Overwatch’s characters get all the love, but those cartoons have to kill each other somewhere. A shooter’s maps should give all kinds of players the opportunity to shine, while also highlighting strengths and weaknesses of certain lineups. Overwatch has that in spades. On these maps, some characters have access to parts that others don’t, but those spots can also leave them open to attack. Other spots might be hard to attack, but the right lineup can take advantage of a flank to make it an honest fight. Chokepoints are clearly visible and circumventable, and force the big fights that make for a great Play of the Game.
Better yet, each map is designed around a specific game mode like Assault, Escort and Control. This guarantees you never get tired of doing the same thing over and over, and these maps multiply the variety of team combinations by asking players to consider their favorite characters in different contexts. In the right player’s hands, the map is as much a tool for destruction as any character they choose.
We’ve ranked each of Overwatch’s twelve maps from worst to best, because some are just plain better than others. How’d your favorite do? Do you even have a favorite map, or have you been so focused on how badass that Pharah ultimate you just pulled off was to pick one? For shame.
Suriel Vazquez is a freelance writer who no, for real, really needs you to get on the payload. He’s written for Paste, ZAM, Playboy and several others. You can follow him on Twitter.
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12. Lijiang Tower: Lijiang Tower has one of my favorite aesthetics in all of Overwatch, so it's kind of a shame that it's a) my least favorite map, and b) the map that seems to come up the least often in random matchmaking. Every map in the game is designed around funneling players into a constant stream of battles, but Lijiang Tower has a few too many angles of approach. You might think there's no such thing, but when your team can't take the capture point and your teammates walk in, one by one, into the entire defending team, more angles means it's harder to rally a concerted effort to take the point. I also got knocked off the edge once, so I'm a little upset about that.
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11. King's Row: Hanamura and Temple of Anubis might be easier to defend, but no loss is as crushing as one suffered by an attacking team who failed to take the first capture point on King's Row. King's Row has a bottleneck from the go, and the only way to circumvent it as a character without vertical mobility is a little side window that anyone on the defending team can spot from a mile away. The second Escort objective provides a ton of great opportunities for the fun momentum swings that make Overwatch so exhilarating, but they're worthless if you can't get through that first capture point, and anecdotally, it's the map where I see the attackers lose at the first point most.
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10. Volskaya Industries: Volskaya Industries is where my shortest match took place; we steamrolled the enemy team's defense into the first point, then picked them off one by one as they tried to make sure we didn't get to the second capture point too quickly. We won in a little over two minutes. Despite that, Volskaya Industries is actually a hard map to wrap your head around. There are a number of overlapping paths to get lost in near the first objective, and a couple of key spots at the second let you see just about every practical approach. It's also the map I wish I could venture out into the most, since in the distance you can see giant robots watching over a Russian government building as cars drive by, hinting at a fascinating world beyond the matches you're fighting.
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9. Dorado: Escort is naturally the best mode in Overwatch since it's the one where your team is mostly likely to know that they have to focus their attention on a single thing. That said, Dorado is probably my least favorite map to defend. Most of the good vantage points for builders can be spotted by a Bastion sitting on top of the moving cart, making it difficult for Torbjörn or Symmetra to really get things going. Things get a bit easier once you reach the inside of the lab/factory/industrial whatever that the Mexican pueblo hides, but by then the attacking team probably has momentum in their favor. There are also a few spots that seem dedicated to distracting players into chasing kills, which means they're not on the payload, which means goddammit get on the payload.
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8. Numbani: Numbani is a solid map, ranking at number eight only because the other maps are so much better. The map winds left and right multiple times and has several interlocking flanking points, but its sense of direction is always clear. And here the hybrid objective works well; the initial capture point and subsequent Escort objective are both part of the same twisting path, which carries over a lot of the attacking team's momentum (unlike in, say, King's Row). Its final chokepoint also feels like the fairest for both teams, which is a particularly noteworthy triumph.
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7. Hanamura: Hanamura is notorious for its nearly-impossible to attack second objective, and that's mostly true. A single Bastion and Torbjorn can hold down the dojo almost by themselves, since all paths lead to a wide arena overlooked by higher ground on all sides. But the first objective is one of the best maps in the game, offering a chokepoint multiple heroes can circumvent and a wide variety of surprise flanks that lead back into one another. The middle area between the dojo and the streets is criminally underutilized, though.
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6. Nepal: The best-of-three capture point mode of Nepal feels like Overwatch's most competitive mode, and Nepal reflects that. All three of its capture points have a great mix of wide angles and narrow tunnels, which lets most heroes find their comfort zone and get to work. Mei's wall might be a little too strong on a couple of them (since a single wall can make entering the capture point a death sentence), but other than that, Nepal gives every class something to do, even if it favors characters with mobility.
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5. Watchpoint: Gibraltar: Watchpoint: Gibraltar feels like the "classic" Overwatch map. It's the map I remember most when I think of the game, but that doesn't make it the best one. The starting area alone seems flanked on almost every side, and there are dozens of points for a good Bastion to set up shop and mow people down. Like King's Row, the map gets more exciting as the payload reaches its destination. But unlike King's Row, it's never awful.
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4. Ilios: Ilios has a strong Mediterranean aesthetic that makes it pleasant to just look at. You can see the ocean beyond Greece for miles, and you can get a short glimpse of the architecture at work when a Lucio knocks you off the edge. It's also a hectic capture point map, with three distinct locations that all like feel completely different maps. There are lots of short flanks to explore, and they're all set up to be defendable but not impenetrable. This is where I've had the most Overtime swings when one team got the point 99% captured, then the other managed to capture and take it back all the way.
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3. Temple of Anubis: The other "impossible" defense map, Temple of Anubis earns its reputation as being overly rough on the attacking team during the second point capture. I'd argue it's easier to play on offense than Hanamura, though, since you can potentially flank the capture point from two opposite angles at once. The first capture point is also one of the best of the game, forcing the defending team to keep track of two walkways, one high-up vantage point, and a couple of flanks at once without feeling impossible to defend. The visual design is top-notch as well, with a couple of a lived-in buildings tucked away between the first and second capture points.