It is easy to imagine why so many game developers are so keen to rip off 'Grand Theft Auto' - it's among the most successful franchises in all of media.

2013's 'Grand Theft Auto V' alone shifted over 150 million copies, and still holds the record for the most successful launch in entertainment history.

With the money and notoriety that comes with 'Grand Theft Auto', many developers have tried - and failed - to take home a slice of the pie, and today we're running down a history of the 'Grand Theft Auto' clone.

Some of these copycat games are legitimately great - we recently put out a feature about how the 'Saints Row' franchise managed to escape its roots as a 'Grand Theft Auto' clone - but others have seen mixed results.

Without any further ado, let the show begin.


Perhaps the most infamous example of a 'Grand Theft Auto' clone, the 'Driver' series sacrificed its greatest quality of being a pastiche of 70's cop dramas in an attempt to grab some of that sweet Rockstar Games money.

The original 'Driver' was a solid romp that recalled the films of Friedkin and Hill, and proved to be a hit when it was released in 1999.

At the time, the 'Grand Theft Auto' franchise was still nascent, and not quite the world-beater it letter became, and the 'Driver' franchise can lay claim to having a better hit rate than the 'Grand Theft Auto' series.

2000's 'Driver 2' was genuinely novel as it let players leave their car and drive around a fully 3D open world, beating 'Grand Theft Auto III' to the punch by an entire year.

While you couldn't go on a rampage like 'Grand Theft Auto', there was a sense of liberation with the open world, which went hand-in-hand with the novelty factor of playing the game on a PlayStation 1.

The following year, 'Grand Theft Auto III' changed the face of gaming as we know it.

Not only could you leave your car and explore the open world, you could do a million and one different things when on foot.

Out of all the games in this article, 'Driver' is the ultimate "could have been a contender" for the throne occupied by 'Grand Theft Auto'.

'Grand Theft Auto III' and 'Vice City' changed what audiences expect from open-world games, and when it came time for 'DRIV3R' to get its time in the limelight, 'Grand Theft Auto' had pulled the rug out from under it.

'DRIV3R' was shameless in its pretensions of trying to be a 'Grand Theft Auto' game, and it more or less killed the franchise in the process.

An ambitious attempt to let players run amok in 3 major cities - Miami, Nice, and Istanbul - was hamstrung by there being absolutely nothing to do in them.

The game was released mere months before 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' became perhaps the most popular piece of mass media of the 2000s, and 'DRIV3R' was so confident that it had beaten 'Grand Theft Auto' to the punch that the game is a victory lap for a match they didn't win.

If you close your eyes, you can pretend you're playing a worse version of 'Vice City'

'DRIV3R' contains stand-ins for 'Vice City' protagonist Tommy Vercetti which the player is rewarded for killing, and it is as needlessly petty as it sounds.

A horrendous camera, enough bugs to make a QA tester weep and lackluster gunplay made 'DRIV3R' the Poochie of gaming.

The 'Driver' franchise hobbled on after the debacle of 'DRIV3R', with other games distancing themselves from chasing the 'Grand Theft Auto' clout.

2006's 'Driver: Parallel Lines' was a solid return to form, and we even got a truly brilliant entry in the franchise, 2011's 'Driver: San Francisco', but the franchise has been dormant since then.

'Driver' is the only franchise apart from 'Saints Row' that can claim it went toe-to-toe with 'Grand Theft Auto' and come out with a shred of dignity, which is something that can't be said for the other games on this list.

Which brings us nicely onto..

The Godfather and Scarface

Ask anyone to name a film in the crime genre and they will respond in kind with 'The Godfather' or 'Scarface'.

These two tentpoles of crime cinema have adorned college bedroom walls for generations, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine those games trying to capture that sweet 'Grand Theft Auto' money.

What made these films great however, did not translate to the gaming sphere.

'The Godfather' is an exercise in family drama, cultural identity and how ambition is synonymous with hubris.

So of course, Francis Ford Coppola's masterpieces are reduced to a 'Grand Theft Auto' knock-off that fails to capture the spirit or nuance of the source material.

'The Godfather' getting a 'Grand Theft Auto' clone makes sense in the same way that you'd ask a butcher to cut your hair because they're good with a blade.

Look how they massacred my boy! 'The Godfather' games were pale imitations of the silver screen masterpieces

'Scarface' also received an open-world game in the same vein in 2006, and it also completely misses the mark of the movie.

As people who have seen 'Scarface' will know, Al Pacino's Tony Montana is gunned down at the end, underpinning the film's themes of absolute power corrupts absolutely and that the good times can only last for so long.

'Scarface: The World Is Yours' treats this ending as non-canon, and instead the game turns a gritty crime classic into a power fantasy.

Common readings of 'Scarface' fundamentally misunderstand the conceit of Tony Montana as a character, the audience is not supposed to identify or feel sorry for him.

By turning Tony Montana into a Duke Nukem-esque character, whatever thematic elements that are presented in the film are washed away.

The 'Scarface' game features a mode called "Blind Rage" where the player gains unlimited health and infinite ammo while Tony spouts off his army of angry one-liners, and this feeds into the fundamental misreading of the film.

'Scarface' is all about the pride that comes before the fall, and removing the fall robs the game of any dramatic tension.

On the other side of the coin, video games are supposed to be a form of escapism, and if you can somehow disassociate the game with the film it's based on, the game is a good time.

The 'Scarface' game received decent reviews from critics and sold well, and comes from an era of video games where beloved 80s films were remade into video games.

In terms of being a 'Grand Theft Auto' rip-off, it's fairly successful, with a decent game world to cause havoc in and a selection of 80s tunes to enjoy.

The Simpsons Hit And Run

There is a simple way to ascertain if someone was born in the late 1990s - ask them if they played 'Simpsons Hit And Run' on the PS2.

For many in that age range, this slice of Springfield sandbox carnage was a first introduction to the 'Grand Theft Auto' school of thinking.

By 2003, 'The Simpsons' had its glory days behind it, but 'Hit and Run' offers one last hurrah for one of the greatest television shows of all time.

The simple visuals belied an endlessly fun romp through a digital Springfield, which still possesses a major online fan base to this very day.

The secret weapon of 'Hit and Run' was allowing you to play as all the members of the Simpsons clan, and each character had their own unique funny lines and storylines, as well as their own musical themes and motifs.

This helped set the game apart from even 'Grand Theft Auto', and was a factor in the game's massive replayability factor.

On top of that, the game had so many little details crammed into it, and with the shows writers and cast taking part in the game, 'Hit and Run' elevates itself the moniker of 'Grand Theft Auto' clone into a brilliant game all of its own making.

The Getaway

The films of Guy Ritchie play a major part in this PS2 title from 2002, which gives players the chance to wander around a Blair-era London.

16 square kilometres of old London train are faithfully recreated for this game, and even featured real-life high street chains such as Cafe Nero and Pret A Manager in its pixelated 2002 glory.

For the time, 'The Getaway' was very impressive from a technical standpoint, and the game served as a breakthrough hit for Aussie auteur Brendan McNamara.

McNamara would later go on to direct 'LA Noire', and both games have something in common - there is nothing to do in the game world.

McNamara is very obviously indebted to the world of cinema, with 'Snatch' and 'Get Carter' specific influences on 'The Getaway', but this covers up a gameplay system that is paradoxically feature-dense but shallow.

'The Getaway' didn't have a gameplay HUD which meant that you could only tell how much damage you were taking by how much your character was grasping their jacket and seeing how much blood was coming out of them.

Your character could regain health by leaning against a wall for a few seconds before getting back in action.

This was a pretty neat feature for the time that was letter bettered by games like 'Gears Of War', but this was the only real innovation the game had.

The game is similar to 'Max Payne 3' where it is a richly detailed and realised game world that forces you to endure a crime story you've seen or read a million times before.

With that said, there is a novelty factor in play with 'The Getaway', with a somewhat surreal thrill of seeing London rendered in the murkiest graphics 2002 had to offer.

True Crime: Streets Of LA

Perhaps the most infamous example of a 'Grand Theft Auto' clone, the 'True Crime' games are utterly shameless in wanting to be 'Grand Theft Auto'.

Activision's effort at their sandbox game placed players in the shoes of a cop, and players were able to wander around a vast reconstruction of the Los Angeles area.

To the game's credit, 'True Crime' pulled off the wonder of exploring a digital LA an entire year before 'San Andreas' did, but where it fell down was implementation.

In the simplest terms, 'True Crime' lacked the same imagination and spark the 'Grand Theft Auto' games had.

'True Crime' had the pazzazz and Hollywood factor, with the game boasting an all-star voice cast.

Oscar winners like Gary Oldman and Christopher Walken lent their voices to the game, while stars like Michelle Rodrigeuz, Michael Madsen, CCH Pounder and Ron Perlman added their gravitas to the game.

'True Crime' did one thing differently than 'Grand Theft Auto', and indeed, did one thing that other games won't let you do.

You can play as detective Snoop Dogg.

Disregard everything we just wrote, this game is a masterpiece.

Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction

On the surface, 'Mercenaries' looks like a typical 'Grand Theft Auto' style game from the Celtic Tiger era, but underneath the surface is one of gaming's great hidden gems.

The dearly departed Pandemic Studios were some of the best developers in the industry for creating fun open-world environments that you could turn to rubble.

'Mercenaries' was released the same year as the first 'Destroy All Humans!' and 'Star Wars Battlefront 2' which is the gaming equivalent of Dolly Parton writing 'Jolene' and 'I Will Always Love You' in the same day.

The game had a wicked sense of humour, poking fun at the political climate at the time.

Players are parachuted into the Korean peninsula when it becomes engulfed in war, and players can pick between one of three protagonists, all offering different skills such as being able to understand foreign languages or faster movement.

'Mercenaries' had enough explosions to keep Michael Bay happy

You could choose to align yourself with whatever faction in the game world you liked, and the cherry on top is the chance to do a spot of bounty hunting.

The game tasked you with tracking down and capturing a "Deck of 52" of the region's most odious baddies, and this almost 'Pokemon' style quality added a lot more depth to the game.

Out of all the 'Grand Theft Auto' clones on this list, 'Mercenaries' has aged the best, as it has one gameplay feature that never goes out of style - blowing everything up.

The game revels in its destruction, and watching buildings fall over never fails to entertain.

It manages to do something that 'Grand Theft Auto' can't - you can actually level an entire city with enough patience and C4 blocks.

Did we miss out on a particular 'Grand Theft Auto' clone? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube and Instagram.