Heroes are what make Overwatch as fun as it is. The game may be a first-person shooter, but trying to pick someone to play as is more akin to a fighting game than anything else: with all of the unique movement and combat abilities, picking the right Hero can make the difference between winning a game and heading back to respawn in shame.
That being said, Overwatch doesn't really spell things out for new players. It's more of a "jump in the deep end" method: players are encouraged to simply experiment and find out what works with their playstyle. While it's nice that the game doesn't hold players' hands the entire time, it'd be nice if it at least explained how each Hero's powers work.
If you've been having trouble wrapping your head around a certain hero (or just the game in general), you're in luck: our comprehensive guide covers every character in the game, complete with weapons, abilities and general strategies. For simplicity's sake, we've split the 21 different characters into three separate categories: Beginner-Friendly, Advanced Heroes and Expert Players Required.
So, without any further adieu, we present the ultimate Overwatch character guide:
In a lot of ways, Soldier: 76 is Overwatch's baseline character. His Heavy Pulse Rifle, sprint and Helix Rockets are clear callouts to other popular multiplayer games on the market, and his Biotic Field's area-of-effect healing ability encourages team play without leaving Soldier: 76 defenseless. If you're wondering which character to start off with first, it's hard to find a better choice than 76.
If you’re looking for straight damage potential, Pharah is hard to beat. Granted, any character that starts off with a rocket launcher is going to cause some serious damage, but it’s Pharah’s control of the environment that really makes her fun to play with — just wait until you knock someone off a cliff with her Concussive Blast.
Reaper feels like something of an antithesis to Soldier: 76. Not only do his weapons focus on close range, but Wraith Form, Shadowstep, Death Blossom and ability to heal after every kill makes him one of the few viable lone-wolf options in the game. That being said, you still won’t want to leave your team behind — just know that Reaper can hold his own in a one-on-one fight.
A good Bastion player knows how be patient. True, it’s entirely possible to run around the map in Recon form ... but that’ll probably get you killed. Instead, it’s best to hole up in a corner and switch over to his Sentry configuration — if you’re in the right spot, the enemy team will basically throw itself at you. If you really feel the need to assault the enemy team, wait until your Ultimate charges — Bastion's Tank configuration is devastating.
Ever play as an Engineer in Team Fortress 2? Then you already know what to expect from Torbjorn.
That being said, Overwatch’s resident dwarf can actually hold his own in a fight, especially when he’s got a turret backing him up — and the fact that his Molten Core technique super-charges his turret only adds to his damage-dealing potential. It's also a good idea to drop Armor Packs near the spawn point whenever you can — the extra armor can make quite a difference.
As Overwatch’s go-to sniper, Widowmaker is one of the most straightforward characters in the game. Yes, her grappling hook adds to her mobility, and her Venom Mine can keep her back covered, but you’ll be spending most of your time with Widowmaker looking through the scope of her rifle. She's not entirely on her own, though — her Recon Vision is applied to the entire team, giving everyone the advantage of seeing enemy silhouettes through walls.
No other hero in Overwatch comes close to having as much health as Roadhog. He’s the definition of a tank, albeit one that fights at an extremely close range — though his Chain Hook can help close the distance in an instant, and his ability to self-heal means that beginners don’t have to worry about a single mistake sending them back to respawn. Just don't rely on his Ultimate for kills — while Whole Hog is great for clearing an objective, it doesn't necessarily do as much damage as you'd think.
When it comes to healing your fellow teammates, Mercy is the best place to start. Her pistol may be one of the weakest weapons in the game, but her Caduceus Staff is one of the strongest healing items — and the damage buff that comes with it certainly doesn’t hurt. Plus, the ability to resurrect dead teammates can literally turn the tide of a fight in seconds.
Genji’s high mobility and damage make him a great way to push the front lines forward, but his low health and rate of fire can be trouble if you’re outnumbered. Instead, try and attack like a ninja would — quickly, against one opponent before they can react. Don’t be afraid to use his Deflect ability against long-range fighters, either. Dragonblade, on the other hand, is best used in the thick of a fight — and it can shred through enemies like butter.
McCree’s abilities are all over the place. His revolver and Ultimate attack work best at medium range, though his abilities — the Flashbang and Combat roll — are almost exclusively short-range techniques. Even so, skilled McCree players can take out even the biggest of targets in just a few shots — when in doubt, get in close and fan the hammer.
Easily the fastest character in the game, Tracer is perfect for quickly closing the gap and confusing the enemy team. That being said, she’s also one of the weakest characters on the entire roster — as such, you’ll need to learn how to use her Blink and Recall abilities in order to really be effective. Just remember that her abilities recharge relatively quickly, so don’t be afraid to use them.
Much like Widowmaker, Hanzo is best kept at a distance — though his bow isn’t quite as effective as her sniper rifle. Just remember to lead your targets and adjust for the drop-off, and you should be fine. Don’t forget to use Hanzo’s Scatter Arrow, either: it’s perfect for dealing with tanks and characters hiding in corners. Finally, there's the Dragonstrike ... and even if you've only played a single match of Overwatch, you've probably already seen it in action.
In terms of pure damage output, Junkrat can be one of the best characters in the game — but you’ll need to have a steady aim to take advantage of it. Otherwise, Junkrat is all about laying traps: you’ll want to plant one of his Steel Traps near the objective, then rocket back to safety with a Concussion Mine. Also, if it's available, launching the RIP-Tire from safety can be a perfect followup to trapping someone.
There’s no one quite as adept at defense as Reinhardt. His massive shield means that anyone wanting to keep their team safe can do just that, and his Rocket Hammer hits extremely hard. That being said, closing the distance with Reinhardt can be tough, and getting used to his Ultimate and Charge attack can take some time. Take it slow — Reinhardt's strong, but he won't survive blind rushes into enemy fire.
As one of the game’s main characters, you’d think that Winston would be easy to pick up — however, his basic gameplay flow is a bit more complicated than one might think. A smart Winston player will jump into the fray, lay down a Barrier Projector, do some damage and then retreat — this should allow your team to slip in during the confusion, as well as take out a few of your weaker opponents. Follow this up with his Ultimate attack, and the enemy team should be left in utter chaos.
While most other Support characters will want to avoid most combat situations, Symmetra will usually be right at the front lines — with some backup, of course. You’ll want to cover the objective with as many of her Sentry Turrets as possible, then retreat. Don’t forget about her Teleporter, either: a quick trip to the objective can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Expert Players Required
Mei can be one of the most fun Defense characters to play as — once you get a hang of her playstyle, that is. Her Ice Wall is one of the most versatile abilities in the game, but it’ll likely take some time to get used to quickly aiming and building one — and you'll probably need to work on the timing for her health-regenerating Cryo-Freeze, too (thankfully, her Ultimate attack is easy enough to use). Once you really learn how to use her, she’s an absolute blast — but you should probably expect some growing pains along the way.
Out of all of Overwatch’s Heroes, D.Va has the weirdest mechanics. Most of the time, you’ll be piloting her mech around the stage, dealing damage and protecting allies with the Defense Matrix. Take too much damage, however, and you’ll be booted out of the mech and left without any real offensive power of which to speak. Surviving long enough to summon another mech can be a daunting task — but if you do, it’s easy to change the course of a fight in mere moments.
Zarya is all about building and maintaining power — unfortunately, the game never really explains how this works. You may be tempted to rush the enemy and start lobbing energy grenades, but you’ll want to stay back at first: Zarya builds energy by blocking damage with her different Barriers, which then boosts the power of her Particle Cannon. It takes some patience, but if you can max her power out, Zarya is one of the hardest-hitting characters in the game — and she's even more effective when all of her enemies are stuck in the Graviton Surge's singularity.
If you don’t like micromanaging or keeping an eye on an entire team at once, don’t bother playing as Lucio. You’ll need to constantly switch between his speed and healing buffs, as well as watch out for all of your allies at the same time. His healing abilities only last for a few seconds per charge, so timing is critical ... but once you have it down, Lucio can be one of the most effective healers in the game. Plus, there's really no feeling quite like saving your entire team from an enemy Ultimate attack with the shield provided by Sound Barrier (better luck next time, Hanzo).
There you have it — a basic guide of every character in Overwatch! Of course, the only true way to learn how each character works is to go out and start playing, so hurry up and jump into a match!