Skip to main content

The best GTA characters of all-time

Ever since the GTA franchise became what it is today with Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar has packed their worlds full of colorful and rich characters. While we’ve only been able to control male characters up until now (though that is set to change if the GTA 6 rumors are true), they have all had distinct and interesting personalities and stories. That said, sometimes it’s the side characters that can steal the show too. Looking back at the entire series, we’ve come up with our picks for the best GTA characters of all time.

Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson — GTA: San Andreas

CJ walking down a sketchy alleyway.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Good old Carl Johnson, better known as CJ, is way more than just a meme. San Andreas was the second game in the series to really focus on character in a major way, and the team nailed it with their lead. Not only was the entire cast filled with bonafide actors, but CJ’s personal story as a gang member whose mother is murdered was far more nuanced and emotional than the media would lead you to believe. The real draw was the relationship CJ had with the main antagonist Officer Tenpenny (who may or may not be mentioned later on). This game set the standard for how Rockstar would reveal more about the characters and world through casual conversation throughout the story.

Tommy Vercetti — GTA: Vice City

Tommy talking at a bar.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Vice City still feels a bit like it was getting its grip on refining the GTA formula after 3, but as far as the world and characters are concerned, Rockstar was leagues ahead of the competition. Tommy’s entire arc wears its Scarface inspirations on its sleeve and is all the better for it. He cracks-wise, has a simple goal of becoming the most powerful gangster in the city, and is just a fun character to follow. This also marked the first time in the series we got a protagonist voiced by a Hollywood actor in the form of Ray Liotta, who absolutely nails the role. He feels like a second attempt at the character Claude from GTA 3 was meant to be but with the benefit of a sun-soaked Miami-inspired setting.

Trevor Philips — GTA V

Trevor hitting a dude with a bat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You can love him or hate him, but whichever side you land on we all can agree that Trevor is a good character. Not a good person — not even close — but a good character. Of the main trio featured in GTA V, Trevor stands out as the unpredictable wild card. Not only do you never know what Trevor is going to do, or how he will react, to a given situation, but even his dialogue is unpredictable. Sure, you could say that he lacks any character growth, but that’s somewhat the point — he contrasts Michael and Franklin’s development. He’s easily the funniest character on this list, while simultaneously being the most terrifying. That’s no small feat, and easily earns him a spot on this list.

Officer Tenpenny — GTA: San Andreas

Officer Tenpeny on the ground by a firetruck.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Our only non-player character, and antagonist, to make the list is the best villain of the series. This character might’ve earned a spot simply for being voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson himself, but the character himself pulls as much weight as the performance. Like any great villain, Tenpenny is just as three-dimensional as CJ, with strengths, weaknesses, and relatable motivation. We just wish he could’ve survived so we could get more of him in later games.

Niko Bellic — GTA IV

Niko talking about war in a kitchen.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Taking us back to Liberty City, Rockstar switched things up on players by giving us perhaps the most “American” story told through the eyes of fresh immigrant Niko Bellic. This modern tale (well, modern for the time anyway) of a man looking for a fresh start in a new country, only to have his past continue to haunt him, was a fresh direction for the series. This is really where Rockstar’s ability to write empathetic characters who were trying to do the right thing, but was destined to fail was perfected. We loved the tragedy of seeing Niko try his best to live an honest life, only for outside forces to drag him back into a life of crime and violence.

Editors' Recommendations

Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
The best PS5 games for kids
Sackboy facing obstacles in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.

If you only see advertisements for games on TV and the internet, you might think that the only games made anymore are targeted at older teens and young adults. Everywhere you look is a soldier with a gun or a knight with a bloody sword. However, just because they don't get the same marketing push as these more mature games, there are still plenty of games appropriate for all ages, kids included, coming out every year. The PlayStation 5 alone is home to some of the most kid-friendly franchises on the market, thanks to adorable mascot characters and plenty of smaller, colorful titles that offer a wide range of gameplay possibilities.

If you're looking for a game for kids, the sheer number of possibilities can be intimidating. You could spend hours sifting through all the options out there, and even if you go by the age rating, that won't tell you if the game is actually good or not. That's why we've curated this list of the best PS5 games for kids to help you find the right game for gamers of any age. We've made sure to include games from a variety of genres, styles, and lengths to give you the best information possible before making a purchase. Just remember to still check on the details of a game's ESRB rating to see what content is included.

Read more
Grand Theft Auto V makes its surprise return to Xbox Game Pass today
A man drives away in a boat with stolen money in Grand Theft Auto 5 art.

Xbox Game Pass is kicking off July with a major surprise, as Grand Theft Auto V has returned to the service. Rockstar's sales juggernaut leads an otherwise light month for Game Pass, which brings Capcom's Exoprimal as a day-one launch.

This isn't the first time that Grand Theft Auto V has been on Game Pass. It was previously on the service circa 2021 but removed from it that August. Rockstar has a history of putting its games on Game Pass for a brief window before pulling it, as it also did with Red Dead Redemption 2.

Read more
The best RPGs for PS5
Outriders Intro to the Trickster

The PlayStation platform has always been home to some of the best RPGs on the market. Whether they're JRPGs, action RPGs, tactical RPGs, or any other variation, there's never been a shortage of games that allow you to live out a new experience in nearly any type of setting you could imagine. RPGs were initially a more niche genre, catering to the old-school Dungeons and Dragons players, but have steadily grown in popularity as they have become more accessible and widespread. These games offer narratives and gameplay styles you can't find anywhere else.

The PlayStation 5 came out of the gate strong with a number of high-quality RPGs. Since then, the library has only grown as newer titles find their home on this powerful console. No matter what type of RPG you prefer -- turn-based or real-time combat; fantasy, sci-fi, or modern settings; linear stories or ones that incorporate your choices -- the PS5 has an RPG that will fit your tastes. To help find your perfect fit, take a look at this roundup of the best RPGs for PS5.

Read more