With the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses approaching the two-week mark, it's time to talk about the large cast of characters in the game. More specifically, which characters are most worth your time in actually acquiring and training and which are really just not (not taking into account your choice of house). Most of the characters start off very similarly in their bast stats so this list will be based on a few different criteria.
The criteria are: how much availability do they have, what sort of unique skills and abilities can they acquire (which are actually useful) and how much effort do they require to be a valuable member of the team? A few other factors may come up with certain characters but otherwise, here's Fire Emblem: Three Houses: The 5 Best Characters (& The 5 Worst).
If you haven't finished the game, SPOILERS below!
10 Best: Lysithea
This prodigy can pack a punch, magically speaking. If you at all want a mage in your party, Lysithea is the one to choose. This might seem strange because her starting stats are nothing too special and if you look at her growth rates you'll see some atrocious numbers. Except where they count, in primarily magic and dexterity, she is a powerhouse that cannot be beaten.
Judging her by the above criteria: her availability is the same as all the other students so nothing special there. She excels in all forms of magic and authority, has a crest which can boost her magic attack and can learn a budding talent that boosts her magic once again. She also has a large list of spells to use that are all useful and powerful. To sum this all up, other than some small babying the beginning, she takes very little effort to be your best magic-user.
9 Worst: Hanneman
This crest curious teacher isn't necessarily bad but he is overshadowed by many other characters. This doesn't mean that you cannot use him to good effect if you like his character though. It's one of Three Houses many good points, everyone is more or less usable. Now, on to the criteria beginning with availability.
There's not much to say here, it's not much of an issue so he gets a pass. As for his unique skills and abilities, he has no budding talent and a minor crest that sometimes lets him attack twice with weapon strikes. His spell list is comparable to Lysithea, particularly with access to meteor but otherwise has nothing special to it. His stat growths are more balanced but that also means he doesn't excel anywhere. Overall he'll be decently useful in the beginning but require a lot more effort as times goes on.
8 Best: Edelgard
One of the game's three lords, the imperial princess Edelgard. No surprises here, Edlegard is a very solid unit and if you choose her path, she will serve you well. With full accessibility along her path, you can put as much, or as little, effort into her as you want. Her stat growths across the board are very solid which leads to a very consistently useful character.
Her strengths are along the same lines as a Hector, a lord from an older Fire Emblem game who is widely considered one of the best. She does have a budding talent but because it requires you to train her in magic, it may not be the best choice. She starts with a minor crest that sometimes boosts her damage when using combat arts. Later she gets a major crest that can restore some of her health and rarely boost her attacks while stopping counterattacks. Overall she won't require much effort to be good and will naturally become the backbone of your army.
7 Worst: Caspar
Caspar is another character who just doesn't seem to excel. He specializes in axes and brawling and not much else. In some ways his abilities are reflected by how the game characterizes him, as an honest and straightforward guy. You could certainly use him to some effect but don't expect him to create miracles for you.
Availability isn't an issue as he falls under the same guidelines as other students. He has no budding talent, no crest and learns very few spells. His growths aren't bad but Edelgard can basically do whatever he can, better. Overall he won't take a lot of effort to use but if you want him to be the best, then he's going to need a lot of help.
6 Best: Claude
Surprise, surprise, another lord character. In this case, Claude benefits heavily from the game's decision to make archers really strong. Being a generally sociable and likable guy, he represents his house well. His growths across the board are solid, with a few standout stats like dexterity and speed. He specializes in the sword, bow and authority.
Just like Edelgard, Claude is only available if you choose his house, where he is always available. His budding talent is Diamond Axe and thankfully it only requires focusing on axes, of which he is neutral in. It's an attack that greatly increases damage. He has a minor crest that sometimes restores his health when using combat arts. The spells he learns are surprisingly okay but he really shines when using a bow. He will require basically no effort to raise.
5 Worst: Ignatz
Another case of being overshadowed by their house leader. Ignatz shares many of the same strengths as Claude, just less so. His growths aren't bad but Claude's are just more useful for the kinds of things they want to do, really the only stat that actually overtakes Claude by much is luck.
Once again, his availability isn't much different from any of the other students. He actually has a budding talent that is sort of useful - Seal Strength, this can help him survive if he doesn't kill the enemy. He has no crest, his spell list is mediocre and overall he just can't compare to Claude. Overall you could use him without putting in a lot of effort but you could also just ignore him and use Claude.
4 Best: Dimitri
The final house leader, Dmitri, which should come as no surprise. This chivalrous character specializes in swords, lances and authority. His growths are specialized in strength, speed, dexterity and defense which lends itself really well to being a cavalier. With how good mounted units always are, Dimitri lives up to their great legacy.
Same availability as the other house leaders so that's fine. He has a budding talent that is neutral and pushes him towards being a cavalier as it requires riding training. It gives him the skill Seal Movement which causes any enemy damaged by him to suffer a movement penalty for one turn. This works well with the cavalier's ability to move after attacking. His minor crest sometimes doubles the attack and weapon usage of combat arts. Overall he will be good no matter how much effort you put into him.
3 Worst: Ashe
Poor Ashe, he isn't even a case of being overshadowed by Dimitri. This commoner who was adopted and became a noble just doesn't have a lot going for him. He specializes in axes and bows. He even has a budding talent with lances that gives him Shatter Smash, an attack that reduces the defense of whatever enemy is hit by it by 5.
So where has he gone wrong? His growths, that's where - they're the kind of growths you would expect to see on a thief or myrmidon and while using axes and bows can offset this, they might not always be enough. He also doesn't have the defenses he needs to protect himself if he does get hit. Once again, he falls under the case of, yes he can be good but it'll require more effort or luck for him to be so.
2 Best: Byleth
Well, the protagonist and main character of the game finally makes their appearance. The latest in a line of player-made characters that began with awakening, Byleth can be a force to be reckoned with. Their stat growths are extremely balanced across the board, which usually leads to consistency and goes along well with the theme of making your character whatever you want them to be. Specialized in swords, brawling and authority, what is most notable is the lack of any weaknesses
Availability is perfect, it literally cannot be better, so high marks here. Their budding talent is White Magic Avoid +20, which gives you avoid when using white magic, a solid talent. Their crest is mysterious for a good portion of the game and ends up being the same one that Edelgard gets. Byleth will require more effort than expected but their perfect availability makes up for that. To note, all of the best characters have some way to increase the experience they gain, allowing them to quickly become amazing.
1 Worst: Cyril
Depending on how much you like raising Est characters, that is, characters that require a lot of effort for great rewards, you will either love Cyril or hate him. Either way, Cyril has some work to do. His stat growths are atrocious but are somewhat saved because his personal ability raises them all by 20%. This is good but also means he doesn't have any other personal ability to use.
His availability depends on a certain decision you make in-game so can be okay or he can sometimes be unavailable. He is proficient with a lot of different weapon types, which fits in with what kind of character he is but that's about it. He has no crest, no budding talent and his magical capabilities are not good. He requires a lot of effort to be good but if you put in the effort you will be rewarded.