The 15 Best 'GTA' Characters, Ranked

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Rockstar Games / ONE37pm

From the gritty streets of "Liberty City" to the sun-soaked boulevards of "Los Santos," the Grand Theft Auto series has introduced us to a memorable cast of characters, each with their quirks, flaws, and undeniable charm. Whether you're navigating gang wars with Carl "CJ" Johnson in "San Andreas," unraveling the complexities of Niko Bellic in Liberty City, or embracing the unpredictable chaos of Trevor Philips in Los Santos, these characters have become virtual icons, leaving a huge mark on the gaming world. Get ready to dive into the chaotic and criminal world as we embark on a thrilling countdown of the best GTA characters, from antiheroes, psychopaths, or just those trying to make a living in the criminal underworld. 

RELATED: Here's a Complete List of 'GTA' Games in Order

15. Claude

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto III'

Claude, the silent protagonist from Grand Theft Auto III, is the least compelling character in the GTA franchise. With a mysterious demeanor and a complete lack of verbal communication, Claude lets his actions speak louder than words as players navigate the gritty underworld of Liberty City. While his silence leaves much to the imagination, it adds an intriguing layer to his character, allowing players to project their interpretations onto this enigmatic figure. Despite the lack of backstory, Claude's impact on the GTA series is undeniable, and fans can catch a fleeting glimpse of him in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, showing off a small hint at the interconnected world of these iconic games.

14. Toni Cipriani

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto III'

Toni Cipriani is a somewhat overlooked protagonist in GTA lore. Serving as the main character in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Toni provides a nuanced perspective on the events that transpired between Grand Theft Auto III and the Liberty City Stories installment. While not as flashy or memorable as some of his counterparts, Toni's journey is a crucial narrative link, filling in the gaps and showcasing the power struggles within Liberty City's organized crime scene. His role may not have stolen the spotlight, but Toni Cipriani's contributions to the GTA franchise offer fans a deeper understanding of the ever-evolving criminal landscape of Liberty City.

13. Salvatore Leone

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto III'

As the ruthless Don of the "Leone Crime Family," Salvatore Leone cemented himself as one of the most powerful and enduring mob bosses in Liberty City throughout the early days of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Introduced in GTA III as a prominent Liberty City kingpin, Leone returned as a daring and volatile supporting player influencing events in San Andreas as well as a key center antagonist bent on domination in Liberty City Stories. Whether plotting meticulous revenge, navigating power grabs, or simply trying to hold ground in Liberty City's chaotic order, Salvatore Leone thought big and acted boldly, forging a prominent legacy as one of the earliest icons to carve their name into Grand Theft Auto lore.

12. Victor Vance

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories'

Victor Vance, the resilient protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, may not have grabbed headlines, but he certainly held his own in the tumultuous world of the early 1980s. Serving as a prelude to the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Victor navigates the neon-lit streets of Vice City, carving out a place for himself in the criminal hierarchy. While not reaching the same heights of fame as some other GTA protagonists, Victor's story was a solid addition for its time, offering players a glimpse into the gritty underbelly of "Vice City" and setting the stage for the chaos that would follow in subsequent games. In the context of its era, Victor Vance was a competent if unremarkable protagonist who played a pivotal role in expanding the narrative richness of Vice City. 

11. Ken Rosenburg

Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' and 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'

Few characters in the Grand Theft Auto series can claim to have witnessed the heights of power and the depths of despair quite like Ken Rosenberg. Serving as Tommy Vercetti's neurotic legal counsel in the neon-drenched days of Vice City, Rosenberg found himself unraveling at the seams as his business dealings descended into disarray and chaos. But after cleaning up and relocating to San Andreas, Rosenberg reemerged as a semi-respectable manager for "Caligula's Palace" casino, though still unable to fully shake his knack for finding trouble. With his trademark paranoia and nervous energy, Ken Rosenberg made his mark across two GTA worlds, endearing himself as a sniveling survivor who - for better or worse - always managed to live another day despite the bodies that piled up around him.

10. Johnny Klebitz

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto IV' and 'Grand Theft Auto V'

As the gritty and battle-hardened leader of The Lost biker gang in Grand Theft Auto IV's The Lost and Damned expansion, Johnny Klebitz brought a grizzled edge to the seedy underbelly of Liberty City. Struggling to maintain control and order due to a war with another gang, Johnny showcased the story of someone trying to survive in the brutal hierarchy of Liberty City's criminal element. While lacking the flair and notoriety of some other GTA antiheroes, Johnny's somber, violent story was a compelling glimpse into biker gang culture, adding depth and perspective to the sprawling world of Grand Theft Auto IV. His fate may have been tragically tied to Trevor's manic brutality in GTA V, but Johnny Klebitz remains an integral part of the interconnected web of characters that gives Liberty City its dangerous, unpredictable charm.

9. Frank Tenpenny

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'

In the sprawling cast of characters that populate the world of Grand Theft Auto, few antagonists have reached the despicable heights of corruption and brutality that defined Frank Tenpenny's twisted reign in San Andreas. As a wildly unstable leader within the city's "Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums" division, Tenpenny leveraged his power to orchestrate chaos and disorder for his gain, enlisting protagonist CJ and others to do his dirty work. Vile, cunning, and willing to undermine anyone in his path, Tenpenny, as voiced by acclaimed actor Samuel L Jackson, showcased the high-level corruption and moral bankruptcy that plagued the institutions of San Andreas, making him an iconic GTA villain that players loved to hate. In the end, not even getting struck by a firetruck could prevent Tenpenny from going out with a smug, delusional bang - a fitting end for one of the series' most notorious rogue cops.

8. Franklin Clinton

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto V'

As one of the trio of protagonists leading players through the high-stakes heists and brisk chaos of Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos, Franklin Clinton represents a classic rags-to-riches story of making a name for yourself in the city's ruthless criminal enterprises. Introduced as a small-time gangbanger looking for opportunities, Franklin leverages his considerable driving skills to build connections in the elite tiers of organized crime, becoming entangled in the lives of Michael and Trevor in the process. As the youngest and most level-headed of GTA V's playable characters, Franklin brought a grounded perspective to the inflated egos and unchecked madness that surrounded him, playing an instrumental role in navigating Los Santos and forging his iconic legacy that cemented his place as a fan favorite of the Grand Theft Auto series.

7. Luis Fernando Lopez

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto IV'

As the cold-blooded protagonist at the center of Grand Theft Auto IV's second expansion, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Luis Fernando Lopez embraced the high-flying excess of Liberty City's nightclub scene while balancing debts and favors owed to old friends. Walking a delicate line between opportunistic ambition and loyalty to his mentor, Gay Tony, Luis navigated the glitz and seedy underworld connections by propping up the club and knowing when to get his hands dirty. His ties may have been torn between old and new liberties, but Luis Fernando Lopez gave the Grand Theft Auto IV saga one last jolt of charm before leaving the streets of Liberty City behind for good.

6. Michael De Santa

Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto V'

Of all the prominent antiheroes in the GTA franchise, few can match the complexity and duality of Michael De Santa - a temperamental career criminal pushed into early retirement after a botched heist. Seemingly trying to assume the quiet life of a family man in witness protection, Michael's suburban facade poorly concealed his simmering capacity for violence, living out a life of delusion reminiscent of Tony Soprano's struggles to balance domesticity with criminal brutality. When we're introduced to Michael in GTA V, he's a gangster pushed into therapy - but one who quickly relapses into old ways by resuming a life of elaborate scores, strained family ties, and the morally blurred lines that come with finding power and purpose in GTA V's world of high-stakes crime.

5. Tommy Vercetti

Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City'

As the slick and savage lead seeking revenge in the sun-soaked brutality of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Tommy Vercetti is the first fully developed protagonist to anchor the chaotic essence of Rockstar's defining franchise. Voiced perfectly by Goodfellas star Ray Liotta, Tommy embodies the slick swagger and violent appetites of a ruthless gangster, arriving in a new city seething for payback only to rapidly ascend the ranks of Vice City's underground empire along the way. After the more one-note leads that preceded him, Tommy Vercetti was Grand Theft Auto's first attempt at featuring a true antihero capable of carrying an entire criminal saga on his shoulders - a landmark achievement that laid essential groundwork for the parade of memorable antiheroes that would follow in his wake.

4. Roman Bellic

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto IV'

While Grand Theft Auto IV protagonist Niko Bellic brought the brooding depth and criminal capabilities to navigate the urban battlefield of Liberty City, it was often his optimistic and lovably roguish cousin, Roman Bellic, that added lighthearted charm and meaningful emotional stakes. Despite living far beyond his means and relying on flashy lies to back up claims about his success, Roman’s relationship with his dangerous yet devoted cousin Niko grounded GTA IV in family relationships. As much as Niko pushed himself to the edge in the name of protecting Roman from violent retribution, it was often Roman’s hapless misadventures that stole the spotlight. For all of Niko’s gloomy gravitas, it was his cousin Roman - with his ready wit and blind optimism in the face of ridiculous misfortune - that carried the humorous heart so essential to the legacy of Grand Theft Auto IV.

3. Carl "CJ" Johnson

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'

When Carl "CJ" Johnson returned to the streets of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after serving time, he brought a level of customization and narrative depth previously unseen within Rockstar's criminal opus. Far more than a blank slate for chaos, CJ evolved from a street-hardened gangster looking to reestablish himself to the leader of the "Grove Street Family," ushering in a new era alongside corrupt cops and quirky acquaintances. From his many stylistic outfit changes to his ability to directly impact his skills and transform his physique based on gameplay choices, playing as CJ ushered in an experience offering unmatched customization and role-playing potential compared to any previous Grand Theft Auto antihero. 

2. Trevor Philips

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto V'

While Grand Theft Auto has never suffered from a shortage of chaotic misfits and violent psychopaths, no character in the storied franchise fully embodies the unpredictable mayhem and visceral carnage of going on a wild rampage quite like Trevor Philips. Foul-mouthed, morally demented, and always teetering on the edge of rationality, Trevor injects both lunacy and deadpan humor into every scene, constantly pushing limits in his thirst for destruction and making even long-time GTA maniacs flinch. Behind the wheel, on foot, or caught up in deranged scenarios, unleashing Trevor Phillips on the finely crafted world of GTA V virtually guaranteed reckless calamity around every corner. For those wanting to gleefully channel their inner madness in GTA V's playground of violence and dark humor, Trevor singularly captured the chaotic, rampage-ready spirit that defined the franchise from the beginning.

1. Niko Bellic

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Rockstar Games

Appears in: 'Grand Theft Auto IV'

When it comes to the pantheon of prominent antiheroes of Grand Theft Auto, none reach the emotional depth and nuance of Liberty City newcomer Niko Bellic. Haunted by the scars of a past life yet unable to avoid the allure of underworld glory, Niko brought unprecedented gravitas to the role compared to GTA’s other murderous misfits. Driven by the pursuit of answers over money and showing ruthless skill coupled with introspective insight, Niko elevated Grand Theft Auto IV with the most fully fleshed protagonist to ever carry an entire GTA story arc almost solely on the strength of his and his cousin Roman's shoulders. For all the parody and explosive action the franchise thrives on, Niko Bellic introduced proper soul, showcasing the heights these games could reach by getting players to truly invest in somebody seeking redemption in a world where violence waits around every corner.

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