Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest, most popular video game franchises in history. It has sold millions of games across nearly every platform released since the PS1 and courted more controversy than perhaps any other video game series ever created. And it’s done all this while mostly avoiding Nintendo consoles.
Now with the remastered GTA Trilogy out next month, some of the most popular games on the planet will finally be released on a Nintendo platform, for the first time ever. But while it has been some time since a GTA game launched on a Nintendo console, it has happened in the past. But only four times and only on Nintendo’s handheld systems.
The first GTA game ever released on a Nintendo console was a port of the original Grand Theft Auto for the Gameboy Color in 1999, about a year after it was released on PC and PS1. The following year, GTA 2 would also end up on Gameboy Color via a similar, simplified port. Interesting to note that the GBC port of GTA 2 contained a playable female protagonist. The series has never included one again. (So far.)
It would be four years before another GTA title, this time GTA Advance, would end up on a Nintendo platform. GTA Advance was released in 2004 on the Gameboy Advance and was, like GTA 1 and 2, a top-down open-world action game. But it included some elements from the then-recently released 3D PS2 GTA games. Oddly, GTA Advance is actually a prequel to GTA 3, set one year before the events of that groundbreaking PS2 title. It was developed by Digital Eclipse and not a team within Rockstar Games.
Another five years would pass before GTA Chinatown Wars was released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS. Meanwhile, multiple GTA games had been released at this point for various home consoles. Yet none of these games, like GTA IV or GTA Vice City Stories ever ended up on Nintendo home consoles like the Gamecube or Wii.
Chinatown Wars features a top-down perspective, like the old games, but it also features 3D elements like buildings. It was basically a modern take on the classic style GTA games. At this point, in 2009 the series had fully moved into 3D, so Chinatown Wars felt like a fun throwback to those past titles.
After that, Rockstar stopped releasing Grand Theft Auto games for any Nintendo platforms. But the publisher didn’t completely abandon Nintendo consoles. It released ports of Manhunt 2 and Rockstar Table Tennis on the Wii in 2007 and a port of Bully also made its way to the Wii in 2008. The most recent Rockstar game to launch on a Nintendo console was the 2017 port of LA Noire.
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So it’s not like Rockstar didn’t make and release games for Nintendo consoles. It’s just the GTA series that, for whatever reason, has rarely popped up on a Nintendo platform. Of course that all changes next month when not one, but three classic Grand Theft Auto games make their way to a Nintendo home console for the first time ever. GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas are part of the recently announced (but long-rumored) GTA The Trilogy – Definitive Edition coming to Switch alongside PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC on November 11.
Still, knowing the history between GTA and Nintendo consoles, it was wild seeing an official Nintendo social media account advertise the game yesterday. Sure, a lot has changed and almost anything can and does end up on the Switch these days. But a part of me is still shocked to see 3D GTA games on a Nintendo console. What a world we live in.
Now, will GTA IV or V ever show up on the Switch? I’m not holding my breath. But at least it seems Rockstar and Nintendo are open to letting the open-world chaos of GTA onto Mario’s gaming machines.
When I think of Rockstar and Nintendo consoles, the first games I always think of are Body Harvest and Space Station Silicon Valley. Two games that very much paved the way for GTA3 eventually. You can really see to roots of that game in those games on the N64.