Question about tier lists


I don’t if if it’s all fighting games or just Street Fighter IV, but people seem to rank characters like: “S, A, B, C, D” (or something similar). What I don’t understand is why the convention isn’t simply “Below Average” and “Above Average”. For example, in SSFIV AE there are debates over how good some characters are but most players can agree on which characters are solid. I think the difference between A, B and C are not well-defined, and that the game is sufficiently balanced to eliminate clear distinctions in character strengths. For example, consider the following:

Above Average (noticeable advantage over others):

Below Average (significant shortcomings compared to the rest of the cast):
El Fuerte
Evil Ryu

Everyone else is solid or “average”.

Was the convention of ‘tiers’ originally due to fighting games being poorly balanced or is it to account for a variety of opinions and rank the characters accordingly? And what is wrong with my suggestion above?


Evil Ryu and Vega are so much better than Dan, so you can’t put them in the same category, that’s why the S, A, B, C…etc ranks exist, to sort the characters depending on their overall matchups. There’s no accuracy whatsoever in the method you’re suggesting.


well, the fact that having a maximum of three categories yields less information than having more categories, for starters. by combining characters of differing strength into one category for the sake of topping out at three, meaningful information is lost.


Tiers are there to create a distinction between groups of characters. Think of them like grades. If you have a PASS/IMPROVE/FAIL class, that’s not very specific in terms of student performance as a whole. Basically it’s a less accurate way of determining student progress. Whereas if you have the standard A, B, C, D, F system, you have a better idea of how students performed in your class, therefore you net more accurate results. Many tier lists even go into more specifics where they assign + and - versions of each grade to provide a more easily explainable version of tier lists.

Keep in mind that tiers are extremely subjective and allow for quite a lot of variance. Tier listings also assume that you have two players of equal skill playing two different characters to a first to ten. This does not exist. There is no such thing as two players of perfectly equal skill. Most tier listings also assume that you are discussing the matchup at the current meta-game level, therefore tier lists for new players will be different than that of intermediate players, and also completely different from top levels of play.

They should only be used as a GENERAL gauge of overall character strength and options, and should used as a sole guide for which character you should use.


Tier lists are always opinions.

Character placements on matchup charts are a sum of opinions on individual matchups, yet don’t tell much necessarily (a character with a 3-7 and a 7-3 is considered equal to one with two 5-5’s, the Cammy matchup has the same weight as the Dan match and so on…)

But, even then, tiers are useful for making distinctions. For example, there’s about 5-6 characters in the game that are a pretty solid category of their own, after which comes a huge mass of characters many of which could have a reasonable claim to top 10. It makes sense to separate these. Likewise near the bottom: There’s characters that are lacking only a bit, and then ones that are lacking quite a bit. Makes sense to separate them.

The one thing I usually dislike in people’s use of tiers is the letters. S tier gets used so liberally it’s not funny, when it has implications of the S tier character being broken, way above everyone else and probably banworthy. See Akuma in ST, or even his weaker incarnation in HDR that had a couple irritating glitches like a guaranteed super from a pretty common situation. I’ve also heard completely invincible jab dps are fun.

Simply being strong or the best doesn’t make you S Tier. Being broken does. AE, for example, doesn’t have S tier characters (unless someone comes up with some not-seen-before Oilkan nonsense, I guess).

So an AE tiering would look like, dunno (not in order):
S: Empty
A+: Cammy Akuma
A: Fei Adon Viper Sak
A-: Seth, some dudes
B: Most dudes
C: Dan Hawk and stuff
D: Empty.


If the purpose of tier lists is to provide a general indication of relative character rankings, then having more categories not only makes them more subjective but also more variable. For instance, if you separate out a cast of 26 characters alphabetically (A for top, Z for bottom) then you’re NEVER going to end up with tier lists looking similar because people’s opinions and experiences will vary. Having fewer ‘tiers’ makes it easier to compare characters imo, since they represent a more aggregate, rather than personal perspective of character strength.


Came to this thread to say exactly this. It bothers me when people talk about an S-tier, because that reinforces the thinking that X character is unbeatable, and it just leads to more whining in general.

A-tier = the best characters in a balanced game
S-tier = you’re dumb if you don’t play these characters


Tier grades sometimes start with SSS (Or S++) then SS(Or S+) then S then A B C D similar to many ways that ranking and has been done for many other things.

Grade inflation is def prevalent but I believe that an S tier character is actually not “unbeatable” or “game breaking” I think you start seeing that at S+ and then S++. Characters that are S tier are just clearly a step above everyone else but beatable. For example, I’d call Chun in 3rd Strike “S” tier I wouldn’t put her any higher but she is clearly a step above every character, however she isn’t SO far ahead that she is gamebreaking. She is basically at an advantage in nearly every matchup which clearly puts her higher than everyone even if it doesn’t put her so far ahead as to make other characters unable to compete. The 4 gods in Marvel 2 are clearly S tier IMO as well. Cable, Storm, Sent, Magneto are all a step above every character individually and very few teams are able to compete without at least one of them in the team. However they aren’t so far ahead of the rest of the cast that teams must be comprised ENTIRELY of them. Or that once whichever one of them is in your team dies your chance of winning is hopeless.

Fei and Yun in AE were a good example of how an S tier character can be beatable but is certainly better than almost everyone else with 80-90% advantageous matchups including some very lopsided matchups like Yun/Sim.

I think that the idea that S tier means game breaking or unbeatable is growing though, and as tier lists themselves are a subjective thing eventually S tier WILL mean that and S+ and S++ will fade away. Some of this also has to do with the current trend of compacting tier lists with many players claiming 5-5 or 4-6 or 6-4 for every match up due to not wanting to either claim their character is stronger than it is, or claim it is weaker than it is or simply due to lack of knowledge because of larger size casts in recent fighting games.


Tier lists, especially for 1-on-1 fighters, are based on match up charts. Position is based on the sum of overall wins against the rest of the cast based on win-loss ratios, assuming 10 matches against each character. It’s the spread among the characters based on these totals that determines the tier position.

In general though:
SS = God Tier
S = Top tier
A = High/top tier
B = High/upper mid tier
C = Mid tier
D = Low/lower mid tier
E = low tier
F = Bottom tier

Though the definition may change depending on the spread and how close the characters are in rank.

Forgot to mention, the spread isn’t necessarily even. Most decent fighters are a bit top heavy, with only 1 or two bottom tiers and at least 4 top/god tiers. In fact having at least 4 top/god tiers that are viable/dominant in tournaments considered by some the minimum required for tournament viability.


Using only three tiers is perfectly reasonable, if you believe that the distinction between A, B, and C is not that clear. For some people though, there is a difference between characters in A and C tier. In general, the question of how many tier groups to use is a balance between providing meaningful information, and preventing false precision. On the one hand, you could have just 1 tier, which provides no information, and on the other, you could have 39 tiers, which is probably not very accurate. This is a very common idea that is not restricted to just fighting games.

However, it’s a lot easier to start with more detailed information and then compress that down to fewer groups, than to go the other way around. Matchup charts provide this detailed data on a somewhat more objective basis.

The, S, A, B, C, D groups are commonly used out of tradition and familiarity with letter based systems. Older games had some pretty distinct tier groups, so it didn’t make sense to group them into “above average”, “average”, and “below average”.


A tier of course, but B tier are usually tournament viable as well. I know this might sound dumb, but eventually you get smart enough to start calling them out. For example: When I played UMvC3 the first time ever, I already knew who was top tier for some reason… You JUST KNOW eventually on what a high tier character plays like… Even without seeing tierlist… But that’s just personal opinion on tiers and not official, but sone are just good at calling it out I guess… Everyone knew Wesker was easy mode A tier the moment MvC3 came out… Everyone knew Mitsuru was A tier on P4A day one… Fox and falco were the shit on Melee… everyone just knew Yun was B tier in v2012 and nothing lower despite the nerfs… lol ill shut up now… You just know dan plays like a C/D tier… That vibe!!!


well of course some things are obvious while others less so. For example, from a first glance it would seem obvious Dudley would be top tier in SF4 but he isn’t. From a first glance Cody seems like he’d have been mid tier in SFxT but no one knew about his safe on block boost chains until he was out for a few weeks which ended up making him A tier on that alone (and when taken away and other stuff nerfed made him C+ tier). I don’t think anyone would have put Sakura or Blanka at S tier in CVS2 at first glance. Everyone thought Seth and Viper were pretty mediocre/bad in Vanilla but looking back we all realize that while they certainly had faults that were fixed in later versions they both had some crazy shit that no one knew about or took advantage of in Vanilla that would have put them at top tier.

Of course then you have obvious stuff like Kazuya in SFxT, everyone saw out the gate he’d be top tier. Akuma in SF4 was pretty obvious in Vanilla and even today (though certainly far less obviously better than others today, but that is because in Vanilla he was basically broken whereas now he is just really strong.) Metaknight and Snake in SSBB was pretty obviously going to be top tier. Yun in AE was obvious from day 1.


I don’t think I’d give Chun her own tier in 3s. it’s really more like (IMO):

top tier - Chun Yun Ken Makoto
second tier - Dudley Yang Akuma Urien
borderline - Ryu

and everyone else past that has really ugly matchups against the top characters so it doesn’t matter so much where you place them. there’s maybe a gap between C/Y and K/M but not enough to put them on separate tiers I think. maybe you could call them tier 1A and 1B.

I’m not convinced that Chun Yun is anything but 5-5 unless you’re playing against MOV Nuki or Rikimaru. and Yun has nearly the same matchups against the rest of the cast that Chun does so even if you split that top tier into two separate tiers I think you’d throw Chun and Yun together still.


This is the most recent tier list from Arcadia:

S+ - Chun-Li
S - Yun
A+ - Ken, Dudley
A - Makoto, Yang
A- - Urien, Akuma, Ryu, Oro
B+ - Hugo
B - Elena, Ibuki, Alex
C - Necro, Twelve, Remy, Q
D - Sean


isn’t that the one from 2009? things have definitely changed since then. you’d have a hard time convincing most people that Dudley is better than Makoto for instance.

in any case my perception from current Japanese play and playing fairly often is that Chun is not good enough to have her own tier. that it’s even conceivable is a result of MOV Nuki and Rikimaru being better than everyone else IMO.

also as a general rule when there are slight variations in character strength I don’t think there should be a separate tier for each character or two. because at that point you basically have a matchup chart without the numbers. tier lists should give a general idea of categories of character strength and are condensed by nature.


Actually the perception of Seth was that he was extremly strong in vanilla sf4 from everyone I talked to at the time. If you look at early cvs2 you see a lot of Blanka and Sakura, Sagat, and Cammy actually. Watch evo2k2 cvs2 less than a year after the games release.


Fair enough, besides it is just a subjective opinion. I don’t play 3S much but personally I think that Chun is S tier but arguably so is Yun. No other 2 characters dominate EVERY tournament as much as those two both in representation and in placing. Top 8 for the 25th anniversary last year had 3chuns and 2 yuns. Makoto and Ken are certainly A+ tier and competitive but I feel like the difference between Makoto - Chun is noticeable enough for a tier difference. Every matchup chart I’ve managed to find has Chun/Yun about 10points higher than everyone else which is a pretty big jump in overall matchups.

As I said though, I don’t keep up with 3S that much so things could have shifted of course, but from the outside at least Chun has pretty obviously had the most consistent tournament placements (even without MOV) out of the entire cast.


I still think it’s silly that people call “S” Tier “Reserved for Broken”.

  1. It’s just a letter. Instead of S,A,B,C I could make SS+,SS,S+,S tiers - S being the worst. That looks rather silly, but it works. S is just “above A” and is quite pretty, so I use it. Nothing to do with broken.
  2. Tier lists should not feature Banned Characters at all because, well, they’re banned (what’s the use of knowing the Tier Placement of a character you’re not allowed to pick?).

I don’t get statements like “This game has no S-Tier”. With the same argument I can go and say “All the characters in SF4 have super slow walkspeed and are shitty in general, pitch any of them against any 3S character and they get their socks rocked off. This means: This game doesn’t have have an E-Tier, the strongest Tier should start with F”. That’s just… weird.


Special tier and Broken tier are not the same.
S tier has mostly advantageous matchups, few or none balanced matchups, no disadvantage matchups. See Vanilla Sagat, 3S Chun, ST Claw.
Broken has 10/0 matchups against most of the cast. This due to “boss design” or a problem in game mechanics (ST akuma…).


Yeah, this is what I mean. Holding tiers to certain universal standards helps when evaluating the balance of a game. Looking at Justin Wong’s tier list for example, he has 8ish characters in S-tier. He only has three tiers in total (besides Dan), which means he thinks the game is fairly balanced, but putting a ton of characters at S isn’t really consistent with a balanced game. You can say they’re just letters and S/A/B is the same as A/B/C, but I feel the letters should mean something, otherwise you’re just ranking characters in order and not actually sorting them into useful tiers.