John Marston, the main protagonist in Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, is a gun-slinging cowboy hell-bent on redeeming himself of his unlawful past and rescuing his family in the process. To succeed, he must survive the harshness of the Wild West, no matter what it takes. What makes this former outlaw my favorite game character is that he has a hard shell but a soft heart, and his story about seeking redemption is unforgettable.
For a greater appreciation of the man John Marston is, you have to have a better understanding of where he came from. John’s rough childhood began the moment he was born in 1873. His mother died giving birth to him and his father, who John believed to have been his mother’s pimp, passed away only eight years later. John spent the remainder of his youth in an orphanage until fleeing at the age of seventeen.
Finally free from authority, the rebellious and impressionable teen became a member of a gang whose leader, Dutch Van der Linde, took John under his wing. Dutch taught him everything he needed to know about living off the land, educated him in reading and writing, and preached to John about the evils of power. Because of the gang’s relatively good intentions, John did not consider his gang activity to be bad. Rather, he felt he was a sort of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. It was during his outlaw days that John met his future wife, Abigail, who happened to be a prostitute just as his mother had been.
He saw his fellow gang members as family until, in a bank robbery gone wrong, John was injured in a shootout and abandoned by his comrades. Stung badly by the incident and feeling betrayed, he began to see the error of his ways and sought to live peacefully and lawfully, eventually settling down with Abigail and his son, Jack.
John’s family only lived in harmony for three years and then his old life came back to bite him when the newly-established Federal Bureau of Investigation came storming in, marking the beginning of Red Dead Redemption. With his family taken hostage by federal agents, John is given an ultimatum: either he capture or kill his former outlaw allies or his family would not be returned to him.
Throughout the game, the player gets to know John Marston very well, and you can’t help but like the guy. He is afraid of almost no one, always has a clever comeback or witty remark, can survive the harshest conditions, and completes his missions with an enviable confidence. And he manages to do all of this with the manners and politeness of a gentleman. He is also on a very honorable mission and will stop at nothing to get his family back. This family-man persona is what makes him human and relatable. After getting to know him, you start to root for him as a person rather than only rooting for yourself as the player. In my opinion, John Marston embodies what every main protagonist in a video game should be.
What Happened to John Marston
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