What first comes to mind when you think of iconic video game franchises? Mario is certainly somewhere on the list, and Pokémon deserves a spot, other classics like Sonic the Hedgehog and Halo ring a bell, but perhaps none are as popular as Grand Theft Auto. Just days after the official trailer release, Grand Theft Auto 6 is already breaking records and the game is still over a year away. With so much time to kill, there’s no better opportunity to take a look at some of the characters in the franchise.
Grand Theft Auto‘s protagonists all have their moral ambiguities. There isn’t a single character throughout the current seven-game run that is inherently good or bad; if they were, they’d be a pretty awful video game main character. But everyone loves characters who operate in the gray area, often committing less-than-acceptable acts, but for good reasons, which is one of the many reasons the GTA franchise has become such a cultural phenomenon. Before at least two more icons take their place on the list in 2025, let’s dive into the 10 best GTA characters.
Anytime you find yourself in a sticky situation, it always helps to have backup. A rottweiler who started as a companion to Lamar Davis, Chop now belongs to Franklin. With him at the player’s side in GTA V, it’s impossible not to feel safe. It’s highly unlikely in any video game, excluding The Last of Us, that anything bad is going to happen to a dog, especially one tied to the main protagonists. You can’t have a list of the best GTA characters and not include Chop.
Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson
The Grand Theft Auto franchise has revolutionized gaming with cerebral gameplay mechanics and compelling characters, and Carl Johnson (Young Maylay) is one of them. When CJ returns home to Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after his mother’s murder, he finds the city isn’t what he remembers. He gets pulled into a vicious gang war in the hopes of reclaiming his family’s glory. No one produced more great memes for the culture than Carl Johnson, and he’s one of the franchise’s most beloved characters.
Michael De Santa
Will the man formerly known as Michael Townley please stand up? Given that he doesn’t embrace his criminal past, it’s unlikely Michael De Santa (Ned Luke) would acknowledge his former name. De Santa is a retired bank robber who is now in witness protection and is one of the three main protagonists in Grand Theft Auto 5. When his friends and associates Franklin and Trevor drag him back in, he has no choice but to surrender to the life he once left behind. Despite being a much more recent addition, he’s still one of the best GTA characters.
There can only be one King of Liberty City, and his name is Niko Bellic (Michael Hollick). Bellic is an Eastern European immigrant who came across the pond from Serbia looking for the classic American dream. While trying to scratch and claw his way up the social ladder, Niko engages in delinquent activities and becomes further entrenched in the criminal underworld. He is arguably the most popular GTA protagonist and one of the best GTA characters.
Ambition can only carry you so far. Before he crosses paths with Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton (Shawn Fonteno) is working as a repo man, but hungry for a better life. As Franklin gets involved with his newfound partners Michael and Trevor Phillips, he learns the intricacies and complexities of being a high-class criminal. Franklin isn’t quite the entertainment draw as his two hot-headed partners, but he adds an important balance of perspective and levelheadedness.
Steroid user Brucie Kibbutz (Timothy Adams) was such a beloved part of Grand Theft Auto IV, that the developers added him to GTA 5 as a testosterone dealer for online players. A side character and owner of Brucie’s Executive Lifestyle Autos, Brucie gives the main protagonist Niko missions that usually deal with car theft and racing. He is a fan-favorite for his ridiculous humor and almost uncomfortable obsession with bodybuilding. The adrenaline junkie delivers some of the most hilarious lines in the game.
Everyone loves a character who can’t help but get themselves into trouble, and Lamar Davis (Gerald Johnson) has this trait in spades. He starts the game as one of Franklin Clinton’s good friends and then gets roped into all kinds of shenanigans with Franklin, Michael, and Trevor. Lamar is known for his hilarious dialogue in several encounters with Franklin, and his wildly outspoken personality, which often lands him in hot water. The Lamar missions in GTA 5 are some of the best in the entire game.
Ken Rosenberg (William Fichtner) is no Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), but he’s still one of the best fictional lawyers ever. He becomes involved with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City‘s main character, Tommy Vercetti, and helps guide him through the vicious criminal underworld. Ken has a nervous and easy-to-scare personality, which makes for some hilarious moments as he serves as legal counsel to all of Tommy’s — often dangerous — criminal dealings.
There’s no way a list of the best GTA characters ever could omit Trevor Philips (Steven Ogg). A former military pilot and current drug lord, Trevor is a long-time associate of Michael De Santa’s and the embodiment of insanity. Every one of his decisions is erratic; he radiates chaos even in the simplest situations and provides a remarkably stark contrast to the other main characters, Michael and Franklin. Trevor has no impulse control and only violent tendencies, and we love him for it.
Closing out our list of the best GTA characters in franchise history is none other than the legend himself, Lance Vance (Philip Michael Thomas). Originally presented as an ally to the protagonist in Vice City, Tommy Vercetti, Lance ends up as the villain by the game’s end after multiple shocking twists and turns. He has an undeniable charisma and plays very well opposite the main protagonist. By the story’s end, it’s easy to see why he is one of the best GTA characters ever.
The Best ‘GTA’ Characters Are All Different but Equally Loveable
While the next entry into the franchise, GTA 6, is still reasonably far away, it will almost certainly have several characters to add to this list. Grand Theft Auto continuously changes the standard in the gaming industry, and Rockstar’s ability to write and develop interesting characters in this franchise is second to none. If there’s anything worth betting on, it’s that Lucia and her counterpart in the next installment will be two characters for the ages.
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