gta trilogy
Image: Rockstar

Editor's Note. Given the sheer number of releases these days, it is impossible for us to reassess individual games in the weeks, months, sometimes years after our initial review. When post-launch updates reportedly improve the experience, we insert a note at the top of our reviews stating such, but the body of the review text and the score remains untouched.

This particular Switch release, however, was an especially notable disappointment given the prestige and iconic status of these titles in video gaming canon. So, we've made a very specific exception and asked PJ to redownload the trilogy to see how it compares to the GTA Switch ports he first played just over 18 months ago...

Back at the tail end of 2021, Rockstar Games unleashed the ludicrously named Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch, bringing a distinctly indefinitive, problematic, and shoddy port of three stone-cold classics to the eShop.

Looking back on our review at the time, we awarded the collection a 4/10, stating that;

"Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition on Switch delivers three of gaming's true greats in a shockingly rough package that manages to suck pretty much all of the fun out of Rockstar's stellar crime epics. This is a poor port, a shoddy, stuttery, low resolution mess full of bugs, glitches, audio problems and more besides."

Ouch. And in all honestly, after spending more time with the games in the weeks that followed our initial assessment, we continued to find more and more issues with a package that was genuinely a complete and utter waste of your time and money.

However, such is the compelling nature of the three juggernauts of open-world gaming contained within the GTA trilogy, we have found ourselves waiting and watching, occasionally redownloading and checking online to see what sort of state these games are currently in.

So, Has The GTA Trilogy On Switch Improved?

Well, as of right now, the trilogy has reached version 1.07 through a series of patches and updates, and sitting down to spend some time with all three the results so far are fairly reasonable.

The last update dropped in October of 2022 and was described by Rockstar as simply "stability updates", which isn't helpful in the slightest, but it was actually the previous patch, 1.06, that seems to have made the most difference overall to the performance of all three titles.

Jumping back into Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is now an immediately more satisfying experience overall.

The first thing you'll notice, across all three games, is that they now have much-improved frame pacing and frame rates in general. Where the initial release was an absolute mess in terms of how it juddered and stuttered along, these ports now run at a pretty much locked 30fps, with a few slight drops to the high 20s here and there. They feel much more playable and smooth as a result and it's great to see that the most immediate, egregious, and noticeable problem has, for the most part, been ironed out.

Of course, this is a definitive edition of three fairly old games, Rockstar and Grove Street Games shouldn't be getting any brownie points whatsoever for finally making them run kinda smoothly, but we'll take what we can get at this point.

The second major issue that we had at launch involved an awful draw distance combined with vehicles that would materialise out of nowhere, making driving feel like a real chore. Add some serious scenery pop-in to this mix and you had a visual mess to contend with.

Once again, as of patch 1.06, most of these issues have been improved, if not fixed entirely. The draw distance is better, the pop-in is nowhere near as bad, and the materialising cars, although still very much present, at least have the decency to appear out of nowhere slightly further down the road.

Again, this is all stuff that should never have been a problem in the first place but, if we're to let bygones be bygones, combining these small wins with the frame rate and pacing improvements you've got an experience that is much improved over the dog's dinner we first sat down to. These improvements apply to all three games, although in terms of slight stutters and blurry effects, San Andreas does still chug here and there.

But overall, yes, the performance on a basic level is now acceptable. Well done.

With regards to finer details, all three games are definitely less Vaseline-smeared than at launch, both GTA 3 and Vice City are approaching what we would describe as sharp, especially in portable mode, and San Andreas, although still a little blurred, is much better than it was. These, of course, are differences we're noticing without any special equipment or Digital Foundry levels of assessment and know-how, so this is all stuff you should be able to feel and see for yourself pretty much as soon as you relaunch into the trilogy.

Other stuff we've picked up on during our revisit includes shop fronts that are much cleaner than the AI-enhanced disasters we encountered in 2021. Dynamic lighting has been introduced in places, we've spotted screen-space reflections in San Andreas, combat no longer brings with it sluggish aiming or stutters, and even loading times — although still a little long in places — are absolutely better than they were. Oh, and brightness levels, which were completely off in GTA 3, are now sorted, so that's nice.

Is It Worth Getting The GTA Trilogy On Switch Now?

All of these niggles and problems were, for us, the major setbacks that made the original release of this trilogy on Switch an experience that we recommended everyone avoid, and now that they're all somewhat sorted, we'd be tempted to very tentatively say this is a package that's now worth picking up.

However, there are still problems here and this is still very far from any sort of definitive experience. These games remain disappointing ports in our eyes, regardless of some nicer visuals and the now-reasonably solid performance. There are also still plenty of bugs to go around.

We've spent about ten hours all told revisiting these games and in that time we've seen plenty of clipping issues, with our protagonist failing to connect with scenery properly whilst clambering and climbing around, we've spotted a few flying cars and floating NPCs here and there, and noticed some audio issues to boot.

Most of this stuff can be ignored — although traffic that doesn't seem to know where it's headed at times is something that absolutely needs to be addressed — but it's still not great. Jump onto the game's many online forums and you'll find lots of folk still complaining, too, with issues related to enemy spawn rates leading to failed timer missions, buggy physics, crashes, and all sorts of stuff that just pulls you out of the experience time and time again.

18 months down the line, this very slapdash experience is also sat at a premium price tag, a price tag that demands a much better overall experience than this, even with the improvements, nips, and tucks we've seen since 2021. It has been on sale in that time, and in the end we still wouldn't really recommend it unless you can pick it up discounted.

And that's really the long and short of it. Yes, Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is better than it was. Of course it is. It launched in an absolute shambles.

A definitive edition, though, should bring with it noticeable improvements, embellishments, and surprises to an original experience. This particular Definitive Edition is still struggling to match what players were treated to with these games back in the day. It's passable without being in any way impressive at this late stage.

We've seen rumours, alongside a now-deleted tweet, that the base code of this trilogy has been changed, we've heard that Grove Street Games is now off the job and Rockstar will be handling things from here. However, all of this stuff is way too late for the many, many people who got burnt to the tune of fifty notes when three all-time greats launched in one of the absolute worst release states we've seen on Switch.

They're now better than they were, but still not great. Take from that what you will.

Please note that some external links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.