In 2002 Rockstar followed up the modern day Grand Theft Auto 3 with the beachy neon 1986 throwback Vice City. If they chose to make GTA 6 a period piece by rewinding the clock the same number of years, we’d be looking at… 2006, not long before GTA 4 came out. Hopefully the next Grand Theft Auto won’t make us feel the grim march of time that acutely, but hopefully it will have a creative setting that takes us away from Liberty City or San Andreas.
We now know that Grand Theft Auto 6 is well into development, but its setting is still a total mystery. With the whole world at its fingertips and a colossal budget to bring a new city to life, where (and when) should GTA 6 go?
- Population: 1.2 million
- The big landmarks: The Space Needle
- You’ll play as: Unlikely partners in crime: hippie Zack Kerouac and sci-fi-obsessed Sara Starr
- The odds: 614:1
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Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: Rockstar’s almost certainly going to stick to the US for the next Grand Theft Auto, but I really hope it doesn’t stick to the present day. Here’s my pitch for something different: jump back to the 1960s and set GTA 6 in an approximation of Seattle in the midst of hosting the 21st Century Exposition, aka the 1962 world’s fair. The Space Needle and a monorail were built for the event. The fair was full of architecture and exhibits that channeled that ’60s vision of the “world of tomorrow,” which we now call retrofuturism. It’s a familiar aesthetic in games already, and would make for a really fun loosely historical setting to step into. America’s hippie counterculture was also ramping up on the west coast at the same time.
Rockstar could land easy jokes about early room-sized computers and the Beat generation. There’d be a whole major plotline about the corruption lurking beneath the Exposition, and you’d be the hired muscle shutting down the contractors who got a little too greedy. The standout mission would have you stealing the Firebird III from the fair and leading the police on a chase through the whole city. (Turns out it was your fault GM never made the Firebird the card of the future).
Great Lakes (late 1980s)
- Population: ~8 million
- The big landmarks: Niagara Falls, the Great Lakes, Robocop
- You’ll play as: Both Harriet Debbie and Jean-Phillipe Bachelet, troubled NY starlets escaping drug king-pin and tin can enthusiast Andy Borehole.
- The odds: 0.76% (Canada and a female protagonist?! Never)
Dave James, Hardware Lead: I feel the need for a bit of a historical tip for my next Grand Theft Auto trip, but the variety of music is such a vital component of the games I don’t want to go too far back and restrict that. The late 1980s seems like a natural fit for me, but while I adored Vice City I don’t want a rehash of its neon-lit greatness. I’m after something a little more gritty. Though maybe not as deeply brown as GTA 4’s Liberty City. Which means I want to see a little late ’80s Detroit, because I desperately want to have a Robocop story thread lurking around in there somewhere.
But I’m also very up for Rockstar going big, too. San Andreas was incredibly ambitious in its scope, with three distinct cities and environments in between, while 4 and 5 stuck to a single detailed city. The environment around Detroit lends itself to a large map, stretching across the Great Lakes in both directions to capture Chicago as well as a stretching across the border to the low-level Toronto of the ’80s. Y’know, so you can have a little lightness outside the darkness of Murder Capital USA.
And Mounties, of course.
- Population: 21.4 million
- The big landmarks: Miami, Orlando, Daytona, Disney/Epcot, Key West.
- You’ll play as: A gun runner, a music producer, and Florida Man.
- The odds: 50:1. They’ll probably just do San Francisco, or New York again.
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: Returning to Florida would allow for lots of great references to the Miami of Vice City, but there’s no reason to stop there. Why not recreate the entire state this time? Besides Miami you’ve also got Orlando for barely concealed parodies of theme parks like Disney and Epcot, Daytona for racetracks, biker gangs, and spring break, Key West for beautiful beaches, The Florida Reef for scuba diving and submarining, and Kennedy Space Center for hijacking the space shuttle. I figure the new GTA would need to be set pretty close to present day because I can’t see Rockstar giving up smartphones. How else would the game endlessly bug me with new missions and reminders when I play online?
Florida has swamps full of snakes and gators, rich retirees fit for heisting in Palm Beach and Boca Raton, the panhandle for backwoods shenanigans, and right off the coast you’ve got Cuba and The Bahamas (for DLC). The state is ripe for southern US political observations, especially if it’s set during the Trump era, and I’d expect tons of Florida Man references. Plus, Rockstar is never one to pass up an easy dick joke—Florida is America’s wang, right? It just fits.
Las Vegas, Nevada (Present Day)
- Population: ~600,000
- The big landmarks: The Strip, Hoover Dam, Lake Tahoe
- You’ll play as: A Las Vegas local who gets mixed up in some mob-controlled casino nonsense
- The odds: 337:1
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: Open world games don’t have enough deserts. I’m the guy that had the most fun in GTA5 when I could leave Los Santos and go tear it up in San Andreas county, but I always wished the game placed a bigger focus on the boonies. A Grand Theft Auto game inspired by Las Vegas and the greater state of Nevada would be a dream of a setting. Instead of investing so much time in a single gargantuan city, Rockstar could spread out its world building like it did in Red Dead Redemption 2 with smaller towns that have big personalities. It’s a region that’s ripe for bumpy car chases, weird characters, and the kind of small town lawlessness that I loved in GTA5’s rural areas.
It’d also be nice to see a nuanced depiction of Las Vegas, a city that’s probably smaller than you think (just over half a million people) and encompasses a lot more than fancy restaurants and The Strip. And because Rockstar is no stranger to melding elements of various US states for its fictional worlds, I’d also expect recognizable bits of Utah, Arizona, or southeast California to populate the edges of the map.
- Population: 21.9 million
- The big landmarks: The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square
- You’ll play as: A small-time crook forced to flee Taiwan
- The odds: 0.00001%
Rich Stanton, News editor: The Grand Theft Auto series has always been set in the west. I’d love to see it look further afield, whether that’s the craziness of Delhi’s raucous streets, the decay and grandeur of Moscow, or the breathtaking high-tech density of Beijing. The shopping districts, the tech hubs, the sheer urban sprawl and number of people… not to mention your friendly neighbourhood communist overlords.
Yes there would be weird elements to this: Wherever the game is set, English is going to be the primary spoken language in-game. GTA’s over the top satire wouldn’t be able to take aim at the same targets in the same way (which would probably be a good thing), and the cultural familiarity that previous entries take for granted wouldn’t apply here. But it would be such an amazing place to drive around, the authorities would make great villains, and mere sections of this place could make entire games on their own. It’ll never happen, of course, for all of these reasons: Not to mention that the CCP would probably send some lads round to Sam Houser’s place to have a word.
The Moon, Space (THE FUTURE)
- Population: Nobody at the moment, but who knows? Maybe we’ll all be up there one day.
- The big landmarks: I guess there are some rocks? Some craters? A couple of flags maybe? We should probably start putting more stuff up there.
- You’ll play as: The kind of idiot who’d live on the Moon. What were you thinking?
- The odds: The Moon is more likely to crash into the Earth.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: I’ll take anywhere that isn’t North America, but I’ve always wanted a sci-fi GTA. Doesn’t need to be on the Moon either, but I do like to put our wee neighbour in the spotlight. Cyberpunk 2077 scratched this itch a bit, but it wasn’t trying to be a sci-fi GTA, despite the comparisons. I want flying cars (not just in the online mode), robot NPCs, future crimes and an escape from depressing ol’ Earth.
Obviously this would be a massive departure, but the things that the series has traditionally lampooned wouldn’t have to be tossed out just because it ain’t in the US anymore. I’m sure crooked cops, crime and capitalism will still be around while we’re jumping across a city in our moon boots.
The only downside is the possibility of chatty car AI, which might be even more annoying than all those constant calls and texts. The solution is making the car AI a friendly dog, like in the wonderful Cloudpunk. A talking dog that is also a car? Why are they not everywhere?