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We’re Counting Down the Top 20 Servants of Fate/stay night!

Fate/stay night is an ever growing franchise based on the visual novel by Kinoko Nasu. You may have heard of this series – possibly as “the anime where King Arthur is a woman”, and that’s one of the lesser peculiarities of this franchise. The overall premise is a spectacle; seven mages summon forth seven heroes of historical/mythological origins in a battle royale, with the winner having their wish granted by the Holy Grail. While the setting, characters, and continuity vary, the basic premise remains the same. Fate/stay night has had three anime adaptations, as well as a prequel, a sequel, and many spin-offs.

By far, the most exciting part of this franchise is bringing together a smorgasbord of heroes and villains from across history to fight one another. You never know who is going to turn up next. So, we are going to rank twenty of the Servants summoned across the Fate franchise, or more specifically, those who appear in the various anime. We had to restrict the list, or this could have become a top one hundred list.

Disclaimer: This list contains major spoilers for Fate/stay night (all three versions), Fate/Zero, Fate/Apocrypha, and Fate/Extra: Lost Encore. If you are currently watching, or plan to watch any of these shows, read on at your own discretion!

What Is A Servant?

A Servant is summoned by a mage to participate and battle in the Holy Grail War. Servants are heroes from history or myths, their stories immortalised within the ethereal Throne of Heroes. When summoned to fight in the Holy Grail War, the Servants are normally categorised in several classes: Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin, or Berserker. Other classes can be summoned, like the neutrally aligned Ruler-class, or the chaotic Avenger-class. Each Servant has one or two special techniques called Noble Phantasms, which personify their greatest legends/achievements. Each master can temporarily control their Servants using three command spells, their contract vital to their survival. Once six Servants are eliminated, the surviving master and Servant can have their wish granted by the Grail.

20. Nero

First Appearance: Fate/Extra

The Fate franchise tends to take a lot of liberties with history, though historians probably do the same thing. Case in point, we have Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the fifth Roman emperor, reimagined as a girl. Instead of an insane tyrant, Nero is a joyous, theatrical empress who vainly sought the love of her people, though with tragic consequences. She appears as a Saber in Fate/Extra, guiding her master, Hakuno Kishinami, with such self-assurance and flair, you can’t help but like her. There is a lot of unnecessary focus on Nero having large cleavage, but Saber is proud of her looks, and is prone to flaunting it throughout Fate/Extra. Her Noble Phantasm summons forth a grand opera house, which can then promptly erupt into flames.

19. Hercules

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

Berserkers are often heroes who went mad at some point in their lives, and Hercules fits the bill. In Greek/Roman myths, Hercules was hexed by Hera into a murderous rage, subsequently killing his family, leading to his famous twelve labours to earn redemption. In Fate/stay night, Hercules is summoned by Illyasviel von Einzbern, acting as both her bodyguard and a stand-in for her absent parents. Akin to the Hulk on the battlefield, Hercules is a near unstoppable brawler, and could potentially be the strongest of all Servants. His Noble Phantasm allows him to resurrect himself a grand total of twelve times.

18. Gilles de Rais

First Appearance: Fate/Zero

The definition of what makes a hero varies in the Fate franchise, so a number of people considered evil or villainous can be summoned. Gilles de Rais appears in Fate/Zero as a Caster. A French knight who fought alongside Jeanne d’Arc, Gilles became a child murderer and sorcerer following Jeanne’s execution. His motivations are to cause such awful sins that God will smite him, wishing to know why someone as good as Jeanne died, whilst he was spared for years. Delightfully creepy and insane, Gilles’ cruelty and sick humour should make him a character to hate, but there is a strange likability to him. At heart, Gilles is seeking redemption for his sins, mistaking Saber (who will be mentioned frequently) for Jeanne, and hopes she will grant him atonement.

17. Jack the Ripper

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Don’t ask me why Jack the Ripper would even be considered heroic. What’s heroic about a serial killer? Several versions of the notorious British murderer have appeared in the franchise, but since this is an anime, of course Jack appears as a psychotic little girl. An amalgamation of abandoned children from 19th century London prostitutes, Jack is a violent girl who is looking for a loving mother. She does find one in the form of Reika Rikudou, though it is an unhealthy pairing, since Reika allows Jack to murder people. There is some sympathy and odd sweetness to the character, but Jack remains a deadly assassin, driven by a need to murder people.

16. Medusa

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

Medusa is a character who is hugely popular, despite her limited screen time in the first two adaptations of Fate/stay night. In the third adaptation, Heaven’s Feel, Rider plays a much bigger role. While presented as the servant of sleaze-ball Shinji Matou, she was actually summoned by his foster sister Sakura. Both women have a kinship, coming from abusive backgrounds, and hide a monstrous side. Medusa lacks her snake-filled hair, but maintains her petrifying gaze, hidden by a blindfold. She takes her Noble Phantasms from related Greek myths, including Andromeda’s weaponised chains, and can summon Pegasus as a stead, the winged horse happening to be her son in mythology.

15. Vlad III

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Vlad III, better known as Vlad the Impaler, appears in Fate/Apocrypha as Lancer of Black, fighting in the seven servant apiece Greater Grail War. Lancer leads the servants of Black in the hopes to rebuild his Romanian kingdom of Wallachia. It is not often that Servants acknowledge their reputations in the modern day, but Vlad despises his family’s legacy being stained by the creation of Count Dracula. He wishes to erase the vampire from history. The irony of this is that one of Vlad’s Noble Phantasms transforms him into Dracula, which he refuses to acknowledge. Unfortunately, this is a Holy Grail War, and you can likely guess what happens to Vlad.

14. Karna

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Lancers often get unfair treatment in these Holy Grail Wars, but Karna, the Lancer of Red, is allowed to battle without tragic repercussions. Though a bit quiet, rigid, and stoic, Karna is a really swell guy, never throwing away his pride as a Heroic Spirit. Despite obeying a master he has never met, Karna follows orders, and longs for a glorious battle against a worthy opponent. As a demigod, Karna has immense strength, and power over the Sun. He battles against Siegfried, the Saber of Black, in a spectacularly animated battle, which remains one of the highlights of Fate/Apocrypha.

13. William Shakespeare

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Forsooth, it is the Bard of Avon! Yep, even Shakespeare can be summoned as a Servant. Most definitely in the non-combatant category of fighters, Shakespeare is an over-the-top, theatrical showman who watches from the sidelines. Though bamboozling his fellow servants of Red by quoting his own plays, Shakespeare is quite the manipulative troll. He views the other servants as figures in a dramatic story, hoping to pen a new tragic play about their conflicts during the war. As such, his Noble Phantasm allows him recreate the worst parts of a person’s life, played out as dramatically as possible to break their minds.

12. Diarmuid Ua Duibhne

First Appearance: Fate/Zero

As said, Lancers tend to get treated rather cruelly in these Holy Grail Wars, and poor Diarmuid Ua Duibhne gets it the worst. Summoned in Fate/Zero, the honour-bound Celtic hero finds himself serving an unappreciative master, and repeatedly denied a fair fight. Betrayed in life by those he served, Diarmuid wishes to find himself a worthy master, and battle opponents on equal ground. But, in a war of backstabbing and dirty fighting, poor Diarmuid never stood a chance.

11. Atalanta

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Some heroes have a wish so strong, that they will do whatever it takes to get it, even if they must destroy themselves in the process. Atalanta is a Greek heroine, raised by Artemis after being abandoned by her father for simply being born a girl. Atalanta wishes to create a world where every child can be loved and never be abandoned. She won’t tolerate anyone harming children. So, when Jeanne d’Arc kills Jack the Ripper, Atalanta snaps and pledges to kill her, viewing her as a monster. Atalanta rationalises if she can’t save children from a murderer, then why bother be labelled as a hero. She becomes a crazed Berserker to kill Jeanne, and it is up to her ally Achilles to pull her back from the brink.

10. Lancelot

First Appearance: Fate/Zero

The mysterious rage machine that is the Berserker of Fate/Zero is one of the most tragic figures in the Holy Grail War. Aggressively obsessed with killing Saber, Berserker is unmasked as Sir Lancelot, King Altria’s closest friend. Long story short, due to Altria’s blind idealism to be the perfect king, and emotionlessly disconnected from others, Lancelot and Queen Guinevere had an affair. When exposed, Altria actually forgave Lancelot, believing it was the appropriate kingly response. Guinevere, however, was executed. Lancelot went mad with grief, wishing for punishment, believing Altria dishonoured him, unable to understand why he even betrayed her to begin with.

09. Mordred

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Yet another victim of Altria’s chivalry, Mordred is Saber’s homunculus child. Though born female, Mordred identifies as a boy like their father. If you are wondering how Mordred could even be born when their father is a woman, let’s just say that magic was involved. Raised by their mother Morgan Le Fay to believe they would be Altria’s heir, Mordred’s adoration turned to sheer hatred once their father refused to acknowledge them. Thus, Mordred rebelled, leading to their death and that of their father. Mordred is hot-headed and cocky, but has complex feelings towards their father. While they do desire to prove their worth to be a king, there is a need to understand their own reasons to succeed their father, and what Altria’s reasons were to remain king.

08. Frankenstein’s Monster

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

While Mordred strives to secure their family heritage, Frankenstein’s Monster wishes to rid herself of it. Yes, even Frankenstein’s creation is real in the Fate universe. Frankenstein’s Monster is presented as an absolutely adorable monster girl. She was rejected by her father Victor Frankenstein, pursuing him into madness and death to have him create a mate. She is summoned as Berserker of Black in Fate/Apocrypha. Though prone to grunting, Fran is capable of speech. She has a gentleness to her, likes to pick flowers, and has a charming relationship with her master Caules Forvedge Yggdmillennia. But, she is a Berserker, so there is an underlying ferocity to her, teetering on the edge of becoming a monster she was branded as.

07. Cu Chulain

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

Cu Chulainn appears as the Lancer in Fate/stay night, and is one of the most popular characters. A Celtic hero who wields the magic lance Gáe Bolg, Lancer fits the role of a cocky, but cool anti-hero and rival figure. He is an early opponent to Saber and her master Shirou Emiya, but later becomes an ally, depending on the adaptation. Lancer’s life was quite harrowing, though it isn’t really reflected on like Diarmuid’s. In myths, he killed his best friend, and even his own son, and was unwillingly renamed to “Cu Chulainn” after slaying a dog belonging to his namesake. His name literally means “Chulainn’s dog”, and that is how he is treated in Fate/stay night. He finds himself with Kirei Kotomine as his master, doing his bidding, but has the right mind to actually turn against him when told to do something wrong.

06. Iskandar

First Appearance: Fate/Zero

Relationships between masters and servants are often shaky, but that of Waver Velvet and Iskandar the Great is the best. Better known as the legendary Alexander the Great, Iskandar conquered the known world in ancient times. He is big, loud, boastful, fearless and daring, a mighty hero and great king, aware of his faults and reputation, but is proud of his achievements. His makes a fitting foil for his master, Waver Velvet, a weedy, stroppy kid, who learns to abandon the often self-serving and inhuman lifestyle of a mage through Iskandar’s wisdom. Iskandar is particularly critical of Saber’s ideals, shaking her to the core when he chews her out for wishing to alter her own mark on history. Above all, Iskandar loves life, his gusto and courage inspiring those who followed hm.

05. Jeanne d’Arc

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Jeanne d’Arc is summoned as a mediating Ruler-class in Fate/Apocrypha. A French knight turned saint, Jeanne occupies the body of a girl named Laeticia, and takes to the battlefield as a neutral judge. But, when things spiral out of control in the Greater Grail War, Jeanne has to choose a side to put it back on track. Jeanne is kind, virtuous, selfless, and acts as a dedicated mediator, lacking personal desires for the Holy Grail. She understands the true nature of other Servants, like Jack the Ripper, and can be merciless if need be. Despite her own treatment and the actions of other characters, Jeanne maintains a strong faith in humanity.

04. Astolfo

First Appearance: Fate/Apocrypha

Now, here is a perfect bundle of absolute joy! Don’t let appearances be deceiving, for Astolfo is actually a guy. Turns out he really liked crossdressing and just ran with it. One of the Twelve Paladins of Charlemagne, Astolfo takes great pride in being a hero, and wishes to uphold his virtuous nature. This is difficult when his master is a psycho, and he has to fight the likes of Mordred. Astolfo’s optimistic, bubbly personality makes him the most lovable character in Apocrypha. He lacks any sense of rationale, due to having lost it when he flew to the Moon. Astolfo is blessed with four Noble Phantasms – a hippogriff, a hunting horn that emits sonic blasts, a golden lance, and a spellbook that helps him overcome most magic, though he has forgotten its name.

03. Gilgamesh

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

Kneel, mongrels, for the King of Heroes is here. The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered the oldest story in the world, at least four-thousand years old. Thus, Gilgamesh is the most powerful Heroic Spirit. Proud, egotistical, and having one hell of a god complex, Gilgamesh looks down on all others as worms. From an age of kingly rites and gods, Gilgamesh finds the modern world a vile place, and seeks to purge it of riff-raff. Being the strongest of Servants, Gilgamesh has a unique Noble Phantasm. The Gate of Babylon allows him to summon the weapons of every other hero, since it is said all legends come from his treasury. The downside is that Gilgamesh has never learnt to use anyone of them individually, putting him at a disadvantage against even the likes of Fate’s hero Shirou Emiya.

02. Archer

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

Here lies the biggest spoiler on this list! Archer, summoned by Rin Tohsaka in Fate/stay night, is a very unusual Servant. For one, he claims to have no memory of his true identity, and prefers using swords to a traditional bow. He is shrewd, sarcastic, and cynical, viewing Shirou Emiya’s ideals to save everyone as foolish. This turns out to be because he went through the same thing. How? Because, Archer is a version of Shirou from the future. Servants can be summoned from the past, present, and future. Having become a hero of justice, Archer grew to resent following his ideals. He was then summoned endlessly as a Counter Guardian, who prevents human extinction across time and space. Jaded and bitter, Archer rigs the Fifth Holy Grail War so he may assassinate his younger self to prevent their fate. His willingness to alter his own fate makes Archer a very compelling character – a hero who regrets becoming a savior.

01. King Altria Pendragon

First Appearance: Fate/stay night

The most iconic character in the franchise, Saber is a female King Arthur, or rather the true identity of the British legend within the Fate universe. Summoned in both Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, Saber serves Kiritsugu Emiya, and then his adopted son Shirou ten years later. As honourable and chivalrous as a knight can be, Altria strives to be the perfect form of justice. But, her dedication to being the literal personification of chivalry came with a lot of baggage.

In her lifetime, Altria became King of Britain, sacrificing her own humanity to become a perfect king. This meant she had to abandon her emotions, and an ability to understand her people and knights. This led to Guinevere and Lancelot’s affair, Saber’s rejection of Mordred, and the eventual fall of Camelot.

In Fate/Zero, Saber hopes to use the Holy Grail to reboot her reign and start over. She receives one hell of a dressing down from Iskandar, who believes she would insult the faith of those who followed her, to pursue her own ideals. The reveal of Lancelot as Berserker is the final blow to her morale, prompting Saber to instead use the Grail to erase her mark on history altogether.

Summoned again in Fate/stay night, Saber serves Shirou as a servant, friend, and love interest. She is able to shed her kingly guise, coming to terms with her femininity, sexuality, and humanity.

Are you are fan of the Fate franchise? Which Servants are your favourites? Are there any we missed out that are worth including? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell