5 things that make CJ from GTA San Andreas the best protagonist in 3D Universe

A true legend (Image via Rockstar Games)
A true legend (Image via Rockstar Games)

When it comes to recognizable protagonists from the 3D Universe, GTA San Andreas's CJ is unquestionably number one. The title he was featured in is still widely talked about today and has an impressive following that even some modern games lack. One reason for the 2004 release's success is its iconic playable character: Carl Johnson.

Love him or hate him; there's no denying that he's an integral part of GTA San Andreas. The entries on the list below are just a few examples of why he's often remembered more fondly than other protagonists from the early Grand Theft Auto days.

Note: Some aspects of this article are subjective.


Five reasons why GTA San Andreas's CJ is the best 3D Universe protagonist

1) Best customization options

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Protagonists within the 3D Universe are really lacking when it comes to good customization options. Examples of optional clothing include:

  • Claude: Nothing past a mandatory outfit change from jail clothes to street clothes
  • Tommy Vercetti: 12 possible outfits
  • Mike: No customization
  • Toni Cipriani: 16 possible outfits
  • Victor Vance: 14 possible outfits

By comparison, CJ isn't forced to use any preset outfit. Players have dozens of options for tops, pants, and other customizable categories. Moreover, they also have the ability to change his hairstyle. GTA San Andreas players can even modify their car beyond recoloring it, a first within the series.

Such differences make CJ feel more alive to GTA San Andreas players compared to other 3D Universe protagonists. After all, the title gives gamers more power to change plenty of things about Carl Johnson's appearance.


2) Best gameplay

Most 3D Universe protagonists can't swim to save their lives (Image via Rockstar Games)
Most 3D Universe protagonists can't swim to save their lives (Image via Rockstar Games)

Customization is only one aspect of the gameplay in San Andreas. However, CJ still exceeds what other 3D Universe protagonists can do within their respective titles. For instance, in the 2004 release, players can do the following:

  • Swimming (Victor Vance is the only other 3D Universe protagonist who can swim)
  • Diving underwater
  • Climbing over objects
  • Have access to different fighting styles
  • Date
  • Have access to local multiplayer (PS2 only)
  • Recruit gang members
  • Play video games and basketball
  • Gamble at a casino

GTA San Andreas's gameplay feels more refined compared to the other early titles. Ergo, CJ feels more interesting to play as than his limited contemporaries.


3) Best personality

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Some Grand Theft Auto protagonists are absolutely ruthless. Though CJ has his moments of vile behavior, he's still much more likable than somebody like Toni Cipriani. Of course, how enjoyable a protagonist is will depend on a person's personal preferences.

Still, many gamers regard Carl Johnson as one of the best protagonists in the series. Such a feat isn't commonplace for most of the other playable characters in the 3D Universe. Mr. Johnson's humor and chemistry with other entities heavily have a lot to do with this. For instance, Victor Vance is definitely nicer than CJ, but the latter is more interesting as a whole.


4) Most interesting feats

Officer Tenpenny used to bully Carl Johnson around before the latter character would get one up on him (Image via Rockstar Games)
Officer Tenpenny used to bully Carl Johnson around before the latter character would get one up on him (Image via Rockstar Games)

CJ basically accomplished the following in GTA San Andreas:

  • Escaped the hood and became very successful
  • Blew up a drug factory in San Fierro
  • Broke up the Loco Syndicate
  • Went against the mafia in Las Venturas unscathed
  • Partnered up with the Four Dragons Casino
  • Did a heist on Caligula's Palace
  • Stole a jetpack from Area 69
  • Returned to Los Santos and took over some territories
  • Ends Big Smoke's drug empire and is indirectly involved in Officer Tenpenny's death

Needless to say, CJ takes gamers on quite the journey, accomplishing much more than other protagonists within the 3D Universe. Moreover, the above list doesn't include the very minor things that he can do outside of missions.


5) Does the most good

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Carl Johnson's worst actions are much lighter than what other protagonists' in the 3D Universe. He didn't bomb a whole island like Toni Cipriani or supply a massive amount of drugs like Tommy Vercetti or Victor Vance.

CJ might get rid of somebody or steal a ton of money, but his crimes are usually smaller. On a related note, he eliminates genuine threats to society — like drug empires, Officer Tenpenny, and Big Smoke — in GTA San Andreas.

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Edited by Soumyadyuti Ghosh