Fate/Stay Night, a Grail War so important it had to retold three times. Well, not exactly, each rendition of the 5th Holy Grail War is different depending on a variety of factors that occur in each story. Different characters share the spotlight, while others are only mentioned in passing along every twist and turn the stories take Shirou and his dream of becoming an ally of justice. Each starting the same but ending quite different, it's one hell of a ride from start to finish for each of the three major routes and what they have to say about idealism in the face of adversity.
Though, despite those differences, what really gets Fate/Stay Night fans going is the battles between Heroic Spirits and their Masters in every rendition of the story. Famous figures of history and magi battling for a chance at honor, glory, and our entertainment. So with that in mind, let's see which 10 characters stand mightiest among the rest.
Writer's Note: Alter and corrupted versions of servants are not included in this list. Also, spoilers for the Heaven's Feel movies and route.
10 True Assassin
Only known to those who read the original visual novel, or managed to catch the first two movies of the Heaven's Feel route; True Assassin is the servant of the evil Zouken Matou. Patriarch of the Matou family, Zouken summons True Assassin to further his own goals concerning Sakura and the war.
Like his title, Hassan-i-Sabbah is proficient in lurking in the shadows and assassination. Intended to gather information or assassinating masters in a Holy Grail War, rather than direct confrontation with enemy servants, he still does some work in the Heaven's Feel movies. Taking care of the (Fake) Assassin, Caster, Lancer and Saber servants of that war with the help of a mysterious shadow, he cements himself as a strong servant for getting much more mileage out of his abilities than intended.
Otherwise known as the famous gorgon Medusa. Rider is an overall great Servant that is only held back by a terrible Master, Shinji Matou. Skilled in acrobatics, quick ferocious combat, and backed up by a Nobel Phantasm that turns the famous Pegasus into a tactical bomb, she's as deadly as she is beautiful. And that's not even mentioning her most powerful ability...
As expected, Medusa also sports her famous eyes of petrification. Considered a high-grade ability in canon, they immediately petrify anyone without high magic resistance. Even those unaffected by the petrification usually feel an immense pressure while under its glare. Commonly causing them to go down a rank in all of their parameters.
8 Shirou Emiya
The protagonist of Fate/Stay Night, Shirou starts as a regular high school student and, depending on the arc, ends up being able to keep up with Heroic Spirits. A horrible mage when compared to other magi in the 5th Holy Grail War, Shirou only becomes a threat thanks to an almost obsessive fixation on his Reinforcement and Tracing Magecraft, and some dumb luck. The former magic letting him reinforce an object, and the other letting him produce any weapon that he has seen along with some of the skills of its user. Tracing Magecraft itself, eventually leading to the creation of his own Noble Phantasm, Unlimited Blade Works.
Along with his already natural talent for physical activities, this all combines to make him the perfect counter for the King of Heroes, Gilgamesh. The blade spam of Unlimited Blade Works enough to overwhelm even Gate of Babylon. I also have it under good authority that he is a pretty good Archer.
Quite literally Shirou but better. The Heroic Spirit Emiya is a version of Shirou that took his wide-eyed idealism to its tragic end. Equipped with all of the same abilities as Shirou but with a lot more experience using them, the Wrought Iron Hero is the perfect mirror of what Shirou could become.
Archer is also employed as a Counter Guardian in the Fate franchise. Replacing fame with power from the Counter Force, Archer is powered by Mother Earth herself to protect humankind from causing their own extinction. A job he tends to do with machine-like efficiency.
6 Bazett Fraga McRemitz
Another face in the 5th Holy Grail War that's easy to miss. The original Master of Lancer, she is killed very early in the Grail War thanks to a cheap shot by Kotomine Kirei. Though, despite being taken out so early, she's definitely a skilled and powerful mage.
If she wasn't taken out so quickly, there was a good chance that she and Lancer would have won the whole war. With a kill list in supplementary material that includes Saber and several other servants, she makes quite the pair with Lancer. Of course, it sure does help that she is the current wielder of Fragarach, which is a Noble Phantasm that alters reality and counters any opponent's strongest attack with a concentrated strike to the heart. Somehow manipulating time to hit first.
Lancer is Ireland's Child of Light, Cu Chulainn. Somewhat comparable to an Irish version of Heracles, Cu Chulainn is one of the most celebrated heroes in the Ulster Cycle with a history that is just as rich. Though mere fame is not the limit of Cu Chulainn's power.
One word. Gae Bolg. Actually two words, but you get what I mean. Cu is already a mighty warrior by his own right, but Gae Bolg is a deadly weapon that can inflict unhealable wounds on any opponent. It also comes with two abilities that qualify as Noble Phantasms. One that lets him hurl the Spear with enough force to cause a mighty explosion, and another that reverses cause and effect to always strike the heart. The latter of which can only be dodged by a metaphysical die roll of the opponent's luck stat.
Here's actually Hercules. This version of the Olympian Titan trading in the unnecessary things like "sanity" and "the ability to speak" for a net increase on his already incredible stats. Unfortunately, the process of Mad Enhancement also seals a few of his Noble Phantasms away.
Not that it's easy to tell when seeing him fight. His strikes shake the earth and can even cause grievous wounds by the sheer force of a spare strike missing someone. His agility is nothing less than masterful, able to twist, turn, and move his gigantic body efficiently. Lastly, his endurance is God-like. Able to withstand most attacks, and even able to reanimate 12 times from mortal blows.
It doesn't really get more historically famous than this. The face of the Fate franchise is the most famous knight and the revered king of Camelot, King Arthur. Otherwise known as Artoria in the Fateverse. A natural swordsman in her own right, she is equipped with the strongest sword of legend, Excalibur. A divine blade that is not only a fine sword but can shoot holy beams of light at her opponent. When equipped with her scabbard, Avalon, she is practically invincible on the battlefield.
Commonly referred to as the strongest Servant in Fate canon, she has defeated several opponents in each route.
The Archer servant of the 4th Grail War (Fate/Zero). Gilgamesh is by far one of the strongest servants in all of the Fateverse. Nothing to write home about when it comes to melee combat, Gilgamesh's Gate of Babylon does most of the work for him. A door to his private collection of weapons, he proceeds to use it to literally throw everything at you. Shooting each like an arrow out of the ether at a rate most servants, let alone people, cannot keep up with.
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Even with a treasury worth of weapons, he still has one that stands above all others, Ea. An existence similar to a sword that is capable of not only annihilating any object but tearing the whole damn world asunder with its power.
1 Dark Sakura Matou
You gotta watch out for the cute ones. A character mostly considered a bystander during the events of the first and second route of Fate/Stay Night, Sakura reveals herself to be the primary antagonist of the movies and the Heaven's Feel route they are based on.
While masquerading as nothing more than the sugary sweet underclassman of Shirou, Sakura hides a history of darkness that comes to light during the last route. A physical representation of the corrupted Holy Grail, she is an impure concentration of curses that are impenetrable to most conventional attacks. Most dangerous of all, she is able to consume most servants and spit them out as corrupted versions of themselves that are only loyal to her.