Gran Turismo (グランツーリスモ Guran Tsūrisumo, abbreviated GT) is a series of driving games created by Polyphony Digital for the Playstation consoles. Easy enough with assists for normies on gamepads, yet deep enough without for autists with wheels, they are undoubtedly the best-selling games ever to have been called driving sims.
The OG title that started it all, way back in 1997. Featuring 140 licensed cars (including plenty of mundane, every-day models), which could be tuned in detail, it was a revolutionary leap in racing game history. It also introduced the series' signature 'GT Mode', incorporating car collection, licence tests and race events, which has remained intact in every game since.
Gran Turismo 2
The second entry in the series is pretty much the same as its predecessor, but with a lot more content: some 650 cars, 27 tracks, and more races. Off-road racing is one notable new feature. Features which have not returned in later titles include a recreated section of the Pike's Peak hill climb (unpaved) and the ability to modify any road car into a race car with livery.
Gran Turismo 3
The jump to the PS2 brought a big leap in graphical quality, but a big drop in content: there are less than 200 cars. The number of tracks is increased over GT2, though many tracks from the PS1 era did not make the jump and have not been seen since. Career mode is a good length, but simplified in structure and can require some grinding for cash. Notable absent features include the used car dealerships and the ability to cosmetically modify the cars in any way other than wheels. The menu music is funky as ever though.
Gran Turismo 4
At the meeting of Gran Turismo old and Gran Turismo new, the greatest Gran Turismo of all is found. From the old games, there come the most expansive career mode in the series (including a championship of endurance races), abundant prize cars and challenging licence tests. Staples of the newer games which were introduced in GT4 include photo mode (considered an oddity at the time, but now de rigueur in console driving games), B-spec mode, 'Driving Missions' - set-piece driving challenges - and a large number of real-life circuits, most notably Circuit de la Sarthe (Le Mans 24 h) and the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The car count is back up to an impressive 722 cars.
Once the aids are turned off in the tuning menu, the driving is very involving - a big step up from GT3's noticeably arcade-esque physics. The B-spec driver management mode is featured in it's most useful implementation of the whole series: time can be speeded up by a factor of three, and you can switch between A-spec and B-spec at will during pit stops. Grinding is not needed to progress in career mode, due to the large amount of prize cars and different avenues to explore. The soundtrack is the best in the series too. If you're going to try one GT from years gone by, this is the one to go for.
Gran Turismo 5
Gran Turismo 5 represents the biggest advance in the series so far, though it also has its fair share of detractions. The most significant improvements include the size of the grid almost tripling to 16 cars, interiors are now rendered in 'premium' cars, dynamic weather, time progression, cosmetic and mechanical damage are implemented and vehicles can now overturn. At launch there were many missing features, though a lengthy series of updates restored many of them. The soundtrack is a bit weak, but you can have the game play songs saved on your PS3 HDD instead.
With regards to gameplay, career mode in GT5 is the most distinct in the series, with progression being dictated by RPG-like A-spec and B-spec levels, rather than by obtaining licences, which are optional. The purchase of cars is also locked according to level. Career mode is split into independent A-spec and B-spec progressions, the B-spec events being generally twice as long, but otherwise identical. B-spec mode has been overhauled and now allows the player to manage a stable of up to 5 AI drivers. At launch, career mode races featured standing starts. A later update changed these all to rolling starts, presumably due to slowdown issues related to large numbers of visible AI cars. Race Modifications return, but can be applied to fewer than 20 models.
In possibly the most controversial move in the series, less than 30% of the 1088 cars in the game are implemented in full 'premium' quality - the rest are 'standard' models which have been imported from GT4 or GT (PSP) and many of them look abominable. Other drawbacks include the low amount of career mode events and the significant amounts of grinding which are required to reach the final 24 h endurance races. GT4's implementation of B-spec would have served to cut this down, but with the option to fast forward or switch between modes mid-race removed, B-spec serves almost solely to inflate the game length. Another distinction of questionable merit is that GT5 contains the only instance in GT history of content being locked behind an additional paywall.
Gran Turismo 5 was a decent game at the point when updates ceased, but now that online functionality has been disabled the grinding problem is much worse, due to the lack of sign-in bonus and the lucrative Seasonal Events. The only reason to re-visit it are the rally events (which feature randomly generated courses and audible pace notes), the Ferrari F1 cars (the only licenced F1 cars in the series) and the Top Gear Test Track (which did not re-appear in GT6 due to Forza getting in bed with the BBC).
Gran Turismo 6
Where GT5 was a giant lunge forward, GT6 is more of a quantum leap. It's clear that the ambition of Polyphony Digital was scaled down a little, which is a good thing considering the abundance of half-baked ideas which were in GT5. Once again, the car count is up: 1226 in total, 388 of which are premium. The track count is up too, with 86 distinct layouts spread across 41 locations. The physics have noticeably improved, with a new tyre and suspension model. Many of the standard cars have been upgraded to 'semi-premium', meaning their exterior models are more detailed and no longer cause eye cancer.
Career mode returns to the tried and tested formula, abandoning the level system of GT5. Unfortunately, the number of events has not increased and for the first time in the series, there are no endurance events, the longest race lasting a mere 24 minutes. B-spec, though absent at launch, was added in its least useful guise yet. The stable of AI drivers are gone and the single AI driver you manage is so incompetent that he must be micro-managed through every overtake. There is no requirement to use B-spec this time, but neither does it serve any useful purpose or provide any enjoyment. Race Modifications are not present, though now that you can paint cars (solid colours - no livery editor yet), apply race numbers and install aero kits to most cars they have become somewhat redundant.
The Course Maker function introduced in GT5 returned in an update almost two years after release. This time, it runs on an app and allows the user to design the track arbitrarily (subject to limits on length and corner radius). Tracks shared by other users can be downloaded through a web interface. Because it requires an internet connection to function, the Course Maker will almost certainly become useless when online services are disabled, which is one disadvantage compared to GT5's less powerful version.
There is no paid DLC, but micro-transactions make a notorious appearance. In-game credits are the only thing available for purchase. Thankfully, credits are so easy to come by through gameplay that the thought of forking over real legal tender need never cross your mind. Micro-transactions are not obnoxiously advertised in the game either.
Despite the sub-par single player mode, there is a thriving online scene in both casual lobbies and organised series. Given that PS3s have depreciated to rock bottom prices (so you'll be able to sell it without a loss when you're done) and that the game is available to download for €20 it's well worth picking up for this alone. You can drive on the Moon too, if that's something that's important to you.