October 22 marks the 15th Anniversary of when Grand Theft Auto III was released for the PlayStation 2. It was the title that transformed the gaming medium from a niche hobby into a staple of pop-culture while making open-world the genre that defined the Sixth Generation era.
Following the success of Grand Theft Auto III, many studios began to focus on developing their own open-world games. While many ended up just being a GTA-knockoff (Driv3r being the best example), others became masterpieces in their own right.
This list is only looking at open-world games not developed or published by Rockstar Games, hence Manhunt will not be on this list. At the same time the list will only focus on games released during the Sixth Generation era, so no Fallout 3.
5. True Crime: Streets of LA
Imagine if Grand Theft Auto was a John Woo inspired game while borrowing elements from many of the best action films of the 80’s. The result would be an experience like True Crime: Streets of LA. This open world title gathered a stellar cast while blending the elements of a Third Person Shooter, RPG and fighting game.
Det. Nick Kang of the L.A.P.D. is tasked with investigating a series of attacks in Chinatown He soon uncovers a massive counterfeiting operation that involves the Triads and the Russian Mob working for a North Korean general. Depending on the players path, Kang either brings down the entire operation or embarks on a personal vendetta.
True Crime: Streets of LA accurately recreated over 240 square miles of Los Angeles along with adding many iconic landmarks. The gameplay was a unique blend of automobile combat, third person shooting and basic fighting. Like Grand Theft Auto III, the game also featured a a stellar cast that included Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, CCH Pounder, Michelle Rodriguez and Ron Perlman.
4. Spider-Man 2
Long before DC redefined the concept of superhero games with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Marvel was leading the charge. In the aftermath of the disaster known as Superman 64, Neversoft demonstrated in 2000 that it’s possible to make a good superhero games and Treyarch followed their example in 2004.
This tie-in to the acclaimed film has Spider-Man trying to find a work/life balance while going up against a rogues gallery of villains. Our hero must prevent Dr. Octopus from recreating his experiment while also ending Mysterio reign of terror and recovering stolen art from Black Cat.
Unlike previous games (original works and movie-tie in), Spider-Man 2 was set in an open world environment that accurately recreates most of New York City. Players could either follow the story or go off and explore the city and do some good deeds for hero points.
3. The Getaway
Just a heads up, this game has nothing to do with the 1972 film directed by Sam Peckinpah and staring Steve McQueen. The Getaway was a title that attempted to present a more realistic experience with in the context of a British crime film. The result was one of the earliest story rich titles along with an unforgettable gameplay experience.
The story follows ex-gangster Mark Hammond and DC Frank Carter as they both work to bring down Charlie Jolson of the Bethnal Green Mob. Jolson kidnaps Hammond son and uses him to start a gang war between all the major crime bosses in London in attempt to solidify his power. Meanwhile DC Carter is working to bring down Jolson despite interference from a corrupt Detective Chief Inspector.
Like True Crime: Streets of LA, the game featured a real city that was accurately recreated while also staring a stellar cast. However, the story was inspired by classic British crime films like Get Carter while aiming for a more serious tone. The Getaway was unique from other games as it attempted to emulate the feel of a crime film by going so far as to remove any HUD while forcing players to rely on what is on screen for guidance. Another unique aspect of the game was the use of licensed vehicles from real automobile manufacturers such as Land Rover, FIAT, and Lexus.
2. Destroy All Humans!
Not all GTA inspired games were about living a life of crime, others allowed gamers to live out that dream of being an alien invader. That was the premise of Destroy All Humans!, a title that was heavily influenced by Sci-Fi films of the 1950’s while also adding its own sense of humor into the mix.
Crypto-137 comes to Earth to save his race by collecting DNA and to locate a missing comrade, Crypto-136. He is soon entangled in a war against the US Military and discovers the sinister plans of The Majestic, a shadow group that collects alien technology.
Destroy All Humans! is set in an open world environment as players battled through cities and towns based on 1950’s America. Thanks to the Havok engine, players could cause mayhem in the destructible setting. Gamers were also given an arsenal of Furons weapons to use along with special powers and having access to a flying saucer.
1. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
What happens when you take Grand Theft Auto III and trade its underworld setting for a battlefield? The answer is Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, an open world game set in a war-torn North Korea. This game combined everything players loved about GTA while adding more mayhem and tossing everything in the middle of a war.
When it’s discovered that North Korea was attempting to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists, an international collation lead by the Allied Nations (AN) invades the country. The country is now occupied by the AN while South Korea and the People Republic of China are competing for control of the region while the Russian Mafia wants to take control the North Korea’s criminal underworld.
Players take on the role of a mercenary who accepts contracts from each faction while hunting for key members of the North Korean government. Each faction gives players access to unique weapons along with special perks.
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction stood out from the many titles inspired by GTA for taking all the fun and mayhem then tossing it in a war-zone. A destructible environment along with a massive arsenal of weapons ensured that gamers would have a blast. At the same time it introduced gamers to several memorable characters who brought their own unique personality to the battlefield.
All of this made Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction one of the best games that was inspired by the success of Grand Theft Auto III.
Honorable Mention – Mafia
The first game in the iconic crime series took gamers to a world based on 1930’s Chicago and San Francisco. The story follows former gangster Tommy Angelo as he recounts to Det. Norman about his rise through the Salieri Crime Family. Mafia stood out from other games due to its attention to detail along with finding a quality balance between driving and on foot missions.
What was your favorite game inspired by Grand Theft Auto III? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.