Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, receiving an almost unanimous critical acclaim, has a long, complex but still comprehensible plot or storyline. You may wish to simply look at the Missions in GTA: San Andreas article instead if you wish to read about each mission separately.
Five years ago Carl Johnson escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, San Andreas... a city tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. Where film stars and millionaires do their best to avoid the dealers and gangbangers.
Now, it's the early 90s. Carl's got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster.
On his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.
Carl "CJ" Johnson was born and raised in Grove Street, Ganton, Los Santos, sharing a house with his mother Beverly, brothers Sean ("Sweet") and Brian and sister Kendl. Sweet, CJ and their friends, Melvin Harris ("Big Smoke") and Lance Wilson ("Ryder") joined the Grove Street Families gang as children, with Sweet working his way up the ranks to become the gang's leader, whilst Carl became the underboss and Big Smoke and Ryder became high-ranking lieutenants. The Grove Street Families gained power in Los Santos, fighting with the Ballas and Vagos for control of the streets.
In 1987, Brian Johnson died. The cause of his death was never revealed, though it is implied that Carl was present and did not attempt to help him. Sweet held Carl responsible for Brian's death, which led to Carl leaving Los Santos and moving to Liberty City, where he started working as a car thief for Joey Leone. The Grove Street Families began losing power, with their enemies strengthening due to the highly-lucrative drugs trade in Los Santos, and eventually lost turf to Ballas and the Vagos. The gang maintained control of their remaining territories by splitting up into three factions: the original Grove Street Families (ruling Ganton), the Seville Boulevard Families (having control of Playa del Seville) and the Temple Drive Families (mainly establishing themselves in Temple and Santa Maria Beach).
The return of CJ
In 1992, the Ballas planned to assassinate Sweet to deprive the Families of their leader and take over their territories. They used a Sabre to perform a drive-by shooting on The Johnson House. However, instead of Sweet, the Ballas killed Beverly. Sweet phoned Carl to inform him of their mother's death, and Carl agreed to return to Los Santos for the funeral.
Carl arrives at the airport and takes a taxi back to his mother's house. However, en route he is arrest by a group of corrupt police officers called C.R.A.S.H. - Frank Tenpenny, Eddie Pulaski and Jimmy Hernandez. They steal his belongings and threaten to frame him for the murder of another officer, Ralph Pendelbury, unless he will work for them whenever they summon him. After C.R.A.S.H. let him go, warning Carl that they will be watching him, he makes his way to his mother's house, where he reunites with Big Smoke. After he promises CJ that they will learn who killed his mother, the pair drive to the funeral, where Carl reunites with Sweet, Kendl and Ryder. Sweet is displeased with Carl's return, claiming that CJ "ran away". Kendl gets pissed at Sweet and walks off. Suddenly, the Ballas attempt a drive-by, destroying Smoke's car. After escaping the Ballas drive-by, CJ, Sweet, Smoke and Ryder race back to Grove Street. Seeing the state of the gang, Carl decides to stay and help get Grove Street back on its feet.
Carl begins working with Sweet, Smoke, and Ryder to restore their gang in power. At first, he does small jobs, such as spraying enemy gang tags, clearing the hood of crack dealers, buying weapons from Emmet, and performing drive-bys in Ballas territory. Eventually, he moves on to some bigger operations, such as stealing weapons for fellow gang members from various sources across Los Santos alongside Ryder, and accompanying Big Smoke on several deals. During this time, CJ also reunites with another friend and occasional gang member OG Loc, who was just released from prison and asks for his help in killing his former cellmate. Afterwards, CJ helps OG Loc make a name of himself in the rapping industry by stealing some equipment from a beach party, as well as the rhyme book of famous rapper Madd Dogg, and killing Dogg's manager. While attending a house party hosted by OG Loc, several Ballas attack Grove Street, but CJ and Sweet are able to fend them off.
Later, Sweet asks CJ to spy on Kendl's new boyfriend Cesar Vialpando, who is the leader of the Hispanic gang Varrios Los Aztecas, which displeases Sweet. Despite his initial prejudices, Carl discovers that Cesar is a good man and genuinely cares about Kendl. Later, CJ competes in a car race against Cesar, after which the two men become good friends. At the same time, CJ is summoned by C.R.A.S.H., who force him to help them with their shady operations, such as burning down a house occupied by the Vagos, and interrupting a meeting between some Ballas and the Russian Mafia.
Eventually, CJ successfully takes over Glen Park, Ballas territory, and kills a former Grove Street member who joined the Ballas named Little Weasel. Shortly after, Sweet informs Carl that several high-ranking Ballas will be attending Weasel's funeral, including Kane, and the brothers use this opportunity to kill them, weakening their enemy. After CJ takes over more territories for Grove Street from their rivals, Sweet decides to attempt to reunite the three sets of the Families, with CJ, Big Smoke and Ryder's help. However, the meeting is ambushed by the police and the group barely manage to escape after a long chase.
With the Ballas severely weakened, Sweet decides it's time for Grove Street to regain control of Los Santos and plans to ambush a major group of Ballas under the Mulholland Intersection to end the gang war. Before he can join his brother on the attack, however, CJ is called by Cesar, who asks to meet him in Verdant Bluffs. There, Cesar reveals that he had been investigating the drive-by shooting that killed Beverly and learned it was meant for Sweet. Just then, the pair spot Big Smoke, Ryder, C.R.A.S.H. and some Ballas exiting a garage containing a green Sabre, the same car used in the drive-by. This makes CJ realize that Big Smoke and Ryder have sold out Grove Street to the Ballas and have been working with C.R.A.S.H., as well as they were the ones who organized the drive-by, in an attempt to kill Sweet and wipe out the gang. CJ then also concludes that Sweet must be headed into a trap and goes to save him, only to find him severely injured. Sweet orders Carl to leave, but Carl refuses and kills several waves of Ballas. However, the police soon arrive and arrest both Sweet and Carl. Sweet is taken to a prison hospital, whilst Carl is driven by C.R.A.S.H. outside of Los Santos, to the small town of Angel Pine, in the countryside area of Whetstone.
Whetstone, Flint County, & Red County
C.R.A.S.H. warn Carl not to return to Los Santos and try to kill Big Smoke, otherwise Sweet will suffer in prison. They then continue blackmailing CJ into working for them and task him with killing an informant threatening to reveal their corruption to the authorities. After the job is done, Carl decides to start making money and calls Cesar, who advises him to meet with his cousin Catalina. CJ meets Catalina and the pair perform various small-time robberies together, during which they enter a short-lived relationship.
Carl is soon summoned by Tenpenny for another job and is introduced to a hippie named The Truth, Tenpenny's marijuana supplier. Tenpenny asks CJ to assist The Truth in producing a large quantity of drugs which he'll be needing in the near future. The Truth requests that Carl steals a Combine Harvester from a farm and deliver it back to him, promising to call Carl when the weed Tenpenny requires is ready. Shortly after, Carl calls Cesar and insists that he leaves Los Santos with Kendl, as the Grove Street Families and Varrios Los Aztecas are both disbanded and their territories taken over by the Ballas and Vagos. CJ meets with Cesar and Kendl and rents them a trailer home in Angel Pine until he finds a better place for all of them to stay.
Later, Carl begins competing in car races to earn money and meets Wu Zi Mu ("Woozie"), the blind leader of the Mountain Cloud Boys subsection of the San Fierro Triads during one of the races. Carl also competes in a race against Catalina's new boyfriend Claude, winning the deed to a garage in San Fierro. After parting ways with Catalina, who leaves for Liberty City with Claude, CJ returns to The Truth, who informs him that the marijuana supply for Tenpenny is ready. However, the police find out about the weed farm after being tipped off by Tenpenny, forcing CJ and The Truth to torch the marijuana fields and destroy a police helicopter with a rocket launcher, before driving to Carl's garage in San Fierro with the drugs.
Carl meets with Cesar and Kendl at the garage, only to discovering that it is derelict. He grows angry, but his sister calms him down and tells him that they can make it into a successful chop shop. Carl recruits some of The Truth's acquaintances, namely mechanics Dwaine and Jethro, and electronics expert Zero, to help him get the garage working. Shortly after, Carl receives is called by Tenpenny, who tell him that it's time to use the marijuana acquired from The Truth and order him to plant them he acquired from the Truth in the trunk of a District Attorney's car, who has been investigating him and Pulaski. Carl does as he is told, and the Attorney is arrested. Later, Tenpenny and Pulaski pay Carl a surprise visit, this time demanding that he follow a reporter who has been investigating them back to Los Santos, where he kills both him and a journalist he is meeting with.
During his time in San Fierro, CJ purchases Zero's RC shop and helps him win a war against his rival Berkley, and earns the trust and respect of Woozie and the Triads after helping them win a gang war against a Vietnamese gang called the Da Nang Boys. One day, Cesar calls CJ to inform him of a Ballas car seen leaving the Mulholland Intersection and heading towards the countryside. They follow it to Angel Pine, where they take photos of a meeting between Ryder and some other men. CJ and Cesar soon learn that the men - Jizzy B, T-Bone Mendez and Mike Toreno - are the leaders of the Loco Syndicate, an organization supplying drugs to Big Smoke, Ryder and the Ballas. Deciding to eliminate the organization, Carl first infiltrates it by offering his services to Jizzy. After several missions for the organization, CJ eventually earns their trust, before turning on them and killing Jizzy. From Jizzy's phone, CJ then learns about the Syndicate's next meeting with the Ballas, which he ambushes with the help of Cesar and the Triads, killing both T-Bone and Ryder. Carl later destroys Toreno's helicopter, seemingly killing him, as well as the Syndicate's drug factory, putting them out of business.
With the Loco Syndicate eliminated, CJ focuses on earning money through his garage business. He buys the Wang Cars dealership and attends the driving school to learn some advanced driving techniques that later help him and Cesar steal various cars for the dealership.
Tierra Robada and Bone County
Some time later, CJ receives a phone call from a man using a digitally distorted voice, demanding that he come to a ranch in Tierra Robada. There, Carl is surprised to find Toreno still alive, who reveals himself as the caller. Toreno explains to CJ that Sweet is in a prison Upstate, but is safe, and that officer Ralph Pendelbury (whose murder C.R.A.S.H. threatened to frame Carl for) was killed under Tenpenny's orders, due to threatening to bring him before the Internal Affairs. Toreno proceeds to explain that he is an undercover government agent and demands that CJ assists him with several shady operations in exchange for Sweet's freedom. With no other choice, Carl agrees and performs several jobs for Toreno. He is later asked to buy an abandoned airstrip in the desert and learn to fly planes and helicopters, which helps him with his next set of missions for Toreno.
While at the airstrip, CJ is visited by The Truth, who asks for his help in stealing a $60.000.00 Jetpack from Area 69. Carl then uses the jetpack to also steal a mysterious green substance from a military train and deliver it to The Truth, who lets him keep the jetpack, before parting ways.
Shortly after, CJ receives a call from Woozie, who is now a successful businessman and has opened a casino in Las Venturas, telling Carl to come visit him. CJ moves to Las Venturas, only to discover that the casino business is not doing as well as intending, due to facing opposition from the Leone, Sindacco, and Forelli Mafia families of Liberty City. Carl agrees to assist and helps Woozie plan a robbery of the rival Caligula's Casino, which is run by the mob. He performs numerous jobs in preparation for the heist, such as stealing some dynamite, photographing the plans of the casino, stealing swipe card for the casino from a croupier, setting explosives at the city dam that will destroy the generators and cut off the electricity, stealing some HPV1000 police bikes for the getaway, and highjacking an armored van using a Leviathan helicopter and respraying it with the Caligula's Casino logo.
Later, Carl receives a call from The Truth, who reveals that last night he partied with a band called The Gurning Chimps, but after smoking some peyote, they all fell unconscious, with almost no memories of the night before, and awoke in random places, with The Truth having somehow ended up in Los Santos. He then asks CJ to save the band's manager Kent Paul and lead singer Maccer from the desert, which he does, bringing them to Caligula's Casino, where Paul's old friend Ken Rosenberg is working as the manager. Seeing this as another opportunity to infiltrate, CJ begins working with Ken in order to earn the mob's trust, soon learning that Ken has been chosen as a neutral party to run the casino in the mob's absence, and that he is threatened with death should any war between the three Mafia families begin. Soon, a conflict begins between the Sindacco and the Leone families, which escalates into a war between all three families, prompting the Leone family's Don, Salvatore Leone, to travel to Las Venturas and take over Caligula's. CJ offers his services to Salvatore, who employs to help him in his conflict with the other two families so that he would gain more control over the casino. He first sends Carl to kill several hitmen arriving in the city by plane, and later to travel to Liberty City to assassinate the Forelli Family's Don, Marco Forelli. During his mission to assassinate Marco, CJ also helps Ken, Paul and Maccer escape from the mob by faking their deaths and telling them to flee Las Venturas.
Having earned Salvatore's trust, CJ decides it's time to rob Caligula's. Aided by Woozie, Zero, and the Triads, the heist is carried out successfully, weakening the mob and allowing the Triads to freely run their casino. Woozie asks Carl to become his business partner and he accepts, with the pair starting to run the casino together. CJ receives a threatening call from Salvatore, but ignores him, cutting all his ties with the mob.
During his time in Las Venturas, CJ also meets the rapper Madd Dogg and saves him from a suicide attempt (having fallen into depression after Carl unwillingly destroyed his career whilst helping OG Loc). Carl is later summoned by Tenpenny and Pulaski for one final job and is ordered to to kill an FBI agent and collect a dossier. Carl collects the dossier, and Tenpenny asks him to meet him in a deserted village in the desert to hand it over. Once there, however, CJ is betrayed by Tenpenny, who leaves Pulaski to kill and bury him, along with Hernandez, who secretly informed the Internal Affairs of his partners' corruption. Carl is saved by Hernandez, who is killed by Pulaski in the process, before pursuing and killing Pulaski.
With Woozie's casino a success, Carl finds the task of running it boring, as both he and Kendl wish to return to Los Santos. CJ is surprised when Madd Dogg, having returned from rehab, visits him and asks him to become his manager and restore his career. Carl agrees and returns to Los Santos with Kendl and Cesar, where he reclaims Dogg's mansion from the Vagos - to whom he sold it for drugs - with the help of the Triads. He then calls Ken Rosenberg, Kent Paul and Maccer, who have also arrived in Los Santos, and recruits them to work for Madd Dogg and help him restore his career.
Return to Los Santos
CJ soon receives a surprise visit from Toreno, who demands one last favour: to steal military jet from the Easter Basin Naval Base and use it to destroy a flotilla of spy ships. Carl does so, and Toreno keeps promise by having Sweet released early. Carl goes to pick up his brother and tries to impress him with all the businesses he got since he left Los Santos, telling him about his garage in San Fierro, the casino in Las Venturas, and the management of Madd Dogg. However, Sweet is not happy with Carl's new lifestyle, which has led him to neglect the gang. To prove his loyalty, Carl takes his brother back to Ganton and they work together to reclaim Grove Street from the Ballas, re-establishing the Grove Street Families. The Johnson brothers then begin to reclaim their gang's turf from their rivals, and attempt to track down Big Smoke. Learning that former gang member B Dup is working for him, CJ and Sweet go to confront him in the hopes of learning about Smoke's whereabouts, but to no avail; still, they manage to convince Big Bear to quit drugs and rejoin the gang. Later, CJ also helps Sweet take over Idlewood from the Ballas, and Madd Dogg to exact his revenge on OG Loc, who goes bankrupt whilst Dogg officially restarts his rapper career. taking almost all of Los Santos from them.
Meanwhile, Tenpenny is arrested and put on trial for several charges, but is acquitted due to lack of evidence. This angers the people of Los Santos, leading to a citywide riot. During this time, Carl helps Cesar reclaim his gang's turf from the Vagos, and continues taking over more territories from the Ballas and Vagos, until the Grove Street Families become powerful enough for Sweet to learn Big Smoke's whereabouts.
The Johnson brothers head to Smoke's crack palace to kill him for his betrayal of the gang, but CJ apologizes to Sweet and convinces to let him deal with Smoke on his own, to make up for all his mistakes. Fighting his way through the fortress, Carl eventually confronts Big Smoke and attempts to reason with him, but he opens fire on CJ. In the ensuing firefight, Carl fatally shoots Smoke, who admits to having betrayed the gang for money and proclaims that "Everybody will remember my name! Big Smoke!", before dying. As Carl sadly laments Smoke's death, claiming it was a "waste", Tenpenny arrives to collect his share of Smoke's money from the drug trade and hold Carl at gunpoint to load the money into his briefcase, intending to use it to flee the city. He then attempts to kill Carl, but he survives. Tenpenny then attempts to escape in a stolen firetruck, but Sweet grabs hold of the truck's ladder. Carl follows them in a car, and manages to catch Sweet when he loses his grip. The brothers then pursue Tenpenny together, with Sweet taking the wheel, while Carl shoots at pursuing police officers and rioting gang members. Tenpenny soon loses control of the firetruck and crashes off the bridge over Grove Street. After claiming that he "cleaned up the streets", Tenpenny finally dies, as CJ, his friends and family watch. The Truth congratulates Carl on "beating the system", before they head into the Johnson house to celebrate.
Carl, Sweet, Kendl and Cesar are next seen discussing what their future holds, when Madd Dogg, Ken Rosenberg, Kent Paul, and Maccer appear, with Dogg proudly showing off his first gold record. As his friends and family begin to celebrate, CJ heads outside, claiming he's "Fittin' to hit the block, see what's happening". With Tenpenny dead, the riots come to an end, and justice is finally restored in Los Santos.