It’s a game where twilit moments of calm can be abruptly interrupted by… anything. A plane crash. A cougar attack. A police chase. And yet chaos and calm both feel right at home in Los Santos, Rockstar’s larger-than-life version of Los Angeles, and the surrounding countryside.
But it’s arguably GTA 5’s slavish, beyond-obsessive attention to the tiniest details that truly sets the game apart from other AAA blockbusters. These millions of bits of minutia add up to create a game world unlike any other.
Below are the 100 mind-blowing “tiny things” in GTA V that caught our eye and make San Andreas such an incredible, believable space. Easter eggs and amusing character-switching moments have intentionally been excluded - this is strictly a list of 100 examples of Rockstar's peerless attention to detail, not a list of best moments.
We didn’t discover these details on our own - huge thanks to the great communities at NeoGAF, Reddit and GameFAQS for initially discovering and reporting on most these finds. By all means share your favorite tiny details in the comments! There are undoubtedly hundreds more.
2) Flip-flops actually flop when worn - they aren’t glued to the bottom of your foot.
3) When wading in water, your clothes get wet - but only up to the point you actually waded. The rest of you stays dry.
4) If you hail and hop into a taxi at the airport when someone was already waiting for one, they’ll get mad and shout at you, or try to pick a fight.
5) There is a chance you can walk into a business while another random NPC is robbing it.
6) Michael will confess to and discuss random events that just happened when visiting his psychiatrist, like sleeping with prostitutes or running over pedestrians.
7) The little “tink tink tink” cooling off sound cars make when turned off is present.
8) If you talk to a character on the phone and call them again right afterwards, they comment on having just spoke to you.
9) Lamar ribs Franklin about his haircut at the end of an early mission. Later on, Lamar’s dialogue changes based on whether you changed your hair or not.
10) Backfiring cars can ignite gas trails.
12) If you stop your car in the road and block traffic, drivers behind you will flick you off.
13) If you try to force Trevor to listen to certain kinds of music, he’ll get angry and override you, changing the radio station back himself.
14) Sweat will seep through character’s clothes if they run or exercise for an extended period of time.
15) If you spend a lot of money customizing your car, random NPCs will stop and compliment you on it, and start snapping pictures.
16) If you “accidentally” run over Michael’s wife, both characters react with unique dialogue, and she later sends you an angry bill for her hospital stay.
17) If you try to snap a picture of a street performer without tipping them, they get angry.
18) Sometimes street performers will get phone calls and will “break character” to answer and talk.
19) You can send other characters in your address book your hunting pictures, and they all text back with unique responses. Most of them angry or confused.
20) Hikers on top of Mt. Chiliad take pictures of the view with their phones.
21) The mouse clicker in the in-game internet isn’t a pointer finger - it’s a middle finger.
22) Dome lights turn on when you open car doors.
23) After buying clothes for the Lifeinvader mission, if you return to the store the clerk asks how the interview went.
24) After getting wasted and being discharged from the hospital, your character will still have cuts and bruises.
25) The Dilettante, the in-game Prius clone, initially runs silent until you aggressively accelerate, at which point the engine kicks in.
26) If you pull up to a red light in a sports car next to someone else in a sports car and rev your engine, they’ll often burn out and race you when the light turns green.
27) Burning rubber (or doing other attention-getting things) will lead to NPCs whipping out their phones to film you.
28) Kicking cars can dent them.
29) NPCs will cover their heads or run for awnings when it starts raining.
30) You lose your GPS signal when entering a tunnel.
32) Some character’s voicemail messages will change as the game progresses, depending on where they are and what they’re doing at that point in the game.
33) Doing a burnout over a dead body generates a huge blood spray.
33) Older cars have squeaky brakes and can be harder to start.
34) The moon phases change as the days and weeks progress, changing night lighting.
35) When you hit the button to look behind your car while driving, your character looks in the rearview mirror.
36) You can change your phone’s settings so it vibrates instead of rings when receiving a call.
38) When multiple characters can start a mission, the beginning mission dialogue is different depending on who you start the mission as.
39) Return to the Ammu-Nation you entered for an early story mission and the clerk will talk about how cool your first conversation was, “like something out of a movie.”
40) Braking suddenly and aggressively in your car lurches your character and any passengers forward thanks to momentum.
41) In a police shootout, if you shoot one officer in the leg another might drag him behind cover to safety.
42) Gunning a car on dirt or gravel spits it out behind your vehicle when offroad.
43) Birds can get hit or sucked through engines when flying.
44) If you take Michael’s car as Franklin or Trevor, Michael will call you and yell at you.
45) The DJs will wish you a good morning or good night, depending on the time of day you’re listening.
46) Cars get dirtier the more they’re driven - especially offroad. NPCs will comment on especially dirty cars.
47) Driving into the mountains can cause the radio signal of some city-based stations to be garbled and lost.
48) Power lines sway in the wind.
49) Driving on the right shoulder ripples activates the right vibration on your controller. Driving on the left shoulder vibrates on the left.
50) Cars have regular and high-beam options.
51) Walking on the beach, you might see a dog walking by himself. Later on, up the beach you’ll find a woman asking after her lost dog.
52) When it begins raining, puddles slowly and realistically form in the road and environment over time.
54) NPCs will parallel park their car, and can sometimes have a lot of trouble doing so, with lots or front and back adjustments.
55) Trevor, Michael and Franklin all have different phones, aping iOS, Android and Windows.
56) When you get high as Franklin he will often become self-reflective and reveal his inner thoughts, including feeling as though he has no real friends.
57) Lester’s house is filled with (mint in box) action figures, and has a box labeled “bigfoot” in one corner.
58) Jets leave contrails in the sky.
59) If you break a window and walk over the broken glass, there is a sound effect of it crunching underfoot.
60) Cars have the correct front or rear-wheel drivetrains based on whether they’re a performance vehicle or not.
62) NPCs will play full games of tennis, missing and hitting shots, with voiced dialogue about the state of the game.
63) When Franklin is driving with Chop, he leans over and opens the door for him after parking.
64) Shooting a car’s gas tank will create a gas trail that can then be ignited.
65) At or around dawn, heavy vehicles can be found combing Vespucci Beach.
66) If you idle your character long enough, they will switch to first-person and begin looking around at the environment, even “zooming in” on any attractive women in the area.
67) At night if you crash a car into a house, its interior lights will spring on, as if you woke up the residents.
68) If you try to pick up a prostitute when a cop car is nearby, the woman won’t approach you - they just try to look inconspicuous instead.
69) The LifeInvader pages of major (and minor) characters update over the course of the entire game, with comments from their friends and family regarding in-game story events.
70) You can ride a Vinewood tour bus that visits lots of city landmarks, providing fully-voiced commentary on them the entire way.
71) Trevor has an “RIP Michael” tattoo.
72) You can hide in bushes to escape from police.
73) Prostitutes will sometimes have phone calls revealing their need to pay off student loans or earn enough money to pay rent.
74) If you drive at night with your headlights off, oncoming cars will flash theirs, to alert you.
75) Characters will comment with specific dialogue when hitting an animal with their car.
77) When characters are sleeping their faces will twitch subtly.
78) Sound effects can sound muffled based on where they originate from, like muffled music coming from an NPCs car.
79) When Franklin first moves homes, his crib is empty with lots of boxes. Over time the number of boxes dwindles and the home fills with furniture and items.
80) In the prologue, Michael’s phone isn’t a smartphone - it is very old and outdated, since the prologue takes place years earlier.
81) If you disable a police vehicle and the cop is alive, he will commandeer a civilian vehicle and continue the chase.
82) Missions can be skipped if you fail them a few times in a row.
83) At night the beach will be dotted with a few campfires and revelers, each with their own unique dialogue. Some even strum on guitars.
84) You can call up to two characters and hang with them, doing activities like golf or going to the movies. Different activities and character combinations all have unique dialogue.
85) Later in the game, Trevor has Mr. Raspberry Jam tied to the front bumper of his car.
86) There are golf balls littering the bottom of the water hazards on the golf course.
87) Visiting a prostitute increases your Stamina stat.
88) If you try to play chicken with a train it will blare its horn continually, until you get out of the way.
89) The GTA 5 subway, which you never actually need to visit, comes complete with its own sound effects, NPC behaviors, and over-the-air stop announcements.
90) If you deck someone wearing glasses, they will fly off their face.
91) If you have Michael hang out with his wife Amanda and go drinking, you get much deeper insight into their relationship via original dialogue.
93) If you’re talking on the phone while driving you can’t adjust your headlights, because your hand is occupied.
94) At high wanted levels cops stop shouting out movements and start using hand gestures.
95) If a pedestrian is crossing the street and the light turns yellow they’ll jog the rest of the way across.
96) If you go swimming with Michael and track water indoors when Amanda is home, she will yell at you.
97) If you shoot up one character’s house when playing as another, they’ll send you angry text messages.
98) In gunfights if enemies drop out of sight and don’t fire at you for a while, they'll drop off your radar. Even if they’re still there, hiding behind cover.
99) Some lights are motion-detecting and only click on when you walk by them.
100) If someone is sitting in a chair, your melee attack can kick the chair out from under them.