The 3D Universe is the fictional world where the second-generation games of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, previously known as the Grand Theft Auto III era and least commonly referred as the PlayStation 2 era, take place. This generation consisted of six titles released from 2001 to 2006.

The 3D Universe is known by this name because it introduced fully three-dimensional game graphics, as opposing to the previous 2D Universe. However, one of the games set in it, GTA Advance, uses 2D graphics and the HD Universe, its successor, also uses fully 3D graphics, though improved ones.

The 3D Universe interlinks characters, businesses, locations and storylines. Its main settings are the cities of Liberty City and Vice City and the state of San Andreas, all located in the United States of America. Its protagonists are Claude, Tommy Vercetti, Carl Johnson, Mike, Toni Cipriani and Victor Vance.

Chronological release list

Chronological plot list

Games in the 3D Universe

Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III (2001) was set in fictional Liberty City (based roughly on New York City) in 2001. This game brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. While not the first of its kind, the gameplay engine had expanded the explorable world, doing away with a traditional game structure where the player faces a "boss" at the end of the level and moves onto a new level, opting instead for more realistic mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay) but GTA III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and storyline (before, there was speech only in short animated cutscenes between levels, other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen). Pop culture also is cemented into GTA III, drawing many aspects and ideas from popular films and shows such as Scarface, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos.

Grand Theft Auto III sold very well and became the first blockbuster game in the series, setting the precedent for subsequent GTA titles to be very successful. GTA III also attracted heavy criticism for its violence against police and its indifference to innocent bystanders, making future games in the GTA series synonymous with violence. Following the success of GTA III, the rest of the games in the 3D Universe are stand-alone prequels, as all take place before GTA III chronologically.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), was set in fictional Vice City (based on Miami) in 1986. Influences for the game include movies such as Scarface, Carlito's Way and the TV series Miami Vice. In fact, the entire basic storyline of the game is an homage to Scarface, including the climactic gun-fight in the main character's mansion at the end. GTA Vice City was an improvement on the scale of GTA III, although featured very little in the way of terrain.

Grand Theft Auto Advance

Grand Theft Auto Advance (2004), originally intended to be a top-down conversion of GTA III for the Game Boy Advance, eventually developed its own storyline, set roughly a year before GTA III. The game was set in Liberty City again. The storyline appears to standalone in the series, as certain aspects of the game contradict those in GTA III.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) was set in 1992 in the fictional state of San Andreas (based on California and Nevada) consisting of three cities: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). The player is also able to return to Liberty City during one mission. Inspiration came from movies such as Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society, and early 90s west coast gangsta rap culture and groups such as N.W.A.

GTA San Andreas expanded on previous RPG elements, adding the ability to dress the player's character, exercise, and tattoo him. These elements also have an effect on gameplay as other characters would comment on the player character's physique or clothes. The character could also swim (something missing from previous games).

GTA San Andreas also attracted heavy controversy when it was discovered that a sex minigame that was cut from the game could be enabled (See Hot Coffee). As a result, GTA San Andreas was pulled from a number of retail outlets and was re-rated from "M" (Mature) to "AO" (Adults Only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) - the first game in the series to be given an AO rating. Rockstar has since released an edited version of the game for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, and has reclaimed the "M" rating.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (2005), a PlayStation Portable GTA III prequel set in 1998 Liberty City. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar Games on June 6, 2006. The game is a direct prequel to GTA III, being set three years earlier and featuring several characters from the original game. LCS's storyline further links the events of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to GTA III.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006), the second PlayStation Portable game, was released on October 31, 2006. It is set in Vice City circa 1984 and is a prequel to the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (being set two years earlier). A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on March 6, 2007. This was the last game in the 3D Universe to be released, but it is, by chronological order, the first game of the 3D Universe, being set at the earliest of the timeline.


  • Liberty City appears in all 3D Universe games except for Vice City Stories. It is the setting of GTA III, GTA Liberty City Stories and GTA Advance and briefly appears at the beginning of GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas.
  • None of the games set in this universe featured expansion packs.
  • All vehicles in this universe can be easily pushed by the player character.
  • GTA III is the first 3D Universe game to be released and GTA Vice City Stories is the last. Chronologically, however, Vice City Stories is the first game (1984) and Grand Theft Auto III is the last (2001).
  • Every 3D Universe game has been released on either a handheld system or mobile devices.
    • GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas, and Liberty City Stories were remade for iOS and Android, with much improved graphics.
    • GTA Advance is exclusive to the Game Boy Advance.
    • Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories originated on the PSP and were ported to the PS2. Liberty City Stories was also remade for iOS (as mentioned above).
  • Carl Johnson and Victor Vance are the only protagonists in this universe who can swim.
  • When the protagonists in this universe (except Mike and Carl Johnson) run with a one-handed weapon (such as a Pistol), they hold the weapon near their face.
    • Also, when the player taps the button to look back at the protagonist, the protagonist will turn their head and look behind them. Carl Johnson, however, does not do this (Mike cannot look back either since GTA Advance lacks a movable camera to begin with).
  • Victor Vance is the only 3D Universe protagonist to have a canon death (which was shown in the opening cutscene of GTA Vice City).
  • GTA San Andreas is the only game from the original GTA III trilogy that never got a "Stories" prequel. Instead, there was a 20 minute long video that Rockstar created which served as the prequel to the events of the game.
  • The 3D Universe is the only one of the three GTA universes to not contain two numbered GTA games in the universe, as the 2D Universe contains GTA 1 and GTA 2, and the HD Universe contains GTA IV and GTA V. This universe only contains GTA III.
  • On September 18, 2009, Rockstar Games stated that the 3D Universe is not necessarily finished, and that it could be brought back someday.[1]
  • All vehicles in the 3D Universe have a maximum top speed of 250 km/h (156 mph). The Infernus tops out at 240 km/h (150 mph)


See also