The Grand Theft Auto World, is a fictional world containing the settings or otherwise-mentioned locations of all the GTA games (for example, Liberty City, Vice City, Carcer City, and the State of San Andreas). It is assumed that the rest of the real world exists within the fictional world, although possibly without some of the major cities to which the GTA locations are analogous (Liberty City/state of Liberty may replace New York City/state of New York, for example). Continuity is generally retained throughout the games pertaining to the specific "era" that the game is a part of, creating a coherent fictional universe.
A map selection screen in the first Grand Theft Auto game reveals that the contemporary renditions of Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City are located in or near New York, California, and Florida respectively. It is unclear whether these locations are canon with the rest of the series, however it is known that Vice City is located in the state of Florida.
Furthermore, during one mission in GTA San Andreas, the player could fly a plane eastwards and arrive, after a cutscene, in Liberty City. This relationship is similar to the real-world geographical placing of the states of California and Nevada (upon which San Andreas is based) to New York (upon which Liberty City is based). This does involve crossing a vast body of water, but bodies of water are used to isolate game-worlds in the GTA series, and do not necessarily indicate that these game-worlds are truly islands. A worldmap that can be found in GTA V suggests that the sea level in the GTA world has increased significantly, suggesting that the islands are formed by the rising sea.
In between game "eras", the recurring locations of GTA are represented very differently. Liberty City appeared in Grand Theft Auto 1 and GTA III with almost no similarities other than that they were both broadly based on New York City. Liberty City retained continuity throughout the 3D Universe (compare GTA III's rendition to that of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto Advance), however Grand Theft Auto IV marked the beginning of a new "era", and started a new continuity while introducing a new Liberty City created from scratch.
Liberty City, based on New York City, is a location that has appeared in GTA 1, GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, GTA Advance, GTA Liberty City Stories, GTA IV and GTA Chinatown Wars. It is generally depicted as a large city with a sizeable population (4 million in GTA III, double that in GTA IV), featuring a complete transportation infrastructure of roads and railways, and is located on a geographical configuration of shorelines and islands, similar to that of New York City. The city has been described as one suffering heavily from crime and corruption, with the presence of organized crime, feuding street gangs, petty criminals, and rampant misconduct among city officials and law enforcement. Due to its ever-growing crime statistics (the highest in the U.S.), it has been repeatedly voted as "The Worst Place In America".
Liberty City is located in the state of Liberty, a parody of the state of New York. It is likely that all the other cities in the real state of New York exist in the state of Liberty. It is unknown if Liberty City is the capital of its state, afterall New York City is not the capital of New York.
New Guernsey, based on New Jersey, is a location that appeared in GTA 1. It consists of Guernsey City (based on Jersey City), Fort Law (Fort Lee), Schlechberg (Gutenberg), Hackenslash (Hackensack) and Eaglewood (Englewood).
In Grand Theft Auto IV, New Jersey was used as a location again, alongside Liberty City, but was renamed to Alderney. Although Alderney is an entire state, it appears to be the size of a borough (about the same size as Algonquin), and is treated as a borough of Liberty City (although this may be due to technical limitations—Alderney foot police, for example, are seen wearing different uniforms to the LCPD, although LCPD vehicles patrol Alderney). Alderney contains neighborhoods that are based on different cities and regions in New Jersey, such as Weehawken, Englewood, Jersey City, Newark, Kearny, and Elizabeth, among others.
Vice City is a city that appeared in GTA 1, GTA Vice City and GTA Vice City Stories. It is based on Miami, Florida. In the 3D Universe, it consists of two major islands and six smaller islands; both main islands separated by a large body of water similar to that of Biscayne Bay (separating Miami Beach from mainland Miami). Each major island is divided into several districts. The population of Vice City is given as around 1.8 million. Unlike Liberty City and the state of San Andreas, Vice City has no railway or rapid transit systems, and all islands are connected by road and pedestrian bridges.
In the games, Vice City is based on Miami and has been confirmed to be in the real state of Florida, rather than a fictional state like Liberty and San Andreas. However in the GTA III Era, Vice City is not analogus to Miami as it is referenced in both GTA III and GTA Vice City, and the location of Vice City being given as in the Florida Keys.
San Andreas, which is intended to be based in the West Coast of the United States, has appeared as two different entities in the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series of video games:
- In the original Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas is a single city based on the real city of San Francisco, California.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, San Andreas was recrafted to a fictionalized American state based on the real states of California and Nevada. San Andreas appears as a series of large islands surrounded by water, but connected by a series of bridges. This version of San Andreas is subdivided into three cities (Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas) and five counties Red County, Flint County, Whetstone, Tierra Robada and Bone County. Details of this incarnation are as follows:
San Fierro is the smallest city in San Andreas, based on San Francisco, California. San Fierro is located in the western part of San Andreas. South of the city lies the massive Mount Chiliad, and to the north lies the county of Tierra Robada. San Fierro Bay lies to the north, and The Panopticon to the east.
Las Venturas is based on Las Vegas, Nevada. Like its real life counterpart, Las Venturas is a gambling city located in the desert region. The city is also notable for its sizeable freeway system.
There are thirteen small towns in the State of San Andreas, in addition to the cities: Palomino Creek, Montgomery, Dillimore, Blueberry, Angel Pine, El Quebrados, Bayside, Las Barrancas, Fort Carson, Las Payasadas, Valle Ocultado, Aldea Malvada and Las Brujas (the latter two being ghost towns).
Although referred to as a state, it is perhaps the size of a city, mainly due to game limitations.
San Andreas does not physically appeared in GTA IV, but like Vice City, it is referenced heavily. Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas all exist, as do some of the towns.
GTA V confirms that San Andreas is still a full state, however, Los Santos is so far the only city revealed to be in the state within the HD Universe in which GTA V is set. The locations of San Fierro and Las Venturas are unlikely to be unconfirmed in the new era.
Anywhere City is the setting of Grand Theft Auto 2. It is called this as it was never given a name in-game, as well as being set in the near future, and doesn't bear any resemblance to any real life city in particular. It is divided into 3 separated parts - Commercial, Residential and Industrial (similar to the nature of the three main districts in GTA III). The infrastructure of Anywhere City is primarily composed of roadways and footpaths, but in later versions of the game released for the PC, a light rail transit system was provided.
London, United Kingdom, was the city used in both the mission packs available for the original Grand Theft Auto - Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London 1961. Manchester appears as a multiplayer map in the second. To date, these are the only real-life cities to be used physically in a GTA game.
Carcer City is a location featured in Rockstar's Manhunt; references are made to it in various GTA games, suggesting that it exists within the GTA world. All references to it show that it neighbors Liberty City.
According to the 'Miles Traveled' system on the statistical screen in GTA IV, Carcer City is around 50 – 100 miles away from Liberty City. Could possibly be based on Philedelphia since it is about the same distance from real life New York.
- Bullworth is the small New England town (possibly New Hampshire) which Bully takes place in. Bullworth Academy is seen on I'm Rich in GTA IV.
- Bali is mentioned in the "Free James Pedeaston" website in GTA IV Lost and Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony.
- Indonesia is also mentioned in the "Free James Pedeaston" website, as well as by Eddie Low in his MyRoom blog in GTA IV.
- Capital City is a city mentioned in the miles traveled stats of GTA IV. It is possibly based on Washington, D.C. (United States Capital) or Albany, NY (New York's Capital).
- Cottonmouth, Florida is the setting of Rockstar's "Manhunt 2". The Cottonmouth police force makes use of Police Mavericks with similar paint jobs to the VCPD's mavericks. There are also many vehicles from the GTA series seen in the game (such as the Mule, Kuruma, Stinger, and Burrito), also the Majestic Hotel appears. Some fictional medications seen advertised in Manhunt 2 also appear on yourmexicandoctor.com in GTA IV.
- Glasgow, United Kingdom is mentioned in the Police database as a home town of one of the Most Wanted criminals in GTA IV.
- Edinburgh, United Kingdom is mentioned on a "visit Scotland" postcard in GTA San Andreas.
- Puerto Rico is mentioned several times in GTA IV and also the nationality of several characters in the game such as Elizabeta Torres and Manny Escuela. There is also the radio station San Juan Sounds which is named after the capital city of Puerto Rico.
- Detroit, Michigan is mentioned on leftover-vacations.com in GTA IV.
- Kowloon is an area of Hong Kong, mentioned by Wu Zi Mu in the mission Ran Fa Li in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; it is also the hometown of Huang Lee, the protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
- Mars, Alabama is the birthplace of Pastor Richards.
- Miami, Florida - in GTA III there are billboards saying "See you in Miami!", possibly foreshadowing GTA Vice City being based there and Ray Machowski mentions it after his departure from Liberty City. In GTA Vice City, there are billboards that say "Move over Miami!", referencing how Vice City has replaced Miami.
- Kent, United Kingdom is the birthplace of Kent Paul.
- Preston, United Kingdom is mentioned on the GTA IV internet.
- Reddick, Florida is the town in which the V-Rock radio station is set in 1984.
- Bogota, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Toronto, Leith and Tokyo are cities mentioned in the official website of GTA III (Francis International Airport); flights are advertised for these cities, as well as to London, San Andreas, Vice City and Miami.
- Paris, France and Hanover, Germany are mentioned on Internet pages in GTA IV.
- Moscow, Russia is mentioned by Dimitri Rascalov (probably his birthplace/hometown) to Mikhail Faustin, and Russian Mafia members by listening to conversations.
- Dublin, Ireland and some other Irish cities are mentioned at signs in the Lucky Winkles bar in GTA IV.
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is mentioned on Chatterbox FM in GTA III when Lazlow says "Working here sure beats the hell out of digging sewage ditches outside Kuala Lumpur."
- Arizona mentioned two times in The Lost and Damned, both times as place for Billy Grey to move over. First time as law abiding citizen and second as witness under witness protection program.
- Australia is mentioned a few times on the radio, and it is mentioned that they were at war with the United States in the past.
- Jamestown is mentioned in A History of Liberty City in GTA IV.
- Washington, D.C. is mentioned in A History of Liberty City in GTA IV. It succeeded Liberty City as the national capital during the 18th century and is described as a "malarious swamp on the banks of the Potomac."
- Minneapolis, Minnesota is mentioned in a radio advertisement for the musical "WTF."
- Kansas is mentioned by pedestrians in GTA Vice City. If the player starts a fight, some may say "This isn't Kansas, you know!".
- Baghdad, Iraq is mentioned in GTA IV by the radio show Fizz! on the radio station WKTT. One of the hosts says "Liberty City's entertainment scene has been hotter than a Baghdad barbecue!"
- Belfast, United Kingdom is mentioned during the firefight with the police during the GTA IV mission Three Leaf Clover. Derrick McReary says something along the lines of "I haven't seen fighting like this since Belfast!"
- North Carolina is the birthplace of Tim.
- Ohio is mentioned on Cluckin' Bell's homepage and radio ads, and also listed as one of the locations a spin-off of the television series The Science of Crime takes place.
- Vietnam and the Vietnam war is mentioned at several occasions.
- Cambodia is where some parts of the Evacuator takes place.
- Iran is where rock musician Crow is playing a much-anticipated show during the events of GTA IV. It is advertised on the radio and on TV.
- Iowa is mentioned in a show at Perestroika.
- Mexico is mentioned in the GTA series, particularly in GTA VC, GTA SA, and GTA V.
- Djibouti, Fairbanks, Tuskegee, Panama City and Santiago are all mentioned in a The Science of Crime ad.
- Indiana is mentioned during a radio ad in GTA VC.
- Ibiza, Spain is mentioned in GTA IV show I'm Rich.
- New York City, New York and Mississippi is mentioned on K Rose in GTA SA, Shortly after the song Statler Bros. - New York City, when Mary-Beth Maybell says "I've never been lonely in New York City I've never been east of the Mississippi". This suggests that Liberty City and New York co-exist, which is strange considering Liberty is Grand Theft Auto's equivalent to New York. The song "New York Groove" by Hello appeared in GTA IV in that game's in-universe Liberty Rock Radio.
- Stockholm, Sweden is the birthplace of Sunbeam.
- Dubai, UAE is Yusuf Amir's birthplace in GTA IV Playboy X erroneously mentions it as being located in Africa during the mission Deconstruction for Beginners.
- Bucharest, Romania is mentioned in the dialog between Niko and Gravelli.Darko Breivic has a home here during GTA IV events.
- Texas is mentioned after a Perestroika show by the announcer.
- Beirut, Lebanon, is said to be twinnied with Liberty City in GTA III and in GTA IV a vacation to the city is advertised.
- Los Angeles is mentioned in the lyrics of the song Wild Side by Mötley Crüe, which is introduced in The Lost and Damned. This is strange since Los Santos is Grand Theft Auto's equivalent of Los Angeles.
- California is mentioned in GTA IV in a radio ad for a movie called Dragon Brain. The song "El Rey y Yo" by Los Angeles Negros appears in GTA V on that game's in-universe East Los FM 106.2.
- Hollywood, whose in-universe counterpart is Vinewood, is mentioned in the song "Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger, appearing in GTA V on that game's in-universe Los Santos Rock Radio.
- The GTA IV radio station Vladivostok FM suggests that the eponymous city exists in the game's universe.