Johnny Gat is One of the Deepest and Most Layered Characters in Gaming

When thinking about Saints Row, the last thing you would expect to think about is a game with a serious storyline, themes and characters, but surprisingly buried under all the over the top nonsense that the franchise is known for is a truly deep, and at limited times, emotional character that some might argue is the only reason Saints Row has succeeded and thrived as much as it has.

Johnny Gat is not the only reason to visit the hyper-violent streets of Stilwater, but he is the most relatable and complex character within the universe of the 3rd Street Saints. Gat has gone from low level street thug to worldwide superstar and with his incredible story has come to find a special place in gaming history, but for all the wrong reasons. The main reason players love Johnny Gat is due to his vicious badass nature. Over the course of four games, he has taken a shotgun to the knee at point blank, taken a samurai sword through his gut, fought off a bridge of cops single-handedly, stabbed once more in the gut and finally survived his own personal hell prison and then went onto slaughter the aliens that placed him there…oh, yeah did I mention he did all that in the nude?

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This, however, is only a fragment of what makes Gat such a great video game character. Buried deep inside his psyche is a tortured and multi-layered soul that at heart is a pretty good guy trying to make a difference the only way he knows how…through violence. Gat is a flawed individual that does regrettable, unforgiveable things, but the only reason he does so is in pursuit of his overall goal, which is to end the gang wars that are tearing apart 3rd Street. Prior to joining the 3rd Street Saints, Johnny Gat was nothing more than an everyday citizen in the city of Stilwater. In a way, his reasons for resorting to violence are understandable and can be considered noble; he does so to better the city and clean up the streets to make them safer under his gang’s rule.

Gat brings to mind flawed characters such as Walter White or Oliver Queen (Season One): two incredibly violent men who were changed due to their surroundings and saw that the only way to make a difference in both their personal lives and their city is to take control of the reins. Oliver Queen cleans up his city, which is being torn apart by gangs and criminals, in a similar manner. Oliver believes that the only way to make Starling City as great as it used to be is through murdering all the people that have failed it. Sounds awfully similar to Johnny Gat, who gets himself involved with a street gang in order to take out the opposing murders and criminals who are polluting and destroying his beloved city.

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With corrupt politicians who use gang violence to support their urban renewal plan which will displace Saints Row inhabitants along with its homeless population, the only way the “good” people of Stilwater can save their neighborhood is through violence, which to them seems to be the only way they will be able to make their voices heard. After the events of the first game, Johnny attempts to kill Troy Bradshaw for betraying the Saints. Unfortunately and surprisingly, Gat fails at his attempt and is placed in prison for two years and 31 days. After the Boss awakes from his coma he rescues Gat from his trial and the two go off to yet again set things straight in their city. During the second game, Gat takes it upon himself to help the boss take down the rival gang known as the Ronin, which is one of the gangs that took over their city, while the boss and the Saints were out of commission.

This is a major turning point the story arch for this character. During one of the missions Gat kills a Ronin who was on their turf and proves to be a big mistake as he is seen taking care of the Roin’s body by lieutenant Jyunichi who later retaliates in the only way Gat can be harmed, by going after the only other person he actually cares about and had a meaningful attachment to, Aisha. During a home invasion at Gat’s place Jyunichi kills Aisha viva, decapitation after she tries to warn Johnny and the Boss of the ambush that waited them, in the end Gat ends up taking a sword through his chest like a champ and recovers in the hospital. After a full recovery, Gat and the Boss hold a funeral for Aisha, which is widely regarding as one of the best and most emotionally powerful sequences in the series to date and that’s saying something for a Saints Row game.

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The cutscene that would later be referred to as the “Get up” scene is the defining moment of this character that many seem to just shrug off as just another violent Gat sequence. This is not the case; the reason this scene is so important to the character is because of how we got here. Like I said before, Gat joined the Saints to save his neighborhood and unexpectedly he found love and attachment through Aisha, something we haven’t seen in the character since her death. After nearly being killed himself and having the love of his life’s funeral crashed and turned into yet another bloody gun battle with street gangs, Gat turned into a different man. In retribution for getting Aisha killed, Gat beats and buries alive Ronin leader Shogo Akuji, an act that was shocking and more disturbing than anything we have seen in the Saints Row Universe as of yet. Normally Gat would just settle for shooting his enemies, but Akuji had crossed the line and gone too far, causing Gat to give him a fate worse than death.

Since that defining moment in the character’s life, we haven’t seen a compassionate or morally corrupt rogue hero in Johnny Gat since. Gat’s story is quite heartbreaking and explains why he has become the cold-hearted psychopath we all know and love. During his return in Saints Row IV we discover that during his time trapped in his personal nightmare, he found a bit of himself he once lost after Aisha’s death after discovering “perspective” which he later turns into a joke mocking the copy and pasting and killing the same old enemies, but deep down it would seem that Johnny has found peace with what happened to the love of his life and a way to move on from his inner turmoil.