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Grand Theft Auto and the biggest moments in video game history

Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA V) made headlines as the biggest video game release of all time, selling more than $1 billion worth of copies in three days. But GTA V didn't get to this landmark moment by itself. Video game history stretches back to the early 1970s with a concept as simple as a digital paddle and ball – that was so popular the original arcade machine broke under demand. Find out more about moments that changed the course of video game history in this list, from most recent to the beginning of (video game) time.

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The 'Grand Theft Auto V' billboard at Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles last week.

Nick Ut/AP/File

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1. Grand Theft Auto 5 release

Grand Theft Auto has been a runaway hit since it was first released by Rockstar Games in 1997, spawning many evolutions and an immense following.

The latest version, Grand Theft Auto 5, sold more than $800 million worth of copies in its first day, and $1 billion in three days. This shattered video game sales records and became the fastest video game to reach $1 billion in sales. GTA V also came with an online version whose servers ended up overwhelmed and buggy in the first few days of use, due to the unexpectedly wild popularity.

So why the huge demand? At the time of their inception, most video games were experienced in a linear fashion: Unlock a level by moving forward in a battle, gaining the most points, or killing all the bad guys. GTA changed all that by offering an open world setting: Players simply ran around the city the game is set in and chose missions that would follow a general overall story line players unlocked by performing certain tasks.

These tasks also lent the game notoriety: examples include killing prostitutes, beating up gang members, robbing jewelry stores, and assassinating policemen. The 2001 evolution of the game, Grand Theft Auto 3, pushed this even further by changing the perspective of the game to 3-D. The series, created by Scottish video game developer Rockstar North, was meant to be a satire on American culture, but many believe the gratuitous violence, misogyny, and criminal activity simply cross the line. There have been several lawsuits brought against the game, blaming GTA for inspiring violence against police officers and others.

Despite this, the game has been critically acclaimed by video game reviewers impressed by the high-quality graphics, story line, inventive play, and extreme attention to detail. Currently, the game is available on 15 platforms and has more than 15 different versions.

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