Once upon a time, in the legendary city of Los Santos, there was a man whose story was made up of urban violence and bad choices. This is the fable of GTA San Andreas, and this is the tale that has raised an entire generation.

The franchise created by Rockstar Games began years earlier with breakthrough titles such as GTA Liberty City and GTA Vice City. But the game that made the story (and the fortune) of the production company founded by brothers Sam and Dan Houser, is undoubtedly San Andreas.

This title was first released in 2004 (and relaunched in 2021 in a remastered version) with twelve million copies sold in just the first four months. Currently is in the chart of best-selling video games ever. 

The player plays the role of a young African American gang member, who returned to his neighborhood after a few years. He will find out at his own expense that the situation has definitely worsened. He’ll have to fight to regain control of the streets and his life.

Like the previous chapters, set in two versions of the main USA cities, New York (Liberty City) and Miami (Vice City), the game presents a revisitation of another important city; Los Angeles (Los Santos). But not only that. San Andreas is indeed modeled on the entire West Coast of the 90s, both in terms of geography and popular culture.

Freedom of the player

San Andreas presents the player with an extremely wide and heterogeneous environment. The game world is fully explorable and consists of three main cities: Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas (L.A., San Francisco and Las Vegas). But also mountains, woods, deserts, sea and miles of roads to go with the wide range of vehicles scattered around the map.

However, the freedom that this title offers is not limited to exploration alone. The player has at his disposal a myriad of different weapons to incite panic in the streets. In addition, the large amount of clothes, hairstyles and tattoos, allow unique customization of the character. 

Even the lifestyle is in the hands of the player. The game allows choosing whether to go to the gym and sculpt a marble physique or drown in fast food.

All this is supported by an innovative game design that gives the player the opportunity to follow their own style of play. In San Andreas, you can safely choose whether to declare war on the whole world, whether to take a trip aboard your favorite vehicle or whether to continue with another highlight of this title: the story.

Grove Street – Home

Carl “CJ” Johnson. A man forced to return home, who has to deal with a past from which he chose to escape. A simple premise for a story that quickly became a cult.

The Rockstar Games used for GTA: San Andreas a narrative that tells a cross-section of the American society of a precise urban culture and a precise historical moment. Themes such as racism, gangsta and black culture, corruption and violence. Everything is exposed in perfect Rockstar style, where the parody and the exaggeration of certain contexts help the narration.

For example, the main gang colors are green, yellow and purple; a design decision widely regarded as a deliberate avoidance of the red and blue of L.A.’s real-life Bloods and Crips. The protagonist, the outcast CJ, is only the first of a series of characters deliberately archetypal and extreme, belonging to the Black gangster culture. 

There’s Big Smoke, the street philosopher. The trickster Ryder, the fool OG Loc, Big Brother Sweet, and the corrupt authority figure, Officer Tenpenny. They and many other eccentric characters help to define the popular culture that this video game brings with it. In addition, the excellent screenplay and cinematic scenes have further consolidated the success of the narration of San Andreas.

Beautiful and damned

San Andreas is a video game that has made history thanks to its strong identity.

Quotes became memes like “Ah s**t, here we go again”. The iconic inscription “Mission Passed”. The music of the game while loading. The stars that appeared as the crimes became more heinous. Radio stations (as San Andreas does not have an original soundtrack) have made several songs immortal. The cheats. But also the numerous controversies that this title has raised (like the Hot Coffee mod) and the criticism received, especially on issues such as violence and racism.

With San Andreas, Rockstar Games has been able to merge in a single content a powerful and nostalgic narrative of an era and innovative gameplay based on violence that challenges every social convention.

The game designers have reproduced slang, ways, atmospheres, music, expressive aesthetics of a unique reality. A task that has managed to center again with a completely different setting; the western world of Red Dead Redemption 2.

The ironic way of telling the stereotypes of the ghetto life and the periodization of the entire American society has allowed anyone who has had the opportunity to enter the CJ’s world to access a virtual museum destined to remain in the history of video games.