Red Dead Wiki

People don't forget. Nothing gets forgiven.
John Marston to Bonnie MacFarlane in "Women and Cattle"

John Marston is a recurring character in the Red Dead series, appearing as a central character and the primary protagonist of Red Dead Redemption and its non-canon Undead Nightmare expansion pack, and is a central character and the secondary protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2.

With the addition of the Liars and Cheats DLC pack, John Marston is also a multiplayer character model that may be selected in the "Redemption" section of the Outfitter.

With the addition of the Undead Nightmare DLC pack, an undead version of him, known as Zombie Marston, is a Multiplayer character model that may be selected in the "Zombies" section of the Outfitter.




Biography in RDR 2 (click to enlarge)

John Marston was born in 1873[1] in the northern United States.[2] His father was an illiterate Scottish immigrant who was born on the boat to New York, while his mother was a prostitute, who died during John's birth. John initially lived with his father, a man who loved Scotland and always talked about it. However, he was blinded in a bar fight south of Chicago and died at some point later, when John was eight years old. The circumstances around his death are unknown, although John was told that he died in the bar fight.[3]

John was subsequently sent to an orphanage, where he spent the next few years. He eventually ran away and tried to make his own luck living out in the streets. At the age of 11, John committed his first murder when he shot a man, although he claimed it was not his fault. In 1885, at the age of 12, Marston had been caught stealing by homesteaders in Illinois, who planned on hanging him. Dutch van der Linde stepped in and saved the young boy, taking him under his wing; John was thus inducted into the Van der Linde gang, alongside Hosea Matthews, Arthur Morgan, and Susan Grimshaw. The gang became a surrogate family to the young boy, with Dutch becoming his mentor and father figure. He taught John how to read, shoot, hunt, gather, and instilled him with a love of nature and things other than power.

John developed into an experienced outlaw, running with Dutch, Hosea, Bill Williamson, Arthur Morgan, Javier Escuella and several others, committing robberies, raids, murders, kidnappings and other crimes across the American frontier. Alongside Morgan, Marston was viewed as Dutch's proudest protégé; many members of the gang considered John to be Dutch's favorite and "golden boy", much to the envy of certain people, such as Bill. Marston had fallen under the sway of Dutch's philosophy, believing that the gang stole and fought for a reason. In stealing from the rich, they, in turn, gave to the poor. They wanted to elicit change in the people of the West, although he later came to admit that these were excuses to let them rob and steal indiscriminately.

In 1894, a prostitute named Abigail Roberts joined the gang. Despite having sexual relations with most of the gang members, she eventually fell in love with John. They later had a son together in 1895, whom they named Jack. The gang became an extended family to Jack, with most of the members becoming aunts and uncles to him. In his early years, John had a lot of difficulties connecting with his son due to doubts as to whether or not he was Jack's biological father, as well as fears about his own ability to raise him. Around 1896,[4] John left the gang for a year. His return was met well with Dutch and certain other members of the gang, whilst Arthur felt betrayed by his actions. A rift between the two steadily grew over the next few years.

The gang picked up new members such as Micah Bell, Lenny Summers, and Charles Smith as they traversed the Grizzlies circa 1898. They continued moving east until they reached the up-and-coming port town of Blackwater, where they decided to stay for a while. Here, Micah encouraged Dutch to pursue a lucrative boat heist, which John participated in alongside Javier, Sean, and the Callander brothers - Mac and Davey. The heist went wrong when Dutch shot a defenseless young woman named Heidi McCourt in the head and a unit of Pinkerton agents ambushed the gang, resulting in an eruption of violence. The gang escaped and managed to stash the money from the boat somewhere in Blackwater. The heist was a disaster, leading to the deaths of Davey and Jenny Kirk, Mac being separated, and Sean's capture by bounty hunters. John took a bullet in the arm and escaped with the rest of the gang, heading north towards Big Valley.

Events of Red Dead Redemption 2[]

Colter Chapter[]

In their attempt to escape the Pinkertons, the Van der Linde gang continue to flee north and end up caught in a snowstorm on the mountains of Ambarino. While the rest of the gang look for shelter, John and Micah are sent scouting for additional shelter and supplies. Eventually, Abigail becomes concerned when John has not returned after two days. She pleads Arthur to find him and, after Hosea steps in, Arthur and Javier set out to find John.

They eventually manage to track him down and find him up in the mountains, badly injured and his horse killed. He revealed that he had gotten lost a day or so prior, ending up on a cliff near the peak of a mountain after being attacked by wolves that badly lacerated his right cheek and nose, giving him his signature scars. They proceed to bring him back to safety, although Morgan is forced to fend off several wolves that had come after the trio while Escuella carried Marston on his horse.

Once they return to Colter, Abigail scolds Marston for his actions, and he is left to recover during the rest of their stay. At some point afterwards, John asks Dutch if he can join the train robbery crew, but Dutch refuses and tells John that he needs to rest and heal. During the ride out of the mountains, John is seen being loaded up in a stretcher onto a wagon, with his face still heavily covered in bandages and badly injured.

Horseshoe Overlook Chapter[]

After recovering from his injuries, John, along with Arthur and Bill, assaults an O'Driscoll hideout at Six Point Cabin, using the information given by Kieran Duffy, a former member of the O'Driscolls. John takes Kieran on his horse, and they arrive at a forested area outside of the camp. The three take out some of the O'Driscolls silently, before a shootout ensues. The three emerge victorious, and after Kieran saves Arthur's life, John and Bill convince Arthur to let him stay, and the two take him back to camp.

John, Arthur, and Charles (before being joined by Sean) rob a train passing through Scarlett Meadows. They manage to steal a Cornwall wagon and put it on the tracks to force the train to stop. During the robbery, John deals with the passengers, carrying a loot bag for them to put their valuables in. However, the law shows up quickly, prompting suspicion from John, although they still manage to make off with the money.

John and Arthur go and steal a herd of sheep at some point afterwards, to sell them at the Valentine auction. When they go to the nearby saloon to drink after the success, where Dutch and Strauss show up. Strauss and John go outside but are captured and held hostage by Leviticus Cornwall and his hired guns. Arthur and Dutch rescue them, before fighting their way out of Valentine. They then promptly pick up camp and leave.

Clemens Point Chapter[]

John, Javier, and Arthur make a deal with the Grays, in which they will steal the Braithwaites' prized horses and sell them for five thousand dollars. The three of them talk their way into the grounds, before subduing the stable-hand and stealing the horses. John takes the lead during the escape until they sell them for a meager seven hundred dollars.

After Jack is kidnapped by the Braithwaites, John takes part in the assault against Braithwaite Manor in the hope of taking back his son. After his son is not at the manor, he grows furious.

After the Pinkertons find out the location of the gang's camp, John and Arthur go to Shady Belle, in order to clear out any Lemoyne Raiders so that the gang may set up a new camp there. After eliminating a few of the remnants, John and Arthur dump the bodies in the swamp, and John goes back to the gang to direct them to the new camp.

Saint Denis Chapter[]

John, Arthur and Dutch go to Angelo Bronte's manor, after learning from Catherine Braithwaite that he is holding Jack hostage. In exchange for Jack being returned to them, Arthur and John are sent to deal with a group of grave robbers in the city's cemetery. The duo kill the grave robbers, although the police arrive at the cemetery after hearing gunshots, forcing John and Arthur manage to sneak out of the cemetery and evade them. When they return to Bronte's mansion, Dutch is there waiting for them, along with Jack. They then head back to camp, and the gang throw a party to celebrate Jack's return.

John's relationship with Dutch begins to deteriorate during this chapter, as Dutch believes that John is becoming too close to his family, and that Abigail is turning John against him. Van der Linde also believes that John is losing faith in him, and in return, John begins challenging some of Dutch's decisions.

Later, John accompanies some of the gang members in storming Bronte’s mansion, in revenge for Bronte setting up Dutch. Inside the house, John comes across Bronte and knocks him unconscious with a punch to the face. Later, John witnesses Bronte being drowned by Dutch and fed to an alligator, which he is shocked by. During the failed bank robbery in Saint Denis soon afterwards, John gets captured and sent to Sisika Penitentiary, where he is incarcerated.

Beaver Hollow Chapter[]

After Dutch and four others travel back from Guarma, Arthur and Sadie Adler scout the penitentiary using a hot air balloon and later manage to bust John out of prison, before returning him to the camp in Beaver Hollow. However, Dutch berates Arthur and Sadie for getting John back earlier than intended, even though the law began making plans to have John hanged. Dutch begins to develop paranoia, and is convinced that John is a traitor (although this can partly be attributed to Micah manipulating him). With tensions in the gang at an all-time high, some other members of the gang such as Bill also suspect that John is a turncoat, and distrust him as a result.

On orders from Dutch, John and Arthur blow up Bacchus Bridge with the stolen dynamite. During this operation, Arthur convinces John that he and his family should run away from the crumbling gang, once they have enough money. The two begin making plans, and John informs Arthur that Abigail knows where the gang's money stash is. The feeling that they need to get out is escalated even more as Dutch descends into madness, in addition to becoming increasingly influenced and corrupted by Micah, who acts as his new right hand man. John is later present with the rest of the Van der Linde gang during the battle against the U.S. Army at the oil fields, although he plays a minimal part in it.

John takes part in the final robbery of the Van der Linde gang, which involves robbing army payroll from a train. When uncoupling a burning train carriage, John gets shot in the shoulder by a train guard and falls off the train. Dutch goes back to save him, but ultimately decides to leave John to die. After the robbery, John is presumed dead by the rest of the gang.

When rescuing Abigail (who had been captured by Pinkertons), Arthur and Sadie learn from Agent Milton that Micah had betrayed the gang, having given information to the Pinkertons since the gang's return from Guarma. Arthur sends Abigail and Sadie to safety at Copperhead Landing while he goes to camp in order to confront Micah. During a stand-off between Micah and Arthur about the former being a traitor, John makes a shock return, still injured, claiming that Dutch left him to die. John and Susan Grimshaw side with Arthur, while the rest of the gang sides with Micah. Susan threatens Micah at gunpoint, but he kills her while she’s distracted by the news of the Pinkertons' arrival. Dutch then draws his revolvers and demands to know who is "with" him, and who is "betraying" him, ultimately leading to the gang uniting behind him and against Arthur and John, holding the two at gunpoint. Before the pair can be gunned down by the others, the standoff is interrupted by a Pinkerton assault on the camp, causing the gang to flee.

John and Arthur flee the area using the caves underneath the camp. Once they get out of the caves and try to escape through the forest, Arthur tells John that Micah was the rat and that his family are safe at Copperhead Landing. They are then forced to run while being pursued by Dutch, Micah and the others, declaring that the pair are traitors. After John and Arthur outrun their pursuers, their horses are shot from under them. It becomes clear that the whole area has been surrounded by Pinkertons and their chances of getting out alive are slim, and Arthur has to make a decision. The following set of events will depend on the player's choice:

If Arthur helps John to escape: Arthur decides to ensure that John will get back to his family at all costs, so the two decide to traverse the mountains — with the Pinkertons on their tail. John and Arthur fight their way to the top of the mountain until Arthur decides that (due to his illness) he can’t go on, so he suggests that he stays behind and distracts the Pinkertons while John continues on. Arthur gives John his hat and satchel, while John acknowledges Arthur as being his “brother”, and reluctantly continues on his way to his family while Arthur fights off the Pinkertons alone.
If Arthur goes back for the money: Arthur claims that the gang's money was left at the camp's caves, but John refuses to go back there, as he needs to get back to his family. Arthur then gives John his hat and satchel, saying his final goodbyes as the two friends part ways, with John leaving the area to reach his family while Arthur goes back to the camp to get the money.

Either way, John manages to escape and reunite with his family along with Sadie and Tilly at Copperhead Landing, while Arthur dies, either from his Tuberculosis or from being killed by Micah. John and his family planned to live an honest life after leaving the gang. Wishing to buy some land, they moved to the Yukon soon afterward to take part in the gold rush, but they didn’t make much from it. Sadie and John also vowed one day to kill Micah for his treachery, should they ever find him.

Pronghorn Ranch Chapter[]

Years after the gang disbanded, in 1907, the Marston family have an incident at Roanoke Ridge which involved John shooting someone, and head to a destination unknown. They eventually arrive in Strawberry to try their luck there where Abigail and Jack land a job in the town clinic and, under the pseudonym "Jim Milton", John temporarily gets a job working for the general store, delivering goods to David Geddes at Pronghorn Ranch. John arrives at the ranch on time and manages to stop the Laramie Gang from harassing the ranch. After this, John receives work as a ranch hand for the Geddes. His reunion with Abigail starts uneasy friction after she receives news of John's actions prior to their arrival.

Nevertheless, Abigail and John manage to get by with their newfound life. John helps Mr. Geddes and ranch foreman Tom Dickens with more ranch work such as teaching the David Geddes' younger son named Duncan Geddes how to tame and ride a horse and build fences around the ranch. During these times, John briefly connects with Jack, teaching him how to ride a pony and retrieving mail from Strawberry.

However, their journey in collecting a package at the post office goes wrong, due to John and Jack being followed by three men connected to the incident back at Roanoke Ridge. John is forced to kill them, which triggers Jack's anxiety. After they return to their ranch, Abigail becomes increasingly worried after seeing Jack anxious and John failing his promise to her. This concern ignites after the Laramie attack the Pronghorn Ranch, and steal cattle. John and the ranch hands head to Hanging Dog Ranch where they successfully fight the gang and retrieve the cattle. John also kills their leader for mocking him.

The event angers Abigail and she leaves John quietly the next morning. John continues to work at the ranch and after some time, Marston asks Mr. Geddes to put good faith on his name so that he can borrow loans from the bank and buy a plot of land. John attempts to buy Beecher's Hope to convince Abigail he's changed, with the intention of turning it into a ranch.

Beecher's Hope Chapter[]

John successfully buys Beecher's Hope after clearing away squatters living there. He reunites with Uncle in Blackwater and Charles in Saint Denis, who help Marston build his ranch, as well as Sadie in Valentine, who provides him with various bounty hunting jobs to pay off his bank loans. Abigail and Jack head back to John after receiving a letter from him. John spends more time with his family, such as fishing with Jack and Rufus, and going to Blackwater with Abigail. During their trip to town, John proposes to Abigail on the lake.

Eventually, Marston comes across information leading to Micah's location. He, Sadie, and Charles go despite Abigail's pleas not to. In order to reach their nemesis, the trio track down Cleet in Strawberry, who reveals that Micah and his gang are at Mount Hagen. The player can then decide whether to hang Cleet or spare him, though the latter results in Sadie killing him instead. The three journey to Mount Hagen, where Charles and Sadie both sustain injuries; with Charles getting shot in the shoulder by a sniper and Sadie having been stabbed in the abdomen during a scuffle with one of Micah's henchmen, John is forced to continue on without them. He soon confronts and kills Joe, before eventually finding Micah. A shootout ensues between the two and they end up in a deadlock, which ends when a wounded Sadie appears and holds Micah at gunpoint. However, Dutch makes a sudden appearance, emerging from a cabin with his revolvers drawn, resulting in Sadie being subdued by Micah and held hostage.

A three-way standoff develops between John, Micah and Dutch, with Dutch initially appearing to be on Micah’s side. After an exchange of words between the three, Dutch eventually shoots Micah in the chest, mortally wounding him and freeing Sadie. Enraged, Micah then tries to shoot Dutch and John in a last-ditch effort, but John outdraws Micah and shoots him numerous times, killing him. Dutch then takes his leave without saying a word, ignoring John's attempt to thank him. Marston subsequently finds the Blackwater ferry robbery money stash and returns to the ranch with Charles and Sadie. Afterwards, with his mortgage having been paid off thanks to the money stash, John formally marries Abigail, with both looking forward to living a new life on their ranch with Jack.

Sadie and Charles leave Beecher's Hope and the Marston family on good terms. Edgar Ross, the newly appointed head of the Bureau of Investigation catches wind of the events on Mount Hagen and goes to investigate, finding nothing but Micah's frozen corpse and no trace of the missing Blackwater money. Alongside his new subordinate, Archer Fordham, they begin a manhunt for the culprit, questioning various people until they trace the murder to John's location at Beecher's Hope. John continues working on his ranch with his family for the next few years, unaware that his revenge on Micah meant the Bureau knew exactly who he was and where to find him.

Events of Red Dead Redemption[]

Four years later in 1911, the old American West is dying. Encroaching technological advances such as railroads, telegram offices, and stronger law enforcement begin to integrate themselves into western society. The federal government wants the Bureau of Investigation to aid in the process of civilizing the west by ridding the region of all of the savage gangs running wild and unchallenged, especially that of Bill Williamson and Dutch van der Linde. Not wanting to make martyrs out of them, Ross decides to use an ex-associate of Williamson's that the Bureau had been watching to hunt him down: former outlaw John Marston. By kidnapping John's wife and son, Ross forces him to comply. Thus, John is forced to roam the frontier once again to protect his family.

New Austin[]

John arrives in Blackwater on the ferry Morningstar and is escorted by Edgar Ross and Archer Fordham through town to be sent off by train to Armadillo. Once there, John finds a guide named Jake hired by the local marshal in the saloon. The talkative guide questions Marston about his motives but gets no answers in return. He leads John to the walls of Fort Mercer, the main hideout of the Williamson gang. In confronting his old friend, Marston tries to reason with Williamson in giving up peacefully, but Williamson taunts John for his vocabulary, proudly proclaiming that he is now in charge of his own gang. John reaches for his revolver but gets shot in his lower right torso by one of Bill Williamson's men.

After suffering through the night and eventually passing out on the side of the road, Bonnie MacFarlane and her ranch hand Amos find John and take him to Nathaniel Johnston's doctor office in Armadillo. After treating his wounds, Bonnie provides John with lodging, food, and drink, on condition he helps her around the ranch.

John works off his debt of $15 and his life to Bonnie and her father Drew MacFarlane by doing various ranch jobs such as night patrol, cattle-herding, and horse-taming. However, Williamson finds out that John has survived and is staying at the MacFarlane Ranch, and orders his gang to set the barn on fire. John rescues the trapped horses and Bonnie promises to sell him some cattle when he settles on his ranch again.

After assisting U.S. Marshal Leigh Johnson with various jobs in and around Armadillo, John and the Marshal begin to plan an assault on the fort. To gather a posse and the necessary resources to conduct the attack, John works with snake oil salesman Nigel West Dickens and, through him, Irish and Seth Briars. However, their plans are temporarily delayed when Bonnie MacFarlane is kidnapped, to which John volunteers to help Marshal Johnson save her from being hanged. After saving Bonnie, John and his allies carry out an assault on Fort Mercer, using a "Trojan Horse" strategy by sneaking John and a Gatling Gun inside the fort in Dickens' wagon. West Dickens gives them a lecture about what is inside his "miracle" wagon, before rapping sharply on the side of the wagon to signal John, who shows himself and kills most of the outlaws while assaulting the fort. However, after the battle, the crew discover that Williamson had fled the previous morning and went into exile in the Mexican province of Nuevo Paraíso with Javier Escuella.

Nuevo Paraíso[]

Irish escorts John south of the border to the Mexican province, Nuevo Paraíso, where he meets the region's provisional governor, Colonel Allende, and his subordinate right-hand man, Captain de Santa. He is forced to work for them to gain information on Williamson and Escuella. At the same time, John encounters the aging famed gunslinger Landon Ricketts who teaches him new gun fighting skills and commits raids on the Mexican Army. Marston also aids Abraham Reyes and Luisa Fortuna, two lover revolutionaries working to overthrow Allende and their president, General Sanchez, with numerous revolutionary attacks. He attempts to extract any information possible from both Allende and Reyes regarding the whereabouts of Williamson and Escuella.

However, Allende, aware of John's loyalties, betrays John and has his men attempt to kill him. However, Reyes and his rebels arrive in time and rescue John before he is to be executed. John kills Captain Espinoza in the ensuing battle and sides with Reyes in the revolution. After Captain De Santa is dealt with, John participates in an attack on El Presidio. Marston confronts Javier and holds him at gunpoint, although Javier manages to escape. Marston pursues him, and Javier is either killed or captured by John in the ensuing struggle. Dead or alive, Javier is handed over to the newly arrived Ross and Fordham. Eventually, the rebels lead an attack on Allende's villa. In the midst of the bloodshed, Luisa is gunned down by Allende's men, although she is avenged when John kills Raul Zubieta and two of his soldiers in retaliation. As the rebels storm the villa, Allende and Williamson, who was also seeking protection from the Army, make their escape. They are subsequently hunted down and killed by Marston and Reyes, allowing the rebels to take over Nuevo Paraíso and make plans to march on Mexico's capital, continuing the revolution. With Williamson dead, John is required to head back to Blackwater in America to meet with agents Ross and Fordham once again.

West Elizabeth[]

Though John's business with Williamson and Escuella is over, Ross informs him that he still needs to subdue Dutch van der Linde, the former leader of the Van der Linde gang, if he wishes to get his family back. John, along with Ross, Fordham, and other Bureau Agents, engage in several skirmishes with Dutch and his gang of Natives across West Elizabeth, but fail to capture or kill Van der Linde. Marston also works with incompetent Yale Professor Harold MacDougal and Native American informant Nastas in tracking Dutch down. Eventually, John and the Bureau of Investigation join forces with the American Army in ambushing Dutch's hideout. He confronts Dutch himself, who warns John that the government will find a new "monster" to justify their pay. Rather than dying or being taken captive by John, Dutch chooses to commit suicide by falling from a cliff.

After the raid, John is released by the government and finally reunites with his family at their ranch in Beecher's Hope. He settles down with his wife Abigail and sixteen-year-old son Jack, along with old family friend Uncle, and attempts to return to a crime-free life as a farmer and rancher with his family. In order to get the ranch going, he returns to MacFarlane's Ranch to purchase some cattle, breaks some horses with Uncle, and goes out hunting with Jack, even saving him from a bear in one instance.

However, as per Dutch's warning, Ross double-crosses John. He, along with the Bureau, US Army, and U.S. Marshals, launch an attack on the Marston ranch. Uncle is killed during the shootout, while John and Jack continue holding off the attackers. John tells Abigail and Jack to run while he stays behind in the barn to defend them. Knowing that the chances of survival for John are slim, Abigail and John seal their love with a passionate kiss before the former rides off. In the end, John realizes that the only way to save his family from the government's crosshairs is to lay down his life.

John sacrifices himself in a last stand against Ross and his men. After exiting the barn and standing before a large firing squad, he draws his pistol and takes out as many men as he can until they open fire on him. Still standing, breathing harshly and with multiple bullet wounds on his body, he drops his revolver, falls to his knees, and then eventually collapses back to the ground. As Ross watches Marston dying, he callously lights a cigar, satisfied with knowing that the final member of the Van der Linde gang is dead, before departing with his men. Abigail and Jack, presumably upon hearing a sudden ceasefire, return to find John's body in a pool of blood, riddled with bullet holes. They bury him up on top of the hill overlooking the ranch, next to Uncle. His grave is inscribed "Blessed are the Peacemakers."


John's death at the hands of Ross is a poetic end to his life. His journey has been about what he would do for his family: he kills for them, he helps swindle people in order to get to Bill Williamson, he works for both sides of the Mexican Civil War, he tortures a man with a prolonged beating to get information about Javier Escuella, he confronts the man who raised him, and in the end, he sacrifices himself to save his family so they could lead a better life - the reason he sought redemption in the first place. By his death, he knew that Ross wouldn't persecute Abigail or Jack any longer, allowing them to start life fresh, allowing Jack the chance to grow up without the brutality and violence that shaped John's early life.

In 1914, three years after John was killed, Abigail dies from unknown causes. An older Jack, now a mirror image of his father, buries her up on the hill next to John's grave. From then on, he is playable throughout the remainder of the game, retaining all of his father's weapons, clothes, money, horses, houses, and fame/honor. Despite his father's sacrifice, Jack begins his adult life on the path of an outlaw; he tracks down and kills Edgar Ross in a duel, avenging John's death.

Events of Undead Nightmare[]

Note: The events of Undead Nightmare are not considered part of the same canon as Red Dead Redemption. The following description is therefore not contiguous with the preceding section on Red Dead Redemption.

West Elizabeth[]

In Undead Nightmare, John Marston, the protagonist, is in his house with his wife, Abigail, and son, Jack. They are all talking about general things, like a book Jack is reading, however they mention that Uncle hasn't returned from what he was doing yet. John states that because of the storm, Uncle has probably sheltered in a dry place nearby and will stay there until the storm subsides.

Uncle then arrives, hideous in appearance, and attempts to attack them. John heads to a nearby shed to grab his gun. When he returns, Uncle has bitten Abigail in the neck. John shoots Uncle in the head and tends to Abigail. Jack comes outside and tries to help his mother, but Abigail turns into an Undead because of the bite from Uncle and in turn she bites Jack, turning him undead as well. John then has to hogtie both of them, and after giving them both a plate of food, he leaves them in the house and sets out to find a cure.

John goes to Blackwater, where he finds Professor MacDougal, who returned from Yale to document the undead infestation. MacDougal is killed by an undead Nastas, however, and John is forced to clear out Blackwater and look for more survivors. He finds a family on a roof, but as they're more interested in arguing with each other, they are of no help. John finds another group of survivors, who give him various theories for how the plague started, including a "snake oil merchant" and a "freak with a glass eye".

If John goes to Tanner's Reach, he will meet a hunter who claims to have just shot a Sasquatch and makes him hunt the elusive creatures. Eventually, John learns that his hunting has doomed the Sasquatches and the last one there asks John to kill him because his family is dead. John can choose to kill him or not.

New Austin[]

If John decides to follow the "snake oil merchant" lead, he will find Nigel West Dickens in Fort Mercer, trying to sell his elixir as a cure and repellent to the plague. John, however, forces Nigel to stop selling it, and Nigel, though annoyed by Marston's interference, complies and hands out free samples to see if they like it. The elixir, however, is actually more of a bait, and the drinker is killed by zombies soon after drinking. Nigel is disappointed and asks John to retrieve ingredients to see if he can make a better cure. He also gives John some of the elixir to use as bait. After John returns with the ingredients, Nigel makes a phosphorus coating with it, and then asks John to find him some old parts he needs. After John finds the parts, Nigel uses them to make a Blunderbuss, telling John that it is the ideal weapon for zombie killing. He also tells John that he is trying to get to Mexico and should be in Solomon's Folly in a few days. At Solomon's Folly, John finds out that all paths to Mexico are blocked, and that Nigel has no way of getting to Mexico. However, Nigel tells John that if he gets a U.S. Army uniform from some deserters, he can sneak on a train manned by the U.S. Army that is headed to Mexico. Nigel goes off and John doesn't meet him again.

If John decides to follow the "freak with a glass eye" lead, he will find Seth Briars in The Old Bacchus Place, playing cards with an undead Moses Forth. John asks Seth if there's a cure to the plague, and Seth tells him to clear the graveyards. After John clears out three graveyards and goes back to Seth, Seth tells him that the cause of all this has something to do with the Aztecs, "Or, or Incas" and tells him to head down to Mexico if he wants to cure the plague.

In MacFarlane's Ranch, John meets Bonnie MacFarlane, who tasks him with trying to find her father, Drew MacFarlane in the barn, although she tells him he has been in there for more than a day. John finds Drew in the barn, zombified. John is forced to kill Drew, and he goes to Bonnie and tells her what happened.

In Plainview, John finds D.S. MacKenna, who tells John to bring him a Retcher, because MacKenna desires to make a zombie movie, aimed at "the lowest common denominator". Once John does so, MacKenna sets it and another zombie loose, and they both proceed to attack him, who is then turned into a zombie. John can kill all three of them.

In Armadillo, John meets Marshal Leigh Johnson, and Johnson asks John to find Eli and Jonah, who have been missing for a few hours. John finds Eli eating Jonah, and they both attack John. John then has to kill them both, and tell Johnson the news. Johnson also gives John a Sawed-off Shotgun.

In Fort Mercer, John sees an Army Captain posting up a missing persons poster for Millicent Waterbury. The captain asks John to find the girl, and John finds Millicent in Pleasance House, where zombies are trying to attack her. After John saves Millicent, they head back to Fort Mercer and the captain thanks John and tells him that there are more missing persons if he wants to help them.

If John heads to the deserters, he finds them being attacked by zombies, he can either help them and earn the uniform, or steal it and suffer the consequences. After John obtains the uniform, he can head to the train, where he finds the U.S. Army being lightly hassled by zombies. After John helps them clear it out, the train heads to the border. At the border, the captain tells them all to get off and clear the roadblock. However, they are attacked by zombies and the U.S. Army retreats, leaving John to kill the zombies. After he has dealt with them, John can man the train and smash through the roadblock into Mexico.

Nuevo Paraíso[]

In Nuevo Paraíso, John finds that Mexico is actually in worse shape than America, and he heads to Las Hermanas, where he meets the Mother Superior. She tells John that the other nuns are not as resourceful as her, and that he needs to head inside Las Hermanas and save the town. After doing so, Mother Superior thanks John and John asks her why the plague is happening. She tells John that she needs a normal undead to really find out. After John brings her a normal undead, Mother Superior tells John that she suspects evil, and she pours Holy Water on the zombie, who is briefly bathed in blue flame, but is not killed. She asks John if he can clear out the Sepulcro graveyard for her, and she gives him Holy Water. After he returns, Mother Superior tells him that a woman told her that the cause of all this is because of something Abraham Reyes has done. John is then tasked with heading to Escalera and finding out what's really causing all this.

In Casa Madrugada, John meets Landon Ricketts, who is busy ridding the town of zombies. Landon seems to be holding off all the zombies by himself, and Landon tells John that if he can find something that attracts the zombies, he can combine it with dynamite and really kill the zombies quick. After John brings Landon bait and dynamite, Landon combines them and makes Boom Bait, after handing it to John, they say farewells and John leaves.

In Escalera, John finds a woman, who tells him that Reyes is up ahead, John finds Reyes, however, he is zombified and is trying to kill a woman. After John kills Reyes, the woman tells John that the cause of all this is because Reyes' lust for invulnerability made him steal an ancient Aztec mask, and this is why the plague started. They take the mask to the crypt where Reyes found it, and after John places the mask back in the altar, the zombies are returned to normal and John heads home.


Upon heading back to Beecher's Hope, John finds that Abigail and Jack are fine, and they are happy again. A few months later, John is dead. In Escalera, Seth is shown stealing the ancient mask once again, causing the dead to rise again, including John Marston. However, as John was buried with Holy Water, he returns as an undead with a man's soul, allowing the player to still play as him.



I am always honest... maybe not always good... but I'm always honest.
John Marston to Abigail Marston in "The Wheel"

John 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 suggest that he is likely a Christian who is not overtly religious.  

He is also a fairly serious individual with very little patience for the eccentricities of both life and the various people he meets during the events of Red Dead Redemption. 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, which can be seen in his interactions with both Abraham Reyes and Agustin Allende. John is also shown assisting both sides of the revolution in Mexico, suggesting he is willing to be morality apathetic to save his family.  

He greatly respects women and refuses to commit adultery yet can be quick to anger and never seems to feel guilty or remorseful about the deaths he's caused both past and present. Despite Dutch leaving him for dead and devolving to a deranged maniac, John still holds respect for him as a former father figure in his life. The familial bond created when Dutch took in an orphaned teenage John is still somewhat evident, as John is noticeably reluctant to kill Dutch when given the chance; even years after his time in the gang, John still has some of Dutch's more progressive, less violent philosophical beliefs, such as viewing modern society to be deeply unfair and having a low opinion of the government. However, John does seem to have matured since his criminal days and is unbending in his desire to live out the rest of his life with his family.

John is also extremely polite to women, often calling Bonnie "Miss MacFarlane" despite her insistence that he 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 who is loyal to his wife. He also seems to get irritated when someone mentions his wife's past rather than his own.

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, dismissing the automobile as "slow" while preferring a horse. He is cynical of the government as a whole, stating that "most men can't handle power", and explaining to Marshal Leigh Johnson the irony of murder being a crime "unless it's ordered by a court of law". However, John does nothing to solve these supposed problems in government, and instead seems to unintentionally further them. He helps Marshal Johnson murder criminals and aids Abraham Reyes in leading a revolution, the latter of whom ultimately becomes a tyrant after winning power. It seems that 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, away from all these problems.

Like other playable characters in the series, John has the capacity for both honorable and dishonorable actions, mostly depending on player choice during gameplay. Within the story of Red Dead Redemption, the extent of John's merciful nature or desire for vengeance is somewhat influenced by the player during key moments. At different points in the story, the player can choose whether to personally kill Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella, and Captain De Santa out of vengeance or simply leave their demise to other characters. However, John is usually depicted as being morally ambiguous with a sense of honor in the context of plot and general personality.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, a younger John Marston is depicted. Unlike his older self, John is seen as having a more apathetic, colder personality towards his family. He avoids 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 when she chastises him for this. At one point, John even jokes about his family "seeing corpses" in reference to all the people he's killed, showing that he has no moral qualms around his family. As the Van der Linde gang faces increasingly dire situations, John frequently questions Dutch's plans and the overall morality of the gang. At the same time, John realizes how much of a poor husband and father he's been, due to the growing danger his family are being put in due to his actions, which ultimately causes him to change after his wife and son leave him in 1907.



When he first appears, John is shown with huge, bleeding scars on his face from the wolves in the Grizzlies, with a thick, black coat (closed version of the in-game Western Coat). After being rescued, John continues wearing this outfit, but with blood-soaked bandages covering about half of his face. Later on, in Chapter 2, John is seen with stitching where the scars are and wears an orange union suit with either a scout coat or a black leather jacket and dark black pants.

For the rest of the game, he wears a grey shotgun coat with a black shirt, white union suit, an orange leather vest, light grey, striped trousers with the worn gambler hat. He will sometimes be seen only with his black shirt, or sometimes with his white union suit and beige vest. Throughout 1899, John has fairly long, collar-length, right-parted dark hair and initially has a faint goatee and sideburns, which he slightly grows out into light stubble in Chapter 3.

During "Banking, The Old American Art" and at his wedding in 1907, he wears a dark blue suit with a white shirt and pinstriped vest, an outfit that strongly resembles the Elegant Suit.

While imprisoned at Sisika Penitentiary, he is seen in black and white prison garb and has thick stubble.


While working as a ranch hand at Pronghorn Ranch at the start of the epilogue, John is seen with dark blue trousers, a worn flat cap, red and white buttoned-shirt and his Western Coat, though he also wears his old gambler's hat and a combination of various pants and shirts during his time working for Geddes.

He has level 1 left parted off-black hair and a beard of level 4 length, although the texture and color of his hair appears inconsistent with how it is in 1899 and 1911. After the mission "Motherhood", Marston's appearance can be modified by the player. His default outfit once made customizable heavily resembles his default outfit in 1911, but with wider gloves, a lighter color shirt, a sewn-on patch on his pants and with the lower buttons on his denim vest being buttoned.


John's hair is right parted and dark brown, styled very similar to how it was in 1899, but shorter. By this time, John looks older, and his scars have fully healed, leaving two noticeable lines on his cheek where his beard was unable to grow back. His default outfit is his signature striped, grey trousers, a loose-fitting beige shirt, a dark denim vest and his classic hat. His facial hair stays at a permanent short stubble, with the exception of the Gentleman's Attire, where his hair is longer, and his stubble is shaved down to an elegant mustache.

After reuniting with his family, Marston wears brown pants, a grey shirt with leather gloves and an undone black vest, along with black boots and his classic hat.


Main article: John Marston/Relationships

Mission appearances[]

Red Dead Redemption
Undead Nightmare
  • As the protagonist, he appears in all missions.
Red Dead Redemption 2

Notable Murders Committed (Main Missions)[]


Main article: John Marston/Quotes

RDR: GOTY Guidebook Description[]

Our hero is a failed apostle. He is a man who fell in with Dutch van der Linde's vision, until he saw it become insane. Thus, he gave up his former life to become a farmer and a family man. John grew up in a rough orphanage and started stealing and killing when he was young. Dutch saved him from a hanging and educated the illiterate Marston. He taught him ethics and a love of nature, a belief in things other than violence- other than power. John never really believed he could escape his past, especially after the killing on the train, but spent three years trying. Now his past has returned in the form of a government agency that is hell bent on solving these murders and is prepared to use his family to do so. He is a man who understands that human beings change, and that the world cannot be held up by one mans' dreams. He is both Van der Linde's greatest success, and his ultimate undoing.



  • John and Abigail share the same first names as the second President of the United States and the second First Lady; John Adams and his wife, Abigail.
  • John and Abigail also share the same names with Arthur Miller's characters Abigail Williams and John Proctor, who have a secret relationship in 'The Crucible'.
  • The character of John Marston and its story were greatly inspired by Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969). John is mostly based off of former outlaw Deke Thornton, who was portrayed by western actor Robert Ryan:
    • Pike Bishop, the leader of the gang, left Deke for dead after he got shot at by the authorities. Deke was later sent to Yuma and had to endure constant torture for many years while being imprisoned.
    • Deke is coerced into hunting down his former gang members during the closing days of the Old West, in the year 1913, in exchange of his freedom. However, the Railroad Company is responsible for forcing Deke into doing this, not a government agency.
    • The gang considered Deke to be a traitor for "turning states".
    • Thornton finds himself in the middle of a conflict during the Mexican Revolution between the military, rebels and his former gang.
    • Deke Thornton's journey ends when all of the members of his gang are killed.
      • As an addendum, gang member Tector Gorch wears an outfit similar to John Marston's bounty hunter attire, which is most likely where Rockstar got it from.
  • John Marston and Max Payne are the only two Rockstar protagonists to be playable in more than one game.

Red Dead Redemption[]

  • Marston and Red Harlow have similar scars and hats. This is due to the fact Rockstar originally intended John to be the son of Red Harlow in the scrapped Red Dead Revolver sequel, with the scars serving as a shared feature between father and son.
  • 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, in what is called the Sermon on the Mount; Arthur's epitaphs have the same origin.
    • "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.
  • Marston, along with Leigh Johnson, Abraham Reyes, Luisa Fortuna, Bonnie MacFarlane, and Drew MacFarlane, sounded different during development.[5][6]
  • John is #2 in Game Informer's "30 Characters who Defined a Decade" list in their December 2010 edition[7] and is also #1 in Game Informer's "Top Ten Heroes" list.
  • If the player presses PSCIRCLEBUTTON (PS3) or XBOXBBUTTON (360) while near Abigail, Jack, Uncle, or Amos, John will tip his hat, as usual, but he won't speak.
  • According to Rob Wiethoff in a playthrough of Red Dead Redemption, the way John lies on his back - one leg straight, and the other leg bent, dubbed the "Number Four" position by Wiethoff - was intentionally done as a tribute to his real-life wife, Tayler Wiethoff, which he made sure to portray "as many times as he could" in motion-capture.[8]

Undead Nightmare[]

  • Zombie Marston walks and runs lopsided, but when he draws a weapon his stance returns to normal. Also, he walks and runs normally during Multiplayer.
  • As per his affliction, other zombies will ignore Zombie Marston until he provokes them (walking too close, shooting them, having a torch out near them, etc.)
  • If you look at his head while he is wearing the Undead Cowboy Outfit, you will see what appears to be a bullet hole in his head above his right eye. However, if you change to the Undead Hunter Outfit where he has no headgear, there will be no bullet wound. Perhaps his instant death with a gunshot to the head was a back handed "thank you" for stopping the Undead Nightmare.
  • The bullet wound seems to indicate a changing in the events of how John died, as in the main story his head was the only part of his body that wasn't hit by Ross' firing squad, and not only is he wearing a different outfit but the outfit also has no bullet wounds .
  • His stance as an undead is the same as it was when he was shot and killed in "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed".
  • Zombie Marston's left foot appears crooked, indicating that his ankle is broken.

Red Dead Redemption 2[]

  • John has his own theme music that can be heard in various missions where he is involved. He is one of four characters in Red Dead Redemption 2 to have their own leitmotif associated with them, the others being Sadie Adler, Colm O'Driscoll and Angelo Bronte.
  • When playable, John cannot swim. When entering any deep body of water, his stamina immediately depletes (even if it is fortified), and although the player can somewhat influence his movements, John's health will will rapidly drain and he will drown soon after. However, if the player manages to get John as a companion via glitch and enters deep water, John will be able to swim.
  • When playable, John is able to activate Eagle Eye, like Arthur despite the fact he presumably never learned from someone who could track animals.
  • The Dead Eye sound effect of John Marston is different from Arthur's Dead Eye sound effect being the original effect from Red Dead Redemption.
  • If the player antagonizes the camp enough, John may punch Arthur and throw him out of the camp, just like Lenny, Javier, Bill, Sean, and Charles.
  • In addition to having poorer quality points of interest, Marston's handwriting also appears messy compared to Arthur's with more errors and words crossed out.
  • As a playable character, unlike Arthur or himself in Red Dead Redemption, John lacks any quotes for when he wants his horse to speed up (i.e. "let's go!" or "giddy up!"). He instead stays silent, though he has the appropriate quotes for slowing down the horse.
  • The gold rush in the Yukon which John participates in soon after leaving the gang is a direct reference to the real-life Klondike Gold Rush, which took place in the Yukon and ended in 1899.
  • The hat John Marston wears in 1899 (before the introduction of his classic hat seen in Redemption) is similar to the hat of Butch Cassidy from the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a movie that all three games took inspiration from.
  • John wears four main hats in-game. His worn gambler hat, a new blue version of his gambler hat, his classic hat, and Arthur's hat.
    • Marston's "Worn Gambler Hat" can be saved by getting it knocked off and picking it up in the epilogue.
    • During the Saint Denis bank robbery, he wears a much fancier and elegant version of his gambler hat, with a silver band around the middle.
  • Several mission and pre-release images show playable John with his hairstyle as it was in Chapters 1-6, as well as briefly in a flashback during "A New Jerusalem". However, in-game, his hair is by default styled left-parted, similar to Arthur's, and is off-black in color as opposed to being right-parted and dark brown as seen in Red Dead Redemption
  • John reuses Arthur's vomiting noise whenever the player eats oleander sage as well as Arthur's stance, walking and running animations at Beecher's Hope.
  • During the encounter with the Pinkertons at Clemens Point, when Agent Milton asks John who he is, he replies with 'Rip Van Winkle'. This is a reference to the 19th-century short story of the same name, in which an elderly man falls asleep on a hill and wakes up 20 years in his future.
  • John is the first official Rockstar protagonist to be playable in more than one game. The only possible exception could be optional protagonists that can be chosen to have a recurring role in GTA London 1969 and GTA London 1961.
    • Technically John could be second after Max Payne, but Payne was not initially a Rockstar character; the company only developed the third game, whereas they published the first two games by Remedy.
  • John's appearance in RDR2's Epilogue is slightly different than his appearance in the earlier chapters and even RDR. It was later found that John's model in the Epilogue was based off of Arthur's with minor tweaks to the face and hair color. Alongside this, the bounty target Gene "Beau" Finley also bears a striking resemblance to John. Interestingly, when looking through the Epilogue missions on the Progress tab, John has the same hair he did in 1899, suggesting his original hairstyle was intended to be obtainable.

Red Dead Online[]

Other Media[]

  • 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.
  • He is Gabriel Sloyer's favorite character.[9]
  • A parody of Marston's hat appears as an Easter egg in L.A. Noire, also published by Rockstar Games. A Hollywood actor portraying the role of a cowboy is seen wearing it during the game's introductory cutscene.
  • John is extremely similar to Johnny Klebitz, the protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned.
    • Both speak with very rough voices and have shady backgrounds, both rode in a gang and were betrayed by their gang's leader after they had gone insane.
    • Both Marston and Klebitz are called 'Johnny Boy' by other characters.
    • Both are canonically killed on screen.
    • Both were killed by a person that they had an uneasy working relationship with, in Marston's case it was Edgar Ross, while in Klebitz's case it was Trevor Philips.
    • When both Marston and Klebitz were killed, their bodies were cradled by the women they loved. In Marston's case, it was his wife, Abigail, while in Klebitz's case it was Ashley Butler. Both Abigail and Ashley would later die as well.
    • Both have a skeptical and hating view of how the US government operates, yet, they are forced to work for a government agent/politician in order to save themselves and the ones they care about (in Marston's case it was himself and his family, and in Klebitz's case it was himself and his club).
    • Both speak a little Spanish through the game.
    • Women of both were "every man's wife" or the gang's whore at some point in their lives.
    • Johnny is able to play cards and arm wrestling, which are activities that can also be done in Red Dead Redemption.
    • Both are pictured wielding a sawed-off shotgun in their official artworks.
    • Johnny is nicknamed 'Cowboy' by Trevor, which might emphasize these similarities.
    • Both have scars on the same side of their face (though John's was caused by being mauled by a wolf, while Johnny's was from a methamphetamine addiction).
    • Both were involved in kidnapping at least once. In Johnny's case it was kidnapping Niko Bellic's cousin, while in Marston's case it was bounty hunting.
    • Both eventually returned "back from the dead" in some form in a Halloween-related content (Marston as a playable zombie in Undead Nightmare and Klebitz as a ghost in San Andreas Mercenaries), except Marston's return happened in an alternative timeline separate from Red Dead Redemption's continuity.
  • John's relationship with Abigail has similarities to Michael De Santa's relationship with his wife, Amanda, from Grand Theft Auto V, as both couples separate over the course of their story and later reconcile. In addition, both Amanda and Abigail previously worked as prostitute.


Main article: John Marston/Gallery


  1. Birth date listed as 1873 on his gravestone.
  2. Mentioned in a conversation with Hamish Sinclair in "The Veteran - II":
    Hamish: "So what do you do?"
    John: "Me... I'm a wanderer. I was born further north, spent a lot of time out west."
  3. Marston refers to his father losing his sight in a bar fight and allegedly dying in a bar fight as two separate incidents, so the exact circumstances of his father's death are unknown.
  4. John's running away was mentioned to be at "around the time Jack (who was born in 1895) was 1 year old.