The entire Grand Theft Auto saga features a series of installations, with the most notable being the classic GTA V Story Mode and GTA Online. However, the world of GTA is not easy to follow in terms of the overall timeline, and many fans are still curious to find out if GTA Online takes place after Story Mode.
GTA V and GTA Online do not follow the exact same timeline. GTA Online initially takes place before Story Mode (in 2013, about 6 months before GTA V), after which it sees a time skip (confirmed to be 2017 with the Gunrunning update) and follows on from the main GTA V timeline up until present day (2021 onward).
It seems GTA Online takes place before and after GTA V – primarily based on numerous shreds of evidence that can be found within the game itself. Stick around to find out everything there is to know about the overall GTA timeline, as well as how the GTA Story Mode and GTA Online compare concerning their timing and placement.
When Does GTA Online Take Place?
It may be easy to assume that this classic title by Rockstar Games follows one, uniform timeline – topped with all of the loveable and mischievous characters we all know and love. However, when it comes to the GTA saga as a whole, this simply isn’t the case.
GTA Online and GTA V’s Story Mode do not actually follow a uniform timeline, although they may both feature the same faces, locations, themes, and even an identical map. Finding the link between GTA Online and GTA Story Mode has always been challenging among fans, as the timeline has always been confusing and convoluted.
This complexity has made it seemingly impossible to simply slot GTA Online in where it ‘makes sense,’ unlike many other titles with multiple installations. GTA Online was initially seen as a prequel to GTA V’s Story Mode, as the vast majority of the details and events appear to have taken place before the main events. However, more recent GTA Online content is definitely set after Story Mode.
GTA Online and GTA Story Mode (Timeline Comparison)
GTA Online was meant to take place in the year 2013, around six months before GTA V’s Story Mode, but one of the major missions in GTA Online’s Gunrunning update revealed that the year was actually 2017. This could mean that there had been an unexplained time skip of around 4 years within the GTA Online universe – some presume this time skip could be filled with GTA V’s events, in theory.
On the other hand, there is a range of details that contradict each other in terms of GTA Online’s timing and placement – with continuity errors and overlaps that simply don’t make sense. Below are all of the details that indicate GTA Online takes place before GTA Story Mode, alongside evidence that indicates GTA Online takes place after GTA Story Mode.
GTA Online Initially Took Place Before GTA Story Mode (2013)
Rockstar Games did not state why GTA Online was set before GTA V initially, particularly the content enjoyed on last-gen consoles. However, many fans believe it could have been a way for new players to enjoy GTA Online without getting spoilers for GTA V – that is, if they chose to start with GTA Online instead of the main game. Many details placed GTA Online before GTA V in the beginning, as seen below.
- Trevor appears in his trailer in Sandy Shores, not in Los Santos along with Franklin and Micheal.
- Merryweather is still active in San Andreas, despite it being shut down by the end of GTA V.
- Trevor is still alive, as well as the guy that Franklin worked for at the beginning of GTA V.
- The car dealing is still in operation.
- O’Neil’s farm and other locations are still standing, despite being burned down or destroyed in GTA V.
GTA Online Now Takes Place After GTA Story Mode (2017 – 2021)
A handful of details indicate that GTA Online was moved forward past GTA V, such as character dialogues that refer to the events in GTA V. Another example would be that if players buy an agency, Franklin can be seen saying that he is now old and does not get around much anymore – in contrast to the active character seen in GTA V.
The developers seem to be bringing the placement of GTA Online to the present day with each update (such as it being brought forward to the year 2021 with the Los Santos Tuners update) while adding new locations that were not in GTA V at all (such as a new casino location). This tactic would allow Rockstar Games to incorporate new ideas as GTA Online continues – all while celebrating GTA V’s most well-loved traits without worrying about continuity issues.
Considering how much there is to wrap our heads around, it’s much easier to assume that continuity was never meant to be a major focal point in GTA Online. Instead, it seems the focus was always meant to be on the overall theme, the characters, and the thrills that would accompany any GTA title.
For more information on how GTA Online and GTA V compare in terms of the specific timeline and series of events, check out the video below by MrBossFTW.
While there are many fans still seeking a clear answer as to whether GTA Online takes place before or after GTA Story Mode, it’s actually a bit of both. GTA Online started off being set before the main events in GTA V, after which it ‘time skipped’ the events of GTA V and then followed on from these events – now bringing the world of GTA Online forward with new content.
That’s everything there is to know about how GTA Online fits into the overall GTA timeline. Based on the number of details that have been spotted within both GTA Online and within GTA Story Mode, it’s easy to see why many GTA fans believe GTA Online takes place before the main events. However, more recent instances show specific GTA Online events that likely take place after GTA Story Mode.