ATB’s Top 25 Male Characters: (6) John Marston

johnmarston

“Some trees flourish, others die. Some cattle grow strong, others are taken by wolves. Some men are born rich enough and dumb enough to enjoy their lives. Ain’t nothing fair. You know that.”

We’re now into the final stretch as the top 25 rolls along with our top 10 characters. Tomorrow, our list continues the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time on Aug. 31.

6) John Marston (Red Dead Redemption) – 5 votes/216 points

Shaun: Much like Commander Shepard, to me, John Marston is really only fascinating if you play him as a “good guy,” or at least mostly good. If you play him like an ass and murder every person you come across, then you’re probably having a blast, but you’re not tapping into the full potential of John.

His entire arch is built on the fact that he’s made mistakes in his past, but now a family man, he’s doing his darndest to absolve his sins and earn redemption. I mean, look, it’s right there in the title, guys. You can’t earn redemption if a man cheats at cards so you kill his horse and tie him to the train tracks. It’s not called Red Dead Anarchy.

The depth of Marston’s character comes from the fact that even when trying to be good, his reputation as a once-outlaw precedes him, and he keeps getting pulled back into that life of crime. Like all the most compelling flawed protagonists – Walter White, Don Corleone, Winnie the Pooh – no matter what they do, they can’t escape their past, and they can’t change their course, even when they want to.

This all comes to a tragic, poignant conclusion at the end of Red Dead Redemption, where Marston finally succumbs to the sins of the past…but more than that, his own sins are passed on to his son. The cycle continues….

Bonus points for John being so interesting that I never wanted to skip ahead the time on missions because I just wanted to hear him talk.

Chris:  The most disappointing part of Red Dead Redemption was the ending. Not because a great game was coming to a close, although that was part of it. No, it was a letdown because after living life through the eyes of John Marston the entire way, you were left controlling his son, Jack. And Jack Marston is no John Marston.

Shaun’s right: the key to a great John Marston is his humanity. He has to be a paragon. Sure, you can occasionally cheat at cards by hiding an ace in your sleeve or punching some jackass in a saloon. But you can’t spend the whole game tying people up and tossing them on train tracks or sleeping with every prostitute in sight to get the true John Marston experience.

Marston may not be anything we haven’t seen in Westerns before, but he was a breath of fresh air in video games. Like most Rockstar offerings, he slogs through a lot of crap and doesn’t have a ton to show for it in the end. But he does manage to reunite with his wife and live a regular life for a short time, which was all he wanted to do in the first place. His journey took him to hell and Mexico and back, but we’ll always remember his interesting dialogue along the way.

Joseph: We’ve all done things of which we are not proud. After a life of crime, John tried to settle down with his and raise his son to be the biggest pansy in the West. But the Man came in and had to ruin his idyllic life. Fetch this, kill that, escort useless person A to location B.

But John Marston took it all in stride, and I can relate to him. Where would I draw the line when it came to helping my family? If I was told I wouldn’t see my parents again unless I brought a prospector 10 beaver pelts, you can bet I would be swimming through dammed rivers with a knife between my teeth and a burlap sack. What would I use the sack for? I would figure it out when the time was right.

The point being, despite the repetitive nature of every mission, Marston brought his unique perspective to every situation that could have arose in the West. I can honestly say my biggest regret about playing Red Dead Redemption was finishing the game.

Jason: A true American hero if there ever was one, John’s story is one of trouble and loss, while still managing to somehow be a hero despite his questionable moral fiber. Perhaps the one thing that will always stand out to me about John was that he’d turn down prostitutes because he was married. It was such a minor thing, but it was one of the subtle ways in which Red Dead Redemption showed you that John was, at his core, a good man. I mean, sure he may cheat at cards and kill you if you call him on it, but at least he was a gentleman; and in the wild west, that actually kind of meant something.

Cary: What’s not to like about a man on a noble mission to save his family? Granted, his story kind of fell apart at the end of the game, but I loved spending time as John Marston in one of the most gorgeous game settings I’ve ever experienced. One of the best things about Marston was the way he reacted to other characters in the game. RDR has some great character interactions that only served to heighten my interest in his personal story. Only problem was that he couldn’t rope horses worth a damn.

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Honorable Mention

Introduction

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