I have a lot of love for Grand Theft Auto as a franchise, as many do who grew up with it as an integral part of their gaming experiences. My relationship with GTA 5 is a complicated one though and I find myself in a position where GTA Online, if treated as a standalone experience, is far better than GTA 5 ever was.
Create Your Own Story
While the story in GTA 5 was perfectly fine, in fact, it's a masterpiece compared to many other attempts in other games, that doesn't automatically give it the status of untouchable. The balance of each character was nicely thought through and rarely does it feel like the story is being drawn out artificially to add game time to your playthrough.
On the flipside, GTA Online is YOUR STORY. This is a journey that you take your character on, whether you've created them to look just like you or you want to experience things in a role-playing manner.
Many of the GTA 5 story points cross over into GTA Online to set things up which can be a bit disorientating for those who haven't played or completed the story, but it gets the ball rolling which is fine.
Once you're free from the chains of the intro and free to explore the world as you see fit, the possibilities really are endless. If you want to become a tyrant who rains fury down on enemy players or tries to earn an 'honest' living running businesses, it's your choice and your actions that make it a reality.
The More, The Merrier
Of course, this point was always going to come up, multiplayer. The ability to team up with your friends to take on heists, races or just chill in GTA Online is still an underrated aspect of the game.
Even with the most recent update, Los Santos Tuners, logging into the game on launch day I saw countless players looking to group up and tackle the new content and maybe new friendships are being built this way, who knows. Even if those players just enjoy the game together for a few hours, it's an experience that you don't forget too quickly.
GTA 5's downtime can be filled with a variety of activities that are, for the most part, also available in GTA Online. I found myself bored out of my brains in GTA 5 just wandering the map before I had taken to plunge to try out GTA Online properly. Now when I look back I can't believe how much time was wasted when it could have been spent much more productively in GTA Online.
Content is King
Frequent updates are what keep GTA Online relevant, that's no secret. When a new big update comes along, the community rallies and crews are revived from the grave to attack the latest content.
GTA 5 is what is it, and no real post-launch content came to help keep the single-player experience fresh or alive. This time was spend making GTA Online the juggernaut it is today. This isn't a statement on how single-player games are unsustainable or not worth supporting because Rockstar is the premier developer of these experiences. They just happen to know how to create incredible online shared worlds also.
GTA 6 Can Wait
While I'm sure a new interaction of GTA Online will come with GTA 6 when it eventually launches, I can't help but feel like my time in GTA Online isn't anywhere near finished yet. When the curtain doesn't come down on GTA Online it'll be a sad yet optimistic day, knowing what I'm leaving behind but filled with glee for what's next.
I feel like it's a fairly common feeling among the GTA Online community that when GTA 6 arrives, great, we'll make the jump and enjoy the game, but we're not in any way annoyed to hear that the game is likely still 4 years away from release.