When it comes to the Grand Theft Auto series, it’s debatable over who should and shouldn’t be labeled a villain in the series, as almost every character is a villain to themselves at the very least. And the playable characters are arguably as bad as the “antagonists.” Trevor even tortured an NPC in Grand Theft Auto V.
However, there are clear bad guys in the series that players have to go up against, and many of them are the subject of Rockstar writers flexing their muscles, as they’re more interesting than the actual protagonists. There are many great villains in every entry in the GTA series, but these are the most colorful.
10 Salvatore Leone
Being one of many exciting antagonists in Grand Theft Auto III, Salvatore Leone has his fingers in a lot of different pies. The character is at war with the Triads, is a huge tax evader, and perhaps most interestingly, he imports tomato sauce into the country illegally.
Though he isn’t the most violent criminal in the GTA series, he commits the most endearing and innocent crimes anyone has committed in the video game franchise. He’s such a fun character that he was reused in two other games, San Andreas and Liberty City Stories.
9 Ricardo Diaz
Different eras are something fans want to see in the upcoming GTA VI, as any time the series has been set in a different decade, it has been the most fun, and the best example of that is the ’80s set Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The sun-soaked fictional Miami has a whole well of villains, but the Hawaiian shirt-wearing Ricardo Diaz is one of the most opportunistic of them all.
The character isn’t afraid to rob from the Forelli family or even the Vance family, which makes him something of a wild card in the game.
8 Steve Haines
There are a select few fans who believe that the story of GTA V was a step backward, but in reality, it was the densest narrative the game had ever seen. Adding to the status of the plot were many of the game’s antagonists, including Steve Haines, who wasn’t just a dirty cop, but a dirty FBI agent.
Because of his stature as an FBI agent, Haines extorts many of his previous partners in order to stay quiet about various jobs. Adding to that is the fact that he’s also a reality star, which makes him more hated, and it’s wholly satisfying when he gets his comeuppance.
Given that the playable character of Grand Theft Auto III is nameless and doesn’t talk for the whole game, there’s a lot more personality to the antagonists of the game. Catalina, the big bad of the third game, is the leader of the Colombian cartel, who is a victim of instant karma after a botched robbery.
The character has one of the most memorable deaths in the whole series, as she’s killed in an explosive helicopter crash, and it’s arguably the most satisfying moment of the game.
6 Devin Weston
Being the main antagonist of GTA V, Devin Weston is the biggest slime ball of the entire roster of Grand Theft Auto antagonists. Weston is a self-proclaimed philanthropist, and to his credit, he is pretty charitable, but he has a slew of criminal enterprises that he operates with a number of government officials and dirty cops in his pocket.
The character is more of a sociopath than anything, he finds a way to use everybody he meets for his benefit, and if they don’t have anything to give, he gets rid of them.
5 Sonny Forelli
Though the series has become famous for former Soviet soldiers and depraved hillbilly maniacs, the core of the games is organized crime, which is what Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has in spades. One of the highlights in the criminal organization that is depicted in Vice City is Sonny Forelli, who is as ruthless as he is paranoid, which leads to some classic GTA scenes.
Forelli runs brothels, illegal gambling dens, and is a racketeering guru, and his murder is the catalyst for the entire organization going under in the game.
4 Darko Brevic
There’s a reason why GTA IV is the best reviewed Grand Theft Auto game. Not only does it have the most grounded and serious narrative of any game in the franchise, but it features one of the series’ best villains too. Darko Brevic has a similar origin to the protagonist Niko, as they both became Russian mobsters after stints in the Soviet Army.
Brevic betrayed the soldiers he used to work with by selling them out for just $1000. And in one of the very few times in which players control the narrative in a GTA game, they are given the choice to kill him or let him live, and it’s no question what the majority go with.
3 Mikhail Faustin
Being the second of two incredible antagonists of Grand Theft Auto IV, Mikhail Faustin is one of the dirtiest criminals of the franchise, and he’s one of the most satisfying to take down.
Faustin is the head of his own organization, as he leads the Faustin Bravta and is more violent than any other member of his gang. He uses drugs excessively, is abusive to his daughter, and will stab anyone at a moment’s notice.
2 Frank Tenpenny
Frank Tenpenny is a dirty cop if there ever was one. Even upon meeting him, Tenpenny immediately shows what type of person he is by coercing a younger trainee working under him to murder a co-worker who is taking part in an internal investigation.
From that point on, Tenpenny gets dirtier and dirtier, but the thing that makes the character even more fascinating is the incredible deliberate stunt casting by Rockstar. The dirty cop is voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, who chews the scenery even in the sound booth.
1 Big Smoke
The two best antagonists of the entire 20+ year series might come from the same game, but that’s just a testament to how unprecedented and ahead of its time San Andreas was in 2004.
Big Smoke is one of the best characters in the series, not only for his fast food order that has gone viral in the years since but because of how sinister he really was. Smoke starts out as CJ’s best friend, and that’s how it goes on for most of the game, but he eventually turns on the Grove Street gang, including CJ, by joining the Ballas, and it’s one of the biggest betrayals in gaming history.
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