Today, a new report about the next installment in the Grand Theft Auto series claimed that GTA 6 would feature a playable woman. You might assume this is the franchise’s first playable female character. However, technically, there have been a few playable women in GTA games before this. The key word in that last sentence is “technically.”
Rockstar Games’ long-running Grand Theft Auto franchise comprises over a dozen open-world games that feature criminals, shootouts, and lots of stolen cars. Most of the games have revolved around men like CJ or Tommy Vercetti. So it was a pretty big deal when a newly released Bloomberg report claimed that the next game in the series, reportedly set in Vice City, will co-star a Latina woman. Many observers assumed this would be the first time Rockstar had ever let a woman star in a GTA game. But if you’re a big enough GTA nerd, you know that isn’t the case.
The first GTA game to let you play as a woman was…actually, the original Grand Theft Auto, released all the way back in 1997 on PC and PlayStation. That game gave you a list of characters you could choose to play as, which included not just one, but four different women: Divine, Mikki, Katie, and Ulrika.
Now, to be clear, these four women weren’t voiced, picking them didn’t change anything in the game, and they, like the other protags in that first GTA, didn’t really have any personality. Beyond their names and character portraits, you couldn’t really tell you were playing as a woman on account of the game’s limited visuals and top-down view. But, technically, you could play as a woman in Grand Theft Auto all the way back in the late ‘90s.
The next game in the series to let you play as a woman was GTA 2, but specifically the Game Boy Color port of Rockstar’s open-world sequel. This version of the game included two more women you could play as: Candy and Gretchen. (This Candy has no connection to the pornstar Candy Suxxx from Vice City.)
Like the women in the first game, these two had no real personality or differences from the similarly blank male options. And like before, once you selected them and started playing, it would be nearly impossible to tell you were playing as a woman in-game. Still, it counts!
Finally, we come to GTA Online and GTA’s most famous and fleshed-out female protagonist yet. If you’ve played GTA Online, you know that when you start the game you get to choose if you want to be male or female. After that, the game does (mostly) account for your choice, with specific dialogue changes based on your gender. And while the protagonist of GTA Online doesn’t talk or show much personality, they do sometimes smile, laugh, make choices, and react to events happening around them, which is more than the old-school GTA protags ever managed. So, while it’s a low bar to clear, GTA Online’s female protagonist is also the franchise’s most developed yet.
If the reports of a woman co-starring in Grand Theft Auto 6 are true, it will still be a big deal for the series, as its previous attempts at including women have been mostly low-effort palette swaps and not well-written or fully voiced characters with their own personalities. Assuming GTA 6 continues Rockstar’s trend of every new game being bigger and more cinematic than the last (for better and for worse…) it’s likely that this new woman protagonist will finally give the franchise the female lead it has long deserved and one that can stand toe-to-toe with any of the men.