The history of GTA Radio

Picture this; It’s somewhere between the years 2000 and 2008. You’ve just come in from school and you leg it up the stairs to your room. You rip off your school jumper and chuck your bag onto your bed. You switch on whatever console is popular at the time. The most recent Grand Theft Auto game flashes up on the screen. You have no choice but to groove along with the opening music. Be it the 80s style theme of Vice City or that iconic baseline of the San Andreas theme, you know you’re in for some good tunes. 

The GTA series is renowned for its prodigious soundtrack. Players can choose from a plethora of radio stations whilst cruising around the streets. Each radio station has a different vibe. The last GTA release in 2013 boasts over 15 stations, ranging from reggae all the way to country. It’s fun to blast out some great music whilst enjoying the San Andreas sunset or looking out over the Alamo sea. 

However, GTA hasn’t always looked the way we know it today. The game first came to fruition in 1997 as the brainchild of Scottish video game programmer David Jones and designer Mike Dailly. Gameplay was completely different. Both GTA 1 and 2 were created as two-dimensional worlds from a bird’s eye perspective. This meant that there was no pulling up to Cluckin’ Bell to get a ‘Cluckin’ Huge Meal’; no swinging by Binco to dress CJ in the finest threads. Though many things were different in the early GTA games, one thing remained constant throughout the series: the radio stations. 

Non Stop Pop FM – GTA V Radio via GTA FM on YouTube.

Radio stations in GTA have always been a fan-favourite aspect of the game. The first instalment of the series had 7 stations, each with three songs (with the exception of ‘The Fergus Buckner Show’, which plays just one song). Each song in the original GTA was created by artists at Rockstar Games. Alongside the game, players would receive a CD so they could listen to the tracks elsewhere. It was this kind of marketing strategy that cemented the radio stations as a vital part of the game. 

As the games progressed into high definition animation, upgrading the simulated world, the radio stations expanded too. They began to play recognisable real-life music such as Depeche Mode, Michael Jackson and Guns ‘N’ Roses (to name a few). They also have a roster of celebrity presenters and hosts. GTA V’s ‘Non-Stop-Pop FM’ is hosted by supermodel Cara Delevigne, whilst legendary songwriter Kenny Loggins has us listening to tunes such as Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Black Betty’. Axl Rose of Guns ‘N’ Roses poses as DJ Tommy Smith on the station ‘K-DST’ GTA San Andreas, playing songs such as ‘Strutter’ by Kiss. A new update to GTA Online has just added three new radio stations, with hosts Joy Orbison and Julian Casablancas. The radio hosts are an asset to the games, often making interesting and funny comments about the songs playing and life itself. 

Undeniably, the soundtracks to the Grand Theft Auto games are one of their most defining factors. Many fans of the series’ have discovered much-loved tracks whilst zooming through the streets of Los Santos or hurtling down the hills of Vinewood. Playlists of the radio stations can be found on Spotify, boasting thousands of followers; their impact and effect on GTA players has truly been incredible.

Header image credit: Rockstar Games/Grand Theft Auto via BBC.