When it comes to iconic video game series, Grand Theft Auto is at the top of the list. It’s been around for 25 years and has reached hundreds of millions of players since 1997. Not only are most of the games in the series critically acclaimed, but many of them have completely revolutionized gaming in more ways than one. Because of its success, it’s common for developers to attempt to emulate what makes the GTA games so great — whether it’s their open worlds, all-out action, or satirical take on our culture.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
- Far Cry 6 (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
- Saints Row IV (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
- Sleeping Dogs (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
- L.A. Noire (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
- Watch Dogs 2 (PS4, Xbox One,PC)
- Mad Max (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Just Cause 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
While no game quite nails the formula like GTA does, several games have come close, offering their own unique takes. But which games are they? Here, we’ll highlight some of the best games like GTA to hold you over until the next mainline installment or to simply scratch that open-world action-adventure itch.
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Yakuza: Like a Dragon (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
First up, let’s kick things off with a game that seemingly isn’t much like GTA at all. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a turn-based RPG with an open world and one of the best video game stories of all time. Although it doesn’t feature drivable cars or real-time action, Like a Dragon does have a lot in common with GTA. Both feature large open worlds filled with interesting characters and a slew of collectibles to uncover. Beyond that, the cast of Like a Dragon is brilliantly written, taking cues from GTA in terms of the jokes and the overall story. In fact, we’d go so far as to say Like a Dragon is witty in the same way Earthbound is, which is a major compliment. This game is great for JRPG lovers looking to branch out into open-world action games.
Far Cry 6 (PS4,
PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC)
It’s easier to see the connections between GTA and Far Cry 6, as both feature drivable cars, fast-paced action, and a compelling story. However, Far Cry 6 differs in that it takes place on the fictional tropical island of Yara (which is loosely based on Cuba). The other major difference is that Far Cry is presented from a first-person perspective, whereas GTA is traditionally a third-person series (however, the mega-popular Grand Theft Auto V is playable in first-person on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC). Far Cry 6 is great because it follows that compelling Ubisoft formula, wherein the map is littered with objectives for you to check off your list. It’s a game you can get lost in while clearing out the map or even during the story-heavy sections — which are made even better by Giancarlo Esposito’s portrayal of dictator Antón Castillo.
Read the full Far Cry 6 review
Saints Row IV (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Many of the games that play like Grand Theft Auto tend to gravitate towards realism. Saints Row IV is not one of those games. While the Saints Row series did initially start off with realism in mind, the fourth installment is over the top in the most wonderful ways. It still features third-person shooting mechanics, driving, and everything else you might love about an open-world game, but its characters also have superpowers. Yes, that’s right, your character can use telekinesis, super speed, and the ability to leap over tall buildings, making this a standout adventure. Along with that, Saints Row IV focuses on satire, poking fun at the United States and other pieces of media like Mass Effect, Gears of War, The Matrix, and Metal Gear. It’s self-aware, silly, and a ton of dumb fun.
Read the full Saints Row IV: Re-Elected review
Sleeping Dogs (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
It’s a shame Sleeping Dogs never got the credit it deserved because it was an excellent take on the open-world action formula. In fact, this title initially started out as a True Crime game but was ultimately renamed and referred to as a spiritual successor instead. Nonetheless, this one has it all: Fast cars, intense hand-to-hand (and shooting) combat, and some of the most satisfying parkour mechanics in all of gaming. Unlike GTA, Sleeping Dogs places you in the shoes of a police officer in Hong Kong, with the goal of stopping crime instead of causing it. This is a refreshing take on the chaotic style of GTA while still keeping the fun factor intact. You can definitely see where Sleeping Dogs draws inspiration from while also standing on its own thanks to its themes and gameplay.
L.A. Noire (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
Speaking of playing as law enforcement, L.A. Noire takes place from the perspective of a detective in the 1940s. In it, you must speak with witnesses and suspects to gather clues, and based on their facial expressions and non-verbal cues, you have to determine the authenticity of their story. It’s a unique mechanic that stands out to this day. Interestingly, this game is published by Rockstar Games, the same team behind the GTA series, and you can tell. The level of polish in L.A. Noire is top-notch, as demonstrated by its visuals and performances. L.A. Noire features a moderately sized open-world, driving, shooting, exploration, and an engaging story, so if you like GTA, you’ll be right at home with this game — even if its pace is significantly slower.
Read the full L.A. Noire review
Watch Dogs 2 (PS4, Xbox One,PC)
San Francisco has been depicted in a lot of video games over the years, but arguably the best version of it is from Watch Dogs 2. This game not only captures the structural layout of the city but its personality, as well. It carries the same gameplay mechanics and premise from the original Watch Dogs, but with a slew of improvements. Its main character, Marcus Holloway, is a much more interesting lead than the one from the previous game. In addition, Watch Dogs 2 is self-aware (only, not on the same level as something like Saints Row). Exploring the city, taking pictures of the sights, and using parkour to get around are all an absolute blast, as is using your hacker skills to take down enemies.
Read the full Watch Dogs 2 review
Mad Max (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Mad Max‘s release date, unfortunately, caused it to be overshadowed, as it launched alongside Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Players certainly missed out, since this game has some of the best vehicular combat of the past decade. This title absolutely nails the Mad Max aesthetic and feel with the open world while making it fun to play. The vehicular combat is certainly the star of the show, though you are able to play on foot as well. The on-foot segments aren’t as strong as the moments when you’re behind the wheel, but overall, it’s an exciting game with likable characters and a satisfying progression system. It’s far more washed-out than GTA in terms of the color palette but still nails most of what it sets out to do.
Just Cause 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Just Cause 4 is yet another game that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It won’t blow you away, but it’s a fun sandbox for you to play in, with tons of things to do. One of its highlights is the game’s massive open world, featuring various weather effects such as tornadoes and blizzards. You can utilize several different vehicles to get around the open world in between the fast-paced third-person shooter combat sections. Overall, it doesn’t quite reach the highs of GTA, but it’s a blast to play, which counts for something.
Read the full Just Cause 4 review
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is interesting for a lot of reasons. It was longtime developer Hideo Kojima’s last game under Konami and had a troubled development. You can tell because the game’s story is partially unfinished, but even still, it’s one of the great games of the past generation. The story of Metal Gear has always been wacky and beloved, so when The Phantom Pain faltered in this regard, it was disappointing. But that just goes to show just how far the nearly perfect gameplay carries this experience — allowing you to tackle missions in its large open world however you see fit.
In many ways, The Phantom Pain is much more structured than previous entries, but given the immense arsenal of tools you have at your disposal, you can let your creativity run wild when aiming toward your objectives. For instance, you can call in an airstrike to destroy targets, or simply knock them out and extract them to your base. As you extract soldiers, your base becomes stronger, and you can use your crew to create various gadgets and items. The open world is beautiful, the gameplay is incredible, and the exploration is satisfying. Out of all the non-Rockstar games on this list, The Phantom Pain is arguably the most polished — coming close to the level of quality from the GTA games.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Predictably, let’s end with Rockstar’s magnum opus, Red Dead Redemption 2. Hailing from the same company as GTA (just a different team), this is one of the most technically impressive games in existence. It’s understandable that some players might not be into the Western themes and the 1899 time period, but it’s hard to not at least appreciate this game from an artistic and technical perspective. It has a massive open world with various weather types, along with some of the most satisfying exploration in a video game ever. Unlike GTA, Red Dead Redemption 2 requires the player to be much more deliberate so as to ensure as much immersion as possible.
It’s slow at times, but its pacing has a purpose, leading to a massive climax with explosive results. The characters are memorable, and while some of them may not be likable, they’re well-written and acted, which is one of the game’s highlights. Red Dead Redemption 2 features a world you can get lost in, allowing you to do pretty much whatever you want. You can be a bounty hunter, a fisherman, or an all-out criminal if you’d like, with numerous options in between. The sheer level of care given to nearly all aspects of this game is nothing short of impressive, and it’s our top pick for the best game like GTA.
Read the full Red Dead Redemption 2 review
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