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The Endings Of Every GTA Game Explained

The conceptual premise of Grand Theft Auto is as simple as its title: you steal cars, work for fellow criminals, and fight law enforcement. But from the beginning, GTA has been a technically ambitious series, and the game's modern incarnations are some of the most complex open-world games on the market. Despite its humble beginnings, the series has evolved by incredible leaps and bounds over the years. 

Similar to Mortal Kombat, GTA has been a nexus of controversy since it was first launched. Initially, this infamy may have received more attention than the series' storytelling abilities even though the series attempted to push the limits of the medium from its very first installment. While the GTA series suffers from occasional plot holes and logical inconsistencies, the games' endings pull together the plots that precede them handsomely. Many of the later installments offer interesting satirical commentary or poignant tragedies about living a life of crime.

Grand Theft Auto

In the Grand Theft Auto that started it all, the player assumes the role of one of selectable available car thieves/fixers who work for a long string of criminals. The story bounces around locations that would be made famous by the series' later entries, namely Liberty City, Los Santos, and Vice City. The game's final mission, "Rasta Blasta," is more of a cumulative checkpoint than a multi-phase adventure with intricate objectives. The player must simply meet Brother Marcus at Crazy Bob's House o' Guns after accruing five million points. 

Even though the original Grand Theft Auto's story is simplistic, and the final cutscene is a far cry from the series' later installments, it notably features voice acting where the player is congratulated by his final employer, Brother Marcus. Marcus remarks that the player got the job done, and that he does not think he will be seeing the player for a long time. 

This is one of the most upbeat, uniformly positive endings in the GTA series, and one of the few conclusions where some kind of treachery does not feature prominently.

Grand Theft Auto 2

Grand Theft Auto 2 is set in Anywhere City, a locale that has not been seen in any subsequent installment in the series. This may be because Anywhere City seems to inhabit an indistinct time period and features retro-futuristic influences that are at odds with the series' otherwise realistic (albeit tongue-in-cheek) graphical style.

The game also featured an interesting reputation system with various gangs in Anywhere City that has yet to be replicated by any other game in the series, though GTA: San Andreas' gang territory system delivers similar dynamics. Players can keep gangs off their tail by earning their respect. Of course, this often involves killing members of rival gangs. 

Thematically, the gang war-filled ending ties perfectly into the reputation system — but the player's reputation scores ultimately do not affect the nature of the game's outcome. 

In the game's final mission, the fittingly-titled "The Final Job," protagonist Claude Speed has double-crossed his former employers, and must now kill three gang leaders who want him dead. The final mission takes place in the Industrial District, and despite it being the last mission, it has one of the lower assigned body counts of any assassination mission in the entire series.

Grand Theft Auto 3

Grand Theft Auto 3 was the first game in the series to garner widespread critical acclaim and explosive financial success, in addition to tremendous controversy. Much like GTA 2, this game also features a protagonist named Claude (no relation), who works for a number of gangs, fixers, and other criminals, this time all set in the boroughs of Liberty City. Interestingly, even though it is the first game released in the series "3D Continuity," it is the last title in that continuity's chronology. 

The final mission, "The Exchange," begins with Claude being double-crossed by his ex-girlfriend Catalina. After failing to kill Claude, Catalina escapes in a helicopter and Claude pursues her from the ground. This leads to a massive gunfight at a dam, with Claude shooting down Catalina's helicopter with a rocket launcher. After a news report recaps the incident, Claude and his love interest, Maria Latore, walk off into the sunset, though as Maria starts to complain, there is a gunshot noise and she abruptly stops talking, leaving her fate uncertain but grim.

Interestingly, while later games would fill in some of Claude's backstory, his fate following GTA 3 is unknown, even to Rockstar.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

The finale of GTA: Vice City is also rife with treachery. In the game's final mission, "Keep Your Friends Close...," main protagonist Tommy Vercetti is betrayed by his partner in crime, Lance Vance.

Tommy attempts to provide his relative, Sonny Forelli, with counterfeit cash, but Lance reveals that he tipped Sonny off. This kicks off an explosive battle in Tommy's mansion, which ends with Tommy killing both Lance and Sonny. Before his death, Sonny reveals that he was responsible for the ambush that had landed Tommy in jail for 15 years prior to the events of the game — a plot point that was long-suspected, but never confirmed.

While Tommy laments having to kill Lance, he shrugs off the proverbial knife in his back and turns his attention to the only other person left standing: his fast-talking lawyer, Ken Rosenberg. With Tommy and Ken left to rule over Vice City as criminal kingpins, Tommy comments that "this could be the beginning of a beautiful business relationship," nailing home the values that underpin the game. In Vice City, betrayal is just a part of business.

Grand Theft Auto Advance

In "Freedom Flies," the final mission of Grand Theft Auto Advance, the game's protagonist, Mike, has already dispatched all of his enemies and former friends. Surrounded by the police, the player must make their way to Liberty City's Francis International Airport in a tank, and board a plane to Colombia.

In his final monologue, Mike reflects on his slain and imprisoned friends: Jonnie was a bartender and Cisco was the leader of the Colombian Cartel, and both of were killed by Mike's former business partner, Vinnie. The other character Mike thinks of, 8-Ball, was arrested in a police raid following Mike's flight from Pike Creek.

In certain respects, the ending of GTA Advance is more meditative and remorseful than prior games. In his moment of triumph, Mike reflects on the partners and friends he has lost. Yet, Mike expresses no remorse for killing Vinnie, despite sharing years of partnership prior to Vinnie's treachery. This is a stark contrast to later games in the series, such as GTA 4 and GTA: Chinatown Wars, where betrayal becomes less business-like and more tragic.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

After Carl "CJ" Johnson and his gang, the Grove Street Families, have taken over at least 35% of the territories in Los Santos, CJ may initiate the final mission, "End of the Line."

Again, treachery from a fellow criminal is an important note in the ending of the game, as CJ must confront and kill his former friend, Big Smoke. The most abominable enemy in the game, however, is Officer Frank Tenpenny, a corrupt cop voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. Tenpenny was a member of the Los Santos Police Department' C.R.A.S.H. squad, which is the game's analogy for a real-world unit within the Los Angeles Police Department that was similarly rocked by a corruption scandal in the early 1990s.

San Andreas is a period piece as well as a crime game, and it scrutinizes and satirizes Los Angeles' gangland culture circa the early 1990s. In a cast that includes drug dealers, hitmen, rival gang members, and treacherous friends, police corruption is presented as the ultimate societal ill, as it perpetuates and foments the other criminal elements. CJ's triumph over Tenpenny represents CJ beating that corrupt system. This is one of the most positive endings in the series' "3D Universe," despite the betrayal and death of Big Smoke.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

After a failed hit attempt on Salvatore Leone, Don of Liberty City's Leone Mafia family, the Sicilian mob attempts to broker a peace in the game's final mission, "The Sicilian Gambit."

Leone, along with the game's protagonist, Toni Cipriani, decides that he is only interested in peace on his own terms. Before heading to the peace agreement, Leone and Cipriani decide to pay a visit to the mayor (who has leveled charges against Leone), but the mayor is abducted by Sicilians. An intense chase and gunfight break out, with Leone and Cipriani rescuing the mayor. With all the threats to his power eliminated, Leone brokers a truce with his uncle. However, Leone insults his uncle behind his back as he departs to return to Sicily, and his uncle mutters "every dog has his day."

This line, a quote from Tony Montana in Scarface, foreshadows Leone's eventual death at the hands of Claude in Grand Theft Auto 3, which of course occurs after Leone double-crosses him. And it is a fitting omen, as Leone's inescapable fate is a major theme in GTA3.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Even though Vice City Stories' most unique gameplay element is a criminal Empire Building feature, the ending of the game sees the protagonist, Victor Vance, attempt to end his life of crime. Rather than treachery or a power play, Vice City Stories' final mission is all about straight-up revenge.

After receiving word of a double-cross, the villainous Mendez brothers kidnap Victor's love interest, Louise, as well as his brother, Lance (yes, the same Lance who betrays Tommy Vercetti in GTA: Vice City). Victor attempts to rescue both his loved ones, but only Lance survives, setting the stage for the final mission, "Last Stand." 

After Victor storms the Mendez brothers' downtown apartment fortress in a hunter helicopter and kills the drug kingpins, Lance offers Victor 20 kilos of cocaine. Victor declines, and sends money to his younger brother Pete, attempting to get out of the drug game for good. 

Sadly, this exchange partially leads to Victor's ultimate fate in GTA: Vice City. Despite his attempts to go straight, Victor is killed in retaliation for Lance's reckless actions. Despite his best efforts, no amount of Empire Building can keep Victor safe in the end.

Grand Theft Auto 4

GTA 4's final mission, "One Last Thing," presents protagonist Niko Bellic with a difficult choice that can resolve one of two ways. Dimitri Rascalov, who betrayed Niko in the earlier mission "Russian Revolution," offers Niko a deal to settle matters.

Niko's brother, Roman, pleads with Niko to accept Rascalov's deal and lay his life of crime to rest. But when Niko calls his friend Kate McReary for advice, she tells him not to trust Rascalov, explaining that accepting the deal would sacrifice Niko's principles. 

If Niko accepts the deal, Kate is angry and declines to come to Roman's wedding. Rascalov then sends an assassin to the wedding to kill Niko, resulting in Roman's death. However, if Niko decides to seek revenge, Kate will attend the wedding, only to be assassinated by mob boss Jimmy Pegorino, who was backing the deal with Rascalov. 

Both endings are ironic tragedies, as honoring Roman's wishes will result in his death, and honoring Kate's will result in hers. Regardless of which path the player chooses, GTA 4's final arc is harsh and dark. However, this result is also consistent with the game's running theme of Niko being squeezed between personal obligations and the demands of criminal business.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Like Vice City Stories, GTA: Chinatown Wars' climax, "Salt in the Wound," is a story of revenge. It's also the culmination of the game's central mystery. Huang Lee, the game's protagonist, goes to a deal where he will learn who stole his father's ancestral sword. There, Huang learns that his uncle, Wu "Kenny" Lee, killed his father and stole the Yu Jian.

A chase ensues, and Huang kills Kenny, having sworn to avenge his father and retrieve the sword. Kenny was hoping to succeed Hsin Jaoming as the next head of Liberty City's Triads, and manipulated Haung to do his bidding to that effect. Huang challenges his uncle to one-on-one combat, and kills him. Hsin is then taken into custody, leaving the future of the Triads uncertain.

Huang is not arrested by the LCPD at the end of the game, but he is devastated by the turn of events all the same. While GTA never makes the assertion that crime doesn't pay, the series does not shy from the inherently bloody and often heartbreaking nature of organized crime. Due to collateral damage ranging from broken relationships to lost lives, a hard-won victory can still feel like a catastrophic loss.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Much like the preceding game, Grand Theft Auto 5's story has several different endings. However, one ending mission, "The Third Way" is theorized by many to be the canonical ending of the game. FIB agents Steve Haines and Dave Norton demand that Franklin, one of the game's three protagonists, kills Trevor (the second protagonist). However, Devin Weston, an unscrupulous billionaire, demands that Franklin kill Michael (the third protagonist). 

If Franklin refuses Weston and the FIB's commands, he will save both of his partners in crime. Together, the trio will then go about tying up loose ends, which entails killing off several prior associates and enemies, most notably Devin Weston

While treachery is certainly a factor in this ending, the game has a more upbeat and comedic conclusion than most GTA games, with meditations on aging and corrupt capitalism. Trevor and Michael finally repair their friendship and agree to lay low, while Franklin comments that his mentors have him terrified of reaching middle age.