Character Tiers

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. If the game happens to have a competitive scene, expect even more of this.

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, counter-picks notwithstanding.
  • 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 when comparing two characters directly against each other, a lower-tier character is favored over a higher-tier character due to having abilities or moves that are devastating against that character specifically. This is often called a counter-pick.

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.

All of the above notwithstanding, some players simply don't give a damn about this trope and will simply use whichever characters they want. It can also be a sort of Self-Imposed Challenge. After all, anybody can probably beat the game with enough practice if they're using a God-tier character . Beating it while using a Low- or Bottom-Tier character is a Bragging Rights Reward in and of itself.

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.


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     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.
  • Super Smash Bros.: The competitive Smash community maintains tier lists for each game decided upon by top level players on Smash Boards. Most tournaments are composed exclusively of high and top-tier characters, because other characters are generally seen as too weak or too finicky to be competitive. Special tournaments are sometimes run where players are restricted to playing mid-tier and below characters.
    • The original game on Nintendo 64 has a small cast of 12 fighters making for a much closer gap character balance wise. Isai, a well known smash 64 player, is known for being the only player in the 64 community to be consistently good with all 12 characters in tournament play.
      • Melee tournaments often feature both Star Fox reps, Sheik, Marth, Jigglypuff, Princess Peach, Captain Falcon, and the occasional use of the Ice Climbers, Pikachu, Yoshi, Dr. Mario, etc. Special note goes to Fox and Falco who are considered the best and second best characters in the Melee metagame respectively due to being good at just about everything. The former has a high learning curve ) but when properly played is a sight to behold. In fact, Fox is so good that a community meme known as 20xx was spawned as a result. Explanation 
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a single borderline god-tier character - Metaknight. Universally considered the best character in the game, he dominates most of the cast with extremely fast and safe attacks, excellent recovery and edgeguarding capabilities, and unrivaled ledge game. He has one or two matchups against other top tiers that might be considered 50-50, but many are skeptical. He was been dominant enough in the competitive scene for many fans, and some tournaments, to support banning him.
      • After Meta Knight are the Ice Climbers who some would argue are better than Meta Knight in some ways due to being too good with chaingrabs.
    • Brawl also has the odd case of King Dedede, who isn't generically overpowered, but is so strong against a small number of characters that those characters are essentially non-viable in tournaments.
    • Thanks to the occasional balance patch and a roster that's ten times more balanced than Brawl's was, the tier lists in For 3DS/Wii U has a case similar to Street Fighter 4's where the bad characters aren't that much worse compared to the top tiers. That said, pre 1.06 patch, Diddy Kong was seen by many as the new Meta Knight due to a frustratingly good down throw to up-air combo many came to call "Hoo-hah". It got so ridiculous that at one point, it was common to see Grand Finals of Smash 4 tournaments where both players used him. However, Diddy ended up getting nerfed throughout two different patches, causing other players to have to learn him more thoroughly; overall he's seen as having dropped from top tier to high tier.
      • With that said, Sheik, a character who was already universally considered back in the Melee days to be top tier has since become the best character in the meta game. Even patches haven't nerfed her all that much if at all.
      • The characters introduced through DLC have all been unique cases similar to Little Mac or Ike from Brawl in that at first, they tend to perform well if not dominate the meta game until players get enough match up familiarity to counter them. Of all the characters introduced through DLC, Mewtwo is considered by many to be a low tier mess despite being buffed a good bit from his Melee days. Lucas plays about the same as he did in Brawl as a low/mid tier character. Roy and Ryu are considered to be high tier material, Roy especially because of his significant improvements from Melee, while Ryu's status as a Jack-of-All-Stats in his home series plus his combo oriented style of play from said series translates well to a Smash Bros. game.
      • This isn't even beginning to mention how Cloud Strife affects the meta game. Wanna know how crazy he is? Players of all sorts simply discarded their mains for Cloud and still did well or started placing much higher at their weekly local tournaments. Granted he has some of the worst recovery and a very limited throw game, but that's just a small price to pay for his insane priority and being able to smash at 60% or even less.
      • And now we have two more DLC characters, Corrin and Bayonetta. Corrin is currently perceived as a solid mid to mid-high tier because of his/her unique shapeshifting moves and an ability to pin his/her opponents into the ground which can then be cancelled into another move.
      • Bayonetta on the other hand like Ryu is combo oriented though her ground attacks aren't anything special. Her true strength lies in aerial combat being able to hit her opponent multiple times at dizzying speeds with copious use of Witch Twist, After Burner Kick, and her regular aerial attacks. Bayonetta also has an excellent recovery (up special then mid air jump and then up special again). If that wasn't enough, her counter move Witch Time slows down time for the affected opponent with higher damage percentages resulting in them being stuck in Witch Time a few seconds longer. This gives Bayonetta enough time to summon the limbs of demons (her smash attacks)to possibly KO her opponent.
  • 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.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes has 56 characters, and therefore tiers are inevitable. The unique thing is that the current god tier 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 Tatsunoko vs. 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.
  • BlazBlue 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 BlazBlue: 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.
    • 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.
    • New system mechanics in Blazblue Chronophantasma changed up the listing a bit. The CSEX tops were still pretty up there, and a few mids went up a bit. Newcomers like Azrael became top due to their damage potential and all around good movepools. The other newcomers ranged from Mid to low tier, with the sole exception of Kokonoe. The first two iterations of the game had her as the undisputed God Tier due to having tools that fucked over the entire cast, including being the only character to have a truly unblockable setup.
    • The third iteration, "Chronophantasma Extend" saw a significant change in the list due to overall damage buffs but as well as the nerfing of many character options. Notably, Iron Tager, a character considered by many to be low tier for quite a few games, has become one of the best characters in the game. How good? Players actually conclude that he stands a significant chance of beating Nu, a character he notoriously did poor against throughout the entire series and also another top tier character in this iteration.
  • 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 considered God Tier in ST for a variety of reasons, such as his ability to lock down opponents in inescapable blockstun with repeated red fireballs (they can even let go of the joystick and are still stuck blocking until they die). Akuma was toned down a lot in SF HD Remix, but due to bugs such as his Raging Demon super being inescapable from blockstun 75% of the time, he was banned from tournaments.
  • 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.
  • SoulCalibur 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.
    • SoulCalibur 5 currently has no "concrete" tier list, but matchup charts so far have placed Cervantes and Alpha Patroklos very high on the lists. Raphael and Z.W.E.I. are considered the weakest characters, while Dampierre gets his own placement below them for being a Joke Character. That being said, the game is very well-balanced and considered an improvement from 4 in that department.
  • Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is largely considered to be well-balanced. Most players agree that Akira is at the top, but he's not overpowered due to the high learning curve required to be decent with him, as well as his lack of full circular attacks. You can watch many matches and see that there isn't any one character who dominates the screen time.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future: One thing certain is that Kakyoin is very much high tier due to his Mystic Trap setups. Oh, and Petshop? He's so broken he's tourney banned.
  • The Gundam Vs Series, like Capcom vs. SNK, codified its tiers as part of the gameplay: each team has a 6000-point "resource meter" which depletes every time a player is shot down, and the playable units are divided into different cost tiers, ranging from 3000 (representing mecha like protagonists' Mid-Season Upgrade Gundams and Final Boss-level enemies) to 1000/1500 (representing Mecha-Mooks and really low-tech machines). However, these tiers aren't a hard and fast measure of the characters' in-game performance; the 1000-cost Zaku II Kai can be utterly devastating in the right hands thanks to its trap grenades and has actually been banned from tournament play in some editions (the only 1000-cost machine with that honor). On the other side of the equation, the 3000-cost Gundam Epyon is generally low-ranked because while it does have an extensive melee moveset that lets it carve opponents up like Christmas turkeys, it has a hard time closing to melee range because it has absolutely no ranged weapons whatsoever, making it Difficult but Awesome.
  • Saltybet has five tiers based on how powerful a character is. If a character wins 15 times in a row, it can ascend to the next tier, but if it loses 15 times in a row, it will be demoted to the lower tier. It's not uncommon to see characters who are too good for one tier, only to be completely annihilated by the next tier up. Some characters may even be untiered because of factors such as AI breaking super armor, regularly cause problems such as slowdown, have an unusual gimmick that most normal characters can't deal with, or are just so confusing, not even the creators know how they work.
    • X Tier: The god tier. Reserved for the most broken and overpowered characters, such as Rare Akuma. These can typically overwhelm normal fighters in a few seconds, liberally spam OneHitKills, and have TAS level AI. Some characters even have alternate palettes that make them powerful enough to fit in. Unlike most tiers, characters have to be manually put into this tier, and the fights are best two out of three with no tourneys in rotation. Sometimes nicknamed eXhibition Tier because these characters tend to be requested in exhibitions often (ironically enough, several of them have been banned from being requested due to causing problems such as crashes and freezing the game so long, the match skips automatically).
    • S Tier: The high to top tier and the highest a character can ascend without being X tier. It consists of standard SNKBosses, characters with professional level AI, characters that have absurd damage output from regular attacks, and powerful and diverse movesets.
    • A Tier: The upper tier. Consists of characters who have solid AI and decent movesets or strong characters who have at least one weakness keeping them from being true S tiers (such as lack of agility or health).
    • B Tier: The low to average tier. Consists of regular characters with okay AI and movesets but have a tendency to throw fights. May even consist of P Tiers who were freed.
    • P Tier: The bottom (Potato) tier. Consists of characters who have no AI, very poorly made characters, JokeCharacters, and those that just can't keep up with the more modern B Tier fighters. With good reason, it has been Demoted to Extra due to how boring the fights can get. Even though P Tier tourneys have been discontinued and matches no longer show up in matchmaking, Gold members can free just about any of them for an in-game price and request them in exhibitions (either to see if there are any promising characters unfairly put in or just to troll the viewers).

     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 three games had an explicit series of tiers. They were Class C for compact sedans, Class B high-power sedans, Class A sports cars, and Class S supercars (in GT 2) or racing cars (in GT 3).
  • 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.
    • In Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2, the PC version has classes, in PS2 you can tell the tier by the police car that chases you, though the corvette tier, featuring cars from the Corvette Z06 all the way to the Ferrari F50 was wider than the actual tier wherein players of a similar ability would have a decent chance to win (excluding unlucky mishaps).
    • Need for Speed: Rivals has a subtle tier system based on the heat level they start off when leaving a hideout as racer or the max level of pursuit tech they can mount. An early game 2015 Mustang starts at heat 1 and only mounts level 1 pursuit tech while an end game Ferrari Enzo starts at heat level 4 and can mount any pursuit tech at level 4. This is more apparent in friends only or offline play.
  • The Forza 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. The Performance Index is calculated from an algorithm that rates the average flying lap time of the vehicle on an imaginary track; so it's possible for cars with a low PI (but tuned to a specific track type) to beat cars with a much higher PI.
  • 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 over 700 Pokémon of varying balance (as well as mons with alternate forms and Mega Evolutions), has taken to heart the game's preaching of using your favorite Pokémon. The most well-known tier system, Smogon's, organizes all Pokémon into 6 official tiers and a boatload of Other Metagames with modified rules, with tournaments and friendly battles taking place in any one of the tiers. It is also continuously changing, with Pokémon changing tiers based on usage, and even implementation or removal of clauses and other factors (for instance, the introduction of Eviolitenote  altered plenty of Pokémon placement in tiers).
    • First off is Ubers. This was formerly not a tier but a banlist (Or, according to Smogon, "A banlist first and a tier second"), as Pokémon in it are only in there so that the OU metagame doesn't suffer. Pokémon in this tier are considered too broken for standard competitive play. Pokémon 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. However, when Mega Rayquaza showed up, it was deemed overpowered even for Ubers, leading to the creation of AG (see below), and the turning of Ubers into a real tier.
    • The first actual tier is the OverUsed (OU) tier. This tier is composed of the Pokémon that have been used the most (About a 3.4% usage) based on data gathered by Smogon's battling simulator Pokémon Showdown!, and is updated every month. These are basically the best Pokémon in terms of their stats, abilities, typing, and/or movepool (not counting Pokémon in Ubers, of course). In OU battles, only Pokémon from OU and below are allowed.
    • The second tier is the UnderUsed (UU) tier. This tier is composed of Pokémon that are occasionally used. The Pokémon in this tier usually have a problem or two that prevents them from being used easily, or have Pokémon in the upper tiers that fulfill the same purpose, but do it better note .
    • The third tier is the RarelyUsed (RU) tier. Added in Generation V to account for the ever-increasing number of Pokémon, this tier often features Pokémon that can be used competitively but have notable flaws, Pokémon that are simply outclassed by both OU and UU Pokémon, or simply Pokémon that are terrible in OU and UU.
    • Fourth is the NeverUsed (NU) tier. This tier is, as its name says, composed of Pokémon that are almost never used in higher tiers because of their stats and/or typing is considered to be terrible in higher tier. Or that the Pokémon has a useless ability. As such, it's not hard to find many Pokémon in this tier serve purposes that Pokémon in higher tiers can do better.
    • The fifth tier is the PU tier, which doesn't stand for anything, introduced in Generation VI. It was once an unofficial tier for Never-Used (NU) Pokémon that happens to have low usage even by NU standard (such as Arbok and Parasect), but has been turned into an official tier by popular demand.
    • In addition to this, there is a tierless metagame aptly titled Anything Goes (AG). It's essentially Ubers, except with all its clause removed, sans endless battle Clause, and well as certain Pokémon that are too Uber for Ubers are permitted here (currently only Mega Rayquaza).
    • The tier system is designed to allow any Pokémon to be used competitively by sifting Pokémon into a collection of similarly powered groups. Removing this would force everyone into playing AG.
    • These tiers are constantly changing as data is collected from Pokémon Showdown! and as new games are released. A good example is Charizard. note  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 (With the exception of Pokémon with hindering abilities, Kyurem and its Black Form), and the tiers are sorted out from there as the new metagame evolves.
    • It is also worth noting that other than banlists (Ubers and Borderline), the placement of a Pokémon is determined exclusively by their frequency of usage, and thus a high tier Pokémon is simply one that is frequently used in that specific tier, even if they would not unbalance a lower tier. Conversely, a Pokémon may be banned to a tier where it is useless, because placement in a lower tier would destabilize that metagame note 
    • In addition to the standard tier set (which organizes Pokémon on the assumption that anything you can do without hacking is legal) there's Little Cup, where Pokémon 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. There's also the many, many, many Other Metagames with modified rules, such as Almost Any Ability, which allows any Pokémon to use almost any Ability, which have a completely different set of Pokémon from OU, due to certain tweaks making some previously unviable Pokémon viable note 
    • Everything above applies only to Single Battles. Double Battles has 4 tiers instead of 3 (Ubers, OU, UU, NU) and there's no BL. Due to how different Double Battles is compare to Single Battles, most Pokémon were on different tier. For example, Skarmory and Darkrai are in NU instead while Mega Camerupt and Politoed are in OU. Triple Battles doesn't have tiers at all and Rotation Battles aren't even playable on Pokémon Showdown!

     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.
    • As a general rules, the Top Tiers of a Fire Emblem Tier List are mostly dominated by unit with Mounted Traits. This is largely thanks to the how poorly balanced Mounted units are compared to foot units, who have better movement, solid stats for combat, immediate access to 2 weapons, and the Rescue - Drop system which allow them to excels for both combat and utility. Fliers are usually put on the same category thanks to their ability to ignore terrains which allows fast clears of a lot of maps when used correctly That being said, unless they have a utility that match the mounted units(ex. Healers and Dancer) or have a really good combat, they will not be as high as unit with mounts.
    • Character who sit in their God Tiers are generally those who influence the game in a much bigger extent than the rest of the cast, such as Caeda and Rena, Sigurd, Hector, Ephraim, POR!Boyd and ROlf, and RD!Haar, and then there's Robin — the Player Character from ''Awakening''.
  • 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.
    • Glenn is considered one of the best in the game, and the principal reason to not help Kid when she is poisoned. The alternative choice gives Razzly, who is a fantastic mage, but the player almost always have Leena, who is just as good, only tougher. Later in the game, Karsh is almost always picked over Zoah for the same reason, and Irenes tends to be the go-to pick if Harle's black elemental nature would do more harm than good.
  • 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 Purposely 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. Interestingly, the tiers match up with when the characters join the party, with earlier ones generally being more powerful. See that game's YMMV page for a more in-depth analysis than what is presented here.
    • Toan, and Xiao are hugely powerful, to the point of almost being broken, and are the first two characters.
    • Goro and Ruby are hard to use, but very effective when used properly, putting them neatly in middle tier. They join third and fourth, respectively. Ruby is ahead of Goro in this tier due to being more intuitive, and thus, easy to unlock the full potential of, for most players.
    • Ungaga and Osmond are plagued by different kinds of problems, and there's never really a time when another character won't outdo them. They join last.
    • Note that this is a somewhat loose tier list, as the game has a very extensive and involved upgrade system; any character can become a powerhouse with the right items, equipment, and other power-ups.
  • 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 PS2 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 a massively powerful weapon on all range with its weapon able to reach 4-6 range, all of its attacks don't need will to be used, massive armor, high HP, and its dodge is higher than some reals. It gets Mazinpower to further enhance its already powerful attacks. In fact, its attack is so powerful that a fully upgraded Mazinger Z without power up is of the same power as fresh Mazinkaiser. Also, it has good terrain modifiers. It goes without saying that it's a God tier unit. Not to mention Koji is a Top Tier pilot only being slightly worse than 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: 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.
    • In general with Disgaea, since only the PSP port of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness had Pv P, this is mainly based on stats and performance against other stats and performances. Equipment, residents, and abilities play heavily into each character, and the Story characters can also be ordered along the same way. While each game has a definitive "best" class, it all depends on how one combines a character with its equipment and according to its abilities and overall stats. As an example, assuming one faces off against a Ninja with an Iron Knight, one has to take into consideration their abilities, the evasion potential of the Ninja versus the exceptional defensive wall of the Iron Knight, movement, attack possibilities, and what residents are in each item. If an Iron Knight has a 100 Specialist Alchemist in their weapon, it could take only one hit to win since the poison would pretty much assure repeated damage, but may never get the chance considering the dodging ability of the Ninja especially if the ninja has equipped a weight to activate its ability by keeping its health low, and also has a 25 Lover specialist, making it like catching air with your bare hands. In contrast, a Baciel never misses thanks to its ability, making a Ninja worthless, but it hardly matters if you can't miss if you're up against an Iron Knight with such incredible defense that you're doing basically no damage. Disgaea, in the end, mainly comes down to math and performance on whether something will perform in a given situation or not, but since the game has 9999 levels, the majority of all the battles fought in the game will mainly come down to being higher level unless one is up against the very last bonus bosses in each game, or wants to see the true potential of the character in question.
  • In the first Mass Effect game, 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 enemies with any type of shielding (Armor, shields, or barriers). Every enemy in Insanity difficulty is shielded after the first mission, 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).
    • The first game was also very glaring in two regards: One was that the Krogan Battlemaster (aka Wrex) was very powerful due to him being sort of a Vanguard (soldier/adept hybrid), while still retaining most of the perks of the soldier class (heavy armor, regeneration, wide array of weapons to choose from...) as opposed to the standard vanguard. The other was the predominance of synthetic opponents, which made classes that were good at controlling/hurting these comparatively strong. Mass Effect 2 did away with this due to geth not being nearly as prominent in this game as in the first one.
    • 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 (particularly the Blood Pack, since he works well against armored foes), he is utterly amazing. Against synthetic foes, he is terrible. At the low end of the tier list is Jack (who has no skills for dealing with armored foes and is very fragile), Jacob (who is simply inferior to Grunt in all respects) and Morinth, for having all the problems of Jack without the Warp Ammo bonus power that makes her playable.
  • Companions of the same class in Dragon Age: Inquisition have access to the same class abilities, so they are pretty much interchangeable in the party... until you unlock the Specializations, that is. Since each companion has a predetermined spec in this game, and not all specs are equally powerful and/or useful, it induces a certain inequality. Among party mages, for instance, the Knight-Enchanter Vivienne is easily the best pick, as her specialization counteracts most of the weaknesses inherent to her class (low defenses, lack of effective melee capabilities), while also boosting the party's overall survivability; Solas, whose Rift Mage spec gives him an impressive damage output boost, comes second, while Dorian's Necromancer abilities are sadly very situational and rarely see much use.
  • Suikoden is in the same boat as Chrono Cross in that the huge roster of characters (technically 108, but only about half of that can be used in battle) has greatly encouraged the use of tiers. Typically, physical fighters come up above magic users and weak fighters with several rune slots (and thus, plenty of customization potential) are far more valued that strong fighters with few or no rune slots.
  • Not all of your recruits in Valkyria Chronicles are created equal. While every class's basic stats are about the same, their "potentials" are assigned purely based on their personality, resulting in some characters with nothing but useful perks, and some with absolutely crippling drawbacks. Since there are plenty of people to choose from, each with their own very unique personalities, and even the worst of them are usable with a bit of clever tactics (plus the entire game is singleplayer only) it ends up adding charm and individuality without taking away from gameplay.
  • Due to the way Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors works in ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal, Psi, Ice, Light, and Dark faeries are inherently the most powerful combatants, so at least three of them are more-or-less Required Party Members by the endgame (most likely Light, as you'll mostly be fighting Dark and Chaos fairies); whereas Nature, Stone, and Chaos tend to become Tier-Induced Scrappies because they are mostly one-trick ponies with lots of easily exploitable weaknesses.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Dungeons & Dragons community has an ultimate prototype for a (ridiculous) God Tier character: Pun Pun the Kobold. Pun Pun was initially created in 3.5e and has since been worked out in other editions as well as versions in other RP Gs mechanics. It's essentially the most minmaxed character possible in a given set of mechanics.
    • In 3rd edition, versatility (how many problems a character can contribute to solving) is often at least as important as power (how powerful the character's abilities are for problems) in tiering. In one popular system, 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. These characters can break the game universe in half, in many ways, all at once. 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; these characters can still break the game, but only in a few ways at once). 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 classes that literally do not work as written, Joke Characters, and the samurai. And then there's Truenamer, which is so far down in tier 6 it's just above the Commoner (a class with no good stats and no abilities at all) in uselessness, and Planar Shepard, a Prestige Class that's commonly referred to as being "Tier 0" because of its rules being so easily exploitable.
    • 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 the right hands, many classes can be equal to higher tiers in power, even though they still remain in their tier because of their lack of versatility. 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.
    • Prestige Classes generally are set on separate tier system, ranking them on how they move base class through standard tiers. Marvelous tier advances base class by two tiers, Great to Good Tier by one, Medicore don't advance it at all and Bad to Awful Tier and Catastrophic Tier can actually move the class down one or two tiers. What you enter Prestige Class from is also important - for example, Warshaper is Marvelous Tier when taken by classes who cannot use magic, but only Medicore Tier, when taken by a caster. Some are also very situational - Dragonstalker and Dragonslayer are Bad to Awful Tier, but if your game is focused heavily on fighting dragons, they're respectively Good to Great and Medicore.
    • 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.
      • On the other hand, it's been said that the power spread of the entire 4E tier system could fit within one tier of 3.5, partially because of more aggressive errata and the inability to do things which simply break the gameplay in half. Additionally, while some classes have many more powers to choose from, in reality all that actually matters is the -strongest- powers at any given level - unlike in 3.x, where spellcasters had access to every single new spell in every single book (at least potentially), characters in 4th edition are limited in their number of powers, so no matter if you have four powers or thirty to choose from, you still have the same breadth of ability. The primary advantage lies in that with a higher number of powers, it is more likely one will be overpowered, and less likely that all will be bad or unsuitable for your build.
    • 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.
  • 3.5e successor Pathfinder strives to make all characters much more balanced, with limited success. 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 along with some nerfs to the most well-known exploits. 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 boosted into a permanent buff against the designated target, its Lay on Hands ability was boosted to be far more useful as a source of healing and status removal, and its other abilities were generally enhanced, pushing it up into Tier 4. The overall balance of the game is unchanged, however, and competent casters can still break the universe in half while fighter-type characters still tend to lack any versatility outside combat.
  • While it is generally agreed that tabletop wargames Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have army tiers, getting anyone to agree which armies are in which tier is nearly impossible. It also revolves around the competitive metagame as much as individual matchups and will often depend on how easy or hard it is to make the army competitive. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the more popular armies get updated much more often than the less popular ones.
    • Daemons of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy is an exception to the rule, everybody agrees that they're God Tier.
    • It's a joke among the 40k fandom that you're not allowed to bitch that GWS hates, ignores or deliberately nerfed your army unless you play Dark Eldar. Their original codex was released in 1998 for the launch of 3rd edition 40k, and they did not receive a new codex until 2010, for the Fifth Edition of 40k.
      • Necrons had similar issues. The changes from Fourth to Fifth Edition almost completely gutted their competitive metagame, and since their army had such little variety it was nigh impossible for players to find new tactics. This was eventually fixed with the release of a new, much larger codex in late 2011note 
    • The Orks also had a long time between their 3rd edition codex and their next one. They were one of the first to come out for 3rd edition in 1999 but didn't get another until early 2008 just before Fourth Edition was replaced by Fifth Edition. Their next scheduled Codex update is early 2014.
      • That said, they never quite tipped into Bottom Tier or God Tier at any point since 2000.
    • In Apocalypse (extremely high-point games), however, two God Tier factions have emerged. The Imperial Guard simply have more and more powerful vehicles than anyone else, especially fliers (and Apocalypse is won on vehicle power), while Chaos Daemons...can cherry-pick units from any faction so long as the model has spikes on it.
  • 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 (though all of the very strongest cards ever printed are long since out of print), 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.
    • It's important to note that there is an official definition for "strictly better" - a card is strictly better than another card if it does more for an identical cost (or the same/more for a smaller cost). Lightning Bolt, for example, is strictly better than Shock - both cost one red mana, but Lightning Bolt does an extra point of damage. Of course, with the way Magic tournaments are run, those strictly better cards might not always be legal.
  • In traditional chess, the white player is considered to have a slight advantage simply because he moves first, which agrees well with statistics[1]. 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.
  • 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.
  • Blood Bowl has a fairly well-agreed upon tier system divided into three tiers: Tier one consists of all teams that are perfectly capable of running a main scoring strategy (running, throwing or bashing) out of the box. Tier two consists of teams that either need some SPP development to do so, or have an obvious drawback when playing their favoured strategy. Tier three are obvious joke teams who basically depend on luck to win. Notably, something like 80% of the game's teams are in tier 1. How strong a team is also depends a lot on the type of tournament/league you're playing, other teams participating, and rules (such as time limit per move) that are implemented. And, of course, ultimately Nuffle is the final arbitrator.

  • Ace Combat:
    • Since Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation 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: The Unsung War) 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., 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 FIFA series, being a reflection of the current state of world football, is naturally this. The tiers in-game are actually startlingly accurate when compared to real life.
  • 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.
  • Similarly, Koei designed Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga's Ambition to be historically accurate. As a result, both games are unbalanced, and both have at least one scenario where Cao Cao and Oda Nobunaga (respectively) are at least twice as powerful as the second strongest force.
  • 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 Mobile Suit 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 & 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.
  • 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.
      • Though all the gods except Cheibriados and Xom are all regarded as very powerful, it's just some are harder to use than others
  • 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.
  • League of Legends has spawned lots of tier lists, the most popular can be found here. They're constantly being changed, cause every patch brings nerfs and buffs to certain characters. As such posting a tier list here would be kinda useless. Once in a while, low tier characters get "discovered" and end up in top tiers. Many agree that characters in lower tiers can still be effective, maybe being less allrounder than the top tiers.
  • You might think that simple Simulation Game Animal Crossing wouldn't have character tiers. You would be wrong. As a rule, the tiers are based solely on villager popularity (which, in turn, is based mostly on villager cuteness) and are mostly used in villager trading, so anyone who doesn't trade can just ignore them. Even if you do trade, you can probably ignore the tiers—but you might be less likely to have a deal go through if you try to trade a low-tier villager for a higher-tier one.
  • The AC/DC pinball machine has tiers regarding its songs. At the beginning of the game, and after hitting some milestones, you're asked to pick a song, which changes the rules of the table. Naturally, different sets of rules would contain different high-scoring options and different ways to exploit the rules, and this means that some songs are considered to yield higher scores than others. Although there are disagreements on which song is the best to use due to differences in play style, some songs are far, far less popular than others. (You will hardly see "TNT" or "You Shook Me All Night Long" in competitions, for instance.) All of the top players know exactly how each song stacks up against the others and why, and this knowledge is essential to doing well in tournaments.
  • For StreetPass Mii Plaza:
    • In Mii Force, Brown, White, and Light Blue shirts are better than other shirts. Brown and White can destroy purple plasma shots while Brown also gives a perpetual shield against physical attacks. The only drawbacks of Brown is that when it blocks a physical attack it launches you in the opposite direction, potentially into another trap and Brown shirts can be really hard to find. Light Blue shirts just have good range, rapid fire, damage, and destroy fire based attacks. While other shirts like Blue, Red, and Orange are good in general and other shirt colors are good in certain levels (2-3 for Black, 3-1, 4-1 and 4-3 for Light Green), Light Blue, White, and Brown are the best shirts to have on your ship during most levels of Mii Force. They make arcade mode a bit easier. The only useless power is Dark Green, whose attacks are both weak and unreliable.
    • In Find Mii, Yellow, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red, Black, and White shirts are often required for passing certain levels. In addition, Red and Dark Blue magic is handy for armored enemies where, if not strong enough, can still deal damage that way, and Light Blue and Light Green magic can be handy against the Green Slime. Once again Dark Green is the most useless type of magic in the game.
  • In This War of Mine, Marko and Bruno are at the top (since their abilities are so handy and universal), Marin, Pavle, Katia, and Roman are high tier (Marin's good for shelter development while the others are good for trading or hostile engagement), Zlata, Boris, and Arica are mid-tier (Zlata being a Jack-of-All-Trades, Boris being strong but slow and having a huge backpack, and Arica for her stealth abilities), Anton and Emilia are low tier (Anton merely being better with animal traps and creating the not too useful herbal medicine and Emilia is simply emotionless), and down at the very bottom is Cveta (with the fantastic ability of being friendly to children).

Alternative Title(s): Tier Lists