In the 3D Era games, players must have any submachine gun in hand in order to perform drive by shooting. While in a vehicle, the player may look left or right to view the target and take aim, then fire their weapon, discharging bullets to the target.
The aforementioned concept has remained the same between GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, but underwent several changes. From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City onwards, players are also allowed to shoot forward while on a motorbike or bicycle, which is usually far more effective than conventional drive-by shooting in cars due to the player being able to watch the road and shoot at a target at the same time; "drive-by" shooting on boats was also made possible. Additionally, in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the protagonist is able to shoot forward while driving the Jetski. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA Vice City Stories allow for non-player passengers of a car to perform drive-by shooting, shooting with pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns or assault rifles; however, the effectiveness of this feature is dependent on how close the car is to targets.
The ability for the player to shoot as a passenger was first explored in GTA Vice City, during "Phnom Penh '86" (positioned on the side of a Maverick) and "Supply & Demand" (positioned on the back of a Squalo), when the player is able to free-aim, but use only weapons with first-person view (the M-60 and Ruger). In GTA San Andreas, free-aiming first person view is additionally utilized while the player is seated as a passenger in a motorbike and a car, during "Just Business" and "End of the Line." A few missions reused the method of first-person free-aim drive-by during "Reuniting the Families" and "The Da Nang Thang". In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the player as the driver can do full-aim drive-bys only using the cheat IWANNADRIVEBY (ouiqdmw also works).
As Grand Theft Auto IV was developed, drive-by shooting mechanics were retooled to allow for more flexible aiming and improved accuracy. The player may aim their weapon freely while driving; the "look left" and "look right" commands were removed in favor of an analog stick-based/mouse-based camera. Also, drive-bys were extended to being possible out of helicopters and on boats with assault rifles, and out of any other vehicle.
Unlike in the 3D Universe games, from Grand Theft Auto IV onward, the passengers in the back of vans can now perform drive-bys as well. However, the field of view is limited to the rear of the van only, therefore the passengers can only shoot at targets that are located behind the van.
While the choice of weapons for use in drive-by shooting is still limited, the player can now either use a sub-machine gun or pistol, and grenades, pipe bombs, sticky bombs or molotov cocktails can actually be dropped from vehicles, useful for blowing up pursuers. The Lost and Damned also introduced the ability to fire a Sawn-Off Shotgun while riding motorcycles.
Overall, the Micro SMG in GTA IV and TLAD is the best weapon for drive-bys in cars with its incredible rate of fire, while the Gold SMG in The Ballad of Gay Tony is the best weapon available. The M4 carbine is most suited for passengers on aircraft and boats, but the accuracy of gunfire from a helicopter or on a boat is often abysmal due to difficulty in aiming (due to rapid movement of the vehicle) and a limited field of view.
In GTA Chinatown Wars, the player can use either a pistol, SMG, grenade, or a molotov cocktail to do a drive-by in all types of vehicles.
In Grand Theft Auto V, the driver or the passenger can now shoot through the windshield instead of of sticking the hand out the window of the car door (It should be noted that some bulletproof glasses may scatter while doing so). The game also zooms in slightly when preparing to shoot as the driver. If the player uses Franklin Clinton's special ability, the player can slow down time for needed precision. For added realism, passengers can occupy the bed of most pickups as well hanging on side of Granger (except the Lifeguard), the Police Riot and the Roosevelt and can shoot freely if armed in Grand Theft Auto Online. Unlike GTA IV, passengers occupying pickup beds, the back of most vans and hanging from side can use any Assault Rifles. Also the ability to do drive-bys on motorcycles using the Sawn-Off Shotgun returns.
Unlike in previous games, A.I. controlled drivers in GTA V can now shoot from their vehicles as well if they're armed with pistols or SMGs. This in turn puts additional firepower while driving the vehicle. In addition, the police officers will shoot at the player from their vehicle should the player aims/fire their weapon at them while driving vehicles regardless of how high their wanted level is (this occurs only in the enhanced version). Unlike in previous games, the MP5 cannot be used for drive-by due to being bigger than in previous games. Overall the AP Pistol is the best weapon for drive-by due to being automatic, highest magazine capacity out of all weapon that can be fired from the vehicle (provided the extended magazine attachment is purchased) and good accuracy.
In GTA V, when the player selects the fist while in a vehicle, pressing the firing button will make the character give the middle finger. Doing this to some pedestrians will cause them to react angrily or become hostile and, in the case of a cop, result in a one-star wanted level.
- Prior to GTA Vice City Stories, when performing drive-by as a passenger during missions, the player is immune to damage. This doesn't apply in the HD Era games.
- In GTA Vice City, whichever submachine gun the player uses while performing drive-bys will use the Uzi's firing sound. This was fixed in the later games, where each weapon gets its proper sound.
- In GTA Vice City, it is possible for the player to perform drive-bys when piloting a helicopter only when the cinematic camera view is toggled. This is not the case in the later games.
- In GTA San Andreas, when the player returns their girlfriend back to her house after a date, the fist slot will appear in the HUD, temporarily disabling a drive-by at that moment. The player needs to simply exit the car, and return to fix this problem.
- Gang Cars driven by gang members will also drive away just like any other NPC driven cars if the player shoots at them while driving. The Gang Member/s inside one will then flee if the car that they are driving catches fire from too taking much damage.
- In GTA San Andreas, it's sometimes possible to perform a drive-by with pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and the minigun. To do so, the player will need to make sure they have a Micro SMG or SMG in the inventory and that they also have Katie or Barbara as a girlfriend. Then, they need CJ to get wasted or busted. After spawning at the hospital or police station, the player needs to quickly find the nearest vehicle. Before entering it, they need to select the weapon of their choice as long it's a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle or the minigun if it's in their inventory. The player needs to avoid selecting the Micro SMG or SMG, as this may cancel out the trick. Next, they need to enter the vehicle and the weapon they had before entering should still be displaying in the HUD. After that, they have to enter the Manual Drive-By shooting cheat and the player will be able to perform a drive-by with the selected weapon. This will work until exiting the vehicle. This may take a few times to work.
- There is also another way to to perform this. The player must have run out of ammo for the SMG. They need to enter a car with the desired weapon to enable the drive-by cheat. It may always work in car and motorcycle.
- In The Ballad of Gay Tony, there is a glitch that can let the player do a drive-by while using the Assault SMG. This glitch can be performed by having a drive-by usable SMG selected, and then using the "Previous Weapon" button (Z by default) or using the "Advanced Weapons" cheat. Note that when the glitch is performed, the weapon's fire rate will be noticeably slowed and Luis' model will be quite deformed while firing the weapon.
- Performing a drive-by whilst in bumper view will result in the camera going into 3rd Person view until the drive-by is finished (GTA IV and GTA V).