What was the first GTA you ever played? Are you a grognard, getting your first open-world experience with the very first game? Did the new 3D graphics of GTA III entrance you? For me, it was the neon-slick streets of Vice City that served as my introduction to the series. I was far too young, probably about 10, but it showed me what video games could be, and just how immersive they could be. I don't consider Vice City to be the greatest GTA though, no. That praise must go to San Andreas. Whether or not you're a fan of classic hip hop or movies like Boyz N the Hood, the world was so darn big. We didn't get just one city to explore, but three, with acres of countryside in between!
I digress though. The point of this article is to uncover awesome, weird, or funny secrets hidden away in the GTA games. Whether these are film references, cheeky jokes, unsettling moments, or easter eggs, you'll find them all here. In games as big as these, there are a (almost literal) ton of these secrets. You're not going to find them all on your first run, and despite hundreds, if not thousands of hours, spent playing GTA, I only recognized a handful of them. Step inside the time machine with me, and let's go back to the classic era of GTA, and discover cool stuff you never noticed! If we've missed something you love, let us know!
30 Hidden Rockstar Logos In Vice City
You didn't think that Rockstar's self-referential nature would end just with a few names scattered here and there, did you? While their hiding of their logo in the franchise is a little more well-known in later games, it happened in Vice City too. Fly over Starfish Island, and you may spot a swimming pool in the shape of their logo. You can also see it on the tailfins of various planes (I wouldn't fly with them, if I were you), on gravestones, and in the sewer system of Little Haiti.
29 A Map Editor Is Hidden On A PC In San Andreas
It seems that a running theme through San Andreas' secrets is that the world itself is a kind of meta-simulation, with the characters somewhat aware that the game isn't quite reality. As well as the Gant Bridge facts we mentioned earlier, there's also this little gem. Inside one of the guard booths at Easter Bay International Airport, you can find a PC with a map editor open, as though some unknown actor was shaping the world in a Matrix-like fashion.
28 Lines Of Dialog Were Recycled From III To Vice City
It seems that someone got a bit lazy while writing Vice City. The game shares near-identical dialog with III. In III, Donald Love tells Claude "Nothing drives down real estate prices like a good old fashioned gang war, apart from the outbreak of a plague, but that might going too far in this case." In Vice City, Carrington informs Tommy "Now, nothing brings down real estate prices quicker than a good old-fashioned gang war - 'cept maybe a disaster, like a biblical plague or something, but, that may be going too far in this case."
27 There Are A Huge Amount Of Vice City References In San Andreas
From GTA III references in Vice City to Vice City references in San Andreas. There are a ton of these, so I'm just going to list a couple of my faves. The Truth mentions that his guys used to work on marine engines, but then "the mob bought their business over in Vice" referencing Vercetti's takeover of the docks. The V-Rock hotel in Las Venturas is named for a radio station in Vice City. In Ryder's house, there's a poster for the game, and, finally, across the street from the Angel Pine Cluckin Bell, there's a map of Vice City.
26 A San Andreas Pedestrian Resembles LL Cool J
Rappers don't get much more 90s than LL Cool J. Except maybe Eazy-E, but those reasons are thoroughly beyond his control. The rumor of an NPC in GTA V looking like Kanye West is fairly well known, but there's an NPC in San Andreas who looks remarkably like LL Cool J. More specifically, he looks like LL Cool J in his music video for "I'm Bad," complete with red trousers, gold chains, and bucket hat. I'm sure that, even if you don't know LL Cool J, you'll know the NPC.
25 GTA 3’s Hidden Sign
Cometh the 3D graphics, cometh the hordes of gamers fervently trying to break the world. I understand, don't get me wrong. You're given this new world to explore, so let's see exactly what it will and won't let us do. While trying to do this, some of you may have stumbled upon The Hidden Sign. Located in Bedford Point and accessible only by climbing, scrambling, and jumping your way to it, the sign simply reads "you weren't supposed to be able to get here you know."
24 Half-Life And Resident Evil References In San Andreas
Coming out in the mid-2000s, I guess it's only natural that SA would include references to two of the biggest franchises around. The Zombotech Corporation is very reminiscent of Umbrella, and signs near its elevators seem to indicate the presence of an underground base, like The Hive from the Resident Evil movie. Meanwhile, in the mission "Black Project," featuring CJ heading to Area 69, a familiar looking crowbar can be spotted on a lab table. In the same mission, a voice over the intercom makes reference to running with scissors being prohibited, a shoutout to the Postal devs.
23 Signs In GTA 2 Often Held Hidden Meanings
GTA 2 was something of a weird game. The only game in the series to be set in a retro-futuristic city somewhere in the near future, it was bold, fun, and also foreshadowed Rockstar's cheeky sense of humor. As you're driving around the city, gazing down on it like a criminally-minded seagull, you can come across a ton of signs for businesses that hide double entendres. Want a car? Check out Foo Cars or Wang Cars. A paintjob? Go to Max Paynt. Just don't get too close to the Brown Eyes Sewage Plant.
22 A Secret Picture Can Be Seen In Vice City
It's the 1980s. The Cold War is everywhere. All over the news, with people living in constant fear of nuclear annihilation. Rockstar weren't going to miss the opportunity for a bit of contemporary commentary in Vice City. Get an RPG and go into the Ammu-Nation downtown. Stand on the helmets, aim your RPG at the street, then turn so you're aiming at the wall. Then you'll spot this picture, of Reagan dealing with Gorbachev once and for all. As commentaries go, it's not super subtle, but it is funny.
21 Hidden Facts About Gant Bridge
You know Gant Bridge, the knock off of the Golden Gate that appears in San Andreas? Did you know that it has a visitor's center? I sure didn't! Next to Katie Zhan's house, you can find this elusive little museum, but it's what's outside of it that's most interesting. Here you'll find a large number of signs. The one on the far end of the center contains some particularly interesting facts about the bridge. Did you know that it takes up 1.27 MB of disc space? Or that it's made up of 15000 polygons? Neither did CJ, I bet.
20 GTA III Hinted At Vice City’s Setting
When you first played GTA III, I bet you were so drunk on the series now actually being in 3D that you barely pondered what would come after. Not so the developers. If you go to Staunton, look for a billboard that's promoting the airport. The sign, bearing the image of a plane in flight, simply reads "see you in Miami." What's particularly impressive is that the development of Vice City didn't begin until III ended, meaning Rockstar already had it locked and loaded while developing III.
19 Terminator 2 Reference In San Andreas
Ah, Terminator 2. The greatest Terminator movie. That it should come together with one of the greatest games of all time is not, perhaps, a massive surprise. The reference in question takes place during the mission "Just Business." A packer jumps off a surface road in slow motion down into a storm drain, while Big Smoke and CJ are trying to escape. This scene mirrors the pursuit sequence in Terminator 2, when the T1000 is chasing John Connor and the T-800.
18 Vice City’s Film Studios Were Used To Fake The Moon Landings
A second little cameo role for our friend, the Moon, in Vice City, here. The theory that the moon landings were faked, is, as conspiracy theories go, a popular one, and it's referenced in not one, but three GTA games. Most obviously, in Vice City, where, should you wander around the studios on Prawn Island, you'll find a Moon set, complete with lunar lander and flag. In San Andreas, a caller to Area 53 states his beliefs that we never landed on the moon, while at the film studio in GTA V, you can find actors dressed as astronauts.
17 GTA 3 Referenced The Old GTAs
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If there's one thing that we can be sure of, it's that Rockstar love to be self-referential. This isn't a recent development. Go back to GTA 3 and wander around Liberty City, paying close attention to the billboards. All over the city, you can see billboards advertising a film called Top Down City, starring Arnold Steelone. Awful fake actor names aside, the film title is an homage to the original games, which were played from a 2D, top-down perspective, with GTA III the first to change that.
16 Vice City’s Ending Sequence Is An Homage To Scarface
I don't think it's exactly a secret that Vice City took more than a pinch of inspiration from Scarface. However, the depth to which it is referenced is massive. As well as having a fairly similar story, and the whole chainsaw-bath combo you can find in a room where a deal went wrong, the ending sequence is a massive homage. The mission "Keep Your Friends Close..." culminates in a huge shootout at Tommy's mansion, similar to the legendary shootout at the end of the movie. The only difference being, Tommy survives.
15 Planes Explode At Random In San Andreas
This is maybe the weirdest secret of all. For reasons that are completely unexplained in-game, occasionally, while making your way around San Andreas, you'll see a plane flying incredibly low, before crashing into an obstacle in its way. This can be a tall building, trees, or the good old ground. The planes have no pilots, which is a little creepy, but can be explained. Planes are, for one reason or another, spawned with no pilot due to memory limitations. They're programmed to simply fly in a straight line above the player. This, however, sometimes leads to issues.
14 GTA: London 1969 Changed The Dialog To That Of Cockney Geezers
No one ever talks about the London GTAs anymore, and that's a shame. They were fantastic games. Less Mary Poppins and more Layer Cake, they allowed you to hare around London, committing misdeeds that would have made the Krays blush. One nice little feature of the game was how it adapted the game's messages to the players to more location-appropriate dialog. You'd no longer be busted, instead, when arrested, the game would proclaim "you're nicked!" If you ran out of health, you'd no longer be wasted. You'd be "brown bread," cockney rhyming slang for a gonner.
13 Catalina’s Cabin Hides A Dark Secret
It's not exactly controversial to say that Catalina is not a good egg. Her lunatic ways have been shown throughout the series, with how she betrays Claude in GTA III being the cherry on top. However, her...unpleasant tendencies were there for all to see a few years earlier, when she lived in San Andreas. If you choose to date her as CJ, and head out to her cabin. To the left of the cabin, you'll see three graves and a shovel. How many husbands has she had? Three? Oh dear.
12 Marco’s Bistro Features In A Host Of Games
Is there anything nicer than a nice Italian meal? If you're fancying one in Liberty City, I'd avoid Marco's Bistro. Nothing good seems to happen here. Crimes are commissioned here by the dozen, with such dealings taking place in GTA III, Vice City, and Liberty City Stories. Its appearance in GTA: San Andreas is probably the biggest reason to avoid it, however. Back in 1992, Carl Johnson rocked up on the orders of Salvatore Leone to take out the new Forelli family don.
11 GTA: London 1961 Broke New Ground
Did you know that GTA: London 1969 isn't the only GTA set in London? Rockstar released an expansion pack that backtracked a few years (these are the only two GTAs to share their protagonists). While in many ways, somewhat less remarkable than 1969, 1961 did break some new ground for the series. For the first time in the franchise's history, you could carry out drive-bys. You also gained the opportunity to armor your vehicle for the first time, with these garages replacing bomb shops.
10 Vice City’s Airport Is Named For A Famous Criminal
When you're driving around Vice City, do you take a great deal of notice of what each area is called? If not, I understand, but the airport is pretty entertainingly named. It's called the Escobar International Airport, named for none other than the Colombian crime lord. Interestingly enough, in the real world, Escobar used Miami as the port of entry for tons and tons of illicit cargo. Some gamers have even theorized that he's hidden away in the city somewhere.
9 Chaos Mode References A Previous Rockstar Game
Did you ever input the cheat in San Andreas that enables "chaos mode?" If you didn't, you're missing out. This makes the world go crazy (who would have thought), with pedestrians rioting and attacking each other and you with equal vigor. The rabid chaos created by using this cheat references an earlier Rockstar game, State of Emergency. This game focused on riots, with you playing as one of four characters trying to take down a Corporation by whatever means necessary. It was a ridiculous, overblown, quite shallow game, but is still worth checking out, if you're curious.
8 Secret Towns Named For Developers In GTA III
Everyone associates GTA III with the vast urban sprawl of Liberty City, but did you know there is such a place as Upstate Liberty? Modeled on the vast wildernesses of upstate New York, this is only accessible by flying due north of the city. Here, you'll find a bunch of towns named for the developers of GTA III, but not much else. The names that pop up on the radar include Les County, named for Leslie Benzies, Aaronsville for Aaron Garbut, and Woodcunty for Alisdair Wood.
7 A Construction Worker NPC Sings YMCA
This is another little easter egg from GTA III. Occasionally, in your travels, you may bump into an NPC who appears, at first glance, to be a normal construction worker. Upon closer inspection, however, he appears to be anything but. Bumping into him will cause him to start singing segments of YMCA, by The Village People. He can also be heard to exclaim various bits and pieces from the song, including "young man!," "there's no need to be down," and "I'm in the YMCA."
6 Shooting Vice City’s Moon Changes Its Size
You know that crusty, tired old phrase "shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars?" Despite it being a hoary old phrase you'd normally find plastered across a grandmother's bathroom, it bears some truth in Vice City. If you look up at the moon, our only satellite, and decide you don't like it's size, grab a sniper rifle. Aim through the scope, and shoot the moon, and it will change size, as if by bullet-based magic.
5 A Store In GTA III Advertises The Game
Here we are, back to familiar territory: Rockstar being self-referential. This store is located, once again, on Staunton Island, something of a hub for the weirdness of GTA III. Look for the store with the banner above the door. It says simply "GTA III OUT NOW," along with Rockstar's URL. It's pretty funny, but also, when you think about it, kind of pointless. Like gee, Rockstar, I guess I've already bought your game, you don't need to advertise it to me!
4 Gravestones For A Developer Are Hidden In Various Games
Another little inside reference to the developers of the games, only this time, quite a bit more morbid, can be found in Little Haiti's Funeraria Romero. Take a close look at the gravestones on display, and you'll see one of them for Steven Mulholland, who designed the game's map. He also worked on the map for San Andreas, and the Mulholland district is named for him. He's something of a fan of gravestones apparently, hiding his name on another one in SA's Palomino Creek.
3 Claude Appears In San Andreas
You remember Claude, the mute, unfashionably dressed protagonist of GTA III? Well, he appears in San Andreas, too. As you might have guessed, San Andreas is set a number of years before III, and as such, before Claude's betrayal by Catalina. After Catalina splits up with CJ, Johnson meets him at a street race, alongside his new beau. After beating him in a race, Claude hands over his entire garage to CJ, before leaving San Andreas with Catalina in tow. It's notable that in this earlier appearance, he looks a lot younger than he does in III.
2 A Gravestone Bears Some Bragging From Rockstar
Are we in agreement now that Rockstar are absolutely not above a little bit of self-promotion? Good. This particular easter egg does take the biscuit somewhat, though. Near the Hippy Shopper in San Fierro's Hashbury, you can come across a memorial stone. This simply reads "RIP Oppositon 1997-2004."
This appears to be a reference to the release of the original GTA in 1997, and San Andreas in 2004. It is true that a whole host of competitors fell down the wayside during this period, including True Crime and Driver.
1 Shops Around SA Contain Pokémon And SpongeBob References
You know how GTA: San Andreas takes place in the early 90s, and, for the most part, maintains its setting quite well? It doesn't always. In Eastern Los Santos, spread across various shops, there are adverts for SpongeBob and Pokémon, two properties that didn't exist in 1992. The textures for GTA: San Andreas were taken by developers in 2003-2004 and it seems that their quality control may not have been super tight. I guess we can just be glad there wasn't anything more grown-up in them.