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John Marston was born in 1873. His father was an illiterate Scottish immigrant who was born on the boat into New York, while his mother was a prostitute who passed away during John's birth. John's father was blinded in both eyes during a bar fight south of Chicago. His father loved to talk about Scotland and hated the English for what they did to his great-grandparents, who he never met.
In 1881, John's father died, John was only eight years old at the time and was sent to an orphanage where he lived his teenage years. Although the circumstances are unclear, he managed to escape the orphanage and fell into Dutch van der Linde and his gang; this is where John met his future wife, Abigail. Dutch became a father figure to John, teaching him how to shoot, hunt, gather, read, and how to survive in the world.
As of 1911, John is 37-38 years old and 5' 10" (1.78 m) tall.
John Marston was an outlaw gang member and gunslinger. He ran with Dutch van der Linde, Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella, committing robberies, raids, murders, kidnappings, and other crimes across the frontier. According to Marston, 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 this might just be his own justification for their actions.
In 1906, after being shot in a failed robbery and left to die by his comrades in arms, Marston sought to retire from outlaw lifestyle. Putting his history behind him, he left his old life along with his wife Abigail, their young son Jack and his deceased daughter (who is implied by Escuella in "The Gates of El Presidio" to have still been alive at this time), and began a ranch in Beecher's Hope. Between his gang days and 1911, Marston's daughter died from an unknown cause.
Despite Marston's apparent reformation, he remains a masterful and experienced gunman, marksman, rider and hunter. Marston is a rugged survivalist and knows life as a fight for survival; he adheres to the old-fashioned West in a world rapidly experiencing the advancements of modernized American lifestyle.
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 either an agnostic theist or a Christian who is not too 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.
Red Dead Redemption
The old American West is dying. Encroaching technological advances such as railroads, telegram offices and stronger law enforcement begins to integrate themselves in western society. The federal government creates the Bureau of Investigation to aid in the process and puts Edgar Ross in charge of the western region. One of the Bureau's major goals is to rid the region of all of the savage gangs running wild and unchallenged, especially that of Bill Williamson and Dutch van der Linde. Ross decides to use an ex-associate of Williamson's 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 save his family and earn his right back to the American dream.
After leaving the region to get his details on his mission, John arrives by the Blackwater ferry "Morningstar" and is escorted by Edgar Ross and Archer Fordham through the town of Blackwater to be sent off by train to Armadillo. Once there, John is led by a middle-aged guide named Jake 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 this only results in a rifle bullet in his lower right torso from one of Bill's outlaws.
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 watching, 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 bravely rescues the trapped horses and Bonnie promises to give John some cattle when he settles on his ranch again.
After helping US Marshal Leigh Johnson clean up Armadillo and the surrounding countryside of some outlaws, John and the Marshal begin to plan an assault on the fort. To gather a posse, John works with snake oil salesman Nigel West Dickens, dysfunctional and cowardly alcoholic Irish, and psychotic treasure hunter Seth Briars. However, their plans of assault are temporarily delayed when they save Bonnie from some of Williamson's men from beatings and death. After heroically saving Bonnie, John and his allies carry out a full-blown assault on Fort Mercer, using a "Trojan Horse" strategy by sneaking John and a gatling gun inside the fort with Dickens' sales wagon for hiding. West Dickens gives them a flamboyant lecture about what was inside his "miracle" wagon. John then pops out and kills most of the outlaws while assaulting the fort. However, after the battle, the crew discovers that Williamson had fled the previous morning and went into hiding in the Mexican province of Nuevo Paraiso with Javier Escuella.
Irish escorts John south of the border to the Mexican province, Nuevo Paraiso, where he meets the region's corrupt and evil provisional governor named Colonel Allende and his ruthless 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 runs into 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.
Allende and the Mexican law enforcement, however, aware of John's loyalties, betray John and has his men attempt to kill him. However, Reyes and his rebels arrive in time and rescue John before he is executed. John then sides with Reyes and joins the revolution. After killing Captain de Santa and participating in an attack on El Presidio (which leads to the capture/kill of Escuella), Marston and the rebels lead a full blown attack on Allende's villa. Unfortunately, Luisa is gunned down by Allende's men. John and Reyes successfully manage to kill Allende and Williamson, who was seeking shelter and protection from the Mexican Army. Reyes and his rebels take over the villa and plan on marching to Mexico's capital, fighting for revolution. John heads back to Blackwater in America to meet with Edgar Ross again.
Though his business with Williamson and Escuella were over, Ross tells him that he still needs to kill Dutch van der Linde, former leader of John's old gang, or he will continue to keep his family in captivity. John, along with Ross, Fordham and other Bureau Agents meet in several fights across West Elizabeth against Dutch and his gang of Natives, but he escapes capture or death every time. Marston also works with incompetent Yale Professor Harold MacDougal and Native-American informant Nastas in tracking Dutch down. Eventually, John and the Bureau join the US Army in ambushing Dutch's hideout. He confronts Dutch himself, who warns John that the government will always find a new "monster" to justify their pay. Rather than dying or being taken captive by John's hand, 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.
However, as per Dutch's warning, Edgar double-crosses John. He, along with the Bureau and US Army, launches an attack on the Marston ranch. Uncle is killed during the gunfight, while John and son continue holding off the attack. 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 were slim, Abigail and John seal their love with a passionate kiss before riding off. But in reality, he realizes that the only way to save his family from the government's crosshairs is to lay down his life so they can be free.
John sacrifices himself in a last stand against Ross and his men. After exiting the barn calmly 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 with multiple bullet wounds on his body, he drops his revolver, falls to his knees and then eventually collapses backwards to the ground. As Ross watches Marston dying, he callously lights a cigar and is clearly satisfied with knowing that the final member of Dutch's gang is dead. Ross and his men leave the ranch. Abigail and Jack, upon hearing the cease-fire, return to find John's body in a pool of blood. They bury him up on top of the hill overlooking the ranch, alongside 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 certainly kills for them, he helps swindle people in order to get at 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. Sadly, despite his father's sacrifice, Jack possibly still goes on to become an outlaw; he tracks down and kills Edgar Ross in revenge, without hesitation. The path to redemption, it seems, is a hard road to follow.
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 body 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. The rest of Jack's life is shrouded in mystery.
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.
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, however, and John is forced to clear out Blackwater and look for more survivors. He finds a family on a roof, killing the undead, however 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.
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 for 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 US 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 US 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.
In Nuevo Paraiso, 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.
Leander Holland - Killed during A Frenchman, a Welshman and an Irishman, for threatening John.
Alwyn Lloyd - Killed during A Frenchman, a Welshman and an Irishman, for threatening John.
Outlaw on Horse - Killed during The Assault on Fort Mercer for being in Bill Williamson's gang
Andreas Müller - Killed during Lucky in Love, for accusing John of being a cheat.
The Stranger - Killed during Lucky in Love, for threatening a girl.
Captain Espinoza - Killed during Cowards Die Many Times, for betraying him.
Raul Zubieta - Killed in retaliation for the murder of Luisa Fortuna, during An Appointed Time.
Kosumi - Killed for threatening John, during For Purely Scientific Purposes.
Enepay - Killed in retaliation for the murder of Nastas, during For Purely Scientific Purposes.
Walton Lowe - Can be killed during Political Realities in Armadillo.
Norman Deek - Can be killed during Hanging Bonnie MacFarlane, if John shoots him before the enemy gang does.
Manolo Santador - Can be killed during Lucky in Love, if Ricketts doesn't kill him first.
Vincente de Santa - Can be killed during Captain De Santa's Downfall, if John chooses to kill him himself, or let the rebels shoot him.
Javier Escuella - Can be killed during The Gates of El Presidio, or captured.
Agustin Allende - Can be killed during An Appointed Time, if John chooses.
Bill Williamson - Can be killed during An Appointed Time, if Abraham doesn't kill him first.
Randall Forrester - Can be killed during American Appetites.
Abner Forsyth - Can be killed during The Prohibitionist.
Clyde Evans - Can be killed during Water and Honesty.
Uriah Tollets - Can be killed during Poppycock.
This listing only shows in-game kills and notable characters killed by John. It does not include any of the murders John may have committed while still a member of Dutch's old gang. It also does not include any of the Banditos, Treasure Hunters, the Williamson Gang, Dutch's Gang, Federales, or the Reyes' Rebels he must kill to succeed in missions.
- Main article: John Marston/Quotes
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 up 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.
Red Dead Redemption
- 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 the game 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.
- John is part Scottish, as it is mentioned in-game that his father was Scottish.
- 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.
- When falling off of something after going ragdoll, he has a unique animation which gives him more of a shambling appearance.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- Main article: John Marston/Gallery