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Magneto, Storm, Sentinel, and Cable form the Big Four, and have a wild orgy on deck.
Bowling Pin on Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Po Yi sat down to play Talisman with his generals. He said: At this moment, each of us has an equal chance of winning. When we choose our character cards, then we will no longer have equal chances.

So the game's been out for a while. It's been beaten and re-beaten. The secrets have all been discovered, the items have all been collected, the Easter Egg has been unearthed, and the ridiculous rumors have been debunked. For all intents and purposes, the game is solved. That means there's only one thing left to do...

...That's right. It's time to get on the Internet and argue about which characters are the best.

It seems inevitable when you've got a game with Loads and Loads of Characters: the time will come when the only thing left is to try and figure out whether Lowen's early joining time and superior supports make up for his crappy strength growth. It can be a polite discussion or a Flame War; a debate of logic and reason or a contest to see who can stick their fingers in their ears the longest. It usually gives birth to legions of Scrubs and "Stop Having Fun!" Guys.

The characters are usually divided into rough levels of ability or "tiers", from which the trope takes its name. Those tiers frequently look something like this:

  • God Tier: Characters that are ridiculously good, to the point that it is almost unfair to use them. Most likely some sort of secret boss character that was not meant to be used in normal competitive play. There have been very few games with characters that could be considered to be in this tier, and they are probably banned.
  • Top Tier: Incredibly good characters that are still overpowered, but less so than those in God Tier, and not overpowered enough that they warrant a ban. When God tier is banned, these are the characters to choose. They are generally better than most non-God Tier characters.
  • High Tier: All around good choices. Usually, they are here because they have advantages over Top or God tier characters and beat a lot of lower-tier characters. They have only a few weaknesses.
  • Mid Tier: The "average" guys. They are usually here because they have an advantage over at least one Top or God tier character, but have too many flaws to be used effectively elsewhere.
  • Low Tier: You probably don't want to choose these. They could theoretically be useful, but choosing such a character is a suboptimal choice; take only if you need to fill space. Sometimes, these characters find a niche for their shock value, or because they work well against unprepared or surprised opponents. This sort of usage stops working once your opponents get wise, at which point you should return to a higher tier.
  • Bottom Tier: Joke Characters, and those who are just bad. They may have an advantage over someone in top tier, but outside of that specific situation, be prepared to have extreme difficulty using a Bottom Tier character in high-level play.

Sometimes the tiers get shaken up due to Metagame shifts, and characters that were once below-average can become more useful. However, the chances of this phenomenon occurring diminish if no new content is added to the game.

Depending on the game, tiers may not be as pivotal as they seem or are portrayed to be (indeed, some games are closely balanced enough that the tiers are only rated as a formality, Street Fighter IV being one such example); most often, they exist, but are generally less important than than the skill/advantages of a particular playstyle or adaptive player. Which, of course, leads to discussion for which playstyle is best.

Compare: PVP-Balanced, Competitive Balance. When a character's tier placement negatively affects players' opinions of him, he becomes a Tier-Induced Scrappy. See also Super Weight for character power levels narrative-wise.

Examples of Character Tiers include:

Fighting Games

  • Capcom vs. SNK actually codified its tiers in-game, and based the number of characters one could select for their team on what tier each character was; this didn't go over very well with gamers, and was dropped for the sequel. (In the sequel, the player splits 4 "Ratio" amongst up to three characters, giving the player some input as to the character's tier.)
  • Tiers are completely evident in nearly every single Dragon Ball Z game.
    • The Tenkaichi and Raging Blast series are notorious for their tiers (which is somewhat expected with over 100 characters).
    • In general, throughout the series, transformed characters are far better than their untransformed counterparts.
    • The Raging Blast God Tier features completely broken characters, including Kid Buu, Super Saiyan 2 Gohan, Super Gogeta, and Super Vegito. Each has ridiculous stats and can easily chain massive combos.
  • Bring this up in Super Smash Bros series, and expect chaos between one side that considers tier lists Serious Business and the other side that believes tires don exits or tiers are for queers. It's a very touchy subject.
    • The Smash community maintains a tier list decided upon by top level players on Smash Boards. There's a sticky thread where you can read the current lists, and it undergoes yearly revision to compensate for changes in the metagame. One example was when Armada blazed to the #2 spot in Genesis I with Peach, at the time agreed to be aggressively middle-tier.
  • Street Fighter III: Third Strike. It was supposed to make the game more balanced, given the complete and obvious advantages certain characters had over others, and it did so for half the characters. The others simply moved around between tiers
    • In most fighting game communities, the Chinese characters were top tier throughout all three games.
    • Sean went from Godly in New Generation to 2nd Impact/Giant Attack to bottom of the bottom.
    • Lethal Joke Character Rufus from Street Fighter IV is considered nearly godly.
  • David Sirlin (who did balancing for Street Fighter and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix) accepts that perfect balance is impossible, as characters with differing abilities will always have advantages and disadvantages over each other, but believes that the God Tier and Garbage Tier should be empty, and that no specific character-versus-character matchup should give more than a 6-4 advantage (meaning that if equally-skilled players play ten matches, the character with the advantage should at most win six and lose four). His own games (Kongai, and especially the tabletop games Puzzle Strike, Flash Duel and Yomi) go through years of playtesting and tweaking in search of this.
    • And, despite those years of testing, still fail, with Puzzle Strike being a particularly bad offender pre-errata thanks to one character being clearly better than all the rest thanks to their ability to take an extra turn AND get rid of a character chip at the same time, extremely early in the game, leading to a game-long advantage.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has 56 characters, and therefore tiers are inevitable. The unique thing is that the current god tier [1] isn't banned, but are actually favoured for tournament play simply because all the options and tactics available to them mean that they're also the most interesting characters to play in the game. There's also the fact that the game is less dependent on individual characters and more on team synergy. Some good teams aren't totally dependent on the god tiers, but instead team them with lower tiered characters who have really good assists that make the overall team stronger.
  • In Tatsunokovs Capcom, the Japanese developed a different tier list for the characters (partially because unlike in the United States, the players didn't stop thinking that Karas was a broken character), using two tier lists - one for the overall character performance being the point (combat) character and another for the character's assist. Roll isn't considered the lowest tier (she's mid), and her assist is ranked high in the tier list, upping her rank as a Joke Character to Lethal Joke Character.
  • Guilty Gear XX had a very unusual tier setup—partially because the game is so well-balanced that tiers rarely affect a match significantly, but unusual in that the top tier consisted of only ONE character—Eddie. Mainly because of his ability to destroy you on wake-up due to unblockables. Eddie was crippled somewhat in Slash, but he recovered in Accent Core (with a triple unblockable sequence) and now shares his spot with Testament. The catch? All of the characters have a steep learning curve, and it can take several months (or even years) of practice to use them effectively in Tournament Play.
  • Blaz Blue has 3 characters in the Top Tier spot: Rachel, Nu, and Arakune. In that order. Rachel is extremely good, but VERY hard to use effectively unless you know how to control her wind. Nu has magical flying swords which enable ridiculously long and damaging combos, but she has very low health and defense. Arakune has BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES.
    • In contrast, in Blaz Blue: Continuum Shift, the top 3 in CS are now Bang Shishigami, Litchi Faye-Ling, and Ragna the Bloodedge - all of whom are combo-oriented characters instead of zoning characters. Litchi has numerous combos which can lead into resets. During one of her combos, she will inevitably (and it WILL always happen) get enough heat to end her combo with a knockdown and follow with her Great Wheel super, which is used to trick the opponent when they get up, repeating the process. If played correctly, she can trap you in a corner and shred you to pieces. Bang went from bottom tier to top due to several of his hitboxes being altered, and many of his moves come out much faster. His basic combos can also deal around 4000-5000 damage. Ragna is like Litchi and Bang combined: he has a large amount of reset opportunities with his new Belial Edge and oki game, but utilizing this takes the simplicity of using Bang.
    • The Continuum Shift II update is considered to be very well balanced. On the top we have Makoto and Noel, and on the bottom Tager. Most characters are viable, and tournaments top 8 generally have few overlapping characters. In fact a Hakumen and a Tsubaki, both low tier, won national tournaments in US and Japan.
    • Continuum Shift Extend is also considered to be very well balanced. Thanks to the damage nerf, characters that can produce high damage like Ragna, Valkenhayn and Hakumen tend to be high in tier list.
  • Note that Tournament Play will shake tiers up. Sometimes a victor discovers an overlooked technique with a low-ranked character that the upper tier characters have no counter for. Also, some characters are fantastic counters against half the cast but get mopped by the other half, instead of being above or below-average consistently.
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo
    • You can select the old Super Street Fighter II versions of the characters by quickly inputting a code after selecting them. Old Sagat is considered top tier, and is "soft-banned" in some tournaments (meaning that there is a tacit agreement not to use him, but he can be used anyway), not because he is so overpowering (Balrog and Dhalsim are better characters overall), but because the players agree that the inclusion of Old Sagat makes the game less interesting as a whole.
    • Akuma is also considered God Tier (probably the first of his kind), but unlike Old Sagat, he is completely banned in tournaments because despite the lack of twin air fireballs, he cannot be dizzied at all and has ridiculous priority. When HD Remix hit Xbox Live and Play Station Network, people had assumed he would be tournament legal now that he was rebalanced. Then the official tournament rules for EVO came in. He's still banned because his juggling (the main reason he's banned) was toned up, and he can now do some nasty air fireball traps that will inevitably lead into said juggles. Also, he has the Raging Demon as a super now, which has numerous inescapable traps.
  • This Dissidia Final Fantasy picture parodies the character tier system. In terms of tiers proper in Dissidia, it's a subject of great debate (Yes, Final Fantasy fandom is arguing again. Shocking, we know). There is some consensus about who is generally better, but actual tier placements are far from universally accepted.
  • Soul Calibur 4 tiers generally class Hilde as god tier due to her "Doom Combo" that can ring out from pretty much anywhere. Other generally good characters to use include Sophitia and Kilik, whereas Rock in particular is awful.

Driving Game

Many Driving Games have their cars divided into slow, medium, fast, and lightning fast, with the last one usually being a secret tier.

  • Although the Gran Turismo games don't explicitly use Car Tiers, their cars can be pretty much divided into snail-slow subcompacts, slow sedans, medium sports cars, fast supercars, super-fast JGTC racing cars, lightning-fast Le Mans racers, and the Polyphony Formula Gran Turismo.
    • The arcade mode in the first two games had an explicit series of tiers. Gran Tusimo 2, for example, has Class C compact sedans, Class B high-power sedans, Class A sports cars, and Class S supercars.
  • Need for Speed: Carbon
    • The game divides its cars into three tiers. The first tier is made of cars such as the Mazdaspeed 3 or the Chrysler 300C, the second tier includes the Dodge Charger and the Lotus Europa, while the third tier includes the Dodge Viper and the Lamborghini Murciélago
    • The game also actively enforces the tiers by denying lower-tiered cars performance upgrades that would put them on par with higher-tiered cars, a sharp contrast from the Underground games and Most Wanted which allowed the likes of the Chevrolet Cobalt to, once upgraded, compete with (and even surpass) a Porsche Carerra GT.
  • The Forza Motorsport series simultaneously adheres to this trope and subverts it: every car is designated a "performance index", complete with a corresponding tier denoted by a letter grade, but most low-tier cars can be upgraded enough to compete with higher tiers.
  • Mario Kart
    • Mario Kart: Wii gives each character has a subtle boost in certain stats like Speed and Drift. Players have already begun to make a tier list based on who has the biggest Speed bonus, etc. While the differences do not really make much of a difference in a VS race, some people will still use the top rated characters anyway.
    • This tier system is much more apparent in Mario Kart DS, because of the drift system. Characters like Yoshi got huge boosts off drifts and would be relentlessly used online by anyone who could snake well. Drifting in Mario Kart Wii was toned down because of general dislike of the system.
    • Mario Kart 7 basically mirrors what Mario Kart Wii did. Not only are people only using Metal Mario for his extra top speed, but kart parts used online and in time trials seem to be only the B Dasher and Mushroom Wheels (or Gold Tires), because this combo gives the best top speed possible without sacrificing too much in acceleration or steering.
  • Arcade racing games Initial D Arcade Stage and Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune mostly avert this, since all full-tuned cars can compete on an equal footing. There are, however, cars that are meant as novelties, most notably the AE85 Levin for IDAS and the Subaru R2 for WMMT.
  • Blur has (from slowest to fastest) classes D, C, B, and A. Differently-tuned versions of the same car can appear in different tiers; for example, the Nissan 350Z (D- and C-Class), Chevrolet Camaro (D-, C-, and A-Class), and Dodge Challenger SRT8 (D-, B-, and A-Class).

Competitive Pokémon Battling

  • Pokémon, despite having 649 characters of varying balance (as well as mons with alternate forms such as Rotom), has taken to heart the game's preaching of using your favorite Pokemon. The most well-known tier system, Smogon's, organizes all Pokemon into 4-5 tiers, with tournaments and friendly battles taking place in any one of the tiers.
    • First off is the Uber tier. This tier can be seen as a ban list, as Pokemon in it are only in there so that the rest of the metagame doesn't suffer. Pokemon in it are either too powerful (Mewtwo), too versatile (Mew), or too broken (Wobbuffet). Pokemon in this tier can not be used in any competitive battle unless the rules specifically allow it, or the players agree to use them. This tier is a metagame in itself, since the overpowered nature of all the Pokémon used creates balance.
    • Second is the Over Used (OU) tier. This tier is composed of the Pokemon that have been used the most, typically around 50 at a time, based on data gathered by Smogon's battling simulator Shoddy Battle Pokemon Online and updated every month. These are basically the best Pokemon in terms of their stats, abilities, typing, and/or movepool (not counting Uber Pokemon, of course). In OU tier battles, only Pokemon from the OU tier and below are allowed.
    • The second "real" tier is the Under Used (UU) tier. This tier is composed of Pokemon that are occasionally used. The Pokemon in this tier usually have a problem or two that prevents them from being used easily, or have Pokemon in the upper tiers that fulfill the same purpose, but do it better.[2] In UU tier battles, only Pokemon from the UU tier and below are allowed.
    • In between OU and UU is the Borderline (BL) tier, composed of Pokemon that are too strong for UU but not actually used enough to be OU. BL, like Ubers, is a ban tier (but for UU instead of OU). Since OU tier is based on actual use and not on actual stats, it also frequently chnges. BL battles are not common, but most Pokemon in the tier are good enough to see use on OU teams.
    • The third "real" tier is the Rarely Used (RU) tier. Added in the fifth generation to account for the ever-increasing cast list, this tier often features Pokemon that can be used competitively but have notable flaws,[3] or Pokemon that are simply outclassed by both OU and UU Pokemon.[4] Similar to UU, RU has a banlist tier named BL2, with Pokemon too strong for RU but not used enough for UU.
    • Fourth is the Never Used (NU) tier. This tier isn't actually composed of Pokemon that are never used, but the Pokemon in this tier are simply seldom used due to a variety of different reasons, from stat problems (for instance, Pikachu can dish out serious hurt, but it just can't take a hit), to actually being useless (Unown). As such, you'll find that many Pokemon in this tier serve purposes that Pokemon in higher tiers can do better. In NU tier battles, only Pokemon in the NU tier can be used.
    • The tier system is designed to allow any Pokemon to be used competitively by sifting Pokémon into a collection of similarly powered groups. Removing this would force everyone into using Ubers and OUs.
    • As a final note, it's worth noting that tiers are constantly changing as data is collected from Shoddy Battle Pokemon Online and as new games are released. A good example is Charizard.[5] At the beginning of a new generation, the tiers are typically wiped, anything with a base stat total of over 600 is automatically sent to Ubers (barring special cases like Slaking and Regigigas, whose abilities make them lackluster), and the tiers are sorted out from there as the new metagame evolves.
    • It is also worth noting that other than banlist tiers (Uber and Borderline), the placement of a Pokemon is determined exclusively by their frequency of usage, and thus a high tier Pokemon is simply one that is frequently used in a high tier environment, even if they would not unbalance a lower tier.[6] It also means that the tiers are completely objective.
    • In addition to the standard tier set (which organizes Pokemon on the assumption that anything you can do without hacking is legal) there's Little Cup, where Pokemon must be level 5, must be able to evolve, and must not evolve from anything. Little Cup has its own list of Ubers, OU, and UU, and other modified rules. And the up-and-coming "Middle Cup" allows only level 50 Pokemon that both evolve from and evolve into something. Both of these are a great way to be able to use your favorite not-fully-evolved Pokemon and still do well (the standard tiers allow NFEs, but not all of them are viable choices).
    • Everything above applies only to single battling. Double-battling tiers are only in their proto-stage (due to official tournaments being in the double battle format), and triple-battling and rotation-battling are far too new and hardly played competitively. Enough is known, however, that different traits are of importance in different formats, meaning any Pokémon tier list can only apply to one format. For instance, the Ice-type is defensively bad (weak to four types and resistant only to itself) but offensively good (can hit four other types for super-effective damage). Playing defense is key in single battles while offense is more important in double battles, so Ice-types like Glaceon and Vanilluxe struggle in single battles but thrive in double battles.

Role Playing Games

  • A big thing in the Fire Emblem fandom, where the participants don't stop simply at unit performance. They also take into account joining time, joining requirements, joining level, starting stats, stat growths, weapon options, support options, elemental affinity, promotion requirements, and other, additional abilities in their quest to accurately rank the characters. Due to the way the system works in Fire Emblem, the vast majority of characters are at least usable if you really want to play them, and so the tier lists are mostly arranged by merit of which characters are most helpful for Ranked or low-turn playthroughs. The Fire Emblem community's mantra in these debates is "personal experience means nothing"; just because a character worked out for you does not make that character good; you may have simply gotten lucky with the Random Number Goddess. The community judges a character's stats based on averages for their level progression.
  • Chrono Cross, despite being an RPG, has over 40 characters to choose from, so tiers were bound to arise, especially since some characters are worse than others.
  • Radiata Stories proudly boasts over 150 characters you can collect and use in battle, and the quests to obtain them have a wide range of difficulty which doesn't always correspond to each character's strength. There are characters you'd have to be crazy not to go into the final battle with, characters that are only there for the lulz, and inevitably you'll find a character that you just plain like. They're all pretty interesting.
    • The game actually gets slammed by those who play only the early sections of the game for this, as many of the early characters are outright useless except as decoys. One very early character, a Farm Boy cleric, even outright says he has no skills at all (his only attack is very slow and unwieldy), but he's still better than some characters, which have no attacks at all, and their only support ability is to remove status ailments. The win-the-fight-single-handedly good characters, however, are almost invariably the leaders of certain sub-factions, and require you to collect every one of their subordinates before they can be added into your group. This means you have to do things like drag that annoying, useless brat mage around until he gains 10 levels to recruit his father just so you can recruit that father's boss. Oh, and if we're speaking power levels, the humans have much better character choices than the non-human faction does.
  • After the arena system was introduced in World of Warcraft, players and developers alike have been compiling statistics about which character classes are over- or underrepresented in high-rated teams. Naturally, these statistics are then (ab)used regularly in flamewars about class balance.
  • In Advance Wars, although any character can become a potential Game Breaker if used properly, message boards have still agreed on a definite tier system, with Grit, Colin, and Hachi (and often Sensei and Kanbei) rooted firmly at the top, thanks purely to the pure ease with which these characters snap the game in half. And god help you if you play Sturm or his big brother Caulder, the intentionally gamebreaking final bosses, who are universally regarded as not of this world.
    • The devs seem to be aware of this practice, at least as far as Purposefully Overpowered final bosses go: Caulder/Stolos can't be selected for wifi matches in Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict.
  • Urban Rivals (which sometimes advertises on the sidebar to your left) has their marketing strategy built around this. Each virtual card represents a character that appears in comic book features, has a backstory, a set of stats and abilities, and their description pages contain reviews on the cards appearance, strategic applications, and effectiveness. Many forum threads are about which cards or dream teams a given player advocates. The auction market for these cards can be manipulated into high fluctuation based on current popularity, collector status, or how much cleavage or implied nudity is on the card.
  • Valkyrie Profile has a lot of characters but they are clearly examples of Character Tiers. Partly due to a few very powerful weapons that can last until the end of the main game can be obtained early and just make the two Lancers or the heavy swordsmen extremely powerful. Many characters of course cannot be perfectly balanced due to some attacks that have varying levels of power and usability. It's clearly established that almost all the Sorcerers are worthless (Due to several coming and only one is needed) or Overshadowed by Awesome, The archers except for Janus and Valkyrie Suck, and the sword users just Can't Catch Up.
    • But this changes in the seraphic gate where swords just ridiculously overpower everything.
  • This happens in Dark Cloud.
    • Toan and Ruby are the most powerful characters due to Toan's quick attack-speed, high HP, and having a wide selection of weapons (Doesn't help that some powerful weapons can be obtained early) and Ruby being able to hit for a lot of damage despite being a ranged attacker who can't combo.
    • Ungaga and Osmond are clearly middle-tier characters. While they can both combo, they both wind up coming too late to match Toan and Ruby by the point they come. Osmond CAN move while he is attacking and hits for a lot, but Ungaga is also a little slow.
    • And Goro and Xiao just get ridiculously outclassed due to their slow attack speeds rendering them vulnerable to attack and their weapons can be hideously inaccurate. Goro especially, since he can only attack enemies in front of him and even then, he can still miss because a lot of enemies don't hold still.
    • The sequel Dark Cloud 2 is infinitely better at this - although the only character tier that exists is Monster Transformation, which is generally seen as worthless or unnecessary due to it never being needed for important boss battles in the future. The Ridepod is, however, seen as very useful due to it being the only way to beat several boss battles.
  • Final Fantasy VI is a complicated case, best illustrated through example. Cyan is normally low-tier, since his most powerful attack takes an inconveniently long time to charge. Teach him the (quite hard-to-learn) Quick spell, and the charge time will cease to be relevant, but Quick is tied for highest MP cost, so he'll primarily be a boss-killer. Give him an Economizer (an artifact that Randomly Drops from one of the most dangerous monsters in the game), and he'll be able to cast Quick for 1 MP, allowing him to reliably do 16k damage per turn in a game where the normal cap is 9999. Or you could ignore all that, and just abuse an exploit that allows him to attack endlessly until every foe onscreen is dead. Depending on how many exploits you're willing to use, and how much time you're willing to put in, this could make him low-tier, high-tier, or god-tier—and every character except Umaro and maybe Gogo has at least one trick or exploit like this.
  • The Super Robot Wars games, in which both mecha and individual pilots are ranked.
    • Notable on the God tier are GaoGaiGar, Zeorymer taken further by Great Zeorymer in J and the Aussenseiter (Daitrombe) as well as its pilot Elzam Ratsel in every game they're in. The Black Selena HM in all games Nadesico is in except W. The Vaisaga also makes a good case for this in OG at least, but on the GBA version of OG 2 you can only get it on your second playthrough and it's kinda hard to get. You can get it your first time through in the Play Station 2 version though. Also, strangely, the Gundam X Divider can be deadly without many upgrades in Alpha Gaiden, as well as Kamille and his Zeta Gundam, which Kamille is God tier (Better stats than ALMOST every other pilot in all the games I've seen, even more than Char and Amuro), and the Zeta is Top to High most the time. If it's not the best MS in the game, you can just switch him.
    • The Mazingers in Alpha Gaiden is a unique case.
      • First, Mazinger Z, a decent unit in and of itself. It's extremely cheap in term of energy consumption, doesn't need morale (in contrast to other super robots), accompanied by relatively strong weapon with good range coverage that gets a slight power up later in the game, and Mazinpower to increase attack power by 20%. It's fairly sturdy to boot.
      • Great Mazinger is a contender for Top tier. Tetsuya is involved in a lot of scenario in higher number than most other character, have good stats, high SP and Great is one of the best overall unit having High damage, need no Morale requirement for all of its weapon except for it MAP attack, and all of them consume few energy, but while its strongest attack only has 1 ammo but deals massive damage. It also get Mazinpower.
      • Then theres Mazinkaiser. It has massively powerful weapon on all range with its weapon able to reach 4-6 range, all of its attack dont need will to be used, massive armor, high HP, and its dodge is higher than some real. It gets Mazinpower to further enchance its already powerful attacks. In fact, its attack is so powerful that Fully upgraded Mazinger Z without power up is of same power as fresh Mazinkaiser. Also, it has good terrain modifier. It goes without saying that its a God tier unit. Not to mention Koji is a Top Tier pilot in the game being slightly worse Tetsuya.
    • You've also got Ideon up there on the God tier or beyond, at least in Alpha 3 where you don't have to worry about that pesky universe ending IDE gauge. Banpreios in Alpha 3 also is God tier. On the low ends, you have mook Gundam pilots and most supporting characters like Katz, Fa, Musashi in Getter 1, any MS that isn't piloted by Char or Amuro that's not a Gundam, and any Astevailis that isn't piloted by Akito or Gai. The Valzacard in W is God tier as well.
      • The resident Joke Character Boss and Boss Borot is an anomally in the tier list. In older SRW, boss is Mid tier at best, having decent Seishin set, and Boss is one of the better Ressuply unit. Its extremely cheap repair cost lets you to use it for suicide bombing purpose just in case. However, some newer SRW gave Boss his subpilots, having awesome Seishin but get hit by Magikarp Power to fully achieve its biggest potential. Then come J, L and W. in J, and W its a Swiss Army Knife able to repair, ressuply, and have strong and economic weapon and its really cheap to upgrade. In L, boss has an awesome Squad bonus, and a lot of its attack deals massive damage AND lower morale. Both game also has 3 Pilot Seishin for Boss. In these SRW, Boss is a contender for Top tier.
  • The popular Warcraft 3 map Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars has characters divided according to early or late game, extent of item dependency and ganker/tank/carry types, amongst others. One key type is the "pubstomper", which can do over 1000 DPS with a full compliment of items, but is dependent on "farming" heavily and thus only dominates in individualist "pub" games, being usually hunted and shut down in Tournament Play. Competitive worthy champions vary wildly in role, to say the least.
    • There really are no truly best or worst characters when playing a full 5v5 game. Under other conditions this may not be true. 1v1 matchups favor dps characters, early-game harassers, and single-target stuns. Only-middle-lane games favor Area of Effect spells and pushers. Even "pubstomper" characters aren't necessarily overpowered in pub games - if the opposing team is poor, those character can most quickly become unstoppable, but if its own team is poor then those characters can also most quickly become useless.
  • Disgaea has some degree of tiers; other then the in-game tiers (unlocked by levelling up their "lower tier" units), some classes have definite advantages over other; until you realise that Divine Majins beat everything except maybe Flonne in a single stat. They are very time-consuming, though.
    • Later games balanced this out a little, to the point where in Disgaea 3, Majins are considered the worst class in the game.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons
    • In 3rd edition, versatility (how many problems a character can contribute to solving) is at least as important as power (how powerful the character's abilities are for problems) in tiering. The top tier is characters who, with the right spells prepared, can solve nearly anything the GM can come up with as a standard action. Lesser tiers either have less versatility or less power. In general, while a character of any tier can be a Game Breaker with the right factors, only a high-tier character can be a Story Breaker - imagine how The Lord of the Rings would have turned out if Gandalf could teleport any distance, read minds, identify any item instantly, and make anyone immune to mental influence... and that was just a fraction of his abilities.
    • More in-depth: The generally agreed list is six tiers. Tier 1 is for characters like wizards, clerics, and druids, who learn loads of powerful spells and abilities and learn even more with every new book. Tier 2 is for characters like sorcerers, psions, and favored souls, who learn powerful spells and abilities, albeit more restrictively (the creator compared it to the difference between a nation with a thousand nukes and one with ten). Tier 3 is for characters like bards, factotums, and duskblades, who can either do one thing pretty well and still be useful, or do everything appreciably. Tier 4 is for characters like rogues, barbarians, and rangers, who can do one thing pretty well and only that thing, or can do a lot of things without ever really shining. Tier 5 is for characters like fighters, monks, and paladins, who can do only one thing (and not all that well), or can only ever achieve Master of None level. Tier 6 is for Joke Characters, plus the samurai. And then there's Truenamer, which is like Tier 7 in uselessness, and Planar Shepard, a Prestige Class that's referred to as being "Tier 0".
    • Tiers themselves are based on "As Written" comparisons based on how effectively the class can deal with different situations. The original author pointed out that optimized fighters can still be a low tier but capable of taking down the Tarrasque in a single turn. In the hands of the right munchkin many classes can be equal to higher tiers.[7] The Truenamer breaks the tier system by dint of its mechanics not being properly thought out, getting worse by every level, until level 19 when it will just spam Gate Celestial Angels.
    • The 4th edition of D&D sought to remove this by making all the classes follow the same progression, so everyone is linear. Predictably, this nevertheless didn't result in a uniform power level, and discussions about which classes are higher-tier than which others are common. For example, "iconic" classes like the fighter and wizard have many more spells, feats, and abilities printed than "what on earth is that" classes like the Battlemind or the Seeker..
    • 3.5e successor Pathfinder strives to make all characters much more balanced. All classes received upgrades, but low tier 3.5 classes received more extensive rewrites while powerful 3.5 classes only received minor enhancements to make them more fun to play. A good example is that the Wizard, a top tier character, received new abilities which are hardly worth a mention and had many metamagic feats nerfed, while the Paladin, a tier 5, had its trademark Smite Evil and Lay on Hands abilities boosted to undreamed of levels. The overall effect is to make the more worthless classes more enjoyable to play, though competent casters can still break the universe in half.
    • D&D Minis had informal tiers based on the perceived usefulness of a particular miniature. Unlike the RPG, spellcasters were rarely in the top tier due to Squishy Wizard Syndrome, among other things. Also, very few of the most powerful monsters from the RPG were top tier as minis, due to poor playtesting by the Devs.
  • While it is generally agreed that tabletop wargames Warhammer and Warhammer 40000 have army tiers, getting anyone to agree which armies are in which tier is nearly impossible. Except for the Daemons of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy - everybody agrees that they're God Tier. This isn't at all assisted by the fact that the more popular armies get updated much more often than the less popular ones.
    • It's a joke among the 40k fandom that you're not allowed to bitch that GWS hates/ignores your army... unless you play Dark Eldar (who have not gotten a codex update in twelve years).[8] Or Squats.
    • You can still bitch about Necrons, though. It is a fact universally acknowledged that Necrons suck.
    • Generally speaking, armies are all about the same power level, it's the ease with which you can use the army that really divides the board.
  • A lot of debate goes on in Magic: The Gathering fandom as to whether one card can be "strictly better" than another. While it's certainly true that as the game gets more powerful in general newer cards outshine old ones with the same casting cost and power/toughness, it gets harder to judge recent cards against each other due to how situational many cards are these days.
    • This is complicated by Wizards releasing cards that seem useless, only to either 1) release another card later that makes it useful, 2) have a player suddenly realize how it was meant to be used in the first place, or 3) to have a player use it in a way that they didn't intend but that completely breaks the game; the last tends to be the largest problem. Ironically, One With Nothing itself was meant to be a completely useless card, but due to a deck that wizards never even thought was viable, let alone good, coming to exist - a deck that won by forcing its opponent to fill up their hand with cards all the time - One With Nothing briefly became a tournament staple, though the popularity of the deck in question (Owling Mine) declined dramatically after everyone started playing aggressive decks that simply didn't care because they were throwing lightning bolts at people's heads, and drawing more cards just meant more lightning bolts and Kird Apes.
    • In Mirrodin's case, it was a whole mechanic that worked mostly as intended, but was more dominant than expected. Cards costing one-fourth what they should proved slightly too strong. The same thing happened in the Urza block. Due to the way the mechanic counted the resources spent, what was supposed to give back the resources (and maybe a bit more) winded up returning a lot more. In both cases, the ability to play your whole hand in a turn or two and do it sooner than you should be able to was a bit too much for the metagame.
    • The same debate goes on regarding different decks - generally there's the "best deck", several other top-tier decks, and a large number of second-tier decks. Then there are the "rogue" decks that aren't popular enough to have an obvious tier, and the decks that are pure Metagame choices. Being able to select the right decks is considered as much of a skill as playing well.
  • In traditional Chess, it is thought the white player has an advantage over the black player simply because he moves first. White will generally win about 56% of the time. This is not the case in other chess-variants, especially shogi (Japanese chess) where both players have an almost even 50% chance of winning.
    • One way to fix this advantage in chess and other games where turn order can be an unfair advantage given identical starting circumstances is with the "pie rule" - where one player makes the first move with white. The other player then has the option of either playing as black or switching to white for the game.
    • The existence of the first-move advantage for white is heavily debated.
  • On the other hand, the first-move advantage for Black in Go is not disputed. Strangely enough, it took until the twentieth century for compensation for White to become standard. It's called komi and consists, depending on the ruleset, of 6.5 to 8 free points added to White's score.


  • Since Ace Combat 6 comes with multiplayer capability, the planes themselves have been separated into tiers. All of the planes are divided into three categories: "fighters", "bombers", and "multirole" planes. Within each category are other tiers based on each individual plane's performance attributes. Naturally, many modern planes such as the F-22 or SU-47 would be far superior to older planes like the F-16 or A-10.
    • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies had a Versus mode, albeit it (and Ace Combat 5) referred to the bombers as "attackers" and doesn't state tiers, it's soon clear where each plane fits in.
  • In Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., if you end up in a cannons-only, Assistance On-only match, pick the F-22 Raptor. Telling, isn't it?
    • Tiers do exist, but many planes toward the top are close enough that it's not that clear cut and while the F-22 is near the top it's hardly alone. This also ignores that "guns only" still rather illogically allows unguided rockets which can be a significant edge and a reason to chose another plane. Guns only actually gets rid of one of the F-22 edges which is that it's hard to lock due to stealth, but also has high maneuverability unlike most of the other stealth planes. Without missile the extra lock time is a non-factor and a number of other planes are just as or very nearly as maneuverable.
  • In nearly every online sports game, there is a small group of teams with an enormous advantage (much like Real Life).
    • In the NCAA Football series, for instance, there are over 115 teams, but only show-offs and super-fans pick outside the Top 10.
  • The campaign modes in Europa Universalis and its sequel, being based on and seeking to emulate late medieval to modern European history, do not pretend to create balanced factions in any way: various nations are more economically and militarily well-off from the very beginning, and scripted historical events affect gameplay in such a way that make it more difficult even for successful nations to continue dominating if history says that they cannot, effectively altering tiers based on the length of the game. Skilled players can take advantage of game mechanics to turn the tiers on their heads, but non-Christian, non-Western European nations have a much harder time at it.
    • In fact, until a almost world conquest by a native american faction in a AAR in EU3 (Here it is), it was considered impossible to become a world power with them, merely surviving being already a lot.
      • Note: in the third game, the scripted events disappear, monarchs are no longer pre-determined (which means that you are no longer certain if you start in the 1600's as France that Louis XIV is going to live as long as he did - and it brings up the possibility that he might be succeeded by a douché with a weak claim due to sudden heir deaths and after the succession, crisis after crisis) and non-European powers can "Westernize" and thus increase their tech rate - reducing the gap to the Europeans.
  • Eve Online goes through this with every major patch. Each of the four races has had a turn at being the Flavor of the Month depending on who boasts the current Scrappy Mechanic; maybe it's the Caldari with ECM jammers being overpowered, Minmatar dominating because of unbalanced speed tanking, Gallente hurting because their close range ships suffered from the super-speed nerf or players calling for a boost to the Amarr all around. Fortunately, the EVE devs generally listen to the community....even if they swing the Nerf Bat a little to hard at times.
  • GoldenEye for Nintendo 64 included at least 2 playable characters in multiplayer that were considerably shorter than other characters, specifically including Odd Job. When attacked by one of these shorter models, you very often wouldn't see him without looking down. It got so bad that tournaments (and friends) banned use of Odd Job and the Moonraker Female (the other short character) from use.
  • The Gundam vs. Series has its tiers built into the game; the Universal Century and Cosmic Era games use a five-star system (with half-stars), typically following technical progress (which means in the Gundam Seed Destiny-based game, most of the returning SEED machines are downgraded). In Gundam Vs. Gundam the system is simplified to three levels (3000 for hero machines, 2000 for middle-of-the-roaders, and 1000 for Mooks); Gundam Extreme Vs. adds a 2500 tier consisting mostly of Rival and Lancer machines.
  • WWE Raw Deal, a Professional Wrestling collectible card game, took almost no time to sort itself into character tiers from Stone Cold and Chyna nearly unbeatable in earlier sets, to Andre the Giant and Largest Athlete in Sports Entertainment, the Big Show alternate, in later sets. Interestingly, the devs insisted that the game was perfectly balanced and that players just weren't finding the other characters' "killer archetypes." Said archetypes, if they ever existed, still haven't been found yet ten years later.
  • Hearts of Iron 2, what tier a country belongs to depends almost entirely on its size and industrial capacity. The strongest countries are, in order: Germany, the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, and France. It's possible to conquer a continent or more with some of the smaller countries (especially Brazil and Argentina, which are far away from the main super-powers), but almost any country on the European continent will either be conquered by Germany or allied with Germany. Same with Japan and Asia.
  • Command and Conquer Red Alert 2 has this for the countries rather than characters. When playing multiplayer with the expansion, Yuri's side is Top Tier and can border on God Tier. For the Allies, Korea and the USA are Top Tier since their special units/abilities don't cost anything extra (USA gets free paradrops, Korea gets about a 50% upgrade to Harriers without a corresponding cost increase), Great Britian is slightly lower on the Top Tier, and Germany and France are Mid Tier - useful, but rarely worth skipping out on either free stuff or long-range instant protection against enemy special infantry units. For the Soviets, Iraq is Top Tier, Cuba is Mid Tier, and Russia and Libya are Low Tier. When facing an Allied player, Cuba drops to Low Tier and Russia & Libya drop to Bottom Tier because often only Iraq can stop hordes of Mirages Tanks (especially in vanilla RA2, without the expansion) if the Allies survive the early game.
  • Shining Force 1 and its subsequent games had this is spades. It made somewhat sense, since there's always going to be those who excel, and those who don't. The problem was that many characters always had decent stat gains, if you're lucky every five levels. The most notorious bad character that wasn't even a Joke Character(but might as well have been) is poor Hanz.
    • Even worse is the only person's response to this is; "Use better characters". Yep, that's right. Now imagine if everybody did that. The game would get pretty stale pretty fast, then. That's why they give you 29 different characters to choose from, so you can try something new.
    • Another notorious example is in Shining Soul 1, where the Dragonute is the only character with no redeeming qualities. Yes, he gets a breathe weapon counter, but... that's it. He's slow, has bad range, hits as much as nearly everyone else(as in rarely), and gets very few useful abilities save that particular one. In fact, the list in order would best be considering(from High to Low) Mage, Archer, Warrior, Dragonute.
  • Unreal Tournament 2004 has an In-Universe example: the teams the player fights in the single-player mode have a different tier. (Weak-Tough-Strong-Godlike) The Weak tier characters can only be fought in the Team Qualification round, and the challenges. Those in the Godlike tier are the candidates to be the team the player faces in the Finals. This is also reflected in the bots chosen for these teams, as the Weak team has "weak" bots (overall low accuracy, low aggressiveness, low agility and low team tactics) while the bots in the Godlike tier are the inverse.
  • In the original Mass Effect, Adepts were basically the top class - their powers kept enemies under permanent lockdown to the point where they could never fight back. Even the final boss was not immune. This made the hardest difficulty in the game (Insanity) pretty easy. Sentinels were considered the absolute worst class in the game, due to being a Spoony Bard class that was basically the Master of None, having the worst weapon skills and weaker biotic and tech skills than any class bar the Soldier (who had no biotic or tech skills) without anything to really make up for it. In an attempt to tone down Adepts in the sequel, the game was changed so that biotic powers no longer work on shielded enemies. Pretty much every single enemy in Insanity difficulty is shielded, dropping Adepts from the best class to the worst. Sentinels also got a huge boost when they were given the same weapon skills as Engineers or Adepts (still technically the worst, but this could be remedied in a later mission that let them upgrade their weapon selection to include assault rifles) and the Tech Armor power, which made them the most durable class. They also got abilities to deal with pretty much every protection (Overload was especially useful considering how common shields were).
    • NPCs in Mass Effect 2 are ranked based on their powers. Miranda's powers are always useful, and she gives a damage bonus to the entire squad, making her the best overall. Mordin is feast or famine - against organics (even armored) he is insanely powerful, but against Synthetics he's pretty much useless.
  • Dungeon Crawl's hundreds of character combos haven't been ranked into complicated tiers, but the many gods available have. They are usually divided like this:
    • High: Kikubaaqudgha, Okawaru, Sif Muna, The Shining One, Trog, and Vehumet
    • Middle: Beogh, Elyvilon, Lugonu, Makhleb, and Yredremnul
    • Low: Ashenzari, Cheibrados, Fedhas Madash, Jiyva, Nemelex Xobeh, Xom, and Zin.
      • Actually, the race/class combos are tiered right when the player starts a new game. Upon selecting a race, the class options are either lighted (recommended) or not (not recommended). After picking a qualifying combo, starting weapon type or starting god are ranked in similar way.
  • Non-gaming example: Meme Generator, which is a website for generating memes, ranks the available 'characters' by popularity/ubiquity as God Tier, Demigod Tier, Legendary Tier, Top Tier, Fascinating Tier, Meh Tier, Lame Tier and Fail Tier.
  • The Geneforge series uses a Point Build System, with skills divided into three categories (Combat, Magic, and Shaping) and the cost of buying skill ranks dependent on class affinity. Character classes each had one strong skill category, one average, and one weak. General fan consensus on class viability usually goes
    • God Tier: Sorceress (Strong Magic/Avg. Shaping/Weak Combat). Added in the final game, and it's pretty obvious why it was never in any of the previous ones. Average shaping skills are sufficient to make powerful creations, and strong magic is far handier than strong combat if you've got a meatshield or two handy.
    • Top Tier: Shaper/Lifecrafter (Strong Shaping/Avg. Magic/Weak Combat) and Agent/Infiltrator (Strong Magic/Avg. Combat/Weak Shaping). Both solid choices, they trade off the top dog slot between games as spells and creations are rebalanced.
    • Mid Tier: Servile (Strong Combat/Avg. Magic/Weak Shaping). Added in the fourth game. Mathematically more powerful than the Agent if minmaxed, but harder to play if you don't know the system inside-out.
    • Low Tier: Guardian/Warrior (Strong Combat/Avg. Shaping/Weak Magic). Competitive in the first two games, and at least usable in the third, but outclassed later on. Strategically simple, so doesn't adapt well if played on high difficulty levels.
    • Rubbish Tier: Shock Trooper (Strong Shaping/Avg. Combat/Weak Magic). Added in the fourth game, apparently just for the sake of completeness. Again, average combat is much less useful than average magic if you've got meatshields you could be buffing.
  • Rogue-like games such as Ancient Domains of Mystery have this in spades. While the game can hardly be considered easy under any circumstances, playing a Wizard or Archer in ADOM is much, much easier than playing a Farmer or Thief.
  1. listed on the quote on the top of the page
  2. Though it is not unheard of for a UU Pokemon, such as Quagsire, to find a niche in Ubers, as different metagames call for different capabilities.
  3. Tangrowth, which has amazing physical walling stats but a relatively poor defensive typing, for example
  4. such as Entei, a constant top threat in RU play, but almost completely outclassed by the UU Arcanine
  5. Formerly in the Borderline tier, the release of the 4th generation and Stealth Rock (deals damage to Pokemon switching in depending on its weakness or resistance to Rock) dropped it down to the Never Used tier, as Stealth Rock lowered its HP to the point that its most common strategy (sacrificing HP for Substitute and Belly Drum) left it to where any attack would instantly faint it.
  6. Tentacruel, for example, lost its UU status when people noticed what a great Infernape counter and Toxic Spiker it made, despite the fact that it was causing no problems in UU
  7. except for the Complete Warrior Samurai
  8. This is no longer true