Since 2001, the Devil May Cry series has been a pillar among hack-and-slash games. Although its plot progression isn't pretty (and the games are numerically all out of order) it's still lauded for creating some of the most adored protagonists in action game history. Despite this, a majority of its characters are fairly lackluster by comparison, both in memorability and in power.
The order of the series is both the biggest indicator of the characters' strength, as well as the biggest cause for dispute among fans. But just because Vergil doesn't live past the first Devil May Cry it doesn't mean he's weaker than all of the characters from Devil May Cry 4.
At the same time, gameplay might make it difficult to rank the difference in power between characters. It may seem like Lady fights on par with Dante without Devil Trigger. Or when a player uses Sparda as an alternate costume for one of his sons, it may seem like he's equal to them in power.
This list doesn't include the non-combatants. Otherwise, it might've included Kyrie; Nero's love interest from Devil May Cry 4, or Enzo; Dante's mercenary handler (and later Bayonetta's information broker). Read on for the strongest and weakest fighters from the series.
15 Strongest: Lucia
There was a time before it was popular to pretend that the re-imagined DmC: Devil May Cry never happened. Back then, the game in the series that was hated on most was Devil May Cry 2. As such, the token heroine of DMC2 has become the most underrated. But canonically, Lucia is the most powerful woman in the series.
Chronologically, DMC2 takes place last, after Devil May Cry 4. This is when Dante is at his most powerful, and Lucia is considered a near match for our devilish gunslinger in combat prowess. Trained from a young age, she is adept at using dual melee swords as well as ranged weapons like throwing knives or darts. She is at her most powerful when activating her Devil Trigger, which causes her to take on a form alike an angelic harpy. In this demon form, she can fly, slow time, enchant her blades, breathe underwater, and rain down orbs of light upon her enemies.
14 Weakest: Arkham
Arkham is one of the primary antagonists of Devil May Cry 3, a prequel to the rest of the series. A practitioner of black magic, Arkham sacrifices his wife to gain demonic powers. Upon doing so, he gains the alter ego demonic form of Jester. Even in his human form though, Arkham has some superhuman strength and dexterity, as well as the increased survivability that a demon would have. As a Jester, he is also able to walk on walls, summon demonic orbs, and control demonic force fields.
Despite the tedium that comes with fighting a trickster, Arkham is only the strongest of the weaklings. His effectiveness in battle is circumvented by outmaneuvering his gimmicks. In his defense, after he (somewhat) successfully harnesses some of Sparda's power, it does take both Vergil and Dante to take him down. But he no longer has any control in this blob-form, as he swings at his opponents haphazardly.
13 Strongest: Sparda
Sparda, the Legendary Dark Knight, is the father of Dante and Vergil. Despite his heritage, Sparda has slayed countless demons and later on ruled over humans. He is lauded as the most powerful demon in the series and the greatest swordsman. Two thousand years prior to the series, he alone took up arms to take down Mundus and his army of demons and succeeded.
Sparda was adept at magic, able to seal portals to hell, bind the most powerful demons (like Argosax and Mundus). He also created the magical swords and amulets he leaves to his sons. Through the legends of Sparda, it is known that he wielded the Force Edge, the Yamato, and the dual pistols Luce and Ombra. It is likely that he fought similarly to the way his sons did. And of course, he is able to use the Devil Trigger as well.
12 Weakest: Credo
As Captain of the Holy Knights and older brother to Kyrie, Credo is surprisingly insignificant. He is supposed to be a master of swordsmanship, but this really isn't portrayed very well. He's loyal to the Order of the Sword and tries to fight Nero, but after he is defeated and his sister is kidnapped, he defies Sanctus.
After his ascension, Credo gained demonic powers like flight (with only one wing) and teleportation. He is also able to create and launch spears of energy. He also has demonic strength, and uses it to wield a large knight sword and a huge, indestructible shield. Despite all of this, he's only a small mini-boss. And after his death, barely anyone (even his sister) seems to care.
11 Strongest: Sanctus
Sanctus is the mastermind behind the events of Devil May Cry 4. 'His Holiness' is the leader of the Order of the Sword and does everything he can to awaken the Savior, a giant statue of Sparda. This requires a descendant of Sparda (such as Dante or Nero) to use as the Savior's core.
Upon undergoing an Ascension Ceremony, he is granted demonic powers like energy blasts, force fields, and levitation. In his fully ascended form, Sanctus Diabolica launches shockwaves, fireballs, and giant pillars of energy at Dante. When Sanctus fuses with the Savior himself, he actually weakens the statue (not having any of Sparda's blood) allowing Nero to overpower Sanctus for the last time.
10 Weakest: Arius
The primary antagonist of Devil May Cry 2 is almost entirely forgotten to the annals of video game history. Originally a wealthy businessman, he becomes obsessed with using the dark arts to summon the demon king Argosax and become godlike.
Arius is a modern-day sorcerer, able to endow himself with superhuman strength, summon demons, or teleport. He is also adept at using his signature revolver. It is after he is killed and possessed by Argosax that he becomes a bigger threat (literally). Lucia must defeat him as a mindless monster with lasers and shoulder tendrils, and then again after he transforms into a giant fanged wall crawler that spits out harmful purple bile.
9 Strongest: Nero
A Holy Knight in the Order of the Sword, Nero isn't known for being cooperative as much as he is effective. Nero slays countless demons with his demonic strength, regeneration, and speed. He regularly uses his revolver, the Blue Rose, and his knight sword, the Red Queen. He is able to augment his demonic powers into his weapons as well as into the air. He is unique in using the Devil Bringer, his demonic right arm that can absorb artifacts to further increase his strength and give him new powers.
Unbeknownst to Nero, he is the son of Vergil. As such, Nero inherits the power of Sparda. Upon obtaining Vergil's katana, the Yamato, Nero becomes even stronger and more durable. He also gains a unique Devil Trigger. Rather than transform into a demon, his Devil Trigger summons a sword-wielding spectre that fights from upon Nero's back.
8 Weakest: Trish
Although the most popular of Dante's leading ladies, Trish isn't actually all too powerful. From time to time, Trish borrows the Force Edge though she isn't able to wield it to its fullest potential like a descendant of Sparda would be able to. She also uses Sparda's handguns (despite the engraving leaving them for 'Tony Redgrave,' Dante's alias).
As Trish is a demon, she does have superhuman strength and agility, as well as the ability to regenerate from wounds. Trish is able to summon and control lightning, and she is proficient in armed and unarmed combat. As a secret playable character in Devil May Cry 2, she does have the Devil Trigger ability, but it doesn't change her look; though Hideki Kamiya, the creator of the series, alludes to her having a different demonic form.
7 Strongest: Vergil
Dante's elder twin brother, Vergil, is a favorite throughout the series. Though very similar to Dante in superhuman strength, Vergil is faster. He is able to summon swords made of energy, warp to his opponents, and becomes faster and more powerful the longer he is able to concentrate in battle without getting hit or fleeing. He also has the Devil Trigger, allowing him to fully utilize his demonic strength.
Weakened by a defeat at Dante's hands, Vergil becomes corrupted by Mundus and becomes Nelo Angelo. In this form, Vergil becomes even stronger than he would in Devil Trigger form, but is weighted down by his bolstered size and heavy armor. He wields a black greatsword and is able to shoot demonic energy and electricity. Nelo Angelo is also more unflinching to pain and leaves blue flame in his wake. Ultimately though, Dante cuts down his brother for the last time.
6 Weakest: Sid
Devil May Cry: The Animated Series takes place before Devil May Cry 4. He is so weak that he is able to hide from items that sense demonic power. As a lesser demon, Dante is merciful and spares his life. Though he seems negligible at first, Sid has lofty goals. He desires to take the powers of Abigail, one of Mundus' strongest allies.
He does eventually succeed at this and becomes many times larger and more powerful. With Abigail's form Sid's regeneration, physical strength, and endurance are greatly increased. He becomes able to make spikes protrude from his body or send them through the ground. Despite this, he is easily dispatched by Dante in Devil Trigger form.
5 Strongest: Argosax
Argosax is a demon king that was sealed away by Sparda. He's the final boss of Devil May Cry 2 after he is summoned by Arius. At first, his form is an amalgamation of numerous demons (particularly bosses Dante has fought). As such, he has some of their abilities to use indiscriminately.
After Dante first defeats him, Argosax reveals his true form, The Despair Embodied. In this form, he is a winged demon composed of fire, able to switch sexes at will. In his male form he wields a sword, in female form, he uses a whip. He flies and teleports around extremely fast, and rains down fire upon Dante. Canonically, he is supposed to be one of the strongest demons in the series, but neither Dante nor Sparda required the highest peak of their demonic potential to defeat him.
4 Weakest: Lady
The leading lady of Devil May Cry 3 is Arkham's daughter. To avenge her mother, Mary (more commonly known as 'Lady') hunts down her father. Lady is skilled in close combat and acrobatics, but her greatest proficiency is in her use of firearms. She most commonly wields the Kalina Ann, her customized rocket launcher named after her mother. She's also known to use a submachine gun, a shotgun, handguns, and grenades.
Although Lady is able to overwhelm many demons, she doesn't have any special abilities. She can even fight on par with some of the other powerhouse members of the main cast for a short time. But overall, she quite simply isn't capable of overcoming her own biology. After all, she's only human.
3 Strongest: Mundus
Mundus is the Devil Emperor and the final boss of the first Devil May Cry. He is capable of creating legions of demons as well as take command of their minds. He seems to have control over elements of nature, and can conduct beams of light, rain down meteors, summon lightning, and shoot spears of red energy. Mundus is huge and durable, and he is the most powerful demon that Dante faces throughout the series.
In order to defeat Mundus, Sparda needs to sacrifice a large portion of his own demonic power in order to seal Mundus away the first time, leaving a large wound on the monster's body. When Dante later faces Mundus, he needs to call upon his father's power in order to defeat Mundus once again. Though afterward, Dante doesn't use the fully awakened Sword of Sparda (nor its Devil Trigger) again, allowing Trish to use it.
2 Weakest: Agnus
Agnus is the chief technology researcher in the Order of the Sword. He is also an alchemist, heavily obsessed with demonic power. After his Ascension Ceremony, Agnus gains the demonic form of Angelo Agnus, heavily reminiscent of a locust. Even in human form, Agnus is able to summon demons. This power is further augmented as Angelo Agnus. Agnus is also able to drain life force.
Despite his disgusting demon form, his achievements (nefarious or otherwise) are more heavily centered within his scientific successes than in battle. He creates demon-killing swords, soul-infused armor, and animal-demon hybrids. He is also the developer of the Ascension Ceremony, for turning members of the order into angelic demons.
1 Strongest: Dante
I hate to end a list with such an easily-foreseen entry, but Dante's skill is legitimately second to none throughout the entirety of the DMC universe. By the end of the chronology, Dante has surpassed even his father's legendary, god-like strength. And Dante's power doesn't end with his impressive strength and near invulnerability to being killed.
Dante has a huge arsenal of weapons (demonic or otherwise). He has a wide variety of styles that allow him to augment his skills or even slow time. And, of course, all of this is without considering his Devil Trigger, which further increases his abilities all-around. Our favorite mercenary/paranormal investigator is legitimately overpowered. Perhaps this is the reason why he wasn't the only protagonist of DMC4, or the reason why the series was re-imagined at all.