Each GTA Protagonist has proven to be the most capable of crime committers. However, there is always at least one, or sometimes many, factors setting them apart. All the protagonists differ from each other as each GTA games take place in a different decade. There are many different types of protagonists, and you will find them all here in our list of Grand Theft Auto protagonists.
While we ranked the best GTA games based on the impact each title had in the open-world gaming industry, we’ve ranked these protagonists based on how successful they were at the end of their endeavors and how memorable they were. Being the "worst" doesn't mean they're not good, it is only a term used in relative terms within this specific list.
11. Toni Cipriani
Toni Cipriani is a mobster first introduced in GTA 3 as a non-playable character and later as a playable protagonist in Liberty City Stories. Liberty City Stories is set three years before the events of GTA 3.
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Toni Cipriani was involved in the Italian mafia and rose in rank by staying loyal to the Leone Mob Family. He is especially keen on always protecting Salvatore Leone. His loyalty and trust later earn him the rank of Capo. Toni is extremely loyal but also gets angry very easily. Many people compare Toni to one of the most beloved protagonists, Tommy Vercetti, due to his loyalty.
While not a lot of personality was seen in the early years of the franchise, a lot can be deciphered about Toni simply because he killed a made man of the rival family and fled the country. A made man is a highly ranked, fully recognized mafia member, for those of you who don't know. Not everyone can become a made man as there are several conditions. One of which includes the person being of Italian descent.
Four years later, Toni returned to Liberty City only to destroy two strong rival mafia families - the Sindaccos and the Forellis. This helps the Leone family become the strongest Mafia family in the city.
Unfortunately, Toni Cipriani is nothing short of pathetic when seen in GTA 3. The events of GTA 3 are set three years into the future, and he seems like another forgettable NPC.
10. Victor Vance
Victor Vance is a protagonist of a comparatively lesser-known GTA title, GTA: Vice City Stories. We call it a lesser-known title as it was exclusive to Playstation Portable (PSP) and was later ported over to the Playstation 2 (PS2).
Victor is an unconventional protagonist of the franchise as he didn’t intend to join the life of crime but was forced into it. Victor had good intentions and started by joining the army to pay for his brother’s medical treatment. Victor’s stance on crime was clear. He didn’t want any part of it until his superior Seargent Jerry Martinez ordered him to perform illicit activities for him.
Victor abides by some of the orders until he cannot take it anymore. They both have a fallout, and due to opposing views, Martinez, a man with little to no morals, discharges Victor from the army. Unable to make any money for his brother’s treatment, this prompts Victor to join the life of crime, where he becomes one of the most well-known figures in the underworld. Through his courage and wits, Victor establishes a large drug-dealing empire.
Victor is also seen briefly at the beginning of GTA: Vice City. As the name suggests, Victor is Lance Vance’s older brother. While the game is almost two decades old, some might still want to try it. So, no spoilers here.
Claude, also known as the Silent Killer, is the first protagonist in the 3D era of the GTA franchise introduced in GTA 3. Not much is known about Claude, except he does not question his orders and carries them out no matter what. Many consider Claude to be a psycho, and understandably so.
He never speaks a word and does not have a voice actor. As Claude is a complete mystery, the only background information about him is through his cameo in GTA: San Andreas, where Carl “CJ” Johnson races against Claude. That is how Claude meets Catalina before they leave for Liberty City. Claude loses his San Fierro garage to CJ.
The ranking for this protagonist is controversial. Many consider him to be the one to pave the way for the following 3D-era protagonists, while the others find him insignificant. Some are fueled by nostalgia, while others say he doesn’t have any personality. He didn’t even get the name ‘Claude’ during the release of GTA 3, rather much later when we see his cameo in GTA: San Andreas. That is when his name was revealed.
During a bank robbery, Claude is betrayed and left for dead by his girlfriend, Catalina. Enraged, Claude seeks to take revenge. He works for various criminals on his path to vengeance and even kills notorious criminals. This puts him on top of the wanted list and makes him one of the most famous criminals in Liberty City. By the end of the game, Claude is wanted by literally every criminal and cop in the city.
Considering all these, we’d say placing him at this place is fair. It balances everything, and despite his “lack of personality,” he is still on the list.
8. Johnny Klebitz
Johnny Klebitz was the protagonist of the GTA IV DLC, The Lost, and Damned. He also appears in the regular GTA IV, and a brief appearance in GTA V. Johnny served as the vice-president of The Lost MC biker gang. Apart from getting into occasional biker gang conflicts, Johnny also mixed up with corrupt government officials and even worked for one.
Johnny demonstrated excellent leadership skills, especially when The Lost MC president, Billy Grey, wasn’t around. Thanks to his caring nature, he maintained peace with the rival biker gangs, including the most notorious ones such as the Angels of Death.
Soon after the arrest of Billy Grey, Johnny became the president of The Lost MC biker gang. While Johnny showed great skills both as a leader and an enforcer, he was not the same when seen in GTA V. Unfortunately, soon after becoming the president, Johnny succumbed to drug addiction. A strong president of The Lost MC biker gang is begging his girlfriend not to cheat on him in GTA 5 as she is caught with Trevor. As he confronts Trevor and his girlfriend, Trevor humiliates Johnny and kills him. Johnny, who seemed like he had already given up, didn’t even put up a fight.
7. Luis Fernandez Lopez
Luis is another GTA IV DLC protagonist introduced in The Ballad of Gay Tony DLC. Luis, a former gangster, serves as the bodyguard of the titular character Tony Prince. Tony Prince is a nightclub owner who got involved in a diamond deal that went wrong. Luis is now responsible for protecting Tony from the mobsters.
Luis has good training in all aspects of combat, including driving, piloting a helicopter, and more. This makes him one of the most competent and skilled protagonists.
Despite all his skills, he is quite self-contained compared to the rest of the people around him. Luis is also very loyal and also aims to impress his mother. He carries them out with full efficacy whatever orders are given to him - no questions asked!
Many players prefer Luis over Niko, and that is because Luis has a very fun personality. Despite all the crimes he committed, he enjoyed it and always passed on quirky remarks about the situations he was into.
6. Franklin Clinton
Franklin Clinton is one of the three playable protagonists introduced in Grand Theft Auto 5.
Rockstar Games has brilliantly introduced three protagonists but with completely different story arcs of their own. Franklin hails from a lower class of South Los Santos, where he made money through petty crimes and street hustles. However, Franklin eventually meets Michael De Santa, who takes him under his wing to do much more ambitious crimes. Together with Michael and Trevor, Franklin carries out impossible heists and crimes, resulting in Franklin earning a lot of money.
Franklin is the smartest of the group but lacks experience, which he gained after joining Michael and Trevor. As each protagonist has a special ability, Franklin also gets one. Being a car enthusiast, Franklin is a very skilled and competent driver. His ability allows him to slow down time while driving and get better handling. The only downside about Franklin is his personality. Out of the three protagonists, Franklin is the least interesting one.
5. Trevor Philips
Talking about personality, Trevor won't disappoint you. Trevor is one of the protagonists in GTA V, and he is the crazy one. Trevor has no limits or boundaries. His explosive personality makes him one of the most memorable GTA protagonists to date. Trevor is always drawn toward violence, one way or another. It is due to his mental instability caused by his upbringing. He is emotionally scarred and finds it difficult to adjust to society.
With that being said, Trevor is also a skilled pilot and an intelligent planner. He was kicked out of the flight school as he was found unfit for duty due to his mental instability. He is one of the most intelligent protagonists and ensures the plans are seen through. Just like the other two GTA 5 protagonists, Trevor also has an ability, one that causes him to rage.
His anger and mental instability are why he murdered Johnny Klebitz in cold blood. That was essentially an intro to his character when we first played GTA V story mode.
4. Michael De Santa
Based on Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley, from the hit movie Heat, Michael De Santa is the mastermind behind most of the heists in GTA V’s story mode. Michael is Trevor’s friend, who he left during a bank robbery. Michael then enrolls in a witness protection deal and moves to Los Santos, where he lives in a mansion with his family.
Michael goes on to eventually reunite with Trevor, who holds a grudge against him throughout the events of GTA V, but despite all the differences, they always cared for each other. Michael is very ambitious when it comes to heists. While he lacks the intelligence of his partner Trevor, he does have good knowledge of the heists and how to execute them.
He is well-versed in dealing with government officials and bringing people together. Michael eventually gets his happy ending where he fixes his broken family, becomes good friends (almost) with Trevor, and also gets a chance to work on a movie. Michael is a huge fan of movies. It’s all a happy ending for Michael De Santa.
3. Carl "CJ" Johnson
Carl "CJ" Johnson is one of the most beloved and most memorable protagonists of the GTA franchise. CJ was the protagonist of GTA: San Andreas. The overall story narrative of the game has left a mark on every player who played it for the first time.
CJ might not seem very intelligent due to his naive personality, but his actions have proven otherwise. CJ goes from a low-class gang member to a highly respected and clever criminal mastermind. The story of CJ will result in anyone playing the game falling for his character and sympathizing with him.
CJ's relations with other characters and the story unraveling before your eyes as you progress through the game is what kept the interest brewing throughout the game's story mode. CJ's quirky and eccentric insults have had everyone rolling on the floor. Everything about CJ is memorable, from his dialogues to his personality and relations with other characters in the game.
In the end, CJ also gets a happy ending where he restores his home gang to its former glory and brings together all his friends and family members. CJ also defeats those who betrayed him and his family.
2. Niko Bellic
Niko is the protagonist of the critically acclaimed GTA 4. Niko has a very depressing and sad background story. The savvy eastern European fought in the Yugoslav War, where he was betrayed by Darko Brevic, one of his fellow soldiers and a friend of Niko. As a result of the betrayal, fifteen men were killed during the war, most of which were Niko's friends from his hometown. Niko and another friend of his, Florian Cravic, survived the ambush.
After the war ended, Niko couldn't find a steady job. He also suffered from PTSD, regret, depression, and was emotionally unstable. To become a better man and in hopes of a fresh new start, Niko contacts his cousin, Roman. Roman has already moved to Liberty City in the US. Niko comes to America for a better life, only to be forced back into the life of crime.
However, Niko doesn't get involved in the life of crime for any personal gains but solely to get revenge on those who did him and his fellow soldiers wrong. While Niko is not necessarily a criminal, he doesn't back down from playing the good or the bad side, as long as it takes him to his objective.
Niko eventually gets his revenge but finds no peace and comfort. The story of Niko is tragic, hence why so many people were captivated by the overall story narrative of GTA IV.
1. Tommy Vercetti
Finally, the best GTA protagonist on our list is Tommy Vercetti, who starred in one of the most famous GTA games, GTA: Vice City. Tommy Vercetti, voiced by Ray Liotta, is associated with the Forelli crime family in Liberty City. Tommy Vercetti was the first protagonist to get a full-fledged voice actor. He is like an upgraded version of Claude from GTA 3.
Ever since his childhood, Tommy had worked hard to be successful. He is a self-determined and ambitious person, and that is apparent once he comes to Vice City following a 15-year prison sentence.
Tommy and two other Forelli crime family members perform a drug deal with the Vance Brothers. But unfortunately, it goes south after Ricardo Diaz learns of the deal going through without his knowledge. Due to the deal not working out, Tommy loses a lot of money and now is in debt to his boss Sonny Forelli.
As Tommy works with various criminals in the Vice City, hoping to find the individual responsible for the deal ambush, he runs them all over to eventually become the kingpin of the underworld in Vice City. Tommy defeats all his enemies, including the man responsible for the drug deal ambush. Tommy is also one of the more intelligent protagonists. This is apparent when we see how well he managed to play rival gangs against each other, letting them do the hard work before he finally stepped in to take the throne.
At the end, Tommy finally starts his own Vercetti crime family. Fun fact: Tommy is inspired by Tony Montana from the movie Scarface.