Tekken: Ranking All the Characters

The King of Iron Fist Tournament has included everything from wooden dummies to boxing kangaroos. We've ranked them from worst to best.

Tekken has always been a fun fighting game series with an awesome set of characters. Even back in 1994 in its first incarnation, it had so many wild designs that helped decorate the gameplay. It had jaguar-headed wrestlers, lady assassins, robots, whacko ninjas, and a bear. Best of all, all of these zany characters were brought together by a by-the-books martial arts revenge storyline with a wonderful twist ending that set the stage for the next several decades.

As we reach Tekken 7’s console release, I’ve decided to rank the game’s cast from worst to best. I’ve done this with Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, and I almost died from doing this with King of Fighters. Now it’s Tekken’s turn.

Before we start, let’s go over the guidelines for the list:

– Original Tekken characters only. Guest characters, such as Gon and Akuma, need not apply.

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– Different forms of the same person all count as one entry. Kazuya and Devil Kazuya are the same. Ancient Ogre and True Ogre are the same.

– Legacy characters count as separate entries. There are two Kings, two Armor Kings, and two Kumas.

– All the mainline Jacks count as one. They’re all basically the same character mentally anyway. Prototype Jack is a separate entity.

– I’m counting anyone playable in the first six Tekken games and the two Tekken Tag Tournament games. I’ll update the list to include the Tekken 7 cast sometime after its release.

As always, I’m ranking these based on style, storyline, and personal preference. Not over who has the better infinite combos and all that jazz.

Now let’s get started!

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59. MIHARU HIRANO

First Appearance: Tekken 3

Miharu was introduced as an unlockable alternate outfit for Ling Xiaoyu with no story of her own, but came into her own in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. She’s Xiaoyu best friend and…that’s about it. Like, even her ending is she and Xiaoyu having a heartfelt conversation about breaking up with an ex-boyfriend while a more exciting and interesting ending happens in the background.

As a secondary Xiaoyu, Miharu doesn’t add much. Okay, there is that one move where she does a selfie with her opponent right before they collapse to the ground. That’s actually great. Just goes to show that nobody in Tekken is 100% crap.

58. PROTOTYPE JACK

First Appearance: Tekken

Jack is great because he’s the Judgment Day T-800 mixed with the Iron Giant. He’s a drone that broke away from what he was created to be. So when you look at Prototype Jack, you’re left with Jack without any of the substance. His defining characteristic is that he’s shoddy and falls apart. Otherwise, he’s just a drone.

That said, his metallic Clark Still appearance is totally sweet.

57. ANGEL

First appearance: Tekken 2

Angel is one of those characters whose origins and identity are supposed to be all mysterious, but she doesn’t do enough to make that mystery worth caring about. She starts off in Tekken 2 as Devil’s alternate outfit, which fittingly makes her the final boss if you play as Devil. She exists for the sake of attempting to draw out the goodness in Kazuya, but isn’t actually part of him (unlike Devil). After the game, she falls into obscurity and only shows up in the non-canon Tag games.

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Maybe she helped him chill out enough during that tournament to romance Jun Kazama and create Jin as some kind of prophecized “chosen one” thing? Who knows?

Her Tekken Tag Tournament 2 update did at least add a little personality, and that’s a plus. Namely that Angel has a sinister and violent streak barely buried under her righteous demeanor. That face she makes at Ogre during the Tag 2 intro sure is something.

56. MICHELLE CHANG

First appearance: Tekken

Listen, the most entertaining thing Michelle Chang’s ever done is throw a tomahawk at Heihachi in the Tekken anime, and it was only entertaining because Heihachi caught and shattered it with his teeth.

When it comes to the original core cast, Michelle’s just so forgettable. She has so little personality that her endings are a cure for insomnia. The first Tekken Tag Tournament is a cavalcade of lame, 20-second endings and Michelle’s was probably the absolute worst, showing nothing more than she and Julia sitting down on a grassy hill and having a conversation that we can’t hear a word of because the only audio is from the stock ending music.

Her saving grace is her Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending. Michelle and Julia become a mother/daughter luchadora tag team. It goes with her use of the Perfect Plex, I guess.

55. BAEK DOO SAN

First appearance: Tekken 2

When Namco introduced Siegfried into Soul Edge, they gave a white bread warrior a backstory about accidentally murdering his father in battle and turned it into one of the series’ best character arcs. They even got an iconic villain design out of it.

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That makes it all the more depressing that Baek, vanilla Tae Kwon Do practitioner, has the same starting point and simply exists. Other than pissing off Marshall Law and having that swept under the rug by later games, Baek does little more than occasionally feel bad. He mopes every once in a while as a break from being the most generic-looking mook in the Tekken series.

He ends up working better as an extension of Hwoarang, who gets some added dimension when Baek is brought back into the series.

54. LEO KLIESEN

First appearance: Tekken 6

The androgynous Rock Howard cosplayer is one of the newer characters and doesn’t really do much for me. While she’s given a revenge story in her first appearance, she’s immediately overshadowed by Miguel, whose revenge story against Jin Kazama is way more explosive. Miguel epitomizes righteous vengeance in his style and actions while Leo simply hangs out at a cemetery and takes part in a mundane mystery.

Having both of them show up in the same game is a good move in the sense that it’s a reminder that Jin and Kazuya are both jerks who deserve to be taken down a peg or three.

53. ARMOR KING I

First appearance: Tekken

There are four Kings in Tekken lore, and the first Armor King has the least going for him. Armor King is more of an inspiration than his own, fleshed-out character. He convinces the first King to get off the sauce and get his life back together. He trains the second King and acts as a mentor. Then in his death, he pushes forth a far better storyline involving King, Marduk, and the second Armor King. He’s a decent supporting character, but can’t stand on his own.

And let’s face it, even though Armor King looks utterly badass, there’s that name. Armor King. It’s always hit me as a silly persona. Like if Roman Reigns called himself Super John Cena.

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52. PANDA

First appearance: Tekken 3

This series has a dancing panda bear on its roster. No matter how you cut it, that’s an amazing thing. That should be celebrated.

Panda is, unfortunately, shoved into the background. As another hanger-on of Ling Xiaoyu, Panda never gets to do anything of note. She ignores Kuma’s advances and sits around while Xiaoyu goes on and on about how important Jin Kazama is to her.

When you compare Panda with Kuma, it’s not even close.

51. CHRISTIE MONTEIRO

First appearance: Tekken 4

I really wanted to give Christie a higher ranking because I dig her positivity and her flashy appearance and all that, but…man. Her entire existence is about finding Eddy Gordo and why would you even do that? That lends itself to one of the series’ most embarrassing moments in Tekken 4, where she finds him, hugs him, and exclaims like a robot baby, “ED-DEE!”

Take Eddy Gordo out of the equation and her most memorable moment is that scene from the Tekken live-action movie where she had her buttcrack sticking out of her pants. Also embarrassing.

50. BRUCE IRVING

First appearance: Tekken 2

Bruce is a lot of fun and I love how most of his endings (showing him as a champion to children) contrast with him being a high-ranking corporate terrorist. Bruce feels undefined at times and Namco would be better off playing up the fact that he’s the Billy Kane to Kazuya’s Geese Howard.

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In the end, I have to give him a low-ish ranking due to the Tekken Forever comic. The very first page has Bruce singing “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” in response to Kazuya beating up most of the good guys. Ugh. Bruce, no.

49. JUN KAZAMA

First appearance: Tekken 2

The release of the hit game Tekken 2 gave us a huge cast of characters. With the exception of maybe Baek, nobody was as boring as Jun Kazama. Jun was just Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with all the charisma sucked out.

And thus, they fridged her for the sequel in order to introduce new hero Jin Kazama. Lemonade out of lemons for sure, but then Namco kept pressing on her disappearance. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they had Jin constantly searching for his maybe-dead mother without much in terms of payoff.

Jun’s saving grace is the creation of Tekken Tag boss Unknown. Originally meant to be Jun’s sister, the second installment simply introduced her as Jun’s dark counterpart. Sure, it was non-canon, but expanding on Jun to give her sludge pants and a magic wolf ghost only makes her cooler.

Her helmeted look in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 wasn’t bad either.

48. ZAFINA

First appearance: Tekken 6

Zafina hasn’t done enough to really solidify her place in the Tekken mythos, but she still stands out just enough to remain alluring and unique. In Tekken 6, she plays the part of the game’s Rose/Chizuru. She’s the exotic and somewhat mysterious lady who acts as a window into the game’s big bad. I don’t know if she’d feel welcome in later games, but we’ll see.

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47. GANRYU

First appearance: Tekken 2

As a comedic character, I feel Ganryu should do more for me, but I’ve always found him relatively bland. Maybe because “wants to bang Michelle Chang” is his defining trait, followed by “wants to bang Julia Chang,” which is kind of creepy.

Sumo wrestlers have such a uniform appearance compared to, say, professional wrestlers. E. Honda got to step in first, and even though he fights very differently, Ganryu feels rather uninspired.

46. ROGER JR.

First appearance: Tekken 5

On one hand, the introduction of Roger Jr. (who is really just Roger’s wife featuring Roger Jr., but that takes up too much space on the health bar) is when Tekken really decided to revel in how ridiculous the Roger concept even is. Back in Tekken 2, they had a boxing kangaroo, but they treated it as a borderline normal thing. Once we got Roger Jr., things became laughably cartoonish and rightfully so.

That said, Roger is still the star. Even in all those silly endings, it’s Roger’s nature as a self-centered pain magnet that carries everything.

Doesn’t help that Roger Jr.’s design was totally swiped from a ClayFighter.

45. ALEX

First appearance: Tekken 2

A boxing dinosaur is a nifty novelty, though I don’t think he ever really got his day in the sun. Not only was Alex practically forgotten about in lieu of Roger Jr. in the later games, but Gon in Tekken 3 sort of stole his thunder by being a smaller and sillier fighting dino.

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His appearances as an extension of the Roger family in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was very welcome. Maybe with Roger Jr. being off-limits in Tekken 7, we’ll at least get some Alex DLC in his (their?) place.

44. AZAZEL

First appearance: Tekken 6

Ah, Azazel. Proving that when it comes to end bosses, bigger does not really mean better. Looking more like he belongs in Metroid than Tekken, Azazel certainly appears crazy and scary, but he also simply feels tacked on. We have Zafina swearing that he’s a big deal and there’s the thing about him being the creator of the Devil Gene, but Azazel is a pretty lame villain. He’s more of an extension of Jin Kazama’s angst.

Of the canon bosses, Azazel is definitely bottom of the barrel.

43. EDDY GORDO

First appearance: Tekken 3

Introducing capoeira into fighting games is great and all, but Eddy never stood out much to me, especially in a game with such a strong roster as Tekken 3. There are two other capoeira fighters in the series, and while they’re nothing more than spinoffs of him, they at least have more flash. Eddy still has a big, flippy, twisty leg up over Christie because seeking revenge is way more intriguing than seeking the guy who is seeking revenge.

42. DOCTOR GEPETTO BOSCONOVITCH

First appearance: Tekken 3

I’m not too hot on Dr. Bosconovitch’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2 appearance, but in Tekken 3, the good doctor was too odd not to enjoy. You had to complete Tekken Force mode four times just so you could play as a sickly, old man in a lab coat who could barely even stand. He can’t pull a string of moves together without falling over and he’s old as hell, but damn it, he’s still going to attempt to kick your ass.

It’s not a gimmick I need to see in every game, but it added a fun bit of challenge in Tekken 3.

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Otherwise, Gepetto is probably better off being in the background. He’s the guy behind Roger, Alex, Jack, and Alisa, as well as Yoshimitsu’s spinny hand. He’s got enough on his plate as a simple plot device.

41. COMBOT

First appearance: Tekken 4

Tekken has several robot characters, and while Combot isn’t the best, it’s still a fun alternative to Mokujin. Used as a weapon to help Violet get a leg up on the Mishima family, Combot comes off as more of a tool than a character.

It isn’t until its ending in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that Combot really has an identity of its own. The beautiful and oddly heartbreaking cutscene puts so much pathos into a non-existent face and shows that Combot sees itself as nothing more than an appliance, fated to break down and be discarded as worthless garbage that outlived its usefulness.

Yet it turns out Violet does have some affection for it after all.

40. LING XIAOYU

First appearance: Tekken 3

In a world that is gradually going to Hell because of the machinations of a corrupt family of karate folks, it’s refreshing to see one optimistic girl with the hope of setting things right. Ling loves Jin, but knows that he’s too busy being a major character in a fighting game franchise to have any time for her. It’s up to her to tame this crazy reality, even if she isn’t up to it.

Ling isn’t the worst character, but she can certainly be one of the more annoying ones. Her supporting cast is boring outside of Alisa, and having her be the protagonist of Tekken: Blood Vengeance just showed how much better most of the big names are in comparison to her. There’s that fantastic Jin vs. Kazuya vs. Heihachi fight scene, but you have to put up with an hour of Ling Xiaoyu bullshit to get there.

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39. KUMA I

First appearance: Tekken

Now, this is for the first Kuma. The one who appeared in the first two games before being replaced by his son of the same name in Tekken 3. Kuma added a wonderful novelty to the series as a powerhouse bear with limited training in the martial arts. The original Kuma stands on the gimmick and not much else. There’s little in terms of story, and the personality isn’t as pronounced as his kin.

But man, what a gimmick. It’s a bear. Heihachi has a bear to do his bidding. That’s some high-concept fighting game design right there. The Kumas have always been a blast to play, as they crush and slash and bite through the opposition. Having this guy in the very first game really set the tone for the cacophony of a roster Tekken has to offer.

38. FOREST LAW

First appearance: Tekken 3

Forest showed that just because you could do a new generation legacy fighter after a twenty-year time jump doesn’t mean you should. Forest, if anything, says a lot about the relationship between Marshall Law and Paul Phoenix. After the decades passed, Marshall matured while Paul did not, meaning that Paul would rather pal around with the younger, more impulsive Law.

There’s nothing outright wrong about Forest, but in the end, there was no reason to put Marshall off to pasture. Marshall returned to the forefront and Forest would only appear as a non-playable supporting character or another name in the Tag series.

37. SEBASTIAN

First appearance: Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Sebastian is as minor a character as you can get, but he’s a delight. With Lili being an eccentric sociopath, you have Sebastian as her loyal butler and bodyguard, calmly normalizing every stupid thing she does. No matter how silly her plans are to mess with Asuka or Jin, Sebastian applauds her actions and treats them like they’re the behavior of someone who isn’t a lunatic.

There’s not too much to him, but since we’re never going to get a playable Alfred in Injustice, we might as well enjoy whatever fighting butler we can get.

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36. ROGER

First appearance: Tekken 2

As I mentioned with Roger Jr., pops is the more entertaining one in the family. He’s the tie-wearing deadbeat who gets punched into the stratosphere for cheating on his wife while a sitcom audience laughs. Because when you’re a boxing kangaroo in a video game, sanity goes right out the window.

Too bad that by the time the series fully embraced what a trip Roger is, his fighting days were long behind him.

35. KING I

First appearance: Tekken

Ah, that wonderful cliché of the luchador who fights for the orphans. Love it. The alcoholism is a nice touch, too.

The original King didn’t stick around for very long, but at least he brought some color to the original games as a Tiger Mask homage. For people unaware of Tiger Mask, seeing a wrestler with a jaguar head had to be a lovely WTF moment.

The Tekken cinematics have evolved throughout the years and have given us some increasingly beautiful cutscenes, but nothing will be as cringeworthy as the excited live-action children swarming King in his two endings.

34. TIGER JACKSON

First appearance: Tekken 3

On one hand, Tiger doesn’t have much going on as a character. At all. He’s considered a completely separate person from Eddie Gordo, even if all he is is a different skin, but he’s so lacking in backstory that he doesn’t even have a Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending.

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But really, the novelty is enough. Capoeira is neat in action, but it’s even better when it’s portrayed by an enigmatic boogie-man dressed in Bootsy Collins’ hand-me-downs. Keep on dancing, Tiger. Keep on dancing.

33. LEI WULONG

First appearance: Tekken 2

The fact that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has an entire cutscene dedicated to the knowledge that Tekken regularly gives us the dream battle of Bruce Lee vs. Jackie Chan puts a smile on my face. Then again, my interest in Lei Wulong doesn’t go much further than his Chan-like attributes.

Yes, it’s cool that he’s an action cop who does drunken boxing. His ability to alter his fighting style is also novel. It’s just that the writers never seemed to have much more for him to do. He’s more of a forgettable supporting character, just farting around in the background.

Maybe in the next game they should give him a sassy partner a la Chris Tucker.

32. JULIA CHANG

First appearance: Tekken 3

In the beginning, Julia Chang was nothing more than Michelle Chang with her underwear showing. Her whole storyline from was just white noise about boring nature crap to the point that even when she was the first to have any dialogue in her cutscenes, it was stuff about reforesting Arizona’s deserts. Real thrilling.

Julia finally turned a corner late in the series thanks to the non-canon games. Capcom paired her up with Bob and had them semi-romantically play off each other, which made her way more likable. Then in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Namco decided that Julia had a side gig as a masked luchadora named Jaycee. Jesus Christ, why did it take so many years for them to come up with that concept?!

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31. ARMOR KING II

First appearance: Tekken 5: Blood Rebellion

The second Armor King is a mystery with a satisfactory reveal. Around the time the second King figured that vengeance was a foolish idea and instead chose to befriend Marduk, a new wrestler looking and fighting like the man Marduk killed appeared. A man who showed disgust towards King and hatred towards Marduk. Was Armor King truly dead?

I always liked the way they worked the explanation. Rather than simply make it Armor King’s ending in Tekken 6 (his brief ending was just him standing up and walking towards the camera), you had to unlock the endings for King and Marduk, each revealing more to the story until we got the full epilogue. Armor King II is actually the obscure brother of the original and returned from retirement to get the revenge that King refuses to take part in.

He’s not only a threat to Marduk, but a threat to what King represents.

30. RAVEN

First appearance: Tekken 5

Man, Blade sure was a cool movie way back when, was it not?

Raven shows up at the right time in the series, as the conspiracies and agendas become bigger and more spread out. Having your usual Hong Kong action cops and sexy assassin ladies isn’t enough. Now you have mysterious ninja agents monitoring stuff before they vanish into the shadows. Shit’s getting realer.

Raven is a good addition in Tekken 5, but I can’t fully embrace a guy who makes it a point to pick fights with Dragunov and regularly acts like a dick to Yoshimitsu. Why would you ever be a dick to Yoshimitsu? What did Yoshimitsu ever do to you? Leave Yoshimitsu alone.

29. MIGUEL CABALLERO ROJO

First appearance: Tekken 6

With these fighting game stories, there’s sometimes the question of why we’ve never heard of certain characters until they suddenly appear in the story. If the Tekken saga were a bar fight, Miguel would be the badass sitting in the corner, trying to enjoy his drink and letting the violence happen without him. But then some idiot had to throw their drink into his face and next thing you know, people are getting their jaws broken by some of the hardest punches in the world.

As I’ll get to in a little bit, Jin Kazama was created as a champion of righteous revenge. When he lost his way in later games, he ultimately created a replacement in Miguel. He destroyed Miguel’s life for little reason and now there’s this tall golem of rage storming through the tournaments, looking to get his hands on Jin and avenge the death of his innocent sister.

The Tekken manga did a fantastic job with Miguel, throwing him into a rivalry with Bob. The two slugged it out for miles like a Looney Toons smoke brawl. Boy, did Tekken 6 have some sweet new characters.

28. EMILIE DE ROCHEFORT

First appearance: Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection

It’s like someone at Namco saw Street Fighter’s Karin and thought, “She’s okay, but she’d be way better without any concept of cause and effect.” Lili is the right balance of snobby and earnest. A rich teen girl who wants more out of life and can more than hold her own in a fight, but has no grasp on society or human behavior whatsoever. Even before she integrated herself as Asuka’s rival, she had her Dark Resurrection ending, which is perfect. She goes out to crush the Mishima Zaibatsu for slighting her father, blissfully unaware that doing so will have catastrophic consequences for her father’s company.

There are better late-stage fighters in Tekken lore, but Lili’s self-entertained presence is definitely a welcome one.

27. LARS ALEXANDERSSON

First appearance: Tekken 6

Namco took a risk by basing their big Tekken 6 story mode on a new character. I mean, Mortal Kombat did that twice with Shujinko and Taven and each one was a dud. Lars was at least a fun protagonist, with a bad case of amnesia that brought him down to our level.

It eventually became clear that Lars is not just any fighter with pointy hair, but yet another member of the Mishima family tree. Not even his own father, Heihachi, was aware of his existence. But Lars knew that he couldn’t allow the bloodline to engulf the world with war, so he led a coup to bring it down and bring peace. How refreshing.

Despite how late into the series he appears, it also makes a lot of sense. Lars is of Mishima blood, but he spent his life away from all that turmoil, so he got to be semi-normal. Yet it’s still in his nature to throw fists at dad, brother, and nephew. He kind of has to because the Mishima war has escalated to a worldwide problem. Lars escaped the curse, but not really.

26. MOKUJIN

First appearance: Tekken 3

Before there was Edge Master, Olcadan, Combot, and Charade, there was Mokujin. Incredibly bizarre before pop culture fully embraced the sentient tree concept, Mokujin added an inspired challenge to Tekken. Mokujin has no fighting style of his own to use and is instead randomized in every match. Sometimes you can figure it out easily if he, say, has wings or a sword. Other times, you have to pay attention to his intro animation, try your best to recognize who that comes from, and hope that you’re halfway decent at playing them.

Outside of that, Mokujin tends to be too weird, even for Tekken sometimes. After all, he once existed as a mech for Pac Man to control.

25. KUNIMITSU

First appearance: Tekken

With all the returning characters over the years, how has Kunimitsu been left in the dust of obscurity? She rocked in Tekken 2 and since then, she’s only shown up in the Tag series. Kunimitsu doesn’t get nearly enough love.

What’s refreshing about Kunimitsu is that, despite being Yoshimitsu’s antagonist early on and being an excommunicated member of his ninja clan, she doesn’t play all that much like a second-rate Yoshimitsu. They may have a couple similarities here and there, but for the most part, Kunimitsu is her own woman.

Too bad she stopped showing up in the canon games. She’d make a great wild card in the war between Yoshimitsu and Bryan Fury.

24. WANG JINREI

First appearance: Tekken

Wang initially felt like kind of a nothing character, and I never went out of my way to play as him, but over the years, he’s become a worthy cog in the saga. He initially supported Heihachi, unaware of the damage he was doing as leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu until it was too late. Blaming himself for not doing anything sooner, Wang laid the seeds for the likes of Lee Chaolan and his own granddaughter, Ling Xiaoyu, to make their own pure-hearted attempts to stop the Zaibatsu’s damage and bring light to the world.

But most importantly, Wang had that heartbreaking ending in Tekken 5. His best buddy, Jinpachi, died in his arms and turned to sand and…*sniff*…and… Sorry, I have dust in my eye.

23. OGRE

First appearance: Tekken 3

Ogre’s introduction was a big deal. He kills off several characters and sends several more to the hospital, leading to a tournament created for the sake of drawing him out of hiding. He absorbs Heihachi’s life energies and turns into a gigantic pile of nightmares, complete with horns, a snake for an arm, and fire breath.

Even with all of that, I have to admit that Capcom made me appreciate Ogre’s Ancient form a bit more. True Ogre has the overkill you’d want in a final boss, but the understated green statue of an Aztec warrior has its own ominous feel to it. The demonic kaiju is neat, but Ancient Ogre comes off as an emotionless force of nature.

Probably for the best that he never became a recurring villain. Tekken 3 was enough and it springboarded the Mishima bloodline feud into a new direction upon his death.

22. JIN KAZAMA

First appearance: Tekken 3

I’ll say this about Jin Kazama: In his first couple of appearances, Jin was maybe the best hero character design in a fighting game. Better than Ryu, better than Liu Kang, better than Kyo Kusanagi, maaaaaybe better than Terry Bogard. As a best-of-both-worlds character who mixed Kazuya’s coolness factor with Jun’s tempered upbringing, he was thrust into the Tekken storyline as a confused agent of revenge. He wanted revenge on the monster that murdered his mother, then wanted revenge on the grandfather that needlessly betrayed him, as well as the rotten father he never knew who cares nothing for him.

Toss in the usual tropes of the fighting girl that’s into him and the less-important rival guy and you have a solid protagonist to center the new era of Tekken around.

Unfortunately, Jin then went in a bad direction. Jin slowly growing into his Devil form started as a badass development, but then he went all mopey about it. Kazuya owned it and Heihachi desired it, but Jin spent the next few games going, “Woe is me, I can turn into a laser monster! I miss my mommy!”

Then he took over the Mishima Zaibatsu and became a total prick in hopes that this would lead to him and the Devil within getting killed. Not the worst plan, but as a villain he couldn’t rank against father and grandfather while the master plan was just copying his great-grandfather.

21. HWOARANG

First appearance: Tekken 3

Hwoarang is certainly a step up from his vanilla mentor Baek. In fact, of all the “next generation” guys in Tekken 3, he felt the freshest. Maybe it’s his alternate outfit and color scheme, but I feel like he’d fit in with the Kim Kaphwan taekwondo family section of the King of Fighters roster due to his charisma and slacker attitude.

Hwoarang is almost like a commentary on how these fighting game tournaments escalate. On the surface, he’s a proud martial artist who just wants to be the best and prove himself. He’s got a huge ego, but otherwise, he’s fairly basic. But then he has to go hunt down an Aztec god because his master is possibly dead. He’s stuck serving the South Korean army when all he wants to do is take part in one-on-one street fights. When he finally succeeds in beating Jin, suddenly Jin transforms into a beast and Hwoarang’s on tap as the taekwondo guy who is potentially the best way to take down the warmongering demon threatening the world.

He didn’t sign on for this shit, but this is the life he lives.

20. JINPACHI MISHIMA

First appearance: Tekken 5

Although he didn’t get to appear in-game until Tekken 5, Jinpachi was always part of Tekken lore as the man Heihachi defeated to gain his empire. Jinpachi was considered an honorable and good man, making his appearance in Tekken 5 a tragic, meta nightmare. Despite his personality, he was turned into a demonic end boss because he had to be. He put together the King of Iron Fist because he had to make everyone want to kill him. The game’s narrative straight-up corrupted a man who didn’t deserve it.

Jinpachi is also the best boss character in Tekken. Sure, I might like Heihachi and Kazuya better, but as a straight-up boss, nobody feels larger-than-life and threatening than this demonic would-be world-breaker.

19. ASUKA KAZAMA

First appearance: Tekken 5

The series spent so much time trying to deify Jun Kazama, but as I’ve already talked about, she was just too bland. Jin’s love interest wasn’t the best either. Finally, they sorted things out with Tekken 5 by introducing Jun’s niece, Asuka. Kind of like Lars, she’s related to the whole pile of jerks, but as a well-meaning outsider whose own heroic behavior puts her at odds with the Mishimas.

Even before she knew she had anything to do with Jin and the rest, Asuka acted as an anti-bully. She would keep the peace in her neighborhood by beating down any idiots stupid enough to take part in gang warfare in her presence. It was only natural that she’d extend that on a global scale by trying to beat Jin and Kazuya into submission.

All the while, she needs to juggle that with confronting Feng Wei and dealing with that ever-so-annoying Lili.

18. CRAIG MARDUK

First appearance: Tekken 4

Craig Marduk is a ticking timebomb. He’s also Bill Goldberg and Bob Sapp, but that’s beside the point. He’s a volatile human being easily swayed by the events surrounding him. A minor scandal got him kicked out of his fighting circuit, and next thing you know, he’s lost his mind and killed a man in a bar fight.

Marduk’s capable of great evil (especially that gross winpose against Anna Williams), but he isn’t far-gone. The acts of the second King end up putting Marduk on the right path and turning him into a loyal tag team partner and friend.

That’s not to say that Marduk is a saint. He still killed a dude and even digs up that guy’s grave just to prove to himself that he’s dead. But at least with King around, he has some level of self-control and direction in his life. Without King’s influence, he’d be self-destructing even harder.

17. STEVE FOX

First appearance: Tekken 4

It always seems like Steve Fox is going to become a big deal, but the writers never get around to pulling the trigger. He’s this experiment created by Heihachi Mishima and birthed from a frozen Nina Williams, but they never really do much with that. He’s given this interesting origin story and then he just goes and slums it with Phoenix and the Laws.

Luckily, Steve is beaming with charm and style. Much like Balrog in Street Fighter, Steve shows the creativity of working in an engine that won’t allow him to kick while 100% pulling it off. He’s an asskicker who’s got confidence to spare, but remains a friendly and level-headed dude.

16. MARSHALL LAW

First appearance: Tekken

Having a Bruce Lee stand-in in your fighting game is like having jumping in your platformer. Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, and even ClayFighter have one to spare. But there’s one thing that sets Marshall Law apart from them, which is why I’m glad they brought him back in Tekken 4: Marshall Law is middle-aged. In a fictional fantasy world where robots can fight devils, why have just any Bruce Lee? This is a world where Bruce Lee didn’t die a tragic, young death and is still carrying on to the point that his best days might be behind him.

His family’s curse isn’t one of mortality, but finance.

As an aside, as much as I find Street Fighter’s El Fuerte to be an obnoxious design and just really annoying, Marshall’s Tekken 4 storyline shows that you can take the very same concept and really make it work. A martial arts master with a misplaced passion for cooking works if that’s just part of who he is and isn’t his overall label.

15. NINA WILLIAMS

First appearance: Tekken

Ah, the eternal question: Nina or Anna? The endlessly feuding sisters are too joined at the hip that I couldn’t imagine putting anyone in-between their entries on this list. Their relationship is very Batman/Joker. One is a grim and stern expert in everything related to breaking bones while the other is a rival with added personality who basically exists to antagonize the former. Anna makes Nina more interesting by existing, but Anna would be nothing without Nina.

14. ANNA WILLIAMS

First appearance: Tekken

In the end, I have to go with Anna. Nina’s non-Anna stuff never really feels as gripping as their bizarre rivalry. Sometimes they’re dealing with their daddy issues, sometimes they’re trying to kill each other, sometimes they’re trying to publicly humiliate each other, and sometimes they just take it easy and play a game of pool.

I guess I can sum it up by pointing out that Nina being a hired assassin isn’t nearly as fun as Anna being a hired assassin because her bosses are competing with Nina’s and it’s a good way to flash her the middle finger.

13. FENG WEI

First appearance: Tekken 5

It’s kind of weird to me how Akuma not only shows up in Tekken 7, but is introduced as an important gear in the story’s history. Feng Wei kind of already is Tekken’s version of Akuma, just without the fireballs and jumping uppercuts. His path is extremely similar to Akuma’s, just without the Mr. Hyde aspect where being extra violent in your martial arts matches means you physically become a gremlin.

Even Feng Wei’s endings are based mostly on him pulling off ridiculous feats of power, such as shattering an entire mountain. Again, just like Akuma.

He’s an entertaining wild card who exists outside of the main story, but is just as much a threat as all the bosses and masterminds. He’s merciless and will crush just about anyone that gets in his way, but isn’t completely devoid of honor. Feng Wei could potentially respect you, but, by God, you certainly need to earn it.

12. SERGEI DRAGUNOV

First appearance: Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection

In a way, Dragunov reminds me of Voldo from SoulCalibur. He’s such an enigma and the way he quietly goes about his business makes him completely unnerving, yet strangely compelling.

On paper, Dragunov should be a villain of the week. He’s a creepy Russian dude in a military uniform who chooses not to speak, has a nasty facial scar, a dead-eyed stare, and specializes in snapping body parts while playfully humming to himself. It’s a design that just screams megalomaniac.

Yet, he’s not exactly a black and white force. Despite the way he carries himself, he’s a loyal soldier dedicated to his duty and his missions aren’t exactly sinister, as far as we know. His targets tend to be Jin, Kazuya, and Azazel. The worst thing he does is continuously butt heads with Raven and that guy’s a dick to Yoshimitsu, so I’m on Dragunov’s side here.

It does make me laugh a little that in his profile, his hobby is singing.

11. JACK

First appearance: Tekken

Design-wise, Jack is like if the Terminator was built with a rad exoskeleton instead of endoskeleton. Then you give him the cliché killer-robot-with-a-heart-of-gold persona and you have a stew cooking. His actual story doesn’t have much going for it other than being a protector and showing that he’s capable of more than his programming intended – the usual fare for a fictional robot – but, hey, that whole constant rebuilding and revising gimmick is neat.

Jack stands out more than most slow/strong fighting game characters due to the uniqueness of his animations and the intended uncanny valley of his appearance. His gestures, both in the fight and around the fight, are so classic and thankfully reappear from game to game. His stiff flexing, rapidly pumping wrists, chest pounding while losing his balance and laughing it up, and so on make him so incredibly endearing.

10. KUMA II

First appearance: Tekken 3

Once they introduced Kuma Jr., the series completely leaned into the comedy of having an intelligent martial arts bear in a fighting tournament. Kuma is simply an absurd concept, so you might as well have him wear a red t-shirt, dance around, and creep on a fighting panda. His ending appearances are some of the best comedy in the series and that dance-and-stamp sequence from Tekken 4 puts me in a good mood every time.

Kuma’s rivalry with Paul Phoenix is also a delight, especially with the way the two have chilled out over the years and have become a pair of grandstanding doofuses who suckerpunch each other when they realize that they almost get along.

9. BOB RICHARDS

First appearance: Tekken 6

I always though Bob’s goofy backstory was worth a laugh, but then pro wrestler Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno lived his story and I don’t even know anymore. For real, Ohno got let go from WWE, gained a gross amount of weight, suddenly became a chunky acrobatic fighting machine, became more amazing, and then found his way back in WWE. I love it.

Bob’s so damn likable. He’s a bounty hunter who moonlights as a superhero and left the martial arts circles for several years for the sake of getting really fat and finding the right balance of SPEED AND WEIGHT. And yet it’s being a big, fat dude that gives him his unending confidence and charm while not acting like a joke. Just look at his appearance in Street Fighter X Tekken where he proceeds to win over Julia by his personality and morality.

The fact that his “Skinny Bob” alternate persona is treated as comic relief despite being in healthier shape is the cherry on top.

8. ALISA BOSCONOVITCH

First appearance: Tekken 6

Alisa really came out chainsaws blazing upon introduction. She was a major player in Tekken 6’s Tekken Force mode, she was one of the stars of Tekken: Blood Vengeance, and she got a big enough role in the Tekken 6 manga. For good reason, since she’s a solid design that feels home in nearly every corner of the Tekken universe.

It helps that she’s such a schizophrenic character. She was created by a (relatively) good man, but programmed as a weapon by a power-mad villain. She’s kind and naively optimistic, but at the drop of the hat can be turned into a vicious killing machine. Alisa is like the Terminator’s adorable daughter.

Also of note is that, “Wolverine, but with chainsaws,” is a power I’ve been wanting to see since I was 12.

7. BRYAN FURY

First appearance: Tekken 3

Someone at Namco realized that Roy Batty from Blade Runner would make for a good fighting game character and God bless them because they were right. Bryan Fury is 4/5 Roy Batty and 1/5 Ryuji Yamazaki, giving us a ridiculous undead cyborg of a man who wants to smash your jaw off as he laughs maniacally.

Something I always dug about Fury is how he started off as a rival of sorts with Lei Wulong due to their whole Hong Kong cop connection, but since Fury was able to shrug off blasts from tanks and then tear them apart, he just moved away from that and got involved in a sweet feud with Yoshimitsu in a story that made Yoshimitsu look noble, made Fury look like the biggest asshole, and led to various cinematic endings based on the two of them killing the fuck out of each other in awesome ways.

6. PAUL PHOENIX

First appearance: Tekken

Paul Phoenix begins the series as the Ken Masters to Kazuya’s Ryu. Even though the two barely have any interaction with each other, Paul works. He’s a likable tough guy biker with a punch that can end any fight and break brick walls. He also beats up a karate bear, which is as manly as you can get.

The series tried to keep him as being a top-level fighter with humor mixed in to keep him from being the King of Iron Fist champion, like some kind of narrative nepotism putting a glass ceiling over a fictional character. It works early on, including the explanation that he beat up Ancient Ogre and left him in a heap, unaware that there was a second form to fight.

Unfortunately, after Tekken 4 treated Paul with surprising sincerity, he became an outright joke. His Tekken 5 story was about proving himself the strongest fighter in the universe, which at least keeps him as being a total ass-kicker. His Tekken 6 story made him look like a loser who needs to cheat in order to make a quick buck.

The dude is still awesome, but I’d love for him to be a more important wheel in the story and not just a has-been schemer who keeps tripping on his own two feet.

5. YOSHIMITSU

First appearance: Tekken

You don’t get more unorthodox than Yoshimitsu. He’s a complete wildcard to Tekken who sort of fits but sort of doesn’t. A Robin Hood ninja designed by Giger. A warrior whose very namesake stretches back centuries to the days of fighting the Soul Edge. He’s such a staple to that whole universe that even having one Tekken without him would feel wrong.

His fighting style is bonkers, not just for the fact that he’s bringing a mystical sword into a martial arts tournament. His spinning, teleportation, bouncing around, and even self impalement makes him one of the craziest warriors. Even when he’s reprising those moves from game to game, he still reminds us of his strange nature by upgrading his look and becoming increasingly outlandish in every adventure.

Yoshimitsu really needs a spinoff game.

4. KAZUYA MISHIMA

First appearance: Tekken

Kazuya is the ultimate asshole. He defines the dysfunctional and cynical nature of the series by outright refusing to be a good man in any way. From the very beginning, he’s painted as the generic martial arts hero and gets his revenge on the evil man who vexed him…only to take joy at his action and simply take over his father’s corrupt business.

The games give him so many chances to turn face and show some level of decency, but outside of his down-low relationship with Jun Kazama, Kazuya proceeds to be the scummiest man possible. He brushes off sentimentalism like it was specks of dust. It’s why the sccene where Jinpachi dies in his arms is so amazing. He’s the ultimate anti-villain.

So yeah, Kazuya Mishima could be a decent hero, but he’d rather be a magnificent bastard and he’s just so good at it.

3. HEIHACHI MISHIMA

First appearance: Tekken

I don’t see how someone cannot enjoy Heihachi Mishima. Outside of the more mythological characters, he’s the most evil monster in the series, but he’s so lovable. The story’s starting points are Heihachi locking his father up and starving him to death alongside Heihachi throwing his own young son off a cliff for asshole reasons. Even if he’s the one who isn’t infected by a demonic entity, Heihachi’s still a devious son of a bitch.

But he does love his long-lost wife and his dopey pet bear, so he isn’t all bad.

He is all badass, though. He’s a man who catches bullets and hatchets with his teeth and can survive being dogpiled by a dozen exploding robots. The time jump in Tekken 3 works out for the better because as an elderly man, Heihachi appears tougher and more threatening. It’s as if time barely affects his stature and if it does, that will only make him more desperate and therefore more dangerous in reaching his endgame.

Plus he’s a man who went back in time and fought a bunch of swordsmen while armed with nothing more than bracers. Heihachi gives no shit about your medieval magic weapons.

2. KING II

First appearance: Tekken 3

After the first Armor King died, King II suddenly went on a fantastic character arc. Having his two mentor figures murdered and one of the perpetrators still alive, King was all about paying Craig Marduk back. King beat him into a coma and was more than ready to finish him off until realizing that Marduk, despite his faults and crimes, was still a human being with loved ones who would be heartbroken to find him murdered.

Even when Marduk doubled down by publicly mocking Armor King as a way to draw King out, King still went the straight path. He followed his adopted father’s Christian teachings by turning the other cheek and by doing so, he turned his greatest enemy into his ally.

You got all that good shit and match it with a growling jaguar luchador man who drops people with Vertibreakers and does moves straight out of MUSCLE. Damn straight King is a top name in Tekken.

1. LEE CHAOLAN

First appearance: Tekken

I already spoiled this with my Street Fighter list. The worst Street Fighter guy is Lee, as is the best Tekken guy. With Tekken being about taking the main hero trope and turning it on its head, Lee is an extension of that who has unexpectedly become the coolest guy in the whole series.

He started off as an orphan Heihachi adopted and pretended to love just to piss off Kazuya. But when Kazuya turned out to be evil, what then? Lee tried working for Kazuya and planned to backstab him for the greater good, but that didn’t work out, especially once Heihachi stood tall at the end of Tekken 2.

And so, Lee reinvented himself. He built his own successful robotics company. He showed class. He showed compassion. He waited years to mess with Heihachi and did so in a stylish – if obvious – disguise. His endings are about thrashing the Mishimas in the most over-the-top ways possible, all while dropping his optimistic one-liner.

In a world being ravaged by the Mishima bloodline, there’s the black sheep adopted son trying to counter it. He’s such a force for good that he doesn’t even pick a fight with Lars in Tekken 6, unlike nearly everyone else. It’s fitting how these two, sort of brothers without even knowing it, end up becoming strong allies against Heihachi, Kazuya, and Jin.

Lee is excellent.

Agree with the list? Disagree? Let loose in the comments. Me? I’m going to wait for a new SoulCalibur to be announced so I can start work on that list.

Gavin Jasper is still disappointed that Zasalamel never showed up in Tekken. Follow Gavin on Twitter!