The 10 Worst Missions From The Classic GTA Trilogy

The 10 Worst Missions From The Classic GTA Trilogy
Image: Rockstar Games / Kotaku

Replaying classic Grand Theft Auto games with new-and-improved graphics and controls sounds great. But with the just-revealed Grand Theft Auto Trilogy drawing closer, I’m worried about having to play some of the franchise’s most annoying missions once again.

Overall I’m very excited to play the newly remastered Grand Theft Auto games. I like the visual changes I’ve seen (well, most of them…) and love the idea of revisiting these classics with modern controls and improved performance. However, going back also means replaying all the old missions. While most are fine or even fun, a few exist that are some misbegotten mix of annoying, awful, or just too damn difficult. You can skip some of them, but others you’ll have to complete to finish the game.

That in mind, here’s my rogues’ gallery of the worst of the worst, in no particular order except the order the trauma came rushing back. If you were like me back in the day, you probably looked up tips or used cheats to help get through some of these — the lamest, most enraging missions from the original trilogy of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas. Warning: Reading this list may unlock the urge to destroy controllers.

S.A.M. (GTA III)

In a GTA game, any mission that involves a countdown timer sucks. It adds an extra layer of stress and annoyance on top of everything else. S.A.M., one of the final missions in GTA III, not only has a timer, but also annoying armoured enemies and a plane that you have to shoot down with a rocket. Miss? Start all over. It’s infuriating, just getting there in time only to miss the plane, or die trying to escape. A huge pain in the arse.

A Drop in the Ocean (GTA III)

Boats in GTA III aren’t fun to drive, so building a mission around having to collect packages from a plane in a boat is already a recipe for frustration. But Rockstar Games, like a diabolical chef, adds a few more ingredients. First, a countdown timer which, as mentioned already: suck. Secondly, after getting all the packages you have to escape a five-star wanted level, which is tricky enough already in GTA III, but even harder because you have to get out of the boat and find a car without dying to an army of cops. This young lad died many, many times.

Bomb Da Base: Act II (GTA III)

There are in my mind two ways to do this mission. Number one: The legit way, which you can see in the video above. Or number two: The easy, cheater way, which I used as a kid.

See, Bomb Da Base tasks you with sniping enemies while an NPC (8-Ball) runs around a massive ship planting bombs. And like most video game NPCs they seem to love attracting bullets and dying, at which point you’ve lost. So the cheat-y strat I learned about online via some now-dead forum is to use the tank cheat code before the mission, park the tank in front of the boat’s entry ramp, then start the mission. Tanks don’t despawn in GTA III, so 8-Ball’s blocked from entering the boat. Kill all the baddies, then move the tank. That was the only way I could beat this damn mission.

Demolition Man (GTA: Vice City)

Many vets commiserate about the annoying radio-controlled toy missions in GTA San Andreas (don’t worry, the worst of those missions is on this list), but let’s not forget Vice City’s own infamously awful RC mission. This one tasks players with piloting an RC helicopter to plant four bombs in a not-yet-completed building. And, as with so many terrible GTA missions, this one has a countdown timer. But even if it didn’t, the clunky helicopter controls would still make this a bad mission. With the timer, it becomes one of the worst in the series. Congrats?

Death Row (GTA: Vice City)

Lance Vance gets captured at one point in Vice City, and it’s up to Tommy to fight his way through an army of bad guys to save him before Vance bleeds out and dies. Sounds easy enough on paper. But actually beating this mission is a nightmare. While this doesn’t a literal ticking clock, Vance’s health bar is just as bad. As the mission goes on it keeps getting lower and lower. So you feel the need to rush in. But if you do you’ll get gunned down in seconds. The old GTA games didn’t have great gunplay and this mission is almost entirely just one giant gunfight. And unlike some annoying missions on this list, you can’t skip this. Want to beat Vice City? You gotta free Lance Vance! God help you.

The Driver (GTA: Vice City)

Random bullshit is never fun to deal with in GTA missions. The best of the bunch don’t often feature much randomness, like unpredictable NPC traffic. In case it being on this list isn’t a big enough giveaway, Vice City’s Driver ain’t one of the best… Here, Tommy is forced to win a race against an NPC driver who’s very aggressive, impossibly fast, and will take advantage of any mistake you make. Add in police pursuit and random traffic patterns and you end up with a mission that is just a roll of the dice. Perhaps you get lucky, or maybe a cop car flicks you off the road and into a building. It sucks.

Robbing Uncle Sam (GTA: San Andreas)

When I play GTA, I’m looking for crazy explosive action, high-octane vehicular mayhem, and some wacky characters and hijinks. What I’m not looking for is a forklift simulator. Yet that’s a huge part of the San Andreas mission Robbing Uncle Sam, where CJ helps Ryder steal crates from a National Guard depot. Having to fight off annoying soldiers while loading up boxes using the finicky forklift controls might not make for the hardest mission in the game, but it ain’t much fun either.

Learning to Fly (GTA: San Andreas)

Before CJ can do some work for Mike Toreno, he has to learn how to fly aeroplanes and helicopters. As in real life, this involves completing 10 challenges featuring helicopters and planes. A few of these are fairly easy, asking you to land or take off. But later challenges make the player pull off tricky aerial manoeuvres or take out targets with armed aircraft. Flying in GTA SA is fun but not very precise, so these challenges can be very frustrating. I know people who got stuck at this point in San Andreas and never got past it. I only beat it after far too many hours and one broken controller.

Supply Lines (GTA: San Andreas)

Supply Lines is so awful that there’s only one other mission more infamously bad in San Andreas, let alone the GTA series. Supply Lines is just a mountain of awful that nobody should climb. It features an annoyingly small amount of fuel, random bullshit, annoying RC plane controls, and finicky physics. You have to fly a plane around San Fierro and destroy some vans. Doesn’t sound too bad, but it is. If you’ve played it you know.

How bad is this mission? Rockstar actually had to fix it when it ported San Andreas to other platforms. In the original PS2 version it was damn near impossible because you would constantly lose fuel, even if you weren’t moving the plane. The later versions make it easier, but are still dreadful. Thankfully you can skip this and the other RC missions in San Andreas and still finish the game, unlike another bad mission…

Wrong Side of the Tracks (GTA: San Andreas)

Fuck this mission. Even if you’ve never played San Andreas, you already know about this damn clusterfuck. Rockstar itself has referenced it and the memes surrounding it. At this point, it’s become more well-known as a silly meme that people joke about online more than an actual mission. But don’t let the internet distract you: This mission isn’t funny. It just blows.

Wrong Side of the Tracks has you follow a train while driving a dirt bike with Big Smoke riding in back. Big Smoke is supposed to shoot at enemies on the train who you need to kill before they get away. Big Smoke is a terrible shot and will often just miss endlessly, and if he kills even one, you’re lucky. Add some random bullshit from passing cars and the fact that during all of this you have to be careful to not crash your bike or you’ll lose the train and you have a real shitshow of a mission.

If and when you fail, you’ll hear the famous line “All we had to do was follow the damn train C.J.!” The number of times I heard that as a kid…I screamed many, many times at Big Smoke. That bastard stole hours of my youth, but at least he’s my friend and will never betray me.

Whew, that’ll do it for me. I’m pretty confident these are the worst PS2-era Grand Theft Auto missions, but if you’ve got your own picks, please share in the comments! As for me, time to focus on my breathing and go to my happy place.

Comments

  • Wrong side of the tracks, hands down.

    The only other things I remember being insanely hard was the getting top marks in the driving and flying licenses.
    The 180 degree park was especially tough.

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