An action-packed, RNG-filled gaming classic, Borderlands 2 is considered one of the best of the series Gearbox Software released. If you are picking up the game again or just got it on sale, you may ask yourself, “who are the best Borderland 2 characters to play?”
The best characters are Salvador and Krieg, followed by Zer0 and Maya in a class slightly below the other two. Gaige and Axton also get special mention as solid character choices, though they are either too niche or average for late-game players.
Of course, play style is always a personal preference. However, in this article, we break down the pros and cons of each character and why we’ve ranked them in a tier list dependent on a select group of factors.
Character Ranks Explained
|VERY GOOD||• Zer0|
Our ranking system is based on a simple formula: damage output plus survivability. In order to be a truly S-ranked character, the hero in question must be able to dish out enough damage to quickly tear through the waves of enemies while being able to self-heal. They must also be able to make it through end-game content without big skill drop-offs.
S-Tier is the best in class as they balance huge damage potential and are virtually indestructible in the right circumstances. Salvador and Krieg are the two characters in this category.
Many players believe that Salvador the Gunzerker is the best character in the game. He can equip two guns at one time, offering all kinds of crazy combinations. This not only allows him to mow down waves of enemies, but he has no problem keeping himself alive. The Gunzerker Action Skill ability pulls out the second gun, increases gun firing speed, increases health, reduces damage, and regenerates ammo.
The reason Salvador is thought to be the best character is the gun combinations he can have. The Grog Nozzle is often mentioned, as it heals 65% of the damage you deal to enemies. If you pair this with a high-damage, quick-firing weapon, you are virtually indestructible. On top of that, you can stack skills like Money Shot, which increases the damage from the last round of your gun.
A few downsides to Salvador is that he is a tough grind at the beginning of the game without a lot of his damage-multiplying skills. Additionally, he isn’t effective in large, open areas with a noticeable distance between enemies.
It may come as a surprise that a playable character in Borderlands 2 is one of the toughest enemies you’ve battled since the original game. Krieg is a Psycho class character, known for his melee damage. His Action Skill ability, the Buzz Ax Rampage, enrages him. He takes out his two-handed axe to deal 500% damage, giving you back a huge chunk of health for each kill you get.
Like the enemy he is designed after, Krieg revels in the chaos his kit creates. He has three skill tree options. Mania increases melee and shotgun damage for lovers of close-range fights. Bloodlust creates kill stacks that increase action skill, damage for certain guns, and Action Skill. The third is Hellborn, the most chaotic. It increases elemental damage while setting you on fire.
The main reason why Krieg is ranked slightly behind Salvador is his status as a melee character. This means you have to play an in-your-face style, leaving you the main target to groups of enemies. Though you can recuperate much of the health you lose with your Rampage ability, this can be a challenging character to play.
Ranked just below the top two characters is the A-Tier class. Zer0 and Maya are a step below the two other two, as they are either niche use cases or hard to keep alive. Beginners will have a more difficult time with these playthroughs.
Zer0 is one of the most popular starters because his character design is simply cool. Though his playstyle may be difficult for newbies, if you enjoy long-range combat with a bit of stealth mixed in, Zer0 is a great choice. His Decepti0n Action Skill creates a decoy hologram of himself and makes Zer0 invisible, allowing you to get out of tricky situations.
Two of Zer0’s skill tree choices are centered on the Decepti0n skill to increase melee damage, offer up more distractions, and extend this strong ability. The third tree offers boosted stats that utilize sniper rifles. Added critical damage, further scopes, and even piercing damage make Zer0 a strong long-range candidate.
As the squishiest of characters in the game, Zer0 has the least amount of health. He is best utilized if you have a friend who plays Krieg, Salvador, or any other front-line character. If you are playing alone, however, you must be more careful and strategic with your gameplay.
Another one of the A-tier characters is Maya, who can be really strong with the right setup. Her Phaselock Action Skill traps enemies in her bubble. The later the game goes, the more powerful this skill becomes, as you can add elemental damage, ricocheting bullets, and even turn enemies against each other.
Maya builds should focus on the skills that benefit Phaselock as much as possible. The Cataclysm skill tree increases elemental damage from your guns and adds elemental damage to Phaselock. The Motion tree improves Phaselock by pulling in enemies, causing enemies to turn on each other, and decreasing the Action Skill cooldown. Harmony is great for groups, as it supports your friends with extra healing.
Maya’s lack of survivability is why she doesn’t make a higher grade rating. Like Zer0, she is a squisher character, but unlike Zer0, she doesn’t have his escapability when she’s in a pinch. This makes her end-game viability, especially solo, basically nonexistent. However, she is great fun getting through the main story and dealing with large mobs, and she is a fantastic support character.
Gaige and Axton are rated lowest on our list, mostly because their Action Skill loses its power the later the game goes on. Though they both have decent survivability and damage outputs, they are only average at both. Still, these characters offer unique skills that make them fun to play.
Gaige is a fun character to play as she has strong cover in her Deathtrap summoning Action Skill. Deathtrap can tank damage for you and dish out a bit of its own. However, her playstyle is difficult to get used to, especially if you spam the reload button every time you are in cover.
Everyone who plays Gaige agrees that Anarchy is the best skill in her entire kit. This skill stacks gun damage while decreasing accuracy for every kill or every time you completely empty your magazine. However, this skill only increases the damage gradually, and you need to forget all of your prior FPS habits like instantly reloading while in cover. The other two skill trees increase Deathtrap’s damage and survivability.
Gaige’s damage potential can outmatch any other character’s, but that requires Anarchy stacks. In the time it takes her to charge, a different character can be moving on from the group of mobs Gaige is struggling with early. That, coupled with a weaker Action Skill, puts Gaige at a lower tier.
Axton is one of the easier and more straightforward characters to play in the game. His Saber Turret Action Skill deploys a turret that focuses on the nearest enemy. Like Gaige’s Deathtrap, it can lure or distract enemies away from you while you recharge your shield.
Axton’s skill tree is based on weapons expertise, giving you the ability to quickly swap weapons, reload, and faster fire rate. Additionally, his Gunpowder tree will allow you to stack up grenade damage pretty well.
Though Axton is an all-around solid choice, he lacks the huge damage potential that most of the other characters offer. Playing him will require much more planning and strategy, as his Turret Action Skill becomes pretty useless later in the game. That said, he is a great first-time character for anyone new to the Borderlands series.
Everyone plays Borderlands 2 differently, so your playstyle will ultimately determine which is the best character for you. However, factoring in the qualities offered by each of the characters, you should be able to choose strong characters for fun and unique gameplay.