When it comes to the best games of the past decade it's hard to imagine a conversation where Grand Theft Auto V isn't mentioned front and centre. Rockstar's latest instalment in the long-running, once top-down open-world series saw itself quickly rise to be one of, if not the most popular game of all time. And rightly so: from the vast story spread across a massive self-sustaining world with three intriguing playable characters to the ever-growing online mode that is still going strong all these years later, GTA V has connected with millions of players.
Since its initial release back in 2013, fans were instantly sold on Los Santos and the surrounding areas. The expansive landscape not only delivered a beautiful environment to explore but it also delivered a whole variety of sights to see and new areas to discover. From the lavish mansions in the hills through to the rundown shacks in the north, the world had a bit of everything and each small detail had been carefully considered to ensure it had some impact within the game.
Rockstar is known for telling extensive and impactful stories, and Grand Theft Auto V is no different. The three main characters all bring their own baggage, but they're also intriguing and contrast each other nicely. The cool and calm of Franklin, the hot-headedness of Trevor, and the smarts of Michael all come to bear during the game's epic narrative, which twists and turns, with story strands woven together masterfully to create an unforgettable experience. Rockstar has always been the best when it comes to satire, and Los Santos and its denizens are a twisted yet utterly plausible reflection of reality that had us hooked from the start.
The synergy that these three characters produce throughout the story is without a doubt our favourite feature in the story mode; the constant battle that the three undergo with each decision is so relatable considering they're three near-strangers doing the best they can in a bad situation. It would be unnatural for them to have complete faith in everything they do, but then at the same time, it is very apparent that they trust each other with their lives - except maybe Trevor at times. The on-screen connections work so well and when things take a turn for the worst, you can't help but feel bad and hope that things work out for them.
There's a lot of game to play through before the credits roll, but there's replayability in there as well - a big decision near the end has a detrimental effect on your end game experience and that gives you a reason to see what would happen with each individual choice. This is nothing new in video games but with the story having such in-depth character growth and deep bonds that have been built up over tens of hours of gameplay, each final decision is so powerful that it sticks with you for a long time.
Moving away from the single-player portion of the game, which was updated considerably when the game was ported over to current-gen consoles and then PC, we get to something that has grown over the past six years and that continues to grow even to this today. GTA Online is a massive multiplayer experience that allows players to explore Los Santos with friends and other players across the globe.
When the online portion first came out it gave everyone a new way to enjoy the game, and countless hours have been lost to online races, deathmatches, cruising around with a bunch of friends, customising cars and causing general chaos on the streets. It's here that the systems-driven gameplay comes into its own, and players can craft their own memories using the extensive range of tools that have been made available to them.
With the base being so content-rich and the world itself so well-rounded, it made a perfect platform for the online game and only added to the overall experience. We could finally own a penthouse apartment and kit out the massive 10 car garage with all the latest rides and whatever we wanted. Before long there were tons of custom-made races and challenges for everyone to enjoy, and whether you were racing friends or joining a random lobby invite there was always something new to try and you were never limited in terms of the fun that could be had.
Over these past seven years, Rockstar has continued to add so much more to GTA Online and in doing so has kept the community alive. The constant updates have added more vehicles, new properties and businesses, a whole variety of game modes, and so many seasonal events that it's impossible to list them all. The studio even added in a virtual casino that gives players a chance to win top prizes, although greed usually comes before a fall and, as they say, the house always wins.
It has been a crazy seven years full of fun, heartache, anger and excitement. Grand Theft Auto V has managed to bring people together and has given millions of players millions of hours of entertainment, much of which has been added to the game for free. Los Santos is a stunning achievement from one of the greatest studios in the world, and the adventures that we've had there will remain with us for years to come.