Not all GTA protagonists live up to the fans' expectations.
A bad GTA protagonist doesn't mean that the game they're from is bad; rather, it just means their character is either non-existent or that they couldn't live up to the expectations set by past GTA titles. Different GTA games tend to tackle different topics, so these protagonists aren't necessarily failures as long as they do what the story requires them to do.
Fans often have different expectations, so some of these protagonists might meet their ideal expectations just fine. However, most fans should understand why some of these choices were made, as it should be readily apparent that they fulfill the criteria set upon in the previous paragraph.
Five protagonists in the GTA series that didn’t live up to expectations
#5 - Mike (GTA Advance)
Mike is the complete opposite of Claude from GTA III. Mike is loyal, whereas Claude is anything but loyal. Mike can speak, whereas Claude is mute. It's simple, and it helps Mike stand out more compared to Claude.
However, standing out next to Claude still doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. GTA Advance came out after GTA San Andreas, which meant that Mike was very likely to never live up to the expectations set by CJ and Tommy Vercetti before him. It doesn't mean that Mike is a bad protagonist by any means, he's actually quite good. It's just that he couldn't possibly live up to the expectations set by his predecessors.
#4 - Johnny Klebitz (GTA IV: The Lost and Damned)
The story of the Lost MC is a logical one, but fans can't help but feel as if Johnny Klebitz didn't live up to the expectations of the previous protagonists. His story isn't as interesting as Niko Bellic's, and the overall gameplay of his title doesn't feel as fun as Luis Fernando Lopez's game.
To add insult to injury, Johnny Klebitz dies pathetically in GTA V. It's hard to go back to a previous GTA title when one remembers how ultimately pointless it was given the current events.
#3 - GTA 2 protagonists (GBC)
GTA 2's Claude Speed is an interesting and underrated protagonist, but this entry is specifically for the GBC port of GTA 2. Calligari, Candy, Eddie, Gretchen, Paulo, and Ruben are nothing like Claude Speed, and lack character.
The idea of choosing one's protagonist is nice since GTA 1 did it. However, like GTA 2, the choice of the protagonist doesn't matter. Likewise, there are no character or story differences between the choices. All the player really chooses is a name and some minor pixel differences.
#2 - GTA 1 protagonists
For the game that started it all, some fans might be disappointed in knowing that there isn't much clever GTA-style wit in GTA 1. Although the previous entry had fewer colors to choose from thanks to it being ported to the Game Boy Color, GTA 1 also had a GBC port, so they're not much better in that regard.
Although there were no expectations for them as protagonists back then, some fans still have expectations for protagonists even when they go back retrospectively. It is neat that the first GTA game had female protagonists, but considering it's nothing more than a few different pixels like the previous entry, it isn't particularly exciting for the player to experience.
#1 - Claude (GTA III)
Although the GTA 1 protagonists are more forgettable than Claude in a vacuum, one has to understand how primitive GTA 1 was as a whole. In GTA 1, they're just a few pixels and that's it. However, Claude is a real character and is the de facto protagonist of GTA III, yet he doesn't compare at all favorably to the other 3D universe cast of protagonists.
He's a silent protagonist, which means players have to self-insert themselves into him if they want to pretend that there's emotion. Unlike the GTA Online protagonist, Claude doesn't have any side activities to participate in or any customization options to make one playthrough different from another. He's forgettable by most expectations, despite the fact that he's in GTA San Andreas.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.