Rockstar Games says they have divided the Grand Theft Auto series into distinct universes. These parallel universes are designed to be completely separate to each other, so that no physically appearing characters or storylines would overlap.

Description

"Dan says that no one before GTA IV will be in it – the move to HD created a schism in this fictional universe, rendering CJ, Toni and co, as mythical characters from a bygone era. But will we see stories from the previous game looping into this one? "I think that might be too mannered," says Houser. "Niko had a particular kind of story and we're trying to make this different. We might allude to things from that world, but we didn't want it to feel like, well, here's the opposite of an immigration story – we wanted a fresh take on what it means to be a criminal in this world of hyper-real Americana"."
— Interview with Dan Houser in The Guardian


A universe can be considered a completely separate 'canon' of places, people, and events that exist in the same universe. Locations that appear in multiple universes are completely rebuilt, rather than just updated. Each successive universe re-boots the franchise and may retcon the "canon" established in a previous universe. A previous universe would be like a mythical universe that never really existed. However, some things do exist appear in multiple universes, including company brands, vehicles, placenames, weapons, and in-series celebrities (e.g Lazlow).

2D Universe 3D Universe HD Universe

Games being in the same universe means that they exist on the same planet, and theoretically characters could occur in multiple games across that universe. However, that does not mean that many characters will do so, nor that the games are similar or closely related at all. However, there are elements (characters, places, vehicles, companies, etc.) which appear (or at least, seem to appear) in more than one universe, but these cases usually tend to have some differences between the Universes.

Exceptions

Cross-universe references

Although the universes are supposed to be completely apart, there are occasional references to previous universes, as well as some minor characters, places, names, etc. shared by different universes. Some of them, however, may be only internal jokes.

References to the real word

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References

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