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Blizzard is finally, finally moving hero shooter Overwatch 2’ story forward when it launches its ($15) story missions on August 10. Despite this being the most forward momentum, lore-wise, that the series has had since it launched in 2016, there’s actually a lot of story to catch up on—just most of it’s not in the game itself.
Overwatch’s story has been spread out across comics, animated shorts, short stories, and novels, and that’s a whole lot to contend with if you’re new to the game and want to get caught up ahead of the story missions. As such, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of Overwatch story content and where to find it. We’ve got seven years to get through, so let’s get started with where it all began.
Overwatch animated shorts
- The original reveal trailer: This isn’t really plot-critical, but did set the tone for the game in a way the final product hasn’t quite delivered. It’s a fight between Tracer, Winston, Reaper, and Widowmaker, but it establishes that the Overwatch organization was once a shining beacon of hope for this world, but no longer exists in the form it once knew. But that seems to be changing now. How? Well, that’s where the next animated short comes in.
- Recall: This focuses on Winston as he initiates the Recall to reform Overwatch after it was dissolved after the Omnic Crisis, a synthetic uprising that the original organization was formed to fight.
- Alive: Tracer makes a return and faces off against Widowmaker, who is tasked with assassinating an Omnic figurehead to create unrest in human and Omnic relations.
- Dragons: This moves away from the main conflict to focus on Genji and Hanzo’s relationship as disillusioned brothers and wielders of magical dragons who augment their sword and bow respectively.
- Hero: The last animated short before Overwatch’s original 2016 launch stars Soldier: 76, who has started doing vigilante shit in the fictional Mexican city of Dorado. Soldier broods in the shadows after having once led Overwatch as Strike Commander Jack Morrison. After the organization disbanded and he was presumed dead, he’s working in the shadows to uncover the conspiracy surrounding Overwatch’s shuttering.
- The Last Bastion: This one is a pretty harrowing story told entirely without dialogue. Bastion, a combat robot, was once part of the Omnic uprising during the original Crisis, but is now the last of its kind and just kind of processes his place in the world now during this short.
- Infiltration: Sombra debuted alongside her short, and Talon’s hacking specialist makes a dazzling first impression as she works with Reaper and Widowmaker on an assassination mission in Volskaya Industries.
- Rise and Shine: After Sombra’s slay of the century, Overwatch goes back to being devastating with Mei’s short. It focuses on the scientist and her colleagues’ studies in Antarctica and how Overwatch’s dissolving had tragic consequences for her team.
- Shooting Star: D.Va is next in the spotlight, as her short focuses on her role as a part of Korea’s MEKA defense team and how she deals with all that trauma.
- Reunion: The final short for Overwatch before the sequel stars Cassidy (then called McCree) and Ashe as they sort out their relationship by way of gunfire. It also introduces the flying, transforming hero Echo, who would not show up in the game proper for almost two years after.
- Zero Hour: Overwatch 2 was announced at BlizzCon 2019, and the reveal included an animated short showing some (but not all) of the previous members of Overwatch finally answering Winston’s Recall. Then we didn’t get another animated short until almost three years later.
- The Wastelander: Junker Queen was introduced with an animated short that shows her rise to power in the Australian city of Junkertown.
- Kiriko: The latest short we’ve seen as of this writing goes between incredibly sweet and kinda spooky. It introduces Kiriko, a family friend of Genji and Hanzo’s who has the ability to channel a fox spirit to power up her allies and protect the citizens of Kanezaka.
What other videos should I watch other than the shorts?
A lot of Overwatch lore has been told through videos beyond the CG animated shorts. This ranges from character introductions made up of voice-overs and still shots to high-quality animated trailers.
Overwatch origin stories
Nearly every hero in Overwatch has an origin story trailer that gives you a glimpse into their place in the world. While a fair bit of the launch roster never got one, they’ve become a standard for new characters as Blizzard adds to the hero line-up. They’re mostly world building rather than anything that moves the plot forward, but they’re still full of great art and voice acting, and give you some context for the heroes you’ll inhabit as you push payloads.
- Soldier: 76: Jack Morrison recounts the history of Overwatch, its dissolution, and the conspiracy at its center.
- The Junkers: This one acts as a kind of duo origin story for both Junkrat and Roadhog and details their antics as partners in crime.
- Ana: Once a medic sniper for the original Overwatch, Ana writes a letter to her daughter Pharah about her hopes for the future.
- Sombra: Talon’s hacking expert tells the story of her childhood and how she became a master hacker using the villainous organization to her own ends.
- Orisa: Narrated by her creator Efi, the gentle giant robot Orisa’s origin story shows how the child prodigy repurposed an OR-15 Omnic to create a protector for the city of Numbani.
- King’s Row Uprising: This isn’t quite a hero origin story, but sets the stage for the Overwatch Uprising mission that is playable during the annual Archives event.
- Doomfist: The leader of Talon gets something a little special in his origin story trailer because instead of just getting still shots, he gets a full-blown animated trailer that feels like a precursor to the Genesis animated mini-series Overwatch is rolling out now. But we’ll get to that shortly.
- Moira: Overwatch has had plenty of medics in the support role, so when Moira, one of the villains in the universe made her debut, her origin story made it clear she was a real sicko who didn’t work within the bounds of typical codes of ethics. RIP to Mercy, but she’s different.
- Brigitte: As Torbjörn’s daughter and Reinhardt’s protege, Brig talks about how she wanted to carve out her own role alongside them as a medic and armor repair extraordinaire.
- Wrecking Ball: Hammond the hamster was part of the same experiments as Winston that elevated animals to human intelligence. But while Winston went on to work with Overwatch, Hammond had more chaotic plans in mind.
- Ashe: Before she was Cassidy’s partner-in-crime, Ashe was a rich kid who rebelled and formed the Deadlock Gang.
- Baptiste: Overwatch’s bisexual king recounts his history as a Talon medic who left the organization after the truth of its crimes became apparent.
- Sigma: As one of the characters with the darkest backstories in Overwatch, Sigma’s origin story showcases how an experiment gone wrong altered his mind forever.
- Echo: Similar to Orisa, Echo’s origin story is not narrated by the hero, but her creator. Dr. Mina Liao. She describes her hopes for her creation after her work led to the original Omnic Crisis, and how her transforming Omnic creation is an “echo” of what she wanted to accomplish.
- Sojourn: Vivian Chase’s origin story includes the beginning of her testifying against Overwatch, a known point of contention between her and Soldier: 76.
- Junker Queen: Have you ever wanted an Overwatch origin story delivered in song? Well, have I got a trailer for you.
- Kiriko: Both Kiriko’s grandmother and mother taught her the different sides of her fighting style, and she talks about how she found a middle ground between the two.
- Ramattra: Much of Overwatch frames the Omnic Crisis through the eyes of the titular group, but Ramattra is the leader of the synthetics rising up, and he’s not about to stand by while his people are slaughtered.
- Lifeweaver: The latest hero discusses his contributions to the scientific community by discovering Biolight, a synthetic plantlife that can be used to heal wounds.
Other animated Overwatch works
- Genesis: As of this writing, Genesis is ongoing, so you can only watch the first episode right now. But the mini-series tells the story of the original Omnic Crisis and is made up of three episodes.
- The Plan: While it’s not quite the CG animated shorts above, The Plan is a humorous little character trailer for Junkrat and Roadhog.
Before the shift to Overwatch 2, Blizzard released a handful of cooperative missions that included story elements, though none of them really moved the story forward. They were prequels that showed moments in Overwatch history. Thus the name, Archives. At the moment, these are only playable during the annual Archives event, which usually takes place around April each year. However, that wasn’t the case this year with Overwatch 2, so you can’t play them at the moment.
- Uprising: The first Archives mission follows Tracer, Mercy, Reinhardt, and Torbjörn as they face Omnic forces in King’s Row.
- Retribution: The second Archives mission centers Blackwatch, a covert ops off-shoot of Overwatch made up of Reaper, Cassidy, Genji, and Moira who undergo a mission that signaled Reaper’s dark turn.
- Storm Rising: Tracer, Winston, Mercy, and Genji chase down Talon operative Maximilien in Havana, and there’s a brief tease of Ramattra at the end.
Overwatch one-shot comics
While animated trailers and playable content are probably the side of Overwatch media most fans engage with, the written word is the most substantial in terms of world-building, character development, and moving parts of the story forward. Thankfully, a majority of these are freely available on the official Overwatch website.
- Train Hopper: Cassidy (known as McCree at the time) faces Talon operatives on a runaway train.
- Dragon Slayer: Reinhardt fights a gang called the Dragons and spends time with Brigitte.
- Going Legit: Junkrat and Roadhog do crimes together.
- A Better World: Symmetra reckons with her mission as a top architect for the Vishkar corporation.
- Mission Statement: Pharah leads a squad of Helix agents in a battle in Egypt.
- Destroyer: Torbjörn protects the small country of Kurjikstan from an Omnic attack.
- Legacy: This comic recounts how Ana lost one of her eyes.
- Old Soldiers: Ana and Soldier: 76 reunite after being presumed dead for several years.
- Junkenstein: Our heroes gather for Halloween and Reinhardt tells a spooky story for all to hear.
- Reflections: Tracer gets a Christmas present for her girlfriend Emily, and the rest of the Overwatch cast all celebrate the holidays in their own ways.
- Binary: Bastion meets Torbjörn after he wakes up from his long slumber.
- Uprising: This comic leads into the Archives mission of the same name and shows Soldier and the rest of Overwatch leadership pondering the mission at King’s Row.
- Masquerade: After escaping prison, Doomfist begins steering Talon towards new plans.
- Wasted Land: Usually a man of few words, Roadhog gets an inner monologue where he ponders his life and his partner-in-crime.
- Searching: Zarya’s comic takes place after the Infiltration short, and follows the Russian soldier’s hunt for Sombra and introspection on her prejudice against Omnics.
- Halloween Terror: More Junkenstein ghost stories for the 2017 Halloween event.
- Yeti Hunt: This comic contextualizes the non-canon event of the same name, which has Mei and Yeti Winston caught in a game of Cat and Mouse.
- Retribution: This comic leads into the Archives mission of the same name, and sets the stage for Reaper’s turn.
- Starwatch: This tells the backstory behind the sci-fi-themed Starwatch event, which has Overwatch heroes playing the role of original characters in a non-canon event.
Overwatch comic series:
As of this writing, Overwatch has two comic series that tell one story over the course of several issues, as opposed to the anthology-style format of the previous ones. One focuses on Tracer, and the other focuses on Cassidy.
- Tracer – London Calling: The five-part series follows the titular hero as she handles growing unrest between Omnics and humans in London.
- Issue #1
- Issue #2
- Issue #3
- Issue #4
- Issue #5
- New Blood: The latest Overwatch comic series is significant for a few reasons. First, it’s the first time any of the extended media has referred to Cassidy by his new name, but it also shows him recruiting members of the next generation of Overwatch across five issues.
- Issue #1
- Issue #2
- Issue #3
- Issue #4
- Issue #5
Overwatch short stories
Alongside the comics, Blizzard has also released Overwatch short stories for free over the years. These are usually character-focused pieces that spotlight one or two heroes and include some original art.
- Bastet: The first one follows Ana and Soldier: 76 after they reunite in Old Soldiers as they reflect on the old days of Overwatch.
- What You Left Behind: This leads into Baptiste’s recruitment to Overwatch in New Blood, and has him dealing with his last ties to Talon as he’s on the run.
- Valkyrie: Mercy reflects on her history with Overwatch and wrestles with if she wants to respond to Winston’s Recall before showing up in the Zero Hour short.
- Stone By Stone: Symmetra and Zenyatta meet at a temple and come to a new understanding despite being on opposite sides of a conflict.
- Code of Violence: During a mission with Sombra, Reaper reflects on his transformation from Overwatch soldier into death incarnate.
- Yōkai: This short story focuses on Kiriko and her ties to a local gang in the Japanese town of Kanezaka.
- Ramattra: Reflections: As the title suggests, this story follows Ramattra in the years before the Omnic uprising, jumping through the first four years before the synthetics fought back against humanity from his perspective.
- As You Are: This story was released for Overwatch 2’s first Pride event, and focuses on Pharah and Baptiste as they discuss their relationships and identities.
The biggest time sink in all of Overwatch media is the novels, which have been rolling out annually since 2020 (though there’s no word on a 2023 book as of this writing). They’re available in physical copies, digital copies, and even audiobooks that include readings from their main characters available on your favorite audiobook platform. A fourth book, Overwatch: Declassified is set to launch this November as an overall lore explainer, while the fifth book, Overwatch 2: Heroes Ascendant, is slated to launch in 2024 and contains short stories following multiple characters
- The Hero of Numbani: The first novel focuses on Efi and the creation of Orisa. It also includes appearances by Lúcio and Doomfist. The audiobook is read by Orisa’s voice actor Cherrelle Skeete.
- Deadlock Rebels: The second book follows Ashe as she becomes disillusioned with her rich upbringing and starts the Deadlock Gang with Cassidy (then McCree). The audiobook is done by Ashe’s voice actor Jennifer Hale.
- Sojourn: The third novel recounts Sojourn’s first meeting with Overwatch and how the Omnic Crisis hit home for her and led to her joining the organization. The audiobook is performed by Sojourn’s voice actor Cherise Boothe.
The future of Overwatch story
Right now, we’re waiting on the first set of story missions to launch in Overwatch 2 on August 10. These three cooperative missions will include the latest iteration of Overwatch seen in Zero Hour dealing with the new Omnic Crisis, but it sounds like we won’t see another set of story missions until next year. So even if you don’t watch all these shorts and read all these comics and novels, you’ll have time to catch up before the story moves forward again. If you choose to get on this ride, you, too, can join us in constantly waiting for the story to move forward. But if these story missions start rolling out with regularity, hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer.