Here's Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition in action, out November

Rockstar recently confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in gaming: the early 3D Grand Theft Auto games have been remastered, and now they have a release date, as well as a trailer showcasing the originals against the remasters. Pre-orders are live on the Rockstar website and the game releases on November 11: the price is $60/£55, though you can knock a tenner off that by buying direct from the Rockstar store.

The product description boasts of "across-the-board enhancements including brilliant new lighting and environmental upgrades, with high-resolution textures, increased draw distances, Grand Theft Auto V-style controls and targeting, and much more, bringing these beloved worlds to life with all new levels of detail."

It also confirms that the developer is Rockstar North but the games are "adapted by Grove Street Games" using the Unreal Engine. This Floridian outfit, formerly known as War Drum Studios, is behind the various mobile ports of the GTA games as well as versions of Max Payne and Bully.

An aerial view of GTA Vice City.

(Image credit: Rockstar North)

A Rockstar press release further expands on the changes: the remasters "introduce wide-ranging modern control upgrades, including improvements to targeting and lock-on aiming, updated Weapon and Radio Station Wheels, updated Mini-Maps with enhanced navigation allowing players to set waypoints to destinations, updated Achievements, Trophies, and more. The Nintendo Switch version also features Switch-specific controls including Gyro aiming, as well as touch screen camera zooming, pans, and menu selections, while the PC version includes support for NVIDIA DLSS and additional new Accomplishments via the Rockstar Games Social Club."

"Additional enhancements across all three titles include a completely rebuilt lighting system; improved shadows, weather, and reflections; upgraded character and vehicle models; along with new higher resolution textures across buildings, weapons, roads, interiors, and more. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition also features a range of environmental upgrades including all new foliage, smoother surfaces, and increased draw distances to provide a new level of depth and clarity throughout the world."

Unsurprisingly, the system requirements are pretty low: minimum specs are Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB or AMD Radeon R9 280 3GB, recommended are Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB or AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB, and the games will take up 45GB of space.

A panoramic view of GTA San Andreas.

(Image credit: Rockstar North)

"GTAIII helped clarify our approach to making games, and it’s something that has stuck with us in every game we make, from GTAIII through  to GTAV, the Red Dead Redemption series and everything else," says Aaron Garbut, head of development at Rockstar North. "We are focused on building worlds—and on making these worlds as believable,  detailed, interesting, varied and alive as possible. We want to make worlds that you feel like you are living in, that feel dynamic and filled  with other characters. Where it’s not just a façade that comes alive around you and for you, but as real a place as we can manage, and one  that is filled with stories, characters, events and fun, interesting things to do."

One of the most obvious signs that the GTA Trilogy was coming has been Take-Two's war on modders. In February it issued a DMCA notice against reverse-engineered source code releases for Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City, and when work continued it took the bigger step of filing a lawsuit to stop them.

Remasters are ten-a-penny these days but you don't get much bigger or more influential than Grand Theft Auto 3, a truly ground-breaking game. "The impact GTA 3 had on the culture and landscape of videogames is almost impossible to measure," we said in a 2015 retrospective. "Masses of open world games that shamelessly riffed on it were released in its wake. It defined the language and design staples of the genre, and they’re still in use to this day."

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto 3, which will be marked in GTA Online with various commemorative gear and events.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."