Characters are people, animals or other beings within a story, and are the driving force of a work's narrative, often bring to life themes, ideas and points brought up by the same work.
Over its three installments and several DLCs additions, the Red Dead franchise as assembled a wide cast of different and diverse characters, with the first installment, Red Dead Revolver, being set in its own continuity and is a stand-alone story, while a new continuity with brand-new characters was introduced with 2010's Red Dead Redemption.
Characters in the Red Dead can be split into several categories:
A protagonist is the lead character of a Red Dead game, and the primary playable character of the game. They are the focal point of the entire narrative, which is presented from their point of view, and more often than not, the story couldn't work without their involvement.
Central characters are typically the most important non-playable characters in the Red Dead games. They tend to have the biggest weight in the game's events, even if their appearances throughout the story are rather few. Central characters tend to include both the main protagonist and their antagonistic counterparts.
Major characters, also referred to as main characters, are characters with a significant amount of importance to the main plot and story mode. They tend to be either major allies or enemies of the protagonist, and have a certain amount of weight in several story arcs.
In Red Dead Revolver, major characters include the one-time playable characters of the game as well as the game's main NPC ally (Sheriff Bartlett) and the secondary antagonists. In Red Dead Redemption, major characters are made up from characters who give out missions to the player, with an exception of one character who merely oversees the mission rather than directly giving them.
Supporting characters, also known as secondary characters, are notable characters with distinctive personality traits and some level of importance beyond a one-time role that sets them apart from minor characters.
Their role in the story varies, but tend to be significant for at least one or two levels, or just being a reoccurring character with an established personality.
Minor characters are a loose umbrella term gathering all characters with little to no importance in the game's events. Their overall significance for the game's events or gameplay is minimal, and even if they have a major role in at least one narrative story (i.e. Shaky from Redemption), they are quickly forgotten and lose all relevance by the next mission.
- Main article: Strangers
Strangers are a character class introduced in Red Dead Redemption; they are typically givers of a several-part story-based mission the player can help. Strangers themselves may not always play a major role in their own Stranger mission, and may lose relevance as soon as their first encounter with the player ends.
- Main article: Bounty Hunting
Bounty targets is a term loosely introduced in Red Dead Revolver before being expanded in Redemption. In Revolver, they end up being major boss encounters protagonist Red Harlow must defeat in linear chapters. In Redemption, they are outlaws and criminals wanted by law for various crimes, and can be hunted down by the player. Their overall value depends if they are alive or dead.
Mentioned and unseen characters are simply characters who never physically appear in a game, and their involvement boils down to mentions and name-drops. While the majority of them play almost no actual role in the story, some may have importance to an overall arc or to the setting of the games (i.e. Nate Johns, Ignacio Sanchez).
Multiplayer characters are character models used for competitive game modes in the games' multiplayer modes. In Revolver, many of them are characters present in the game's narrative and can be unlocked through challenges or items. In Redemption, they tend to be playable counterparts to minor and randomly spawned NPCs.