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NPCs in GTA that are more important than you realized

From milquetoast businessmen to stone-cold killers to even aliens from outer space, the Grand Theft Auto universe is densely populated with some of the funkiest characters in video game history. With so many of them not making it out of their respective games alive, it must be exciting for Rockstar when they're able to bust a character or two out of their toy box and set them loose in an all-new story, even when they're only featured in one mission or relegated to a background role.

The following list will cover some of the characters in the Grand Theft Auto games who have made repeat appearances. They may be major characters in one game and have a minor presence in another, to the point where many players may be unaware of the rich history behind them. On the other hand, these characters likely caused long-time fans to do a double-take when they walked or shot their way onto the screen. Here's the skinny behind these MVP NPCs.

Beware: the following entries will naturally spoil some of the events of the GTA series.

The ULP contact has always been bad news

The International Affairs Agency is the Grand Theft Auto universe's answer to the CIA and the NSA. During the events of Grand Theft Auto 4, the IAA disguises its activities by using the shell company United Liberty Paper as a false front. The IAA has a mysterious representative hand out missions to GTA 4's lead character, Niko Bellic. Though Niko's IAA contact is never given a name, his cold voice and pure hatred for the FIB (GTA's version of the FBI) make him pretty unforgettable.

This agent makes a return in Grand Theft Auto 5 and Grand Theft Auto Online, but he's not exactly the main focus of any of the scenes he's in. Granted, his most notable moment in GTA 5 involves him and a group of IAA agents drawing guns and getting into a standoff with the main characters and several FIB agents, so he's still seen as a threat. However, anyone who didn't play Grand Theft Auto 4 probably wouldn't know how big of a deal he really was.

While the United Liberty Paper Contact can be shot during the ensuing firefight, he actually survives the battle and is eventually kidnapped by Russian agents. This kicks off the events of the GTA Online storyline called "The Doomsday Heist," in which the player is tasked with rescuing him from his predicament.

Patrick McReary is an Irish legend

Patrick McReary, better known to his friends as "Packie," makes his first Grand Theft Auto 5 appearance in "Getaway Driver," one of the game's many Random Event side-quests. In this encounter, Patrick and a friend are robbing a drug store and will request help from the player. If the player chooses, they can boost a nearby car and drive the two thieves to safety. After evading the police and splitting the loot, Patrick will thank the player and offer his services for any jobs that may pop up in the future, meaning he can be recruited for any heists later in the game.

While you may not recognize Patrick, he was previously featured as a major character in Grand Theft Auto 4, where he was seen as Niko Bellic's friend and frequent accomplice. He later made appearances in The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned, the DLC episodes for GTA4. In GTA 5, mission coordinator Lester Crest is seemingly aware of Patrick's previous exploits. If the player decides to recruit Packie for their crew, Lester will tell Michael De Santa that McReary "was a part of a well known Liberty City stickup crew. Small world."

Small world, indeed.

Lazlow Jones: creepin' since the '80s

Grand Theft Auto 5 features Lazlow Jones as the scummy host of Fame or Shame, an America's Got Talent-type show that seems more more interested in humiliating its contestants than in giving them a performance platform. He runs afoul of protagonists Michael and Trevor when Michael's daughter auditions for Fame or Shame and Michael finds Lazlow dancing up on his daughter. While he comes off as something of a Carson Daly/Ryan Seacrest parody, the character has actually been a part of the series for quite some time.

Starting with Grand Theft Auto 3, Lazlow has been featured as a DJ and personality for various in-game radio stations. Through Lazlow's various interviews and his banter between songs, players have learned more than they ever wanted to know about the bonkers disc jockey, including the fact that he was "run out of Vice City and San Andreas." However, it wasn't until GTA 5 that Lazlow actually interacted with the player character in a mission.

In real life, Lazlow Jones (yes, that is actually his name) is one of Rockstar's writers, having written many of the radio segments in the GTA series (the master recordings of which he rescued during Hurricane Sandy in 2012). Anyone who is just getting to know Lazlow from his GTA 5 appearances would barely be scratching the surface of this long-running character.

Marnie Allen went from junkie to devotee

Marnie Allen is a member of the Epsilon Program in Grand Theft Auto 5. The Epsilon Program is essentially a religious cult that holds such firm beliefs as "dinosaurs are a lie that people believe because they are weak." During the events of the game, Marnie will give player character Michael De Santa several different missions to carry out on behalf of the Program, including donating money to the group or, in one particularly odd instance, running for five miles through the desert.

Prior to finding her faith in the Epsilon Program, Marnie was actually seen in Grand Theft Auto 4 as one of the game's many random encounters. She was a drug-addicted prostitute who was encouraged by protagonist Niko to clean up her act. It's particularly neat to see that Marnie took Niko's kindness and advice to heart, but it's just a shame that she wound up mixed in with the con artists in the Epsilon Program, regardless of whether or not she believes in the cult's message.

Willy McTavish and and the long career of Love Fist

Ah, who could forget the sultry, rockin' sounds of Love Fist? These hair metal superstars of the GTA universe make the smallest of appearances in Grand Theft Auto 5, during one of Trevor's "Vinewood Souvenirs" side-quests. In this mission, Trevor is asked by persistent celeb-stalkers Nigel and Mrs. Thornhill to steal a gold tooth from Willy McTavish, Love Fist's bassist. It's a pretty straightforward sequence in which Trevor approaches Willy and punches him square in the jaw, knocking him unconscious and busting out one of McTavish's teeth, which is then brought back to the ecstatic Nigel.

However, gamers who played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will recognize Love Fist from their much larger presence in that game. In Vice City, the player is tasked with chauffeuring them around, as well as protecting them from a would-be assassin and a few other notable missions. It's amazing that this particular group keeps getting involved in the shenanigans of the GTA series and still has time to actually tour and sell records. It's almost as though a drawn-out episode of Behind the Music were playing out behind the games.

Phil Cassidy is a weapons guru

Hard-drinking arms dealer Phil Cassidy's most notable appearance in this series was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in which main character Tommy Vercetti runs several jobs with him before the two go into business together. Tommy and Phil start an arms trade, which results in Tommy getting some pretty excellent weaponry not available through the GTA world's Ammu-Nation chain.

However, Phil had previously made an appearance in the Grand Theft Auto 3 mission "Arms Shortage," wherein GTA 3 protagonist Claude gives Phil some much-needed backup during a showdown with the Columbian drug cartel. Through Phil's brief appearances in GTA 3 and Liberty City Stories, much of his confusing history and dubious military record is fleshed out. Aside from Phil's exploits in the GTA franchise, his ammunition store also warranted a mention in Rockstar's first Manhunt game, with a police officer mentioning he was going to take his son shopping there.

Another notable thing about Phil Cassidy is the high-profile talent responsible for voicing the lovable lug. His appearances in Vice City and Vice City Stories were voiced by Lethal Weapon star Gary Busey, while Bradley Whitford of Get Out and The West Wing fame portrayed Phil in Liberty City Stories. Though Phil has yet to make an appearance in the HD era of GTA games, fans have found him memorable enough to mod him into Grand Theft Auto 5 with a custom character skin.

Fernando Martinez might be a bigger creep than Lazlow Jones

Much like Lazlow Jones, Fernando Martinez is a long-running DJ and radio personality in the GTA universe. Fernando is first heard in Grand Theft Auto 3, where he is kicked out of Jones' studio when Jones realizes that Fernando is using the interview segment to promote his brothel. Fernando attempts to frame himself as a miracle worker who is helping to repair families, and Jones promptly yells at Fernando to "get lost."

Over the course of his many radio interviews and talk segments in the games, players have gotten to hear about Fernando's many foibles in the world of romance, from giving terrible relationship advice in Vice City, to admitting to being a registered sex offender in Episodes from Liberty City, to finally attempting to run a female-positive chat program called The Fernando Show during the events of Grand Theft Auto 5. Let's just say that last one doesn't go so great: despite Fernando's claims that he's "a new man," his interview with San Andreas gubernatorial candidate Sue Murray ends with her storming out of the studio.

Brucie Kibbutz is more than a spokesperson

Brucie Kibbutz's meathead mug can be seen in Grand Theft Auto 5 as the spokesman for Bull Shark Testosterone, a line of commercially-available steroid supplements. He can also be contacted by players of Grand Theft Auto Online who want to buy the steroid.

Prior to the events of GTA 5 and Online, Brucie appeared as a major character in Grand Theft Auto 4, where he runs an automotive shop called Brucie's Executive Lifestyle Autos and becomes fast friends with Niko Bellic. Brucie has a bad habit of getting carried away and becoming aggressively violent, due to his personal steroid abuse. Though Niko and Brucie have a falling out, Brucie remains friends with Niko's cousin Roman. Brucie also turns up in GTA 4's DLC chapters, making a voice cameo in The Lost and the Damned and a full appearance in The Ballad of Gay Tony, wherein Brucie makes amends with his brother Mori and they end up joining a fight club together. Isn't it great when families make up?

Many players of GTA Online will likely think of Brucie Kibbutz as little more than another contact or a hype man for Bull Shark Testosterone. However, the franchise's seasoned players will know that Brucie has a much richer and more entertaining history beyond simply shilling for steroids.

The Grove Street Family lives

Gamers who have played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will remember CJ, Ryder, and Big Smoke from the Grove Street Families, a street gang featured prominently in that game. While Big Smoke and Ryder both died during the events of San Andreas and CJ would be in his forties at least by the time the events of GTA5 take place, they can all be found biking down the street, looking just as they did in San Andreas.

All you have to do to find this Easter egg is to keep an eye out during the "Hood Safari" mission in GTA 5's story mode. You'll see these guys (or at least NPCs dressed just like them) riding along down Grove Street, like the glory days never ended. You can't interact with them; it's almost like they're just there to remind GTA players where they came from. While these would just appear to be randomly generated NPCs to GTA newbies, long-time fans will know better.

It should be noted that there's some disagreement over whether the guy in the middle is meant to be Big Smoke or fellow Grove Street member Sweet Johnson, but the character in question is dressed similarly to Big Smoke, and the characters rode in a similar formation during the San Andreas mission "Sweet and Kendl."