It’s really hard to find a helpful Overwatch tier list.
Overwatch is a game that is constantly changing, with regular patches modifying the existing heroes. New heroes are also added several times a year, and their presence usually disrupts the current power rankings.
This makes for a pretty volatile game and there’s only one stable, enduring way to rank the characters on the Overwatch roster: By who has the best skins.
Brigitte has been an incredibly disruptive character through several Overwatch metas, and has stayed in the competitive mix despite several nerfs.
But her skins suck. She has only one event skin from the 2018 anniversary event, and it turns her into a Viking shieldmaiden with a fur-lined cloak and a bear’s head for a shoulder pad. Her other skins turn her high-tech armor into medieval armor and dress her as an engineer.
Baptiste doesn’t have many skins, due to being the newest hero in the game. The Storm Rising Archives event gave him an outfit that commemorates his time as a soldier for the Talon terrorist organization, and it’s all right, but it’s not particularly dramatic as legendary transformations go. He just gets a new haircut and a slightly different set of armor. One of his basic skins is also a pretty good pirate outfit, but that’s not enough to move him higher in the ranking.
Ashe is the second-newest character in Overwatch, so she only has one event skin as well: her Socialite skin from the current Archives event. It’s a good one, though. The skin dresses her in couture for head to toe, turns her dynamite into an exploding Chanel clutch, and decks out Bob — the robot buddy she summons when she uses her ult — in a tuxedo, with a monocle. Her basic skins change her outfit so she looks like a gangster, or like an explorer on a safari. These are fine, but not very special.
Bastion is a robot who transforms into a stationary turret at will, and then into a tank when he uses his ultimate.
It’s a shame to put him so low on the list since his skins probably require more art than anyone else’s; a Bastion skin requires a new model for each of his three forms. However, his skins are narrow variations on his theme, especially when compared to some of the elaborate transformations seen on other characters. He has a Christmas skin that puts skis on his tank and gives him a beanie, and an Anniversary Dune Buggy skin that gives him off-road tires and a roll cage. He gets a skin that reimagines him as a Gwishin omnic in the latest Archives event, which is the first in-game look players have had of the sinister group of robots that D.Va’s MEKA Force fights. But it looks a lot like the Stealth skin from the 2018 Anniversary boxes, because all Bastion skins just kind of look like Bastion due to his narrow role in the game.
Winston is a huge, sentient gorilla, and like Bastion his skins are limited by his specificity as a character. He has a Lunar New Year skin that turns him into Sun Wukong, the legendary Chinese Scientist King, a Christmas skin that turns him into a Yeti, and an Archives skin that outfits him in a prototype of his space suit. But his coolest option is probably the Summer Games skin that gears him in a baseball catcher’s pads and wraparound sunglasses.
OK, every one of these lists needs to have a controversial opinion that skeptics will claim only exists to drive “engagement,” so here’s one of those: I find Tracer to be strange looking, especially when she’s not wearing the goggles.
Her Hong Gildong skin from the 2019 Lunar Festival, inspired by a Korean Robin Hood figure, removes the goggles completely, and, without them, she kind of looks like a character out of a stop-motion Tim Burton film.
On the plus side, her skin from All-Star Weekend 2018 makes her seem like a character taken from the Hunger Games, or like someone who might be hanging around with Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok. If you missed out on that, her best options are her Graffiti skin from the Anniversary event, or, if you’re feeling festive, her Christmas elf skin.
24. Wrecking Ball
Hammond is a superintelligent hamster who rolls around in a giant robot hamster ball, so he is another character who has the problem of being a very specific concept. He’s also a newer character and therefore has fewer total skins. But he overcomes both these problems because the skins he has are very cool.
He landed in the Mad Max-inspired Junkertown locale after escaping from a base on the moon, according to his lore, so one of his basic legendary skins is a Thunderdome version of his basic concept. His event skin, from Halloween 2018, turns his robot into a giant Jack-O-Lantern, and gives Hammond himself a creepy burlap mask. Actually, this skin also looks like a Tim Burton character, but in a good way. Hammond also gets a highlight intro inspired by the vintage “dramatic gopher” meme in the current Archives event.
Lucio got his Snow Fox skin for Christmas 2018, which makes him look like he’s going to some kind of ski rave. His best skin, however, remains his Jazzy skin from the 2017 Anniversary event, with its stylish brass accents.
Orisa is a centaur-like robot who has been modified to feel empathy. She’s got two very good skins: An Anniversary event skin which is a complete transformation and turns her into a forest spirit made of wood and stone, and a Blizzard World skin that turns her into a Protoss Immortal from Starcraft.
Reinhardt is a big dude in a suit of armor, and most of his skins are just variations on that. His best option is his Summer Games Gridironhardt outfit, which reimagines him as a football player. If you’re into Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Dynasty Warriors, you might also dig his Lunar New Year 2019 skin, Guan-Yu Reinhardt. One of his base skins, Greifhardt, covers his armor in rust and ivy, and is pretty visually striking. His Crusader skin turns him into the young Reinhardt from the Honor and Glory cinematic, if you’re into his lore.
Mei has the single worst legendary skin in the game: her 2016 Christmas skin just puts a Santa hat on her regular outfit. But she’s gotten very cute Jiangshi and Beekeeper outfits since that low point, and her standout, Pajamei. She would have been much lower on this list without Pajamei. She also has a Blizzard World skin in which she wears the outfit from her “Rise and Shine” short, if you’re into the cinematics.
A girl who fights in a mech suit, D.Va is another character with a very specific concept that is difficult to radically transform, but the Overwatch skins team has had some cool ideas for this extremely popular character. Her best skin is probably the Cruiser skin, which outfits the mech as a 1950s hot rod. She also has a Summer Games skin that turns it into a Jet Ski-like watercraft, and a Blizzard World skin that dresses D.Va up as a gothic Lolita, and gives the mech cat ears and a tail. It’s just a shame that Overwatch players don’t get the Heroes of the Storm skin that turns her into Deathwing.
I can see that Torbjorn has a good lineup of skins, if I’m looking at the situation objectively. But, subjectively, all of Torbjorn’s skins are Torbjorn skins, and this is as high as I can rate him. Some of his best skins dress him up as Santa, a Viking, or as Magni Bronzebeard from World of Warcraft. The cyborg skin from the Anniversary event, which turns his beard into a tangled bundle of fiber optic cables, is another standout.
Moira is a newer character, so she doesn’t have as many skins as some of the other heroes. But her design — think Tilda Swinton as a villain from an animated Disney film — is spectacular. Two of her three Legendary event skins are Archives skins, and are kind of dull. 2018’s Blackwatch skin gives her a beret, and the current event’s Scientist skin puts her in a white coat. Nothing special. However, her David Bowie-inspired Glam skin is one of the game’s coolest basic legendaries and her creepy Banshee skin from Halloween 2018 looks terrific as well.
Overwatch’s maternal figure has terrific style with her Cabana Summer Games outfit, her Snow Owl Christmas skin, and her Corsair Halloween skin. Not a lot to say here, just a solid collection of interesting skins.
Hanzo’s Lunar New Year 2019 skin, Huang Zong, is a miss with its strangely stiff beard, and players disliked his Christmas 2017 Hipster Hanzo skin so much that Blizzard had to change certain aspects of the design after it was released. The stylized dragon graphic on the back of that skin’s pants still makes it look like Hanzo had a little bathroom accident, if you ask me. Look right above this paragraph; you’ll see what I mean.
But Hanzo also has his stylish Scion skin and his cool-looking Cyberninja skin, as well as his Kabuki-inspired skin from Blizzard World. It’s enough to get him this high on the list, so he’s doing pretty well for himself.
Mercy’s looks are mostly variations on her theme but, if you like Mercy, you probably like that theme. Her basic angel has been modified to be a Halloween witch, the figure of Winged Victory for Summer Games, and the Sugar Plum Fairy for Christmas. Blizzard raised $12.7 million for breast cancer research by selling a special Pink Mercy skin for $15.
Pharah is half Egyptian and half Native American, and her Asp and Bedouin skins highlight her heritage. Her 2018 Lunar New Year Qinglong armor, inspired by Chinese dragons, is also very cool looking. But the skin that pushes her this high up the ranking is her Enchanted Armor Halloween skin, which reimagines her as an empty suit of haunted armor, and is hilarious in highlight intros.
With her Cote D’Azur beach skin, her Black Lily Cheongsam, and her Biathlon ski gear, Overwatch’s sniper is always dressed to kill. She also received a Blizzard World Skin that turned her into Nova from StarCraft, and a similar skin, given away to celebrate the 20th anniversary of StarCraft, that turns her into Kerrigan. Also, if you pre-ordered Overwatch in 2016, you could get a Noire skin for Widowmaker that been made available since. It isn’t the most distinctive skin, but it’s absolutely one of the most exclusive.
It’s difficult to make skins for the characters who embody very specific concepts, as we’ve already discussed, but it’s a lot easier to change the looks of characters who are just people with guns. McCree benefits greatly from this advantage when it comes to skins.
He gets a look reflecting his time in the Deadlock gang in 2019’s Archives event, which mostly just decks him out in jeans and a leather jacket. Like many of the Archives skins, this is cool if you’re into the lore, but otherwise underwhelming compared to some of the more imaginative cosmetics we get from other events. But McCree has some cool options from past events: his clever Summer Games Lifeguard outfit turns his pistol into a flare gun and his poncho into a beach towel. Trade his cowboy hat for a deerstalker and his cigar for a pipe, and he’s Sherlock Holmes. Blizzard also gave him a Van Helsing Halloween skin to match Reaper’s Dracula.
Zenyatta’s Cultist skin, which turns the robot guru into a squid-faced monster, is one of the coolest looking skins in the game, and it also comes with a suite of custom voice lines to turn his usual bromides into unsettling Lovecraftian whispers. If that isn’t your bag, his Nutcracker and Fastball skins are also a lot of fun, because they transform the orbs he throws at opponents into nuts and baseballs, respectively.
When Zenyatta uses his Transcendence ultimate ability, he usually says: “Experience tranquility.” His Nutcracker skin has a custom line for his ultimate, in which he says: “Experience festivity.”
You might think there’s not much variable design space for a character who is a 450-pound biker who snares people with a giant meathook, but you’d be wrong.
For starters, Roadhog has a Lunar New Year skin that turns him into Zhu Bajie, the pig-headed character from the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West. His hook becomes Bajie’s nine-toothed rake.
He’s also got a Halloween skin that turns him into Junkenstein’s Monster, a Summer Games skin that turns him into a lax bro, a Christmas skin that turns him, inexplicably, into a humanoid walrus, and, perhaps best of all, a Blizzard World skin that turns him into the Butcher from Diablo.
Junkrat’s Jack Sparrow outfit is the best pirate skin in the game, full stop. If you like silly skins, his hilarious Beachrat skin comes with floaties and zinc oxide on his nose, and turns his Rip Tire ultimate into a rubber ducky inner tube. Best of all, since December is summertime in Australia, it’s a Winter Wonderland skin. He’s also got his Dr. Junkenstein Halloween skin, and his very creepy Krampus skin from Christmas 2018 help put him high on this list.
7. Soldier: 76
Soldier is just a person with a gun and, therefore, he can be anything. So he’s got great skins.
His Alpine: 76 arctic ops skin and his Cyborg: 76 skin are very nice, detailed transformations, but he really sets himself apart from the pack with his Slasher: 76 skin, which gives him a chainsaw gun and a hockey mask, and his Grillmaster: 76 skin, which dresses him in cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, an apron, and socks with sandals. Soldier got his new Formal skin in the Storm Rising Archives event, which outfits a younger Commander Morrison in his dress blues. Unless you’re really into the lore, though, this is probably only Soldier’s fourth or fifth-best skin. There is a lot of competition for best skin with this character.
There are worse things to be than a ninja if you want to look cool.
Genji’s All-Star fire king skin, his Oni Heroes of the Storm tie-in skin, and his ornate Baihu Lunar New Year skin all exude menace and throw off trippy particle effects, but the skin that clinches his place in the upper echelon of Overwatch characters is his Super Sentai skin from the 2017 Anniversary event. Go go, Genji!
Overwatch’s resident edgelord has a design that creates a lot of opportunities for skins, particularly at Halloween. His Dracula skin is elegant, but his Pumpkin-head skin comes with a lot of unique voice lines.
His new Lu-Bu skin for the 2019 Lunar New Year is a cool Classical Chinese variation on his masked-assassin theme, and will probably be a favorite for Romance of the Three Kingdoms fans. His basic skins are really great as well, particularly the ones that turn him into a mariachi with a guitar on his back and a Dia de los Muertos mask. And, if you like your Reaper to be a little sillier, you can always go with his bright orange BMX outfit. Reaper has it all.
Symmetra has a Halloween skin that turns her into a literal dragon, replacing her skirt with the membranes of her wings. If you’d rather look fancy than scary, she’s got a gold-trimmed Oasis outfit that has a diaphanous veil, or you can go with her Christmas 2018 Figure Skater outfit. And if you want to look flashy, her Magician skin turns her cyborg arm into a glittering hard light projection. There are many highlights, and they’re all strong looks, which is why she’s so high on the list.
Sombra’s Tulum skin turns her into a scuba diver, her Rime skin turns her into some kind of frost demon, and Blizzard gave her a terrific Bride of Frankenstein skin for Halloween 2018. On top of that, Sombra was given a skin that turns her into the Demon Hunter from Diablo 3 as part of the digital goodie bag for 2018 BlizzCon attendees and purchasers of the BlizzCon online pass.
Doomfist’s Formal attire, from the Anniversary event, imagines this supervillain as an unusually dapper NFL star hitting the nightclubs … with a giant hydraulic fist. Doomfist also received a Blizzard World skin that turns him into Blackhand from World of Warcraft’s Warlords of Draenor expansion.
These skins alone would put Doomfist in the top tier, but for Halloween 2018, he got what is arguably the greatest skin in the game: Shape of Water Doomfist. That’s right; in commemoration of Guillermo Del Toro’s Academy Award winning film about a woman who has sex with a fish man, Blizzard gave a sexy fish man skin to Doomfist, and it is amazing.
I’ll level with you: I like Shape of Water Doomfist so much that I really wanted to put him first, but doing so would have been objectively wrong, because Zarya has the best skins in the game.
I don’t know if Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan is a Zarya main or what, but it’s not even fair how good her skins are. Zarya got a Blizzard World skin that turns her into the Barbarian from Diablo, which is amazing. Her Cyberian skin is perhaps the best of the cyborg line of skins. Her Xuanwu skin is really nice if you want her to be a Chinese god, and the jade details on that skin’s weapon help elevate it above the competition.
There are also options if you want to go with a cute look: Blizzard gave her a Christmas 2018 skin that decks her out in snowboarding gear, but with a stuffed-bear beanie, and, for some reason, a fuzzy little tail on the back of her ski pants. But the piece de resistance is Zarya’s Totally ’80s Halloween skin, which decks her out in leg warmers, leopard-print tights and a cutoff t-shirt that says “Let’s Get Physical” on it.
It’s a damn masterpiece.