The Top Ten Gangs In Video Game History

By James Hawkins in Gaming News
Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 11:00 am
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This decade marks the advent of video game gangs. These gangs have played parts in games throughout the course of gaming history, but they're primarily a sixth and seventh generation product. They litter some of our most successful, creatively-expansive titles, and play a vital part in how developers can connect with real societal issues that occur in actuality across America periurban communities. Well, oftentimes that's what they're for. Sometimes it is to manifest cutthroat competition and the false loyalties that reside within the stereotypical organized crime syndicate.

This week, we're going to scrutinize some of these fictional subcultures that have made the most resounding impact on the gaming community. They span all eras and settings, from the traditional American West to the confined courtyards of a particularly cliquey boarding school. And we're going to look at them as they are -- the best of the best. Please enjoy.

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10. Derelict Row Ballers
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The Derelict Row Ballers inhabit of one of future Detroit's darkest corners. Their sacred ground, Derelict Row, is rife with poverty, crime, and anti-augmentation sentiments. These gang members are passionately opposed to any bionic modification, employing only fully human foot soldiers.

They are easily overpowered by the Motor City Bangers -- a rival crime syndicate made up of nano-enhanced, yellow clad thugs -- though the Ballers have total strength in numbers. This dichotomy between organic and augmented has caused a rift in the Ballers' core nucleus. With genetic modification, they could rule the streets of Detroit, a realization that spreads throughout the branches of even the most loyal. Though that would be at the expense of their ideals and beliefs, though. And that is where the inner turmoil begins.

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9. The Lost Brotherhood
Grand Theft Auto: The Lost & The Damned
The Lost Brotherhood's roots began to sprout in the thick of the Vietnam Conflict. Eight marines, forced into drug addiction by the fire of battle, continued to delight in narcotics post-tour, turning it into a trade and building a tight-knit biker gang around the violent and contentious business. 

The Brotherhood is brutal and unforgiving. Their thirst for money and blood is tantamount to their want of power, and their intention is to corner the drug trafficking market throughout the fictional State of Alderney, supposedly southwest of USA's New England region. The Lost Brotherhood's architecture is rife with back-stabbing and shady rivalries -- traits that make the biker gang a rival of itself, as much as it is a piece of the war between all the regional drug gangs.

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8. Dutch's Gang
Red Dead Redemption
This Old West gang is actually representative of two entities led by Dutch van der Linde: an older, defunct gang helmed by gunslingers Bill Williamson and John Marston, and the newer group, called the 1911, built up of wayward Native Americans roughed up by the botched American assimilation project.

As it began, Dutch's gang was notable for its violence and the quick-draw specialists it employed. The crew rolled through the dusty west robbing banks, killing citizens, and generally wreaking havoc on the lawless land. After contention within the group sparked a fissure, it disbanded -- a move that would cause Marston to retire. He's, of course, recruited by the government to bring Linde to justice, an act that sets off the events of Red Dead Redemption.

7. Triads
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
The American cell of the infamous China Triads is in ruins when Huang Lee makes his trek to Liberty City. His father, a Triad leader, has been killed and there is a splintering of loyalties threatening a lot of caught bodies and internal bloodshed. The want of power runs deep within the core of the Triad community, with eager lieutenants vying for control.

Though the Triads have bitter enemies -- the Korean Mob and the Angels of Death -- the nefarious activities of those most intent to gain leadership within prove to be most fatal. And as with most criminal organizations, justice, punishment, and loyalty are dolled out with only one's own interests in mind.

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6. Jocks
The Jocks are the toughest, baddest, most pervasive clique in the enclosed world of Bullworth boarding school. They are also a bunch of real assholes who are built off the common stereotypical perception of the 1980s and 1990s prick jock. And their power trip rings throughout the entire game.

Jocks kick the ass of any nerd that sets foot in their way. They are bulky, dim-witted, hot-tempered beasts who rally to defeat protagonist Jimmy Hopkins by blaming him for on-campus atrocities and acting without rationale. However their impact is quickly made -- the Jocks represent the most memorable group from a game packed with wonderful cliches and fun stereotypes. 

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5. Vercetti Crime Family
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
The fruit of Tommy Vercetti's criminal labor is a highly-effective, very violent gang. The Vercetti  Gang is made up of close associates of the Vice City king himself, as well as foot soldiers who have been won over by his influence. Really, its an amalgamation of Vercetti's numerous "business" annexations -- the kind that net him millions in un-taxable revenue and loads of powdery white fingerprints.

Tommy Vercetti is the quintessential purveyor of the American Dream, as it evolved along with the War on Drugs of the 1980s. His gang is a solid statement on the era, and a brilliant end to a meteoric rise that took us through some of gaming's most memorable -- and iconic -- scenarios.

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4. 3rd Street Saints
Saint's Row Series
The 3rd Street Saints banded together in hopes of calming the violence that plagued the city of Stilwater. A group of respectable criminals, the 3rd Street Saints (or, The Saints) built their small empire on the shoulders of the rival gangs they gutted. And throughout the franchise, their hold on the city rises and falls, though their influence and persistence keeps them a constant street-level threat.

The Saints cycle through many members throughout the franchise, and their enemies are constantly changing. They have, however, become a rare fixture in the the vein of gaming gangs as one that is controlling real estate by controlling peace. And that uniqueness only emboldens their impact.  

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3. Salieri Crime Family
The Salieri Crime Family was stricken with attrition by way of a particularly busy electric chair in the late 1930s. But before that, before it was riddled with arrests and murders, the Salieri syndicate ran the fictional Lost Heaven crime ring with an impressive reach and efficiency. And with considerable measured violence.

The Salieri family embodied what is brilliant about the nuances of organized crime. There's a business strategy to it all, and it is propelled forth by rational, calm minds as much as it is by cagey, loose cannons. But when all is said and done, the tumult within the Salieri family and its sharp demise grips us throughout. The whole business has an epic, sprawling story. 

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2. Grove Street Families
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The collection of families in the Grove Street area of Los Santos is a phenomenally intriguing group. There is a mixture of the old-school, original gangster, Boyz N The Hood vibe and the cutthroat power dynamics and disloyalty of a Shakespearean tragedy. It is, in a phrase, utterly fascinating.

CJ's story, and the complexities of his crew, manages to typify what is incredible about the game overall. It is a story of urban decay, corruption, and a strong comment on the recent mainstram realization that poor gang-bangers are not the catalysts for the crippled social state of our country, that crime within that community is a product of something larger. That instead they are scapegoats for people who can eschew blame and hide behind race, status, or sometimes even a badge.

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1. Mad Gear Gang
Final Fight
The Mad Gear Gang has only one thing in mind -- to stop Mayor Mike Haggar from enforcing tough policies on organized crime throughout his city. They kidnap his daughter as a way of crippling his intent, in hopes that their dirt-dealing ways can remain intact. They've grown to love terrorizing people, and if they can have their way, a well-scuplted, mustache-donning politico won't stand in their way.

However, they were obviously wrong. As you can see, Haggar is in the fray, kicking dicks in left and right. The crew of steroid-pumping fighters throw all they have at the man, and he throws it right back in their face. It was this act that defined our hero, and thereby launched the progenitors of his rage to the top of video game gang history.

Follow James on Twitter: @JamesHawk1ns
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