Grand Theft Auto is arguably the most legendary franchise in gaming, proving time and again why it’s so overwhelmingly popular. It has produced some of the most instantly recognisable protagonists in the business – and even the franchise’s side characters are just as memorable. With Grand Theft Auto 6 on the horizon, we thought it’d be appropriate to rank the Grand Theft Auto protagonists, figuring out once and for all which main character in the GTA series is the best.
It’s driven mostly by opinion – if you have your own ranking for the Grand Theft Auto characters, feel free to drop a comment saying who you’d put where in this list!
10. Victor Vance (Vice City Stories)
Vic Vance first appeared as a minor character in Vice City and had his own journey documented later on in Vice City Stories, which was a prequel of sorts. He becomes embroiled in the seedy, criminal underbelly of Vice City to support his family, and while his game boasted a good story, it wasn’t overwhelmingly impactful – hence the rating.
9. Johnny Klebitz (The Lost and Damned)
Back when Grand Theft Auto actually had story-based expansions, players were introduced to Johnny Klebitz. As a part of the Grand Theft Auto IV saga, Johnny took centre stage in The Lost and Damned, a gritty expansion based around an outlaw motorcycle club that was strewn with themes of brotherhood, loyalty, and the constant threat of brutal death.
Tommy Vercetti is an iconic PlayStation 2-era character, emerging from the very heart of Vice City as one the most ruthless and headstrong characters in the GTA series. As a former hitman for the Mafia, Vercetti has the tools needed to survive in the trade, and there are hopes he’ll resurface in Grand Theft Auto 6.
7. Claude (GTA III)
Claude was a silent protagonist who ushered in a new generation of gaming with the introduction of Grand Theft Auto III, the first 3D game in the series. It changed the paradigm for open-world adventures, and despite Claude never uttering a word, he’d become known as one of the most impactful Grand Theft Auto protagonists ever.
6. Franklin Clinton (GTA V)
Franklin Clinton was always more of a follower than a leader – first with Lemar Davis and then with Michael De Santa – but he had remarkable talents that made him shine in Grand Theft Auto V. His struggles ultimately turned themselves around, and in a relatively short period of time, Franklin Clinton became a legend of the streets, making millions, living in Vinewood Hills, and pulling off immense heists.
Trevor Philips was as unhinged as they came, but he was one of the most entertaining Grand Theft Auto protagonists to ever grace our screens. His anger management issues made for some hilarious situations, and despite his insanely hot head, he was an overwhelmingly talented marksman with a cold and calculating mind for business, and that’s what made him such a strong GTA protagonist.
4. Tony Cipriani (Liberty City Stories)
Tony Cipriani is one of the few GTA characters to bridge that gap between more than one game, appearing in both Grand Theft Auto III as a main character and in Liberty City Stories as the protagonist. He was a driving force in the Leone Crime Family that was based in Liberty City, and as both a fiercely loyal individual and a talented combatant, he made his mark on the franchise and proved that someone can perfect the balance between being a family man and a made man.
3. Michael De Santa (GTA V)
In many ways, Michael De Santa was the driving force behind the Grand Theft Auto V story – he was the catalyst and the spark that triggered events and snowballed them into the grand adventure that hundreds of millions of players have enjoyed. He’s a skilled criminal, even in his later years, and he’s unbelievably talented with any form of weaponry. He’s also a master thief, a charismatic individual, and what’s more, he recognises the need to help youngsters develop themselves into something greater than what they are.
Carl Johnson was introduced to the world in 2004’s GTA San Andreas, and he would ultimately go on to become one of the most iconic Grand Theft Auto protagonists of all time. He’s a die-hard family man and a ruthless fighter with a heart of gold, and he wants what’s best for those closest to him. He’s multi-talented, oozes charisma, and his journey across San Andreas turns him from a back-street gangbanger to a legendary icon of the series.
1. Niko Bellic (GTA IV)
In Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) players were introduced to a darker, more serious tone – and it was a total break away from what we’d come to know and love from the series thus far. However, it was a smash hit, and it put Niko Bellic on the GTA map.
As the man that sits atop the list of the best Grand Theft Auto protagonist, Niko has earned his spot for many reasons. Firstly, he’s a stalwart protector of his family and friends, which makes him honourable. He does what he does with the best of intentions in mind, and somehow, he manages to be likeable even when he’s going on a rampage to protect those he loves.
He’s a mysterious, storied character with a background that players simply desire to learn more about, and his journey through Liberty City is monumental. He goes from being an immigrant fresh off the deck of a cargo boat to being a respected, revered criminal presence in the city.
That’s why he’s the best Grand Theft Auto protagonist in the series.