Universal acclaim - based on 85 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 85 out of 85
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 85
  3. Negative: 0 out of 85
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  1. 100
    Whether you get end up drug dealing, causing mayhem, taxiing city passengers around or simply completing the missions, it's likely that your only moment of disappointment will come when you realize how dangerously close you are to finishing the game -- at which point you should note that there are an additional set of missions to be unlocked by tracking down two (very well) hidden Golden Lions after the main storyline ends.
  2. 100
    This is Grand Theft Auto the way you love it: all of the innovation, charm and thrills from its past installations neatly tied together in a creative package worthy of any DS owner.
  3. 100
    Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a triumph, not just in terms of bringing a difficult game to a new platform intact, but because it actually improves it in the process, and demonstrates a mastery of DS form and function.
  4. 100
    Great scope, nice car handling, awesome multiplayer – Rockstar delivers extraordinary GTA quality on a small display.
  5. Shameless developers trotting out shallow minigame anthologies and SNES era RPGs should stand in embarrassment at just how much potential Rockstar Leeds managed to wring from a console this late in its lifespan. Gentlemen, it’s time to beg your girlfriend for that DS back. Perhaps you could trade in your PS3 - it’s not like that’s getting more GTA anytime soon.
  6. A pocket rocket that's sumptuous to look at, riotously funny and deeply rewarding. GTA: Chinatown Wars is one of Rockstar's and the DS' best ever.
  7. 100
    It’s a great comfort to know that Rockstar Games not only makes great games, but understands what makes them great. Chinatown Wars is the culmination of years of work as well as the spirit of ingenuity to bring one of the biggest series to the smallest screen. Nothing in the game feels half done or forced. If anything, the game feels like a development team having fun with a concept.
  8. Probably the best DS title on the market currently, Chinatown Wars shows Rockstar can master not only next-gen console and PC, they know a thing or two about handheld gaming as well.
  9. Chinatown Wars is an achievement. It's not the typical kind of game you'd expect on the DS - the learning curve is steeper than normal thanks to the small help text (expected on a portable) and the legions of police and it's a very adult game. Still, I'll gladly take the time to learn if it comes with the entirety of Liberty City, a working drug economy plus people, cars, boats, and the occasional helicopter and next to no loading times.
  10. Besides being an extremely competent and fun experience, the game can bring the maximum potential of the console. All this combined with a duration that exceeds several hours, between missions, challenges and exploration.
  11. The developers at Rockstar Leeds were very smart about which elements of GTA to carry over and which would just drag the final product down. The end result is a game that feels new and fresh, even though it largely relies on the concepts forged in GTA's past.
  12. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an incredibly impressive game and probably the most technically impressive game on the Nintendo DS.
  13. 100
    Another worthy addition the GTA cannon, Chinatown takes all the best the previous games had to offer and adds plenty of own ideas into the mix.
  14. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a game for all the people who found Grand Theft Auto IV too ponderous, scattershot, or just too damn different from the rest of the series.
  15. 100
    No-one else but Rockstar could’ve made Chinatown Wars what it is, because no one else has that kind of commitment and finesse to pull it off. It’s been a while since such a must-have game has come to the DS.
  16. 100
    Chinatown Wars isn’t a case of squeezing GTA onto the DS but crafting it around a console that, while not having the power of its home console brethren, has its own uniquely interesting strengths.
  17. AceGamez
    Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is undoubtedly one of the must have purchases of the Nintendo DS generation - it is truly something to be behold, an experience to be enjoyed not just by yourself but by anyone you come across.
  18. 100
    It's an astonishing achievement for a handheld that nobody thought could hold this much content, or present it in such an effective way.
  19. 100
    I can only hope that soon you can come here and take part in the fun. I will warn you though, that once you do, you won't want to leave.
  20. LEVEL (Czech Republic)
    Essence of GTA the pocket version – controversial, rough, no concessions, polished to the smallest details and first of all, funny and playable. [Apr 2009]
  21. No DS owner should be without a copy. And if some moron comes complaining about violence, I'll give violence to him myself! The remaining point is an incentive for Rockstar to keep doing their excellent job, because many other perfect games are sure to come.
  22. Chinatown Wars is a game that feels new and fresh, even though it largely relies on the concepts forged in GTA's past. Probably the best DS title on the market currently.
  23. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a monster, multi faceted game on a mini-system. It is as well designed as a game could be, makes wonderful use of the system it is for and is by far and away (and I mean very far away) the best game I have played on the DS.
  24. Discovering what this game has in store for you is a lot of the fun, so allow me to conclude by saying that if you are a DS owner then Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars needs to be in your collection ASAP.
  25. Chinatown Wars proves that it's not only possible to fit an open world Grand Theft Auto game on the DS, it's possible to make a very good Grand Theft Auto game for the DS.
  26. 95
    Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars continues GTA's legacy as the premiere "sandbox" game design. Though it might look like a lot has changed in the move to the handheld platform, more has been added than taken away.
  27. The game is also unashamedly adult in its content and we, for one, see as a breath of fresh (marijuana scented) air on the platform. Dealing drugs, hand making molotovs, chainsawing people in half, swearing up a storm, blowing people’s heads off with a sniper rifle – it’s all in here, and if you’re underage you had better check with your olds before getting it. Or don’t, and just hide it really well. Whatever works.
  28. This isn't just a DS version of GTA; this is a fantastic game that advances the series by introducing a number of great new features.
  29. GTA: Chinatown Wars includes everything you know and love about the Grand Theft Auto series. This game demonstrates a mastery of DS form and function, and introduces some interesting elements and ways to explore through the touch screen. Awesome graphics, old-school mechanics… Chinatown Wars is one of the best DS games ever made.
  30. This is GTA perfection on a handheld. Much more enjoyable than the PSP versions as it does not have the camera and control issues.
  31. The few flaws aside, the GTA franchise thrives on the system, with missions becoming more focused and a second screen allowing for easy PDA, or menu access.
  32. Rockstar has done a downright amazing job of bringing one of gaming’s most ambitious, innovative and expansive franchises to a handheld console that seems like it simply shouldn’t be able to handle it. It looks great, plays great, and feels every bit like a fitting entry in the series.
  33. It’s obvious that the developers did not want to release just another GTA version for the handhelds and go for the quick cash but wanted to offer a high quality product for a handheld that desperately needs something else than just Brain simulators, Pokémon games and cross-dressing games. GTA Chinatown Wars is one hell of a game that deserves a place in your DS collection, especially if you’re a fan of the GTA franchise.
  34. GTA: Chinatown Wars is a landmark for the DS. It pushes the system to new highs and is an absolute blast to play.
  35. Games Master UK
    A criminally good game by any standard but on the DS it's practically unparalleled. [May 2009, p.58]
  36. Vast, visually stunning and every bit as good as any other GTA. And that's no mean feat.
  37. Chinatown Wars not only redefines DS gaming, it will very likely redefine GTA when the next installment hits major consoles.
  38. Nintendo Gamer
    Technically brilliant, well written, loads of fun to play, maybe a little bit naughty, maybe the best thing on DS. [May 2009, p.68]
  39. 93
    For Nintendo-only gamers out there – and these days, there are more of you than ever – this is an authentic Grand Theft Auto experience. It isn't watered down; it's as fun and foul-mouthed as any series-proper installment. While not perfect, it'll suck you in and keep you up at night like a chronic addiction. Hook it to our veins.
  40. Don’t let the diminutive size or nostalgic look fool you, this is just as complete of a Grand Theft Auto experience as any of the console iterations.
  41. 93
    It feels strange playing such an adult and violent game on the Nintendo DS, but at the same time, Grand Theft Auto feels right at home here. If future titles are announced for the DS then Chinatown Wars is proof enough that skepticism of Rockstar's ability to deliver on the platform is completely unjustified.
  42. Chinatown Wars is not a poor man's GTA by any means; on the contrary, it's a lesson about how to use the DS hardware in the best way possible, and sometimes it even shows how the series can evolve with the future home consoles episodes.
  43. 93
    It says something about the virtues of Chinatown Wars that the only thing possibly denying it the perfect GTA status is the soundtrack. The mini-games are plentiful but never outstay their welcome, the slick presentation pushes the boundaries of the DS, and the range of content creates an extensive but wonderfully accessible game. It's phenomenal, a game that I keep dipping into whenever the possibility arrives, and a desperately needed addition to the DS's library.
  44. An amazing and entrancing experience that lives up to the Grand Theft Auto name.
  45. Returning to its violent roots serves the game very well, and fans of the original top-down style of the first two games in the series are in for a nostalgiac treat. And when all the aspects come together, it’s a terrific package you shouldn’t be without.
  46. Rockstar has done a fantastic job packing a large amount of content onto a tiny DS cartridge. Not only is there a ton of stuff to do in GTA Chinatown Wars, but all of the little touches add up to an experience that's greater than its parts.
  47. A seriously good, fat-free but surprisingly deep GTA experience - that you can play on the toilet.
  48. 92
    The definitive GTA? That depends where your tastes lie, but either way there’s no denying this is a masterpiece of handheld gaming.
  49. The visuals are great, the gameplay is entertaining, and all of the new things that were tried in the game are welcome additions. The semi top-down view can take a little getting used to, especially when driving, but CW does a great job of compensating for this and just about any other issue you'll run into with a handful of assists that can be turned on and off.
  50. 92
    They have known how to squeeze the most of Nintendo DS, taking advantage of its strong point to make yes, a canonical GTA, but with unique elements which give it freshness. The use of the screens shows us how to combine a classic, well known gameplay, with the unique capabilities of the Nintedo DS. And they have not forgotten what makes a GTA feel special, which just make us want more.
  51. It should be more than obvious if you read any the above review that we are standing behind Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars 100%. Rockstar Leeds did an amazing job bringing the Grand Theft Auto franchise to life on the Nintendo DS platform.
  52. GTA: Chinatown Wars lets the gangster-flair come up again. The little DS-brother is as funny as the other games of the series - especially the creative minigames are a lot of fun. In short: Chinatown Wars does well!
  53. The game does suffer from too many touch screen mini-games and a slightly outdated look, but those problems are easy to overlook when the product turns out to be this good!
  54. 91
    Chinatown Wars is what I expected -- it takes an understandable few steps back from GTA4, but also takes a couple forward (a touch screen can do that). It's a well-honed "core" GTA on the handheld, not merely a one-to-one clone of its console parents.
  55. I haven't played a game that is so finely tuned in ages. The overwhelming love for this franchise by the dev team is obvious.
  56. A great GTA game that culls as much from the older titles as it does from the new ones.
  57. At the end of the day, Rockstar have created a fun game in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars that features an entertaining story, interesting characters and gameplay that only the Nintendo DS can boast about.
  58. 90
    My highest recommendation: Though I'm done with my review, I'm far from done playing. In spite of my early kneejerk dismissal, I can't get enough of this crazy little unregulated dystopia where you can get heavy assault weapons delivered to your doorstep.
  59. The faster pace, variety, and use of the touchscreen makes for a less real, yet more entertaining GTA experience perfectly suited for the popular handheld.
  60. GTA: Chinatown Wars is a must-have for every gamer with a Nintendo DS. It’s a game that’ll keep you entertained for hours and every aspect of it fits like a puzzle from beginning to end. It breathes that familiar GTA feeling, yet it also introduces some new and interesting elements. If you don’t have a Nintendo DS yet but are thinking about buying one, let Chinatown Wars give you the last little push you need.
  61. Chinatown Wars is Grand Theft Auto as it should be on a handheld. Missions are relatively short, you can always save and the point of view gives you that classical feeling. Even the use of the stylus feels like a true addition to the gameplay. And we haven't even talked about the great multiplayer, tons of details and the new 'drug-trading' mode. It's obvious that GTA: Chinatown Wars keeps the franchise going in pocket size.
  62. After experiencing Chinatown Wars, you have to applaud Rockstar. Not only have they presented their iconic city on a fashionably smaller scale, they have woven an intriguing story into the mix as well.
  63. A startlingly well realised iteration of GTA that even does some things better than the home consoles.
  64. 90
    Remarkably, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars as fleshed out as it could possibly be. Simply, it does what many DS and PSP games that originated on the consoles have failed to do. It provides the experience of the GTA console games while smartly catering for the platform, both in terms of portability and functionality.
  65. This time there’s no place for Pokemons, babysitting or Japanese lessons: this is an adult-only party, a mature gangster story that dwells deep in the Nintendo DS unique features. Politically incorrect, violent, embarrassing, ingenious. It’s an accomplished GTA, a new Rockstar masterpiece, an absolute must have.
  66. Chinatown Wars boils Grand Theft Auto down to its basic elements and wisely goes with what works. The game also makes wise use of the DS hardware without requiring too much back and forth between the control pad and the stylus. Most impressively, the game takes cues from the series' 2D past and incorporates modern amenities from recent installments, letting it live up to its legacy and stand on its own.
  67. Put simply, if you like GTA, you'll like this. It's the core GTA experience condensed, re-purposed, but astonishingly well preserved.
  68. 90
    Despite the overzealous police presence and mostly pointless Social Club, fans of the series will find plenty to like in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
  69. Edge Magazine
    No other GTA has felt so trim and robust while making good the promise of a living, breathing action world. [May 2009, p.86]
  70. Nintendo Power
    Succeeds because, despite its aesthetic differences from the other games in the series, it captures the great GTA feel. [May 2009, p.90]
  71. Chinatown Wars truly is one the best titles to ever grace the Nintendo DS. Despite the fact that it took on an old-style graphical approach and introduced alien concepts, the transition of the series to Nintendo’s handheld has been a smooth one – the end result being a fantastic adult game that is not worth missing.
  72. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars manages to bring the GTA formula to the DS in a spectacular way.
  73. Though the top-down view creates some problems, the game is quite enjoyable overall. DS Players looking for a modern GTA experience needn't look further than Chinatown Wars.
  74. Pelit (Finland)
    One of the best games on Nintendo DS. The game is as funny and mean-spirited as it should be. [Apr 2009]
  75. That being said, if you are a fan of the series you will definitely enjoy this game. This was the most fun I have had with a DS game in quite some time.
  76. 90
    A great game for the handheld and can satisfy any hardcore gamers' craving for something more than cooking games and language teachers on their DS.
  77. GTA Chinatown Wars is a little big revolution. Even played on DS, this title can compete with the home console version, for quality and innovation. A new fresh game that can be placed into the DS top title list.
  78. Play Magazine
    Rockstar Leeds has made what I believe to be the very best GTA the DS can muster complete with razors edge technology, a pair of worthy gameplay additions, a bevy of Local Wi-Fi multiplayer games, an 8 scenario co-op mode, and live in-game chat …all on the world’s number one all-time bestselling video game machine, that happens to fit in your pocket.
  79. Rockstar rocks at developing the GTA series for the NDS. Maybe this game is a good reason to buy an NDS. There’s also a warning for teenagers: You’ll hide your NDS, because with Chinatown Wars, your parents will definitely play more than you’ll like.
  80. Consistently enjoyable, with only a few frustrating missions.
  81. Despite the minor flaws, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an excellent experience.
  82. 80
    Unless you despise GTA, Chinatown Wars is an essential purchase. Rockstar did an excellent job transferring the mayhem to the DS, and we suggest you run out and buy a copy ASAP.
  83. games(TM)
    A game aware of its shortcomings and eager to prove its worth in other areas, Chinatown Wars manages to retain much of the classic Grand Theft Auto feel even without some of the series' lynchpins. [May 2009, p.102]
  84. 80
    It's strange to see an 18 rated title on DS (and it certainly earns it), but Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars fits into the library well and should be seen as something approaching an essential purchase for owners of the system.
  85. It's still Grand Theft Auto when it's all said and done, and most gamers who can't soak into the series won't find a different enough experience to sell them otherwise.

Awards & Rankings

#5 Most Discussed DS Game of 2009
#2 Most Shared DS Game of 2009
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 380 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 42 out of 380
  1. AndrewE
    Dec 18, 2009
    Simply, one of the best games on DS. Unique gameplay, stunning visuals and good old gta-like style - you gotta have it.
  2. Jan 17, 2013
    This is perhaps the best Nintendo DS games ever made. Rockstar made an amazing transition from the console to a handle held. Even if this isThis is perhaps the best Nintendo DS games ever made. Rockstar made an amazing transition from the console to a handle held. Even if this is simplified from it's larger console buddies, do not think your going to get a watered down version of the game. Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars proves the gaming industry that it's not graphics that makes it's games amazing- but the game play. Rockstar managed to grab such a massive game and squeeze it down into the palm of your hand- with lengthily missions, absurdly simple yet satisfying touch screen mini-games, and a massive world to explore. Easily the best game the DS has to offer and is not an experience to miss. Full Review »
    Jul 2, 2009
    At the base of it all, it's Grand Theft Auto. But not the GTA that we've come to know and love on say the Xbox and PS2, this is At the base of it all, it's Grand Theft Auto. But not the GTA that we've come to know and love on say the Xbox and PS2, this is basically a port of the original. It's sometimes hard to see what things are and know what to do and where to go. You might enjoy it for say, about 30 mins, but then you realize that the whole thing just starts becoming really.. really repetitive. If you have no other good games for the DS, then by all means buy this. Otherwise, I'd say rent. Full Review »