Liberty City has been the setting for many of the Grand Theft Auto games and is mostly a proxy for New York City. The city has three different renditions:
2D Universe: one of GTA 1's cities.
3D Universe: main city of GTA III, GTA Advance and GTA Liberty City Stores; minor appearences in GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas.
HD Universe: main city of GTA IV (and its episodes) and GTA Chinatown Wars.
Though many people believe Grand Theft Auto III's Liberty City was supposed to represent New York City, that is only a third truthful. Staunton Island was modeled after Manhattan, however Shoreside Vale and Portland were modeled after Philadelphia and Detroit, respectively. GTA III included three boroughs for players to run around in: Portland Island, Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale. This version of Liberty City has many landmarks based on its real world counterpart, New York City. It has Belleville Park, which is reminiscent of Central Park, and a building named The Staunton Plaza, still in construction during Grand Theft Auto III, which references the Chrysler Building. It had a parallel to Little Italy named Fort Staunton, until it was destroyed by the Panlantic Organization in 1998. There is a nameless building in Liberty City that bears many features similar to the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the GE Building at Rockefeller Center. The Jefferson St. Credit Union Office Building is the tallest building in the city, often referred to by fans of the series as the World Trade Center, because of this claim. The two bridges in the game, the Callahan Bridge and the Shoreside Vale Lift Bridge, are very similar to the Manhattan Bridge, and the Harlem River Lift Bridge span of the Triborough Bridge.
A more realized version of Liberty City was introduced in Grand Theft Auto IV. This version more closely resembles actual New York City and includes four boroughs: Broker, Dukes, Algonquin and Bohan. It also includes the separate state of Alderney. More bridges, landmarks and sites adorned the higher resolution version of Liberty City. The introduction of a taxi system also allowed players to quickly move around different points of the city.
The Liberty City area was first explored by a man named Horatio Humboldt in 1609. A trading post was established there by Dutch traders, but it quickly became a den of crime, drugs, and vice. The Dutch settlers had originally named the city New Rotterdam, but due to a sponsorship deal with the Bank of Liberty, control passed to the British in 1664 and they renamed it to Liberty City. The British abandoned the city during the War of Independence, and in the 19th century it was destroyed during the American Indian Wars.