By now many of you will have played and finished Rockstar’s Epic Western, Red Dead Redemption. As such I thought I’d take the opportunity to discuss the game’s plot and ending, since I refrained from doing so in my review to prevent spoilers.

I think Red Dead Redemption is the best open world game available today. The sense of exploration and depth to the world is unmatched, and I found it hard to stop myself playing the game as I was reviewing it. You can read my review if you want to know how I felt about that, because in this article I’d like to discuss my feelings on the plot, especially the ending. Obviously this means that there will be spoilers in this post, so don’t read on if you’ve not played the game yet, and mean to.

Red Dead Redemption begins by introducing the player to the character he or she will be playing as: John Marston. There is very little known about him from the beginning, since the player only learns about him as the non-player characters do. When John tells a character his motivation for something, it will be new information to the player. This creates a bond between the player and John Marston in the same way the bond is formed between characters in the story.

I particularly enjoyed this method of storytelling. I was constantly learning about John; his motivations, his background, his personality. I grew to like John Marston. He was a character I was playing, but I did not feel like I was playing as him- I felt like I was helping on his journey, like a friend would do. For this reason, I was compelled to help him finish his quest, and let him be a free man.

Marston used to be in a notorious gang, we find out, but he is a reformed man now. Marston has a wife and child being held by the government, and they are using him like a puppet to round up the old gang members. We’re told that once that is done, Marston will be set free, along with his wife and child. Martson is genuinely sorry about his grizzly past, and makes sure that we know it. He is an honourable man, and that compels the player to act as John Martson would.

In Grand Theft Auto, I killed random people without hesitation, just because I happened to drive onto the pavement for whatever reason. In Red Dead Redemption, I went out of my way to move slowly in towns to prevent injury, help everyone I could, and always capture rather than kill ne’er-do-wells. Why? Because John Marston was my friend, and he would never kill an innocent person.

If you’ve finished the game, you’ll know that as the story progresses, Marston kills or captures all three other members of the gang he was once in. Once this is done, the government agents promise you and your wife and child freedom. Marston moves in to Beecher’s Hope, his ranch, to herd cattle, hunt wild animals, capture horses, and be with his family. The last portion of the game is spent here, on the ranch- and loses all the momentum it once had.

Up until this point, Marston and I had been buddies, dealing with danger and exploring together, having a great time. When I met Mrs. Marston and Jack (his son), I felt like I had been left behind.

Up until this point the game had introduced every character to me in a way that led me to know them, and be able to like or dislike them as I please. I liked Bonnie, for example, because she grew on me at the same rate as she grew on John Marston. I didn’t like the government agents for the same reasons. Now, however, I had been introduced to two characters that John already knew, and I was expected to straight away love them like they were my family members. They were not, however. They were his.

I felt like an outsider. I watched as John took his son Jack out hunting and went out to herd the cattle. I had been cut out of John’s life as quickly as I had been let in. I was now doing the chores while John got to be with his loving family. I quickly grew to hate them. They had stolen my friend away from me, and had the cheek to complain constantly. John’s son had no respect for him, and did not listen to his father’s wisdom.

Not only had these people taken the John Martson that I had spent so much time adventuring with away from me, but they didn’t seem to care about him at all. John’s stony-faced wife showed no evidence of being someone that John would like, let alone marry. I still had hope that John and I would be friends again, but it was dying fast. He was no longer an adventurous rogue. He was a farmer.

This is an example of the effect gameplay can have on the player’s feelings about a character. Up until the ranch, the player had been exploring with John, having fun. When the story shifted to Beecher’s Hope, the player was reduced to doing chores. Grinding for your character’s benefit is one thing in an MMO or RPG, where it has tangible benefits to the player (like XP or items), herding cattle with no reward to the player removes any of the compulsion. The fact that it’s a boring task means that the player does not attach to the characters like they would during an exciting moment. This is especially so when the characters actively make the task more irritating (in the case of Jack Marston).

By the time the credits hit the screen, I was long finished with the plot of Red Dead Redemption. Seeing John Marston die at the hands of the government men was almost like finding out that an admired public figure has died. You think a moment about their life and achievements, then that it’s a shame they’re gone, and move on. I remembered how I used to feel about John Martson, but the events on the ranch had separated me too much from John for me to feel upset about his death.

When I saw the credits start to roll, I was more disappointed than anything. I felt alienated by the story, betrayed even, and the ranch chores had even managed to take away the gameplay enjoyment from me. Even the last firefight had just felt like a token gesture to try and get me back. The thing that actually got my blood boiling happened after the credits had finished. I was now playing as John Marston’s son.

That little disrespectful shit, Jack Marston. Not only did he constantly ignore the wisdom of my old friend and his father, but he had the nerve to try and be like him? Needless to say, I did not let this happen. The first thing I did was to go and kill an innocent man. I cared about John Marston’s reputation, his wishes, his honour. I did not care one bit about Jack Marston. I turned off the game after about ten minutes of playing as Jack, and have not come back to it since.

Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic game, with a compelling and enjoyable story set in a very interesting period of history. I feel, however, that the end of the game was just not up to standard. Not only did John Marston leave me behind, but his family managed to make me hate them as well. The ending of the game betrays the player and then tries to involve them again by killing the protagonist- which is ultimately a flawed way to end what was a great story.


  1. Red Dead Redemption was awesome while you were playing it, the author is right. Every mission was new and refreshing. And the random world events that happened were even better. But the author is even more right about the ending. It sucked. Plain and simple. Only time i’ve ever heard anyone say it was good was reading these comments lol.

  2. I mean I love the game… but John Martson is a fictional video game character, not my friend…I think you need to get a woman… LOL

    • If he did take the back exit then
      Edgar Ross would have followed him and his family and killed them all. So John sacrificed himself for his family.

    • Well, he’s a well-known outlaw in the west and one of the most wanted criminals too, so the government is always gonna be after him and that could affect his family, so I guess he decided to end it once and for all just for the sake of the well-being of his family.

  3. I Think both the author and the people commenting are correct. Yes the ranching chores towards the end of the game did feel boring and a bit like “What are you doing? I was pumped for the ending and now you are pouring water over the fire!” but when the ending came, i.e. Jack killing the agent who wronged his father, it felt like you had truly gained redemption for his father. I was a great and satisfactory ending.

    My point, however is that the whole game up until the Beecher’s Hope missions was incredible. Then after the Beecher’s Hope missions (Johns death) it became fantastic again. I think the only thing that should have been addressed was making the Beecher’s Hope missions more compelling and exciting, making sure the player doesn’t lose interest.

  4. Jack didn’t end up like his father–which is exactly what his father didn’t want for him–out of spite. He ended up like his father because he had no choice. His father was murdered, practically in front of him, and his mother died not long afterwards. That’s got to fill a young man with a lot of anger, and where else was he going to direct it but at the man responsible for his life falling apart? Not forgetting that he now had to run and protect the ranch his parents built from the kind of unsavoury characters we all know were running around the world of RDR.

    Aside from anything else, John’s death fulfilled the “Redemption” part of the title. And the “Dead” part, obviously.

  5. I hope this ending means Rockstar will do a prequel to Red Dead Redemtion about John Marstons life before he is sent to go after his gangmates by the feds.

    Totally agree -can’t stand Jack Marston – he is a little shit who is completely unlikeable. 

    The good news – he avenges his fathers death and you are able to go on playing as John Marston wild weat cowboy / adventurer as opposed to farmer in the multiplayer side of things for as long as you like.

  6. I disagree completely. John was a great character, but I didn’t feel that his family were not deserving of him. Yes, it was upsetting when he died, we all know this. Playing as Jack isn’t as fun, and I dislike the way he yells “I’M JOHN MARSTONS BOY”, sorry but my dad is a post man.. I’m not a post man.. just because he’s his son doesn’t mean he’s like him. But yeah, I took great revenge in playing as Jack and confronting the law officer with the tache and shot him in the face. Revenge is sweet. The Marston name was redeemed.

  7. The author of this article is a mong.  You’ve obviously studied writing a bit.  Don’t try to shoehorn half-baked arthouse movie ideas into a meditation on gaming.  Horrible.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said, except for just one thing. You said that when John died, you weren’t sad, because you had been cut off from the game. When John died, i was unspeakably sad. I actually mourned in a way. I didn’t leave the ranch for the longest time, and just hearing the complete silent rain and the quiet sad music, it just created this unspeakably sad feeling. I visited Johns grave all the time, and like you said, you develop a friendship with him. I felt like i had lost a friend. Anyways, great article, agree with everything.

  9. To me the ending was perfect…and the fact that Jack finally grows up a bit after his fathers death and finds those responsible and kills them….well…now that is a full on Red Dead Redemption if I ever saw one…

  10. i liked playing the whole game even the ending i don’t get attached to chars in games or movies cuz they are fake and i could care less about achievements or getting a prize i play the game to be amused and to take of time that i don’t have any thing scheduled maybe getting to attached to a game chara is y some ppl cant get laid

  11. Very well written.

    Strongly disagree with your opinion on the ending though. What rewards would you possibly get from the Bleecher Hope missions? you are REBUILDING your ranch and trying to piece together whats left of your family. While Jack may see like a disrespectful peice of shit to you, Jack actually had a good reason to always go against his father. Because his Father was barely there for him growing up because they were always robbing banks and people. Not much of a good father figure. Even after they left the gang life John told his family he would never leave them again and protect them. What happened? He was forced to leave them while failing to protect them from being kidnapped by the Government. Another broken promise from from John as far as Jack sees it.

    You also have always lived in Bleechers Hope, but had no reason to be there until the end of the game. When you first go back, you are even told that Bandits pretty much ransacked your farm and all your cattle and herds were ether killed or taken away, which makes me question if you even watched any of the cutscenes from the Bleechers Hope missions. So the getting the cattle from Bonnie and the chores was done strictly to show John Marston rebuilding his life and farm successfully, which is a reward in its own.

    Ending was perfect in my view. Its called Red Dead Redemption for a reason.

  12. I agree with you entirely, and I had the same feeling of betrayal. Jack Marston is no John Marston and we deserved better. This game should have had lots of long-term play potential, but after John died, I haven’t been able to give the game more than the few minutes it took Jack to kill his father’s murderer.

  13. Great article. you really articulated the way I felt about the game. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with the ending of RDR. I keep telling people that don’t play video games, that the games today are more than mario or pac man. They are great stories with main characters that you can really connect with. I connected well with the John Marston character and appreciated the way that Rockstar programmed him. If you wanted to be a murderous outlaw you could with the world around you behaving accordingly. After playing Marston “good” I restarted the game to play him “bad.” It was strange to hear Marson threaten everyone!

    Anyway, I was completely dumbfounded when Rockstar decided to kill him off. I couldn’t understand Rockstar’s decision. Why spend so much time developing this great main character and then deprive the gamer from enjoying him after the story is finished? I was looking forward to just farting around with John in the game after the main quest ended. The ending also goes against the title of the game. How did John redeem himself? By creating another murderer, this time his son?

    The ending also goes against every western I’ve ever seen. Would the good, the bad, and the ugly be better off if all three of the protagonists killed each other at the end? I played RDR a little with Jack but got quickly annoyed with him and his stupid voice. RDR was an absolutely wonderful and beautiful game but the ending left much to be desired.

  14. There were no credits after John Marston died as that is not the end of the game. If you only played around ten minutes of Jack you haven’t finished the game. You have proven yourself to be both a liar and a fool and your opinion is now completely irrelevant.

  15. I killed that S.O.B Edgar Ross and his wife too, and I would do it again. Awesome game, Awesome ending. Hands down one of the greatest games of all time

  16. damn guy its just a game, and yes i did play the game. But damn dude, you where probably crying while typing this weren’t you.

  17. Decent point “I guess”. But I disagree, Marston’s family dealt with the old John in the gang and probably didn’t trust him as much as you would want them to. Marston’s death to me was the saddest moment in gaming history, especially when he sees them off and stays behind knowing he will die. But yes, I also started being as bad of an outlaw as I could be with Jack Marston and I loved the game so much that I still hope they do a part 2 with Jack. Maybe take him on a different path but the game is too good to not continue in some manner. IMO

  18. i loved all of it but hate that he dies it was so sad. jack loved john jack was scared that john would leave when he was killed i was sad i played as him since the beginning when i played as jack i went to every town john went to, to remember him and i never played it after that.

  19. if you are john’s friend pick up that controller play as jack and kill the agent that killed john! F.Y.I. the agent is around the river in between Mexico and America

  20. Wow you played this game but you didn’t finish it? lol How did you ever become an game reviewer? Go back and finish the job pal. Go look for John’s killer like you should have and take revenge. That is how you do justice to a western game. Just like in those western movies we all know and loved and then come back and re-write your crappy review.

    • not forever but I didn’t play the game for like 3 months after I completed the game so I just started a new campaign but didn’t do the last mission so I could unlock everything and stay John Marston.

  21. Like John Wayne said, I disagree with your conclusions. It was very-well written, haven’t you seen Sergio Leone movies at all? It surprises the watcher. And now, with Ennio Morricone worked and directed actually Red Dead Revolver, people know how to make Spaghettis already. The end of John Marston was the exact same way Leone might have done it, because of the government men, it was the truth, Leone delivers sucker punches to his fans; “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”, his famous quote. And Jack Marston was NOT that disgraceful as you described him, he actually avenges his father in the very end and in very honourable way. He won’t become another John Marston, he’d become someone better, just like his father wanted him to. Perhaps not a diplomatic person, but he would make it to Sheriff rank in the future instead of being outlaw, he wasn’t an outlaw, and that wasn’t an agent he killed anymore, he was retired scumbag. If you’ve ever seen “Fistful of Dynamites”, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Watch that film, and you’ll understand Leone’s sucker punches.

  22. “I turned off the game after about ten minutes of playing as Jack, and have not come back to it since”. I wish you had said this earlier in your article so I, too, could have walked away. If you loved John so much you would have finished the game. I didn’t like playing as Jack instead of John either, but you’ve done more than just walk away from Jack. You turned your back on John, sir. Some friend you are.

  23. First off jackass it’s just a game. Second if your a sick fuck that likes games like they were your lover keep that shit with you don’t give anyone your sick shit

  24. So, the first thing you did as Jack was gun down an innocent civilian, spitting in the face of everything John worked for: working and hoping to give his son a chance at a better life. Then you turned off the console, and left John unavenged.

    Like it or not, Jack is John’s legacy. It’s up to you to decide whether John’s sacrifices for him were worthwhile because YOU decide what Jack does next.

    If that’s how you treat your “friends,” then you’re no friend of mine and I’m glad of it. Because John was my friend too, and you took a metaphorical shit on his grave with this article.

  25. I didn’t mind how the story ended so much as I don’t like Jack Marston. His high voice and stupid facial hair were very offputting to me.

  26. Well I also disagree with the last part were you talk about jack tords the end of the game jack starts to respect his father. And the best part was the last mission called remember my family, found in black water wich ends the game with jack getting revenge on the death of his father