Sometimes a terrible life of crime doesn't pay off; not every GTA protagonist gets to enjoy a storybook fairytale ending.
Much like real life, the world of GTA can be cruel and unforgiving. For the most part, it's an escape from reality for the players. The likes of Tommy Vercetti and Carl Johnson undergo a rags-to-riches story, where they start from the bottom and end up on top. Unfortunately, not every GTA protagonist shares this fate.
A few of them reach the top of their respective peaks, only to make a single misstep and fall backwards. Sometimes they never make it to the top in the first place. Death is the inevitable result of their decisions, whether it's theirs or one of their loved ones. The criminal lifestyle in GTA is never easy.
5 tragic endings for GTA protagonists
#5 - Niko Bellic
GTA 4 is already a tragic tale on the failures of finding peace in a violent world. Niko Bellic never gives himself the honest shot of setting his life straight. He doesn't know what to do with his life other than taking that of another.
There are two endings to GTA 4, but no matter which one the player chooses, Niko will lose someone close to him. If he decides to make a Deal with the untrustworthy Dimitri Rascalov, Roman dies at his own wedding. When Niko chooses Revenge against Dimitri, his love interest Kate McReary dies instead.
Niko is forced to live with these difficult choices, regardless of the ending. What makes it worse is both Roman and Kate suggest the endings that get them killed; Roman wants to take the deal while Katie prefers Niko get his revenge. Even if he survives, a happy ending for Niko Bellic is completely unattainable.
#4 - Claude Speed (GTA 2 movie)
Note that Claude Speed only dies in the official GTA 2 cinematic short, and not in the main game. Nonetheless, crime does not pay in this rendition of GTA 2. Claude Speed, played by actor Scott Maslen, is a hired gun that major gangs rely on for their hits. He is quite good at evading police while stealing the goods.
However, upon taking the drug shipments from Zaibatsu Corporation, they sent a skilled assassin to take out Claude Speed. At the end of the movie, Claude is shot down while trying to get in his car. He is completely shocked as he falls to the ground, presumably dying through blood loss and trauma.
It should be noted that Claude Speed is not the same character as Claude from GTA 3 - they exist in two separate contuinities.
#3 - Michael or Trevor (non-canon)
According to GTA Online through the Smuggler's Run and Diamond Casino updates, The Third Way (or Option C: Deathwish) is the canon ending to GTA 5. While Michael and Trevor do survive the events of the game, players can still choose to finish off one or the other in either Ending A or B.
Something Sensible involves Franklin being ordered to kill Trevor due to him being deemed a liability. After Trevor calls out Franklin for being a backstabber, a chase sequence ensues. When Trevor crashes into a gas tanker, Franklin can fire at the oil spill, causing Trevor to burn alive. It's a brutal ending for an equally brutal man.
Meanwhile, The Time's Come has Franklin chase Michael to a power plant. After a brief scuffle on top of the tower, Michael falls to his death. GTA players were unable to save Michael, as any attempts to do so caused Michael to headbutt Franklin and fall to the ground. It can be gut-wrenching to watch
Michael's death is especially devastating, as his entire family loses their father. It's also hard on Franklin, who had a teacher-student relationship with Michael. A disgusted Trevor severes his ties with Franklin, saying he's dead to him. It's a lose-lose situation no matter what.
#2 - Victor Vance
Victor Vance was originally a minor character whose only storyline purpose was to fuel his brother's rage against Ricardo Diaz. Once Vice City Stories made him a playable character, however, fans now retroactively feel bad for the protagonist. Those who play the game already know he's a dead man walking.
Despite an abusive childhood, Victor tries his hardest to be a good person until he's framed for a crime he didn't commit. Kicked out of the army, Victor now has to make ends meet through illegal activities, all because he deeply cares for his younger brother Pete. This was never the life he wanted.
Vice City ensured all of his hard work was for nothing. Once a powerful combatant who can take on entire cartels, Victor is gunned down by nameless mooks. At the very least, GTA fans hope he gets to reunite with his lover Louise, who tragically dies during Vice City Stories.
#1 - Johnny Klebitz
Johnny Klebitz was always going to walk down a dark road, given the ending of Lost and Damned. Despite his best efforts to restore the reputation of the Lost MC, he makes a critical mistake. Once he gets back together with his girlfriend Ashley Butler, she gets him addicted to meth and begins his downward spiral.
His death in GTA 5 at the hands of Trevor is a violent end to his difficult journey in the criminal world. What makes it worse is if Trevor spares Ashley, she dies in a drug-fueled orgy of an overdose. It remains a controversial moment in GTA history, especially from fans who felt his death was disrespectful.
The Lost MC ends up losing power in Los Santos. By the end of GTA 5 and Online, they are a minor gang with no chance of upward mobility. Johnny should've stayed in Liberty City, or at the very least not gotten back together with Ashley. It led to a domino effect with disastrous results, despite his best intentions.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.