If there’s anything the Grand Theft Auto Series is famous for, it has to be the loading screens. Well, or the music… Or that one meme… Or maybe even the mechanic of kicking someone out of their car and stealing it… Anyway, you know what we mean.
The loading screens have become one of the most iconic aspects of a GTA game, only improving and progressing as the games went on. There have been too many hits on Rockstar’s part.
However, there is much debate about which GTA loading screen is the best. Throughout the franchise’s history, there have been several styles and innovations made. Each installment offers something new and helps us get into the feel of the game. And those with slow gaming devices especially know that’s true, considering they probably spend a lot of time looking at the artwork.
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at GTA artwork throughout the years. After that, we’ll take a look at the most iconic artwork from every installment of the franchise!
GTA Artwork: A Brief Introduction
The Grand Theft Auto series has spawned 7 mainline titles, 4 expansion packs, 4 handheld games, and 8 compilation/remaster titles. With over 20 years under their belt, the devs and Rockstar staff working on the GTA series have had a lot of time to develop and adapt their style.
GTA artwork has long been renowned for the unique feel it has brought to the games. This includes cover art, promotional art, and loading screen art. There has been many a meme made about the interesting nature of GTA loading screen artwork.
The theme of the loading screen artwork has always stayed the same. They usually depict major characters and iconic locations that appear in the game. They may also depict typical in-game situations, such as cars fleeing from police or a bag of cash.
The earliest version of GTA loading screens included a simple logo with the word “loading” plastered somewhere across the screen. Of course, the loading bar was mandatory. Somewhere in between, GTA devs started using pictures of real people, namely characters from GTA 2: The Movie. Later, they transitioned back to digital artwork.
From the first to the last game, GTA artwork has never failed in capturing our attention and bringing the game’s creative vision to life. We can only hope GTA 6 will do the same!
The best GTA loading screens | From 1997 to 2013
Without further ado, let’s get into the best GTA loading screens so far!
GTA 1 really only has two loading screens. The first is a GTA logo with a map of the United States shown in the background. The other GTA loading screen is the one we see above. It depicts a police chase in Liberty City.
Compared to the other loading screen, we feel this one really captures the essence of the game. Similar to how GTA loading screens have done in the past 26 years, we can get a rough understanding of what the game is about. Well, that’s if we figure out what’s on the image, anyway. It’s so dark, we can barely see a thing!
There isn’t a lot to say about GTA London considering this is the only loading screen artwork we got from the game. However, the version you get when loading the game menu also features a bit of copyright text. On the other hand, the version that appears when loading the chapter is rather clean.
Safe to say, we love this shot of Rodney, one of the selectable protagonists, about to spring into action. Although GTA London didn’t make the same waves as GTA 1 or most of the other games in the franchise, it brought us this awesome loading screen. Sometimes, that’s all that matters!
As we already mentioned, GTA 2 put a spin on its cutscene style by including shots from GTA 2: The Movie. This eight-minute short film existed solely for the purpose of promoting the second game in the franchise. It appeared as an opening cutscene in the game itself.
Despite that, we feel it was a fitting intro to the game. Shooting a short film as promotional content for a video game is also a concept we don’t see very often nowadays.
This shot from the GTA 2 loading screen repertoire features two things GTA does best: girls and gangsters. We just love the overall vibe! Can you blame us?
Although she was a minor character, Misty has become recognizable throughout the series. Having appeared in GTA 3, GTA Advance, and GTA: Vice City, it’s clear she’s one of the more memorable prostitutes working for Luigi Goterelli.
This shot of Misty is a great representation of what she was supposed to look like and what the players would have wanted her to look like. It’s safe to say Misty’s in-game model doesn’t do her justice when it comes to her appearance. And though fans expected the Definitive Edition to right this wrong, all it really did was give players more meme material.
GTA: Vice City
The shot with the main character seems to always turn out the best. This is clearly the case with Avery Carrington in this shot for a GTA: Vice City loading screen. We wouldn’t say it’s Avery himself making this shot beautiful, but rather the background.
The entire color scheme of this GTA loading screen is just satisfying to look at. If we had a GTA loading screen glitch in Vice City, we wouldn’t mind staring at all the calming blue appearing both on Avery’s clothes and the hotel in the back. Even though it doesn’t portray all the action and glamor happening in GTA: Vice City, it has a certain calming vibe to it.
GTA: San Andreas
For this game, we simply couldn’t pick just one. That’s because of the cool concept the GTA: San Andreas devs chose for a loading screen. It’s a two-parter! In the first image, we can see Grove Street Families members in a shootout with the Ballas while riding in an orange car.
In the second image, we can see the other half of the image. Ballas members are shooting back at the Grove Street Families members while riding around in an objectively cooler red car. Hey, we don’t make the rules around here, we just enforce them! GTA: San Andreas has lots of iconic loading screens, but the creativity of these two shots is pretty cool.
GTA: Liberty City Stories
This shot of Toni Cipriani riding on a red Freeway is a GTA loading screen only available in the mobile version of the game. Regardless, it deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame purely because of the artistry of the shot. Well, that, and the fact it depicts a pretty well-known character in the game.
The Freeway is an iconic motorcycle that has appeared in many Grand Theft Auto games. Examples include GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas, GTA IV, and more. Players can even obtain it as a reward in GTA IV! This appearance warranted this loading screen appearing on our list of the best GTA loading screen from every game.
GTA: Vice City Stories
Louise Cassidy-Williams appearing on a GTA loading screen was the most iconic move Rockstar could have made for the game. Louise is known as one of the most well-loved characters in the game, which makes sense. She’s also the tritagonist, appearing as the protagonist’s love interest.
Later becoming the driving reason for Vic Vance’s thirst for revenge, fans will have a hard time forgetting the final scene between Louise and Vic. However, even before her involvement with Victor, we see her as a strong female character that brings depth and color to the GTA: Vice City Stories storyline.
This shot of Niko Bellic, the protagonist of GTA IV, definitely captures the essence of the game. I mean, if you just take a look at all the crimes Niko has committed, you shouldn’t even be surprised at the fact that he somehow got into a police chase. Interestingly, this loading screen can only appear if you’re playing GTA IV on a console.
Being the second most popular game in the series, GTA IV definitely has some iconic loading screens. It’s no surprise considering GTA IV is probably the second most popular GTA game out there. Out of all the GTA loading screens, we had the hardest time choosing the best one for this game.
GTA IV: The Lost & Damned
Although Malc has never appeared in any GTA mainline games except for GTA Online, his loading screen deserves a spot on the list. While it may just be because the entire image looks aesthetically pleasing, we also have to give props for the attention to detail.
Everything from Malc’s jacket to the reflection on his helmet is a slight nod to the character. If you’ve played through the game, you’ll know Malc is a member of a motorcycle club. Needless to say, he really loves his bike. Malc is also the character who introduces the player to motorcycle clubs in GTA Online!
GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
This shot of Joni from GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony is an artistic masterpiece. Despite the fact Joni is actually a pretty minor character in the game, the artists did a great job of bringing her to life in this shot.
The pop of champagne, the colorful bokeh surrounding her, her iconic outfit, and her interesting expression… All of these elements come together to make a beautiful image that also captures the vibe of the entire expansion pack. Although most characters in the loading screen images had a similar composition, there’s something special about this one. We can’t quite put our finger on it, though.
GTA: Chinatown Wars
This handheld GTA game never really popped off the way it should have in the gaming community. Still, GTA: Chinatown Wars had a compelling and interesting story for a game that only came out on the Nintendo DS, PSP, and mobile phones. The best loading screen in the game features Huang Lee and Ling Shan, the main and supporting characters, respectively, of the game.
Ling’s appearance in GTA: Chinatown Wars is a brief but sweet one. Despite that, we get serious girl-boss vibes from her in this shot. And throughout most of her appearance in the game, really. That’s probably why the artists included her in the image.
Most players will recognize the beach weather loading screen where a blonde girl poses with her cell phone. They’ll also claim it’s the best GTA loading screen photo. And while we agree that it’s pretty high up on our list of great GTA V loading screens, that must mean they haven’t seen this photo yet.
This photo of Franklin and Chop deserves a spot on the list purely because Chop appears in it. Well, there’s that and the fact that the background details are just so nicely done in this photo. But yeah, everyone is a sucker for dogs, and that also includes us. We’ll just ignore the fact that this GTA loading screen depiction of Chop looks nothing like his in-game model… Isn’t he supposed to be a Rottweiler?
The Diamond Casino Heist GTA loading screen is yet another work of art by the GTA devs and staff members. The visuals in the background, including the casino itself and the sunset behind it, are simply stunning. Unfortunately, the character standing in front of the image ruins the vibe a little bit, but it’s not that bad. Maybe an outfit change would do her good.
However, the real reason we picked this loading screen as the best GTA Online loading screen is a simple one. The Diamond Casino Heist is one of the best heists in the entire game, as voted by many players. Though it happened nearly 4 years ago, it’s a hard one to top, so we don’t blame the devs at all.
Now that you’ve read all about the best, maybe it’s time to read about the worst… As in the worst character designs in video games!