It’s no great secret that Grand Theft Auto: Trilogy – Definitive Edition had a very poor launch back in November 2021. With a litany of bugs, poor performance, and unpopular changes made to in-game signs, visuals, and more, it was one of the most controversial releases RockStar has delivered. Now that the entire trilogy is available on iPhone via Netflix, it’s thankfully a significantly better experience.
If you’re looking for an easy way to play one of the most widely acclaimed sandbox titles of all time, you can now get it free in the shape of this new mobile port with your existing Netflix account, so long as you have an iPhone XS or later, or an iPad 8 or later. This is a wide range of supported devices, equalling over 30 total.
If you have somehow never played it, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an open-world action game where you play as CJ, returning to his old home after his mother has been murdered. He soon gets trapped in a cycle of gang violence, coercion, and blackmail, as he tries to figure out why his home is being taken over by another gang. It’s engrossing, iconic, and incredibly fun. The game coming to Netflix Games is a great win for the service and another reason to keep your streaming subscription alive. We’d imagine the Apple Arcade executives are kicking themselves for not bagging this collection.
Powered by Netflix?
Netflix, through excellent titles like Death’s Door, Before Your Eyes, Dead Cells, and more, has become surprisingly good for games. As long as you have an account of some kind, you can play the entire library without ads.
What makes this particularly good for the GTA Trilogy is that, unlike attempting to play the console ports via Xbox Game Pass mobile or PS Remote Play, you can fully download the game and play it offline. If you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, or, in my case, a poor internet connection, there’s no worry. Boot it up and get lost in San Andreas.
A different style
The Definitive Edition does look a bit different from the PS2 original, with a more cartoony, vibrant art style. The Definitive Edition is also much clearer, with less muddy colors and a larger render distance. There is no option in any of the three games to swap between graphical styles but The Definitive Edition looks pretty great on iPhone, still feeling like an older title in scope and mechanics but more modern in presentation. It’s nostalgic without being tedious.
As far as the graphics settings are concerned, there aren’t many, with the option to turn off a few features like Lens Flare and Bloom, but the most interesting addition is a resolution slider. If you pull it down, the game looks less textured and sharp, whereas pulling it to the top makes everything look crisp and fresh. This is a great addition, especially for older devices, even if I would have appreciated a few more specific graphical options. My iPhone 15 Pro Max saw very little performance difference between these modes, keeping a steady frame rate, but owners of older models will notice some slow down at higher resolutions, making that slider handy.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Definitive Edition works wonderfully on my iPhone 15 Pro Max, currently the best iPhone, at the highest resolution. The gameplay is super smooth even in the San Andreas’ more hectic moments and looks pretty great too. The sound is a tad tinny on my AirPods, especially when a gun is being fired or you clash against a wall but this seems like more a limitation of the game itself than the port. San Andreas’ soundtrack is killer but the actual sound effects can be a bit lacking.
Luckily, the game manages to play pretty well even using touch controls so it never feels too cumbersome. Button layouts are well organized and don’t take up too much of the screen, allowing you to drive away at high speed or mow down enemies. It runs natively with the best game controllers and plays even better here than with touch, which is admittedly not a high bar.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the most popular sandbox games in the world for a reason. It looks great, the story is intriguing, and the gameplay is even better. I haven’t gone back to San Andreas for a few years now, mostly due to the creature comforts of new games like their graphical fidelity and ease of access but, curled up on the sofa with my iPhone, I’ve found the perfect excuse to take a trip back to the hood.