On the surface, Overwatch may seem like a game with very little in the way of story or deep characters, but Blizzard has fleshed out the in-game universe with supporting materials like comics and animated shorts. Through these supporting materials, fans have learned a lot about the world of Overwatch and its cast of characters, including some of their tragic backstories.
Like comic book superheroes, many characters on the Overwatch roster have tragic or depressing backstories that have led to their current place in the game’s universe, whether that be as a member of the reformed Overwatch team or collaborating with the antagonistic Talon terrorist organization. Out of all the characters’ backstories in Overwatch, though, the following five are the most tragic.
Genji’s tragic backstory was touched on in the Dragons animated short. As the story goes, the Shimada brothers Genji and Hanzo were at odds about what role Genji would play in the family’s criminal organization, leading to a confrontation between the two of them. During this battle, Hanzo believed that he killed his own brother, a thought that continued to haunt him for years to come.
Every year on the anniversary of Genji’s apparent death, Hanzo made a special trip to Hanamura to pray to his brother. However, Genji was actually saved by Mercy, and to keep him alive his body was augmented with various cybernetic enhancements. Genji struggled with his humanity after his transformation into a cyborg, prompting him to travel aimlessly around the globe. Eventually, Genji was able to be at peace with his new body thanks to the teachings of Zenyatta, but even so, he will never quite be the same again.
Don’t let Mei’s happy-go-lucky outlook on the world fool you; she was actually subject to a rather awful experience before the events of the game. Mei was once a brilliant scientist that worked for the Overwatch team at Ecopoint: Antarctica, a base established in Antarctica to study the increasing threat of strange weather phenomenon and climate change.
One day, a terrible storm hit the Ecopoint: Antarctica base, stranding Mei and her fellow scientists without any means of escape. With supplies running low, Mei and her colleagues decided to put themselves in cryogenic pods to wait out the storm and be rescued, but it was years before any kind of rescue came.
When rescuers finally arrived on the scene, they found that Mei’s fellow scientists were all dead, and she was the only survivor. While Mei may not show it on the surface, one has to imagine that this experience was rather traumatizing for her.
Gabriel Reyes was passed over for the position of Overwatch’s commander in favor of his friend Jack Morrison. Reyes was instead entrusted to lead the covert Blackwatch group, known for gaining information through illegal means such as kidnapping and torture. Blackwatch’s morally questionable exploits hurt Overwatch’s global reputation, and the resulting tension between Reyes and Morrison led to a deadly confrontation between the two friends.
It was during this fight that Overwatch headquarters was destroyed in an explosion. Morrison and Reyes were both believed dead, but Morrison went on to become the mysterious vigilante known as Soldier: 76, and Reyes became Reaper. However, Reyes was now equipped with special abilities, such as becoming a wraith, teleporting, and healing himself with the souls of his fallen enemies.
It’s not entirely clear how Reyes gained his Reaper abilities, but some in-game dialogue suggests that it was due to the intervention of Mercy. It sounds like Mercy attempted to bring Reyes back from the dead after his fight with Morrison, but he came back as something not quite human.
Out of all the characters on this list, Widowmaker’s backstory may be the most tragic. Back when Widowmaker was known by her birth name of Amelie, she was married to Overwatch agent Gerard Lacroix. Gerard was in constant conflict with the Talon terrorist organization, and so to get at Gerard, Talon kidnapped Amelie, brainwashing her into killing her own husband in his sleep.
Talon’s work with Amelie wasn’t done yet. The group continued to experiment on her, using its mind control technology to slow her heart rate to the point that her skin turned blue. While having blue skin is an unfortunate side effect, Widowmaker’s slowed heart rate allows her to be a more effective sniper, with Talon utilizing her to carry out high profile assassinations across the globe.
Widowmaker’s backstory is made even more tragic when one takes into account her encounter with Ana. Before the Overwatch team knew what happened to Amelie Lacroix, Ana had a fight with Widowmaker, where she hesitated upon recognizing her as Gerard’s wife. Ana’s hesitation saw Widowmaker shoot her through the eye, leaving the team’s healer-sniper for dead.
Winston grew up at the Horizon Lunar Colony on the moon, where he and his fellow gorillas were enhanced to greatly increase their intelligence. While living there, Winston began to look at scientist Dr. Harold Winston as a father figure. So when Winston’s fellow apes decided to stage an uprising and murder all the scientists, Winston took it pretty hard.
Inspired by Dr. Harold Winston, Winston took his name and escaped the Horizon Lunar Colony to travel to Earth, where he quickly became a member of Overwatch. When Overwatch disbanded, Winston went into a life of solitude, waiting for the day he could finally initiate the recall and get the group back together.
While these five Overwatch characters arguably have the most tragic backstories, other characters on the roster have depressing tales as well. For example, we saw Bastion struggle with his role of being a ruthless killing machine in The Last Bastion animated short, and we know McCree once lived a life of crime before being forced to either join Blackwatch or spend the rest of his life in prison.
There are some characters on the Overwatch roster that we don’t even know that much about, like the Omnic monk Zenyatta for instance, and so it’s possible that their origins are just as tragic as the five characters listed here. As Blizzard continues to expand Overwatch‘s lore, we should learn more about all the heroes in the game, so fans should keep an eye out for more comics and animated shorts in the future.
Overwatch is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.