John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

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John Marston
Red Dead character
John Marston.jpg
John Marston in Red Dead Redemption
First game Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Created by Rockstar Games
Voiced by Rob Wiethoff[1]
Motion capture Rob Wiethoff
Marc Menchaca
Daniel Hall
Chris Comfort[2]

John Marston, Sr. is a fictional character and playable protagonist of Red Dead Redemption and its downloadable pack Undead Nightmare, created by Rockstar San Diego and Rockstar Games. He is played by actor Rob Wiethoff, who provided the voice and motion capture for the character.

John is a former outlaw who is taken from his family by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The only way he can return to his family is by killing or capturing his former outlaw allies, which forms the basis of the plot of Red Dead Redemption.


Red Dead Redemption[edit]

John Marston was born in 1873 to a Scottish immigrant and a prostitute. In Marston's own words, it is hinted that his father might have been her pimp. John's mother died during childbirth and in 1881 his father died of unknown causes, possibly due to drinking.[3] When his father died, the 8-year-old John was sent to an orphanage where he spent the next nine years. At the age of 17, he ran away and joined a gang led by a man named Dutch Van der Linde. Van der Linde taught John how to read, write, and shoot.[3] Other members of Dutch's gang included Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella. John met Abigail, another member of the gang, whom he would later marry. John explains that the gang was like a family to him and struggled for more than just making money; they stole from the rich and powerful to give to the needy, sick, and poor, though he admits that they were far from saintly. However, during a bank robbery in 1906, Marston was shot and his companions left him to die, leaving him resolved to abandon his life of crime and reform.[4] With his wife, Abigail, and son, Jack, Marston bought a ranch in West Elizabeth to live peacefully. Five years later, however, U.S. federal agents (Bureau of Investigation) come knocking on his door and command him to act as bounty hunter and apprehend his former outlaw friends. To add motivation and ensure his loyalty, the agents kidnap his family and hold them hostage, promising their release upon the completion of John's obligations.[5]

Starting from the town of Blackwater, John is escorted by train to the town of Armadillo where he meets with a guide named Jake. Jake takes him to Fort Mercer, where Bill Williamson and his own gang have taken refuge. Marston confronts and tries to reason with Bill outside the gates but is literally shot down, suffering a bullet to the ribs.[6] He is found by a passing woman named Bonnie McFarlane and taken to her ranch in Hennigan's Stead where John quickly recovers.[7] After his recovery, John works with local stakeholders in the city of Armadillo and other colorful characters to help him enter and assault Fort Mercer. Marston raids Fort Mercer, but Williamson is nowhere to be found. Bill has fled to Mexico with the help of Javier Escuella, another member of Marston's former gang.[8] Marston follows Williamson to the province of Nuevo Paraiso in Mexico. There, Marston becomes entangled in a civil war between the rebels led by a man named Abraham Reyes and soldiers in the region, led by Colonel Agustin Allende. Marston works for both sides to locate Williamson, but is betrayed by Allende and from there John goes to work permanently with the rebels.[9] In an assault on El Presidio, the player can decide whether to kill or capture and return Escuella to the Federal Agents.[10] The rebels then assault the palace of Allende in Escalera, killing Williamson and Allende.[11] John returns to Blackwater where he hoped to be reunited with his family after completing his mission, but Edgar Ross, the head agent, tells John that his mission is not over, and that he must kill Dutch Van der Linde. John is reluctant but knows he does not have a choice and accepts.[12] Dutch is leading a gang of Native Americans in the mountains of Tall Trees. John attempted several attacks on Dutch, until he and the U.S. Army assault Cochinay, Dutch's hideout. Marston then chases Dutch through a cave that leads onto a cliff from an opening at the end. Dutch then says he was only fighting for what he believed in and that the Government will only find another monster to justify their actions and then steps off a cliff. With his old gang dead John is allowed to return to his family.[13]

After meeting at his ranch with his family,[14] John begins to live as he always wanted: taking care of his ranch and family. The days are more or less peaceful until one day, John's ranch is assaulted by U.S. soldiers led by Edgar Ross. John defends his family as they flee to the barn on his ranch. Thence his wife Abigail and his son Jack flee on horseback. John, still in the barn, peers through the doors to see a firing squad on the other side. He pushes open the doors and draws his revolver, taking down as many people as he can before they open fire. John is killed after a short struggle. His body is buried on a hillside at his ranch, and his grave is later joined by his wife's in 1914.[15]

Undead Nightmare[edit]

In Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, John finds that the world is plagued by a virus that brings the dead back to life with a taste for flesh. After killing an undead Uncle and tying up the infected Jack and Abigail, John rides to Blackwater, in search for a doctor. But he finds the town seemingly deserted and finds Harold MacDougal, who had come back from Yale for "another round of research". Shortly afterwards, he is attacked by the undead Nastas and is also turned into a zombie. John purges Blackwater from the Undead and learns that the plague might be the fault of either Nigel West Dickens, Seth Briars, or the Mexicans. After visiting both men, John finds that neither has an idea what caused the virus and the only lead left is Mexico, which is rumored to be in better condition than America. Acquiring an army uniform, John heads to Mexico, only to find that the country is in even worse condition than America. He learns from a nun that Abraham Reyes might be responsible and John heads there. He kills the zombified Reyes and finds a girl, who reveals that the reason for the virus is that Reyes had desecrated several catacombs beneath the government house, and had stolen an ancient Aztec mask, unbalancing order and unleashing the undead. John and the girl head down to the tombs and return the mask. John returns home to find that his family has been cured. Months later, after his death, John rises from his grave, as Seth has stolen the mask and once again caused the dead to rise. But John, being buried with Holy Water, is a revenant who still retains his soul and his capabilities to use weapons.


Following the release of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston received positive reactions. He won award for the best new character of 2010 from GameSpot, who described him as "a fascinating, complex character" due to his attempt to abandon his life as criminal,[16] and from IGN, who commented on his sarcasm and his "struggle between good and bad behavior that makes him such an interesting and believable person."[17] The character was also a runner-up to be the Character of the Year at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards.[18] In addition, Rob Wiethoff's voice acting was nominated at the Spike Video Game Awards for Best Performance by a Human Male, and in the Outstanding Character Performance category of the 14th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards.[19] In 2013, Complex ranked his performance as the second best voice acting in a video game.[20]

Network World stated John Marston "is a complicated character, having been a bad person who is trying to make things right."[21] The New York Times stated that "[John] and his creators conjure such a convincing, cohesive and enthralling re-imagination of the real world that it sets a new standard for sophistication and ambition in electronic gaming."[22] Machinima placed him seventh in their list of best beards in video games,[23] while UGO Networks listed him among the best gunslingers of entertainment.[24] In 2012, GamesRadar ranked John as the 14th "most memorable, influential, and badass" protagonist in games,[25] and also listed him as the fourth most badass game characters of the generation, saying he is "totally badass" due to his lack of need for special powers to complete tasks.[26] Similarly, Complex placed him 36th in their list of the most badass characters in video game's history.[27] They also cited the romance between him and his wife Abigail as the 19th most realistic in video games, citing he could easily betray his wife, but he did not do it.[28] GamesRadar further placed him at number 5 in a list of the 50 best game characters of the generation.[29] GameSpy's Mike Sharkey called John Marston a noticeable omission from the 2011 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition's top 50 video game characters.[30]


  1. ^ "Red Dead Redemption (2010) (VG) - Full cast and crew". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ Red Dead Redemption Game Manual, p.18
  3. ^ a b Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "Women and Cattle")
    John Marston: "My father was an illiterate Scot, born on the boat into New York [...] My father died when I was 8 years old [...] My mother died during childbirth. She was a prostitute and he was her, well I don't know what he was [...] The leader of the gang taught me how to read. Taught me how to see all that was good in the world."
  4. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "The Mexican Wagon Train")
    John Marston: I left the gang after the gang left me. Left me to die after I'd been shot [...] I got shot in a robbery. They left me and I left them."
  5. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "And You Will Know the Truth")
    John Marston: I tried to leave, 'til those suits back there came a-knockin'. Threatened to kill my wife and son if I didn't go after him."
  6. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "Exodus in America")
  7. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "New Friends, Old Problems")
  8. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "The Assault on Fort Mercer")
  9. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "Cowards Die Many Times")
  10. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "The Gates of El Presidio")
  11. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "An Appointed Time")
  12. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "Bear One Another's Burdens")
  13. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "And The Truth Will Set You Free")
  14. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "The Outlaw's Return")
  15. ^ Red Dead Redemption (Mission: "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed")
  16. ^ "Best New Character - The Best Games of 2010". GameSpot. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Best Character 2010 - John Marston (Red Dead Redemption) - PS3". IGN. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Nominees for Spike Video Game Awards 2010 revealed". Destructoid. November 17, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  19. ^ "2011 Interactive Achievement Awards". Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  20. ^ Hester, Larry (April 14, 2013). "The 25 Greatest Voice Acting Performances In Video Games". Complex. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Shaw, Keith (July 2, 2010). "Red Dead Redemption Review: Saddle Up, Partners!". Network World. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  22. ^ Schiesel, Seth (May 16, 2010). "Video Game Review - 'Red Dead REdemption' Brings Old West to Life". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  23. ^ (April 14, 2011). "Top 10 Beards in Gaming". YouTube. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  24. ^ Jensen, K. Thor (February 22, 2012). "Best Gunslingers". UGO Networks. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  25. ^ "100 best heroes in video games". GamesRadar. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  26. ^ Cooper, Hollander (September 28, 2012). "The Top 7... Most badass game characters of the generation". GamesRadar. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  27. ^ Avellan, Drea (February 1, 2013). "The 50 Most Badass Video Game Characters Of All Time". Complex. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  28. ^ Armikhani, Justin (February 14, 2013). "The 25 Most Realistic Video Game Romances". Complex. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Best game characters of the generation". GamesRadar. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  30. ^ Sharkey, Mike (February 16, 2011). "Guinness Ranks Your 50 Favorite Video Game Characters of All Time". GameSpy. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2014.