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Is GTA Remastered Trilogy Free?

The short answer is – no, the remastered versions of Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas are not free for most gamers. The GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition carries a standard $59.99 asking price.

But for longtime GTA fans who already owned the original PC trilogy or purchased early, there were some discount opportunities. Let‘s dive deeper into the full story behind the GTA remasters and their rocky reception.

GTA Trilogy – Cultural Phenomenon Defining a Generation

The original three Grand Theft Auto games on PlayStation 2 are more than just fondly remembered videogames – they are an iconic cultural trio that defined the childhood and adolescence of millions of gamers.

Consider the sheer popularity and accolades the series attracted even in its early days:

  • Over 21.5 million copies of GTA 3 sold for PS2 as of 2016
  • GTA: Vice City has sold over 20 million copies worldwide
  • GTA: San Andreas sits as the best-selling PS2 game ever at over 27 million copies

The groundbreaking open world freedom, gritty storylines, and sandbox mayhem shaped an entire generation and forever altered gaming. For many, these GTA titles were gaming growing up.

Why Remaster the GTA Trilogy?

Given such esteemed pedigree, it‘s no surprise Rockstar wanted to capitalize on nostalgia and repackage the GTA trilogy for modern consoles.

Updated re-releases also allow introducing these genre-defining titles to a new generation of gamers. As quoted by industry veteran Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two Interactive:

"Remastering has always been a part of the strategy…for every new generation of consumders, you want to bring some of the titles from past generations to that device."

But as we‘ll see, recapturing gaming magic is fraught with peril.

The GTA Definitive Edition Launch – Bugs Galore

When early copies leaked ahead of release, hopes for a polished remastering were dashed – the Definitive Edition was riddled with bugs and glitches.

As gaming site Kotaku reported:

"Videos across YouTube and Reddit show widespread technical issues, from broken physics to bizarre visuals and poor graphics."

The pileup of glitches flooding YouTube painted a picture of a sloppy, unfinished product:


Rockstar and Grove Street Games scrambled to patch the most egregious errors. But stability remained dicey, leading to a lackluster launch.

Falling Far Short of Definitive

The state of the remasters at launch was a far cry from earning the vaunted "Definitive Edition" label.

While the polished 4K sheen showed promise, core aspects fell painfully short of definitive:

  • Rampant visual bugs and glitches
  • Bizarre physics and vehicle handling
  • Poor rain rendering obstructingvisibility
  • Downgraded lighting and shadows
  • Loss of iconic songs and licenses
  • Overbearing new art direction
  • Cuts to story content and details

Quotes from reviews hammered home how the remake failed to honor the GTA legacy:

"A disappointing remaster that trades away nostalgia and charm." – Polygon

"Trades the crude but vivid and alive world of the originals for prettier but empty mimics." – The Guardian

This wide gulf between expectations and reality powered the raging fan response.

GTA Fans Revolt – Boycott and Petition

Hardcore GTA devotees did not take kindly to the state of the remasters. A glance at the Metacritic user score sums it up:


The GTA subreddit became a battleground between frustrated fans and defenders insisting the games were still enjoyable.

Some fans went as far as petitioning Take-Two for refunds, with the petition on garnering over 70,000 signatures.

But despite blowback, sales remained strong…

Despite Controversy, GTA Definitive Sells Over 10 Million

For all the outrage, the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition still managed to sell an impressive 10 million copies by February 2022 according to a Take-Two earnings call.

This shows that nostalgia and brand power overcomes negative reception. It also suggests most casual gamers looked past the issues while diehard fans led the backlash.

Here‘s a look at the first year sales trajectory:

DateReported Sales
Nov 16, 2021Over 1 million
Feb 7, 2022Over 10 million

The sales momentum becomes clear despite the rocky reception.

Patches and Updates – Too Little Too Late?

Patches gradually ironed out the worst offenses of the Definitive Edition remasters:

  • Fixed inverted rain blocking the screen
  • Improved character models and textures
  • Adjusted physics and vehicle handling quirks
  • Squashed progression blocking glitches
  • Added options for original visual effects

But many felt the updates came too slowly and failed to address core complaints around artistic direction and cut content.

Quoting gaming site IGN following the patches:

"While most of the distractingly awful problems are fixed, underneath is still an unfaithful remaster plain and simple."

Overall the patches polished up playability, but could not undo the damage done to the legacy.

Reviews – Rose-Tinted Nostalgia VS Modern Sensibilities

Looking at reviews shows the original GTA trilogy is viewed as an untouchable masterpiece, while the remasters draw mixed opinions.

Here‘s a sampling of GTA Trilogy review scores over time:

GameOriginal ScoreRemaster Score
GTA 397%70%
Vice City95%73%
San Andreas93%77%

The stark divide illustrates how even quality of life changes can backfire when tampering with nostalgia.

Meanwhile, younger critics judging solely on modern merits found the remasters reasonably enjoyable. The controversy shows the perils of remaking classics.

The Costs and Challenges of Remasters

To understand the stumbles of the GTA Trilogy remaster, it helps to appreciate the underlying challenges:

Outdated Source Code – The PS2 originals are built on spaghetti code from 20 years ago that is difficult to rework.

Unrealistic Timelines – Remaster projects often get rushed to hit key sales windows.

Testing at Scale – No QA team can catch every obscure bug at launch across a vast open world.

Artistic Vision – Remaking classics invites scrutiny from fans with built-up expectations.

Licensing Limitations – Renegotiating music rights is complex, hence cut tracks.

Delivering a flawless remaster under these constraints is exceedingly rare. The GTA Trilogy shows how easily a remake can go off the rails.

GTA Trilogy Delisted – Anti-Consumer or Profit-Driven?

Coinciding with the Definitive Edition launch, Rockstar delisted the original GTA Trilogy from digital PC and PSN stores.

On the surface, this appeared an underhanded move to boost remaster sales by removing consumer choice.

But the business reality is cloudier. As quoted by gaming lawyer Richard Hoeg:

"For a company of Take-Two‘s size, it likely makes little financial sense supporting older versions once a remaster is out."

Maintaining multiple versions splits online communities and drives up costs. So while unpopular with fans, delisting may be prudent financially.

The outcry did prompt Rockstar to partially relent by relisting GTA: San Andreas on Steam. But the other classics remain unavailable still.

Original Music – Nostalgia vs Licensing Realities

Another huge point of contention was the slashing of licensed music in the remasters. Vice City alone saw over 100 iconic ‘80s tracks removed entirely.

Fans argued this neutered the distinct audio ambiance that helped make Vice City magical. As a Reddit user put it:

"It‘s like it‘s missing its soul without all the killer tunes."

Legally renewing expired music rights is far more complex than fans realize however. As gaming site Kotaku explained:

"Music licensing is a legal and financial spider web…renegotiating for an old game is rarely worth the trouble."

With no guarantee beloved songs can be relicensed cost-effectively, cuts may be unavoidable. Still, the musical losses dealt a sad blow to nostalgia.

What Does This Mean for GTA 6 and Beyond?

After the troubles of the Definitive Trilogy, where does Rockstar go from here?

Some speculation suggests they may steer clear of additional remasters out of an abundance of caution. Focus could shift entirely to the next numbered sequel instead – GTA 6.

But considering the strong sales, a polished remaster of GTA 4 in the future once the stink wears off seems plausible.

At the very least, the GTA Trilogy chaos will hopefully guide Rockstar to nail the eventual GTA 6 launch. Rushing out an unfinished sequel after this would be catastrophic.

Only time will tell how Rockstar aims to rebuild trust and handle the GTA IP going forward.

In Conclusion – Passion of Fans Can‘t Be Underestimated

The overwhelmingly negative response to the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition remasters highlights the passion fans feel for this beloved franchise.

For many, GTA defines their early days falling in love with gaming. Change doesn‘t come easy – especially when nostalgia runs deep.

Despite the stumbles, the greatness of GTA endures. There is still a fondness hopeful that one day, these classics will get the truly definitive treatment they deserve.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.