Why are bows in GBA Fire Emblem considered bad?

I see a lot of people talking about how bad they are but I never get like a solid answer.


Its pretty simple in 7 and 8, less so in 6.

In 7 and 8 enemies are so weak that you want to throw someone in and kill a lot of enemies on enemy phase, bows are unable to do that. The bow users are also underwhelming. Gerik prefers hero, Neimi has horrible stats, and Innes comes at a time where his combat is niche at best due to Seth, a trained cav, Gerik, Saleh, and Duessal just existing.

In 6 bows are actually good, the problem is most archers are awful. Wolt and Dorothy are underleveled with awful stats, Sue is underleveled and always has the threat of Sacae looming over your head, especially since Sin is just better on hard mode. Klein is pretty good and so is Igrene but they come at a point where you already have a core army and Igrene has a low strength cap which, although a minor issue, can still come up.


Bows are considered bad in FE7 and FE8 because those games heavily favor killing things on enemy phase as the optimal strategy. Player units in FE7 and FE8 are so much stronger than the enemies in those games that you can frequently just have your best unit stand in the middle of a large group of enemies with a hand axe or javelin and watch all of those enemies suicide into you without your unit being in any danger. Bows can’t do this, because they lack the ability to counterattack at 1 range and the majority of enemies can attack at 1 range. Swords in FE7 and FE8 struggle for a similar reason in that they lack the ability to counterattack at range, so any ranged enemy that attacks a sword user gets to live. While not as bad as bows on enemy phase, it’s still a significant step down from the 1-2 range weapons that can kill everything.

This is NOT inherently a problem for bows. The solution is NOT to just give swords and bows a 1-2 range weapon and act like that fixes everything. It’s not even a problem with the vanilla stats being too good on Hand Axe and Javelin, though many people advocate for nerfing them anyway. The problem comes from FE7 and FE8 having enemies so weak that this is feasible. Enemies without the power to kill your juggernauts even in large numbers, without the speed or bulk to make killing with such weak weapons difficult, and because of their nonthreatening nature, you don’t need to worry about attacking them without being counterattacked on player phase, because it’s not a big deal if you get hit (and you can just hand axe or javelin them on player phase too).

In a game where enemies are actually threatening and not trivial to kill, bows are actually really good! Attacking enemies on player phase in a way that you don’t get counterattacked becomes really important when enemy counterattacks are meaningfully painful, and bows can do it against the majority of enemies without having to resort to weaker and less-accurate 1-2 weapons that struggle to kill stronger foes. In FE6, a game with stronger enemies relative to the player, bows are actually a really good weapon type to have – the playable units in the unpromoted Archer class still suck, but that’s because the playable unpromoted Archers just have awful stats. Wolt wouldn’t be any better if he had swords, lances, or axes instead of bows. The bow-using prepromotes in FE6, like Klein and Igrene, are all quite solid, and FE6 Bartre, an Axe/Bow Warrior prepromote, is actually often lauded for his ability to use bows more than his ability to use axes, since his incredible Strength lets him easily shoot down even the bulkiest Wyverns.