With top-notch action and adventure, GTA San Andreas continues to be a critical and commercial success for Rockstar Games.
Upon release, critics showered praise for its memorable characters, a story-driven narrative, open-world gameplay, and deep customization not yet seen in the GTA series.
San Andreas holds the record for the highest rated PlayStation 2 review by IGN, who referred to the game as a genre-defining experience.
GTA players often consider San Andreas to be one of the best entries in the entire franchise. Keep in mind this refers to the original release and heavily modified versions on PC, considering Rockstar barely puts effort into ports elsewhere. San Andreas is an all-time classic for several reasons.
Five reasons why fans highly rate GTA San Andreas
#5 – It’s an open-world experience like no other
GTA 3 and Vice City seem much smaller in comparison to San Andreas. That’s precisely because it is – San Andreas is bigger than both of those maps combined. It finds the right balance of not being too big like GTA 5.
Instead, San Andreas offers diverse locations with different themes, such as the desert and countryside.
Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas are large cities that have unique personalities, which makes them fun to explore. That’s not even getting into the sub-regions of Red County, Tierra Robada, and Bone County.
Rockstar implemented several collectibles for each area, such as spray tags, snapshots, and lucky horseshoes. They also added oysters in underwater locations, considering GTA players can finally swim in this game.
San Andreas rewards players who traverse various territories.
#4 – Massive customization options
San Andreas truly stands out for how much creative power they give their players. From clothing accessories to body types, players can make CJ look different in each playthrough.
There continues to be commendations for the customization in this game. It’s truly remarkable, especially by the standards set in that era.
For the first time in GTA series history, players can also finally modify their vehicles. Before then, they had to settle with resprays at the local Paint ‘N’ Spray, which chooses random colors. Now they can add hydraulic features and nitro boosts for high-speed vehicles.
San Andreas allows the player to experience something new in each playthrough. There are even unique pedestrian dialogs, depending on the GTA player’s vehicle or their particular weight class. Rockstar Games thought of everything.
#3 – There is so much to do in San Andreas
Given the size and scope of the three major cities (and neighboring districts), GTA players will spend a lot of time on their activities. These range from street races to all-out gang wars.
Certain events can only take place in a specific region, which requires players to visit for 100% completion.
There are several different sidequests a player can take, such as dating various girlfriends for a useful bonus. Players can also spend their free time playing sports like basketball or betting on themselves on a pool table.
Those who want to reach 100% completion in this game will be rewarded with plenty of activities to keep themselves busy. That’s not even getting into the many collectibles they can find in various locations.
#2 – Carl Johnson is a popular GTA protagonist
Known as CJ by his close friends, he is arguably one of the more sympathetic protagonists in the GTA series. While he does have his moments, CJ isn’t nearly as ruthless as the likes of Tommy Vercetti or Trevor Philips. He has a heart, which can be seen by how much he cares about his family (despite what Sweet says).
CJ also provides much-needed comic relief through his hilarious one-liners and witty banter. He plays the perfect straight man to the crazy antics surrounding him. Most importantly, CJ is a certified gangster criminal.
Here is someone who successfully broke into a military base just to give an aging hippy something he asked for. CJ has had one long string of successes in the GTA universe, which is what makes him special.
#1 – Big Smoke is memetic and memorable
Simply put, Big Smoke is a legend in San Andreas history. Whether it’s his iconic order at the Cluckin’ Bell or telling CJ he picked the wrong house, Big Smoke never lacks memorable scenes.
Big Smoke’s betrayal was quite the shockwave to GTA players. Although there were hints here and there, he was still the nicest guy in Grove Street. Even CJ feels sorry for him by the time Big Smoke meets his end.
His words of wisdom may be as questionable as his loyalty, yet Big Smoke is a visionary. He truly wanted to make a name for himself, one that everybody would remember.
It’s a good thing GTA players are still talking about him to this very day. There hasn’t been an antagonist quite like Big Smoke since then.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s personal views.