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Primate scientists, breakdancing DJs, and robotic monks battle for the Overwatch cast’s top spot
Leave it to Blizzard to create not one, not two, but 27 heroes, villains, and scientists that have captured our imaginations, our rabid fan art, and all the goth/cowboy ships you always wanted through Overwatch.
As a certain cryogenically frozen scientist once said, “Our world is worth fighting for.” But she definitely never accounted for the fight for Overwatch lineup supremacy. Don’t think of this list as just which character is the best to play, but rather which character has made the most impact on the game, the surrounding culture, and just how darn awesome they are. Which one is the best Overwatch character? Find out below.
The best Overwatch character
Playing with a Hanzo on your team is like hanging out at your local sports bar, only it’s full of howling teenagers and their fathers, one side proclaiming they’re the greatest linebacker in the state, and the other proclaiming they would have been if only they hadn’t stubbed their toe at the 10-yard line. While Blizzard certainly intended for the noble warrior to act as a fast-paced sniper, Hanzo’s role has become more about spamming corridors and hoping for a lucky shot, and recent changes have only reinforced that frustrating persona. Not even one of the best ultimate voice lines in the game can save this poor samurai.
Despite all the hype (and the quite literal impact he made at Numbani airport), Doomfist has failed to make much of a real impact on Overwatch. Even with a decent backstory—and his starring role in an animated short where he legitimately tears Tracer apart at the molecular level—Doomfist is another example of a good idea turned sour by player stupidity. We get it. You punch things, you second-rate Thanos.
Sombra is the coolest thing to happen to hacker culture since the hit 1995 film Hackers. We have to give her credit for the rad holographic keyboard that emits from her fingers, but it can’t save her from that criminally dumb alternate reality game that teased us for 60,000 years only to fall flat on its face. Boop, indeed.
Fun fact: Torbjorn was one of Blizzard’s first characters designed for Overwatch, drawing from the company’s history of stocky dwarf-like designs, and was placed within concept art to determine if a location felt like it could exist alongside the Swedish sourpuss. So not only is Torbjorn the father of Brigitte, he’s also kind of the dad of Overwatch. Take that, Jeff Kaplan. Unfortunately, Torbjorn’s machine-loving charm only stretches so far, leaving him about as high on the list as his actual height.
The somber Egyptian gets some points for being one half of the always wonderful “PharMercy” combo, plus a stellar design if you’re into mech suits, but Blizzard has done surprisingly little with Pharah as a character, and it shows. Pharah’s history with duty has always been a bit tortured. Her mother, Ana, was a founding member of Overwatch, and exposed her to a lot of the unit’s activities. We also got an unimpressive comic that shows her grow into a more caring commander. There’s already a ton to mine there for emotional payoff, but just like Pharah’s sky-high leaps, it seems like she’ll always be out of reach.
The trademark growls and evil cackling of Overwatch’s resident goth boy are performed by the same voice actor who gave us the pint-sized Bloo from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and now you can never get that out of your head. Reaper is alright in function, but a nightmare in fashion, and no one takes trench coats seriously anymore.
Sporting what may be Overwatch’s most tragic backstory (she was married to Overwatch agent Gerard Lacroix, then kidnapped by Talon, brainwashed, returned to safety, and two weeks later killed Gerard in his sleep, eventually returning to Talon), Widowmaker is the quintessential “love to hate her” sniper. There’s no shortage of videos featuring incredible grappling hook headshots, but leave it to casual players to ruin her viability. Widow’s brand of icy sexuality has also resulted in no shortage of cosplay, but it’s never felt like it’s come at the expense of her agency or dignity. In short, she can stomp on me any day.
The better half of the Shimada brothers (Hanzo, that is), Genji has quite simply been through a gosh darn ringer or two. Following a perilous duel with his brother, Genji lost roughly half his body, only to persevere through Overwatch medical technology and good ol’ ninja grit. Genji’s background might be the stuff of any dozens of ninja flicks, but you can’t deny how cool the guy looks in motion. With an ultimate move that can finish off entire teams in three swipes of his blade, Genji has cemented his legacy as one of Overwatch‘s best characters and gaming’s best cyborg ninjas.
20. Soldier 76
A key founder of Overwatch, a grizzled hardass, and the source of countless dad jokes, Soldier 76 is a solid pick for almost any team, offense or defense. That Blizzard has leaned so hard into the dad jokes (releasing a “Grillmaster 76” skin that evokes far too many sandals-and-socks nightmares of our own parents) keeps Soldier from just being a one-note Call of Duty clone. Also, don’t tell me you don’t pee a little when you hear “I’ve got you in my sights.”
While Bastion is a bit of a one-note character (Wall-E came out in 2008, folks), he was also the first face of how Overwatch’s omnipresent threat, the Omnic robot army, wasn’t purely a force for evil. Through a stunning animated short, we see Bastion struggling with his understanding of the world around him and the beauty it holds, culminating in a horrifying display of barbaric warfare that shakes Overwatch’s innocent optimism to its core. When it seems like we’re tearing through enemy players as one Bastion robot, just imagine how terrifying an army of them are. That Bastion still stands as a goofy, curious creature is a testament to the power of simple storytelling.
OK, part of this is pure fanboyism for voice actor Matt Mercer (of Critical Role fame), but Jesse McCree is one-tenth function and nine-tenths personality. There’s no getting around the fact that a cowboy with “BAMF” on his belt buckle and a robotic arm is totally awesome. He’d be higher on our list of best Overwatch characters if it weren’t for his limited functionality. Riding on the coattails of tumbleweeds and Eastwood references only gets you so far.
While Brigitte is a wonderful Overwatch character in her own right, her shining achievement might be inadvertently confirming the existence of Jetpack Cat, a hero found in some of Overwatch’s earliest concept art. Brigitte’s work as a squire turned savior is nothing short of awesome, telling an all-too-familiar tale of a young woman stepping out from the shadows of her father Torbjorn and uncle Reinhardt to lead her own charge. Brigitte simply puts the “girl power” in “power armor.”
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In a time when games are struggling to accommodate even the most basic of female characters, Blizzard said “hold my teacup.” The eyepatched elder of Egypt not only throws away preconceptions about seniors’ place in gaming, she’s also worked to change the role of a sniper as we know it. Rather than fixating on cool headshots and leaving the team vulnerable, Ana’s healing biotic rifle and grenade give long-distance players a way to contribute more directly to the team’s survival.
The yin to Mercy’s yang, Moira embodies that Irish sass that can make a man’s skin crawl, and she’s got more than just the bark to prove it. Beneath the faux-Bowie aesthetic (“faux-ie?”) lies the answer to many of the complaints support players were giving before her release—namely that support players were unable to contribute to the team’s offensive maneuvers in any meaningful way. That we get to hear her call every other member of our team a stupid tosser is just the cherry on top.
Despite the fact that she’s more-or-less aping the Rocky IV aesthetic of a domineering Russian aided by awesome tech, Zarya’s muscle goes far beyond aesthetic. After her village was attacked by Omnic robots, she spent her youth training to be as strong as possible for the next fight, eventually becoming a world-class weightlifter. When the Omnics returned, she tore an oversized particle cannon from the hull of a damaged tank and turned it into her own deadly weapon. Eat that, Drago.
The larger half of the Junker Brothers, Roadhog (a.k.a. Mako Rutledge) rebelled against the world government’s attempts to relocate Omnics to the Australian outback, resulting in immense radiation pollution, and thus, his iconic pig mask. Though Blizzard has tried and tried again to nerf the pig-man into oblivion, Roadhog’s hulking form is still the epitome of tank play. Plus, who doesn’t love a hog that rides a sick motorcycle?
Oh, Junkrat. The favorite of any lane defense fanatic, Jamison Fawkes is making the best of his maniac mind by regularly plotting massive destruction and treasure heists. Sometimes you’ve got to put down the sniper rifle or healing staff and just blow crap up. Junkrat’s appeal isn’t that he’s an out-of-his-brain Outbacker—it’s that we all see a little bit of Junkrat in ourselves.
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It’s still up in the air if robots have souls, but this one definitely has some chill. Zenyatta isn’t just on a mission to heal his allies; he’s looking to heal the world with the mysticism of ones and zeroes. Zenyatta could read GPS directions and it would be the smoothest ride ever. That he can pull off some of the crazy multi-armed magic of Doctor Strange is just icing on the top.
The most fascinating thing about Symmetra isn’t her deadly lasers or her always-appreciated teleporter. It’s that even in an Indian “tech support” role, she still breaks one significant barrier: According to Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan, Symmetra is autistic, and it shows in ways that feel respectful and make sense for such a character. She craves order, despises chaos, and often seems to struggle with understanding certain social cues. For a character so defined by shooting barriers and creating impenetrable chokepoints, it’s incredible to see people on the spectrum finding themselves able to enter a new world through her.
The Overwatch developers have stated that their world is inspired by “heroes, villains, and scientists,” but it feels like Winston is one of the few who embodies two of those traits. Technically the first Overwatch character ever seen by the public (in Blizzard’s debut cinematic), this monkey from the moon still carries the lessons of his beloved caretaker, daring to see the world as it could be and calling every other Overwatch hero (and player) into action. That deserves a pint of peanut butter.
Orisa answers the question of “what if a puppy could stomp you flat?” Developed by the brilliant 11-year-old scientist Efi, Orisa embodies that naïve, youthful spirit of Overwatch’s world with her boundless optimism and rock-solid sense of duty. That she does it all while still letting others know she’s new at the whole hero thing shows a level of humility you just can’t find elsewhere these days.
A good DJ should be known for winning over a crowd and inspiring them to move. Lucio does so in a battlefield and with one of the game’s most amped catchphrases (“Oh, let’s break it down!”) to boot. He used his music to bring down a corporation that was turning Rio into a soulless shopping mall, showing he’s still about his people, even if he does occasionally hock some Lucio-O’s.
She might not literally be the eldest lady among Overwatch’s early years, but Mercy still feels very much like a mother figure in the heat of conflict. Sporting one of the game’s most iconic looks, her “heroes never die” voice line is synonymous with almost any top-tier play of the game. She may not be a staunch pacifist, but her unerring mission to heal the wounded and displaced should remind us of what our own goals should be in the real world.
5. Wrecking Ball a.k.a. Hammond
It’s a hamster piloting a giant mech ball. Let me repeat that for the folks in the back: It’s a HAMSTER piloting a GIANT MECH BALL. Hammond is a pretty cute little guy, even if he did kind of help lead an uprising that killed a bunch of humans on the same space station where Winston lived. It’s been said before that when Overwatch introduces a new character or buffs an old one, it revolutionizes the game, but Hammond might be the first actual example of a character whose powers really do force an entire meta shift.
Love her or hate her, the Chinese scientist is the source of much of Overwatch’s indomitable spirit, including her belief that “our world is worth fighting for.” After tragedy took the lives of her research team, Mei showed us there’s no situation too dire that a bit of inventive thinking and strong will can’t solve, inventing her own endothermic blaster from a hairdryer and spare parts. You can’t discount her robotic friend Snowball either, who sacrificed its own life to give her the battery power necessary to escape her icy tomb. It’s not just the power of friendship, but also the connection between the souls of humans and machines that promise a brighter future ahead.
Honor, justice, Reinhardt, Reinhardt, Reinhardt. No tank character has ever been so boisterous and an absolute blast to spend time with as the loudmouthed German grandpa. He’s clearly aware of his age, grunting and grimacing with every overextension, but he never lets it stop him. Reinhardt’s history as a Crusader shows a cocksure young man failing his friends because of this bravado, but the more somber, elderly incarnation of Reinhardt has turned this warrior spirit into a force for good rather than personal glory. Without a doubt, Reinhardt is the Overwatch character you drink a pint with.
The indisputable face of Overwatch, an indomitable well of joy, and one of gaming’s most prominent LGBTQ characters, Tracer is at many times the heart and soul of Overwatch’s unerring optimism. In Overwatch’s debut trailer, her fateful line that “the world could always use more heroes” was not only a call to the two brothers she rescued but also to each individual player, challenging us to be more than passive bystanders and step out to rescue our own world from that which would take away our cheer.
“Nerf this.” Never before have two words encapsulated so much spirit, energy, and drive to win at all costs. D.va isn’t just the best Overwatch character—a sassy pro gamer-turned-mech-pilot—she’s an icon. She’s inspired the South Korean feminist group “National D.va Association” to protest against government corruption while waving D.va’s signature bunny symbol, as well as a fight against sexism and harassment within gaming culture itself. She exemplifies what’s been called a “softer” feminism, allowing her love for the color pink and “girlish” behavior to shine while reminding us that she can still fight alongside the toughest warriors. There’s a reason she’s far and away the most cosplayed Overwatch character, and it’s not just the simplicity of her jumpsuit. When you hear the hum of an imploding mech flying through the air, it’s not just a gameplay mechanic. It’s a signal that great change is on the way for all lady gamers.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Joseph Knoop is a gaming writer for Daily Dot, a native Chicagoan, and a slave to all things Overwatch. He co-founded the college geek culture outlet ByteBSU, then interned at Game Informer, and now writes for a bunch websites his parents have never heard of.