We are currently in the middle of one of the infamously long gaps between Grand Theft Auto releases. With Rockstar’s next announced project being Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s unlikely that the sixth Grand Theft Auto game will be coming out any time soon. As is always the tradition between GTA titles, people are speculating about which city(s) should be the setting for the next installment– well, which fictionalized version of which city, anyway.
Even though the GTA franchise has existed for nearly 20 years now, across five main numbered installments and nearly a dozen more major entries, spin-offs, and side games, it has taken place in a surprisingly small number of different cities. Liberty City– GTA‘s approximation of New York City– has been the most frequently-used locale, with others including versions of Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The only real-life city to ever be used by name in a GTA title is also the series’ only location outside of the United States so far: London.
Between hardly ever going international and largely sticking to the East and West Coasts, there is a lot of unexplored territory to take future GTA games, both within and outside of North America. There are a number of cities that would make for fantastic GTA backdrops– and others that probably wouldn’t be a great fit for the series.
Here are 8 Cities GTA Should Go To Next (And 7 That Need To Be Avoided).
15. Should go: Detroit
A lot of people associate Detroit with its high crime and poverty rates, as well as the decline of its position as a major hub of the automotive industry. While those factors certainly makes for fertile territory for GTA to explore, there is a lot more to the city than its negatives.
Detroit is also a major hub for music– seen as a pioneer in both Motown and techno music– and has a proud sports tradition. Geographically, it is located on the Detroit River, is home to the only international wildlife refuge in all of North America, and has a tunnel that connects it the Canadian city of Windsor– which could provide an opportunity for jaunts into another country altogether, something that few major U.S. cities can provide.
In terms of time periods, a GTA Detroit game could take place today, but it might be more interesting to set the game during the 1960s, where the city was still a giant in the car industry and Motown was at its peak. It would be a chance for a 1960s GTA game that doesn’t go the obvious route of hippies and psychedelia.
14. Shouldn’t go: Washington, D.C.
While Rockstar hasn’t shied away from taking on just about every facet of American culture imaginable, the company hasn’t typically taken on politics too directly in the GTA games. Maybe they want to avoid any more political heat than they already get– a game about killing the U.S.’s top politicians, fictional or not, probably wouldn’t go over too well– or maybe they fear that politics are too timely of an issue and would make the games feel dated too quickly. Either way, a GTA that takes place in Washington, D.C. would have to be more or less all about politics, and that’s exactly why it should be avoided.
Most of us play video games to escape the things that terrify us in the real world. There’s no need to list here the various political nightmares that are occurring across the world right now; all that matters is that none of us really want to relive those in the very video games we play when we need a break from all that.
13. Should go: Chicago
Chicago has long been one of the most-requested GTA cities. The major Midwestern metropolis has historically been overlooked as a backdrop for fictional stories, at least when compared to New York City and Los Angeles. With its iconic downtown surrounded by extremely diverse neighborhoods, all sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, there’s no denying how interesting of a game world it would be to explore.
However, while a GTA Chicago should still be done, several factors have reduced its appeal as a potential setting. Mainly, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, which already offers a beautiful and incredibly well-realized version of the city in video game form. There is also the matter of the major upswing in movies and TV shows over the last decade or so that have taken place in Chicago, making it a city that borders on being overused. And while Chicago’s well-noted mafia past would make for great gaming, there is already an entire Mafia series of open-world games that explore all that.
12. Shouldn’t go: New York City
Maybe it goes without saying that Rockstar shouldn’t return to Liberty City yet again, but it’s tough to fully trust that the developer isn’t planning to do so. Even after already having four different GTA games that at least partially took place in the NYC-esque city, Rockstar brought the franchise into the HD era by returning to Liberty City with Grand Theft Auto IV. Seeing as how the next GTA will likely be as big of an evolution to the franchise as GTAIV was, it’s easy to worry that Rockstar might be tempted to deliver yet another re-invention of the city it is so fond of.
NYC is one of the world’s greatest cities, no doubt about it. It makes for a wonderful setting for video games, movies, TV shows, comic books, novels, songs, and so on. There’s just way too much world out there for GTA to revisit it for what would essentially be the ninth time.
11. Should go: Shanghai
There are far too few video games that take place in China, especially modern-day China. This seems a little short-sighted, as China is a country that is home to over 500 million gamers. When a game is set in China, it’s typically Hong Kong.
Shanghai’s neon-colored metropolitan area and the surrounding historic regions, full of structures from the country’s imperial history, would make for a more visually-interesting GTA game. The combination of modern technology and traditions that go back to ancient times– you might see rickshaws taking people across a street with a building that looks straight out of Blade Runner behind them, for instance– is unlike almost anywhere else in the world, and that anachronistic clash could make for a lot of really unique missions and setpieces.
There’s also the matter of the most recent AAA game to take place in Shanghai: Kane & Lynch 2, a game so bad that the website Destructoid gave it a 1 out of 10.
10. Shouldn’t go: Tokyo
A lot of video games are created by companies that are located in or near Tokyo, Japan. It’s not hard to see why so many games take place there–not to mention it’s just a super cool city. Still, being a bit overused as a video game setting in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily preclude it from being a GTA locale. It certainly didn’t stop the series from taking all those trips back to NYC, after all.
What ultimately makes Tokyo a city that GTA should skip is Sega’s Yakuza series. For seven mainline games so far, the open-world action games have taken place largely in Tokyo’s Kabuchikō district. If there were only one or two Yakuza games– or it was a series that has since come to a close– it wouldn’t be as big of a deal for GTA to tread similar territory with a future installment. But since Yakuza is a long-running series that shows no signs of stopping, a GTA Tokyo would likely come out concurrent to the latest Yakuza game. It would just feel entirely too redundant.
9. Should go: Rio de Janeiro
Much of this list is about GTA avoiding cities that have already been done in similar video games. With that in mind, it may seem odd to suggest that the series go to the same location as 2012’s Max Payne 3.
For one thing, Max Payne 3 is a fairly linear action game that seldom let players stray from predetermined paths. Rio felt more like a backdrop than a city that the game took place within. The city’s unique setup of having towering skyscrapers and upper-class tourist destinations overlooking a maze of cluttered slums would not only make for an extremely interesting game world to explore, it would also present all kinds of interesting story elements that involve the push and pull between the city’s super rich and the extremely poor, crime-ridden areas.
The other thing is, Rockstar– which also made Max Payne 3, coincidentally– reportedly sent developers to Rio, taking photographs and doing research for the game. So a lot of that work would already be done for a GTA Rio–they’d just have to further flesh out the world beyond the selected streets and buildings Mr. Payne traversed during his adventure.
8. Shouldn’t go: Dallas
Dallas would make for an extremely interesting game world, with its vast dusty deserts, crisscrossing train lines, beautiful forests, and proud cowboy traditions. We already know that because we all played the masterpiece that is Red Dead Redemption.
Yes, that part of the country during the Old West era is vastly different than the Texas of today. But when you step away from the major urban centers of Texas, which largely look and feel similar to any other major urban center, what gives that part of the country its personality is the surrounding deserts and countrysides. All of that was already done with RDR and will also be done with its upcoming sequel.
Setting a GTA-style game in the modern counterpart to an area where an existing and an upcoming GTA-style game are already set– just during a different era– would feel like too much retreading of the same territory.
7. Should go: Boston
Boston is a big city with even bigger personalities– personalities that would easily fill a GTA cast with fun, over-the-top characters. There are so many facets to Boston that GTA could take on: its rabid sports fans, its strong Irish community, its love of drinking, its Ivy League colleges, its old buildings that hearken back to colonial America, and so much more.
In addition to being a city that an entire GTA could easily be built around, Boston could also be one of multiple cities represented in a San Andreas-style take on New England. That entire part of the country has been completely ignored by the franchise, and there is a lot there that can be done in terms of the interplay between the various regions of New England. If Rockstar decides to go that route again and take on a whole region rather than just one main city, New England is a great choice and Boston the perfect anchoring city.
6. Shouldn’t go: Las Vegas
Las Vegas seems like a perfect fit for GTA— being able to visit strip clubs, rob casinos, and cruise down streets lined with gaudy flashing signs and Elvis impersonators, the city of sin is a great locale for GTA. But it’s already been done, and done very well, in a previous installment.
GTA: San Andreas ambitiously took place in three different cities: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). In fact, the section of the game that took place in LV was one of that game’s most exciting areas, especially in the awesome casino robbery that spanned multiple missions. It might not have been quite as deep of a “Vegas experience” as a game that is all about Las Venturas could be, but the city, and the best GTA-appropriate aspects of it, were represented well enough that Rockstar doesn’t need to go back to that well anytime soon. Especially following GTAV, which went back to Los Santos, the next GTA game shouldn’t be yet another place from San Andreas already.
5. Should go: Seattle
While San Andreas already explored the early-90s, it largely ignored a pretty major cultural movement that was beginning to take hold a few states north: grunge. GTA doesn’t typically bring back characters from previous games, but as CJ has been one the series’ best protagonists, we wouldn’t mind them making an exception and having a storyline that somehow includes him. At the same time, GTA Seattle could be all about the burgeoning grunge movement, and in that way that only GTA can, they could expertly pay tribute to it and lampoon it all at once. Just imagine how epic that soundtrack could be! As Rockstar loves to take on consumerism, having a GTA set in Seattle could also provide fertile ground for a biting send-up of Starbucks.
Another angle that GTA Seattle could take is to follow the TV series Portlandia‘s lead and skewer hipster culture, both of the ’90s and today. Even people within hipster culture typically recognize the comedic potential of the lifestyle, and setting a game in the Pacific Northwest puts things right at the heart of all that.
4. Shouldn’t go: London
Longtime GTA fans know that Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas were all locations in the original game. The franchise has spent its subsequent games largely just revisiting locations that were already established in its early 2D days. What has been ignored since the jump to 3D, however, is London– the setting for GTA2‘s two expansion packs.
After having seen the original trio of GTA cities redone in 3D, fans have naturally wanted Rockstar to follow that up by going back to GTA2‘s London. This would be a mistake. With the GTA games largely being developed by a British creative team, they are perhaps too “close” to that region to be able to give it the outside-looking-in skewering that they do so well with American culture. This is perhaps why GTA‘s previous London jaunt went all the way back to the swingin’ ’60s, as it is an easy era to parody and let Rockstar off the hook with giving their mocking current culture.
3. Should go: Dublin
Big modern cities, quaint little towns, miles of rolling emerald hills– you’d think that Dublin would be the setting for countless games. Sadly, very few games have taken place in Ireland beyond sports titles and old-school adventure games. The only modern game that takes place entirely in Ireland is the PS3 game Folklore— and that’s an exaggerated version full of magic and monsters.
GTA is just the series to make this right. It would be able to cover the many interesting geographical features of Ireland, with Dublin as the primary urban center. Sure, being able to visit pubs is a given, but there is so much more than can be done to represent the people and culture of Ireland. Whether Rockstar wants to venture into dangerous territory by covering the longtime struggle between the north and south or would prefer not to go there, there is still plenty of ways to have a GTA game set in Dublin be full of all of the interesting story elements and set pieces that make for a great experience.
2. Shouldn’t go: Paris
Sometimes, GTA should avoid choosing a city for no other reason than another similar game already nailed it. In the case of Paris, the criminally underrated open-world action game The Saboteur did Paris so well that GTA would just be playing catch-up.
Set in WWII-era Paris, The Saboteur was more about espionage and taking down an oppressive regime than a GTA Paris would be, but still– anyone who wants to play an open-world game in Paris should just play The Saboteur rather than vie for GTA to go there. Far too few people played that game, and all a GTA Paris would do is make even fewer people go back and rediscover The Saboteur, which is almost reason enough for Rockstar to leave the city alone. Even just in Europe, there are so many other underutilized cities that GTA can explore without going places other great games already have.
1. Should go: Amsterdam
There’s obviously a lot more to the city of Amsterdam than marijuana cafes and its red-light district, but those two things are definitely a pretty strong starting point for its potential as a GTA setting. Having two things that are typically the basis for criminal activity in other GTA games and have those be legal and/or tolerated in Amsterdam would give the game a whole new dynamic, and would take away some of the easy cliches that GTA games often fall back on. Amsterdam would be a great GTA setting because of what is legal there– nbut for reasons that aren’t as obvious as you might think.
With the historic and beautiful geography of the city and its diverse mix of cultures, Amsterdam would be the ideal candidate for the next GTA game, especially if Rockstar chose to venture outside the United States. Sure, they’d probably use the opportunity to make irreverent, cringe-worthy jokes about Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh’s severed ear– but it wouldn’t be GTA without that type of thing, right?
What city do you most want to see in the next Grand Theft Auto game? Let us know in the comments!