With Grand Theft Auto V coming out next week, many gamers will get to return to the open criminal world they first became accustomed to back in 2001 with Grand Theft Auto III, but obviously with a number of contemporary changes to make the game stand out in its own right.
It hasn’t been an easy wait, though. In fact, to bide their time over the last few years, gamers have had to turn to alternative games, ones that follow a Grand Theft Auto-like formula, but differ in their own special ways, whether it’s in the theme or just doing something completely different in their virtual worlds.
So, as a nod to those games that entertained us, we look back at some of the best Grand Theft Auto clones we’ve seen over the years. There are quite a few quality choices here, including ones for current consoles you may want to check out if you haven’t already.
Send in the clones!
Even though THQ and Volition had two Saints Row games prior to this 2011 release, they really hit their stride with this one, making Steelport an all-out location for over-the-top activities. Whether you were shooting people through a “fun cannon” supplied by Professor Genki, skydiving in lingerie to a rival thug’s rooftop party to the tune of Kanye West’s “Power,” or singing along to “What I Got” while gleefully running people over, there was no shortage of madness with The Third. The fun continued on with this year’s Saints Row IV, complete with an alien invasion, Dubstep gun and, yep, more opportunities to parachute in lingerie.
This independent darling is a pretty good idea of how Grand Theft Auto would’ve turned out if it were made in the NES era. Featuring a number of terrific “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” references, superb open-world gameplay, and loyal 8-bit graphics and music, Retro City Rampage easily stands out as one of the better games you can download. Plus, you can’t really go wrong with a guy channeling Doc Brown from Back To the Future.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run
Whoever thought of combining open-world gameplay with The Simpsons was an absolute genius. Picking up where the Crazy Taxi-esque Road Rage left off, Hit and Run did a superb job with taking the Grand Theft Auto ball and running with it, letting players control Homer and other characters throughout Springfield. With tons of missions to complete and hidden goodies to find, this game’s just as satisfying as a box of donuts. Mmmmmm, donuts…
Originally conceived as a current-gen entry in Activision’s True Crime series, Sleeping Dogs has since found new life as an enjoyable Square Enix release. In the game, you play an undercover cop infiltrating the Hong Kong crime district, working for a triad group here and kicking thugs into the middle of next week there. With excellent ambience, a wonderful fighting system where you can stave off several enemies at once, and several different missions to choose from, it’s still a fun game almost a year after its release. We’re guessing these Sleeping Dogs just refuse to lie, even for Grand Theft Auto V.
Red Faction Guerrilla
Normally known for being a first-person shooting series, Red Faction took a turn for the better in 2008 with Guerrilla, featuring third-person action set on the planet of Mars. You play a liberator fighting against a dangerous faction that’s out to control the planet, using whatever weapons and vehicles you can get your hands on. Guerrilla stood out at the time because of its huge destruction engine. You could literally hack a building to pieces using your pick axe, or, better yet, blow it up with a rocket launcher, watching the pieces crumble around you. With a luxurious amount of missions and a solid presentation, Red Faction: Guerrilla is still a classic today.
Scarface: The World Is Yours
In this interesting – and likable – continuation of the movie, you play Tony Montana, who somehow miraculously survives the assault on his mansion and vows to get back everything he lost during the home invasion. What follows is a seedy tale of drug dealing, violence and chaos – you know, the stuff Tony does best. The fill-in voice actor for Al Pacino channels him quite well here, and it’s great spotting all the 80’s references taken straight out of the film. If you get this game, you’ll have a good time – though you won’t necessarily “get all the chicks, meng.”
In-between its Grand Theft Auto releases, Rockstar decided to give the Red Dead series another shot, this time with an open-world Western adventure that follows John Marsden, a down-on-his-luck cowboy who takes on missions and other side jobs to keep in one piece. Redemption does a splendid job shaping the Grand Theft Auto experience into something refreshing and new, and the ending – which we won’t dare spoil here – is the stuff of video game legend. Here’s hoping we see another chapter of the Marsden saga very soon, and with a new Undead Nightmare added on to boot.
Before Pandemic Studios folded up shop in late 2009, it finished work on The Saboteur, a terrific third-person action game that takes place in 1940’s Paris, right when World War II is about to be in full swing. You play Sean Devlin, an Irish racing mechanic who teams up with the Fresh Resistance and British Intelligence to bring the fight back to the Nazis. With atmospheric design that matches the mood and décor of the era and fun driving/shooting/fighting gameplay, The Saboteur is well worth another look.