Grand Theft Auto III has been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. The 2001 title is one of six games to beat out nine other high profile hits such as Tomb Raider, Minecraft, and Final Fantasy.
The second annual induction was conducted by The Strong, a museum in Rochester, New York, also known as the National Museum of Play.
The museum conceived the hall of fame as a way to recognize “individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general.”
According to its website, “The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play.”
Grand Theft Auto III joins 2015 inductees DOOM, Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and World of Warcraft and this year’s class, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Space Invaders, reports Time.
The Strong has four criteria for inducting a game — brand recognition, longevity, international reach, and influence. Influence is something of a trump to the others. According to the museum, if a game has had a substantial impact on the industry and game development, other media, or society and popular culture, then it does not have to meet the other criteria. Anyone can nominate a game, but the museum has a panel of video game industry experts that narrow the nominations down to 15 and then select six each year.
Grand Theft Auto III certainly met all of the criteria set forth, but regarding influence, none of the 2016 inductees can compare except for the father of all video games, Space Invaders.
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GameSpew states, “almost every entry in the [GTA] series has shaped the industry in a way that has changed our lives.”
Despite its title, GTA III was the fifth installment of the franchise, but what made it so influential was its open-world environment.
Earlier games such as Legend of Zelda, Wasteland, and King’s Quest VI, had dabbled in open worlds by incorporating things such as optional missions and multiple ways to accomplish goals. All of these games were mostly story-driven. The fun of them was completing missions to reveal more story.
Grand Theft Auto III went a slightly different direction. Developers took many of the open world game concepts and wove them into their design. It had optional missions, no time limits, freedom to go where the gamer chose, and rules that could be broken. While the core game was still story-driven, the creators had made the rest of the elements so fun, intriguing, and challenging, that the story sort of rode shotgun, pardon the pun.
Players found that running around seeing how many laws they could break before getting busted by the cops was just as fun or more than playing the storyline through.
Grand Theft Auto III introduced challenges like jumping vehicles for distance, rampaging, and racking up a death count within a certain time limit, and using specific vehicles to complete missions associated with those vehicles. For example, a player could get in or steal a taxi and then start a mission that involved picking up fares and dropping them off in another part of town within a certain amount of time. In a police car, the player could start a vigilante challenge that once completed, gave the player the ability to bribe cops when arrested.
However, Grand Theft Auto III‘s trivial side missions and trials were not what made it so great. The thing that really set the game apart was that it allowed the players to focus on the most important element in any title — the fun. Every gamer is different. Some players like driving and racing games, some like shooting games, some like simulations. Grand Theft Auto had all of these things, but even more importantly, it allowed the players to use their imagination and invent their own games and do their own things.
Grand Theft Auto III was the first game to allow players to spend an entire day trying to see how far they could ride a wheelie on a motorcycle, or trying to find out if it was possible to jump a car from the top of one building to another. The sky was the limit in GTA III. If the game mechanics allowed it, you could do it.
Grand Theft Auto III defined a whole new sub-genre of video game often referred to as sandbox games. Subsequent games in the franchise have sold exceedingly well, as have other games that have copied the formula, such as Red Dead Redemption, Sleeping Dogs, and the Fallout series. All these games and many more owe their success, in part, to the influence that Grand Theft Auto has had on the entire video game industry, and that is why it has been selected and deserves to be in the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]