Grand Theft Auto III

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In Liberty City, a Fictional Counterpart to New York, you play a silent, nameless [1] protagonist who escapes from a prison transport and climbs the city's criminal ladder. You are hoping to get revenge your ex-girlfriend/partner in crime Catalina, who left you for dead after a bank robbery gone bad. It won't be an easy journey. Some will backstab you, and others will think you are in the way. But if you fight the good fight, this will be one hell of a ride.

This game burst onto the scene in 2001, completely overhauling the series by bringing it into a 3D environment, popularizing the Wide Open Sandbox genre and turning Rockstar into its namesake. Although further games would add polish, few sequels deviate too much from this winning formula.

Released on PlayStation 2, then on the Xbox and PC, and eventually got released on iOS and Android. An enhanced remaster of the game using the Unreal Engine was released for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles as well as on Nintendo Switch and PC as part of the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition in 2021.

Tropes used in Grand Theft Auto III include:
  • Action Bomb: In the mission "Kingdom Come", the player is ambushed by drug-crazed madmen spawning from mook-making vans, complete with weird random chatter such as "Come to daddy!" and "I got a present for you!".
  • Armed Blag: An early mission, and a Portland docks side quest.
  • Batter Up: The baseball bat is the only melee weapon available in this game.
  • Big Applesauce: Liberty City is based off of New York City, albeit quite loosely as it resembles more of a generic American city than a clear replica of New York. It wouldn't be until GTA IV when Liberty City would be more closely modelled after its real-world counterpart.
  • Bound and Gagged: Offscreen, but from what's said, it's really obvious.
  • Broken Bridge: Played literally. The bridge to Staunton Island was blown up in the opening cutscene (thus justifying it in that case), the drawbridge mechanism on the bridge to Shoreside Vale was broken, and the tunnel connecting all three islands was still under construction.
  • Brooklyn Rage: A large portion of the cast, including the protagonist.
  • The Cartel: Arguably the main antagonists of the game.
  • Central Theme: Betrayal and revenge drive not only the plot, but also the missions. Claude is apparently motivated by his desire for revenge against Catalina. Salvatore Leone is paranoid about his underlings betraying him (and rightly so). Donald Love gets the player to betray Kenji.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Catalina, of course. This also applies to Claude, given the sheer number of times he shifts allegiance from one gang to another.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Donald Love.
  • Crapsack World: "The worst city in America" indeed. Gangs turning hostile towards Claude, one of which is already hostile (and only two gangs won't attack him on sight). Liberty City also houses a corrupt mayor, backstabbing mobsters and a dreary environment.
  • Deadly Game: Liberty City Survivor, which is advertised on the radio in Grand Theft Auto III. The ad, complemented with fan footage from Grand Theft Auto IV, can be listened to here. This would later be turned into a full-fledged multiplayer mode in the PSP version of Liberty City Stories.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: "You weren't supposed to be able to get here you know."
  • Dirty Cop: Ray Machowski. He has plenty of contacts in the Liberty City underworld, and even introduces series staple Phil Cassidy.
  • Expy:
    • Liberty City itself standing in for New York, though quite loosely.
    • Donald Love is basically a brunette Donald Trump with a fetish for corpses.
    • As is tradition with the series, the cars featured in the game are off-brand renditions of real-world vehicles.
  • Face Heel Turn: About a third of the way through the game, Salvatore Leone sends Claude to pick up a car that he's had rigged with a bomb in an effort to kill him.
  • False-Flag Operation: In a bid to drop real estate prices, Donald Love has Claude start a gang war by assassinating The Yakuza crime lord Kenji Kasen, for whom Claude had previously worked as an enforcer and then framing The Cartel. See Lost Forever below.
  • Guide Dang It: A few of the missions are tough as hell unless done a certain way, and the game gives no hints to those methods.
  • Heroic Mime: Even if Claude isn't quite a hero. And apparently, he's a literal mute too.
  • Hufflepuff House:
    • The Yakuza has frosty relations with the Cartel, particularly once you frame Miguel for killing Kenji. Claude, being Claude, ends up drawing the ire of the Yakuza anyway.
    • The smaller gangs like the Forelli family and the Southside Hoods do play a role in the game to some degree, but were otherwise there for the lore than for anything significant to the story.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Give Head radio a listen this weekend, it'll blow you away."
  • Lost Forever: Some Portland missions need to be done before you leave. Also, Kenji will get killed at a certain point, so you need to complete his missions before then.
  • Mafia Princess: Maria, although this is her at the tail end of that life.
  • Mythology Gag: A few.
    • A New York City stand-in by the name of Liberty City first appeared as the setting of the first Grand Theft Auto.
    • El Burro was a potential employer of the player in the first game's San Andreas.
    • A "Claude Speed" resembling the Claude of Grand Theft Auto III appeared in Grand Theft Auto II 's live action intro.
    • The Zaibatsu Corporation, here reduced to a pharmaceutical group with a few buildings and radio ads, was an employer in all zones of Grand Theft Auto II.
    • Both of the previous games included a radio station named "Head Radio".
  • New York Subway: The Portland Island El, and the Liberty City Subway itself is based off of the New York City Subway.
  • No-Gear Level: The final mission.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Catalina.
  • Retired Badass: You'd never know it just from this game, but just three years before Claude met up with him, Toni Cipriani was every bit as crazy and murderous as him.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: This was the last Grand Theft Auto game where smashing into/blowing up cars earned money on its own.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Nothing in the game would have happened were it not for the "Old Oriental Gentleman" and the Cartel freeing him from the police transport, which also allowed you to get free too.
  • Super Drowning Skills
  • Title Drop: A notoriously difficult mission, where you must steal three cars and deliver them to the Yakuza within six minutes and without a single scratch, is called "Grand theft auto".
  • Twist Ending: Claude (apparently) shoots Maria after rescuing her because she won't shut up. It's never stated if he killed her, or if he just fired a warning shot into the air, so it's left up to the gamer's imagination. It was finally "stated". God said "Certainly gun shots were fired but nobody is exactly sure as to exactly what happened."
  • Video Game 3D Leap
  • Villain Protagonist
  • The Voice: The leaders of three gangs each situated on one of the three islands in the city call you via pay phone and have you run errands for them. At no point in the game do you actually get to meet them.
    • In Portland, you are contacted by El Burro of the Hispanic Diablo Gang.
    • When you reach Staunton Island, you are contacted by King Courtney of the Jamaican Yardies.
    • After unlocking Shoreside Vale, D-Ice of the Red Jacks gives you a call.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Donald Love will simply disappear when the mission "Decoy" is finished. The only thing he leaves behind is an empty box. Although you unfailingly see a plane flying away during the cutscene where you wonder where he's gone. It can be assumed that he's on it.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: An Ad Bumper for Head Radio calls the station "the rock of Liberty City for sixty years." This would mean they started out in 1941, Rock & Roll wasn't invented by then.
    • This becomes a Running Gag in Vice City (set in the 1980s), in which Lazlow, there the DJ of the rock station V-ROCK, claims the station has been around for seventy years.
  1. Later games reveal his name to be Claude.