We rank all 21 heroes, from OP to "oh no please don't…"
Overwatch tier list: all characters ranked
You want to know which are the best heroes to play in Overwatch, and that's a tricky question. Almost all of the heroes are good, and if played correctly will form part of a winning team. But what does playing correctly mean in a game that favours teamwork over lone wolf, objectives of K/D?
Some heroes are very difficult to use properly, especially if you're not working as a close-knit team. Some are great but completely wasted if you don't know what their real strengths are, and others shine when paired with other heroes.
So in this tier listing we've grouped heroes into five specific categories; heroes for every match, team players, good all-rounders, difficult to use successfully and a couple we think really need more attention from Blizzard.
This list is based on our personal experiences playing Overwatch as well taking into account a general consensus from our teams, teammates and rivals. We'll update this list as the game plays out over the weeks and months ahead, as players change their tactics and as Blizzard updates the game.
Updated for June 2016
Tier 1: Heroes to use in every match
These heroes are picked almost 95 percent of the time. Keep at least a couple of these on your team and you're off to a very strong start.
Lucio - support
Lucio is borderline OP. Lucio is fantastic. Get a Lucio on your team. Got the message?
Lucio has a great speed boost to start any match and area-of-effect healing for when you're in the thick of it, where he can also pump out a decent amount of damage. Lucio is hands down the best support hero.
Genji - offense
Genji is almost as overpowered as Lucio. Not only is he fast, but his Swift Strike attack resets if he kills, meaning he can dash from one victim to another, chaining death. He's the best hero to outflank the enemy, his Shuriken deal decent damage and his Deflect turns your own weapons against you. And then there's the Dragonblade Ultimate Ability...
Winston - tank
Winston dominates up close because his Tesla Cannon arcs towards enemies (more than one at once) and so doesn't need to be aimed accurately. With his jump pack he's the most mobile tank, and when he does need to stand his ground his barrier projector is a bubble of strength.
Tier 2: Team players
These heroes all work well as proper team-players. Group them up with at least one other player and keep them close and safe at all times - the best way to play Overwatch.
Reinhardt - tank
Stand behind Reinhardt's large shield as he advances and you'll feel the benefits of playing as a tank regardless of class. He's slow but threatening, as heroes with better ranged attacks huddle behind him and push towards objectives. Reinhardt is great for learning and trying out team tactics.
D.Va - tank
The cannons, boosters and defense matrix make D.Va intmidating to enemies, as she launches at targets and corners them for a bullying finish. But it's the self-destruct Ultimate Ability that will nail multiple targets if timed right - or make them run from their positions in panic - both of which are popular tactics on any map.
Mercy - support
Mercy is the most popular and effective healer. Get behind another player and she can alternate between buffing and healing, keeping teammates alive and deadly. Her Resurrect Ultimate Ability isn't as powerful as it used to be, but she should be protected at all times, regardless.
Symmetra - support
Get that Teleporter in position as quickly as possible and everyone on the team benefits. Symmetra is a good team member who can be replaced later, once the Ultimate Ability has been put to good use. That said, her turret, shield and photon projector are all handy tools on the battlefield.
Widowmaker - defence
The best sniper in the game can be taken out easily is she's not paired with someone like Bastion for protection. Widowmaker can be deadly, but she almost always needs a buddy as back up.
Zarya - tank
Zarya seems to be a good tank often overlooked in favour of Reinhardt or Winston. She's able to increase her damage by absorbing damage through her Particle and Projected Barriers. Team with a second player and put that to devastating effect.
Tier 3: Good all-rounders
These heroes are good at a bit of everything, but may not have essential team talents. If you're playing with randoms or you want a little more independence on the map, you can chose one of these and expect them to take care of themselves.
Tracer - offense
Tracer can zip about the map and cause a lot of headaches because she's difficult to pin down. Although she's relatively weak, she rockets around the place and is usually first on the scene to secure an objective/control point. Being the poster girl on the box, she also gets picked a lot by newcomers looking to find out what Overwatch is all about so expect to see her in every match.
Bastion - defense
Bastion's strength is in hiding and killing multiple enemies before they know he's there. Or sit him on a payload as a mobile turret. He's easy to bump off then, but worth protecting for his rapid fire turret. Just keep him moving between the kills as he's an easy target.
Pharah - offense
Pharah is rightly popular. She's a death-from-the-skies kinda gal, and her maneuverability makes her a fun hero to play. A true all-rounder.
McCree - offense
McCree runs hot and cold. He's slow, and his evasive move doesn't move him that far, so isn't a lot of use against area of effect damage. His 6-shot pistol is great when it hits, but if it doesn't he's shit outta luck. To be good with McCree takes more practise than you first realise, and he's fallen out of favour even if he is the coolest looking gunslinger in town.
Reaper - offense
He's a short range ambush hero, who gets in kills and then buggers off before anyone has the chance to catch him. A more confident Reaper player uses Death Blossom to take out multiple enemies for more hit and run tactics.
Soldier 76 - offense
He's the easiest to get to grips with, which means if a random on your team is playing Soldier 76 he/she is probably new to the game. That's not a bad thing, but there are more interesting heroes to master. Soldier 76 moves quickly when you need to traverse the map and is handy in a firefight.
Tier 4: Difficult to use, but devastatingly specific
These heroes need a lot more mastery than most. They can be clumsy in the wrong hands, but absolutely game-changing with a skilled player.
Zenyatta - support
His orbs benefit teammates regardless of where he is on the map because he isn't restricted by line-of-sight. The only way to stop his Orb buffing/nerfing is to kill him. But he's right down on the list because he's difficult to play, and weak when it comes to health points and movement.
Roadhog - tank
Roadhog really only does one thing well. Using the hook and shotgun combo to grab an opponent works great, but miss and you're just a slow fat man trying to defend yourself.
Mei - defense
We didn't like Mei to begin with, but now she's being played as the Ultimate-stopper. That Ice Wall blocks player's Ultimates leaving them wasted, and in defensive play she crucial to a well coordinated team.
Torbjorn - offense
Don't put Torbjorn in the thick of the battle, he's mainly there to build and repair his own turrets. They can be an absolute nuisance for the enemy, especially when placed in choke points. Before you start playing as Torbjorn though, get to know the maps like the back of your hand.
Hanzo - defense
A kind of stealth hero, Hanzo is decent for sneak attacks as he can see through objects and pick off enemies at range.
Tier 5: In need of buffing
These two heroes look like they might be fun but you need a lot of patience to learn them. And even then, will they really be able to help turn the tide of a match?
Junkrat - defense
Unpredictable by design, Junkrat's main attacks are okay and useful for flushing people out of tight surroundings where he can bounce explosives at unsuspecting enemies. But he never deals massive damage unless his Ultimate is active, and it can feel like a slog building that up.
Being an online-focused game by nature means that fans are sure to break it in interesting ways and Blizzard is sure to step in and fix the ways in which the game is broken or unbalanced. As such this tier list is certainly subject to change, and it might be a good idea to keep an eye on our Overwatch guide to heroes and the game in general - any updates or changes will be reflected and folded into those pages.