The 15 Saddest Backstories In 'Attack on Titan,' Ranked

Unless your tear ducts are sealed closed with Titan crystals, you're not going to be able to watch Attack on Titan without crying. One of the things that makes the series so devastating is that nearly everyone has a tragic backstory

It's hard to say which character has the saddest AoT backstory. Is it Levi, whose earliest memories involve starving next to his mother's decaying body? Is it Ymir, who was brought off the streets by a cult and then punished by being transformed into a mindless Titan for events beyond her control? Is it Reiner, who was pressured into being a Warrior in the vain hope of saving his family?

Your picks for the most tragic AoT characters likely depends on what you find the most personally relatable or upsetting, so everyone's answer is going to be different. But no matter which story you find the most miserable, they're all examples of tragedy.


  • 1
    174 VOTES

    Ymir Fritz

    Ymir Fritz
    Photo: MAPPA

    Also known as the Founding Titan, Ymir Fritz was the first person to awaken the power of the Titans. Enslaved to the Eldian king, she wasn't able to use that power for herself. Instead, she was forced to use it to wage war against Marley and to create prosperity for the Eldian kingdom.

    Despite his poor treatment of her, Ymir did love the king - so much so that she sacrificed her life in order to save him from an attack. In order to ensure that her powers would be passed on, the king had their daughters, Maria, Rose, and Sheena, eat their mother's body.

  • 2
    157 VOTES
    Photo: Wit Studio

    Ymir's earliest memories involve being a homeless Eldian child wandering the streets of Marley. She was eventually taken in by a group of cultists who worshipped the Eldian founder Ymir Fritz. She was renamed Ymir and worshipped as a living incarnation of their god. After being discovered by the Public Security Authorities, Ymir and the other group members were transformed into mindless Titans and banished from Marley as punishment. 

    After wandering for 60 years, she ate Marco Galliard and inherited the Jaw Titan. This allowed her to experience consciousness for the first time in decades.

  • 3
    149 VOTES
    Grisha Jaeger
    Photo: Wit Studio

    Like many Eldians in Marley, Grisha was born in an internment zone. One day, he decided to leave the area with his little sister Faye in the hopes of watching an airship. They were caught by officials. While Grisha was merely beaten, Faye was cruelly attacked by dogs, which ended her life. The officials refused to take responsibility and blamed Grisha and Faye for sneaking out.

    Grisha's father tried to smooth things over by reminding him of why the Eldian people supposedly deserved this type of treatment, but this event had the opposite effect on Grisha. His belief that none of this was deserved began to cement in his mind.

  • 4
    165 VOTES
    Levi Ackerman
    Photo: WIt Studio

    Levi's mother Kuchel succumbed to illness when he was very young. With no one to care for him, he sat by his mother's decaying body and nearly starved before being found by his uncle Kenny.

    Kenny took care of him for a few years, teaching him how to fight, how to take lives, how to find food, and other essentials. Once he was done teaching him everything he new, he abandoned him. With no meaningful options, Levi ended up becoming a criminal, and survived that way until Erwin essentially blackmailed him into joining the Survey Corps. 

  • 5
    136 VOTES
    Mikasa Ackerman
    Photo: Wit Studio

    Born to an Eldian father and a mother from Hizuru (AoT's fictional version of Japan), Mikasa and her family ended up being targeted by human traffickers. Both of her parents were eliminated, and she was nearly kidnapped and sold. She only escaped this miserable fate because Eren helped her destroy the traffickers. 

    After that, she ended up living with the Jaeger family, where she was relatively happy for a few short years until Titans destroyed her new home.

  • 6
    134 VOTES

    Reiner Braun

    Reiner Braun
    Photo: MAPPA

    Like most of the Warriors from Eldian internment zones in Marley, Reiner wanted to gain basic human rights for his family. He also wanted to be reunited with his Marleyan father, something he thought would be possible if he and his mother could become honorary Marleyans.

    Things didn't go according to plan. Though Reiner was ultimately able to become a Warrior, he struggled immensely with the training and only got in by chance. Meanwhile, his father had little interest in raising him, and considered Reiner and his mother to be blights on his name. In the end, it was hardly worth it - he couldn't handle the mental trauma of warfare, and ended up developing a dissociative disorder.