The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been with us for a long time and while everybody can easily decide which GTA is the best one in the franchise, is a harder task to choose who is the best protagonist in the series. Each protagonist is different from the others and while most of them are criminals, every one of them has their own motivations, story and personality.
Choosing a GTA protagonist depends on each gamer’s personality so we are going to be as impartial as possible with this one. Today we are going to rank the 10 best GTA protagonists until now.
10. Claude – Grand Theft Auto 3
Claude, nicknamed “The Silent Killer” because he doesn’t speak at all, is the protagonist of the groundbreaking Grand Theft Auto 3, the first GTA game in the 3D era.
He is probably the most mysterious protagonist in the whole franchise because almost nothing is known about him, except that he always carries his orders. This one is a little bit controversial because many consider him the one who paved the way for the next protagonists while others say that he doesn’t have personality.
To be fair, both opinions are true.
9. Victor Vance – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
The main reason why I ranked Vince above Claude is because Vince never wanted or planned to be a criminal. He was forced to… And because he can actually speak.
Victor Vance, Lance Cade’s brother, is the protagonist of GTA: Vice City Stories, the prequel to the majestic GTA: Vice City and probably, the most forgotten GTA game of the 3D era. Victor is not a bad protagonist. In fact, he is probably the less evil protagonist in the series and his rise to becoming a crime mob against his will is very good.
But from my perspective, the sole reason of being Vice City Stories’ protagonist is why he is ranked so low in this list.
8. Johnny Klebitz – Grand Theft Auto 4: The Lost and the Damned
This one is hard for me to write because I absolutely loved The Lost and the Damned episode but I have to admit that Johnny is one of the few “weak” points of this video game.
Johnny served as the vice-president of The Lost MC gang. In this game we demonstrated great leadership skills when The Lost MC’s president wasn’t around and despite his caring nature, he is well respected.
Sadly, after The Lost and the Damned storyline he succumbs to drug addiction and is later killed by Trevor Phillips in Grand Theft Auto 5.
7. Luis Fernando Lopez – Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Luis Fernando Lopez, the protagonist of the episode The Ballad of Gay Tony, is a very funny and underrated protagonist because he makes this episode even better.
While the plot of The Lost and The Damned is more serious, the Gay Tony episode is more flamboyant and Luis himself is one of the better aspects of this DLC. Luis is a good protagonist because he knows when to crack a joke even if the situation is deadly and serious, and his undying loyalty to his best friend and boss Gay Tony is one of the most memorable things in this video game.
6. Franklin Clinton – Grand Theft Auto 5
Everybody has their favorite GTA 5 protagonist, but sadly almost everybody knows that Franklin is the weakest of the trio. He is important for sure: he is the coolest, the youngest, the calmest and by far the most collected. And in a game like Grand Theft Auto, being the voice of the reason sometimes is not the most important thing.
His father-son relationship with Michael De Santa is one of the highlights of GTA 5 and also is great to see his character development from a street thug to a more professional criminal.
5. Michael De Santa – Grand Theft Auto 5
Michael is, by far, my favorite Grand Theft Auto 5 protagonist and he is one of the most iconic protagonists in the series. He is a former professional criminal who abandoned this lifestyle in order to have a more pacific life in Los Santos but his unhealthy relationship with his family makes him go back to his criminal life.
His story and his dynamic with other characters -with both Franklin and Trevor to be specific- are two of the best parts of the game. By the way, Michael was based on Robert De Niro’s character from the movie Heat, Neil McCauley.
4. Trevor Philips – Grand Theft Auto 5
While Michael De Santa is the face of Grand Theft Auto 5, the chaotic and acclaimed Trevor Phillips was the one who stole the spotlights.
Trevor is the personification of madness, chaos, and danger, and many reviewers consider him a believable character for being probably the only protagonist in the entire series who would commit the player’s actions such as violence and murder without hesitation.
And while he is a very aggressive person, he is very loyal to his friends and deeply cares about them. You’ll enjoy every second he is on screen.
3. Tommy Vercetti – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Tommy Vercetti, voiced by the great Ray Liotta and based on Tony “Scarface” Montana, is a fan-favorite and is considered by some to be the best protagonist in the series, he is nicknamed “The Harwood Butcher” for killing eleven men after an ambush.
He is imprisoned for 15 years because of this and after his release he is determined to rule Vice City for himself. Tommy’s story is amazing from start to finish. Because the next GTA is set again in Vice City, it would be amazing to see Tommy one last time.
2. Carl “CJ” Johnson – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
When the game itself is considered by many to be the greatest Grand Theft Auto until now, the protagonist must be one of the best of all time. The troubled but caring Carl Johnson, commonly known as “CJ” is totally the opposite to Trevor: respectable, kind, down-to-earth, and serious; but obviously he kills when he knows he has to.
His dynamic with other characters, his “from zero to hero” story, and his penchant to crack a good joke easily places him as one of the greatest characters in video game history.
1. Niko Bellic – Grand Theft Auto 4
Niko is not only the best GTA protagonist of all time, but one of the greatest protagonists a video game could have. He received universal acclaim for his story as he is an ex-soldier from Eastern Europe who, after being betrayed by a fellow soldier and friend, decides to move to Liberty City with his cousin to live the “American Dream”. Sadly, everything was a lie.
As the game progresses, Niko starts to learn to let go his past and look for a better future. For his maturity, personal growth, development, and moral ambiguity, Niko is by far the best protagonist in the series.