This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
I remember the first time I played Grand Theft Auto 3. I was hanging out at my friend Tino's house. He was glued to the TV playing the game on his PS2. I saw him in a car driving around a city. I noticed how there weren't any boundaries restricting him from where he could go. He was free to go wherever he wanted. "This isn't a racing game," I said to myself.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Grand Theft Auto," Tino said.
For real? The Grand Theft Auto I remembered was the game with the overhead view and annoying radio stations. The Grand Theft Auto I knew was the one where you had to hold X to walk and the missions were hard. I wasn't a fan of the series to that point. I pretty much wrote it off as too complicated for my 12-year-old self to understand, but Tino said this cool game he was playing was part of the same franchise.
"Can I play?" I asked.
"Yeah," Tino replied.
I picked up the controller and began driving a Kuruma around Chinatown.
"Press L2," Tino suggested.
I pressed it and noticed the camera shifting to look out the left window of the car.
"Alright, now hold L2 and press O," he continued.
That was the moment I fell in love with Grand Theft Auto 3. Something about being able to do drive-bys just blew me away. I had a feeling that this game was a classic. I realized then that it was time to jump into the next generation of video games. No more N64. It was time for a PlayStation 2.
I had to wait a few months to finally get my own PS2, but it was all good. Not too long after I played the game at Tino's house, more of my friends had copies of GTA 3. It got to the point where you had to have played the game to be cool in my middle school. I would sleep over at people's houses just so we could play GTA 3 all night. I remember one night when my buddy Tom and I jammed to Rise FM for like two hours. We put Claude in a car and just zoned out to the six songs on that radio station.
Grand Theft Auto 3 became so popular that by the time I went to buy it four months later, I had to bring my mother because the lady at Toys "R" Us said I was too young to get it myself. It's crazy because I could have bought Halo: Combat Evolved, which had the same rating, with no problems. At the time, Toys "R" Us had games on shelves, so all you had to do was bring one to a register to purchase it. With GTA 3, I remember having to go to customer service and specifically ask for the title.
I didn't want the game because of the controversy surrounding it. I wanted it because it was incredibly fun. If it was boring but still naughty, I don't think anybody would care enough to want to play it. Instead it's this phenomenal release that just so happens to have drugs, violence, and prostitutes. And that's not my fault.
On this 10-year anniversary of Rockstar's Liberty City epic, I wonder when that next landmark game will arrive. A game that creates a new genre and gets it right. An original game that inspires copycats both good and bad but never better. A game that every player knows about. A game that unites us. It'll be here one day.
Happy birthday Grand Theft Auto 3. You changed everything.