Overwatch is one of the best first-person shooters around, but coming in as a beginner can feel overwhelming. You have to get a handle of the maps, play styles, and conventions to succeed. More than anything else, at the heart of the game are Overwatch’s heroes.
Each of the 30+ Overwatch heroes are unique. Their attacks, abilities, ultimates, roles, and best strategies are highly specific. When you’re getting started, having a basic understanding of each hero goes a long way toward picking one that suits you.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to each Overwatch hero in turn, and help you pick the best Overwatch hero for your play style.
Overwatch Hero Basics
As a complete Overwatch beginner, feel free to pick a hero that sounds good or looks cool to you. For your first few matches, you won’t know which characters best fit your play style. Use this time to figure out the different Overwatch roles and decide which you like best.
After picking a character that sounds like fun, start learning how they work. But don’t over-commit to one hero. After a bit, switch it up.
Play different roles and heroes within each role. Not only will this help you find the heroes that you like to play, but it will also help you learn the strengths and weaknesses of each character when you’re playing against them.
You can check out heroes in the Practice Range, or play a match against bots for a basic test drive. Alternatively, try the Mystery Heroes mode in the Arcade, which randomly switches heroes every time you die. We don’t recommend this for absolute newcomers, but it’s a great way to become more familiar with the game after you’ve played a bit.
Each hero has an information screen listing their abilities, plus a difficulty rating of one to three stars. This gives you an idea of how much effort it takes to understand the hero’s kit, but doesn’t always account for the character’s skill floor and ceiling. We expand on difficulty ratings below.
As of August 2019, Overwatch uses a role queue system to ensure all teams have two tanks, two damage heroes, and two support characters. You’ll need to select your role before searching for a match, and will be locked into that role for the entirety of the game.
This system makes it easier to build a strong team composition, but you should still pay attention to what other people on your team are playing. Try to get acquainted with all the roles equally so you become a flexible player. This should take you far in Overwatch.
As you’d expect, damage heroes (also known as “DPS,” or damage per second) are responsible for securing kills. They’re generally a bit fragile (low-health heroes are often called “squishy”), but do the bulk of the team’s damage.
Ashe is an outlaw who has the unique ability to aim down the sights on her rifle. Doing so grants extra damage, but reduces the rate of fire.
As Ashe, you also have access to a Coach Gun that knocks enemies (and you) away. Her Dynamite lets you burn enemies over time and scare them away, as you can shoot the explosive to blow it up early. Ashe’s Omnic sidekick B.O.B. joins the fray when she uses her ultimate.
Difficulty: Medium. Ashe has a variety of situational abilities that take some getting used to, but her method of doing damage is pretty straightforward.
Play if: You like aiming down the sights and want additional ways to damage the enemy.
A popular beginner Overwatch hero, Bastion uses a simple machine gun as his main weapon in Recon mode. By shifting into Sentry mode, however, he becomes an immobile turret with a massive rotary machine gun that dishes out heaps of damage.
Bastion’s self-healing ability is especially useful in this mode, because he makes himself a prime target. While his damage output is huge against unsuspecting targets, a coordinated team can easy shut down Bastion.
Difficulty: Easy. Bastion isn’t complicated—it’s all about finding a good spot and tearing into the enemy.
Play if: You want to be an immobile force of destruction (though we recommend being strategic with your placement).
This hero is all about close-quarters combat. His shotgun-like Hand Cannon and melee attacks do a lot of damage, but he struggles at a distance. His ultimate, Meteor Strike, can clear a lot of space and easily pick off squishy targets.
Doomfist also generates shields when he does damage with his abilities. This high-risk/high-reward setup makes it imperative that you get into the fray quickly.
Difficulty: Hard. Doomfist is all about managing your abilities to secure kills and keep escape routes open.
Play if: You love close-quarters combat and want to punch your opponents around.
Genji is a fearsome adversary in the right hands. His shuriken throwing is great for damaging from a distance, and his ultimate lets him devastate multiple targets quickly with a sword.
You’ll need to master his deflect, which sends all projectiles back to their sender. Genji’s powerful dash ability resets when he gets a kill, which can help you get away from danger.
In all, Genji is more of an assassin that secures kills and harasses the enemy that a consistent damage dealer like some of the other characters in this category.
Difficulty: Hard. Mastering Genji requires expert movement, situational awareness, and target prioritization.
Play if: You want to eliminate high-value targets and like moving around a lot.
Hanzo uses a bow and arrow instead of a gun. He’s a mid-range sniper who can pick off targets and output lots of damage thanks to the Storm Arrow ability.
His Sonic Arrow serves as a radar pulse, marking your enemies. Hanzo’s ultimate sends two massive spirit dragons hurtling through walls and enemies, making it an excellent area denial tool.
Difficulty: Hard. Hanzo can output tons of damage, but accuracy is paramount when using him. If you can’t hit your targets, you’re better off with someone else.
Play if: You want to pick off targets from afar, but not with a sniper rifle.
Junkrat is chaos personified. His primary weapon shoots bouncing grenades everywhere, and he can throw and detonate mines to send enemies (and himself) flying. A trap lets him stop flanking enemies, too.
RIP-Tire, his ultimate, is a fast-moving bomb wheel that can get behind enemy lines and blow up several foes at once. Junkrat even releases a slew of grenades when he dies. And the best part is that none of his explosives can damage him.
Difficulty: Medium. You don’t have to aim much with Junkrat, but his abilities take some time to master. He also struggles at close range and against targets above him.
Play if: You like blowing everything up.
This old-West-style gunslinger has a powerful revolver that’s best used at close or mid-range. It’s a hitscan weapon, making it great for taking down fast-moving targets like Pharah.
His secondary fire, Fan the Hammer, unleashes all remaining bullets at high speed with a significant accuracy penalty. This is great when combined with his Flashbang grenade. McCree’s Deadeye ultimate is great for taking down lots of enemies at once, as long as you time it well.
Difficulty: Medium. McCree is an excellent duelist and counters flankers, but his mobility is poor. And with just six bullets per reload, missing shots is costly.
Play if: You consider yourself a marksman, but don’t want to play a sniper.
Mei has a strong ability to stop the enemy’s progress. Her Endothermic Blaster shoots a stream of supercooled fluid, slowing and eventually freezing enemies in place. This makes them especially vulnerable to her secondary fire, a nasty icicle.
She can also encase herself in ice to regain health. While the Ice Wall ability can break up or trap the opposing team, it’s easy to mess up your teammates with it too.
Difficulty: Hard. Mei controls the battlefield when played well, but using her wall at the right time is crucial. Both of her firing modes take practice, too.
Play if: You like to defend strategically, or want to freeze annoying opponents.
This rocket soldier’s greatest strength lies in her ability to hover high above the battlefield, raining a constant barrage of rockets on the enemy. Pharah is one of the hardest-hitting heroes in the game, but even with the splash damage from her rockets, landing a hit isn’t guaranteed.
She’s particularly devastating when paired with a damage-boosting Mercy. But keep in mind that floating over everyone’s heads makes you a big target for hitscan heroes like Ash, McCree, and Solider: 76.
Difficulty: Easy. Pharah dominates when her enemies can’t aim well, and has no complicated abilities to master.
Play if: You want to do a lot of damage from the skies.
Reaper’s coolness factor draws in many beginners. His twin Hellfire shotguns do a ton of damage, but you have to get in close. Stealthy movement, aided by a teleport ability, is required to use him effectively as a flanker.
If you can spring from the shadows and unleash a volley of shots, not much will survive; Reaper is great for shredding tanks. You’ll also profit from the destruction, as Reaper absorbs some of the damage he gives as health.
Difficulty: Easy. Reaper’s movement abilities let him slink around the map, and your objective is to kill everything in sight.
Play if: You like to sneak around and surprise your opponents with a hail of shotgun pellets.
With a hitscan pulse rifle, rocket grenades, the ability to sprint, and a little burst of healing, Soldier: 76 is a lot like a character from Call of Duty or other first-person shooters. He’s a run-and-gun shooter that excels at mid-range.
If you’ve played a shooter before, he’s an easy DPS hero to start with, but don’t underestimate him. Soldier: 76 is a solid pick all-around, even after you’ve graduated from the beginner level.
Difficulty: Easy. Soldier’s basic ability kit makes him easy to learn and utilize, as he doesn’t have any major weaknesses.
Play if: You’ve played other shooters and want an easy introduction to Overwatch.
Sombra stands out as an elite hacker. She can hack opponents to block their abilities for a few seconds, or hack health packs to make them regenerate faster and only work for your team. It’s a great skill, but takes some practice to get used to.
If you can use her stealth and hacking to surprise the enemy, her machine pistol can burn through foes quickly. Map knowledge is key when using Sombra to get the drop on enemies, especially since she can see low-health characters through walls.
Difficulty: Hard. Sombra requires detailed map knowledge, good target prioritization, and team communication to be truly effective.
Play if: You like being sneaky and want to irritate the other team.
Symmetra’s Photon Projector does more damage the longer it hits an enemy, and even generates ammo when hitting a shield. As it builds up, this beam can slice through enemies in no time. Its alternate fire shoots energy balls.
Her kit has two other key parts. She can throw several small turrets that damage and slow enemies. Her teleporter lets her team warp to a remote location, perfect for transporting low-mobility heroes where they couldn’t normally go.
The Photon Barrier ultimate deploys a huge shield that covers the entire map. This can block an enemy’s push or give you a barrier to cover an advance.
Difficulty: Medium. Symmetra’s abilities have a lot of utility, but they require practice to use effectively.
Play if: You want to have a subtle, but strong, effect on the match.
This Swedish engineer has a rivet gun that can fire close-range or medium-range shots. Once you’ve learned its projectile arc, long-range headshots become a lot of fun.
Torbjörn’s signature ability allows him to create fast-firing turrets that give you a lot of extra firepower in a fight. His ultimate coats an area in molten lava, denying enemy movement.
Difficulty: Medium. Torb is great at locking down an area, but using his turret effectively takes a keen eye.
Play if: You like the idea of a turret helping you do your job.
Tracer seeks to get in close and dish out lots of damage with her dual automatic weapons. She’s all about taking advantage of movement, as she can use Blink to teleport short distances and Recall to rewind time a few seconds and regain health. Her ultimate is a simple sticky bomb, and her pulse pistols are straightforward.
She’s Overwatch’s poster child, but her low health means you need to master her movement to stay alive.
Difficulty: Medium. Tracer is hard to hit if you use her abilities well, but her fragility means you can’t afford to make mistakes.
Play if: You like to move fast and dish out damage before quickly disappearing again.
As Overwatch’s true sniper, Widowmaker is all about long-distance headshots. Her rifle turns into an automatic weapon for close-range combat, but she’s best when she’s sniping.
If you have a great aim and can consistently get headshots on fast-moving targets, Widowmaker is a huge asset to a team. But since she’s usually not on the objective, she offers little utility aside from getting kills.
Difficulty: Medium. If you don’t hit key shots with Widow, you’re not doing your team any favors.
Play if: You’re a sniper, through and through.
Overwatch’s tank heroes hold the front line, create space for their teammates to work, soak up damage, and help their teammates dish out damage.
Though not officially mentioned in the game, players differentiate between “main tanks” and “off-tanks.” Main tanks generally hold the front line with a shield, while off-tanks have other priorities, including “peeling” to protect the back line.
D.Va’s MEKA fires twin fusion cannons and unleashes a barrage of micro missiles. Her Defense Matrix can stop nearly every projectile in the game, including some ultimates like Hanzo’s.
Her mech also has a boost that closes distance fast and can knock enemies off the map. When her mech’s health drops to zero, D.Va ejects and has a pistol that she can use until her next mech is ready.
Difficulty: Medium. D.Va is an incredibly versatile off-tank who can dive onto enemies, protect her team’s backline, and use her shield to absorb damage.
Play if: You want to be a mobile tank who can juggle roles regularly—and not die when you lose all your health.
A main tank, Orisa is slow-moving and forms a strong frontline. She can fire shields anywhere, boosts her own defenses for a few seconds with Fortify, and lays down a near-constant stream of fusion bullets.
Her ultimate amps up the damage of everyone around her, making her an asset during team pushes. And her Halt! projectile pulls enemies to make them vulnerable or drop them off a ledge.
Difficulty: Medium. Orisa’s deployable shield placement is easy to botch, and her abilities require good timing.
Play if: You want to coordinate and support the actions of your team, and don’t mind moving at glacial speeds.
Reinhardt has a giant, rocket-powered hammer. In addition to a beefy shield, he can fire a flaming projectile. This main tank also has the ability to charge forward at high speed, pinning enemies to walls for huge damage.
His Earthshatter ultimate knocks enemies down, leaving them open to hammer strikes. Reinhardt is a great starter tank for a reason: his shield can successfully lead a team charge, yet he can dish out damage with the best of them. A good Reinhardt will serve as the backbone of a team and is often the one calling the shots.
Difficulty: Easy. Reinhardt’s barrier is simple; your role is to stay in the front and protect the team.
Play if: You want to lead the charge and protect your teammates from just about everything. Just remember not to get carried away doing damage.
Roadhog is a beefy off-tank. His signature ability is the Chain Hook, which grabs an enemy and reels them in for a close-range blast from his shotgun-like Scrap Gun.
His huge health pool and ability to quickly heal himself give Roadhog high survivability. Whole Hog, his ultimate, makes his weapon fully automatic for a few seconds. This can push enemies away from an objective or trap them in a corridor.
Difficulty: Easy. Roadhog is all about hooking out-of-position enemies to punish them. His self-heal keeps you alive even when healers are down.
Play if: You want maximum durability and to destroy opponents with the Chain Hook.
Sigma is a physicist who has the power to control gravity. As a main tank, he can deploy and recall his Experimental Barrier at will, plus he has high utility thanks to his Kinetic Grasp and Accretion abilities. The former absorbs incoming projectiles and converts them to personal shields, while Accretion throws a giant rock that can stun enemies.
Sigma takes full advantage of his powers with his ultimate, Gravitic Flux. This lets him take flight, shoot enemies up into the air, then slam them back into the ground for huge damage. He’s best paired with another main tank so they can trade off with their barriers.
Difficulty: Hard. Sigma has high offensive and defensive capabilities, so striking a balance is difficult. Managing his ability cooldowns is paramount.
Play if: You don’t want the role of a main tank to fall squarely on your shoulders and are good at decision making.
Winston’s Tesla Cannon is one of the few weapons in Overwatch that doesn’t require much aiming. The beam tracks opponents, so as long as you point it in the right direction, it’ll hit. His short range isn’t a problem because of his rocket jump, which propels him into (or out) of a battle.
He can also drop a shield to protect himself and his teammates. And when his Primal Rage ultimate kicks in, he goes full King Kong on the opposing team. Winston is usually considered a main tank due to his shield, but requires good coordination with his team as his weapon isn’t particularly strong.
Difficulty: Medium. Winston is a strong harasser, but the long cooldown times for his abilities can leave him defenseless without help.
Play if: You don’t like aiming too much, or want to dive behind enemy lines to kill squishy targets like Tracer and Zenyatta.
As a highly mobile off-tank, Wrecking Ball switches between a rolling ball and a mech with cannon weapons. His grappling hook lets him pick up speed to slam into enemies. And when he gets into trouble, he can deploy a shield that increases in strength the more enemies are nearby.
His Minefield ultimate drops a group of proximity mines, which can cover a key area for several seconds. Playing Wrecking Ball is all about controlling an area and initiating fights. But he’s a poor solo tank, as he doesn’t have a way to protect allies.
Difficulty: Hard. Wrecking Ball has to keep moving to be effective and stay alive, but knowing when to engage and when to back off is tricky.
Play if: You want to bowl into your enemies and lead the team charge.
Another off-tank, Zarya has a Particle Cannon that can do a huge amount of damage—if you manage it correctly. She has the ability to deploy a shield around herself or a teammate. Any damage that these shields block powers up her weapon’s charge. And her ultimate, Graviton Surge, sucks enemies into a black hole for a huge opportunity.
When played well, Zarya can save her teammates from otherwise deadly situations (like getting hooked by Roadhog) and decimate enemies with a charged-up weapon. But strategically deploying those shields is crucial, which gives Zarya a steep learning curve.
Difficulty: Hard. It’s quite difficult to read situations and know when to use Zarya’s shields. And if you’re not saving teammates and running at high charge, Zarya’s utility is low.
Play if: You want to soak up enemy damage, protect teammates, and deal big damage.
These Overwatch heroes exist to keep their teammates alive and provide other important utilities. As a support player, you’re usually the prime target for the enemy, so playing wisely is critical.
Like tanks, you’ll often hear players divide healers into main and off-healers. Off-healers typically don’t output enough healing to reliably keep the team alive, so they’re best paired with a main healer.
Ever wanted to shoot your teammates? With Ana, you have to. Her Biotic Rifle rounds damage enemies and heal teammates. But that’s not all she offers her team.
Her Biotic Grenades increase healing for a teammate and block enemies from receiving healing for a moment. The Sleep Dart knocks enemies out, leaving them vulnerable. Ana’s ultimate, Nano Boost, buffs a teammate by boosting their damage given and reducing damage taken.
If you have solid sniping chops, Ana is a fun and dynamic hero. She’s a main healer as long as you consistently hit your shots.
Difficulty: Hard. Ana is one of the most difficult Support characters to play because she requires accurate aiming and her abilities are tough to use effectively.
Play if: You’re an accurate sniper who wants to heal teammates at a range.
Baptiste is a strong main healer who combines damage potential with the ability to save his teammates from dire situations. His weapon, the Biotic Launcher, fires bursts to damage enemies as well as grenades to heal allies. When the team needs topping up, his Regenerative Burst applies some extra healing to everyone nearby.
His most powerful utility is definitely the Immortality Field, which prevents all teammates inside from dying. However, enemies can destroy it, so it won’t last forever.
Baptiste’s kit rounds out with his Exo Boots, which let him jump extra high to avoid attacks or reach advantageous platforms. And his ultimate, Amplification Matrix, boosts the effects of healing and damage projectiles that travel through it. Unlike a lot of other healers, he’s often best played away from the team to take advantage of the angles his vertical mobility creates.
Difficulty: Hard. Baptiste requires high accuracy both when shooting enemies and healing teammates. You’ll need to be smart with placement and timing to make the most of Immortality Field and Amplification Matrix.
Play if: You like juggling damage and healing roles and can identify when your teammates need saving the most.
Brigitte is an off-healer with some tank-like abilities. She has a small shield that can protect herself or a teammate. Her most powerful ability, Shield Bash, stuns an enemy to open them up to attack. And her Rocket Flail smacks enemies around, healing nearby allies when she does damage thanks to her Inspire ability.
She also has Repair Packs to heal enemies (and provide armor, if they’re already topped off). Her ultimate, Rally, lets her move faster and grants armor to all allies nearby.
Difficulty: Easy. Due to her fight-winning Shield Bash and mace with large area of effect, Brigitte makes it easy to play a major part in team fights.
Play if: You like the idea of playing a tank, but also want to heal your team.
Lúcio is a DJ whose weapon and abilities are music-based. He can switch between two songs that either heal or speed boost his nearby teammates. His Sonic Amplifier’s secondary fire will boop enemies back, which is great for knocking foes off ledges. And even cooler, he can ride on walls!
His Sound Barrier ultimate gives teammates shields, which can save them from a huge enemy attack. Depending on your team composition, Lúcio can be a main or off-healer. Learning when to switch between his healing and speed boosts is key to mastering him.
Difficulty: Medium. While he’s easy enough to understand, Lúcio has a high skill ceiling. Mastering his movement will take work.
Play if: You want to stay with the team and boost them, and love zipping around.
Mercy is the most straightforward healer to play. Her staff can toggle between healing and damage boosting one teammate at a time. The Guardian Angel ability lets her fly to teammates in need, and she can slow her descent to stay in the air longer. Mercy also heals herself after she avoids damage for a short time.
Her most powerful ability is Resurrect, which lets her bring a teammate back from the dead. But it has a long cooldown and Mercy is vulnerable when using it, so take caution. With every aspect of Mercy, smart positioning is key to staying alive.
Difficulty: Easy. Mercy doesn’t have any particularly complex abilities, making her a great beginner main healer.
Play if: You want a powerful healer who can fly around to any ally in need, and love to revive people.
Moira’s Biotic Grasp ability represents the dual nature of her kit. One hand sprays healing mist that repairs nearby allies, but it has limited resources. The other hand fires a beam that drains enemies’ health and recharges her healing energy.
She can also choose between firing two Biotic Orbs: one that damages enemies and another that heals allies. Coalescence, her ultimate, is a long-range beam that both heals allies and damages foes at the same time. Finally, Fade lets her disappear for a moment to dodge damage and get closer to teammates.
If you stay with your team and keep your healing resources up by draining enemies, Moira can output an immense amount of healing, making her a solid main healer pick.
Difficulty: Medium. Moira is all about balance. You must damage enemies occasionally, but knowing when to do this while keeping your teammates alive is vital.
Play if: You want to have strong healing potential and don’t mind getting close to enemies to top up your energy.
Similar to Baptiste and Moira, Zenyatta is capable of both damage and healing. His accurate Orb of Destruction attack does a huge amount of damage for a support character. He can also charge up a volley of orbs to take out low-HP heroes in one shot.
Zenyatta can place his Orb of Harmony on a teammate to heal them, as long as he keeps line of sight. Similarly, putting the Orb of Discord on an enemy makes them receive more damage. His ultimate, Transcendence, grants him invincibility and rapidly heals nearby allies, canceling out enemy ultimates like Genji’s.
While his abilities are simple, playing Zenyatta is not. He’s extremely fragile and slow, meaning he has no options to escape enemy flankers or snipers. He’s also an off-healer, as his Harmony orb doesn’t do enough healing to keep an entire team going.
Difficulty: Hard. Zenyatta requires you to constantly read the battle to decide who should have the Harmony and Discord orbs. He’s vulnerable to many forms of damage, but staying alive is vital to keep your team buffs going.
Play if: You want to both heal and do deal damage, and can make decisions based on the big picture.
The Best Overwatch Heroes for Beginners
Still not sure who to try? Here are a few suggestions for Overwatch beginner heroes (and some to avoid at first). You can branch out after you’ve mastered the basics with these characters:
- For damage, choose Soldier: 76. His weapons, abilities, and controls are easy to get the hang of, and he’s a solid character at many levels of play.
- Avoid Doomfist, Sombra, and Genji. All three require tightly managing ability cooldowns, picking the right targets, and using the map to your advantage.
- For tanks, choose Reinhardt. He’s the most straightforward main tank, which will help you understand a tank’s role in the fight. While Roadhog is also a good beginner choice, he doesn’t teach proper tank habits nearly as well.
- Avoid Zarya. Knowing when to apply her shields takes some practice, and if you’re not charging your weapon, you’re of little use.
- For support, choose Mercy. You can heal and provide damage boosts constantly, as well as revive dead teammates. Stay out of the line of fire, and you’ll be fine.
- Avoid Ana and Zenyatta. Ana requires excellent accuracy and her abilities are tricky. Zenyatta is highly vulnerable and requires good game sense.
Which Overwatch Hero Will You Master?
With so many unique Overwatch heroes, you should be able to find a character that fits your play style. It’s just a matter of getting started. We recommend that you play all the heroes at least few times, even ones who don’t sound like your type.
You might be surprised whose play styles you enjoy, and you’ll get good insight into how to play against other heroes. Plus, since Overwatch lets you change your hero at any time, having several options at the ready can help turn the tide of a fight. Switching to counter your enemy’s composition is key.
For more games that require teamwork, take a look at highly tactical shooters you should try.
Image Credit: BagoGames/Flickr