Until GTA III, in-world time in GTA games remain static, with all locales in Grand Theft Auto 1 and the Grand Theft Auto: London expansion packs taking place in the day, while Grand Theft Auto 2 can be set to be played in a perceptual night or day at the player's choosing (this applies to the PC and Dreamcast versions only; the PlayStation version takes place only in the day). Grand Theft Auto Advance is the only GTA game after GTA III that follows the same arrangement, being set in a permanent day.
In the 3D Universe, time moves at a rate of one second in real time is one minute in-game, making one in-game hour a minute and one in-game day 24 real time minutes. Time is in 24-hour, military time in the game, (presumably done to avoid confusion) starting at 00:00 at midnight and going to 23:59 at a minute before midnight. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas introduced days of the week to the series (a feature which later returns in the HD Universe). The game tracks days and months of the year, but this is never used in actual gameplay.
Time incurs a large atmospheric impact, with both the physical and visual atmosphere of Grand Theft Auto cityscapes changing radically with the rising and the setting of the sun. Arguably, carrying out missions can be considered easier during daylight hours as visibility is increased; however, certain missions can only be initiated at certain times of day.
One of the major differences in the HD Universe is that time now moves at a rate of one in-game minute every two real-life seconds. Therefore, one in-game hour is now two real-life minutes and one in-game day is now 48 real-life minutes.
GTA IV and GTA V
As time advances in the game world, many changes to the environment can occur. These changes are most prominent in Grand Theft Auto IV and include changes in traffic flow (generally more dense during the day, particularly during the "rush hour" periods), pedestrian density and pedestrian type. The shifts in pedestrian types vary throughout different Grand Theft Auto games and different districts within their environments. During the night, commonplace pedestrians such as businesspeople, shoppers and tourists will rarely spawn, and the density of homeless people, prostitutes and gang members will usually increase in more deprived areas.
In Director Mode, time can be "fine tuned", adjusting time by 10 minutes per 0.5 seconds. Time can also be set to pre-made options, such as "Dawn", "Pre-Dawn", "Morning", "Midday", "Afternoon", "Evening", "Sunset" and "Midnight".
Grand Theft Auto V rectified the issue of having to wait until a certain time to trigger a mission. When the player steps in a mission marker, a brief time-lapse video will play before the mission begins.
GTA Online</nowiki>'s time will correspond to every player in the session so if the time is 22:00 in one player's game, it will be the same for every other player.
Time is live in GTA Online, so leaving the game, and returning 10 minutes later will result in GTA Online's time being progressed by 5 hours. Again, this applies to all players, and all sessions; all sessions will be the same time.
The time of day can be altered in GTA Online missions, whether it's races, captures or an LTS. Time can also remain static in some missions and heists. For example, time remains static in A Titan of a Job, Humane Raid - Deliver EMP, Humane Raid - EMP, The Pacific Standard Job and The Humane Labs Raid.
- Grand Theft Auto V's time lapse sequence strongly resembles the one used on the television show Breaking Bad.