UPDATED FOR 2014
1. Niko Bellic (GTA IV)
When it comes to a deep backstory, an air of intelligence you couldn't get from books, emotional relatability, bad-assery and all, Niko nails it. Yes, he's a walking contradiction, but a principled one (at least by his own terms). Had it not been for his grim circumstances, he would've been a person I would've wanted to be around.
2. Trevor Phillips (GTA V)
Incredible character, brilliantly acted. While he is hilariously psychotic, he's not just a one-trick pony. Being empathetic, socially aware, principled (in some regards) and strangely likeable, he hits the nail on the head in every aspect. But it's undeniable that he steals the shine from the rest of the characters in the game. His unpredictability makes wondering what he might do next very exciting.
3. Luiz Lopez (TBoGT)
Arguably the most decent character of the bunch. Some have called him boring but that's only because he isn't cartoony or video-gamey as most characters in GTA are. He's the most normal of the bunch and could pass for a real person.
4. Tommy Vercetti (Vice City)
Perhaps the most bad-ass of the bunch (without being emo like Niko). 2002's cutting-edge may have aged a bit, but still what he represents: a ruthless hardworking criminal with a certain degree of grace and aplomb makes him memorable.
5. Michael De Santa (GTA V)
A characterization of both the average american and the average wealthy (upstart) american. Where Franklin gets too serious and Trevor gets too silly, Michael is often in the middle, making him the most relatable.
6. Carl Johnson (San Andreas)
Lots of memories. He is unfortunately stereotypical, but still he has the most variety of emotions of the cast. He's the swiss army knife. Happy, angry, funny, loyal, disloyal, calm, cut-throat, moral, immoral all into one.
7. Vic Vance (VCS)
A very good character in a so-so game. Could've been much more had he been on a console game, but still, he's a black character that's non stereotypical, and his military background gives him an aura of respect about him.
8. Franklin Clinton (GTA V)
Strong acting, but his story was poorly written. He was only driven by money, and he stuck with Michael and Trevor despite having no reason to. He only ever saw them as a financial opportunity, yet the plot makes him into one of their loyal friends. Still, in bits and pieces there's a lot to like about him.
9. Johnny Klebitz (TLAD)
After seeing you-know-what, my respect for him vanished overnight. Still, what happened to him was a natural consequence of his behavior throughout the game. He wanted to be the responsible person to lead The Lost but just wasn't. Tragic for sure.
10. Claude (GTA III)
I know, I know, the nostalgia. But he was just an empty shell. Yeah, voice acting wasn't as feasible back then as it was today, but we're judging him by 2014's standards. Seeing the great acting of GTA V makes the difference clear.
11. Tony Cirpiani (LCS)
Forgettable. Godfatrher stereotype I think? Let's just say boring is a fate worse than bad.
Old list (2013)
1 Niko Bellic
2 Johnny Klebitz (TLAD)
3 Tommy Vercetti (GTAVC)
4 Claude (GTAIII)
5 Vic Vance (GTAVCS)
6 Carl Johnson (GTASA)
7 Luis Lopez (TBOGT)
8. The LCS Protagonist (I forget his name)