It’s time for a real game to play on Android. We’ve been reviewing some fun little casual games, but this time let’s talk about a world bigger than life. Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas is ported to Android from its PlayStation roots, yours for a mere $6.99. And that’s with no in-game purchases, no DLC, just the whole enchilada. It is the full RockStar Games title in every bit of its glory. And if you’ll pardon my hype, it’s the most impressive Android port I’ve ever seen.
And look: The gas prices are current again!
Tips for playing Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas on Android
Since this classic game is thoroughly documented, reviewed, and explored on the web, we’ll focus a bit more on how it performs on Android. There’s some pros and cons to this. I would recommend tablet-only for this game, and a newer tablet at that. I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab A-8 (2019), and Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas runs near-flawlessly, with maybe a slight lag once in awhile, certainly no worse than I remember on console.
The biggest con are the controls. The GTA series really counts on split-second reflexes and tight steering, so on-screen controls take some getting used to. Some might recommend a separate controller accessory for this one, but then you might as well sit home on a PlayStation. However, I can’t possibly criticize this port because they did the best possible job of translating controls.
Because of the necessary limits of onscreen controls, missions are going to be harder than normal. The early missions are still simple enough, but by the time you get to late Los Santos, life is getting pretty difficult. If you use cheats (legend has it they are available through mods) to pass missions that are just too tough in this environment, I’ll forgive you this time.
All of the controls can be adjusted and customized.
My control settings recommendations
The steering is going to be your biggest headache. Your options are:
- “Analog” – A “joystick” set-up with a circle you control with your thumb. Most efficient for being on foot.
- “Flick” – swiping left and right to control direction. Abominable for me and my broad Slavic thumbs, but if you feel comfortable with this, enjoy.
- “Buttons” – I find these most responsive for steering.
There is also an “accelerometer” feature which is worth checking out. What this does is let you control the steering by tilting your device. Now get this, you can still use the onscreen steering controls anyway with the accelerometer on. I keep it on “heavy” along with button controls and find the steering seems easier because the natural tilts you’ll do by reflex helps the steering feel more intuitive and makes the handling a bit tighter.
Also, you can set the “traffic mode” in the “game” options to be “light,” “heavy,” and “classic.” Since GTA:SA civil life tends to be a hellish calamity of crowded chaos even out in the countryside, I recommend “light” for minimal distraction on missions. Even at that, I find myself constantly getting rear-ended on the freeway even at top speed, and encountering a pile-up of crashed cars blocking every intersection if I dare hang out there for a whole minute. It’s almost impossible to drive across town and show up in a dent-free car. On the other hand, you could say most of the same for the game on console too.
I keep the targeting set to “lock-on” which works out best in most situations. You can manually target anything by tapping on it.
By the way, since the controls for Android are poorly documented, here’s a couple more things I’ve nailed down. You change radio stations by flicking left and right in the far left, far bottom corner of the screen under the steering controls (assuming default setup) right where the name of the station shows for a minute. You recruit gang members by targeting them just like you were going to shoot them, but then press the “knuckle tap” icon you see pop up right where the social buttons are in the upper right corner when somebody talks to you (the “thumbs up” and “flip off” reactions).
GTA:SA Game Play Tips on Android
I don’t know about anybody else, but I find the bicycles and motorcycles to be ten times easier to navigate around and always head for them whenever they’ll suit the task at hand.
For four-wheel vehicles, go through the vehicle list and keep an eye peeled for the ones with tightest, most responsive handling. When you get some garages around town (see next step), and get one of the better handling vehicles on hand, keep a copy parked at home so you’ll always have access to the best possible ride when you have the choice.
And now, for the money “cheat”: This involves saving your game, going to the “Inside Track” off-track betting parlor in downtown Los Santos near the Mulholland freeway clover, betting on the longest-odds horse (always at the bottom of the list) and reloading the save game every time you lose. This isn’t even a “real” cheat as opposed to save scumming, but given the other handicaps of playing on mobile it just makes life easier if you can afford multiple save points and garages around town.
If you’re too pure for the Inside track scheme, your next best bet to make money and earn other valuable perks is vehicle missions. Plain old Taxi Driver gets you cash, and utility vehicle missions get you other bonuses as well.
One of the biggest pros to playing this game on Android is that you can take your dear sweet time in mission progress. I urge getting a bicycle and pedaling around town to both learn the map (assuming you don’t have it memorized) and build up muscle, stamina, and skill. Going to gyms also increases your physical stats, of course, but the bottom line is that all this contributes to a longer health bar, giving you a few more chances survive damage during missions.
In fact, do everything you can to max out or at least build up your stats, including respect, as soon as possible. Then you’re in better shape to take on missions.
Here’s all the free weapon, armor, and equipment drops around the Los Santos map:
And for one further game play tip: This is something I focus on in any Grand Theft Auto game regardless of what platform: Learn the storm drains! Call them “sewers,” “flood canals,” whatever, they are extremely valuable to game progress. Here’s the closest thing I can find to a Los Santos storm drain guide (turn down your audio if slowed-down Jane’s Addiction isn’t your thing):
If you check out GTA:SA maps, you can just barely trace where the drains go. I recommend exploring every inch of them and practice all the entrance and exit points between the drains and the street, until you can head for the nearest drain portal from any given intersection. This will help with traversing town on missions, avoiding traffic, dodging police pursuit, and quick access to save points. There’s even one “offramp” in Indlewood from the storm drain, on the right when you’re heading west, going right into a Pay ‘n’ Spray. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t take the storm drain network more often.
GTA:SA on Android is still very much worth it!
I consider this the best seven bucks I’ve ever spent in gaming. Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas is still well-regarded for being one of the best open-world maps out there, with so much to explore, discover, and do that it has near-endless play value. Compared to your average Android game right now, it surpasses all expectations for a mobile game. You can put off missions or complete them at your own pace, but still roar around in open sandbox mode and have a better Android game than most of what’s available.
If you really practice with the controls enough, completing missions isn’t even that hard, although typical GTA standards still make them frustrating at times. Follow this walkthrough which provides a nice overview a piece at a time.
It’s also worth mentioning that RockStar was nice enough to bump up the graphics quality a bit, and did everything they could to preserve or improve the quality of the game in its original shape. Until I see better, which will be damn hard to find, I’ll nominate Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas for the best non-native ported game to Android!