In many games, the true depth of a protagonist is weighed by his or her conflicts with an antagonist, or rival. It is through many battles that their strength and resolve, or lack thereof, can be shown. Never is this truer than in the Ace Attorney series (check out my rankings of the games themselves!).
The visual novel series puts you as a defense attorney trying to solve cases both in the field and in the courtroom. Across from you is a prosecutor just as passionate, and skilled, as you are. Sometimes, even more. Yet, as the series has shown, through Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, and Athena Cykes, it’s through these prosecutors that the truth can be found, even if they don’t intentionally help find it.
Part of the fun of these prosecutors is that they’re just as colorful and unique as the clients and people you meet along the cases. Their personalities help drive the cases forward, as well as drive the main story in some instances. So with Spirit of Justice out, and more prosecutors thrown our way, I thought it’d be fun to rank the prosecutors from “decent” opponents, to courtroom legends.
Two things! One, I will only rank the prosecutors from the main Ace Attorney series, so none from the Professor Layton crossover will be here (and for those who know the game, you’ll know the reason why). Second, there will be MAJOR spoilers from all the games in here, as I’ll use the story to flesh out the characters, so don’t object if I reveal something you didn’t know; you’ll be overruled in a heartbeat.
So, court is now in session–shall we begin?
9. Gaspen and Winston Payne
The brothers Payne are actually as much as a staple to the Ace Attorney series as Phoenix is. In fact, they’ve been the first opponents to Phoenix, Apollo, and Athena. Not to mention, they were a part of Mia Fey’s (Phoenix’s mentor) life as well in one case.
Meant to be the “stepping stones” of sorts, these guys are the first opponents you face because they don’t have much connection to the overarching story. Thus, you don’t mind when you don’t see them again for the rest of the game (with the exception of Trials and Tribulations). Winston came first, appearing in the first four Ace Attorney games. Then, in Dual Destinies, Gaspen stepped in to “avenge” his older brother. Sadly, it was not meant to be. He even ran from the US to go to Khara’in in Spirit of Justice, where he was again dethroned by Phoenix Wright.
The thing about these brothers is that they aren’t bad prosecutors In the case of Winston, he had a seven-year win streak until he met Mia Fey. Gaspen had two winning streaks of his own, but lost to Phoenix twice, ending them. It should be noted, though, that Gaspen fully partook in the “Dark Age of the Law” and the tactics one used during those times. Which led him to get fired by a certain Chief Prosecutor.
As much as we beat them, though, they’re always coming back for more. It’s basically a tradition.
8. Nayuta Sadmadhi
One of the newest prosecutors to the Ace Attorney games sadly ranks as one of the worst. Not that Nayuta Sadmadhi wasn’t interesting, it was more like he doesn’t compare to the quality of the others.
He began rather interestingly. After the fallout from Dual Destinies, and the end of the “Dark Age of the Law”, the Prosecutor’s Office was in desperate need of help. So, the Chief Prosecutor reached out to Nayuta to help out on some cases, to which he happily agreed. Nayuta is not only a prosecutor but also a monk. As such, his faith is as prevalent as his prosecuting skills. Which result in prayers, mentions of the “Holy Mother” and more. And, because of his upbringing in Khura’in, an extremely dislike of defense attorneys.
His “outright” hatred of lawyers was shown in every case he was in, as well as his hatred for those he perceived as guilty. This led to some very harsh and dark moments in Spirit of Justice, and his constant nagging at Phoenix, Apollo, and Athena to “Let it go, and move on.”
So why is he basically at the bottom? Well, it’s tricky. One part is that, though he’s essential to the Spirit of Justice main story, his attitude in the previous cases isn’t fully explained. Yes, he was proven to be under the thumb of the queen and forced to prosecute. However, it doesn’t explain why he was so harsh at times. In one case, the one were Trucy was on trial, he basically refused to believe that she was innocent, even when the real criminal confessed. It was very odd, and I don’t feel it was truly explained why he had to act in such a way.
Again, he’s not a bad character and did have many great moments in Spirit of Justice. However, compared to others on this list, he just didn’t shine enough.
7. Ga’ran Sigatar Khura’in
Queen Ga’ran Sigatar Khura’in is definitely one of the biggest shocks in the history of Ace Attorney. As ruler of the holy land of Khura’in, she is the law, in full. When we meet her, she is the perfect definition of calm, polite, and even fair. That is…
…until we get to the last case, where she becomes our “final boss” prosecutor of sorts, and in the course of 5 seconds goes from polite queen to a freaking Amazon warrior prosecutor! Complete with war fan! Gone was politeness, and in its place was fury, confidence, and force. So much so, that numerous times during the final case she actually changed the law of her land with a literal scratch of her finger.
As the case went on, though, the darkness within her began to show in full. From rendering verdicts herself, to demanding confessions from others (including Nayuta), and almost carrying out an execution on both Phoenix and Apollo, in the courtroom itself! This was one evil queen. Not to mention, all of that was before it was revealed that she was the mastermind behind the 23-year stain that was the Defense Culpability Act. All was done to keep her in power, and not bring light to the murders she had caused. She was brought to justice, thankfully, and her reign ended in a very shocking truth that even she couldn’t accept.
So, why so low? Well, her story was familiar, and clearly a merging of two previous Ace Attorney games characters. That being said, she was very unique and did indeed have more “power” than any other prosecutor before her. That alone is worthy of a higher spot than the others on the list.
6. Manfred Von Karma
The original “Dirtiest Player In The Game”, Manfred Von Karma was THE Prosecutor for 40 years. Every case he tried (before the events of the first game) ended in a guilty verdict, save for one, which was unsolved.
Von Karma is a literal legend in the courtroom. He’s so good, he even could predict how long a trial would last before the guilty verdict was reached. He was obsessed with perfection in his cases and did whatever it took to ensure that no doubt could be cast on him or his logic. This included: excluding evidence that would overturn verdicts, demanding witnesses not testify certain things in their testimony, stealing evidence from the police department, physically harming people (with a stun gun) and more! He even retrained a parrot so it wouldn’t talk when it was called as a witness…welcome to Ace Attorney.
Unfortunately, Von Karma’s obsession with perfection would be his undoing, as a defense attorney named Gregory Edgeworth would blemish his perfect record when he proved some of Von Karma’s tactics. This would lead Von Karma to kill Edgeworth, and then even take his son under his wing, raising him to be a vicious prosecutor, even letting him think he killed his own father.
Thankfully, Phoenix not only beat Von Karma twice, he proved that it was he who was the killer. Ironically, not long after his arrest, Von Karma died.
The only real fault against Von Karma is that technically we only had two cases against him. While both did show off his ferocity and his skills, a little more time probably would’ve elevated him more. Still, as the original “Final Boss”, he deserves a semi-high spot on the list.
5. Klavier Gavin
While it may surprise you that the young rock god is in my top 5, it’s for a very simple reason. Many of the prosecutors we meet in the series are dark, corrupted, or are seeking some selfish goal. The one sole exception is Klavier Gavin. A prosecutor and rock star, Klavier is easily the purest of the rival prosecutors. He seeks only the truth, no strings attached…no pun attended.
This is evidenced early on when, in his first meeting with Apollo, he deduced how the true criminal did the crime, and then helped Apollo prove it as well. This happened in their next case as well when Klavier’s best friend was the suspected killer. Showing that even friendship won’t stop him from putting guilty people behind bars.
In fact, he helped put his brother, Kristoph Gavin, behind bars, even helping expose a collusion that he himself unknowingly took part of. When he returned in Dual Destinies, he helped Apollo and Athena prove who the real murderer was.
For him, not unlike another prosecutor, he realized that the relationship between lawyers and prosecutors isn’t meant to be antagonistic, but rather, symbiotic, with both sides helping to shine the light on the real truth, and putting the right person behind bars. Don’t get me wrong, he can be a diva at times, or as my favorite detective would say, “a glimmerous fop”, but in the end, he’s one cool dude.
So rock on Klavier…*plays air guitar*, you earned your Top 5 spot.
4. Simon Blackquill
From the purest prosecutor to easily one of the darkest (to start!), Simon Blackquill was literally created to be the embodiment of the “Dark Age of the Law”. The writers of the Ace Attorney series wanted someone to truly show the darkness that had filled the legal system, thus, the “Twisted Samurai” was born.
What made him unique right off the bat wasn’t his look, it was that he was a convicted murderer, and yet was allowed to still prosecute in a court of law. This was proven by the shackles he had on his wrists, and an electric “safety” device should he get out of hand.
Blackquill is a vicious prosecutor, using psychology and intimidation to outsmart defendants and witnesses, and even “convince” people to see his way of thinking. Though not illegal, it did add to his dark persona. It also didn’t help that he could break his solid steel shackles, also, using a special technique to slice feathers and hair in an attempt to intimidate Phoenix, Apollo, and Athena.
However, what started off as a dark man became a tragic character. As we found out he was, in fact, a wrongly convicted man. Taking the fall for a murder so that Athena wouldn’t be declared guilty instead. He spent his time in prison trying to find the true killer of Athena’s mother (whom he was convicted of killing), and with the help of Phoenix and a certain Chief Prosecutor, not only proved his innocence but helped catch the real killer.
Through this, we got to see that Blackquill was actually a rather kind and loyal man, especially towards Athena. So much so, that in his surprise reappearance in Spirit of Justice, he came to her rescue when Nayuta nearly convinced her to stop defending her client. With his “pep talks”, she was able to overcome her doubts and reach a non-guilty verdict. Not bad for a “twisted” samurai.
Oh! And he has a pet hawk! That alone is worth the No.4 slot!
3. Franziska Von Karma
The daughter of Manfred Von Karma proved to be one of the biggest highlights in Ace Attorney‘s second title: Justice For All. She is a prodigy in every aspect of the word, as she earned her prosecutor status at the age of 13 in Germany when she passed the bar–that’s one smart teen.
Raised by the “Von Karma Creed”, she aimed to be “perfect at all costs”. This applied not only to herself but to her cases. She sought absolute perfection in how she presented her cases and got her verdicts. Upon hearing about the defeats of her father and her adopted “brother,” she sought to beat Phoenix Wright in court. This, to her, was her way proving that she was better, and she strived to do this for many cases, even using dirty tactics and skirting the law to get the verdict she wanted.
Even in defeat, she was still arrogant and prideful, earning her a nickname of “wild mare”, referring to a stubborn horse, she often lashed out at those who made her lose her cool. Yeah, did I mention she had a whip? One that she used frequently? It was pretty cool.
Despite her desires, she kept losing to Phoenix, and after being confronted by her brother was found to still be a little girl, not wanting to be left behind. Thankfully, she was able to pick herself back up, and not only aided Phoenix and her brother in a critical case in Trials and Tribulations but also became a valuable member of Interpol, proving that one can find worth outside of perfection.
2. Miles Edgeworth
Do you hate me yet? If you didn’t before, you will now. Yes, the original rival prosecutor in the series is not my No.1. But let it be known he lost by a very small margin.
You may be wondering, dear reader, why I haven’t said Miles Edgeworth anywhere in this piece. Well, quite simply, I didn’t want to have previous references take away from what he had accomplished. I wanted to explain it in full here.
Aside from Phoenix, and even more so in some ways, Miles Edgeworth is the most fleshed out character in Ace Attorney series. He started as a friend to Phoenix in their childhood, but then became a rival, then an ally, to a changed man, to finally Chief Prosecutor as revealed by Dual Destinies. But his road was anything but straight.
After his father was murdered, he was raised to be a ruthless prosecutor as part of Manfred Von Karma’s “revenge”. This led to him getting quite a reputation, a reputation that actually led to Phoenix becoming a defense attorney in order to save him from himself. Though hesitant at first, Edgeworth did begin to see the error of his ways. And like a well-written character didn’t know how to deal with it. In fact, he’s actually quit the Prosecutor’s Office twice, in two different games! All because he needed to know what it meant to be a prosecutor.
Thankfully for all fans, Edgeworth has always been close. In fact, he’s only not appeared in one Ace Attorney game, Apollo Justice. However, he is the only character to be featured in a spinoff game for the Ace Attorney series, Ace Attorney Investigations, which got two games ironically enough. Oh, and he’s the only prosecutor in the history of Ace Attorney that players actually got to play as, as he became a one-time defense attorney to help out Phoenix in Trials and Tribulations.
Also, though, the creators were so surprised with how well fans reacted to Edgeworth, that they intentionally removed him from much from Justice For All so that his return would be more impactful.
Look, I know he’s the favorite for most, and he’s a great character, and that’s why he’s No.2 for me. But despite all his progress, and appearances, he’s still not my favorite. And yes, I know he’d object to that.
*cue dramatic music*
Yep, the coffee drinking, visor wearing, “never lose you cool” prosecutor is easily one of the most memorable characters in all of Ace Attorney, and for my money, the best prosecutor of the bunch.
After Miles, Manfred, and Franziska, you almost had to wonder how they were going to top those three. But they did, in spades, as Godot not only is one of the most unique of all prosecutor’s, he’s easily the most tragic. Yes, even more than Simon or Miles.
Why? For here was a tale of two men. Diego Armando, and Godot. Armando was a dedicated, and good, defense attorney, a man who thought he had his life figured out. Then he met Mia Fey, who showed him a depth of loyalty and passion that touched him to his core. In the course of one case, he fell in love with her. In fact, it’s canon that they dated after that case. Unfortunately, his desire to catch a criminal for Mia led to him getting poisoned and nearly killed.
After years in a coma, he awoke and found that his whole world had been destroyed more or less. The poison that nearly killed him affected his body by draining the color from his hair, and drastically affected his vision to the point of needing a visor. Even then, he couldn’t see fully. Furthermore, Mia was dead, and her killer, along with the one who poisoned her, were put away. What had he to live for?
Sadly, it was revenge. He blamed Phoenix for not being able to protect Mia and sought to discredit him by beating him in court. Over the course of many cases, he did everything he could (within the law) to prove he wasn’t worthy of succeeding Mia. His hatred ran so deep that he even referred to Phoenix as “Trite”, and even threw his coffee mug (full of hot coffee) at him, knowing it would hurt badly.
In the end, though, what made him truly tragic was that in his attempts to honor Mia, by saving her sister Maya, he had to commit murder, and he tried to cover it up. It was through Phoenix (and seeing the spirit of Mia in him) that he realized what his desire for revenge had done to him. Godot finally knew he had gone too far, and that his revenge, his anger, wasn’t about Phoenix, it was about himself. His inability to save Mia, then save Maya (from her frame up and near murder) had filled him with guilt and regret, that he turned toward Phoenix.
True to the man he was, he confessed to what he did and admitted that Wright was indeed worthy of being Mia’s successor. And after one last cup of coffee, he was able to go off in peace.
By the way…does anyone know where those 26 cups of coffee came from?!?!?! Who gave him the coffee in the courtroom!?!?!?!?!!??
So there you have it: the full list. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with a passion to? Let me know, and be sure to let me know what you love about Ace Attorney!