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Video Game / Red Dead Redemption

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"I left the gang when the gang left me..."
"I rode in a gang. We robbed trains, banks, held people ransom. We killed people we didn't like. Bill Williamson was in that gang. If I don't capture my former brother-in-arms, great harm will befall my family."
John Marston

Red Dead Redemption is a Wide-Open Sandbox spiritual sequel to Red Dead Revolver, developed by the good folks at Rockstar Games, released on May 18, 2010, in North America and on May 21, 2010, in Europe and Australia for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Years ago, John Marston rode in a gang of outlaws, killing and stealing their way across The Wild West. They seemed like family at the time, but nothing lasts forever — tensions rose, sides were chosen, and John was left for dead. Hoping to change his ways and start anew, he settled down as a rancher with his wife and son.

Now the year is 1911, and John's old life has come back to haunt him. With several members of his old gang still at large, the newly-founded Bureau of Investigation has sent Agent Edgar Ross to arrest John and give him an ultimatum: hunt down his former accomplices or lose his family forever. With little choice remaining, John must pick up his guns one last time, and at long last settle the score with the men who betrayed him...


In practice, this leads to a game that plays pretty much like Grand Theft Auto IV in the Wild West, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who'd think of that as a negative. In Marston's quest to capture his old friends and save his family, he rides over miles of sprawling deserts and plains and takes on missions that advance him closer to his goal, and takes part in many, many sidequests — or, if the player so desires, just wanders around doing whatever he wants in the Wild West.

In addition to the massive single-player world, there is an equally huge multiplayer environment. In two weeks, the game was played for the equivalent of 3,700 years and sold 5.2 million copies.

On October 26, 2010, Rockstar released Undead Nightmare, a Zombie Apocalypse-themed alternate play mode taking place in an Alternate Continuity where John must fight off the living dead with few allies and weapons. If you have any tropes relating to Undead Nightmare, please place them on the Undead Nightmare page. On October 11 2011, a "Game of the Year" Edition was released that contained this add-on as well as the original game.


Eight years later, Red Dead Redemption II, a prequel focusing on John's old gang, released October 26th, 2018, for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The first trailer can be seen here. Rockstar also released a PC version for its launcher a year later, on November 5th, 2019 and its Steam version on December 5th.

Provides Examples Of:

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  • 20 Bear Asses: Most missions that aren't "go here and kill this group of guys" tends to be this.
    • Luckily you can get an ass from every bear you kill.
  • 100% Heroism Rating: There are both positive and negative consequences for having a high "honor" rating. In law-abiding towns like Armadillo or Blackwater, shops will sell for less and buy for more, lawmen and citizens will overlook most crimes other than murder or bank robbery, jobs pay twice as much, and you have a random chance of encountering a nun who gives you an item that cuts enemy accuracy by 25%. Conversely, in Thieves' Landing shops will charge you more and buy for less, you're more likely to get challenged to a duel, and citizens may randomly open fire on you the moment you ride into town.
    • With an average or high honor, John will also politely greet people. With a low honor however, he will shout insults.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Most of the horse-training and horseriding features are. It's very damaging for a horse to run on paved roads, run into a full speed gallop immediately after resting, and in general be kept at full speed for long whiles at a time. And it usually takes months to teach one to come at your whistle.
    • Also, most real horses are trained to be mounted from the left side only and get spooked if someone tries to get on from the right, much less vaulting onto them from behind!
      • This is an outdated practice; some keep it for traditional purposes, but others do away with it. Mounting from the left stems from medieval warfare, where right-handed swordsmen kept their weapons on the left and needed to avoid banging their horse's side. Since most people don't use swords or polearms anymore, it's actually encouraged for some schools to mount from both sides. As for "vaulting onto the horse," trick-riding has a long history and feudal-era knights specifically prided themselves on being able to mount their horse without touching the stirrups (sometimes in full armor!), so that is also very much possible in real life.
    • Averted with having your horse be killed by a predator. A real life horse can take a lot more damage than the game horses do in that sense, simply getting scratched by a cougar isn't going to kill it. Then again, a human won't drop dead immediately from a couple of cougar scratches or wolf bites either. Though taking into account just how many times and how severe a predator attack would have to be to kill an adult man or a thousand pounds horse would probably be too time consuming, not to mention making it a lot easier for the player to escape or kill an attacking animal.
    • Probably nitpicking, but neither do horses neigh when they jump (would be highly difficult), and good luck trying to make a horse in RL jump a fence from a walk.
    • And naturally it's not that easy to tame a wild horse.
    • The game keeps track of the ammo that you use up and the meat that you harvest and/or sell, but you can hogtie as many people as you want without ever running out of rope.
    • You can also carry around with you a rather huge quantity of animal pelts and meat, as well as weapons and other provisions, none of which will slow you down.
    • Humans are a very dumb species that have to learn what comes naturally for most others. For example: swimming. Alright, John can't swim. Reasonable. Horses can't? Unreasonable. Horses can swim. So, in the Red Dead Redemption universe, they don't need to learn to come at a whistle and can teleport, but they can't swim. This was fixed in the sequel and online, where horses can indeed swim, but it takes a lot of stamina as in real-life.
    • No need to worry if your dollars are worth anything in Mexico; even though you are paid in different currencies, the game has an universal money system, meaning your cash is valid everywhere.
    • Speaking of horses, medieval warhorses would not have been huge drafts like the Ardennes; modern equestrians note that Spanish-type breeds like the Andalusian, or other short but muscular horses, were far more preferred in warfare, as they could sprint and turn on a dime. Not only are modern draft horses (and the concept of "horse breeds" in general) only a couple of centuries old, they're slow and uncomfortable to ride, and they eat even more than REGULAR horses. But since this is the early 1900s, the misconception of draft-type warhorses would have been widely accepted as "fact."
  • Acoustic License: In game it's quite easy to have a conversation with someone while you are both on different horses thundering down a hard dirt road.
  • Advertised Extra: Zig-zagged with Small Role, Big Impact ; the three bounty targets appear in three missions at most (Javier only in one) but they are the driving point of the game. They (particularly Dutch) get much bigger roles in the sequel
  • A.K.A.-47: The game uses both real gun names as well as fake names. You'll see famous and well known guns of the period such as Springfield Rifles and Henry Repeaters. However the FN Model 1903 gets the award for ultimate Bland-Name Product in this game: High Power Pistol. Rockstar may have intended use the Browning Hi-Power pistol and realized that it would be anachronistic and switched it to the visually similar 1903 (although it does make one wonder why they didn't just use the Colt M1911, which would have been brand-new but still period-appropriate, especially since it was featured in a few pieces of concept art).
  • All Crimes Are Equal: "Oops, my horse just stepped on a dog and now I have this 5$ bounty on my head. Surely that can't be that big of a deal... I mean who would want to hunt me down for a petty sum lik— what the hell?! Why are the sheriffs shooting at me?!"
  • All-Natural Snake Oil: Actually consumable in-game...and is actually useful! (it refills your Dead Eye meter)
    • Also played with: The ones you buy from stores actually work, but the stuff West Dickens is peddling does nothing, from a thematic and gameplay standpoint, aside from giving you second-level Dead Eye (which players generally don't consider an improvement).
  • Ambiguously Gay: De Santa. He's first seen making eyes with a more obviously gay waiter. Later the two walk off arm in arm. While he tells Marston to take advantage of the rebel women, he never follows his own advice.
    Marston: I came here for two men, nothing else.
    Reyes: You've been spending too much time with Captain De Santa.
    Marston: Very funny.
    • Allende several times calls him "maricón" which is Spanish for "effeminate", and it's usually used colloquially as an insult on par with "faggot".
    • Some NPC's around a fire camp can also be heard discussing a rumor about him being in love with said waiter.
    • Another conversation regarding De Santa goes like this:
      Rebel: He only likes to kill when a man is on his knees.
      Marston: He likes to do a lot of things to men on their knees.
  • American Accents: From Texas drawls in Armadillo to Cajun in Thieves' Landing, the game covers a wide variety of these.
  • Anachronism Stew: In most cases, the game averts this quite well. However, there are a few oddities in the weapon selection such as a fully-automatic Mauser C96 (not available until 1932) and a Carcano rifle (which did exist, but would have been nearly impossible to find in the US/Mexico at the time). In the other direction, the 1850s oddball Volcanic Pistol would have been a rare museum piece in 1911, as well as being completely obsolete.
    • Borderline: While Texas Hold'em was invented by the time of the setting of the game (ie. 1911), it's highly unlikely that it was played so widely, especially outside of Texas (the game is placed on a fictitious non-Texas location.) The history of Texas Hold'em is obscure, but by some accounts it didn't gain any kind of popularity until at least 1925.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: You play as Jack Marston in the freeplay section after the main game, although he is functionally similar to John and inherits all of his items, equipment, and even his Fame and Honor Ratings. Why? The Hero Dies, that's why.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Some outfits are purchasable or available as Downloadable Content; others can be assembled from scraps received by completing certain tasks. Some outfits are purely cosmetic; others have tangible gameplay benefits, such as dressing up as a bandit gang so they won't attack you on sight.
  • Angel Unaware: Who, or what, exactly The Mysterious Stranger is in the sidequest "I Know You" is up for debate. The Stranger intimately knows John's crimes and past mistakes. He gives him several tasks to 'evaluate' his morality, like helping a husband stay true to his wife (or not) and helping a nun feed the poor (or rob them). At the end, John gets so frustrated at the Stranger's prodding and cutting insight he tries to kill him after yelling "damn you!" The bullets don't work, and the man's reply? "Many have." The last place you meet the Stranger (which he cryptically notes as a nice spot)is also the place where Marston is eventually buried. He references having a son, who could be interpreted as Jesus Christ or the Anti-Christ—whichever morality John takes in this quest, the stranger will always say he hopes his son grows up exactly like him. Most confusing of all, when John says he has forgotten who the stranger is when they first meet, the Stranger will answer John's forgotten much more important people than him. In the end, it's quite the Shout-Out to a famous Clint Eastwood movie.
  • Animals Hate Him: The predatory animals will often attack you over prey. They will even gang up on you. Its not impossible to have bears, coyotes, cougars and wolves all attacking you at once.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you're not careful, a predator may attack and kill your horse while John is riding it. Predators won't attack the horse if John is off it, however, so you don't have to worry about protecting your horse while doing other things.
    • Want to have a completely quiet ride to enjoy the scenery and not worry about predators attacking you? Grab a cart, particularly the small ones driven by one horse, and you become immune to animal attacks as they will simply leave you alone while you're driving one.
    • The "Retry from Checkpoint" option when you fail a mission. Rather than doing everything from the start like in Grand Theft Auto IV, you just need to replay from the part you last died/screwed up. Convenient when the mission involves a long list of objectives, long gunfights, or really long rides from point A to point B. This returns in Grand Theft Auto V.
    • The final two Sharpshooter challenges involve killing six animals and disarming six enemies without reloading or switching weapons. Fortunately, despite topping off your magazine, entering Deadeye doesn't count as reloading for the purpose of completing the challenges.
    • In the mission "Hanging Bonnie MacFarlane", while you're in the middle of a shootout in Tumbleweed, you don't have to shoot the rope used to hang Bonnie to save her. Getting in close enough will prompt a cutscene of John doing it automatically.
  • Anti-Grinding: Downplayed, in that the shop closest to Tall Trees - the best hunting spot in the game - also pays least money for animal pelts and has slightly higher prices than average. This encourages players to sell their items somewhere else and further away (although fast-travel makes this a non-issue).
  • Anti-Hero: While Marston is hardly a Villain Protagonist and is mostly trying to do good, he still pushes into antihero territory, especially in Mexico. If you play the game with high honor, however, he becomes a more standard, if cynical, hero.
  • Apathetic Citizens: If you commit a crime, witnesses can be bought off for $10. However, once you do that, no one else intervenes. For the low, low price of a sawbuck, you can carry a bound and gagged hooker right down main street.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: A Volcanic pistol that is more powerful than a Single Action Army. In real life, the Volcanic's "Rocket Ball" ammunition was pathetically underpowered and the weapon was obsolete long before the time the game takes place. Meanwhile, the .45 Colt cartridge is the weakest in the game, even though it should logically be the strongest.
  • Arc Words: "The past can't be erased."
  • Artifact Title: Spiritual Successor to Red Dead Revolver, which was named for the main character, Red Harlow. This game has a completely different story with different characters, none of whom are named Red.
  • Artificial Stupidity: During bounty hunts, the bounty target's friends will simply run straight at John without even attempting to take cover, even as John gun them down one by one. Also, if John scare some people out in the wilderness, they will often run away on foot even though they have horses.
    • Speaking of horses their AI is also cringe worthy. Letting your horse walk free near water or cliffs will inevitably result in your horse walking into certain doom. Horses will also frequently run away from the player if they run past the player when called. In really bad cases they will stop and then start running away when the player gets close enough to mount them.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In-universe example; Professor Harold MacDougal apparently believes extinction was 'refuted by Darwin', and that 'species don't die, they evolve'. Which is bunk, of course, especially considering that Dodos went extinct within the last hundred or so years the game takes place in. He also seems to believe there is some kind of major genetic difference between whites and Native Americans. Had he actually read Darwin, he would have known that his research deemed racial differences superficial. His cocaine abuse probably doesn't help.
    • The final newspaper issue has an article where the writer is clearly shocked at the notion that cocaine might actually not be good for your health.
  • Artistic License – History: One Stranger Mission and some of Ross' dialogue deals with a local senate race and include prompts from the characters on doing their civic duty and voting. The problem is this is all taking place in 1911. The popular election of senators wasn't put in place until the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, which means Jack could have voted for senator, but not John. Before the 17th Amendment it was mostly a state's representatives who elected a senator.
  • Artistic License – Law: The game writers apparently thought that sheriffs can also be called "marshals." According to Marshal Johnson, Bill Williamson is technically in the next county, thus out of his jurisdiction. In real life, U.S. Marshals have jurisdiction throughout their state. Johnson seems to actually be a sheriff, since the sign outside his office says "Sheriff," and sheriffs are indeed bound to their county.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The final story mission is called "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed", which is from I Corinthians 15:26. Of course, the game leaves out the last two words of the verse: " death."
    • The two missions in which you chase and kill Dutch are respectively called "You shall know the truth..." and "...And the truth shall set you free" which is from John 8:32.
    • The last mission with Uncle is titled "A Continual Feast", from Proverbs 15:15. ""All the days of the afflicted are bad, but one with a cheerful heart has a continual feast."
    • The inscription written upon John's gravemarker has the quote 'Blessed are the Peacemakers' upon it, which is from Matthew 5:9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
  • The Atoner: Marston, naturally. It's in the title.
  • Automaton Horses: Zig-zagged - horses will throw John off if he push them too hard, but if he keeps them galloping at a decent speed (a light jab with the spurs every 2-3 second so the stamina bar doesn't deplete on dirt roads) they will never tire.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Deadman's Gun", which plays poignantly in the end credits.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Bonzo, the bull mount you unlock when the player reach level 50 the first time in multiplayer. He loses virtually no speed off road (and let's face it, he's a bull you can ride around like a horse)... but he can't jump fences, his top speed is lower than the best horse, and he'll buck your ass off if you so much as think of spurring him when his stamina's at red. These constraints actually apply to all the non-horse mounts in the game (most of which are actually really good), but Bonzo by far has the lowest stamina out of this group, and his health isn't increased much to make up for the speed deficiency.
    • The "Dark Horse" John receive in single player if his honor gets low enough. Sure, it's got a cool look going on with its scarred and wounded body, red eyes and unique facial marking. However, its speed is slower than the average horse, making it pretty frustrating to ride in missions or bounty hunts where John have to keep up a fast pace.
    • Any of the abilities acquired from completing the wilderness challenges. They're great in theory, but the player can only unlock them by reaching level 10 in the respective challenge, which can only be done after opening up West Elizabeth. By that time, however, the game is almost over so there's not a lot of time to really enjoy them. Same goes for the unlockable outfits such as the U.S. Marshal or Bureau suits.
    • The Mauser, at least in duelling. Since you have to line up every shot from your magazine to be successful, this makes duelling much harder with the Mauser's fifteen round magazine. In fact, not using a revolver in general makes duelling harder.
    • You can hitch a ride in old-fashioned steam locomotives... But as they have an actual schedule you may have to wait for one to arrive, and your horse is faster anyway. If you want to get from Chuparosa to Blackwater, you'll need to wait for 2 separate trains. With a horse, you can make the aformentioned trip in 10 real life minutes, while you may have to wait just as long for either train to arrive.
  • An Axe to Grind: The Legends and Killers DLC pack includes the Tomahawk, which can be used as both a ranged and melee weapon.
  • Back Stab: You can do this with your throwing knives if you're right behind someone, but surprisingly, not your normal knife.
  • Badass Bandolier: Buying one doubles the amount of rifle, repeater, and sniper ammo you can carry. Once the player buys it John will always be wearing it and receive its benefits, even when wearing an outfit that hides it. In a nice graphical touch as John burn through his ammo stock the number of rounds on the belt disappear.
  • Badass Boast: John makes one when he's trying to convince Irish to get him a machine gun.
    Irish: It's the whiskey, sir. It gives me the memory of a newborn babe. As innocent as can be.
    John: (grabs the whiskey bottle out of his hands and drinks it) And it makes me violently angry. Shall we go look for that gun, sir?''
    • Hell, John makes these all throughout the game.
      Jonah: Don't forget you need us more than we need you. Bill Williamson folded you up like an empty purse the last time if I remember correctly!
      Marshal Johnson: Simmer down, Jonah.
      John: Listen to your boss, Jonah. There's a good boy! Otherwise, I'll put a hole in your hillbilly head and watch your tiny brain drain out!
    • Irish gets targeted by John a few times.
      Irish: Who the feck 're you?
      John: I'm your old friend amnesia! (pistol whips Irish) And I swear to you, if you ever forget my name or your debt to me I'll make sure you reach Heaven before these two ladies!note 
    • Randomly in combat usually after killing multiple enemies:
      John: I GUESS THAT MAKES ME A GUNMAN! (he's not really guessing)
    • Here's another gem from when he starts holding up a store, also doubling as a Crowning Moment of Funny.
      John: Taxman's here!
  • Badass Bystander: The army captain you storm Dutch's hideout with. When they use dynamite to blow open the gates he's the only character to show no reaction to it whatsoever.
  • Badass Longcoat: Of several badass longcoats in the game, one is awarded for achieving Legend of the West status.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: After killing John, Edgar Ross takes all the credit for getting rid of Dutch's gang, and is hailed as a hero who has brought peace, prosperity and safety to the region. Sure, the player can have Jack take revenge on him later, but it really doesn't accomplish anything beyond giving Ross his much-deserved comeuppance, as public perception on him remains unchanged. The "Red Dead" book in Grand Theft Auto V does leave open the possibility of John being Vindicated by History, however.
  • Bandito: You can kill numerous ones in Mexico once you unlock the area. You can even dress like one.
  • Battle in the Rain: Due to the random weather in the game, it's possible to do gang hideouts and story missions in a thunderstorm. If it happens during significant events like dueling Edgar Ross, it really adds a lot to the scene. The multiplayer mission "Ammunition" is this.
  • Battle Theme Music: You know you're about to do a gang hideout mission when the music goes all Bully on you.
  • Bears Are Bad News: They will stalk and hunt you down. Don't worry, you can hunt them back.
    • Let's not forget that this game takes place in some horrible dimension where bears are pack animals.
    • There's even Brumas the Bear, a sub-boss which can be killed as part of a challenge.
    • And then of course, there's the swarms of bears that often appear at Bear Claw Camp. When this happens, the best you can do is hide in a cabin and pray for your miserable life.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: The game's story missions would be 90% shorter if everyone Marston meets would just (a) tell him the truth about where his targets are, and (b) stop using him to further their own goals. To quote inFAMOUS, he may be a badass, but he's still "everyone's errand boy."
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Jenny, who decides to stay out in the wilderness apparently expecting to stay alive with nothing else but the aid of God.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Shows up in one of the side missions.
  • Betting Mini-Game: Lots of 'em! Horseshoes, Poker, Five-Finger Fillet, Arm Wrestling, and betting on races are among these. Skill-based games like Horseshoes and Five Finger Fillet increase in difficulty as you increase your bet.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Marston is downright friendly, even to his enemies. Which doesn't mean he isn't capable of putting bullets between the eyes of you and your entire posse in the time it takes you to reach for your pistols.
    • Landon Ricketts is a nice old man, but lord have mercy on anyone he catches messing with the people of Chuparosa.
  • Beyond the Impossible: With Dead Eye, thrown objects will turn in mid air, under their own power, to chase targets. The end result is HOMING DYNAMITE! Remember, this is an ordinary guy in the Wild West.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Dutch van der Linde, and Agent Edgar Ross.
  • Big Damn Heroes: More than a few, but blasting into the ghost town of Tumbleweed to save Bonnie from outlaws —arriving just in time to either shoot or cut the rope around her neck before bringing down the thunder on any of the gang's survivors certainly qualifies!
    • Also done for John himself: when the Nuevo Paraiso government betrays him and is about to execute him, Abraham Reyes's forces storm in and break John free.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Done by John to Irish:
    Irish: [in Mexico} They call me "El Rato", "The Cat", because of my wits and abilities!
    John: I'm pretty sure "El Rato" means "The Rat".
    • However, both Irish and Marston are wrong, as "El Rato" translates to "The Brief Period of Time." Ouch. ("The Rat" would be "La Rata") . Though since Marston is not a Spanish speaker either, it's an understandable mistake.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The whole portion of the game that takes place in Mexico.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality
    • Best illustrated by the leader of the rebels and the ruling governor in Mexico. Abraham Reyes, rebel leader, is a lustful, selfish, and power-hungry lout, but he's still better than the Provincial Governor of Nuevo Paraíso, Agustin Allende, who is a mass-murdering, cowardly, tyrannical rapist (though it is implied that Reyes later became just as bad as his predecessor after taking power).
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: An option using skillful shots.
    • And besides making you look cool, shooting the guns out of enemies' hands serves practical purposes. Several Sharpshooter challenges require you to do this so many times, and doing this to an enemy in a duel instead of killing them nets you extra Fame and Honor.
      • Normal (non-duel) enemies that get their guns shot out of their hands run to pick them up though.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: A side quest involves a man telling you to get a deed to a house in the middle of nowhere from another guy. If you kill the guy and get the deed, the first guy will notice the blood on the deed, gets angry because he didn't want that guy dead, and pays you only $5 (as opposed to $200 if you paid the man).
  • Bookends: At beginning of the game, you get the crap shot out of you and then do a bunch of chores for a snarky woman. At the end of the game, you do a bunch of chores for a snarky woman and then get the crap shot out of you.
    • In the opening cutscene on the train John overhears a priest and a young women talking about the recently invented airplane. You end up hearing about this same topic again in the last conversation John ever has with his son. Jack even describes them in the same way as the priest, as "machines that can turn men into angels."
  • Boom, Headshot!: Lots of them when you play with Dead Eye. Makes a nice blood spray and leaves nasty looking wounds on the enemy body. Instant kills all around.
  • Booze-Based Buff: Moonshine not only refills your Dead Eye meter, it also keeps it full for ten seconds. By contrast, downing five shots in a saloon will cause you to stagger around, falling over townsfolk and furniture.
  • Boring, but Practical: Most of the top tier guns are top tier because they have large magazines. Once you get the Evans repeater (22 shots) you'll probably use it for everything other than late game sniping missions. Even then, the Carcino sniper has a 5 bullet clip.
    • The bolt-action rifle. Plentiful ammo, long range, quick to fire, 5-round clips for quick reloading, usually a 1-shot kill... useful for anything from bird hunting to all-out warfare.
  • Bottomless Bladder: There are outhouses around in the towns, and you will often see people (though men only) use them, or come across a rider having a "pit stop" in the wilderness. There's is neither a way or need for the player to do this however.
    • In the beginning of the mission "Father Abraham" however, we see John about to take a leak before he's interrupted by two rebels pointing their guns at him. John's "what now?" look while he pulls his zipper back up is pretty funny.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Gatling Guns.
  • Bounty Hunter: A good source of income. You can shoot the targets and get half the bounty, or lasso them and dodge their friends pursuing you on horseback for twice the money.
    • Other bounty hunters will come after the player if you break the laws. Jack Marston becomes this when he reaches adulthood.
  • Broken Aesop: While not exactly a heavy focus, the game does have some anti-racism messages here and there, such as Abraham Reyes showing an ugly anti-Chinese mindset to emphasize he's a Jerkass, Edgar Ross showing a similar anti-Indian streak to make it clear he's an utter Hate Sink, an Easter Egg mixed couple household hidden in New Austin, and the general use of Deliberate Values Dissonance in the random dialogue sprouted by the various NPCs. Then once you reach West Elizabeth, you're suddenly treated to an over-the-top racist doctor who's intented to be Plucky Comic Relief, you meet the only Native American in the entire game who doesn't try to shoot you on sight (and is gunned down by other natives in his third mission partially thanks to the aforementioned doctor who becomes a Karma Houdini), before the missions make you slaughter countless more natives to finally reach the Man Behind the Man Mighty Whitey who's given more sympathy than the dozens of now-dead mooks who've explicitly said to be misguided young men looking for a purpose. In short, any anti-racism messages the game may have are unfortunately buried under the Always Chaotic Evil Indians who'll happily kill their own and obey a white guy without question as long as he lets them cause mayhem, without any indication it's meant to be commentary on the Cowboys and Indians theme common in old westerns.
  • Broken Bridge: Played straight for the bridges linking New Austin and Nuevo Paraiso with West Elizabeth; the bridge between New Austin and Nuevo Paraiso is instead blocked off due to the civil war south of the border (although when the plot requires going there, that doesn't stop John).
  • Bubblegloop Swamp: Stillwater Creek and Thieves' Landing.
  • Bullet Time: Dead Eye, which also gets a few more upgrades as you go, such as auto-targeting body parts for a quick hail of bullets.
  • But Thou Must!: Jack can't shoot the gun out of Ross' hand. He must kill him, or he'll be killed.
    • Also, Herr Müller
  • Butt-Monkey: Uncle is the target of a lot of John's abuse.
    • Same with Irish, including physical abuse. He might castigate Seth for being a grave-robbing lunatic and Nigel West Dickens for being a shamelessly greedy charlatan, but Irish is the only ally in New Austin he's done more to than threaten with unpleasantries.
  • The Caligula: Colonel Allende, and Reyes turns out the same way.
  • Call-Back:
    • During one of the first missions with Bonnie, John will tell her that she reminds him of his wife, in the way that she's "a woman in a man's world". During one of the last missions, John's wife will ask him what Bonnie's like, to which he answers "She's a bit like you I guess. She's a woman in a man's world."
    • Similarily, during the second to last mission John has with Marshal Leigh, John will tell him how, if he tells his son not to do anything, he'll do it anyway "just to spite him." Come one of the last missions of the game, John forbids Jack from hunting alone, to which the latter ends up doing exactly that.
  • Call to Agriculture: John, before the Bureau forced him to hunt down his old friends.
  • Camera Abuse: Tilting the camera angle up during a storm will cause the camera to get spattered with raindrops.
    • When skinning an animal blood will squirt from the corpse and hit the camera.
    • You can get other debris and some blood spray on the camera.
  • Cats Are Mean: This game has possibly the meanest cats ever: Wild cougars who can and will kill you in a couple of hits. Or your horse! Or both! And in Mexico, bobcats, which aren't quite as lethal but are just as quiet and can still put the hurt on you. Plus, sometimes they travel in groups. There's even a semi-boss Mean Cat: Khan the Jaguar.
  • Cattle Drive: The game has a few herding missions given to you by Bonnie the Rancher, as well as a few missions where you herd wild horses and have to break a few wild horses in.
  • Chained to a Railway: You even get an appropriately-named achievement if you manage to kill a Damsel in Distress this way.
  • City Slicker:
    • Jimmy Saint, a New York humorist off to find some "real wilderness" to write about.
    • Bonnie MacFarlane and Marshal Johnson consider Marston to be one of these, at least at first.
  • Classic Cheat Code: The settings menu includes an initially empty list of cheat codes. These cheats are hidden as out-of-place sentences in the game world and in newspapers, and need to be entered as text in the aforementioned menu to be unlocked. Fortunately, as this list is part of the settings, it's shared between all of your save files unless the settings file is deleted.
  • Clueless Deputy: Marshal Johnson has two, Eli and Jonah.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: There's a mission close to the end of the game, "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed", in which Marston must protect his family when their farmstead is attacked by the US Cavalry. If you're familiar with the original quote, a passage from Corinthians, you know there are two words missing from the end, "... is Death", which makes it pretty easy to guess that John is killed at the end of the mission.
  • Continuity Nod: Several. A group of men sitting around a campfire can be heard discussing the now-legendary exploits of Red Harlow and Jack Swift.
    • Also, the book that Jack reads tells the story of Red Dead Revolver.
    • Twin Rocks, one of the gang hideouts the player can clear out, is named after the second level of Red Dead Revolver, and also resembles it in appearance.
  • Cool Horse: You can get quite a few different horses, ranging from diseased cheap ones to expensive but strong ones. There's also the special War Horse you can unlock by buying the game at Best Buy in the US or preordering from HMV in the UK.
    • Multiplayer allows the player to ride an albino bison, bulls and a Tijuana zebra (a white donkey with zebra stripes painted on). These are some of the best mounts in the game, despite the fact that most of them are not ridden in real life.
    • The coolest horse reported so far is a battle scarred Black Stallion which comes to your beck and call only if you're evil enough.
    • A horse harnessed to a chariot is basically the game's equivalent to an Infernus early on and are great for quick travel if you do not feel like breaking horses. Also, animals won't attack you while you drive a cart.
  • Country Matters: Said several times throughout the game, perhaps most memorably in the mission "We Shall Be Together In Paradise".
    Irish: What's the word for "cunt" in Spanish?note 
  • Coup de Grâce: After some intense gun battles some of your enemies might not be dead and will be lying on the ground saying how much it hurts etc. You can either let them bleed out or finish the job with a quick pistol shot.
  • Cowboy: Naturally. MacFarlane's Ranch is filled with Working Cowboys, owned by Ranch Owner Drew MacFarlane, and run by his daughter cowgirl Bonnie MacFarlane.
    • One of the Stranger missions has you fight a deluded actor "gunslinger" who talks and acts like John Wayne as a Forced Tutorial about dueling.
  • Crapsack World: There are very few happy endings here, and the general theme of the West seeming romantic but actually being a brutal land that leads all within it to strife and misery remains constant throughout the whole game (though the theme of having hope does so as well). This is most evident in the Stranger missions, which nearly all end in death, ruin, or misfortune for those involved, but on the whole, the world is miserable for everyone. Very few goodhearted or good intentioned characters survive the plot. (On top of that, only the most flawed or corrupt succeed, and no one can escape the traps they find themselves in.
    • So much so that the Undead Nightmare DLC, despite unleashing hordes of zombies onto the wild west, MANAGES TO MAKE IT LESS CRAPPY. That's right, a Zombie Apocalypse is an IMPROVEMENT.
  • Cutscene Boss: Dutch. See Anticlimax Boss.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: John is prone to this. In the very first mission, he decides to draw a gun on three men all pointing rifles at him. They shoot him. Later on, an important character is holding someone hostage. John has resolved this situation many times before in-game using his elite marksmanship. But this time he apparently forgets that he can.
    • Played With in the final main mission. If he were controlled by the player, John could take down every single soldier attacking the ranch. However, John knows that killing them all would just worsen the situation and deny his family the peaceful life they deserve... so he decides to end the fight on his own terms.
    • In "Cowards Die Many Times" even after it's clear that Williamson and Escuella aren't in the church like De Santa promised and he's definitely been led into a trap, John still keeps his guard down and turns his back on a Mexican Army soldier who, predictably, knocks him out while De Santa laughs at him. It's profoundly out of character too considering Marston is usually the type to pull his gun at the slightest sign of trouble, but he doesn't even reach for it here.
  • Darker and Edgier: At least in comparison with Red Dead Revolver.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • John Marston is a very cynical person and often sneaks in veiled insults to the people he works for or with, or at the very least, plays devil's advocate with whatever belief they happen to espouse, be it for good or ill. This often veers into Only Sane Man territory.
    • Nastas tends to respond to whatever ludicrous racist gibberish Professor MacDougal is spouting with dry, deadpan contempt.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Most notably, Dutch's. And John Marston himself.
  • Decade Dissonance: Played very effectively: Blackwater is significantly more modern than the other towns.
  • Deconstruction: Of Jack's You Killed My Father and Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Agent Ross. One would think that the ending is a little bit bittersweet since Jack got his revenge but it's a small consolation when you realize that John's wife, one of the people John started this entire endeavor for, is also dead, possibly due to the depression of losing him. Meanwhile Jack himself, in his search for vengeance, has adopted the lifestyle John was trying to protect him from. Many of Jack's gameplay quotes indicate his life is pretty hollow. On top of that, no one other than Jack will ever know the truth about John Marston's redemption and Ross' betrayals. Not only that, but, in the end, the act of vengeance shows that Jack became exactly the man John didn't want him to be, that is, a man like himself - and one of his quotes shows that he gave up on his dream of becoming a writer and lost his idealistic spirit.
  • Defector from Decadence: Though it was apparently forced upon him by the old gang leaving him for dead, John as well as his wife and son, who also ran with the gang had very clearly left the outlaw life behind by the time the game starts. Or he tried to. At the least, he wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Everything from newspapers lauding the medicinal properties of tobacco to a rabidly anti-Semitic Shopkeeper in Armadillo, the game doesn't shy away from the ideals and attitudes that have been considered long out of date in the 21st century.
    • Professor MacDougal studies and statements of Native American "savagery" were popular claims for the time period. Many like MacDougal also misinterpreted Darwin's theories to support their racist ideas, completely ignoring him saying that human racial differences are superficial. MacDougal claiming that Darwin said "extinction is a myth" hints that he has no idea what he's talking about.
    • The best is one of the men in the running for Governor in a campaign that is chronicled in newspapers throughout the story. He loses all support in a scandal because when he lived in Alabama he let non-whites use white bathrooms and such.
    • One of the two black and white, silent cartoon movies you can watch vilifies woman's suffrage, the other warns against medical science which, it asserts, will "kill you and leave you dead". Though in light of your interactions with Nigel West Dickens, this may not be a bad thing to tell people.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: When you use Dead Eye, time will slow down and a sepia filter will be used, which mimics an old photograph.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Seth had a wife and children, but he's implied to be more than just friends with Moses.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Averted with De Santa. While he fulfills both portions of the trope individually, his brand of villainy has no connection to his sexuality.
  • Determinator: John. Not sheriff's posses, not the army, not cougars, not Mexico, not the proto-FBI, not his best friends, not even a zombie apocalypse, nothing NOTHING NOTHING will stop him from reuniting with his family.
  • Developing Nations Lack Cities: The game's depiction of Mexico is not only completely fictional but also has no cities despite being a border region.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Defied by John when he's talking about Bonnie to his wife. He wisely stops digging and starts complimenting her.
    John Marston: When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
  • Dirty Cop: Edgar Ross.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Assault on Fort Mercer, the conclusion of the time John spent recruiting allies and acquiring assets in the first act. The target of the assault turns out to not even be there, making the entire first act pointless.
    • Or it isn't. After all the time you've spent in the first act you're likely to be a very wealthy, well-armed, well equipped, well trained frontiersman and gambler. Which means the Nuevo Paraiso difficulty spike is less noticeable and more organic. The Fort Mercer mission is even easier in this interpretation though, so it simultaneously is and is not a subversion.
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted with Dutch van der Linde. When you finally confront him, he gives a Breaking Speech to Marston and falls off a very large cliff. The next scene is Marston and Ross catching up with his corpse. Ross shoots him in the head - dispelling any notion that Dutch wasn't dead - and attributes it to John, saying "it looks better in the report that way."
  • The Ditz: For a wise man, Professor Harold MacDougal is a very stupid man.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Zombie Overrun is Do Not Go Gentle The Game! You are told that you are going to die and instructed to take as many Zombies as you can with you.
    • Also John's last stand against the BOI.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: "I Know You" mission.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The original song "Deadman's Gun", which plays during the ending credits, counts as this. The lyrics are about a man preparing to make a Last Stand against his enemies after suffering one injustice too many; depending on how you interpret the song, the "Deadman's Gun" either refers to John taking a stand against the Bureau after accepting that he won't survive, or to Jack taking up his dead father's gun and resolving to avenge him.
  • Downer Ending: Some characters get happy endings (Sheriff Marshal, Seth, probably Bonnie). But on the whole, downer-tastic.
    • Although it is open to interpretation. Some people see Jack Marston's ultimate fate as a Downer Ending, as he falls directly into the lifestyle his father fought hard to protect him from. On the flip side, the game is also an examination of the victory of civilization over the frontier spirit, and given how badly civilization treats John Marston, one may feel that his work was to an unworthy goal. In this light, Jack's decision to follow in his father's footsteps is basically a Hope Spot for the frontier. Also while on this point, an Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto V implies that Jack did eventually settle down and become a writer sometime after the events of Red Dead Redemption, possibly making it a particularly bittersweet Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Downloadable Content: Plenty, including a Mythology Gag DLC that allows you to play characters from Red Dead Revolver.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: The prostitutes don't beat around the bush.
    "Is there anything of yours you'd like to stick into something of mine?"
    "Your pecker's lookin' mighty dry!"
    • The Mexicans do it, too:
      I'm like tequila; I go straight to the head.

      Prostitute: (In Spanish) It's hot in here! I want to take my clothes off!
      John: Sorry ma'am, I'm married.
  • The Dragon: Norman Deek to Bill, Captain De Santa/Espinoza (depending on which one you ask) to Allende, Fordham to Ross. John was this to Dutch.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • John mentions to Bonnie that he pulled a gun on Bill at Fort Mercer in order to get him to shoot him, as he wanted to die. Luckily, he was saved.
    • The ultimate fate of John's Father Figure Dutch, who realizes it's Better to Die than Be Killed.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: John has the patience of a saint, what with all the jerking around he has to put up with.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: During the final mission, John will sometimes shout at his attackers.
  • Duel to the Death: One of Landon Ricketts' missions has this as the result of a grumpy German accusing John of cheating.
    • Not to mention the final duel between Jack Marston and Edgar Ross on the riverbank in the Playable Epilogue.
  • Dying for Symbolism: Marston's death is there to reflect the end of the Wild West and the inevitable turn towards civilization.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: John may inevitably end up dying but, depending on how quick he is, he can take out up to eight of his killers — nearly half the company.
    • The entire final mission is pretty much John's Dying Moment of Awesome. Sure, they do manage to take him down eventually - at the cost of nearly a hundred dead or wounded soldiers.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Any bounties you gain in America are shared with New Austin and West Elizabeth. The prequel establishes the two to be different states, and thus bounties gained in one aren't tracked in the other.
    • Players who play II first may be surprised by just how different John's stories about his past are from the events shown in the prequel. The gang consisted only of Dutch, John, Bill, Javier Abigail and Jack - Uncle is implied to have been a member although this is only mentioned in one easily missable discussion near the end of the game. Dutch was the brains, John was The Friend Nobody Likes Only Sane Man who noticed Dutch's Sanity Slippage first, Bill was always Ax-Crazy, Javier was a creeper who would likely have sold the gang out if it benefitted him, and Abigail was shared by all four. All of this ended after John was left for dead after being shot during a ferry job, after which he seemingly never saw his former "family" until 1911. Almost all of this is changed at least slightly in II, mainly through the occasional Retcon, new previously unmentioned people who were given various character traits from the existing characters, while said existing characters were retooled.
    • The "Blackwater massacre" was just a Noodle Incident, with no indication that John nor his former gang had any involvement in it. II gave it and Dutch's gang an Adaptation Origin Connection.
    • As is usually the case when sequels take place near the first game's map, II almost completely redesigned this game's off-map areas. Here the Flat Iron lake is much larger, it's shorelines are entirely different, and New Austin is overlooked by unclimbable cliffsnote .
  • Easily Forgiven: You can put a .22 cartridge through a sheriff's head and knife every woman in town, but if you do a sidequest and carry around some papers, people will think you're the Lone Ranger. If you're wearing your bandanna, you don't even get negative honor.
  • The Edwardian Era: As it's about 10 years too early for Americans to start worrying about Dirty Communists, Mexicans are used as a stand-in, though a few remarks about "socialists" are thrown about.
  • Elemental Crafting: You can literally live off the land, by picking flora and hunting animals for skins and meat.
  • El Spanish "-o": When killing enemies in Mexico, some of John's one liners veer into this by mixing English and broken Spanish. John himself admits that he can only speak a little Spanish.
    John: You're dead! Muerto!
  • End of an Age: The game is set in 1911, near the end of the Wild West, and the tone is appropriately melancholic. In fact, the first thing you see in the game is John (whose appearance all but screams "Old West") watching a car being unloaded from a ferry. The game proceeds to show off all the most absolutely rottenest things about the Wild West, which would seem to indicate that the Wild West ending is a good thing, except that Ross (pretty much "civilization personified" in this game, as that's his car) paves the roads to peace and civilization with blood and manipulation.
  • Establishing Character Moment: John, Ross and Fordham all subtly gets this in the opening cinematic. Ross rudely pushes a paper boy out the way, Fordham checks out some women they pass by, and John refuses Ross to touch him.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Thoroughly averted. While only minor characters have truly horrible teeth in various states of disrepair, main characters, John included, almost all have realistically not-straightened, and even yellowed teeth. This varies from character to character, and speaks volumes of personal habits, lifestyle, income and upbringing. Example: John Marston himself. He was a poor orphan who became an outlaw, drinks and smokes, and obviously never had access to more than a toothbrush. While not visually unappealing, his teeth are appropriately yellowed and uneven, and there may even be a slight gap between two of them.
  • Evil Brit: The only British characters Marston meets during the game (aside from a few generic characters with British accents you may play poker with) are a snobbish English drug dealer and a treacherous Welsh crook (who comes under the hooligan half of this trope) plus a married Scottish man accused of impregnating his nanny and then kicking her out without a dime (though it turns out the woman was lying and in fact never worked for him). Not the most evil characters in the game by far, but still.
  • Evil Pays Better: Downplayed. While robbing random passersby and shops is tempting as a source of quick cash, "heroic" players are generally better off - they get generous discounts everywhere except Thieves' Landing, while "evil" players only get discounts there. Most of the activities, such as gang hideouts or odd jobs, give you positive honor in addition to the cash. And while evil enough players won't be reported for anything other than murder or bank robbery, a weaker variant of this bonus is available for heroic players too. The one big exception is cheating in Poker. Dishonorable? Sure, but the game doesn't even treat it as such and can be very profitable.
  • Exploding Barrels: Dynamite/TNT Barrels and boxes.
  • Expy: Marston looks a lot like Red; the two even have the same facial scars.
    • Bonnie MacFarlane looks a lot like Annie Stoakes and even has a similar background (the daughter of a rancher who ignores established gender roles and raises her to be a strong and independant woman).
    • Edgar Ross looks a lot like an older Jack Swift.
    • Seth is basically a Wild West human version of Gollum.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Thieves' Landing is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The downloadable "Deadly Assassin" outfit.
  • Fallen Hero: Dutch fits this trope to a T. He's an idealistic and formerly heroic man who wants to make the world better and has been driven past the brink of insanity by the realization that nothing he does will ever make any difference whatsoever; his beliefs and ideals have been utterly shattered, and he fights because he literally has nothing left to live for. To a lesser extent, the other members of his gang qualify as well, but none manage to capture the spirit of the trope quite so effectively as Dutch.
  • Fictional Province: The game has two fictional US states, New Austin and West Elizabeth, as well as a fictional Mexican state called Nuevo Paraiso).
  • Final Boss Preview: Wow. In the mission, "At Home With Dutch," the player must silently neutralize an enemy scout, take the binoculars and search for Dutch with them. After spying on a far away encampment, Dutch is seen, and he already knows you're there. He shoots John right in the binoculars, avoiding a lethal shot in the eye, but instead, knocking him unconscious from the impact. Ouch.
  • Firing One-Handed: How John fires his handguns.
  • Foil: Edgar Ross and Dutch van der Linde. Both are fighting for what they believe to be best for society, Ross for civilization and Dutch for anarchy, and both display a complete willingness to Shoot the Dog if that's what it takes to get there. But the game shows that both of them are hypocrites and neither of their plans are without flaws anyway. The only real difference is that in the end, Ross is remembered as the hero and Dutch as the vicious outlaw, but then the game points out that had more to do with civilization ultimately triumphing and history being Written by the Winners than any real moral superiority of one over the other.
  • For Science!: Nigel West Dickens, and in the later game Professor Harold MacDougal, proclaim to be men of science.
  • Foreshadowing: "I Know You": The final encounter with the mysterious man takes place at the same place where John is buried.
    • To add to this, the man says "ain't this a beautiful spot?" while standing on John's future grave. John fires three shots (which don't kill or hurt the "man"), and later there are three graves there.
    • Irish keeps his gun holstered directly in the front of his pants. In the epilogue it's revealed that he accidentally shot himself.
    • A lot of De Santa's lines during "Cowards Die Many Times" hints at the impending betrayal, such as telling John "It's been a busy time for you in Mexico" (knowing he's been helping both sides), and when John asks why Williamson and Escuella are in the church, De Santa replies that it's "a good place to judge a man."
    • Done when Ross gives John the High Power Pistol by aiming it at him. Ross later kills John by shooting him.
    • Two of Dutch's final lines foreshadows John's eventual fate: "When I'm gone... they'll just find another monster." and "Our time is passed, John."
    • Even very early in the game, John's willigness to die for his family's freedom is briefly alluded upon with John getting shot at Fort Mercer and later explaining to Bonnie he may have let himself get shot on purpose to escape the situation he and his family are in.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Game has "Dead" in the title. John was a dead man walking before the game started. Equally, the title is an obvious synonym of Redemption Equals Death
  • Fragile Speedster: Your horse. Average breeds can outrun any predator you are pursued by while superior breeds are even faster. Letting it take a single swipe from a bear or cougar, or even a few nibbles from a wolf however will send it, and you, tumbling to your doom. For example: the American Standardbred is the fastest breed in the game and takes damage like a balloon to a needle.
  • French Jerk: "French" is a bit of a dick.
  • Full-Boar Action: The wild boars in the game have a nasty habit of knocking you down whenever they feel like it. Whenever you get back up, they rush back in to repeat the process.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Abraham Reyes and his men, thirsty for freedom and justice, overthrow an oppressive and corrupted regime that lets the Mexican people starve, and instead put in place… an oppressive and corrupted regime that lets the Mexican people starve. When you have worked with Reyes for a while, this is not the slightest bit surprising.
  • Gallows Humour: John and other characters use this humor through out the game.
  • Gambling Brawl: The game has a scene where John is accused of cheating by a German player, and everyone ends up in a Mexican Standoff.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Not a total breaker, but still pretty annoying. On the missions where you have to catch and break wild horses, after you capture two or three of them your character will start automatically releasing the lasso from the captured horse whenever you try to get off your own horse, which results in the captured one instantly bolting away. You can avoid this by getting off your own horse before using the lasso, but it's a major pain in the neck.
    • In the Asian version of the PS3 game, the buttons X and O were messed up in all of the mini-games, making a lot of them virtually unplayable. The bug was (eventually) patched.
  • Game Hunting Mechanic: John Marston can hunt animals for their pelts.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • It can get pretty hilarious, one Youtube clip has the ultimate duel between Ross and Jack be interrupted by a wolf spawning from nowhere.
    • Or the song "Compass" playing while Marston is returning home, only to be stopped when you're thrown off your horse because a cougar attacked you, fricking cougars!
    • The first third of the storyline revolves around Marston and his allies' preparations for an assault on Bill Williamson's fortified hideout, which involves detailed planning, much specialized equipment and at least half a dozen men to pull off, culminating in a dramatic set-piece battle. During the same portion of the game, you will also likely clear out several equally-fortified gang hideouts singlehandedly or with the help of a single accomplice, making the above feel like rather a waste of time.
    • In The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed, John's Dead Eye will activate in the scene preceding his death. However, this time around there's no way to successfully shoot down the soldiers surrounding you, even though, had the scene been playable, there's a good chance the average player would've made it out alive. Also, Jack's horse's stamina is unlimited to avoid him being bucked off as he's racing back to the ranch to see John.
    • Shortly after entering Mexico, Irish, for no clear reason, grabs the sheath of a horse he has appropriated, and is reprimanded by John. If you ever chance to look in-game, horse crotches are featureless.
    • Know the pardon slips? The ones you collect that'll clear your bounties after one of your many crime sprees? Well, at the end, none of these pardon slips will save John (you) from getting mowed down by the US soldiers and the FBI agents including Ross.
    • And finally, just for good measure, when John finally gets his family back and they return to their home on the farm, John will frequently mention the money problems they're having now, money problems which motivate a few of the farm's missions, even as John has well over ten grand in his inventory.
    • You can choose to make John a downright monster should you want to, making him kill people wherever he goes and commit all sorts of crimes. This will bestow you with low honor and affect his personality, making him shout insults to people if you converse with them and the law will frequently hunt him. This does nothing to affect cutscenes however as John will still act kind and polite in them.
    • In an early game mission where a Stranger wants the deed to some land so he can irrigate water and turn a profit, when you arrive and speak to the old man to negotiate the deed, you have the choice to pay for the deed ($200), kill him in cold blood and take it or hogtie the man and steal it that way. Even if you take the third option, the game will treat hogtying and stealing the deed while leaving the man alive the same as killing him because the deed will be stained with blood in the handover cutscene just the same.
    • Any of the Stranger Tasks (with the exception of "I Know You") that are not completed by John can be completed by Jack during the postgame sequence. However, none of the supporting character will show any visible signs of aging during the three-year span between John's death and Jack's quest to avenge him. This is pretty egregious with Clara, the pregnant woman in "Wronged Woman". If you started the side-quest as John and proceeded to finish it as Jack, she'll still be pregnant. However this may have been intentional, as a way to clue the player that she's faking the pregnacy.
    • Your currency is valid in both America and Mexico, but according to the dialogue, you are usually paid with the current region's currency, meaning your money consists either of American dollars or Mexican peso depending on who you're dealing with. This is to simplify transactions and to ensure the player isn't completely broke when they first land on Mexican soil.
    • Some bits of dialogue acknowledge that money that's not worth much today would be worth a lot more back in 1911; for example, Bonnie tells John that the medical supplies needed to heal him cost $15 (about $407 in today's dollars), and later, Marshal Johnson offers $50 to whoever can capture those that caused the Rigewood Farm massacre (which would be about $1350 today). However, the shops in the game do not reflect this, and their prices will match up with modern equivalents. A prime example is the apples you can give to your horses: an apple is worth $1, which would be perfectly fine in modern times, but not in 1911. Selling an apple for $1 in 1911 would be like selling one for $27 today!
    • Cheating in Poker isn't considered dishonorable in the game's Karma Meter, despite obviously being so in practice.
    • Two egregious examples in regards to the grizzly bears: When Marston is traveling with Nastas and Harold at one point, he will be forced to gun down a bear. Nastas will express anger at the killing of the bear, saying that it most likely would’ve left them alone if they didn’t provoke it. This is true in the real world, sure, but when Marston is exploring Tall Treess on his own, the bears...will not leave him alone. And in the penultimate mission of the game, Uncle says that Jack went to "track down that grizzly that’s been spotted up there”; this implies that it’s the only bear that’s been seen there for a while, despite the fact that the player will potentially have encountered dozens of grizzlies when trekking the woods.
  • Gang of Hats: Nothing overtly gimmicky, though all the gangs are identified by unique fashions and John can unlock outfits to pass as them:
    • The Banditos are stereotypical Mexican outlaws who wear sombreros, serapes, and bandoliers
    • The Bollard Twins all wear red neckerchiefs, chaps or riding pants, and often bowlers hats though others wear cowboy hats
    • Dutch's Gang are all Native American youths recruited by Dutch from local reservations, they share his contempt for American society and modernization
    • The Treasure Hunters all have poor hygiene and worn out clothes
    • Walton's Gang is the most literal example, they all wear top hats and relatively fancy attire
    • Williamson's Gang is pretty generic, the only common visual element are the red bandanas they all wear.
  • Gatling Good: Several missions have mounted Gatling guns John can use to mow down attackers. They are even referred to by name in most instances.
  • Genius Bruiser: John Marston is uneducated and thus doesn't quite qualify as a Badass Bookworm, but it becomes increasingly apparent over the course of the game that he is very, very smart, and, in a better environment, could have easily become anything he wanted to be. He might even have made a good Bureau agent.
  • Generation Xerox: Jack ends up exactly like his father.
  • Genre-Busting
  • Ghost Town: Tumbleweed.
  • Glass Cannon: Cougars are this. They are hard to see, attack from behind and then disappear only to finish you off with the next pounce, can one-shot your horse, and will do the same to you if your health bar is anything less than 100%. But if you see them before they kill you, they'll go down in one or two shots with most weapons.
  • Global Currency: The only currency in the game is dollars, even in Mexico. Presumably, this was done so the player wouldn't find themselves unable to buy anything when starting out in Nuevo Paradiso.
  • God Was My Copilot: The Mysterious Stranger from "I Know You" was possibly this. See Angel Unaware.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The overreaching arc for the first act in New Austin.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: While you never see Marston physically skin the animals he hunts, there are some lovely blood spatters that splash on the screen accompanied by rather gruesome sound effects.
    • And the skinless carcass lies there when you're done.
    • Averted in the final scene when John Marston gets gunned down by the US Army. The scene—and the bloody, agonizing aftermath—are shown in all their gory detail.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: You unlock new horse deeds by roping and breaking in new types of wild horses. You also need to hunt just about every single different living creature in the game (and every type of wildflower) to complete the ambient challenges.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: This is showcased especially in the Mexico arc. Both sides of the civil war are flawed, and neither is really heroic.
  • Guide Dang It!: The game never actually tells you how dueling works, only giving you generic tips on which buttons to press. What you actually have to do is press the button to draw your gun and wait for the crosshairs to turn white and pick your targets when they do so. This builds up the meters on the right side of the screen, and whoever has filled their meter more wins.
    • The game is pretty bad at teaching the play mechanics in general.
  • Gun Porn: A variety of period weapons including machine guns, rifles, machine pistols, and revolvers. However, many of them do not actually operate the way they do in real life. For the complete rundown, go here.
  • Guns Akimbo: Played straight and averted. Although in there are two instances of this happening in cut scenes it never happens in the actual game play.
  • The Gunslinger: John Marston. A lot of the NPCs actually, since it's a western.
  • Happily Married: John's reason for refusing propositions from women of loose morals. Later, he and his wife show themselves to be made for each other.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Help a crazy aviator build his new flying machine design? He will try to fly it off a cliff and just plummet to his death. Help a girl escape her abusive boyfriend so she can become a nun? He gets shit-faced and enraged, tracks her down and apparently accidentally murders her. Rescue an immigrant from indentured servitude so he can go back to his love in China? Turns out his "love" is actually opium, and he'll spend the rest of his life as an addicted waster. Help a mountaineer hunt down dangerous Sasquatches? The creatures are sapient, gentle and vegetarian, and you've just reduced their species to a single suicidal member. Even sometimes, random strangers on the roadside will plead for you to stop and help them, and then try to rob you, murder you or steal your horse. It's a Crapsack World, and plenty of bad people will exploit your sense of honour or altruism to deceive you. And sometimes, the absolute worst thing you can do for someone is give them the help they want, because your kind help doesn't produce the result you expect.
  • Hat Damage: It's possible to remove people's hats with well placed shots. A slight error quickly turns the target's head into Pink Mist, but the hat comes off that way too.
  • Hellish Horse: Has a horse known appropriately as the "dead horse". In addition to being covered in claw marks, it's missing one eye, the lower jaw and half of its left front leg. It can be ridden, but not in normal game play, you have to use a edited save file or mod one yourself, but you can see it laying dead in the mission "Spare the Love, Spoil the Child" if you go to the cave, or in this YouTube video.
  • Herding Mission: The fifth mission, "Women and Cattle", requires Marston to herd a group of cattle out of a pen and out to pasture. Herding cattle shows up in a few other missions as well.
  • The Hermit: Seth, at least with living people.
  • The Hero Dies: John himself at the end.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: John himself ensures that Abigail and Jack survive.
  • Hidden Depths: John Marston engages in some surprisingly deep and interesting philosophical discussions with various characters over the course of the story, quite an accomplishment for a gunslinging reformed outlaw with no formal education.
    • Uncle, despite his supposed laziness and being a very frequent target of John for it, ultimately gives his life to help protect the Marstons.
  • Hide Your Children: We see two children in the entire game; a kid selling newspapers in the opening cutscene, and John's son. In Mexico, it's mentioned that kids have been taking up arms in the revolution, but we never see any, for obvious reasons.
    • Also, you never see baby or juvenile animals in the entire game, only adult ones.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Abigail WAS one of these, before the events of the game.
  • Hope Spot: John found his family and is living Happily Ever After...right? Dead wrong.
  • Horse of a Different Color: In multiplayer, you can ride a bull, a buffalo, an albino buffalo, a Texas Longhorn, and a "zebra donkey", a donkey painted like a zebra. And it's the fastest mount in the game.
  • Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: Possible in multiplayer as you can ride donkeys with particularly large characters, such as Pig Josh.
  • Hunter Trapper: Lots of coyote pelts to gather and sell. Kill one of everything to get an achievement. Depending on how much time you spend at it, hunting for pelts can be one of the most profitable endeavors in the game.
  • Hypocrite: A random example, but Jack Marston deserves a mention if you play as him with low honor. Eventually you may encounter a man that challenges you to a duel, reason being you killed his father. As a response Jack sneers at this and proceeds to make fun of the guy, in the words of "Yeah, I killed your father. He cried like a girl." Wow.
    • Edgar Ross, that's for sure. He berates John for killing people when he was the one who told him to do so on his journey.

  • I Banged Your Mom: More like "I Banged Your Wife." Dutch constantly reminds John that his wife used to be the gang's whore.
  • Idle Animation: Leaving John standing still will result in him removing his hat to wipe some sweat from his forehead, swat a fly or scratch his leg. On a walking horse, he'll adjust his seat, straighten his neck and pet the horse.
  • I Found You Like This: After pulling a gun on Bill Williamson while he was in a fort and John standing in no cover, Bonnie MacFarlane somehow happens across John and brings him back to the ranch to get patched up.
  • I Love the Dead: It's implied that Seth does a little more than grave robbing. Especially evident in the Undead Nightmare DLC where he has a full on party, complete with dancing, with a group of zombies.
    John Marston: I've met a lot of sick bastards in my life, Seth. But you... You're special.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In the "American Appetites" quest chain. As well as a lone cannibal that can be randomly encountered.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: VIVA MEXICOOOOOO!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills : The Dead Eye aiming mode. Plus, firing a revolver that fast that accurately.
    • In-story example: Near the end of the game, Dutch manages to nail Marston with what would have been a headshot with a pistol from several hundred meters away. Had Marston not been using binoculars, the bullet would have hit him square between the eyes.
    • throwing knives. The player can equip throwing knives, target a flying bird in Dead Eye that's at least 50 yards away while on horseback at full speed, and manage to hit the bird with the knife. Opponents armed with Throwing Knives routinely hit the player from distances over 50 yards.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: US Army soldiers are seen wielding the Krag-Jørgensen rifle instead of the more accurate M1903 Springfield. Ironically, this would extend to the prequel, which takes place at a time when the Krag-Jørgensen was the US Army's standard service rifle, and instead of wielding that, they instead wield the outdated Winchester Model 1866 lever-action repeater.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: At least on the cover.
  • Infinity+1 Gun: Averted in the case of the Rare Guns; many of them are not stupendously overpowered and instead have a unique perk. For example, the Mauser Pistol is fully-automatic.
  • In-Game TV: the player can watch old-time cartoons (complete with dialogue cards and period music) in projection rooms.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Enemies sometimes die from a single shot depending on weapon and where they are shot. More powerful weapons against some of the weaker enemies frequently one shot the target. Shotguns and rifles also have a tendency to one shot at least weaker enemies. Headshots of course are usually fatal for the Mooks.
  • Instant Gravestone: You can watch a Show Within a Show where a salesman sells some concoction to an old man, causing him to dig his own grave, complete with headstone.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: At the beginning of "The Gates of El Presidio", John goes into one room and finds Reyes having sex with a peasant girl, with some Spanish talk and the girl's moaning of "VIVA MEXICOOOOOO!" Even John seems so confused about this when he catches them in the act and Reyes dismisses her.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Jeb and "Lucy". They wind up getting married! Funnily enough this is one of the only missions that ends with a somewhat happy, if not a little weird, ending for all the parties involved.
    • There's a newspaper advertisement which appears to be offering... advice... on this sort of thing.
  • Intoxication Mechanic: If Marston drinks five or six alcoholic beverages in a row, he will begin to stumble while walking, and can very easily fall over. The effects last for a variable period of time, until he sobers up. Sporadically, Marston gets blackouts, falling to the ground and lying still for some time.
  • Iron Butt Monkey: The stranger in the black hat viewing the scenery between the ranch and Armadillo. Normally you are prompted to talk him, but instead of doing so, you can push him off the cliff. Since this counts as a failure in completing a Stranger mission, you can come back to the same spot and push him over every single time; on rare occasions will he survive the fall and run all the way up the trail to where you are, seeking revenge.
  • Ironic Echo: West Dickens late in his series of missions begs John, "I implore you!" The subtle take by John is priceless.
    • On a darker note, the epilogue delivers several, but the dialogue between Jack and Ms. Ross absolutely takes the cake. Apparently Edgar ALSO has a family he retired from the Bureau to spend time with, but the Bureau still keeps dragging him in. This almost seems like the game rubbing the gamer's hate into their own face...which is certainly par for the course in Rockstar's recent titles.
  • Irony: The people in Blackwater (mostly the G-men and Professor MacDougal) spend a lot of time acting as if frontier folk and "savages" are mentally retarded, but the very characters they rail against are decent, honest people (like the MacFarlanes and Nastas) while they themselves are basically glorified thugs forcing their beliefs and values on others.
  • It Will Never Catch On: John isn't impressed by the bureau's automobile:
    Marston: So much for this automobile of yours. If this is the future, God help us all... I can walk faster than this piece of shit! Give me a horse any day!
    • Applied to the game as well: Rockstar San Diego were apparently told that they were crazy to make a game set in the Wild West. They revealed this tidbit upon being awarded the Game of the Year.
    • Another In-Universe example is in the beginning, with one of the strangers mentioning the Wright Bros' airplanes. The pastor she's talking with basically says that, outside of birds, only angels can fly.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: John's wife and son.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jerkass had a point in this case. Captain De Santa makes several comments on how Abraham Reyes' fight for freedom is only a glorified thirst for power, which, when you get to know Reyes, proves to not be very far from the truth. Made clear in a newspaper article in the game's epilogue, where it's revealed that he became a tyrant just like Allende before him.
    • This could count for Edgar Ross too.
      John Marston: So how does it feel? Taking a man's wife and child from him? Does it make you feel good?
      Edgar Ross: How does it feel to kill hundreds of innocent men in cold blood?
      John Marston: You're a coward.
      Edgar Ross: And you're a murderer.
      John Marston: I want my family.
      Edgar Ross: I'm sure all the men you murdered wanted their families too.
    • Then again this is averted seeing as it's basically Edgar Ross' fault that John has to kill all the people he does throughout the course of the game. Also, had John not interfered, they would have killed an innocent woman and her son in cold blood.
    • Nigel West Dickens makes a similar point to Ross; every time John complains about his Snake Oil Salesman ways, Nigel points out that John, who used to rob people at gunpoint, can't take the moral high ground.
  • John Marston Is About to Shoot You: Though it looks like he's aiming to blow your foot off with that shotgun.
  • Jump Scare: You're in the wilderness observing the wonderful scenery when *COUGAR'D*. You'll be looking behind your shoulder a lot after this.
  • Just Take the Poster: When you accept a bounty, John Marston rips the poster off of the wall, folds it up, and places it inside his coat. Justified in that he wouldn't want others to know about the bounty.
  • Karma Houdini: Ross ultimately kills John Marston because he considers him to be one of these, and depending on how you look at it may end up as one himself. Sure, Jack hunts him down and kills him, but he'll be remembered by history as a hero; John and Jack will be regarded as savage, uncivilized outlaws.
    • GTA 5 subverts it with Jack Marston's autobiography, albeit this is an easy to miss Easter Egg.
  • Karma Meter: You have an honor meter that grants you various benefits if you max it out to be a highly honorable man or a highly dishonorable man. Incidentally, this is independent of your criminal bounty or wanted level, which only go up if you get caught committing crimes. Unlike most free-roamers made by Rockstar, it's entirely possible to be an almost totally law-abiding citizen and profit from it.
  • Kick the Dog : Not counting all the other Video Game Cruelty Potential moments, the player can actually kick dogs for the hell of it using the same button one could use to shove people. Players doing the last activity, will quickly find out that The Dog Bites Back.
  • Kill It with Fire: The fire bottle and the torch, the latter exclusive to Undead Nightmare mode and is especially effective against the undead.
  • Knife Nut: Averted. Trying to use the knife in combat is an effective way to get killed.
    • You do have to kill 5 wolves with it alone for a challenge.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Marshal Johnson.
    • John Marston himself definitely qualifies as one of these. He talks and even occasionally acts like an Antihero, but it's pretty obvious that he used to be quite the Wide-Eyed Idealist, and that not all of that idealism has died in him just yet. Lampshaded by Reyes, who calls John "A romantic trying to be a cynic".
    • Landon Ricketts can also qualify, though his bitterness is a bit softer than Marston's and the Marshal's.
  • Knight Templar: Agent Ross.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Many people in the game are fully aware of the huge amount of Wild West tropes. Bonnie says that the penny-dreadfuls and dime novels badly exaggerate things (which they did) but for the most part, this game plays those tropes totally straight. Good thing most Wild West tropes are awesome.
    • John jokes that he thought he'd get something for robbing 50 banks.
  • Land in the Saddle: If you aim just right, you can land on your horse from a second story jump.
  • La Résistance: A bunch of Mexican revolutionaries (and their oppressors) are among the various people John has to turn to while in Mexico for leads regarding his latest quarry. This plays with virtually every Resistance-based trope and falls into Black-and-Grey Morality in many ways. While the Resistance itself is portrayed sympathetically, its leader Abraham Reyes is a womanizing, elitist hypocrite who can't be bothered to remember anything anyone's done for him specifically. He's the leader simply because he happens to be very enthusiastic and charismatic.
    • Dutch's gang saw and sees itself as one of these.
  • Large Ham: It'd be easier to list non-hams here, but special mention goes to West Dickens, Reyes, MacDougal, and Nastas.
  • Last of His Kind: Poignantly, Jack in the epilogue ends up as both the last living Marston and the last gunslinger in the US.
  • Last Stand: John, having sent off his wife and son, takes a deep breath and shoves open the barn doors to greet a firing squad of twenty soldiers, all pointing their guns at him. The game goes into Deadeye Mode and you have one last chance to pick off as many soldiers as you can before John is ventilated.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Cougars hit fast and hard and are not easy to take down unless you aim for the head. Bears are this to a lesser extent, as they are somewhat slower but make up for it in terms of raw strength.
  • Living Legend: Landon Ricketts, although during the events of the game, he is keeping a low profile in Mexico.
    • If you max out your fame, everyone will recognize you and react accordingly depending on your honor. This is quite impressive considering you started the game out as a nobody.
  • Loveable Rogue: Arguably, Irish. He might be drunken lout, but there's no denying the man's got a strange charisma.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Luisa. Oh, Luisa...Charging three armed men with a knife? "Que dejen a mi hombre!" What were you thinking?
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Getting run over by a train.
    • Or getting hit with an Explosive Rifle round.
      • Or shooting anything with the Blunderbuss, from close enough range.
  • MacGuffin: In a slightly darker example, your family.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The cannibal you eventually encounter in "American Appetites", who, despite having a broken leg, still proceeds to eat one of his victims unless you shoot him. It's either that or he's a seriously creepy version of The Determinator. (The way he giggles indicates he may be lying about having a broken leg.)
  • Male Gaze: Abigail has levels of ass focus rivaling Rebecca Chang, but really, who's complaining?
  • Manipulative Bastard: Edgar Ross. Turns out he only sends Marston out to kill his old gang members so that he can kill him when he's done so. What's worse is he even lets Marston go back to live with his family for a little while, giving them (and the player) a false "happy ending" feeling, before sending the army in to slaughter them all.
    • Not to mention, Ross might have sent Marston on the mission to begin with, believing he'd end up killed (sending one man to take on an active and dangerous outlaw with an army of his own?), but had to keep playing along when he returned alive.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack Marston, because Jack is a nickname for John, is really just named after his father, foreshadowing his fate of becoming an outlaw just like John.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: Abraham Reyes' speeches consist of him throwing around rabble-rousing buzzwords such as "freedom" and "for the people!" It's quite clear to the player though that he's nothing more than a self-important blowhard.
  • Menacing Hand Shot: During duels, part of the animation before the draw features such a shot from the player's perspective, showing the character's hand flexing over his gun.
  • The Men in Black: The Federal Agents. Men in Bowlers.
    • "We have the power to do whatever we think is necessary to protect this country."
  • Metaphorgotten:
    • Ross's speech about Dutch's form of anarchy quickly becomes this.
      Ross: But it sure felt good to say.
    • There's also this conversation during an Abraham Reyes mission when Reyes is describing General Sanchez
      Reyes: It's like a father who beats his son, then the son takes his dog outside and rapes it.
  • Mexican Standoff: Every multiplayer match starts this way. There is also a lampshade hung on the trope during the single player campaign.
    • "There has to be a name for this." "An impasse, sir. An impasse."
  • Milking the Giant Cow: West Dickens.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Check your stats towards the end of the game, chances are you will have killed a good more than 2,000 people, regardless how straight you've tried to go. There are only two on screen-deaths in the entire game played out to be sad however, Dutch's and John's.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Fire Bottles.
  • Molotov Truck: You use this in one mission.
  • Mood Whiplash: Bonnie's mission line is a good example. You spend most of the chain doing several relaxing low risk jobs such as as cattle herding and horse breaking. Then she gets kidnapped by bandits and you end up storming their hideout to rescue her.
    • The entirety of "The Gates of El Presidio". It starts out with a squicky yet funny sex scene with Reyes and a girl before moving on to a tense cart ride to El Presidio with TNT acting as a Time Bomb set to go off on both the cart and the gates. Then it's a serious battle with the guards as you search for Javier Escuella. Once you find him, there will be a tense conversation before Javier attempts to escape. If you capture him, the scene will be a bit emotional; but if you kill him, the mood goes to downright depressing and heartbreaking (especially if you've played RDR2). After some moments of sadness, the mood switches back to tense when Reyes' voice warns you that army reinforcements are arriving, and you'll have to fire a cannon to destroy them. Afterward, you'll head back down to the jail cell, and the mood will shift once more to heartbreaking and sad, marking a Bittersweet Ending to the mission.
  • Moody Mount: The game has a lot of unique and in some cases magical horses that must be "broken" before they can be ridden. And even a broken horse can still buck you off if you don't pay attention to the stamina meter.
  • More Dakka: The Gatling Guns and some of the late game weapons have larger ammo magazines.
    • Special mention goes to the Mauser Pistol for being the only weapon the inventory with a fully-automatic fire rate.
  • Mugging the Monster: When John wanders into Chuparosa for the first time, he is greeted by three locals, very obviously bent on bullying some "gringo". John tries to peacefully defuse the situation, but the locals keep pushing their luck by taking his hat and then telling him to take off his boots. You can guess for yourself how things turn out for them.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: The end of a few Stranger quest chains.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: In "Remember My Family," Jack announces his name to Edgar Ross shortly before dueling the latter to the death.
    • Made more obvious when you realize that the book Jack was reading earlier was the story of Red Dead Revolver.
  • Mythology Gag: In the end of the game, John Marston dies and Jack Marston takes up arms to avenge him. Kinda like what Red Harlow did in Red Dead Revolver.
  • National Stereotypes: Irish is a textbook example of the Drunk Irish stereotype. He also used to be part of a group that was apparently named after national stereotypes; when you find him, he's being accosted by "Welsh" and "French," though the latter doesn't even have a French accent.
    • Confusingly, Welsh has a Geordie accent. Not a Welsh one.
  • Never Mess with Granny: The multiplayer character you get rewarded for achieving the highest possible rank is a bespectacled overweight old woman named Christy Weller.
  • Nice Hat: It's a Western, there are no hats that aren't nice.
    • Some of the Mexican sombreros almost count.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Now you know why Ross wanted to kill John's family, too.
  • No Fair Cheating:
    • If you save with any of them active, cheats permanently mark your save file name with an asterisk. Otherwise you're all good.
    • While the game doesn't morally care if you cheat in poker or not, you cannot cheat in the high-stakes game in Blackwater as you need a special outfit to even get in. And oh yeah, you obviously can't cheat in multiplayer.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Very common, particularly with the Stranger missions. Help a man start a film studio? He goes bankrupt. Save Eva from her abuser so she can go be a nun? She goes back to him, and he murders her. Save the Chinese immigrant from indentured servitude so he can rejoin his fiancee in Shanghai? He never makes it because of his crippling opium addiction. Help a man search for treasure he's been after for 10 years? There isn't any. The list goes on.
  • No Hero Discount: Subverted, once your fame is high enough, shops will sell stuff to you at half price.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: John does this to De Santa in an attempt loosen his tongue as to the whereabouts of Escuella. We don't actually see much, but the sheer amount of damage to his body speaks for itself.
  • Noisy Nature: Wolves, coyotes, cougars and other animals always announce their presence in the vicinity by barking, howling or roaring.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: During the segment in Mexico, characters can't decide how to pronounce Allende's name consistently (the correct Spanish pronunciation is ɑːˈjɛnde).
  • Non Standard Game Over: "You have destroyed your corn," a possibility in some of the Homestead missions.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: The entire section taking place in Mexico.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • "You're just like me, John! You can't change who you are!"
    • Dutch gives a speech to Leviticus Cornwall about how much they have in common. He tells him that, while they both kill and steal, Cornwall does so indiscriminately while Dutch chooses who he wants to rob and kill.
  • N-Word Privileges: While in Mexico, you get called "gringo" a lot. Interestingly, despite being used fairly often in that time period, the N word itself is never used.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Wait... Nastas carried a fainted John down that entire mountain by himself? And did so AFTER he'd already given John an "I Will Only Slow You Down" speech after getting knifed in the arm? Wow.
  • Old Maid: Bonnie is "a spinster of 29 years, well past marriageable or childbearing age."
  • One-Gender Race: All the elk in the game are male, judging by the fact that all the elk in this game have antlers and that only male elk have antlers. Averted with all the other animals though, even the deer.
  • One-Hit Kill: Run up to someone with your gun out and fire, you'll shove your barrel into them and fire an Instant Death Bullet - complete with a cinematic camera angle for the animation. If you're too close to them, you'll instead Pistol Whip and knock them down.
  • One-Man Army / Person of Mass Destruction: The player character, John Marston. Even if you try to be as non-violent as possible, you'll still likely end up killing more people than every single real-life Wild West gunslinger combined.
    • This doesn't go unnoticed by the characters in the game, either - when the Bureau decides to kill John, they send in the Army. Literally hundreds of them. Against one man (well, technically two, but still). He kills most of them.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The player and some of the tougher NPCs. You can get shot in the arms or legs and keep running full speed and have perfect steady aim. It's averted for your enemies though. They will hold wounded arms and legs and limp around. If you shoot them in the gut they will start to bleed out and lie on the ground prone in agony.
    • Provided the trajectory of the bullet doesn't allow it to go through the stomach or the chest an NPC can be shot an infinite number of times in the lower back without dying.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: The Jackalope makes an appearance. It must be killed to earn one type of outfit.
  • Outlaw Town: Thieves' Landing, a bayou town with no law enforcement at all. Several gang hideouts might count, such as Tumbleweed, though simply entering it starts a mini-quest where you must kill everyone there.
  • Papa Wolf: Nothing will prevent John from getting his family back. Later on, he's willing to take on a grizzly to save Jack.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: John can wear a bandanna over the lower part of his face that will turn off the Karma Meter.
    • Also useful in Thieves' Landing if you have full honor: the natives won't try to kill you outright. Both of these are funny as people will still recognize him despite his karma being safe (when his fame is at the point that everyone greets him.)
    • Same with the all the outlaw outfits you can unlock and wear to blend in with a bounty target's gang. Again, with high enough fame, they will address John by name, yet they don't mind him walking about within their turf as long as he's wearing their gang's clothing.
  • Pet the Dog: Several pop up, but most notably your encounters with the Ross family in the Epilogue makes it fairly clear that Ross wasn't entirely evil.
    • Played literally with Rufus. After spending weeks - months, even - being chased by cougars and carving his way through packs of wolves, it seems that even John Marston's best friend is his faithful pet hound.
  • Pistol-Whipping: John does this if you get close to an enemy and he doesn't initiate a instant kill animation.
  • Playable Epilogue: Toyed with slightly. It's not actually possible to "finish" the game until you do the Epilogue-only sidequest "Remember my Family" from Blackwater. Only then does the game roll credits.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • In the stranger's task "American Appetites", John encounter three people in total, all by the sheriff's office who asks him to find a relative of theirs that went missing, quite close to the town as well, all three of them in tears or panicking because the police won't help them.
    • One random encounter features an outlaw being chased by two sheriffs, firing blindly at him, requiring John to take him down, usually with one shot only. Taken even further in West Elizabeth, where shooting the outlaw will result in the sheriffs telling you they spent weeks chasing him.
    • If you become Wanted, as long as you have a horse, it's very easy to escape the police, and after losing your wanted level, you can just stroll right back into town and greet some of the policemen that were just chasing you.
    • John seem somewhat under this impression himself, judging by his attitude towards Marshal Johnson when he hears him explain his slight apathy to his job. Although, Johnson averts this later, showing himself a very capable sheriff who doesn't hesitate to risk his life for the sake of helping people, and can hold his own just fine against a dozen of enemies.
  • Precision F-Strike: Especially in comparison to its Modern Counterpart, Red Dead is noticeably reserved in the "fucks" department, only a few, very few, lines of ambient dialogue have an f-bomb and whenever it’s used in story it’s usually to show that someone’s very pissed off.
    John Marston: You want me to take out a gun and blow a fucking hole in your head, right here, right now?
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. The game actually shows entry and exit wounds, and they look quite gruesome.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At the end of "Remember My Family", Jack finds Edgar Ross 3 long years after Ross had his father killed. After a short exchange, he guns him down and leaves the man's corpse lying in the water...and that's it. No reward, no catharsis, he just wanders off to continue his shattered spectre of a life, far removed from what his father was trying to build for him.
  • Quick Draw: Marston can be challenged to duels in this style. Interestingly, if you draw first, winning is much harder as your accuracy goes down (you're panicking, after all).

  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The first major portion of the game involves assembling a task force to help root Williamson out of the fort he and his gang have holed up in, though Marston practically has to drag most of them kicking and screaming to cooperate. The team that is ultimately composed consists of a retired bandit in the employ of the government, a US Marshall and his bumbling deputies, a Snake Oil Salesman, a drunk Irishman, and an unhinged grave robber.
  • Random Encounters: Done in order to keep running across the same expanse of land from becoming boring and monotonous, although trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming if you don't pick and choose what's important to stop for.
  • Rare Guns: Weapons such as the Henry repeating rifle, LeMat Revolver, and Volcanic pistol were obsolete by the time the game takes place. The LeMat had a very low production run and would only be found in museums, while the Mauser would be virtually impossible to find in America at the time.
    • The Volcanic Pistol deserves a special mention. Developed in the 1850s, it was a lever-action pistol fed from a tubular magazine, and it fired "Hunt Rocket Ball" ammunition. Said ammunition has the honor of being one of the earliest metallic firearms cartridges, as well as the somewhat more dubious honor of being almost useless due to its pathetically low muzzle energy. As for the gun itself, it's rare enough that one was recently sold for $6,500 on the television show Pawn Stars.
  • Real Is Brown: Considering the majority of the game takes place in the desert, this should be expected. It's nearly impossible to see certain characters because of this at times. Especially bandits.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: While you're in Mexico, the Spanish talk gets subtitled (if you have subtitles on), but not translated. Unless you know Spanish, you'll have to resort to an online translator if you're really curious what's being said.
  • Real Men Get Shot: John is scarred all to hell. On his face. It makes him no less sexy.
  • Rearing Horse: Able to be performed on command.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Edgar Ross gives one of these to John every time he sees him.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: You get the High-Power Pistol when Edgar Ross shoves it barrel-first in John Marston's stomach. A not-so-subtle indication that he really wants John shot. And that he's an asshole.
  • Reconstruction: The Western genre, in film and in video game, has been mostly ignored in the last few years. Then comes Redemption, and despite its bittersweet tone, it puts nearly every trope, cliché, and character from the Western Genre into a single game, and makes it unerringly awesome.
  • Redemption Equals Death: "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed".
  • Retired Gunfighter: Landon Ricketts, full stop.
    • Also averted from a gameplay perspective. When you get to the Beecher's Hope missions late in the game John puts on his "Rancher" attire at the expense of the other outfits, some of which confer benefits to the player. As you are stuck in this outfit until events say otherwise, Marston has not hung up his guns but rather mothballed his gang colours and "Lethal Assassin" uniforms in favour of an honest life.
  • Retired Monster: What Edgar Ross considers Marston to be. Ross fails to see the irony or hypocrisy of the fact that Marston is trying to stop killing people and Ross is forcing him to keep killing people.
  • Retired Outlaw: Marston.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Abraham Reyes preaches this.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: It is The Wild West after all, but since it's set near the end of the Wild West, several pistols do show up. In fact, the pistols are generally superior to the revolvers, although ammo for them is uncommon until the later parts of the game.
    • Though, when it comes to duelling, Revolvers Are Just Better because you have to aim each shot of your weapon's capacity before you actually start firing. This is somewhat difficult with a pistol with a high capacity, such as the Mauser.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The identity of the Strange Man in the "I Know You" sidequest.
  • Right Through His Pants: The sex scene between Abraham Reyes and one of his servants. Not that that makes it any less horrifying.
  • Ring Menu: You can bring up the weapons, items, and the horse in this manner.
  • Roboteching: Thanks to the Good Bad Bug mentioned above. The glitch involves equipping a thrown weapon or explosive, engaging Dead-eye mode, selecting a target, and then letting the projectile go. Watch in awe as the projectile (preferably a stick of lit dynamite) homes in on your target, even if it's in the air!
  • Rule of Cool: Most of the weapon performance, which typically handle like you are Clint Eastwood. Special mention to killing grizzly bears with throwing knives to the skull.
  • Sarcasm-Blind:
    Nastas: I think they are interested to find out what conclusions a white man has reached on hundreds of years of culture and society from the comfort of his hotel room.
    Harold: Wonderful! Do you think I could ask for a skin sample from the soles of their feet?
  • Satan: One of the theories about the identity of The Mysterious Stranger.
  • Savage Wolves: The wolves typically attack in packs and can spawn almost infinitely.
    • There's also Lobo the dark wolf.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: One of the shotguns you can get in the game.
  • Scenery Porn: And how. Those familiar with the Southwest of the United States will easily recognize the cholla cactus and Joshua Trees that fill up most of the western-most areas. In fact, this game is remarkable for the wide variety of desert types there are, something most games (and movies, and stories) totally overlook. Just for variety, there's also snow-capped mountains, a forest, and even a swampy area, each looking extremely lush.
  • Schmuck Bait: During "At Home With Dutch", having just faced down a grizzly bear not even a minute before, the player sees a dead bighorn right in the middle of an empty field, just begging to be skinned. And that's when the player is introduced to the deadliest animal in the ga*COUGAR'd* (The effect is slightly dampened because cougars kill you in two hits in single-player instead of one in multiplayer, but for the unprepared newbie it's still one hell of a shock)
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: What the Bureau Uniform, the reward for 100% completion, enables you to do.
  • Sequel Escalation: Red Dead Revolver was like Max Payne in the Old West. This is like Grand Theft Auto IV in the Old West. Or in Western terms, it takes Red Dead Revolver's Sergio Leone tendencies and adds a generous bit of "Bloody Sam" Peckinpah.
  • The Seven Western Plots: A Deconstructed revenge story, as John Marston is enlisted to help bring in his former gang that left him for dead. John makes it clear that he wouldn't even go after the Van der Linde gang if Edgar Ross wasn't forcing him to, planning to go back to his family and farm once it's all over. After he succeeds, Ross double-crosses him, leading an army to capture him and successfully kills him. His son Jack swears revenge, which turns him into everything John didn't want him to become: an outlaw with little to live for, and to add insult to injury even though he does kill Ross, ultimately history will remember Ross as a hero who tamed the West and brought criminals to justice and John as an outlaw who couldn't escape justice.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Averted. Horribly, horribly averted in that scene with Abraham Reyes and a peasant girl.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Most of the stranger quests are this. If the writers are in a bad mood, they'll Shoot the Shaggy Dog. The entire game could be considered a particularly cruel Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Large portions of New Austin and Nuevo Paraiso.
  • Ship Tease: Some between John and Bonnie, though only Bonnie end up affected by it.
  • The Sheriff: Leigh Johnson, Town Marshal of Armadillo
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Goofy supporting characters like Nigel West Dickens, Graverobber Seth and Drunk Irish are left behind as John Marston enters Mexico, where things get decidedly nastier.
  • Shoot the Dog: And skin it, too, but it'll cost you Honor.
    • And you can Shoot The Horse:
      (play as Marston and shoot a horse)
    • You can put a bullet between the eyes of every creature on God's green earth, but people only seem to care about cattle, dogs and horses.
  • Shoot the Rope: Some random encounters along the road have John shooting the rope to save the victim of a lynch mob. The story mission "Hanging Bonnie MacFarlane" involves saving Bonnie this way.
  • Shop Fodder: Animal skins. Some animals surprisingly pay out for higher values than others, such as hawk feathers fetching better premiums than deer skins. The skins themselves are worth more if you sell them to shops where that animal is not normally found (e.g. buffalo skins in Mexico).
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The shotgun is sadly fairly useless for hunting.
    • Averted in the double barrel shotgun, which has a lower spread and is very good for hunting birds.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There is an oil town named Plainview.
    • The whole Stranger story branch with the "Freaky Stranger," with the top hat and everything seems mighty familiar to the plot in that one Cormac McCarthy book.
    • The Deadly Assassin outfit makes Marston look like "The Bad."
    • Apparently, someone's invented a flying car.
    • Herbert Moon bears a strong resemblance to the bartender from High Plains Drifter.
    • There's an Achievement/Trophy ("Dastardly") for tying a woman and putting her on the train tracks to get run over, a reference to the old The Perils of Pauline style film serials.
      • Or, more famously, the modus operandi of Snidely Whiplash from the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons.
    • There's also another Achievement/Trophy gained by collecting ten thousand dollars titled More Than A Fistful.
    • The duel in the end between Ross and Jack is reminiscent of the final duel in The Quick and the Dead.
    • The Man With No Name wears a tan vest, blue shirt and green poncho. John Marston can wear a blue vest, tan shirt and red poncho.
    • Jack bears more than a slight resemblance to Inigo Montoya
    • Might not fully qualify, but the Flowers for a Lady side mission, with a man keeping his wife's corpse, talking to it, and refusing to recognize that she's died, seemed like a Shout Out to Psycho.
    • The "Austin Overpowered" achievement/trophy.
    • In the newspapers, there's a certain female doctor causing quite a stir.
    • Dead-Eye is most likely a reference to the Improbable Aiming Skills shown in many westerns, particularly Spaghetti Westerns.
    • The achievement/trophy wherein John must evade the U.S. Marshals while riding a specific rare white horse is called "Heading South On A White Bronco", a reference to the O.J. Simpson low-speed chase that preceded his murder trial.
    • Drew MacFarlane's son, Owen, died of chronic diarrhea
    • Part shout out part Bilingual Bonus. The place called Casa de Madrugada. In Spanish this translates to the house of the dawn or The House of the Rising Sun. It is populated by hookers.
    • The scene where John meets De Santa is very similar to a scene in House of a 1000 Corpses where a character did a similar phsych-out that De Santa does.
    • Lady Gaga: There's an achievement called "Pa-pa-pa-poker Ace".
    • The Duster coat is quite close to The Tenth Doctor's
    • The achievment 2 Guys 1 coop is a reference to the infamous 2 girls 1 cup video.
    • Getting the maximum rank on the DLC-added "Explosive Rifle Mastery" ambient challenge gives you the Master Exploder Achievement/Trophy.
    • Chewing Tobacco restoring the Dead Eye meter might be an offhand reference to The Outlaw Josey Wales and his tendency to spit right before he became an unstoppable death machine.
    • The journalist who you can meet at several points in the story, including first at the train station, bears a strong resemblance to W. W. Beauchamp from Unforgiven in both appearance and dialogue.
    • John Marston Is Gonna Kill Bill. John's story is even similar to the The Bride's famous quote (so long as you overlook the fact that John ultimately had one more person to kill). note 
  • Show Within a Show: The silent films you can see in movie theaters throughout the game.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: With liberal use of the Dead Eye mechanic and good aim on your own part, you can shoot three or four men in the head at the same moment and when time resumes its normal flow, they'll all collapse to the ground at the same time. Naturally, this makes you feel incredibly badass.
    • Want to feel even more badass? Shoot their guns out of their hands in Dead Eye. Unfortunately, they don't recognize the badass and just pick them back up again, but do it to six guys at once and holy damn.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very, very cynical. Most people are objectively bad, the good ones are still deeply flawed, and while the outgoing world of cowboys and frontier anarchy is dark and dangerous, the incoming world of technology and federalism isn't any better.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Strongly implied, as it regenerates your Deadeye gauge. Then again, so does snake oil.
  • Smug Snake: Agents Fordham and Ross are both irritatingly condescending and sarcastic to Marston.
    • West Dickens as well, save the fact that his schemes almost never work.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Nigel West Dickens. Marston can barely stand the man. As bad as being a bandit was, he feels it is way more honest to rob a man with a gun than to rob him with a promise of ineffective medicine. Though he does end up saving Dickens from his (rightful) incarceration.
  • Sniping Mission: There are a few sequences where John is given a Sniper Rifle to pick off enemies.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: No, Hungarian Half-Breds aren't actually identical to Quarter Horses, and in real life it's a bad idea to leave your horse hitched up all the time without removing the saddle and bridle.
  • Son of a Whore: Both John and Jack.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Lots of redneck accents, hillbilly dialects, and "fancy words", as Bill so elegantly puts it.
  • Southern Gothic: The Stranger quest in Stillwater Creek hints of this.
  • South of the Border: The second act of the game takes place in a Mexican province known as Nuevo Paraiso.
  • Spaghetti Western: The second act is an ode to the genre, to contrast the first act's ode to more classical "white-hat versus black-hat" Hollywood westerns. John hops over the border and gets embroiled in The Mexican Revolution, fights banditos, and meets a whole bunch of characters who are all varying levels of bastard while his own Anti-Hero qualifies are brought out by the conflict.
  • Spiritual Successor: While not quite canon to Red Dead Revolver, the game is much closer mechanically to the Activision-produced Gun, an earlier open-world wild west game released during the previous console generation. It also takes many, many things from Grand Theft Auto IV, enough to make it feel like it's an expansion of that game (albeit set inside a San Andreas style countryside.)
  • Spiteful Spit: John Marston does this to many people he defeats such as Vincente de Santa.
    • People that challenge you to a duel often do this when you're close enough.
  • Spoiler Title: The mission titles that, instead of quoting the Bible or other writings literally describes what the mission will be about. These are "The Burning.", "Hanging Bonnie McFarlane.", "The Great Mexican Train Robbery" and "Captain De Santa Downfall".
  • Spoof Aesop: Played for laughs with the silent films.
    Medical science will KILL YOU and LEAVE YOU DEAD!
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The animated short Beaumont the Burly, concludes with the message that women's suffrage will make America lose its way.
  • Stealth Pun: While in Chuparosa, Marston is accused of cheating at poker, which leads to guns being drawn all around the table, and surrounding tables. It's a Mexican standoff. In the uncomfortable pause as everyone looks at the guns trained on everyone else, the accuser remarks on it, "There's gotta be a name for this."
    • Chuparosa itself is a pun, as it roughly translates to "suck pink," a rather unsavory name for a city...
    • The name of the stranger task 'Poppycock', where you unknowingly deliver opium on behalf of a drug dealer.
  • Stock Scream: Being set in the American Old West and with the Wilhelm Scream having its origins in a Western Spaghetti movie, Rockstar didn’t think twice, mooks will die uttering the famous stock scream very often.
  • The Stoner: MacDougal is strung out on cocaine.
  • Storming the Castle: "The Assault on Fort Mercer." Williamson escapes, but Marston and his motley crew at least clear out his gang.
    • John later does this when he joins the Rebels in assaulting Escalera and taking down Allende (and getting Bill in the process).
    • And once more in the mountains with the US Army to get Dutch.
  • Strawman Political: Played for laughs, the game features several characters and publications with hilariously outdated and backwards politics.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The way De Santa acts in the "Cowards Die Many Times" mission will from the beginning make it bluntly obvious to any player that a betrayal is waiting just around the corner. Heck, even John is extremely suspicious of the whole thing, and yet he falls head first into the trap.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Enemies in entrenched positions will frequently leave cover to charge you. Even if you're supposed to be attacking them.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Get John into water higher than his waist and he dies. John himself remarks in a conversation with Irish that he can't swim. It even extends these to your horse, and the other animal NPCs in violation of reality, without so much as a handwave. Weirdly, it's stated that when Dutch's gang left him to die after the attempted robbery on the ferry, John swam back to shore.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Cougars, Wolves, and supposedly bears can chase for ridiculous distances in which most real life predators would have long since given up and gone after easier prey even shooting them doesn't mean they will stop. Also, coyotes, wolves and even bobcats will attack you, when all of these animals avoid humans in real life.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: While the whole game is rather realistic, John's Last Stand counts. An unarmed and oblivious Uncle is killed, and John only manages to kill around 3 or 4 people when he comes out the barn door. The best to a Final Speech he got was a cough and a fall to the ground.
    • The whole plot thread with Bill Williamson might count too. Considering that Bill left Marston for dead twice and frequently insulted him whenever they did cross paths, it's no surprise that Bill ran away from John for so long considering how many people John killed just to try to get to him. As a bonus, Card-Carrying Villain Colonel Allende sells out Bill the moment they're both in trouble and together.
    • John's reunion with his family. It's not your standard grand reunion with teary hugs and love declarations, instead Abigail's initial reaction is to scold John for all the time he took, before they discuss what happens to them now and if things can get better for them. Also, when Jack appears, John gives him a somewhat awkward hug, hinting at their strained relationship.
  • Take That!: "Hey Marston, I only robbed a bank, BUT YOU KILLED PEOPLE!"
  • Take Up My Sword: A surprising game-ender instead of opener.
  • Take Your Time: Your family's been kidnapped by the government, but no worries. You have time to go hunting wild boar, play blackjack, and watch a silent film cartoon. Considering Ross keeps assuring you they're being held in what amounts to a gilded cage, this may not even be far from the truth.
  • Talkative Loon: Seth, professional graverobber. He's got more than a little Gollum in him; his constant search for precious treasure has withered his mind and made him waste away into a skinny wretch, and his hands and forearms are perpetually stained with dirt.
  • Technical Pacifist: It is possible to play one to an extent. For example, you can disarm your opponents, or shoot their horses out from under them and escape.
  • Tempting Fate: One of the random encounters you may find on your travels involves a couple guys in the wilderness sorting crates of dynamite. One man warns the other to be careful because one spark is all it takes to set it all off. You can guess what happens next.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Edgar Ross sends in the Army to kill one man. Who was, admittedly, a One-Man Army.
    • Step one: Get the Evans Repeater. Step two: Go into dead eye. Step three: Put all 22 shots on a single person. Step four: Watch the ragdoll flail around in slow-mo as you pump 22 shots into it as quickly as possible.
    • Try dueling with the Mauser Pistol equipped. Oh, the carnage.
    • Whip out your Explosive Rifle. Go into Dead-Eye and target a bird. Dance gleefully as what amounts to a primitive HEAT projectile blows your chosen avian into Pink Mist and a few drifting feathers.
  • Three-Act Structure: A very clear cut one, split between the first in New Austin, the second in Nuevo Paraíso in Mexico, and the final in West Elizabeth.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When John first talks to Williamson and fails to convince him, he reaches for his revolver... despite how there are three men, armed with rifles and up over walls, already having their guns drawn. He gets shot and only survives because Bonnie happened along.
    • In one of the final missions, 16-year-old Jack sets out to go hunt a grizzly. By himself. John has to go out to save his ass.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jack in the epilogue.
  • Torture Always Works: Subverted. Not on De Santa, it doesn't.
  • Tragic Dream: John's dream of living his life out peacefully with his family was never meant to be.
  • Train Job: "The Great Mexican Train Robbery."
  • True Companions: Dutch's original gang was this. John, Javier, and Bill considered each other brothers, while Dutch was a father figure to all of them. Them working as a sort of family unit made them more effective. This fell apart once Dutch went insane.
  • Tutorial Failure: While they're not really all that bad, some of the tutorials feel like they were introduced too late into the game. Poker and dueling are only tutorialized during a story mission after you unlock Mexico despite the fact that you've likely participated in both quite a few times if you've done any exploration or side missions. Dueling is especially noteworthy since its story tutorial is only introduced after the third and final level of Dead Eye is acquired and due to the fact that there are many more opportunities for duels than poker games. Also, a late game mission in which you're possibly attacked by a cougar also feels inexplicably late, as you've likely run into (and potentially been killed by) some cougars before then if you've done some hunting. This all is mitigated by the fact that textual tutorials can pop up while participating in those activities outside of the story, but then it's easy for that to slide into Annoying Video Game Helper territory as they also never really go away for good (with the tutorial prompt for cheating at Poker being a notable example).
  • Twilight of the Old West: Set in 1911.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: You don't have to kill a shop keeper to rob his cash register—just take out your gun and point it in his general direction, and he'll put up his arms and slowly back away, allowing you to plunder his cash. Of course, if you do it accidentally, the results will be the same and your Karma Meter will go down. Well, what did you expect, swinging a loaded gun in a guy's face like that?
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Marston's allies love to milk his gunslinging skills for all their worth to achieve their own selfish ends. When he calls them out on this, they give him a "Reason You Suck" Speech. West Dickens and Irish are especially bad about this, but the king would have to be Edgar Ross, who has you do all his dirty work and then kills you.
  • The Unintelligible: Some of the Mexican characters can verge into this, due to their heavy accents and liberal mixing of Spanish and English.
  • Universal Driver's License: Averted. While John is quite happy to jump onto any horse drawn vehicle, the few automobiles in the game are undrivable. John likely wouldn't know how if he tried.
  • Unrequited Love: In one of the final missions, "Old Friends, New Problems", Bonnie is strongly suggested to have had romantic feelings for John.
  • The Unseen: Ignacio Sanchez, he's the tyrant Reyes was trying to overthrow and whom Allende worked for. We never get to see him though.
  • Variable Mix: The game subtly shifts between music tracks depending on where the player is and what they're doing. To accommodate for this, every track in the game is written in A minor, with no Modulation in key or tempo, so the transition is seamless.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: This is implied in the Playable Epilogue. After Jack kills Ross, he returns to the outlaw life he'd been living since John died, with no plans of going legit. A lot of Jack's dialogue in combat remarks on how little he has to live for. Something of a trend for Rockstar at the time, apparently.
  • Very High Velocity Rounds: Enemy rounds in Dead Eye move at about running speed, but yours travel normally.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: It's easily possible to get very attached to your horse.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The freedom you're given means that you can commit all kinds of atrocities if you want to - like tie people to train tracks and shoot friendly dogs.
    • It's hilarious to lasso somebody and yank to the ground. It's not even illegal as long you don't drag or hogtie them, though they are understandably pissed at you for doing it.
    • Hogtie someone in the wilderness, then spread some bait on them. Every wolf, coyote, bobcat, cougar and/or bear in the vicinity will show up to eat his face off.
    • The fact that you can cripple enemies leads to this. The worst you can do is to shoot them in the waist/stomach, as this break their spine without killing them; they'll spend their remaining time trying to crawl away before bleeding out.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • If you decide to go on a rampage and happen to do a thorough job of shooting up the town, in addition to having several heavily armed Marshals hunting you down and various bounty hunters, if you happen to tag any shopkeepers in the process you lose that shop for several game days. Which could count as cutting your own supply lines because there's only so much ammo you can amass by random drops from downed enemies, especially when you're burning through it by shooting everything in sight.
    • Everything in this video
    • When you play as Jack in the epilogue, tracking down Edgar Ross, you can choose to kill his wife and brother too should you feel really resentful. Though it could be argued that letting them live and just killing Edgar is also a form of Cruel Mercy, since they'll have to spend their twilight years knowing that they led Edgar's killer straight to him. Interestingly, killing them each nets a -50 Honor, while killing Ross nets a +100 Honor, so even a hero won't suffer any real honor loss for doing it.
  • Video Game Geography: The Great Plains are not anywhere near that close to the Mexican border.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The Marstons are like this to each other, being a family of Deadpan Snarker.
    • John and West Dickens' relationship might eventually be seen as this.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Bounties often appear on these.
  • Warrior Poet: John Marston is remarkably well-read for a former bandit and has a more developed vocabulary than most people would expect.
    Williamson: I IMPLORE YOU? Really, Marston?
  • We Buy Anything: Averted. You cannot resell items you buy, but you can sell certain animal parts to the vendors.
  • Weirdness Magnet: John enounters all sorts of weirdos especially in Stranger quests, taken to eleven in Undead Nightmare
  • The Western: Well, duh. In fact, the game can be considered a sort of Western Museum, with each region representing a specific era in the history of the genre:
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While in Mexico, you eventually get tasked, along with Landon Ricketts, to save Emilio's sister, Luisa. While Luisa becomes an important character, Emilio is never mentioned again. At some point, Luisa even mentions how, with her father, mother and sister either gone or dead, she has no family left.
    • Archer Fordham vanishes into thin air just before the final mission. Possibly justified. note 
  • What the Hell, Hero?: John pulls this on himself. It is established several times that John is not a fellow you want to cross. However, he is for the most part honorable with the exception of working for De Santa and Colonel Allende, in which he kills many poor peasents whose only crime is fighting a corrupt regime. Not only that, he burns their homes and allows their women to be forced into prostitution. The expression on his face indicates he is not pleased with this. It adds a definite edge to his character when you consider how far he's willing to go to get back to his family.
  • What the Hell, Player?: A late stranger mission has you to try to get money from a man to help out his poor, unmarried, currently pregnant mistress. The man denies sleeping with the woman, but after Marston insists that he's an adulterer, the two end up dueling. The mistress is upset when she learns Marston killed him, but she accepts the money and leaves town. At the end of the mission, you meet with the man's wife at his grave. Apparently the mistress was laughing at the funeral. The entire mission was a con for the "mistress" to get money.
    • An early stranger mission has you trying to acquire a land deed for someone; he can't get the old man who currently owns the land to sell him the deed. You can either pay the man, tie him up and take the deed, or just shoot him and take the deed. If you shoot him, however, when you give the deed to the quest-giver, his response is a stunned, "There's blood on this deed! I didn't tell you to kill the old man!" It's an early sign from the game that your actions may have consequences.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The "I Know You" stranger mission is a series of tests following this trope, set up for John by the Strange Man. John is presented with a situation that he can resolve in either an honorable or dishonorable manner, and the Strange Man leaves him to choose with no judgment or prejudice.
    • In the first part, John has to go to a man in Thieves' Landing who is thinking of cheating on his wife with a prostitute. He can either dissuade the man from going through with it, or give the man money to pay the prostitute.
    • In the second part, John must visit the Mother Superior, who is begging for alms outside Las Hermanas. He can either donate a small sum to her, or take money from her collection box.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Of sorts, and it's not explicit, but the final newspaper details what happened to those who survived the events of the game. Marshal Johnson retired as far away from Armadillo as possible, Landon Ricketts died peacefully in his sleep, Irish accidentally shoots himself (while on the outhouse, no less), Seth actually found some treasure and became rich beyond his wildest dreams, Bonnie (according to NPC chatter) got married, and Abraham Reyes becomes the tyrant he didn't exactly try hard to avoid becoming.
    • Another reveals that after returning to the university, Professor MacDougal "went native", biting a chunk out of his rival, then climbed a building, stripped naked, and demanded fine food and wine.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Luisa, who is blindly fanatical to a man who can't even remember her name and doesn't seem to get that John's only working for the side that gets him Williamson and Escuella.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: A change in formula from its predecessor, which was a level-to-level linear action game.
  • Wild Wilderness: Ah, the lovely West Elizabeth region that is appropriately named Tall Trees, a beautiful, scenic forest teeming with elk, bighorn sheep, and ravenous wolf packs. And lightning-fast cougars. And best of all, man-eating bears.
  • Wretched Hive: Thieves' Landing: little gambling town on the bayou, whoever isn't selling fancy suits is playing Five-Finger Fillet, kidnapping women or sharping cards.In Mexico, there's Casa Madrugada.
    • This is made most obvious by the fact that there is no law enforcement to deal with there.
  • Written by the Winners: No matter how high or low he goes on the Karma Meter, Edgar Ross sees to it that John is remembered by the press, the government and most civilians as a vile, dangerous outlaw.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: John simply cannot catch a break, even after he has a false Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • You Bastard!: The Manifest Destiny achievement. Awarded for hunting the buffalo to extinction.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: De Santa tries to pull this on John. Luckily Abraham Reyes saves him at the nick of time. Edgar Ross does this successfully at the end of the game.
  • You Killed My Father: Jack to Ross in "Remember My Family".

Step in front of a runaway train,
just to feel alive again...
Pushing forward through the night,
aching chest and blurry sight...