Don't get me wrong I really thoroughly enjoyed 5. And San Andreas was also absolutely immersive and an enthralling experience. But there's just something so great about the story, characters, atmosphere, etc. that just can't be duplicated or surpassed about this game. What I would give to have an HD Trilogy remake with Trophies of this great series. I suspect we will get that at some point. Geez if they can do it for God of War and Hitman then surely they can do it for the greatest games ever to grace the home platform.
"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Gangster."
Playing through it again, I disagree with it being the best of the GTA titles. One thing that saddened me in my replay (haven't played it in about 5 or 6 years, just got it off eBay the other week) was the lack of a movable camera. Not hugely major, I just used the camera a lot in my driving and exploring, and it does throw me off in shoot outs sometimes when I can't look behind me in a corner easily.
Don't get me wrong, it's a totally fantastic game, just as great as I remember it being. I don't have the same nostalgia feel other people do about the 80's vibe, as I was born in the '93, and nobody in my family was particularly crazy about the 80's. The driving is great, most of the gameplay is good, and there's tons of fun mini games. There's just so many qualities about San Andreas and the HD era games that I love so much. I have a huge appreciation for small details, and while I understand the technology constraints for Vice City compared to V, there's just not as much for me to appreciate like that.
Here's my list of the greatest in the series. Mind you, the first one I played was III when I was 12 or 13, and have played them in order since then, and have also replayed them all.
1. San Andreas. The first one with a truly massive map with tons of little things to find and places to explore.
2. V. Essentially San Andreas on steroids for me, I loved every aspect of it, aside from some minor things I think they left out.
3. Tie between Gay Tony and Lost and Damned. I consider these separate from IV (some people do, some don't), and they really bring out the things that IV lacked. Gay Tony was almost like a modern Vice City to me, with the more wacky missions and nightlife setting. Lost and the Damned was great because biker culture isn't really touched on in video games, and they did a great job with the story.
4. Vice City. Like I said, very solid game, great story and characters, lots of things I like about it.
5. IV. I actually liked this game a lot, despite the fact it's low on the list. Lots of people hated it for whatever reasons, either the shooting mechanics or driving mechanics, but I liked everything about it, I felt like it was a huge step in the right direction, and the HD graphics added so much detail, I was in nerd heaven.
6. III. I absolutely hate III. I fully understand why it was revolutionary for the time, and why people consider it a great, but I hate it. The story is flimsy, the map is horrible, the lack of a pause menu map sucks, and you pretty much kill every half decent character in the game. And the whole voiceless MC never grew on me. Outside of a generic revenge mission, the story had zero depth.
That's my list, I haven't played the ones before III, or any of the stories ones.