When it comes to any competitive game, as much as developers try to balance their games, some characters will always just be objectively better than others, be it due to better average stats, or having fewer opponents that hard counter their capabilities. With such a large roster of characters, Street Fighter V does a decent job of balancing things among them, but each of the combatants can still be ranked in a series of tiers from best to worst.
First thing to understand before even talking about characters though it how tiers are generally organized. Depending on how many characters the game has, tiers range from S to usually C or D being the lowest, with plus tiers being added in for those in between characters. Instead of lettering systems, tiers can also use a numeric system from first tier down, with god tier being above first tier as the highest bracket for characters. The tiers themselves are generally based on tournament trends and which characters see the most competitive play, as well as their performance. Tiers also aren’t set in stone, as they tend to reset after each competitive season, and can shift drastically with nerfs (negative changes made by the developers for balancing purposes) and buffs (positive changes made for balancing purposes). For example, if a particular character is only S tier due to an exploit or bug that allows them to easily infinitely combo, and the exploit is removed next season or in a patch, their ranking will expectedly plummet.
For the specific characters that are top tier for Street Fighter V, out of the 35 combatants, according to Event Hub the top five are:
M. Bison can be a force to be reckoned with. Having a fairly high power level in terms of damage, and decent poke potential, Bison can lay on some serious hurt to opponents who don’t play carefully. On top of this, Bison also has some of the best counter-play in the game, using his power knee strike to punish anyone who comes in at him recklessly. His only downside is that he’s not very mobile, so Bison players have to be very precise, relying on head games and positioning to bait their opponent into a devastating combo.
What Rashid lacks in power, he makes up with speed and unpredictability. His speed and switch ups make his attacks very hard to predict, and even more difficult to successfully block because of it. Keeping your opponent on their toes and switching up your attacks enough to keep your opponent reeling as your combo them to dust is your goal with Rashid, and his entire kit, including his V-Trigger hurricane, are designed around this.
Menat is a highly technical character who excels and locking down her opponent. Using a crystal ball that lingers on screen, your goal is to block off entire sections of the arena, and punish your opponent for rushing in blindly. Her V-Trigger also piles on the hurt with a huge combo for anyone unlucky enough to get caught in it. She has a very high skill curve, relying more on knowing your opponent and predicting their movements more than any other character on this list, but having the practice and patience to learn Menat rewards you with being able to practically control the match from a safe distance.
Where Rashid trades power for speed and mobility, Akuma trades versatility and durability for sheer power. Sporting the lowest HP pool in the entire game, a few well places combos can put Akuma down. Don’t let his low health fool you though, as Akuma hits like a freight train hauling a shipment of pain right to your opponent’s face. Even his basic attacks do some serious damage, and with some tricky techniques and ways to keep his combos going once he’s in, he can dish out some brutal damage. Just don’t get hit and you’re golden.
Ibuki has a very steep learning curve, sporting one of the longest move set of any character, as well as having to keep track of how many throwing stars you have available. Once you master her move set though, she can outmaneuver almost anyone, and her combos are designed to have very deceiving setups and jukes scattered throughout, making your opponents second guess your every move trying to keep up. She does have an abysmal HP pool and fairly low damage though, so you’ll have to put in some major effort to get those wins.
At the end of the day, while tier lists offer a ranking for the best characters, a lot of it comes down to player skill. There have been many off meta picks in high ranking tournaments, like Dan and Fang beating down top tier characters like M. Bison and Vega. With that in mind, don’t read too much into tier lists, as they aren’t as objective as they might seem, and are mostly dependent on what’s going on in the pro scene. Find a character that fits your playstyle and learn them, learn their strengths, their weaknesses, and how to play around those weaknesses. At the end of the day, player skill trumps the rankings on a tier list, though tier lists are a good way of keeping track of what kind of opponents you might face most often when climbing higher on the ranked ladder. So there it goes our Best Street Fighter Characters.