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Liberty City (2D Universe), a city founded on land bought from Native Americans by Belgian settlers in 1603. The city's central island, Liberty Island, is visible in the background. (Inspired by real-life New York City)
Liberty City (3D Universe), a city established in 1798, around 22 years after the Declaration of Independence in the United States. The city's central island, Staunton Island, is visible in the background. (Inspired by several midwestern cities).
Liberty City (HD Universe), a city originally established as New Rotterdam in 1625, before changing the name in 1664. The city's central island, Algonquin, is visible in the background. (Inspired by real-life New York City).

...the “universes” are the worlds interpreted at different definitions, 2d, 3d and high definition...
— Rockstar Games during a Grand Theft Auto III Q&A.

The Grand Theft Auto Universes are the different fictional universes that the Grand Theft Auto series is set in. The series is divided into three distinct parallel universes, officially named by Rockstar Games as the "2D Universe", "3D Universe" and the "HD Universe". Each universe is designed to be completely separate to each other so that no physically appearing characters or storylines would overlap.

Description

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 and Fernando Martinez).

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

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.

The Universes

2D Universe

There are a total of four games (including two expansion packs for the original game) that take place in the 2D Universe:

The games in this universe features a 2-dimensional world with a Top-Down Perspective.

3D Universe

The 3D Universe includes a total of six games:

This universe introduced a third person view of a 3D world that people could explore, a feature included in every subsequent Grand Theft Auto game. Other non-GTA games, Manhunt and Bully are also set in this universe. The original Top-Down Perspective camera is also featured in Grand Theft Auto Advance and optionally in Grand Theft Auto III.

HD Universe

The HD (High Definition) Universe is the most recent universe in the series. So far it includes six games, two of them included in an expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto IV:

This universe has the best visual quality of the three. Its timeline of events and setting varies greatly from the 3D Universe. Liberty City in this universe is more detailed and much larger than Liberty City in the previous universe. Los Santos is also larger and the environment around it is more vast.

Exceptions

Cross-universe references

Although the universes are designed as separate entities, there are occasional references to previous universes, with some place names, businesses, vehicle names etc. carried over. Some characters and/or their backstories have been mentioned across universes.

Radio Stations

Characters

  • Cris Formage, Lazlow Jones, Fernando Martinez, Marvin Trill, Willy, James Pedeaston, OG Loc, Madd Dogg, Rochell'le, Andee, Cliff Lane, and many other 3D Universe celebrities mentioned in the Vinewood Walk of Fame also exists in the HD Universe.
    • Cris Formage mentioning one of his "previous lifes" could be a reference to his previous 3D Universe renditions.
    • Madd Dogg is the only cross-universe character who interacted with a protagonist from each universe (CJ and Franklin), although offscreen in the HD Universe.
    • The band Love Fist, which appears in GTA Vice City, is mentioned in GTA IV. Furthermore in GTA V, one of the Love Fist members, Willy, can be optionally killed during a mission.
      • Willy will also mention other two members of the band, Percy and Jezz Torrent, during the same mission.
    • Reed Tucker's voice can be heard on radios in GTA III, GTA San Andreas, and GTA V. He is also mentioned in GTA IV.
    • 3D Universe actor Jack Howitzer is also mentioned in GTA IV and featured in GTA V as a TV show character.
    • Stuntman Jock Cranley appears in GTA Vice City Stories, GTA V, and GTA Online.
  • The original Grand Theft Auto features a boss of Mexican origin named El Burro, while Grand Theft Auto III features a homonymous Puerto Rican gang leader who appears as the first phone boss. Although El Burro from GTA III does not appear physically, the game features an artwork of him, in which he looks strikingly similar to El Burro from GTA; plus, both are Latin American.
    • There is also a character named El Burro in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, though he shares no character traits or bears any resemblance to the other two El Burro characters.
  • There is some speculation as to whether Claude Speed, the protagonist of the original versions of GTA 2, and Claude, the protagonist of GTA III, are the same person. With respect to Claude from GTA III, Rockstar have commented that his surname "may or may not be Speed"[1] but have not elaborated further.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, it is mentioned that a set of a gang called "The Families" known as the "Grove Street Families", which were named after a Davis street also named "Grove Street", existed in the 1990s and has been disbanded at some point before 2013. This is a reference to the Grove Street Families gang and the events of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, although Grove Street is a street of the neighborhood of Ganton in the 3D Universe.
    • Furthermore, a drunk Jimmy De Santa may say that his hood is "from Ganton to Rockford Hills" to Franklin during Friend Activities.
  • An easter egg in Grand Theft Auto IV shows a Liberty Tree headline reading: "Love's hate relationship with taxes", next to a picture of Donald Love, a 3D Universe character.
  • Misty, a minor character and promotional icon of GTA III, is possibly mentioned in GTA V's Self Radio by Cliff Lane, another character from the 3D Universe.

Location Names

  • Francis International Airport is the name of the airport of Shoreside Vale, Liberty City, in the 3D Universe and the airport of Dukes, Liberty City, in the HD Universe.
  • Mount Chiliad is the name of the tallest mountain in both the State of San Andreas in both the 3D and HD Universes. However, they are different types of mountains and located in a total different county (Whetstone in the 3D Universe and Blaine County in the HD Universe).

Brands


References to the real world

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References

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