flagship franchise, but they also manage to offer their own unique perspective and spin on things, which definitely keeps it interesting.
09. True Crime: New York City (GCN/PC/PS2/Xbox)
One of the first attempts at a Grand Theft Auto ripoff (and I don’t mean that derogatorily) franchise came from Activision’s own True Crime series. The franchise didn’t last long, with True Crime: Streets of Los Angeles, the first game in the series, failing to make even close to as big of a splash as the Grand Theft Auto series. That being said, it didn’t stop them from moving forward with the sequel, New York City, which is actually quite good.
No, it’s not as polished as the Grand Theft Auto games, but True Crime: New York City is one of the best GTA clones ever. Players take the role of an undercover cop (not unlike a game higher up on this list) and have to infiltrate the criminal underworld of New York City. The activities and distractions in this game are what set it apart, with hilarious mini-games and crazy fight clubs. The game is also notable for how much it pokes fun at its competition, with dialogue and gag sequences put in place to directly mock Grand Theft Auto.
08. Just Cause (OnLive/PC/PS2/Xbox/Xbox 360)
A cross-generational title that was much better on Xbox 360 than the sixth generation systems it released on, Just Cause takes the concepts of Grand Theft Auto and thrusts them onto a tropical island. Of course, like most of these other GTA clones, Just Cause has a gimmick it uses to set itself apart from the competition.
That gimmick is the extreme sports elements injected into the proceedings. Parachuting and crazy vehicular stunts have a larger focus in Just Cause than the Grand Theft Auto games. Players are also able to jump on the roof of cars, thanks to the abilities of the main character, trained as a spy working for a secret organization known simply as “the Agency”.
07. Mafia II (Mac/PC/PS3/360)
Most of the games listed so far strongly encourage mass destruction, but Mafia II dials things back considerably. The game is set in the late 1940s, shortly after World War II, with a focus on classic mobsters and the certain terrifying elegance that comes with that territory. Players are still capable of being hugely destructive, of course, but when so much effort has gone into make the city feel realistic and alive, it’s sometimes more fun to just walk around and take in the breathtaking sites.
Gorgeously rendered and with a huge focus on storytelling and characters, Mafia II definitely represents the calmer side of the genre, but that’s okay. Do we need everything moving a mile a minute for it to be fun or engaging? Mafia II says no, and everyone should listen.
06. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (GCN/PC/PS2/PSP/Xbox)
Despite not allowing players to run around as iconic skateboarding celebrities and going on mass murder sprees, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (and the first game) is definitely a GTA clone. The Underground games take the once-confined levels of the Tony Hawk franchise and throws it into an open world, with a story and mission structure based directly on the kind seen in the GTA franchise.
Other open world style antics are also present in the Underground games. There are various side activities to take part in, including recreations of the classic Tony Hawk objectives.
05. Infamous (PS3)
SuckerPunch, the guys behind the Sly Cooper franchise, surprised everyone when they took a decidedly different approach to a new franchise on PlayStation 3. Dubbed Infamous, this is an original superhero story about hero Cole MacGrath and his ability to use lightning as a weapon to either save the world or end it.
Infamous is noteworthy because it represents one of the best examples of the open world superhero genre that was born from the popularity of Grand Theft Auto. This superhero origin story is actually quite interesting, because unlike most superhero origin stories, no one knew how it was going to end going into it.
Infamous has since seen a sequel that adds even more superheroes and powers to the mix, plus a spinoff about vampires. The franchise is part of the PlayStation 4′s launch window with the highly anticipated Infamous: Second Son releasing in February of 2014. If you like Infamous, also try out the Prototype series or The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
04. Gun (GCN/PC/PS2/PSP/Xbox/Xbox 360)
Before Red Dead Redemption, there was Gun. Activision has always been on the hunt for an answer to Grand Theft Auto. We saw it with the True Crime series, and then we see it with Gun, a GTA clone set in the Wild West that, while incredibly short, is also a ton of fun.
It does a lot of things that Red Dead Redemption would later do much better, but Gun is still an absolute blast to play. Exploring the frontier, experiencing the rather touching story, and riding horses instead of driving cars in the open world genre was very innovative for its time. With Activision still gunning for an answer to Rockstar’s open world juggernaut in Grand Theft Auto, maybe they should look into revisiting Gun.
03. Spider-Man 2 (GCN/Mac/PC/PS2/Xbox)
Earlier I mentioned how Infamous is one of the best examples of the superhero flavor of a GTA game. Well, the absolute best example is number three on this list of Top 10 GTA Clones, Spider-Man 2. Based on what is still one of the highest rated superhero films of all time, Spider-Man 2 strive to do something different with a licensed game, and the results were excellent.
Most licensed games are very quickly made and don’t feature a lot of content or polish. This is why they are often critically lambasted and hardly considered when most hardcore gamers go out to buy games, with a very few exceptions. Spider-Man 2 is one of those exceptions. It uses an open world not unlike Grand Theft Auto, with side missions and other activities to explore on top of the more linear, action based levels that we saw in other Spider-Man games preceding it.
But perhaps the most entertaining feature in Spider-Man 2 is just swinging around New York City using Spider-Man’s webs. No other game has nailed the web swinging so perfectly as this one. Spider-Man 2 is one of the few games based on Marvel’s favorite webhead that actually makes the player feel like Spider-Man. It’s a must play, both for comic fans, fans of the genre, and fans of gaming in general.
02. Sleeping Dogs (OnLive/PC/PS3/Xbox 360)
The trouble development cycle of Sleeping Dogs had many worried that the end product wasn’t going to be up to snuff. The game started out as an original IP, but then Activision swooped it up and renamed it True Crime: Hong Kong in an attempt to have it act as a sequel to their True Crime franchise. Activision got sick of the high development costs that the game demanded, and so cancelled the project. Shortly thereafter, Square Enix was able to snatch it up and actually make a sizable profit off of the game. And for good reason: the game is awesome.
Sleeping Dogs really captures the essence of its setting rather perfectly. The atmosphere is great, the story is great, and the characters are extremely well written. The amount of polish that went into the presentation and the story is truly second to none in the industry. It doesn’t hurt that the game is also extremely fun to play, both as an open world game and as an action title.
01. Saints Row 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)
No other franchise has been as successful going head to head with Grand Theft Auto as the Saints Row series. The first game was directly inspired by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and while it had its fair share of flaws, it was a big success. The sequel then took everything that was great about the original and made it even better, with a focus on brutality, a heavy theme of revenge, and the crazy insanity that is now synonymous with the Saints Row brand.
In all honesty, any of the four Saints Row games could’ve fit into this slot as the best Grand Theft Auto clone. The original game set the foundation, the second one took it to extreme heights, and then The Third embraced the insanity in ways never before seen in a video game. Even the recently released Saints Row IV is of immense quality, though it is more of a direct parody of the open world superhero genre games like Infamous and Prototype as opposed to Grand Theft Auto.
Without Grand Theft Auto, there could be no Saints Row. But Saints Row has taken the formula and has done something great with it, developing its own dedicated fanbase and selling millions of copies in the process. With Volition now under the Deep Silver banner, let’s hope future Saints Row games are able to reach the same heights.
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