Grand Theft Auto vs Saints Row: Which One Is Better?

Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row are arguably the two best open-world crime sandbox series going. But which is better? Let's see.

When Volition's first Saints Row was released, its city sandbox gameplay drew immediate comparisons to the beloved Grand Theft Auto series.

Since then, the Saints Row franchise has managed to move out of the shadow of GTA, becoming a distinct series in its own right. During Saints Row's rise, Rockstar has continued releasing Grand Theft Auto's that are incredibly successful, both commercially and critically.

Nowadays, the franchises aren't quite as similar as they once were, yet each new release still sparks some comparisons between the pair. For this list, we're taking every installment from both series into account and pointing out who does what best.

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10 GTA: More Memorable Worlds

Grove Street was where CJ called home in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and it has since become an iconic location in gaming. That's why every long term GTA fan got a twinge of excitement when they drove into Grove Street once again in GTA V. In ten years, if players get to revisit either Michael's or Franklin's home from the fifth game, they will feel a similar way.

Locations like Los Santos, Liberty City, and Vice City will remain engrained in the minds of fans forever, whereas Steelport and Stilwater aren't as memorable. There's nothing wrong with the Saints Row cities, they just don't have as many iconic areas that stick in the memory.

9 Saints Row: Customizable Protagonist

The only customization options for your character in GTA games (outside of multiplayer) is what clothes they wear and what haircut they have.

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Whereas the Saints Row series gives you a wealth of options to personalize your character from looks to their voice and gender (from the second game onwards). It's incredibly detailed as well, as you can alter every detail on your character's face and body meaning you can create a video game version of yourself or a hideous monster, it's up to you. Additionally, later games in the franchise allow you to upgrade your character's stats, which adds another level of customizability.

8 GTA: Better Protagonists

They might not look the way you want them to due to the lack of customization, yet the GTA series has the superior protagonists (particularly in the later games). While the Boss from Saints Row is a funny character, there's not much more to them than that.

GTA's protagonists are a lot more interesting. Take Michael from GTA V for example, he is not just a criminal, he's a man who's struggling to stop his former life ruining his new one, while simultaneously trying to do what's best for his family. There's depth to Michael, which makes for a more compelling main character. Other series leads like Franklin and Niko are also more three dimensional than Saints Row's protagonist.

7 Saints Row: Better Side Activities

Side activities in the GTA games have varied throughout the series, but they're usually things like golf, pool, races, etc. They're all fine, however they don't stack up to the incredibly unique activities featured in the Saints Row series.

Mini-games like Insurance Fraud where you intentionally run into vehicles to rack up insurance money, Mayhem where you destroy everything in sight to cause as much property damage as possible, and Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax which is a game show where you earn more money based on the number of people you kill, are all hugely enjoyable ways to spend time in Stilwater and/or Steelport.

6 GTA: Better Online

GTA Online is a juggernaut that is constantly updated with new content (albeit usually paid content), and it maintains a strong player base. It took a little while to get running, and there are plenty of people who aren't happy with some of the price of that additional content, yet it is still an enjoyable multiplayer experience with countless things to do.

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Saints Row's multiplayer modes have never made as big of an impact on players. The ability to play through the Saints Row campaigns cooperatively online is a nice addition, but it doesn't stack up to the pure fun of GTA Online.

5 Saints Row: Continuity

Every Grand Theft Auto title tells it's own independent story with a completely different cast of characters from the last (except for expansions and cameos). This means any character you take a liking to is gone by the next installment.

In contrast, Saints Row games (somewhat) follow on from each other, which allows you to appreciate characters like Johnny Gat, Shaundi, and Pierce more, as you spend additional time with them. It also gives extra meaning to everything you do, for instance, your attempts to build up the 3rd Street Saints in the early games is rewarded when the gang are full-on celebrities in the third title and running the whole country by the fourth.

4 GTA: Storytelling

While it's nice that the Saints Row stories have continuity, the first three plots boil down to the 3rd Street Saints working themselves up from the bottom by eliminating every other gang (or group) in their path, so there's a lack of variety in the storytelling.

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GTA's self-contained tales are more diverse, with GTA IV's story of Niko coming over to America to try to live the 'American Dream,' being very different to the drug-fuelled 80s adventure from Vice City or the corrupt government plot (with plenty of other arcs intertwined) from GTA V. Add to that GTA's better writing and voice acting, makes the series a superior narrative experience.

3 Saints Row: Combat

Neither franchise has the most spectacular third-person combat seen in gaming, yet Saints Row's is a touch better. The melee combat moves that were introduced in Saints Row: The Third are a delight to pull off and are preferable to GTA's punch and dodge hand to hand mechanics seen in their latest games, and they're certainly better than the melee brawling in older GTA titles.

As for gunplay, Saints Row has the advantage of having some crazy weapons that are lots of fun to use from the Dubstep Gun to the Black Hole Launcher. While it is amusing to cause carnage with those huge sticky bombs from San Andreas, GTA's combat just isn't as enjoyable overall.

2 GTA: Revolutionary

Would Saints Row even exist if it wasn't for Grand Theft Auto? It's hard to say for sure, but it is unlikely as the earlier GTA games revolutionized the open-world genre.

Giving players a sandbox to roam around and cause all sorts of carnage was still a relatively new concept before Grand Theft Auto came around. It paved the way for games like Saints Row to do the same. Volition's series has done some extraordinary things since, but it will never have the same impact on the gaming industry as the Rockstar series has had.

1 Saints Row: Commitment To Wackiness

Both series have veered into absurdity at times, however Saints Row has pulled it off better by fully committing to insanity.

Sometimes GTA's attempts at being over the top can seem at odds with the more grounded storytelling. Saints Row IV, on the other hand, has a gang leader save the world, become president, and then fight back an Alien invasion, and it all fits perfectly with what the series is by this point. Whether you prefer a more focused reality-based game (with a touch of wackiness) or a completely bizarre one will likely be the determining factor in which series is your favorite.

NEXT: Grand Theft Auto V Vs Red Dead Redemption 2: Which Game Is Actually Better?

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