Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is easily the most ambitious game of the early 3D titles in the franchise. There are around 100 story missions and some heavily engaging side missions that have just as much care put into them as the main path.
Though not every mission is golden, this list is meant to highlight the best of the best. San Andreas is over 15 years old, but you'll be happy to know that it still holds up after all this time. These missions in particular showcase an ambition almost no other game of the time was trying.
10 Reuniting The Families
A meeting between all the gangs goes awry and CJ must rescue Sweet from inside a motel while police attack him.
The best part of this mission is the chase afterward. It is a rail shooting segment filled with fantastic moments, a couple of which reference famous action movies like Terminator 2 and Con Air. It culminates in a giant jump through a billboard followed by a massive explosion. It is the biggest mission in the game up to this point.
9 The Green Sabre
After several hours of playing, you feel like you have a decent grasp of what San Andreas will be; a quest to take over Los Santos for the Grove Street gang. However, The Green Sabre flips all of this on its head when you are betrayed by Ryder and Big Smoke.
The mission ends with you defending an injured Sweet. After it is done, you end up in the rural area of the map, having lost everything you worked for in the game thus far.
8 Pier 69
After some time in San Fierro, you destroy a small criminal ring run by a pimp and drug dealer. At the final attack, Ryder is there. The shootout presents an interesting gameplay choice.
You can either stay on the rooftop and snipe everyone or jump to the street immediately and then take people on from close range. The mission ends with Ryder fleeing on a boat. You eventually blow him up, killing one-half of the duo who betrayed you and the gang.
7 The Da Nang Thang
Some of the most unique missions in San Andreas involve big boats. This one is a direct attack starting with a sweep over it with a helicopter. After it crashes, you lose all of your weapons and must find new guns while on the boat.
Your ultimate objective is to rescue refugees trapped in shipping containers. Finding new weapons is not too hard and there are no unfair ambushes, making this mission wholly enjoyable.
6 Yay Ka Boom Boom
This one is relatively simple, but exciting. You pick up a car armed with a bomb and must drive it into a drug factory. After parking it in the middle and arming it, you must make a daring escape. However, the gate is locked.
The mission ends with you finding another car and jumping over the gate using a ramp as the place explodes. The most exciting part of the mission is running down enemies as they are shooting at your car.
Salvatore Leone wants you to kill some Forelli gang members before they even have the chance to land in Las Venturas. CJ takes a small plane and meets the rival jet in mid-air.
He jumps out and infiltrates the other vehicle. After killing everyone on board, he takes control of the plane and lands it. San Andreas starts out relatively grounded and ridiculous set pieces like this feel earned.
4 End Of The Line
The final mission in the game is also one of the biggest. It only activates after taking over a certain number of gang territories in Los Santos. The start of it has you breaking into a building where Big Smoke is hiding. You shoot your way through it and finally kill the man you once trusted.
Tenpenny then tries to kill CJ. When he fails, he flees and tries to blow up the building. CJ is able to escape and then the rest of the mission is a daring chase where you hunt down the antagonist while he is driving a firetruck.
3 Vertical Bird
The final mission from Mike Toreno is a big one. First, you have to sneak on board a boat and steal a fighter jet. Then you must destroy several boats before landing the jet back at your airstrip.
The mission is funny because of how scared CJ is during the whole ordeal. He does not handle it like a champ, but we'd be terrified too if we were committing treason.
2 Los Desparados
One of the final missions in the game has you teaming up with Cesar to reclaim some of his gang's territory. It is all combat all the time with this objective. Be sure to start the mission with a heavy arsenal.
You go to several different locations and clear them of enemies. It ends with you storming a house where an enemy with an RPG is raining rockets down on you. It is simple but immensely thrilling.
1 Saint Mark's Bistro
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is so big, it cannot be contained to just the San Andreas map. This mission has you flying back to Liberty City and attacking Saint Marco's Bistro.
It is a nice piece of nostalgia for fans of the series who played the first mainline 3D entry. It is doubly nice because you never actually go inside the restaurant in Grand Theft Auto 3, though it is an important landmark.
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