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"After five years on the east coast, it was time to go home."
The original Grand Theft Auto had three cities: Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas. San Andreas was the last of these to feature a game of its own, and was expanded into an entire state. San Andreas is a Fictional Counterpart for California, with some elements from Nevada. It has three major cities: Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas. It also has nearly a dozen small towns, and loads of land in between them.
The game puts the player in the shoes of Carl "CJ" Johnson, a good guy, relatively speaking, a first for the series. CJ is a gangster who left the city of Los Santos, San Andreas after his brother was killed, but is returning home after a five-year stint in Liberty City to bury his murdered mother.
Shortly after arriving, corrupt cops Frank Tenpenny (Samuel L. Jackson) and Eddie Pulaski (the late Chris Penn) pick him up and force him to work for them. If CJ refuses, he will get framed for cop killing, a killing for which these cops themselves are responsible, as the unlucky officer was going to expose them. But that's just part of it. CJ gets thrown around a twisted world of crime all over San Andreas with many twists, betrayals and surprises, as well as unexpected cameos from quite a few familiar faces.
San Andreas's reception was like pretty much every other 3D Grand Theft Auto game. In other words, it was received with a hell of a lot of love from gamers. While not without controversy (the Hot Coffee Minigame scandal was especially idiotic), it enjoyed overwhelmingly positive reviews by critics and fans alike, and has made millions in sales. Even after the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, many fans still consider San Andreas to be their favorite game in the series. One reason for this is because of its absolutely huge sandbox area: three full cities and numerous towns and countryside areas, as opposed to the other Grand Theft Auto games which were positively claustrophobic by comparison. Even as the games moved into the next-generation consoles, allowing greater realism in how cities are depicted, to date none of the games that followed San Andreas have equaled the scope and sense of distance offered by this game.
Fans of the game may want to check out this Let's Play told almost entirely from CJ's perspective, which fleshes out the story and fills in some plotholes.
Grand Theft Auto V revisits San Adreas, but only covers the Los Santos area.
- 100% Heroism Rating: There are various character ratings (fat, muscle, sex appeal and respect), which affect how NPCs react in your presence. You can even say something back, determined by hitting Y or N. However, no amount of sex appeal or respect will completely stop people from telling CJ he smells bad.
- 23: This gem of a conversation between protagonist Carl Johnson and The Truth:
CJ: What's with all the aluminum foil, man?
- Also, the name of the mission where this conversation takes place (Are You Going to San Fierro?) has 23 letters (counting the question mark), it's unknown if this is actually intentional or just a coincidence.
- 555: Played straight in the mission 555 We Tip, when Carl is asked by Tenpenny to plant some evidence in a D.A's car and then give 555-WE-TIP a call.
- Adaptation Distillation: The trio of Grand Theft Auto III games are prequels of the original game and each other, and San Andreas combines the best elements of all the games that came before (large sandbox, gang respect, plethora of vehicles, contrast of gritty working-class environments/glossy upper class estates, not to mention a protagonist that actually knows how to swim) to make a thoroughly satisfying game.
- Affably Evil:
- Mike Toreno, who's a pretty nice guy for a drug-runner and government agent shoulder-deep in things you Do Not Need To Know About.
- Same can be said for CJ, who comes off as being a centered, nice guy despite committing rather horrendous acts during the course of the game.
- And also Woozie, the leader of the San Fierro Triad, who despite being a crime boss is depicted as very sympathetic and likable. So much so one expects Woozie to Face Heel Turn on CJ, but he never does.
- Alas, Poor Villain: "When I'm gone, everyone's gonna remember my name... BIG SMOKE!"
- Always Close: CJ's escape from Big Smoke's crack palace during the final mission. He barely manages to Outrun the Fireball.
- Anachronism Stew: Not overtly, but noticeable in some of the sights and sounds around San Andreas.
- Some of the songs playing on the radio, like "It Was A Good Day" by Ice Cube are released after 1992, which is when the game takes place.
- Certain cars, especially high-end ones, were based on real-life cars produced long after 1992, such as the Bullet, which is based on the 2005 Ford GT. Which in turn was an almost exact copy design-wise of the Ford GT40 [dead link], but undoubtedly chosen with the new car's release.
- In one mission, Triad boss Ran Fa Li is seen playing a video game with a (wireless!) PlayStation 2 controller. Sharp-eyed players can even catch the trademark button colors.
- One of the radio ad parodies spoofs Harry Potter, even though the first book wasn't published until 1997... in Europe.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: Completing some of the storyline and asset missions gets you some special outfits, which you may need to wear in order to progress through another mission. Also, achieving 100% progress with most of the girlfriends gets you an outfit related to their profession.
- Dressing as the Enemy: The ability to dress as a cop returns from Vice City, allowing you to enter police stations all over the state, so long as you don't draw your firearms while inside. You gain this ability by getting 100% relationship progress with Barbara Schternvart, the only female cop in the game, if not any 3D Grand Theft Auto game.
- An Entrepreneur Is You: Carl goes from being poor in Ganton with only his late mother's house and the clothes on his back, to building a criminal empire across San Andreas.
- Anti-Hero: You, the rest of Grove Street (well, Sweet at least), Cesar and Woozie.
- Arc Words: Big Smoke - Remember the name.
- Area 51: Parodied with Area 69, which CJ breaks into to acquire a Jet Pack. Trying to enter the area will earn you an instant five-star wanted level, and if you fly over, you will be brought down by SAM sites and Hydra fighter jets.
- Artistic License Physics: This moment. And it's actually the only way to reach the helicopter. Open the parachute, and you won't be able to land on the roof where that helicopter is.
- As the Good Book Says...: Big Smoke often quotes the Bible ("'Man cannot live on bread alone'. I should know, I tried that shit."), but he's not exactly a saint.
- Awesome but Impractical: The Hydra: if you try to stafe ground targets with the thrusters pointed downwards. The trio of sluggish response, split attention and proximity to ground clutter ends many joyrides with a boom.
- Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other: As much shit as Sweet gives CJ, he still shows that he loves his brother dearly.
- Ax Crazy: Cesar describes his cousin Catalina as "really intense, holmes". As CJ finds out, "intense" doesn't even begin to describe her.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Sweet and CJ get to do this in a mission near the end of the game, which is essentially a two man army against a horde of Ballas.
- Badass: When the game starts, CJ is straight busta, but if you're playing right, he becomes the baddest man in San Andreas by the end.
- Bald of Evil: Officer Tenpenny has a shaved head. CJ can have his head shaved if the player chooses to do so, making it Bald of Awesome.
- Beef Gate: Initially, CJ is restricted to Los Santos and Red County: there is nothing preventing the player from finding ways to enter the other regions before they are unlocked, but there is a penalty of a four-star wanted level if you do. Specifically, San Fierro, Whetstone and Flint County are inaccessible prior to completing "The Green Sabre" and Tierra Robada, Bone County and Las Venturas cannot be entered before completing "Yay-ka-boom-boom".
- Berserk Button: CJ likes being called a "busta" as much as Woozie likes being made fun of for his blindness. That is to say, not at all. CJ also seems to really hate reckless driving, ironically. And for the love of Santa Christ, do not mess with his sister. So much as catcalling at her can trigger homicidal rage. Ironically, however, this is one of the only Grand Theft Auto games to not include a "rampage" side-mission in the basic one-player game, though certainly the player is free to make up his own.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Wu Zi Mu, or "Woozie" to his friends, is a laid-back, friendly, unassuming Chinese man who enjoys playing video games, racing cars, and golf. He's also the boss of the Mountain Cloud Boys, a Triad sect. And when he finds his men wiped out by the the Vietnamese Da Nang Boys, he rushes into the fray with a machine pistol and guns down everyone he can find, all the while shouting things like "Your blood will flow like wine!"... all this despite the fact that he's blind. CJ remains on his good side throughout the game, however, and as such is never a target of this himself.
- CJ himself is usually a pretty nice guy... for a gangbanger, though this may have something to do with him moving away from the gang lifestyle in Liberty for five years. But do not talk bad about his family, especially his sister Kendl. Or his mother. Just ask Pulaski.
- Bilingual Bonus: A very subtle one, overlapping with Fridge Brilliance. The leader of the Da Nang Boys gang is referred to as the 'Snakehead'. In several Oriental dialects, the word for 'snake head' also happens to be a slang term for a smuggler of refugees. Guess what the gang's main source of income is?
- Bizarrchitecture: Some of the abandoned desert tourist traps.
- British English: On rare occasions the fact the Grand Theft Auto games are actually made by a British company becomes evident.
- The news radio station includes news reports referencing "the drugs trade": Americans tend to singularize the word "drug" in that phrase, while the Brits use "drugs" in all uses.
- During an early mission in which CJ has to whack a GSF member who has been snitching to the Ballas, the subtitles advise you to kill the "grass".
- Also true of certain jokes, for example Helena Wankstein's name being a reference to the British insult "wank stain" and the asset "Wang Cars" being a semi-homophone of "wankers".
- Broken Bridge: At the beginning of the game, the bridges had been damaged by an earthquake. Double subverted in that, although you can swim, boat, or fly across, you will get a four star wanted level for even trying, and you can't do anything at those points anyway. You actually can do a few things. The Courrier Missions on both Las Venturas and San Fierro, the NRG-500 Challenge, the Chiliad Challenge, any of the Vehicles Missions, and a few more. Only thing is that you have to do them with a 4-star wanted level.
- Burger Fool: OG Loc's parole officer lined him up for a job at Burger Shot as a "Hygiene Technician" (fancy talk for janitor). His uniform - and that of everyone else who works there - includes an oversized burger hat, which needless to say looks ridiculous. Not to mention the chicken hat that is part of the uniform at Cluckin' Bell, no wonder they're extra disgruntled and spiteful.
- Buried Alive: The mission "Deconstruction", a conga line of Disproportionate Retribution, ends with pushing the foreman, who is hiding in a porta-potty, into a hole... and then filling the hole with cement.
- But Thou Must!:
- The first mission requires you to use a bike. If you "acquire" something else, the game ceases to show the people you are meant to follow on your minimap and the Ballas car continues to chase and shoot you no matter where you go.
- There are also many, many occasions in the game where the vehicle you arrive in for a mission will disappear and be replaced by one provided for the mission. A fact worth noting before you take your expensive, tripped out car to meet Woozie or Toreno for their next mission.
- There are also missions where CJ is forced to use a specific weapon, despite others in his inventory. For example, in "Freefall", it doesn't matter if he has a mini-gun, CJ is forced to make do with a dinky 9mm pistol in the shootout. It happens inside a plane though, so keeping the caliber down is somewhat justified if the game runs on Vinewood Physics.
- Casting Gag: CJ, voiced by then-aspiring rapper Young Maylay, claims he's not part the rap game during one of OG Loc's missions.
- Central Theme: The betrayal and revenge theme found in the first two games is expanded upon. Loyalty to your homies drives most, if not all the plot.
- Chain Link Fence: This works surprisingly well, since you can vault fences but it generally doesn't occur to the cops. They can still shoot you though...
- Chekhov's Gun: When CJ asks about his mother's murder, Big Smoke mentions in passing that a Green Sabre was seen at the scene of the shooting. A green Sabre shows up in a later mission when CJ finds out that Smoke and Ryder are working with C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas.
- The Chick: Kendl, Carl's sister and Cesar's girlfriend (and later fiancee). She's smart enough to not let herself become a Damsel in Distress, but she does stay on the sidelines.
- Chunky Salsa Rule: Medics from the ambulances can often revive dead people, unless their heads have been blown off
- Clean Up the Town: A large part of the story involves CJ and his homies (Sweet, anyway) trying to clean up their crack-ridden 'hood.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The Truth is weird. Mike Toreno can come across like this too, although he's much more balanced than most cuckoolanders.
- Cluster F-Bomb: This was the first Grand Theft Auto game to have prominent use of the word "fuck" in it, and fuck, does it get used a lot. 365 times counting its variants and not counting random pedestrians/drivers curses and the in-game radio.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: All of the street gangs. The Grove Street Families are green, the Ballas are purple, the Aztecas are aqua, and the Vagos are yellow-orange.
- Conspiracy Theorist: The Truth again. Subverted by Toreno indicating that many well-known conspiracy theories are, in fact, true.
- Crapsack World: As any Grand Theft Auto world, though San Andreas more or less plays it for dark humor.
- Critical Existence Failure: Played straight with cars, motorcycles, boats and helicopters: you can damage these vehicles as much as you want with no effect on their performance whatsoever, up until the moment they catastrophically explode.
- Averted with fixed-wing aircraft: taking damage to the wings or rudder can cause the stabilizer fins to snap off, resulting in a nigh-uncontrollable plane. Also, slamming into a surface at high speed, unlike helicopters, spells certain doom for a plane.
- And vehicles do not handle properly if their tires are damaged. It is common for tires to be shot out, or damaged by spike belts. Several missions become noticeably easier if the player thinks to have CJ shoot out an enemy vehicle's tires before a chase begins. Cars and bikes do start emitting smoke when damaged: first white smoke, then black smoke, then they catch fire, which is your cue to run.
- Played straight with CJ, of course. Unless you fall from a great height without a parachute, that is. And even then, if the paramedic and vigilante side-missions are completed (giving CJ extra health and armor), it's possible for him to survive even these falls.
- Cutscene Incompetence: CJ is constantly pushed around by Tenpenny in their cutscene encounters throughout the game. Might maybe make sense in the beginning, but during the end of the game, after you've taken on Mafia, US Army, secret government agencies, and thousands upon thousands of gangsters of all kinds, and probably a fair share of cops, you can't help but wonder why on Earth CJ would let a single bent cop push him around. There's a cutscene in Las Venturas when Tenpenny punches CJ in the stomach, flooring him. If you have max muscle for that bit, it's just silly.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: T-Bone Mendez pulls a variation of this on CJ, trying to scare him into admitting he's a double agent. It doesn't work.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Maccer's addiction to masturbation is the subject of numerous gags.
Zero: No, no, I masturbate quite often, if that's what you're implying...
- One of the "I Say, You Say" segments also includes a masturbation joke.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: Almost always averted when you shoot a civilian dead while he or she is still in a car; this is par course for all Grand Theft Auto III-era games. However, shoot a cop chasing you in his squad car, and a glitch may occur, causing his lifeless/headless body to continue giving chase until you pull it out and jack the car.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Cluckin' Bell worker clearly doesn't like his job.
"If you come again, you're a moron."
"I hope you choke-a-doodle-doo!"
- Department of Redundancy Department: Played for laughs on the news radio station WCTR...
Leanne: Staying in Venturas: it used to be a patch of desert, then it was a mob town. Now, it is the corporate headquarters of America. Richard explains from the streets.
- Dirty Cop: Officers Tenpenny and Pulaski.
- Disc One Nuke: If you go to the Los Santos Airport with a tall car, you can climb on top of the fence and access some nice airplanes, letting you get your flying skill up.
- Disney Death: Mike Toreno appears to die around the time Carl turns on Jizzy, but later reappears to give you missions.
- Disposable Woman: Beverly Johnson.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The mission "Deconstruction". This mission appears to disturb a lot of players as it seems out of character for the violent, yet sympathetic CJ, as he buries a guy alive because his crew insulted his sister.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: After Tenpenny plays the gangs against each other, his acquittal set off a city-wide riot. The game takes place in 1992. Considering that the cities in the Grand Theft Auto universe so obviously replace real ones, and combined with all the real-life based events, this might actually run into Alternate History.
- The Dog Bites Back: When Big Bear finally makes it clear that he's had it with B-Dup's abuse and punches his face in.
- Also, Hernandez turning on Tenpenny and Pulaski, who had repeatedly treated him very poorly.
- Dogged Nice Guy: CJ doesn't get sex after like the tenth date, he also never asks for it.
- Unless you collect all the oysters during the game in wich case the girls always invite him in for a "coffee".
- Also, if you weat the Gimp suit when meeting Millie, you automatically enter her house.
CJ: Here we go again with the kinky shit...
- Donut Mess with a Cop: Three guesses as to where you receive missions from Pulaski and Tenpenny.
- Downer Beginning: The game starts with CJ (who left Los Santos for five years after the murder of one of his brothers) returning home to bury his murdered mother, which is grim enough. But as soon as he arrives, he's picked up by Officers Tenpenny and Pulaski who steal all his money, frame him for a cop killing that they committed, and dump him in the middle of rival gang turf. And when CJ does make it to his mother's funeral, he finds that his brother Sweet is pissed at him for leaving and that his old gang is in shambles.
- Drives Like Crazy: You, according to your Grove Street True Companions. Being a Grand Theft Auto game, this is probably a lampshade hanging.
- Every other AI-controlled vehicle in the game, especially during missions where you need to be someplace within a time limit, or you're transporting goods that can't be damaged, which is when some maniac driver will pick that moment to run into you from behind or run a red light.
- Driving Into a Truck: In at least one mission you have to do this.
- Drugs Are Bad: The Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters ain't down with that shit. CJ comes around to this realization when he sees that even a Badass like Big Bear can be made into a bitch for rock. You can encounter drug dealers through out the game, and they will ask you if you want some rock. Even if you say yes, CJ, in no uncertain terms, tells the guy to take his business elsewhere. Also, each dealer carries $2000 without exception, more money than the vast majority of Los Santos missions provide. In the early chapters, waging your own personal war on drugs is to your extreme advantage. ...except when you play the German version of this game, which removes any money dropped by pedestrians. However, the Grove Street Families's intolerance of drugs only seems to extend to harder ones like cocaine, as many of the generic recruitable gansters are seen holding joints while hanging around.
- Dual-Wielding: If CJ gets his weapon skill up to Hitman with the Pistol, Sawn-Off Shotgun or Micro-SMG, he can pack one in each hand for double the devastation. You will lose accuracy when doing this, but when Rule of Cool is in full effect like this you simply won't care. This also makes the AmmuNation shooting range challenge slightly easier.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Ok, you've completed all the collectibles, bought all property, completed all side missions, you're a proven master of vehicles both on the land, water and in the air, the grove street gang's territory is bigger than it has ever been and yet when your brother is freed from jail due to 'your connections with the government' he still treats you like a noob, chewing you out on leaving Los Santos behind again. Sweet's behavior is justified, since he has been in jail all the time without any contact to outside, and he has no way of knowing about your various exploits, or your reasons for leaving. Given this situation, it makes sense for him to react this way. Nevertheless, the sudden shift in mood can be a bit perplexing for the player.
- Dumb Muscle: Jizzy specifically refers to CJ as this, repeatedly (apparently the game is assuming you've been working out). He's wrong, but CJ was trying to get on his good side so he could snap at him when the opportunity arose, so whatever.
- Dummied Out: The sex minigame had to be removed in order to avoid an Adult Only rating which will prevent the game from being ported onto consoles, but deleting the code for it would've required delaying the game by a few months to fix the girlfriend system. So Rockstar, to meet their release date, simply buried it under layers of code with plans to release them later in an AO version. The result was the Hot Coffee scandal. The "Second Edition" version, however, did get rid of the code. Also, lots of other stuff was coded, but never implemented. A Game Mod by Deezire restores a crap ton of content, including cutscene dialogue that fills in so many plot holes you'll wonder why the hell Rockstar never bothered to activate it.
- Easter Egg: So, so many. Including a sign in an exotic location reading: "No Easter Eggs here, go away." Also many audio Easter eggs on the various radio stations.
- El Spanish-O: In one mission, Big Smoke is trying to negotiate with some Mexican gangsters, before he loses his patience and demands, "Cough-io - up el weedo - before I blow your brains out all over the patio!".
- Elvis Impersonator: Several hundred wandering the streets of Las Venturas. And they are played by different ethnicities! The hispanic ones just do really awful Elvis impersonations, but the black ones would more accurately be called "Little Richard impersonators" and act accordingly. Amusingly, the game keeps track of the number of Elvis impersonators you've killed on the stats screen. Uh huh.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Carl and Sweet Johnson, particularly. The death of his mother is why CJ went back in the first place. Pulaski finds out how much CJ loves his mama, the hard way.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Grove Street Families, the Varrio Los Aztecas and the Mountain Cloud Boys do bad things, but all of them strongly oppose the sale of hard drugs.
- Eyepatch of Power: You can have CJ wear an eyepatch as soon as you get access to the Binco in Ganton. Having one of his eyes covered up doesn't negatively affect him a bit.
- Face Heel Turn: Big Smoke and Ryder. Subverted in that they were never faces in the first place. Arguably, Ryder was, very early in the game. At least he was shooting with you and Sweet. Alternatively, at least he was pretending to shoot with you and Sweet. Perhaps it is a matter of Heel Heelier Turn.
- Averted with several characters (specifically Toreno, Cesar and Woozie) who are depicted as having the potential to betray CJ but who never actually do.
- Fake Band: The Gurning Chimps, although, unlike their predecessor Love Fist, they don't have any songs on in-game radio.
- Fat Bastard: Big Smoke. Also CJ if you have him spend most of his free time at the Cluckin' Bell.
- Faux Affably Evil: Tenpenny.
- Filth: The Gayborhood has a porn theater showing the rather unimaginative Wizard of Ass.
- Five-Bad Band:
- Five-Man Band:
- Los Santos chapter:
- San Fierro chapter:
- Flanderization: Catalina is a total adrenaline junkie, unlike in Grand Theft Auto III. Of course, since this is a prequel, one could argue that by the time Grand Theft Auto III rolls around, she's undergone Character Development.
- Freudian Excuse: CJ will sometimes mockingly say that he had a bad childhood when killing random people. That and "I blame society!".
- A Friend in Need: Cesar leading CJ to the Wham Mission is what solidifies their friendship.
- Friendship Moment:
- Cesar has one with Carl when he shows Carl that Smoke and Ryder are betraying the Families. This is what leads to his Lancer status.
- CJ learning about Woozie's blindness also qualifies, as the two become noticeably more buddy-buddy afterward.
- Funny Background Event:
- In the "Good afternoon, Balla dope pushers!" cutscene in the early mission "Cleaning The Hood", take a close look at the background. You can actually see a Balla getting some head. Computer controlled pedestrians will often stop and carry on non-sequetir-filled conversations reminiscent of Postal 2.
- San Andreas is depicted as a living environment, so while travelling around it's not uncommon for the player to spy police chases, fights, shootings, and general insanity going on completely separate from what the player is doing... ...except for the random plane crashes that occur, usually right on top of where CJ is standing.
- Game Breaking Bug: The infamous Madd Dogg glitch. A glitch in a mission where you had to save him from his own suicide attempt by positioning a truck full of hay under him before he could jump off a building would become Unwinnable because he would jump off the building before the cutscene ended. This glitch also made the game Unwinnable, and this is compounded by the fact that no one is certain what triggers this glitch; it seems to be completely random. Many suggestions have been made, the most commonly accepted "cause" being that it's caused by cheating extremely often, or using common cheats. This is discredited, since many people who never cheated once the entire game still had the glitch occur, while some that cheated extensively never saw it. One cause is the "pedestrians riot with golf clubs" cheat (which cannot be turned off), causing everyone to become hostile to each other. This mission is affected because Madd Dogg's character attempts to run to the nearest NPC to fight them, and in doing so, runs off the roof and dies. This is made even worse by it being one of the last missions in the game, meaning that if you get this glitch, you're screwed and have to start all over and pray you don't get the glitch again. Though, mercifully, it seems as though it never happens in two new games in a row.
- Also, if you attempt to play basketball in Madd Dogg's mansion, all basketballs on the world map will be deleted from the game, meaning you can't play it again in that particular save. This one is minor, since basketball is not needed for 100% Completion, but another glitch involving the mansion that you should worry about involves saving there, which corrupts your file.
- There's one in the Woozie mission "Mountain Cloud Boys" (reported to occur in at least the PC and PlayStation 2 versions). After you take Woozie around the block to the ambush Triad meeting, once you get out of the car and the cutscene plays, you won't be able to control CJ, the camera, or do anything except go to the pause menu. Fortunately, you can defuse this one by stopping at the target before Woozie stops talking about the Vietnamese gang, thus preventing the cutscene from running.
- One of Zero's missions involving using a radio-controlled toy airplane to kill a team of couriers is rendered next to impossible by a glitch that depletes the plane's fuel at a steady rate instead of only being used when CJ hits the gas, which means there's no way to conserve fuel; on the PlayStation 2 version, it's basically impossible to finish Zero's missions without cheating.
- Game Mod: Ranging from improved textures to increased draw distance to gameplay changes to, most infamously, the Hot Coffee scandal. To begin with, you can replace CJ with Marisa Kirisame complete with Master Spark.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: CJ is not a nice man, but in the cutscenes at least he's more of an Anti-Hero who cares about his family and his neighborhood and will not cross some moral lines. None of this prevents you from... say, beating old women to death with a baseball bat or going on a Grove Street killing spree just for kicks. Nor will anyone treat CJ differently for doing such things.
- Gameplay Roulette: Done right, since that's part of the fun.
- Gang-Bangers: The Groves, the Ballas and the Varrios Los Aztecas.
- Gayborhood: The Queens district in San Fierro, based on, of course, the most famous Gayborhood in the world: The Castro, San Francisco.
- Gayngster: OG Loc. You first encounter him when he's leaving prison and wants to kill his prison-boyfriend for spreading rumors about their tryst, though of course OG is in complete denial. Instead, you end up killing the boyfriend. OG Loc later does a radio interview where he stresses his macho-ness. Of course, it was a "prison thing".
- Geo Effects: Vehicles lose grip in the rain, especially on the grass. Aircraft experience wind and turbulence during a storm.
- Ghost Town: There are quite a few in the deserts.
- Gratuitous Spanish:
- The name of the town El Quebrados is grammatically incorrect: it should be either "El Quebrado" or "Los Quebrados".
- "Los Flores", the correct form being "Las Flores".
- Varrios Los Aztecas is misspelled Spanish for "The Aztec Neighborhoods", the correct word is "Barrio", or "Barrios" in plural. Probably misspelled to be stylized since in Mexican Spanish, the sound of B and V are basically pronounced the same way.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy:
- The police: one can evade arrest by getting a haircut, or by changing shoes. Or putting on a pair of 'joke glasses', the type with fake nose and eyebrows attached. Or going into a gun shop and waiting. How does that look on their report?
- The military guards. It is really easy to break into Area 69 and other supposedly well guarded places because of how stupid the guards behave. They don't mind when their colleagues get shot right next to them and if you run fast enough they even forget about you after you've stood right in front of you. Not to mention that they are completely deaf. You can fire your M4 all you want and they won't even raise an eyebrow.
- Guide Dang It:
- One of the most common questions seems to be: "Where do I find this 'Euros' car for the export list?" And rightfully so, since it only spawns in one specific location and only when it is wanted for the export list (and you need to know what it looks like, to boot). Fortunately, the exporting of cars is optional for completing the storyline of the game, but for those playing for the coveted "100% completion" awards, you gotta grin and bear it. Or find a walkthrough.
- In addition, for 100% completion CJ has to locate 50 photo locations in San Fierro, spray 100 gang tags in Los Santos, track down 50 oysters in the waters of San Andreas, and collect 50 horseshoes in Las Venturas. The San Andreas map is so huge and complex, and many of these items/jump sites are in hidden locations, that the only practical way to find them all is with a walkthrough or guidebook (although subverted by the Brady Games official strategy guide that gives incorrect locations or unhelpful directions for many of these).
- Oh and there are also 70 hidden unique stunt jumps too, though these aren't required for 100% completion. Many of these jumps are obvious (why else would a jump ramp be placed in the middle of trailer park?), but some - especially those that require the player to jump off a cliff or some such ( one jump actually requires CJ to launch a car from Red County, hope it flies high and fast enough to cross a bay, and land on the San Fierro Airport tarmac) - are not intuitive and need a manual to locate/become aware of.
- And without a guidebook, many players likely complete the storyline portion of the game unaware of things like the hidden courier challenges, the bicycle and motorbike challenges, the mountain biking races, and the two triathlons that are only accessible on certain days of the week! Although also not needed for 100% completion, several of the women available for dating are not located in obvious places, either (one is hidden in a park in San Fierro that CJ is not required to visit for any mission or item pick-up).
- Guns Akimbo: You can dual-wield the standard pistol (although not the Desert Eagle or the silenced version), the sawed-off shotgun, and the two machine-pistols after you max out your skill with each respective weapon.
- Helicopter Blender: The mission "Reuniting the Families" ends with both versions of this trope: a police helicopter tilts forward, threatening to slice up the protagonists' vehicle, and a police officer on the hood of said vehicle ends up minced in the process. Additionally, if you yourself gain control of a helicopter, you can practice this trope on any random passersby you run across, just as you can in any other Grand Theft Auto game with helicopters.
- Heroic Fire Rescue: CJ has to enter a burning house to rescue a girl. From fire he caused in the first place.
- Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: Invoked when a guy called The Truth gets something CJ stole from a government base, he says "They shall call this Year Zero."
- Hollywood Nerd: Zero. For instance, he quips Star Wars as well as Winston Churchill (albeit poorly for the latter) during his rooftop defense mission.
- Hollywood Silencer: A silenced 9mm pistol is available and used during some stealth-based missions. It makes the classic fwip! sound and does not alert moderately distant guards.
- Hot Coffee Minigame: The Trope Namer. The original release of the game had a Dummied Out sex mini-game that played out when dates ended in "coffee". Given the graphics engine, CJ is dating blocky Uncanny Valley girls: the game is about as saucy as banging Legomen together. When moders re-activated the game a scandal errupted and denials were issued, as mocked by Penny Arcade.
- Hufflepuff House: Varrios Los Aztecas. Their leader, Caesar, could be considered a Supporting Leader.
- I Can See My House From Here: If you're getting chased by a ghetto bird (police chopper), one of the gunners may shout this. The other gunner tells him to shut up, acutely embarrassed.
- Idle Animation: CJ will randomly start singing a song from the last radio station you listened to if he's standing still for a while. Amusingly, CJ's not so hot at recalling the lyrics.
- I'll Take Two Beers, Too!: There is a mission where you and your homies get drive-thru. One of your homies, Big Smoke, orders an absurdly long list of foods while the others order casually. And then, when everyone else is busy trying to keep a rival gang from invading your neighborhood, Smoke eats all the food, even the stuff he didn't order. Of course, after you know he's betraying you, that scene can look much different.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Throughout the game, you'll get in shootouts with all kinds of gangbangers, cops, "redneck survivalists", pedestrians, military, drug dealers, the Italian mob, the Russian mob, federal agents, federal agents who might be aliens, and not a single goddamn one of them can score a hit more than once per every ten bullets expended at the very most. Of course, due to the Grand Theft Auto games infamously wonky targeting system, neither can CJ sometimes.
- Inappropriate Hunger: Big Smoke eats the whole gang's takeout while being shot at by the Ballas. Of course, this is meant to foreshadow the fact that Smoke has been with the Ballas all along. When called out on it, Smoke replies:
Big Smoke: If you can eat your food while everyone else is losing theirs and blaming you, you straight, homie.
- Gameplay-wise, to get fat or even get a lot of energy for working out, you often need to eat several of the largest combo available.
- Ink Suit Actor:
- Officer Tenpenny was clearly designed with the knowledge that Samuel L. Jackson was going to be his voice actor because he looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson. Hell, this game takes place in 1992, so maybe that is Samuel L. Jackson under an assumed name harassing CJ.
- Likewise, Zero looks exactly like his voice actor, David Cross. And Jizzy B. looks just like his voice actor Charlie Murphy. And James Woods, the voice of Mike Toreno, could easily play the role in a live action adaptation.
- Cesar Vialpando is clearly modeled on Clifton Collins, Jr.
- It's All About Me: Tenpenny, in his dying breath, claims that only he can set San Andreas in the right direction.
- Sweet refuses to treat Carl with even the basest respect, and is willing to keep his family living in poverty for a chance to kill Tenpenny, even when they have a chance to become millionaires via the casino, car showroom, airstrip, and countless other properties that Carl has worked hard to earn. Justified in that Tenpenny gave his family hell, had a hand in killing his mother, and pretty much manipulated and/or coerced everyone (including his own lancer Big Smoke) into doing his bidding.
- Ryder, on the other hand, is just an asshole.
- So is Pulaski, repeatedly making racist remarks, insulting CJ, and making vulgar statements about his family.
- Jiggle Physics: The one single stance, and easy to miss, in the whole series: there's a particular female civilian near the beaches and pool areas, who's notable for having quite a big rack and a red bikini, whose breasts have a noticeable jiggle if she's laying around sun bathing, yes her breasts jiggle by standing still, the melons will be in their place of she's walking around.
- Karmic Death: Somewhat depending on your point of view. At the end, Tenpenny ends up crashing right in the Grove cul-de-sac, with the people he harrassed and abused for years standing over him as he dies. More or less bringing the story full circle. CJ's last words to him are "See you 'round, officer". This is not only a reference to the situation, but a callback to Tenpenny's crack at the beginning of the game.
- Kick the Dog: CJ despite being the hero gets a few of these moments. These include murdering Mad Dogg's manager for OG Loc, attacking a nearby gang at a funeral for someone he killed, and murdering people that are trying to bring down Tenpenny including FBI agents.
- Tenpenny, of course, gets plenty of them throughout the game.
- Knight Templar: Officer Tenpenny, according to him. Every action he takes in the game says otherwise. To a lesser extent, Toreno too.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Ryder is convinced he's a genius, but he's probably the stupidest person in the whole game.
Ryder: Hey, CJ, tell me why I didn't finish high school.
- Lampshade Hanging:
- One Mission for Ryder is to break into a National Guard Depot. After the mission cutscene a van waits outside for Ryder and CJ. CJ comments on that: "That van wasn't outside when I came in!"
- "This is all about speed and commitment. You got a GPS in the cab. Get to each set of map coordinates as quick as you can. Make it to all the coordinates then get the truck back here. Lose the truck and you fail." CJ's Reply: First, what's a GPS? Second, fail what? Third, who the fuck are you?"
- The Lancer: Technically, you are this to Sweet early on. Later, Cesar is this to you.
- Leitmotif: A specific hip-hop tune is played whenever Officer Tenpenny and Pulaski show up.
- Le Parkour: The first game in the series (and probably Wide Open Sandbox games in general) that allowed your character to grab and jump over objects taller than himself. A godsend when avoiding police or getting across the city. It also provides a boost to immersion: it removes the jarring Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence. However, you still can't climb ladders...
- Let's You and Him Fight: Tenpenny claims to be setting the gangs against each other to weaken them.
- Let the Boss Win: Woozie's men constantly do this whenever they play games with him. Ironically, Woozie seems like an nice enough guy - especially to his men, with whom he is very loyal - such that it's likely he wouldn't go Bad Boss on them if he did lose once in a while.
- Level Up At Intimacy 5: While it doesn't directly affect CJ's stats, dating the girlfriends bestows various abilities and bonuses to the Player Character, such as getting out of the hospital or police custody for free (and without losing his weapon inventory). Also, getting CJ's relationship progress with them to a certain value grants him access to special vehicles and outfits which will affect his stats, particularly Sex Appeal. Here are a few notable examples:
- Attempting to date casino employee-by-day-Dominatrix-by-night Millie gets you a gimp outfit; almost certainly a Shout-Out to Pulp Fiction. Dating Millie to a certain percentage of progress (or just killing her) is actually necessary to progress in the game, unlike the other girlfriends who can be completely ignored if the player chooses.
- Getting to 50% progress with mechanic Michelle gets you the keys to her Monster Truck.
- Reaching 100% progress with police officer Barbara gets you a police uniform, which allows you to enter most police stations in the state.
- Lighter and Softer: This game is in tone probably the lightest in the series. CJ  and most of his allies are far closer to the antiheroic side of the scale than the protagonists from Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the world is much lighter than Grand Theft Auto IV (still Crapsack, but amusingly so rather than depressingly so), and the story is lighthearted and fairly optimistic. Also unlike Claude and Tommy, CJ clearly has fun and smiles now and again.
- Locomotive Level: Three: one where you rob a train by riding it and tossing boxes to Ryder, one where you're on a motorcycle keeping up alongside the train, and one where you're on a jetpack flying around the train. There are side-missions where you can drive a train, but nothing interesting happens. At all. Unless you go so recklessly fast that you derail the train.
- Ludicrous Gibs: An interesting case, as it's not one of the main reasons behind the controversy attached to the game. It also occurs quite rarely, namely, in these instances:
- In "Reuniting The Families", you are being chased by a SWAT helicopter and a squad of motorcycle policemen. One of the biker cops jumps onto the hood of your car. Meanwhile, the chopper pilot, at a loss as to how to kill you after losing his door gunners, decides to tilt the chopper rotors-first towards your car. Guess what happens to the cop on the hood.
- You can also do this by driving over pedestrians with a Combine Harvester. Doing so causes the chute on the Harvester's rear normally used for ejecting bundles of hay to spew out a neat little cube of blood and guts.
- The Mafiya: CJ and Big Smoke butt heads with Russian arms dealers in an early mission. Whether they were true bratvas or just gopniki is rather unclear.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: When you're being chased by the San Fierro PD, one of the pursuing officers may call out "You know, I can make this look like a suicide." And at the end of the game: after a lengthy chase through half of Los Santos that results in Officer Tenpenny losing control of his firetruck and crashing off of the bridge overlooking the Grove Street cul-de-sac, CJ is about to finally shoot him dead when Sweet stops him, saying that there's no need to put a bullet in the dying Tenpenny. He's just a cop who killed himself in a traffic accident, with no one to blame.
- Man Hug: Many: CJ and his brother Sweet, CJ and his best friend Cesar.
- Manipulative Bastard: Officer Tenpenny, who's constantly getting people who are "beneath him" (like CJ) to do his dirty work for him, and he appears to take sadistic pleasure in manipulating those he has under his thumb.
- Meaningful Name: The Grove Street Families gang frontrunners all have special meanings to their nicknames.
- Ryder is a burglar and uses trucks to unload stolen goods from private property.
- Sweet spends most of the game conning CJ into doing most of his bidding (in other words, "sweet-talking").
- CJ has no real nickname, just his initials, signifying his status as a player avatar with no strong personality traits.
- Smoke is Tenpenny's Dragon, and helped orchestrate all of the game's events from killing CJ's mother on so that he could operate a crack-dealing empire. Not to mention his initials are "BS" which he is full of in more ways than one.
- The Grand Theft Auto III main character is finally given a name: Claude.
- The Men in Black: Toreno has the vibe. Definitely the "people" on the mysterious plane that shows up at your airfield.
- Minigame Zone: Minigames are all over the place in San Andreas, but Las Venturas has the highest concentration.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: OG Loc's name is not pronounced "Ogg Lock".
- Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters: The Grove Street Families, especially Sweet and CJ, are very keen on traditional family values. Their allies, the Varrios Los Aztecas and the Mountain Cloud Boys Triads, fit as well.
- The Nineties: Specifically, 1992. Thug life, livin' in the 'hood, lowriders, N.W.A., Public Enemy and Ice Cube on the radio.
- Nintendo Hard: Grand Theft Auto forums contain numerous accounts by players who have abandoned the game due to inability to complete a number of levels, with "Wrong Side of the Tracks" (a mission requiring the player to drive a bike alongside a train while Smoke, a terrible shot, attempts to shoot enemy gang member off the top) and the "Flight School" (a.k.a. "Learning to Fly") missions being declared impossible by some. The latter is affected particularly on PlayStation 2 and PC versions by poor controls, and forums include accounts of people making hundreds of attempts to complete just the third test (circling the airfield).
- Nitro Boost: One of the two performance upgrades you can acquire for your car at the mod garages. Comes in the "Stored Nitro Charges" type. Also, the reward for finishing the Taxi Driver side missions includes unlimited nitrous on all taxis.
- No-Gear Level: Twice.
- Noble Demon: CJ may be willing to steal, murder, and do violent criminal acts, but he has a good side as well.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Madd Dogg is based on Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg and voiced by Ice T.
- One of the barbers looks and sounds exactly like Morgan Freeman, and another is pretty clearly Vanilla Ice (and has hilariously bad street slang skills, just like him).
- OG Loc's appearance is based heavily on Tupac Shakur, but his personality is anachronistically Ja Rule (apparently a leftover from when CJ was going to be voiced by Ja's then-rival 50 Cent)
- Ryder is very obviously Easy-E with the exaggeration turned Up to Eleven.
- Kurt Cobain is commonly seen on the streets.
- A blonde woman dressed like Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct is seen everywhere.
- In the countryside one of the men seeing walking the streets looks like the villain from the original The Hills Have Eyes (this man also makes a cameo appearance in the game as Millie's gimp).
- The scant details that the fictional band The Gurning Chimps are from "Madchester", Maccer's appearance and accent and the early '90s setting suggest that they are expys of The Stone Roses. Or Oasis. Or The Happy Mondays, whose frontman provides the voice.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Not only are the names of the cities parallels for real-world locations (Los Santos = Los Angeles, San Fierro = San Francisco, Las Venturas = Las Vegas), but the names of the districts also imitate those of their real-world counterparts (Compton = Ganton, Hollywood = Vinewood, etc). This leads into a bit of a Celebrity Paradox when the music on the radio references places that the locations in the game are based on by their real names.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: This is the first Grand Theft Auto game to adopt a comparatively realistic set of Jump Physics and the appropriate fall damage to accompany drops of varying distances. However, there are still some absurd methods of negating this damage, such as:
- Soft Water.
- So long as you are in a vehicle, you will receive no damage from impacts, including falls from great heights. This becomes especially absurd when you fall while on a bicycle or motorbike. Even if the impact ejects you from the bike, you will only receive minor, if any damage.
- Office Golf: Woozie does this at the Triad's Las Venturas casino. His henchman makes sure his average remains low despite Woozie being blind.
- Olympic Swimmer: And quite a drastic switch from the Super Drowning Skills of all the preceding entries in the series at that.
- Omniscient Morality License: Mike Toreno operates under one of these. And, as always, so do you.
- Outlaw Couple: Carl and Catalina are briefly this in the "Countryside" missions; the radio station even mentions your antics at one point. Catalina, being an Ax Crazy psychopath, pretty much ruins their business (and physical) relationship in short order though.
- Outrun the Fireball: A couple of times, but especially in one of the final missions in the game after you kill Big Smoke.
- Pimped-Out Car: One of the many things to do in this game.
- Rice Burner: While all the mod garages give you the option to only customize your car's appearance and skip out on performance upgrades, Wheel Arch Angels in San Fierro technically specializes in these, given that they only accept import tuners of Asian makes and aforementioned "performance upgrades" are only limited to hydraulic suspensions (which are actually useful for negotiating uneven terrain when deployed) and nitrous oxide.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: While not immediately noticeable, it can be seen that CJ is much shorter than most pedestrians, standing a full head below some. However, nobody ever comments on his height, and even if they did, it's likely they'd regret it afterwards.
- Plot-Triggering Death: CJ comes back from Liberty City to attend his mother's funeral.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: OG Loc is pathetic as a "gangsta". He does manage to make a music career out of it for a while, but that's only because he had CJ steal Madd Dogg's rhyme book.
- Pretty in Mink: Some of the women pedestrians walk around in a fur coat.
- Spoofed when a pimp claims he has loads of stuff made of mink.
- Also spoofed in a radio ad about selling fur coats to guys in a mid-life crisis.
- Previous Player Character Cameo (Sort Of): The quiet player character from Grand Theft Auto III (Claude) makes a cameo as the new boyfriend of CJ's ex-girlfriend, Catalina. CJ refers to him as "that mute asshole".
- Prodigal Hero: CJ does it twice: first time, at the beginning of the game when he returns from Liberty City, and second time, when Sweet gets arrested and spends most of the game in San Fierro and Las Venturas, only coming back to Los Santos near the end of the game.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kendl gives one to CJ when he complains about the state of the garage he's received, telling him that he's wanted rewards without work, and can't see an opportunity when one falls into his lap.
- Reckless Gun Usage: In one of the radio segments, Jack Howitzer threatens to kill host Billy Dexter unless he touches Jack's genitals (It Makes Sense in Context... sorta) and then says he was just fooling around and that his gun was unloaded, only for it to go off and kill Dexter.
- Reverse Mole: Late in the game, it is revealed that Officer Jimmy Hernandez, who was never an overly willing participant of C.R.A.S.H. to begin with, has been feeding dirt on Tenpenny and Pulaski to Internal Affairs.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The bent cop Tenpenny works for an anti-gang unit C.R.A.S.H.: Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums. The unit is (very loosely) based on a real life police counter-gang unit gone bad. In real life, the Los Angeles Police Department was rocked by the C.R.A.S.H. Rampart scandal.
- CJ's mother was killed in a drive-by from a green Sabre, which is later found in a police garage. This is directly based off the black Chevrolet Impala SS in the drive-by which killed Chris Wallace, which although related happened in 1997.
- Towards the end of the game, the riot that breaks out in Los Santos is reminiscent of the Rodney King beating trial riot.
- RPG Elements: The game has the CJ's (the player character) skill with guns increase as he used them, allows him to train in gyms to improve his strength, stamina and fighting skills, and has him having to eat occasionally in order to stay healthy. Fat and Muscle feed into CJ's relationships with his girlfriends. Progress in those relationship is increased in the dating mini-game. Compared to the sequel, the work required to keep on top of these elements is fairly light and often optional. In the case of CJ's physical appearance, however, Rockstar includes an out in that if CJ collects all 50 oysters hidden around the state, the appearance requirement for dating is removed. He still needs to avoid getting too fat, otherwise; it affects running and jumping; avoiding eating altogether eventually results in CJ losing muscle and health.
- Satellite Character: Kendl is for the most part CJ's Sister/Cesar's girlfriend.
- Scenery Porn: Being a sandbox game, San Andreas doesn't have much in the way of huge, time-consuming panoramic shots of the landscape, but the love and attention to detail is clear. Las Venturas is, barring certain plot-and-legality-based changes and scale, almost perfectly accurate to the Strip and Fremont Street in real life.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them: Officers Tenpenny and Pulaski. And Toreno. And CJ.
- Sequel Escalation: If you were expecting more of the same Grand Theft Auto III/Vice City gameplay, only set in the '90s and with RPG elements, boy were you in for a surprise.
- There's also the Mr.T hair and beard you can get. And The Lil' Probe Inn? And Kurt Cobain.
- Certain NPCs look like Will Smith.
- Look at a picture of Ryder, then a picture of Eric Wright, a.k.a. Eazy-E, a pioneer of Gangsta Rap.
- The katana's mere existance in this game is at least partially a Pulp Fiction reference.
- Blink and you'll miss it: During the convenience store/tanker robbery with Catalina, the convenience store's bulletproof outer glass has a logo in the corner that says Max Pane. You can see it most clearly just at the end of the mission's opening cutscene.
- Clucking Bell may be a reference to Blackadder: at a stressful moment Edmund says he's thinking of "a phrase that rhymes with [it]."
- In the mission "Air Raid", you have to gun down RC planes that are coming to bomb Zero's antennas. After you gun a few down, Zero may call out "Great kid, don't get cocky!".
- In one of the car-modding garages, one of the custom paintjobs for the Sultan is very similar to the one seen on the Subaru Impreza used by the company to participate in the World Rally Championship.
- The mission "Just Business" features a large truck breaking off of a bridge over a flood control channel into the channel below. It looks suspiciously  like a scene from Terminator 2, released one year before the game is set.
- Certain NPCs are dressed as Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s character in Boyz N the Hood.
- One mission for The Truth which has CJ stealing a combine harvester from a farm run by survivalists is entitled Body Harvest.
- Signs of Disrepair: A billboard shows a girl drinking a bottle of milky-white soda. At the end of a mission, CJ's out-of-control car changes its message from "A taste of what's to come!" to "A taste of come!".
- Simultaneous Warning and Action: The San Fierro Police are trained social workers. That means they try to "Open a constructive dialog" while beating Carl with their nightsticks.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Sage, the DJ at grunge/alternative station Radio X, to the point that she's an in-universe Scrappy.
- Some Dexterity Required: A staple of the Grand Theft Auto series, some missions are made difficult NOT by actually being hard but by forcing the player to use cars with inferior to awful handling. Case in point: race across San Fierro would be MUCH easier if the car didn't fishtail every time you tried to turn. Same goes for the 8-track stadium car racing.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Can happen at anytime when you listen to the radio while driving, but there is also at least one deliberate example: when you have to go to Liberty City to execute a hit in a restaurant (i.e. it turns into an action packed gunfight), quiet classical music is playing in said restaurant.
- Stealth-Based Mission: Some of the storyline missions and the "Burglar" side mission follow this formula. They are generally not too difficult, and actually quite engaging, as they take cues from another infamous game by Rockstar.
- The Stoner: The Truth and Ryder. A few of the recurring characters from Vice City, as well.
- Super Drowning Skills: The first game in the series to avert this. Unless you're an NPC character controlled by the A.I. whose name isn't CJ. Then you die the second you hit even a shallow pond.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: Depending on the player and a little luck, this can happen. For example, CJ could be on one of The Truth's missions, in the hippe van and high as a kite while "In A Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly is playing on the radio.
- Also, this one might qualify.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: In one of the very first missions, Ryder puts his cap backwards and goes to rob the local Pizza Stack. But when the cashier recognizes him due to his height and voice (and, obviously, his Paper-Thin Disguise):
Ryder: Give up the money! This' a raid!
- Take That: Quite a few at Driv3r and True Crime: Streets of LA, most notably a billboard in Los Santos with "True Grime: Street Cleaners". Also, at the War Memorial in San Fierro, at the top and bottom are tombstones that read "R.I.P Opposition 1997-2004". Also Hilarious in Hindsight, due to Saints Row 2.
- Tank Goodness: A series staple, the Rhino, returns with upgraded speed and handling as well as a new look based on the M1 Abrams. Also, one of the rarest vehicles in the game, a bulletproof SWAT tank could be acquired in the final mission where you use it to break into Big Smoke's Crack Palace.
- Thememobile: The Truth's "Mothership", a repainted camper van, is a great example. Several other major characters have their own vehicles, but for the most part they're only distinguished by a unique license plate.
- Theme Tune Rap: CJ's voice actor is Young Maylay, an up-and-coming rapper. His debut album "San Andreas: The Mix Tapes" features a song that has him rapping about the game in character as CJ.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: As the game progresses, the player gains access to very powerful weaponry and vehicles, which can make a number of missions a cakewalk. The epitome of this is the Rhino, a near-indestructable tank, which can be used on everything from the game's Vigilante side-mission to running over hapless enemy gang members during the gang warfare stage of the game.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch
- Toasted Buns: Averted with the Black Project Jetpack, which has outboard shoulder-level thrusters. It is also a very practical vehicle to use: it is useful in collecting the hidden Horseshoes in Las Venturas and plays a central part in one of the game's most memorable missions.
- Trash Talk: CJ does this all the time in combat. "Oh, look, a gun." *Blam*
- The Triads and the Tongs
- True Companions: The group CJ builds during the course of the game is large, diverse and bound together like family.
- Updated Rerelease: After the game was pulled from stores after the Hot Coffee incident and the Media Watchdogs had a field day with it, Rockstar tried to justify a rerelease of the game (while making the "offensive" bit truly inaccessible to keep the game rated M) by including a "behind the scenes" movie and a 30 minute cut scene showing events that occurred before the beginning of the game. Some say that some glitches and bugs were also fixed. PC modders tend to avoid the updated PC version as it made modding, well, harder.
- Verbal Tic: T-Bone ends each and every sentence with "Ese", to sound more "cholo". Cesar Vialpando also does this, though less often, and also ends his phrases with "holmes" and "vato" (a number of pedestrians can be heard using these phrases in their conversations too).
- Vice City: Well, Vice State.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: A staple and much of the point of the whole Grand Theft Auto series, but it especially comes into play here as an odd case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. CJ is, for the most part, presented within the story as a ruthless but well-meaning Anti-Hero rather than a Villain Protagonist, but the player's still free to go on genocidal rampages in between each mission.
- Villainous Breakdown: Both Tenpenny and Pulaski undergo one late in the game because the FBI has taken an interest in their involvement with the criminal underworld. Tenpenny is the one most visibly effected by it, as he goes from being smug, superior and cocky to edgy, paranoid and prone to outbursts. And when it's revealed that fellow officer Hernandez has been ratting them out... well, Tenpenny's reaction isn't pretty.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Big Smoke appears as a respected public figure on the news in latter parts of the game, encouraging (of all things) to keep the streets drug free while building orphanages. Lazlow, of all people, remarks on this during a radio interview...
Lazlow: Big Smoke is doing a lot for the community. Or to it.
- Violation of Common Sense: There's one point where you jump out of a moving plane, onto another moving plane, open the door and start shooting everyone in sight. Impossibility notwithstanding, who the hell would ever think of trying to do this just for a second?
- CJ himself lampshades some of these missions himself occasionally, especially during the Toreno missions, in which he would have just walked away and never looked back if it wasn't for the fact that Toreno happens to be the key to getting Sweet out of jail.
- Virtual Paper Doll: For the first time in the series, you are given a highly customizable character in the form of CJ: you can make him skinny, buff or fat, change his hairstyle and facial hair, and buy him a wide variety of clothes.
- Warp Whistle: The trains and airports.
- Warrior Poet: OG Loc refers to himself as one during a radio interview and it apparently is the image he tries to create. It doesn't quite work out that well.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tenpenny claims that his approach to the job is about "percentages" and that his philosophy calls for overlooking some crime to achieve a greater good. It appears that he believes what he says, but in reality he's rotten to the core.
- Wham! Episode: "The Green Sabre". Not only are your best friends Ryder and Smoke revealed as working with the enemies (C.R.A.S.H. and the Ballas), but your brother Sweet is shot and arrested, Grove Street goes to shit, you lose all the territory you'd captured up to this point, and you're taken out in the middle of nowhere to do an errand for Tenpenny and Pulaski. Just... Holy shit.
- What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: CJ says a variation of this after killing his friend-turned-crack-pusher Big Smoke.
- What the Hell, Player?:
- You can have fellow gang members ride around in your car. Driving recklessly (excessive speed, driving off a cliff, etc) will result in them calling you out on it. The best is "Cars can't fly, you bitch!".
- The "dates" respond to crazy conduct, as well. Police officer Barbara is prone to scream "This is not responsible driving!" if you speed (Katie appears turned on by it, however, even though your relationship status meter actually drops). Even worse, if you use the attack button while trying to give flowers you'll get a sharp message about abusing your girlfriend and the relationship status will go down.
- When CJ crashes into cars, he tends to shout insults at them (e.g. "did you buy your license!?" or, "Oh, you asshole, my shit!"). While he is technically insulting the driver of the other car, some of the lines could be interpreted as insults to the player's own driving abilities.
- Where It All Began: The last few missions take place in Los Santos again. The final cut scene takes right in Grove Street, where CJ started his adventure after coming back home.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cesar is afraid of heights, as seen in a mission where he and CJ have to steal a car out of a cargo ship by lifting it out with a crane. CJ gets up in the crane while Cesar stays on the ground.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
- In the mission "High Noon", Officer Pulaski reveals that he's wanted to just shoot CJ from the beginning. The only thing stopping him was Officer Tenpenny, who kept coming up with reasons to keep CJ alive.
- CJ could just shoot every villain near the beginning.
- Same with every villain towards CJ as well, an example being when you first meet Smoke, he could have just easily bashed CJ's head in, seeing his true nature and all that. Big Smoke's approach may be justified, though, in that he may have preferred to convince CJ to come to his side a la Emperor Palpatine to Luke Skywalker, especially when Sweet early was the guy heading the Families and CJ at that point was his lancer.
- Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: A couple of missions early in the game deal with this. In one, you have to stop an arms dealer from the post-Soviet black market who's been supplying the Ballas gang.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Once all areas are unlocked, the player has access to a huge, open-ended, "living" region to explore, with widely varying geography, cities and waterways. Even in the early stages of the game, when only Los Santos and countryside to the north is available, this still provides the player with more exploration space than most previous Grand Theft Auto games combined (and a cheat code, coupled with CJ's newfound ability to swim, makes it possible to explore the complete state from the start).
- Yandere: Catalina, particularly once she starts falling for you.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Tenpenny has Carl retrieve a dossier during his time in Las Venturas. Right afterwards, he has Carl dig his own grave, intending to have Pulaski kill him.
- You Know I'm Black, Right?: Played with. CJ has been working with Wu Zi Mu (or "Woozie"), a Triad leader who tries to hide the fact that he's blind, but fails spectacularly. When CJ responds to Woozie's big reveal by saying "No shit!", he then asks if Woozie knows he's black. The Triad's response? "I'm blind, Carl, not stupid."
- At least in cutscenes.
- He's black, but this trope covers that as well.
- Read: overwhelmingly.