Barring a miraculous future update, you probably shouldn’t buy GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch.
Despite it being the first time these games, or any of the main series games, have made it to Nintendo shores, that doesn’t make up for poor performance, a resolution that would be more at home on PS2, and load times that will give you enough time to stare at yourself in the reflection of your Switch, thinking about how much better this collection should have been on this platform.
The Definitive Edition is a collection of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Each game has received graphical updates which look great on other platforms, but here they’re so compromised that they really don’t look that much more preferable to the years-old PC and mobile ports.
There’s a plastic, Fortnite-like look to the characters. The main characters look fine, but so many side characters or NPCs look like their faces are actively melting in the hot San Andreas sun. This collection seemingly confirms that Vice City is located on Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island.
Where the PC, Xbox Series and PlayStation versions also received some pleasing lighting updates, the Nintendo Switch version trades that for a resolution that doesn’t look great in handheld mode, and looks even worse on television.
Of course, the underlying games here are unimpeachable classics of the genre. While the mission design may feel somewhat quaint in 2021, the variety in what you’re actually doing on a mission to mission basis holds up brilliantly. However, on Switch, you can only really enjoy it if you’re able to overlook the remaster’s own myriad of issues.
Things began to go wrong when we played the opening missions of San Andreas, where we had to cycle with the crew round the streets of Vinewood. We were struck by not only the low-quality textures that seem to permeate the remasters but also by just how blurry the whole game is.
Thankfully, we were on a bike and not in a vehicle because as soon as you jump into a car and approach any kind of speed, the game starts to struggle. Attempt a stunt jump and you’ll get to watch it in slow motion as the game lurches back and forth from the edge of crashing (it’s a good thing you don’t have to drive much in Grand Theft Auto, or that could become a real issue).
“The frame rate is horrible, often dipping close to 20fps, it’s so blurry you’ll think you’re actually playing on a CRT and the loading times are atrocious.”
GTA III, a game that first debuted 20 years ago, somehow has the worst performance of all three games on Nintendo Switch. During our testing, we found that AI cars generally spawn in about one block away from you, so if you’re going fast, you’re almost certain to smash into the back of a yellow taxi that’s just warped in from 2001.
Most of the music remains intact, and there’s a better checkpointing system which admittedly makes tougher missions far less frustrating, but that’s literally almost all you can say positively about improvements added with the Switch version.
The more we played GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition, the more it made sense why the game wasn’t shown before launch running on Nintendo Switch.
Where they could, the game’s developer has cleaned up some of the legacy voice lines, but plenty of them have been lost, so you’ll be having a clear conversation on Grove Street and then it’ll suddenly sound like Ryder is talking to you through a SingStar microphone.
The frame rate is horrible, it’s so blurry you’ll think you’re actually playing on a CRT and the loading times are atrocious. If you were a massive Nintendo fan to the point where you’d never owned another console and this mess was your first impression of the three of the best, and most important video games of all time, you’d wonder what all the fuss was about.
If somehow, inexplicably, you can overlook all of these issues then the three games in GTA Trilogy are undisputed classics. But if you want to revisit them properly, right now you’re far better off doing so on another platform.
Few games have had such a lasting impact on how games were made, or have been quite so successful. People who weren’t into games played those three games. Sadly, if they were to pick them up on Switch now, they'd probably wonder if they were ever good in the first place.
- The fantastic soundtrack is still mostly intact
- Awful framerate and long load times
- Blurry beyond parody
- Crashes and bugs are plentiful
- New character models are almost uniformly worse