Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing left to say about the Grand Theft Auto series. The cult 2D top-down run and gun car-jacking simulator turned biggest game series in the world today has brought controversy and ire onto the gaming industry while simultaneously doing more to mainstream the medium than any other game in existence. The games have garnered such a large legion of fans it's almost unfathomable. With tens of millions of copies of the series’ titles sold and millions playing Grand Theft Auto Online as we speak, its showing no signs of slowing down.
Like all other quality games, GTA has a hardcore following of dedicated fans: players who have completed all games—both main series and otherwise—multiple times, collecting every hidden item and playing through every side mission in order to 100% their beloved games. They’re also heavily steeped in the GTA folklore, knowing the stories and back-stories of the various protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters, as well as having a thorough knowledge of the alternate universe and geography of the games.
It should come as no surprise then that these same people have theorized about these games extensively. Where holes in the stories exist, they attempt to fill them. Where backstories of characters are left ambiguous, they attempt to flesh them out. Where none of the above are applicable they, well, theorize anyway. Over the next 25 entries, we are going to look at some of the juiciest, wackiest and, at times, logical fan theories that exist around this famed series.
25 Michael De Santa Is Tommy Vercetti
Michael De Santa, one of the three main protagonists in GTA V, has a checkered and ambiguous past. Already in the witness protection program, not much is known about De Santa—real surname Townley—and his past.
One prevailing theory about him based on an early trailer for GTA V was that he is Tommy Vercetti, protagonist of GTA: Vice City.
Discrepancies in birth year indicate otherwise, but honestly, Michael looks a little worse for wear than mid-40s to us. Being a comfortable liar who's trying to run from his past, it wouldn't be the craziest revelation...
24 The Characters, Three Generations
An interesting, deep one here. This theory suggests that the three characters of GTA V represent the three different generations of the series. Trevor, with his ugly brashness, simplistic outlook, and penchant for random violence represents the original, top-down arcade-y games. Franklin's rags-to-riches journey is similar to the stories of GTA's 3D generation, especially CJ's from San Andreas, as both are black men from Los Santos who end up with mansions on the hill. Meanwhile, Michael's more pessimistic, complex character is more akin to Niko Bellic from the HD universe.
23 Obeying The Speed Limit
In the GTA games, when you shoot someone or hit someone with your car, it’s not long until you garner a wanted level and are hunted by the police. With such quick reaction from the boys in blue, how is it that running speeding and general traffic violations don’t attract unwanted attention? Well, you know how time speeds by in GTA (about a minute every two seconds); this theory suggests that, given how quickly time passes, you—and by extension, your car—are actually moving extremely slowly. Trippy.
22 Big (Financial) Brother Is Watching…
Remember how in the last entry we discussed how quickly police respond to crime in the GTA games? Well, there may be an explanation for that after all.
The theory suggests that all the civilians in the GTA universe are monitored by their life insurance agencies.
This is perhaps via microchips which monitor their vital signs. So when the red mist descends and you dispatch one of them, the cops are immediately on your case. This would explain how even ending someone silently in seclusion with no witnesses can garner you an instant one star wanted level.
21 Lights, Camera, Action!
Video games are often referred to as interactive movies. The GTA games could feasibly fall into this category. No doubt, each subsequent game in the series is more cinematic and cutscene heavy than the last, while the emphasis on story, the aforementioned rags-to-riches motif, and non-stop action have Hollywood written all over them. Some people suggest that the games are, in fact, actually movies. The colorful cast of characters, spawning vehicles, re-spawning protagonists and weapons strewn casually around the maps are like props to be used by the player acting out the role of anti-hero.
20 Michael Is Claude
Another theory relating to the possible alternative identity of Michael from GTA V. Little is known about Claude, the silent protagonist from GTA III. After being busted out of a police convoy, and going through the usual struggles of betrayal and criminality for a GTA protagonist, he makes his way through the Liberty City underworld and the crime families that run it. However, after the events of GTA III, his trail runs cold. Some believe that, tiring of a life of crime, he married Amanda in an attempt to go straight, which went south during GTA V.
19 Out To Get Me!
One theory here that will fully justify the grievances of every disgruntled GTA player ever.
This one suggests that the NPCs (non-playable characters) in the game are all out to get you.
From pedestrians that walk out in front of your car, to the drivers that seem determined to run protagonists over, it seems that the people that populate the cities that your protagonist inhabits are designed to put as many impediments in your way as possible. Just remember, next time you mess up a mission in GTA, it's not your fault (even though it probably is)!
John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, is one of the most beloved guys in one of the most beloved Rockstar games. Aside from having a calm, witty, likable demeanor, he’s also intricately linked to some of the most fun and innovative gameplay design created by the developer. One of these mechanics is the ‘dead-eye’ function, which allows Marston to slow down time to pick off enemies with greater ease. Aside from GTA V inheriting this feature in, many believe that Michael, Franklin, and Trevor literally inherited this from Marston, who they believe is their ancestor!
17 The Ambiguity Of Niko Bellic
Another much-loved protagonist here, however, a major difference between John Marston and GTA IV’s Niko Bellic is that he lives in the same time period as those in GTA V. Or does he? The jury is out on his status. Some characters, like Packie McGreary, allude to him maybe being passed away. However, ‘Wanted’ posters found in Los Santos indicate that he may still be alive. Some fans even believe that the posters refer to Rockstar wanting a new voice actor for the character as they and previous actor Josh Feinman, are not on good terms.
16 Trevor Of Another World
If you're looking for a way to explain or even justify Trevor from GTA V's behavior, him being a demon would be a pretty good one.
Okay, so GTA doesn't really deal with the supernatural, but this is the same series that has featured aliens and government conspiracies in its games.
Add to this Trevor's lack of empathy, psychotic tendencies, and his "rampaging" ability, which allows him to absorb inhuman amounts of damage while increasing his viciousness, and he sounds pretty demonic to us...
15 Something Lurks Beyond...
No video or photographic evidence can make any claim or conspiracy a hard sell, but when you're talking about video games in the digital age where everything is recorded well, the pill becomes that much harder to swallow. Some players have claimed to have spotted a Loch Ness-esque sea creature during their playthroughs of GTA: Vice City, but with no visual evidence to support these claims, perhaps it is merely fantasy. That being said, we wouldn't put it past Rockstar to put an Easter egg of this magnitude in one of their games.
Another prevailing theory, similar to our last entry, is the existence of Bigfoot in GTA: San Andreas. While images and live footage of the creature in-game can be found online, modders are notorious for adding him into the game, while others have been known to doctor images of the game to include the forest dweller. With that said, it is impossible to know whether all the images are fake or if some of them are actually real. Either way, just like the aforementioned sea-creature, Bigfoot's existence is as contentious in-game as it is in real life.
13 Jimmy Crest
One of the more prominent and irritating characters in GTA V is Michael’s son Jimmy: entitled, lazy, and socially inept, you can tell that Michael tries to connect with his son, in spite of the fact that he resents his attitude towards life and his ungratefulness for what has been given to him.
Lacking his father’s go-getter, tenacious, jock mentality, who does he resemble both physically and mentally in the game? Lester!
Michael’s video gaming, pot-bellied cynical friend. Given his wife’s nature, too, this could actually be true!
12 The Legacy Of CJ
There is a prevailing feeling among some gamers that the police in each subsequent GTA game have become more advanced and aggressive. Graphical and gameplay evolution aside, cops in later installments seem to be better trained and more heavily armed. In relation to GTA V, there is a theory that CJ’s antics in GTA: San Andreas are the reason for their increased aggression. While taking place in two different universes, some people believe that all GTA, and Rockstar games, are connected (more on that later).
11 No Man Is An Island
Okay, this is one theory that can be perceived as half player conspiracy, half cynical, hipster-ish social commentary. All the GTA maps are islands, and all GTA games act as biting analysis of American culture and society. So, some people think that their inhabitants are socially insular beings, living in a bubble unaware or uncaring of the outside world. As a Truman Show-esque conspiracy of human guinea pigs living in their own world, it's pretty cool! However, as subject matter for your next sociology essay or vlog, not so much...
10 The House On The Hill
Located in the wealthy Mulholland neighbourhood in GTA: San Andreas, there is an ominous, creepy house that sits among the other homes in the well to do area sticks out like a sore thumb. The wood-paneled house, which has no windows, is eye-catching for keen gamers looking to explore the map. One theory posed by such gamers is that it is the home of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill! Others simply believe that it is haunted, while others still believe that it is inspired by The House of Blue restaurant in Los Angeles.
9 It Was All A Dream
A prevailing theory which is perhaps more pertinent to the player than any other on this list. The theory suggests that the character you control in GTA Online is either incarcerated or has passed on, and that the events of GTA V take place in his mind, or in his dreams—living or postmortem.
We already know that GTA Online takes place before the main game, and you interact with many of the characters that feature in the story, so if that much is true, who knows?
8 Brucie Bats For The Other Team
Brucie from GTA IV is a fan favourite and a top supporting character. Niko Bellic’s steroid abusing friend is a gym obsessed, sports car modding, model dating “alpha male” with a big ego that’s tied to his masculinity. But is he overcompensating? We already know that his muscular arms don’t make him a better fighter, but there is also murmurs—which are supported by many of his actions—that his lady friends are just for show, and that he’d rather spend the night with Niko…
We’ve two more beasts to deal with. The first is Ratman, a rat/human hybrid that allegedly scurries around in GTA II and GTA V at least, if not the other titles. Hints alluding to his existence include an infestation of rats commented upon in GTA III and the presence of Rat Labs in GTA V. Now, these things exist in our world and, as far as we know, there are no half rat/half human monstrosities in Manhattan. Still, bet you’ll be reluctant to lead Franklin down any more dark alleyways…
Another creature here which is just as ridiculous as Ratman, if not more so. Goatman is, you guessed it, a creature that is half man and half goat. And while there is an extremely high possibility that neither of these freaks exists, there is perhaps a scintilla of evidence to support the existence of Goatman. In the wilderness of GTA: San Andreas, you can find an altar with goat skulls on them. Could just be your friendly neighborhood cult, or it could be evidence of the summoning of the horned demon!
5 Online Tracking
Going from two crazy theories which, let's be honest, could very well be totally false to one which is actually probably true. It suggests that GTA Online was created specifically as a testing ground for the development of GTA VI in mind. In other words, Rockstar would see what players did and enjoyed in the online playground, gather the data, and create the next installment in the series based on the information. Makes sense; developers often use critical and fan feedback to help improve flaws in their sequels, so this would be the same thing on a grander scale.
4 Guess Who, G!
GTA: San Andreas wears its inspirations heavily on its sleeve. Los Santos is an accurate recreation of early 1990s Los Angeles and its gang culture, while the soundtrack—from gangsta rap to grunge—is emblematic of that era. Many people also believe that CJ and his gang are based on iconic rappers from that time too. CJ, being the protagonist, would be Tupac Shakur, the biggest rapper of the time, while his brother Sweet is Dr. Dre. These could be disputed, but the identical versions of Big Smoke as Biggie Smalls and Ryder as Eazy-E are pretty irrefutable.
3 O.G... Who?!
Remember how we said CJ was just based on 2Pac? Being a leader commercially and artistically in the rap game, it makes sense that the star of San Andreas would be inspired by the biggest star in the genre.
Well, there's another theory that 2Pac actually inspired character O.G. Loc, the rhyme-stealing, fake gangsta.
Now, 2Pac was an incredible rapper, but aside from that there are similarities: both went to drama school, and neither had a criminal record before they started rapping. Also, that "GS" tattoo across Loc's stomach, looks an awful lot like 2Pac's "Thug Life" tattoo...
2 One Universe
A fan theory here which reaches beyond the GTA series itself and into some of Rockstar's other popular series. While allusions to some of the developer's other titles in GTA games might seem like mere Easter eggs, it's much more satisfying to imagine that the games are all connected in the same world and timeline. We previously mentioned how GTA V's protagonists could be relations of John Marston; well, how about how Franklin has a copy of a book called Red Dead on his bookshelf, or how Bullworth Academy is on Niko Bellic's fake resume? Makes you think...
1 That's Entertainment!
Another theory similar to the last one on our list, but with a twist. Some have theorized that these other titles don't actually exist in the GTA universe, but are forms of entertainment enjoyed by the inhabitants of it!
For example, that Red Dead book we mentioned previously?
That would be a book of fiction detailing the events of Red Dead Redemption. Similarly, Rockstar's Table Tennis would be a sport they could watch on TV, while the Max Payne series could be a collection of tense, thriller motion pictures. Well, you can watch television in GTA IV and V!