For the past couple of months, my interest in gaming has skyrocketed exponentially due to J-Stars Victory Vs+, which led to me discovering my current obsession: the Dynasty Warriors franchise. It's a singular franchise that’s loaded with tons of playable characters, nifty weapons, and an all-around engaging storyline. Classified as a hack and slash game, Omega Force and Koei’s Dynasty Warriors is loosely based on the historical Chinese text Records Of The Three Kingdoms.
Most of the characters present in the games are also based off of historical figures in history. With over 80 playable characters – as of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires, I believe there’s a total of 83 playable characters – one will wonder, “how do you pick just 10 best/favorite characters?” The answer to that question is surprisingly easy. While playing through the story mode of each kingdom, one will come to have a soft spot for numerous characters based on their skills, weapon, personality, and most of all, personal preference and how much you enjoy playing as that character.
The following list is my personal opinion and I’m ranking the characters based on the criteria I listed in the previous sentence – although when it comes down to it, all of the below choices depend mainly on personal preference and the characters personality.
10) Lu Bu
Dynasty Warriors wouldn’t be what it is without the menacing beast known as Lu Bu. In fact, Lu Bu is Dynasty Warriors most recognizable character, trailing a bit behind Zhao Yun. Lu Bu is superior in every right; his moves, his weapon, and hell even his horse Red Hare is more powerful than the rest. Running into Lu Bu on the battlefield in any level of difficulty is bound to lead to certain death. It’s no wonder whenever Lu Bu appears, the exclamation, “DO NOT pursue Lu Bu” appears along with him. Lu Bu’s affectionate side hardly ever appears unless he’s interacting with the ever beautiful Diaochan and his daughter Lu Lingqi. I’m not particularly fond of Lu Bu’s personality, but his commanding presence, attachment to Diaochan/Lu Lingqi and higher stats are more than enough for him to earn the #10 spot on this list. Also, the halberd – Lu Bu’s weapon of choice – seriously kicks ass!
Zhenji certainly isn’t a popular choice when compared to the other female characters, and honestly, Sun Shang Xiang nearly made it to this spot. However, I have an overwhelming amount of love for Zhenji, which stems down to one single factor: her personality. In the beginning, Zhenji aligned herself with the pompous Yuan Shao, before Cao Cao steadily rose to power. This smug and sassy beauty eventually grows devoted to and marries Cao Cao’s son Cao Pi. Zhenji has so much confidence that it can ultimately be viewed as arrogance; she knows she’s beautiful and expects everyone else to recognize this fact as well. Despite her petty behavior, Zhenji is witty enough to exchange repartee with Cao Pi and almost every character in the game.
Her specialty may be belittling her opponents, but that certainly doesn't mean she’s physically weak. Zhenji enters the battlefield clad in purple and is able to swiftly incapacitate her opponent with her handy dandy flute – yes, her weapon is a flute. Zhenji’s devotion to Cao Pi is touching and heart breaking when you learn of Zhenji’s origins in real life. In reality, Zhenji was Cao Pi’s first wife who was ultimately ordered to commit suicide by Cao Pi himself. It’s a good thing the games don’t accurately portray the characters to their real life counterparts or else me and Cao Pi would be having real issues right about now.
8) Zhang He
Zhang He is an admirer of all things beautiful, and brings the game to life whenever he makes his melodramatic appearances. More often than not, Zhang He is shown gracefully moving in the background during a dramatic cut scene; he’s quite simply a beautiful warrior whose movement and fighting style represents the elegance of a ballet dancer. Armed with gigantic claws, Zhang He is a fierce opponent who resents inelegance and crudeness on the battlefield. He won’t hesitate when complimenting or criticizing his opponents and teammates.
When in battle, Zhang He displays true kindness and offers words of encouragement to his downtrodden allies. Zhang He is portrayed as the oddball of Wei and yet, the other characters never hold his bizarre actions against him; in fact, they hardly seem to notice Zhang He’s occasional dances and spins. Zhang He certainly enjoys the finer aspects of life and proves to be a powerful ally to have in the long run.
7) Jia Chong
Jia Chong is a cryptic and ghostly man who does all the “dirty work” for the Sima family. His very appearance and presence can intimidate the strongest of foes and he looks more of a villain than he actually is. Jia Chong has the intellect and strength to take the throne for himself and yet he’s perfectly content following rather than leading. His ruthlessness takes even Sima Yi and Shi off guard, despite knowing they have attained his never-ending loyalty. Jia Chong believes a ruler should rule with justness and thinly veiled cruelty in order to qualm the restless land and its people.
Although Jia Chong is loyal to the Sima clan, his loyalty seems particularly strong towards Sima Zhao which is quite funny considering they’re polar opposites. Other than possessing necessary cruelty and a calm demeanor, Jia Chong also seems to have a keen intuition or a sixth sense of sorts. He’s able to predict Zhao’s future in leadership while also predicting Zhuge Dan’s betrayal. As far as weapons go, Jia Chong’s throwing axes aren’t my favorite, but they prove beneficial for close range attacks. Jia Chong ultimately represents the Sima clan’s darkness and his very eerie and perceptive personality is what landed him spot #7
6) Zhou Yu
Zhou Yu is the first Dynasty Warriors character I genuinely enjoyed playing as in the Wu storyline – aside from Sun Shang Xiang that is. In the beginning, I wasn’t overly impressed with Wu and its set of characters; Zhou Yu came along and made me view the Wu storyline in a more positive light. Zhou Yu is an extremely perceptive individual who is responsible for earning quite a few victories for Wu. He has a brilliant mind that often gets overshadowed by Zhuge Liang’s. Gentle and clam, Zhou Yu has an aura about him that exudes hope and inspires other Wu warriors.
Zhou Yu’s weapon of choice also happens to be one of my favorites in the game: a staff. His orange phoenix staff allows you to elegantly slaughter your enemies while an array of colors appear with each hit you land. The staff is swift and powerful; killing the enemies quicker than they can realize what hit them (alright, that’s an exaggeration, but you can’t deny the badassery of the staff). Zhou Yu’s character design is also one of my favorites as his beauty rivals that of Diaochan. His fierce loyalty to the Sun family is admirable and his devotion and love for his wife Xiaoqiao manages to pull on my heartstrings.
5) Sima Shi
Yet another member from Jin makes an appearance on the list, and quite frankly, he won’t be the last. Sima Shi takes after his brilliant father Sima Yi, and carries himself in an aristocratic fashion that he often times comes across as snobbish or even arrogant. Shi may be a tad bit arrogant, but he’s also unbelievably compassionate. His love and genuine compassion for his people betray is mistakenly perceived cold and strict demeanor. Sima Shi’s ambition rivals his father’s own, and he’s loyal to a fault. Despite being such a serious young man, Shi’s serious qualities pale in comparison to his childish ones; such as his love and obsession for meat buns and mimicking his father’s sinister laugh every moment he can; there’s even a cut scene that features Yi and Shi laughing menacingly as Zhao watches on in exasperation.
Shi’s relationship with his brother Sima Zhao is quite precious and witnessing Shi die prematurely in the arms of Zhao opened a floodgate of tears. Shi had an overwhelmingly amount of potential that was cut short due to his tragic death. Shi’s design is quite unique due to the mask that is placed on the left side of his face due to an injury via arrow. He’s an all-around badass with an intelligence that’s just as deadly as his weapon.
4) Xu Shu
Xu Shu is a humble and intelligent man who’s severely lacking in the self-confidence department. Always second guessing himself and putting himself down, Xu Shu is perhaps Dynasty Warriors most sympathetic and relatable character. Xu Shu seems to encompass emotions of negativity despite being a capable warrior and a compassionate and understanding human being; there is such sadness to Xu Shu that you, as a player, can’t help but want to ease his pains. Simply looking at Xu Shu makes my heart clench in heartbreak for he is a young man who never fully realized and utilized his talents.
Even Zhuge Liang can immediately recognize Xu Shu’s immense potential and yet Xu Shu himself never manages to retain confidence in himself. The game’s hypothetical routes show him becoming more confident in his abilities as he becomes a valuable asset to both Wei and Shu. Xu Shu’s high placement on this list lies solely on his sensitive personality, relatability in comparison to other larger than life characters and amazing combative moves with his weapon of choice: a hooked dagger.
3) Sima Yi
Sima Yi is perhaps the more deserving character of the #1 spot and yet he’ll have to settle for #3. If you can’t tell already, I favor the characters that display intellect rather than brute force. Sima Yi is intelligence; there is no other word that fits him more perfectly than that. He’s known for his memorable insults such as “FOOL!” or “IMBECILE” along with his typical evil villain laughter, which can very well indicate he’s arrived on the battlefield. Sima Yi is the only one deserving of the title “Emperor.” His ambition and cunning nature are the cause of Jin’s rise to power and despite looking very much like a supervillain; Sima Yi is not an evil individual. He’s a true genius who knows how to rule and get what he wants.
For all his intimidating aspects, Sima Yi is hilariously submissive when dealing with his wife Zhang Chunhua. He even enters an early retirement per her insistence thus giving the throne to Sima Shi. When you play Dynasty Warriors, you are Sima Yi; you play to be the best and conquer the land with your wit and skills. Sima Yi’s current weapon of choice is the horsehair whip which seriously whips opponents into shape. One hit from his whip stuns the opponent and honestly, it’s pretty damn awesome. Sima Yi is the character that best represents the nature and spirit of Dynasty Warriors. So who managed to outrank the ever-deserving Sima Yi?
2) Zhong Hui
Oh, how I absolutely adore this arrogant and spiteful young Jin officer. Zhong Hui is the youngest of Jin officers who refuses to point out his own flaws, instead going to great lengths to blame others for his blunders. Zhong Hui is who you would describe as an overambitious man who’s faults led to his own downfall. Constantly complimenting his own brilliance and claiming himself to be a genius and the chosen one, Zhong Hui isn’t considered very likable to his comrades. But... I just can’t help but love him. Driven by his ambition, he strives to establish himself as his own ruler and despite all his attempts; Zhong Hui never succeeds at overthrowing the Sima clan or Deng Ai, his sworn rival.
For all his faults, Zhong Hui is a downright talented officer whose flying swords are an absolute joy to wield. He also happens to be a very tragic character in my eyes, similar to the likes of Xu Shu; so much potential and yet his own pride of his worst enemy. His personality somewhat reminds me of Anakin Skywalker’s in Revenge of the Sith, in terms of his jealously and spite towards others. Had Zhong Hui accomplished his revolt against the Sima family, I have no doubt he would have made a formidable emperor. Maybe in another life, Zhong Hui!
And the number 1 spot, my all-time favorite Dynasty Warriors character, goes to…
1) Guo Jia
Cao Cao’s favored strategist whose intellect equally rivals Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi's. Guo Jia is an optimistic and patient individual who has back-up plans to his back-up plans; he’s just that good. Guo Jia wields an orb and scepter; one of the games more distinctive weapons, one that's quite fun to use on the battlefield. Guo Jia's weaponry is just as fun as his personality, He is considerably more carefree in comparison to his fellow officers and he always has a wistful smile on his face. A hedonist in every sense of the word, Guo Jia believes in living in the moment and seeks life’s pleasures every chance he gets due to the fact that he’s dying of an illness.
Guo Jia’s tragic and untimely death weighs heavily on Wei, Cao Cao in particular who admits Guo Jia’s presence would have deterred any defeat suffered on the battlefield. Sadly, Guo Jia didn't have a chance to fully prove his superiority towards the other strategists. I'm being completely biased when I say Guo Jia is Dynasty Warriors' best strategist. Other than his superior intelligence and devilishly handsome good looks, Guo Jia’s “living in the moment” attitude inspires one to do the same. Despite harboring such a deadly illness, Guo Jia doesn’t let it stop him from enjoying life and the company of his comrades. Guo Jia gives Wei his all, even in the final stages of his life. This is why Guo Jia is my favorite character in the Dynasty Warriors franchise.
Honorable Mentions: Wang Yuanji, Fa Zheng, Sun Shang Xiang, Li Dian & Ling Tong
Who is your favorite character? Let us know in the comments down below!