John Marston is a central character and the main protagonist of Red Dead Redemption and Undead Nightmare and secondary protagonist in Red Dead Redemption 2.
An orphan of Scottish descent, John ran away at a young age to live on his own, soon finding himself in the company of Dutch van der Linde. Raised like a son by the outlaw and his growing gang, John was a loyal follower for many years, until rising tensions and a job gone wrong saw him left for dead by his so-called family. Embittered by the betrayal and looking for a second chance, he married his sweetheart Abigail and settled down as a rancher with their son, Jack - until one day, a group of government agents came to him with an ultimatum.
1899, During his gang member days with the Van der Linde gang John is shown to with long, collar length black hair and a faint goatee. When first encountered during Enter, Pursued by a Memory he is horribly bleeding with two later iconic scars running up his right cheek, across the bridge of his nose and one down through the right side of his lips. Later he is seen with stitching where the scars are but they are eventually removed after moving to Lemoyne. His usually attire consists of a grey shotgun coat with an orange vest, black shirt and grey and orange pinstripe pants along with a worn white hat.
1907, During the Epilogue his appearance is completely determined by the player, however during and after The Wheel he has level 1 left parted hair and a level 4 beard. His scars are still prominent however.
1911, While on his mission to find and capture his brothers in arms, John looks more reminiscent of his gang days with slightly shorter, but still long hair with small amounts of grey of one looks closely, and thick stubble around his fully healed scars. While wearing the Gentleman's Attire he shaves his stubble down to small mustache and his hair appears longer.
He has a strong dislike of birds and a rather dull imagination, especially when compared to his son Jack. When it comes to how he feels about religion, in-game quotes reveal that he is likely a Christian who is not overtly religious.
John is also extremely polite to women, often calling Bonnie MacFarlane "Miss MacFarlane", even after she has asked him to call her "Bonnie." He also does anything possible to keep women safe, even pistol-whipping Irish to defend two nuns he was holding up. In contrast to his politeness to women, John is unafraid to take the moral high-ground when dealing with less than reputable characters, like Irish with his alcoholism and Nigel West Dickens with his swindling of gullible people. John seems to be one of the only men in the game that is loyal to his wife. He also seems to get angrier when someone mentions his wife's past than his own.
John is a fairly serious individual with very little patience for the eccentricities of the various people he meets during the story. He frequently threatens Irish into sobering up so as to be of some use to him, and he is clearly disturbed/disgusted by Seth's habitual grave robbing. However, he is not above employing sarcasm in conversation with certain characters, particularly those he sees as exhibiting hypocrisy, such as Abraham Reyes.
John is very complicated from a moral perspective. He respects women and refuses to commit adultery, yet can be quick to anger and never seems to feel guilty or remorseful about the murders he's committed both past and present. However, he does seem to have matured since his criminal days and simply desires to live out the rest of his life with his family. Despite Dutch leaving him for dead and devolving to a mindless murderer, he still holds respect for him as he was a father figure in John's life. Dutch educated John as a teen and had more of a role in his development than his own biological father. In the end, John is reluctant to kill Dutch despite having numerous chances to do so, displaying the respect he still has for him.
Unlike many people of the time, John doesn't hold racist views and even sarcastically mocks those that do. John is also skeptical of new technology and the government as a whole. He once explains that "most men can't handle power" and explains to Marshal Leigh Johnson the irony of murder being a crime "unless it's ordered by a court of law." Interestingly enough, John does nothing to solve these problems in society, but instead seems to further them. He helps Marshal Johnson murder criminals and aids Abraham Reyes in leading a revolution where he eventually is described as becoming a tyrant. It seems John has come to a realization that civilization will always be littered with hypocrisy, violence, unfairness and corruption. Unlike his former gang members, John stops trying to fight it and instead chooses a path to live a peaceful life as a rancher with a loving family.
In Red Dead Redemption 2, a younger John Marston is depicted. Unlike his older self, John is seen having a more apathetic, colder personality towards his family. Avoiding his responsibly of being a father to Jack, even believing for a time that Jack wasn't his son and often expressing annoyance at Abigail. At one point John even jokes about his family "seeing corpses" in reference to all the people he's murdered. As the Van der Linde gang faces increasingly dire situations, John frequently questions Dutch's plans and the overall morality of the gang. While at the same time, recognizing how much of a poor husband and father he's been due to the growing danger his family is being put in due to his actions which ultimately causes him to change after his wife and son leave him in 1907.
Powers and Abilities: Superhuman Physical Characteristics, Expert hand-to-hand combatant, Master Marksman, Enhanced Senses (via Dead Eye, can trace trails gone cold, pinpoint objects of interest and weak spots of his enemies), Enhanced Reflexes, Regeneration (Mid-Low, on par with Arthur), Statistics Amplificationvia vials, Speed Enhancement and Perception Manipulation (Via Dead Eye, he can momentarily slow down time), Extreme Pain Tolerance, Explosion Manipulation (with dynamite and explosive rounds), Fire Manipulation (with fire arrows and molotovs), Resistance to Fire Manipulation (Can survive being burned for extended periods of time with no trouble) and Cold Temperatures (Can swim in ice-cold waters for extended periods of time while in a fierce snowstorm) and Poisons (Capable of taking multiple bites from poisonous rattlesnakes and ingesting animals with toxic flesh for extended periods of time and can still fight at full power), Immortality (Type 7; Undead Nightmare only), Minor Animal Manipulation (Possesses similar taming skills as Arthur)
Attack Potency: Wall level physically (Capable of fending off animals like grizzly bears and cougars with his bare hands, can trade blows with those capable of harming him. On par with Arthur Morgan and can do the same feats as him. Can even knock out Arthur in one punch), higher with firearms (Can easily send people flying with just a few shots to the head alone. His weapons are also capable of penetrating steel doors and blowing up limbs and human heads with a single shot). Small Building level with Explosive Rifle (The Explosive Rifle can reduce humans, horses and cows to a bloody mist)
Speed: Superhuman (Capable of running from grizzlies), Subsonic with Dead Eye
Lifting Strength: Superhuman (Can push back a grizzly bear with pure physical strength alone. Can also overpower cattle with just his rope. On par with Arthur. Can cleanly pull off pelts of rabbits on a single try)
Striking Strength: Wall Class
Durability: Wall level (Can survive being mauled by grizzly bears and alligators. Can survive high falls. Can withstand being tossed around by cattle and take their full-powered charges. Can take multiple shots from high-caliber rifles capable of blowing up human heads and brutally dismembering them before dying. Capable of often surviving a head-on train collision, but barely. Can brush off full-powered gray wolf bites and still not suffer from broken bones. Can survive being burned for extended periods of time. Can take multiple full-powered kicks from heavy horses)
Stamina: Very High (Can fend off continuous waves of enemies without rest. Managed to remain awake for a few days while severely injured and suffering from hypothermia back in 1899, even surviving a snowstorm)
Range: Standard melee range, extended melee range with a knife, a few dozen meters with a lasso, hundreds of meters with firearms.
Standard Equipment: A knife, lasso, pistols, revolvers, shotguns, throwing knifes, sniper rifles, etc.
Weaknesses: Normal human weaknesses, Dead Eye only lasts for a limited time. Can't swim, and can only paddle for a few seconds before drowning out.
Feats: Has fended off continuous waves of soldiers and has taken attacks from grizzly bears and other large animals
Dead Aim: John's reflexes are enhanced greatly, allowing him to focus on targets with deadly efficiency.
- Marston and Red Harlow have similar scars and hat.
- John's parents' relationship with each other is left ambiguous. As his mother was a prostitute, John implied that his father was her pimp, but even then, he still struggled with what to label him.
- John's grave marker reads "Blessed are the peacemakers", signifying his long road to redemption and peace for his family in a lawless land.
- "Blessed are the peacemakers" is a beatitude that was recorded in Matthew 5:9.
- "Peacemaker" is coincidentally a nickname for the Cattleman Revolver, John's starting firearm, giving his epitaph a slight dark irony since it would twist the meaning in "Blessed are the guns".
- Before Red Dead Redemption came out, in the trailers, John looked much younger and thinner.
- He, along with Leigh Johnson, Abraham Reyes, Luisa Fortuna, Bonnie MacFarlane, and Drew MacFarlane, sounded different during development. This can be heard here and here.
- John is #2 in Game Informer's "30 Characters who Defined a Decade" list in their December 2010 edition and is also #1 in Game Informer's "Top Ten Heroes" list.
- If the player presses "O" (PS3) or "B" (360) while near Abigail, Jack, Uncle, or Amos, John will tip his hat, as usual, but he won't speak.
- When playable, John is able to swim for a few seconds despite not knowing how. However, John is a poor swimmer compared to Arthur and will drown not long after entering the water.
- John never learned how to swim. This is confirmed by the fact entering water in Red Dead Redemptionresults in death, and in Red Dead Redemption 2 Arthur Morgan may say when greeting John at the Clemens Point campsite "Must make you nervous, being around all this water."
- When playable, John is able to activate Eagle Eye, like Arthur Morgan.
- The Dead Eye sound effect of John Marston is different from Arthur's Dead Eye sound effect; similar to the sound in Red Dead Redemption.
- Marston's eyes appear to be blue, while they were brown in the first game.
- If the player antagonizes the camp enough, John will punch Arthur out and throw him out the camp, just like Lenny, Bill, and Charles.
- John Marston makes a cameo in the character creator of Grand Theft Auto Online. He can be chosen as the player's father, allowing the player to determine their looks based on Marston's and another female's genes.
- Marston's hat appears as an Easter egg in L.A. Noire, also published by Rockstar Games. It can be found at the start of "The Silk Stocking Murder" while following a trail of blood, hidden in a trashcan in an alleyway behind a police officer guarding the crime scene.