The United States in Grand Theft Auto
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In the Grand Theft Auto universe, most of the locations in the games are based on cities and states found in the real-life USA. For example, Liberty City is based on New York City, Vice City is based on the city of Miami and the Keys located in South Florida, the state of North Yankton is based on the North Dakota, and the State of San Andreas is inspired by the real-life states of California and Nevada, comprised of fictional cities based on real cities in those states, these are: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas).
Bullworth is a town in New England, and is where the game Bully takes place, apparently as a bridge between the 3D and HD Universes. GTA IV contains references to Bully, as Bully contains references to 3D Universe.
Carcer City is an industrial city possibly based in Alderney State or Liberty State, and is where the game Manhunt takes place. It takes place in the 3D Universe. There are references to Manhunt in GTA III during a news segment on the radio saying that Carcer City is not too far from Liberty City.
The State of San Andreas, which contains three large cities and rural areas with small towns between, is located in the southwest, considering it has large deserts. The 3D Universe's Liberty City is located somewhere in the northeast, since it snowed in the mission Saint Mark's Bistro in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the player must fly east to get there, the Grand Theft Auto IV rendition of Liberty City is in Liberty City State also on the East Coast. Note that the 3D Universe and HD Universe do not follow the same canon.
Vice City is located in the south of the United States. Unlike the other cities featured in-game, Vice City is the only known fictional city to be located in a real-life state, as various characters refer to the city as being located in Florida.
In all the games (excluding GTA V), the cities are always located on several islands connected by bridges. They appear to be isolated islands in the middle of the sea, but this is due to game limitations. Rockstar Games have stated that they avoid placing unreachable pieces of land within the games to keep the complete feel to the game. There are multiple islands, and every game except GTA V starts with certain bridges blocked, restricting the player from exploring the entire city at the start of the game. There is always a story as to why the bridges are shut, sometimes relative to the location of the game, for example; the bridges in Vice City are shut due to hurricane warnings, while in Liberty City they are blocked due to to terrorist threats against the city (HD Era), and bridges in San Andreas are blocked because of a major earthquake and Frank Tenpenny warning Carl that he couldn't leave the town. These restrictions are lifted as the story progresses, with the earlier reason for them being closed having been blown over, unlocking new parts of the city/state.
Even though the Grand Theft Auto video games are made in the United Kingdom, specifically Edinburgh, Scotland, they are released first in the United States of America, and subsequently Canada followed by the UK and Europe. The games are primarily based on American popular culture, and nearly all have been set in fictitious (or copied) locations on the American mainland. The music, the clothes, the slang, and the abundance of vehicles in the game are considerably of American origin.
Tony also refers Ohio as stated in a Liberty Tree article: " If I wanted to go to bed at 8 pm everyday, I would go to Ohio. Not that there's anything wrong with Ohio. I just used it as an example".
New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth are unknown to be in the same universe, as there are no references to indicate this, but nothing to contradict it either. However, the real states of New York and California are mentioned in the game so all 3 regions may be in a different universe. However, Sandy Shores (small town which featured in GTA V) has a street named Cholla Springs Avenue, a reference to a desert location in Red Dead Redemption. There is also a car hire business named Escalera Rent-A-Car, a reference to the Nuevo Paraiso town of Escalera. Also in GTA Online you can pick John Marston or a descendant of the aforementioned to be your father.
In a GTA IV commercial for the in-game movie Dragon Brain, California was mentioned.
The State of North Yankton appears in GTA V.
The San Andreas Flight School Update added an USA Chute Bag in GTA V, and in the enhanced version, the Dukes has a customizable option where the player can add an American flag to the roof of the car for $2,500.
Throughout the GTA games, numerous United States politicians are mentioned, including presidents, congressmen, governors, and mayors. These include both fictional and real-life individuals. Fictional U.S. politicians are used to parody several real-life individuals as well as the U.S. and local governments.
- John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) - In GTA San Andreas, set in 1992, The Truth mentions John F. Kennedy and his assassination.
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) - Mentioned on the radio and his photo is an easter egg in GTA Vice City.
- George W Bush (2001-2009) - The Liberty Tree article "The W Comes To Town" shows George W. Bush having just been elected president at the time of GTA III, entirely canon with real life events.
- Alex Shrub (?-1986) - A fictional right-wing Florida congressman appearing in GTA Vice City whose name and mannerisms are based on George H.W. Bush, voices his intention to run for president, although he fails after his affair with porn star Candy Suxxx becomes public (all of this happening in 1986). Said affair became a very public spectacle, even across the country in San Andreas where photos of Shrub and Suxxx are seen on Carl Johnson's wall.
- Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) - Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton mentioned in GTA IV in TV program "History of Liberty".
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) - Abraham Lincoln and his assassin John Wilkes Booth are mentioned on the GTA V website Yourdeadfamily.com.
- George Lawton (Unknown) - Presumably based on George H.W. Bush. He became a senator after serving as president.
- Joe Lawton (Before/during 2008-present) - A parody of former president George W Bush mentioned in both GTA IV and GTA V.
- Julio Ochoa (2001-2009) - Liberty City Mayor. Possibly a parody of Michael Bloomberg or Rudolph Giuliani.
- John Hunter (2008) - A liberal candidate running for governor of the State of Liberty in GTA IV.
- Michael Graves (2008) - A conservative candidate running for governor of the State of Liberty in GTA IV.
- Jock Cranley (2013) - A conservative candidate running for governor of the State of San Andreas in GTA V.
- Sue Murry (2013) - A liberal candidate running for governor of the State of San Andreas in GTA V.
- Liberty City (New York City)
- Western Landmass (New Jersey)
- Central Landmass (Manhattan)
- Eastern Landmass (Brooklyn, Queens)
- Minor Islands (Roosevelt Island, Rikers Island)
- North Eastern Island (The Bronx)
- San Andreas (San Francisco)
- Northern Landmass (San Francisco)
- South Eastern Landmass (Marin County)
- Vice City (Miami)
- Western Landmass (Miami Mainland)
- North Eastern Island (Miami Beach)
- Eastern Island
- Liberty City
Note: The latter is not included in any gameworld, and therefore inaccessible in-game.
- Bone County
- Flint County
- Las Venturas (Las Vegas)
- Los Santos (Los Angeles)
- Red County
- San Fierro (San Francisco)
- Tierra Robada
- Alaska (mentioned in the talk show Pressing Issues in VCPR)
- Idaho (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Indiana (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Kansas (mentioned by pedestrians in GTA Vice City)
- Nebraska (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Alabama (mentioned by Pastor Richards as his place of birth in a fictional town named Mars)
- Alderney City (Jersey City)
- Ludendorff (Fargo)
- Blaine County
- Los Santos County (Los Angeles County)
- Red County
- Arizona (mentioned in The Lost and Damned)
- Michigan (mentioned on Leftover-vacations.com)
- Ohio (mentioned in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- South Carolina (mentioned on the radio talk show Just or Unjust on WKTT Radio)
- Texas (mentioned in GTA IV as Wade Johnson's birthplace)
- Utah (mentioned in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- California (mentioned in a commercial for the in-game movie Dragon Brain)
- Connecticut (mentioned by various club goers in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- Carcer City (possibly in located in The State of Alderney, possibly based on Camden, New Jersey, Detroit and parts of Pittsburgh) (mentioned in The Paleto Score)
- Fairbanks (mentioned in The Science Of Crime ad on radio)
- New Orleans (mentioned on Liesdamnlies.net, a user called Phil from London posts about a holiday he took to New Orleans)
- Pittsburgh (mentioned in "Strange Tramps Seen All Over Liberty City")
- San Fierro (mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and also mentioned on Fabien LaRouche's website in GTA V)
- Las Venturas (Mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and on the CB radio of certain cars in GTA V)
- Red County (Mentioned in GTA IV and the CB radio of semi trucks in GTA V)
- The Carraways and specifically, East Carraway, mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and GTA V.
- Salem (a map was seen in the backroom of the club Bahama Mamas in TBoGT)
- Multiple real-life U.S. states are featured in GTA V, on the wall of the filling station near Trevor's Trailer, in the form of number plates. The states included are Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, and California (included twice, with different designs). There is also a plate with the year 1965 on it, with the rest of the text covered up.