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Top 10 GTA antagonists of all time, ranked

The GTA series spans across decades and there have been some great antagonists (Image via Sportskeeda)
The GTA series spans across decades and there have been some great antagonists (Image via Sportskeeda)
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Somawk Banerjee

The GTA series has been at it for the better part of the past few decades. Over that time, the games have brought forward amazing characters, be it NPCs or playable characters. Protagonists have received a lot of love over the years, and fans can't get over great ones like CJ, Niko, Tommy, and others.

The franchise features numerous characters, and almost all of them can be labeled as antagonists in one way or another. No one is doing everything the right way.

Be that as it may, some NPCs genuinely stand out, and this article attempts to rank them. To be fair, quite a few protagonists walk the thin line between exhibiting Trevor Philips.

Note: This article presents the views and opinions of the writer.


Devin Weston and Lance Vance among top ten GTA antagonists of all time

10) Salvatore Leone

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Salvatore Leone made his first appearance in GTA 3, which took place in Liberty City. He also made appearances in other games of the series like San Andreas and Episodes from Liberty City. Sal is the Don of the Leone Family, a mafia family based in Liberty City.

He is quite notorious and is always at war with the other criminal families in his territory. Although he isn't the most violent criminal of the series, there are far worse ones than him.

He also entered into an agreement with his rivals (Sindaccos and Forelli families) to open a casino in Las Venturas only to strong-arm his partners and get his way.

CJ received death threats from Salvatore Leone due to his involvement in robbing the Caligula Casino. However, these just end with threats as the mob boss returns to Liberty City.


9) Catalina

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Catalina appears as the main villain in GTA 3 and is an important character in San Andreas. Catalina is the leader of the Colombian Cartel in Three and also Claude's love interest at one point in the story.

San Andreas also sees something similar as CJ and Cataline date for quite some time before parting ways. She mentions that the relationships were 'only business' in both instances.

Surprisingly, Catalina has a hatred for men, and her rough childhood pushed her into the life of crime quite early. She is known for her violent attitude, recklessness, and betrayals, the last point being quite glaring throughout the events in Liberty City and San Andreas.


8) Ray Bulgarin

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Ray Bulgarin is the main antagonist in Episodes from Liberty City and a secondary one in GTA 4. Bulgarin was born in Soviet Russia and was part of a family of four. He had a sister named Galina. Early childhood was full of negativities for Ray as his mother and sister always made him feel like a disappointment.

Later, however, he managed to get into the organized crime ring in Russia. He had always been fascinated with the American way of life and planned to visit sometime. Bulgarin was mainly a human trafficker during the events of Grand Theft Auto Four, and that is how he met and employed Niko Bellic.

After a failed trafficking mission in Europe, Niko was hunted by Bulgarin, which resulted in the former's arrival at Liberty City. Niko's and Ray's paths inevitably cross again when they are introduced by Niko's then-boss, Dimitri. He is then hunted by both Dimitri and Ray.

Luis Lopez also worked for Bulgarin for quite some time. He had major involvement when Bulgarin tried to take over the Rampage hockey team from Ashvilli. Lopez is also betrayed by Ray.


7) Lance Vance

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Lance Vance appears in GTA Vice City and Vice City Stories throughout the series. In Vice City Stories, Lance plays a deuteragonist to his brother Vic. However, in Vice City, he starts as a tertiary protagonist and later becomes the secondary antagonist.

Lance is a drug dealer and a part of the Vance family, led by his brother Vic. Vic always looked down upon Lance as he constantly ran towards trouble or brought it back home.

A troubled childhood saw him choose his aunt over his mother. Lance and Tommy met as opposing parties in a drug deal gone bad. Both of them then meet up and decide to take revenge.

After the duo overthrew Ricardo Diaz, Tommy established a large criminal empire. On the other hand, Lance is always found complaining about how dominating Tommy is.

In reality, however, Tommy never wanted to overshadow anyone. Eventually, Lance turns on Tommy, joins his old boss Sonny Forelli and says: "Sorry, Tommy. This is Vice City. This is Business."


6) Lance Wilson, a.k.a. Ryder

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Lance Wilson plays CJs friend in GTA San Andreas but soon becomes one of the antagonists. If betrayals are to be discussed, San Andreas top every list. CJ can't trust anyone in that game. That being said, Ryder is a top member of the Grove Street Families and later colludes with the Vagos, Ballas, and C.R.A.S.H.

Ryder is a serious drug abuser as he can often be seen searching for his 'water' which is, in fact, cannabis mixed with PCP. He even has massive outbursts and withdrawal symptoms when he can't find his drugs.

Cesar Vialpando was the one who first discovered Ryder's treacherous plans as Cesar saw him meet with the rival gangs. CJ is unable to confront Ryder at the time as he had to save his brother Sweet first. CJ also found out that Ryder and Smoke played a major part in the murder of his mother.


5) Dimitri Rascalov

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Dimitri Rascalov plays the main antagonist in GTA 4 and is one of the best-written characters in the series. Like most Russian criminals in the GTA verse, Rascalov also immigrated to the USA eventually.

He also gets a few mentions during the events in Episodes from Liberty City. Rascalov has worked with almost everyone at a point in time, including Bulgarin, Niko, Mikhail, Pegorino, and many more.

Dimitri had been notorious since his early days in the drug trade as he was accused of murder on multiple occasions. He then moved to Liberty City with his 'brother'. Dimitri met Niko when Niko and Roman were kidnapped for killing Mikhail's employee Vlad. Dimitri intended to kill the duo, but Mikhail suggested using Niko's talents.

In time, Rascalov betrays his 'brother for life' and asks Niko to kill him. After doing so, Niko is re-introduced to his former boss Bulgarin, and he barely escapes the deadly duo. During the hunt, Dimitri says: "Wherever you go, people will find you if they want you badly enough."


4) Officer Frank Tenpenny

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Officer Frank Tenpenny is a very important character in GTA San Andreas who later turns out to be the story's main antagonist. Tenpenny is voiced by the legendary Samuel. L. Jackson and has some of the best dialogue exchanges in the entire series.

Tenpenny is an utterly corrupt cop and also a part of the C.R.A.S.H. (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) unit along with his corrupt buddies. The C.R.A.S.H. unit was designed to protect the public from street gangs, but in reality, they are a gang in themselves.

Using intel from inside the gangs, they strong-arm the gangs into sharing their profits regularly. They are also famous for carrying out acts of random police brutality.

Tenpenny enjoys showing off his power and reminding people who are in charge. This is very evident in CJ's case, as Tenpenny loves to step on him from time to time. Tenpenny also personally oversaw the murder of CJ's mother, Beverly Johnson.


3) Steve Haines

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Steve Haines appears in the story of GTA 5 and is one of the main characters. Haines also turns out to be the secondary antagonist in the game. He has a TV show, the reruns of which can be viewed in GTA Online.

Haines joined the FIB in 1993 and, with time, became one of the most decorated and high-ranking officials within the agency. He is also given control of an independent unit on which he has Andreas Sanchez and Dave Norton as sub-ordinates.

Haines and his buddies from the unit were very corrupt and on the payroll of many wealthy scumbags like Devin Weston. Haines needed money to fuel his TV career, and that's where it came from.

The FIB's inherent rivalry with the IAA makes Haines go to the extremities of corruption during the events of GTA 5. After the Vangelico robbery, Haines figures out Michael is still alive and plans to use him and his team.

Over time, the trio are used to sabotage many IAA operations to bring out the FIB on top. Haines keeps using Michael via blackmail as he has Michael's files. However, Haines is betrayed by one of his own when he sets out to cheat Michael and Norton.


2) Devin Weston

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Devin Weston, like Haines, is one of the most essential characters in GTA 5 and the main antagonist. Weston is famous for running various businesses that have earned him a fortune in GTA 5.

Devin Weston is a close friend of corrupt FIB agent Steve Haines. This allows Weston to bend the law to his will more often than not. Initially, Michael and company, working for Steve Haines, are working for him.

On meeting the trio, Weston lures them by presenting various opportunities before them. Michael is offered the chance to work with his idol, Solomon Richards. Franklin and Trevor are instructed to steal a few pricey cars so that they can be sold to high-ranking Chinese officials.

Eventually, the payment promised to Franklin and Trevor is not given to them. Weston said he would invest it for them in his own company. As for Michael, his dream comes crashing down when Weston attempts to shut down the studio to claim insurance money. Merryweather Security almost kills Michael's family as Weston orders them to be killed.


1) Melvin Harris, a.k.a. Big Smoke

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Melvin Harris, lovingly called Big Smoke, is an important character in GTA San Andreas and the secondary antagonist. Big Smoke is one of if not the best-written characters throughout the history of the series. The game's success revolved around characters like Tenpenny, Big Smoke, and CJ.

Big Smoke is one of the top members of the Grove Street Families but later colludes with rival families like the Ballas and Vagos, Russians.

Eventually, his alliance with multiple gangs makes him one of the most powerful people in the San Andreas underworld. He also has support from the law as he is close to the corrupt C.R.A.S.H. unit led by Officer Frank Tenpenny.

Big Smoke and Ryder were directly involved in the murder of CJ's mother, but CJ takes quite some time to figure that out. Throughout the GTA San Andreas story, there are minor instances that are telltale signs of his betrayal.

Among the most notable is during the mission Drive-Thru when Sweet, CJ, Smoke, and Ryder go to Cluckin' Bell to grab a bite. Smoke refuses to shoot at the attacking Ballas and says he won't until he's done eating.


This list mentions the best of the best antagonists in the GTA series, but by no means are the others bad. The series has always prioritized good writing and acting over anything else, and characters like this testify to that fact.


Edited by Yasho Amonkar
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