Remember when ninja were regarded not as nimble shadow-dancing warriors, but skulking dishonorable wretches? Of course you don't, because you weren't alive during the Sengoku period when they were a real thing. But nevermind! Kunimitsu is a throwback to the notion of ninja as conniving thieves and assassins, and her fleeing-and-hiding skill in particular is so finely honed that she hasn't actually appeared in a canonical game since Tekken 2.
Choose this character if: Yoshimitsu almost does it for you, but not quite. Kunimitsu was originally a skin-swap for the series' better-known ninja, before gaining her own moveset in Tekken Tag; for her console-exclusive appearance in the sequel, this has been augmented with further character-specific attacks and poses.
When Heihachi Mishima found an abandoned bear cub in the forests on his estate, he took the poor creature in and taught it sign-language (!) and martial arts (sure, fine). Despite being highly intelligent, the bear never mastered the hand-gestures to point out to Heihachi that this was pretty ironic, the old man having just abandoned his own son to the wilderness and all. Probably this is why they got on so well that when Kuma died, Heihachi raised his son Kuma 2 to be an even better fighter.
Choose this character if: Well, obviously, if you want to play as a man-eating bear who is also a champion martial artist. You shouldn't need a focus group to see why that's appealing.
Introduced in Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, Lars was intended as a new character to excite fans weary of the games' increasingly self-referential politics of stern fathers, rebellious sons, scorned siblings and general-purpose inter-generational angst. He turns out to be the illegitimate son of Heihachi Mishima and self-designated rival of nephew Jin Kazama, so that's how far that effort got. On the plus side, he's also a formidable fighter, with a moveset designed to appeal to series veterans.
Choose this character if: You'd rather be playing Final Fantasy, but someone else has already taken the Hwoarang costume you had your eye on.
Lee is a street urchin, adopted by Heihachi Mishima and raised as a fighter and potential heir to the Mishima Zaibatsu. Tekken lore has it that Heihachi never actually cared for Lee, taking on the protege as further motivation for Kazuya to strive for self-betterment. One suspects that the entire storyline of Tekken would be rendered void if anyone had just given the young Heihachi some decent parenting literature.
Choose this character if: You want to go incognito as Lee's alter-ego Violet, who's the exact same character with sunglasses and differently-colored hair.
When Lei Wulong makes his appearance in Tekken 2, the character's renowned as China's greatest cop and the logical choice to take down the increasingly murderous Mishima Zaibatsu. Being based on Jackie Chan, though, he mainly pursues this goal through comic relief and drunken-boxing.
Choose this character if: You're stone-cold sober. Otherwise, good luck trying to win a fight using Drunken Fist without losing all coordination and/or your last few drinks.
The staunchly androgynous Leo has a man's name but a woman's face, uses a mix of male and female fighting techniques, and managed to go almost four years before Katsuhiro Harada finally admitted the character's gender. At which point it took about half an hour before the character's newly-announced femaleness became readily apparent on dodgy fan-art sites all over the Internet.
Choose this character if: Anyone tries to tell you that videogames are all about enforcing restrictive gender binaries. Of course, heaven only knows how such a pill gets to be joining you for a game of Tekken, but nevermind.
Lili de Rochefort
A wholly new character introduced in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, Lili has almost zero relation to any of the series' established characters besides her wealthy family having beef with the Mishima Zaibatsu (which is hardly a claim to fame in this context). She fights despite the pacifist urgings of her father, and it's nice to see that someone finally found a way to work a character with daddy issues into the Tekken series.
Choose this character if: You're sick of female fighters always being the fast and agile ones. Lili is one of the series' less fleet-footed characters, with a gymnastic-influenced style that favors precision over quickness.
Fan favorite Xiaoyu first appeared in Tekken 3, where she fought to make enough money for the world's greatest amusement park. Unable to take part in the King of Iron Fist tournament without being exposed to the litany of woe and betrayal that is the Mishima family history, Ling Xiaoyu makes it her mission to redeem the clan's troubled lineage. It's lucky her best friend is an adorable panda, because otherwise that might be a pretty depressing and thankless quest.
Choose this character if: You've been enjoying her inclusion in last year's Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue, for which she was one of the fighters previewed.
The father of Forest Law is one of the series' most benevolent dads, encouraging his son's thrillseeking wherever it takes him--and later competing himself, to raise money for Forest's medical care after all that thrillseeking sent Marshall's son to the ER. In fact, if it weren't for his bestowing such a punny moniker on the boy (despite knowing full well how it is to grow up with people smirking at your name), he'd probably qualify for some sort of Tekken's Greatest Dad award.
Choose this character if: You like the idea of playing as a martial-arts legend whose defining secondary characteristic is this guy is awful with money. And why wouldn't he be? You don't see Warren Buffett winning many Kumite tournaments, after all.
The series' original Native American representative, Michelle fought in the first two games before disappearing in the events leading up to Tekken 3. Fortunately, by this point she'd had the forethought to adopt a daughter and teach her all her moves, so players perhaps weren't as moved by her disappearance as they could have been.
Choose this character if: You know you could just pick Julia or Jaycee, but want to make the most of Michelle's reinstatement for TTT2's console iterations. While her fate's never been canonically resolved within the games, it's implied that she died sometime after Tekken 3 in the series' official timeline.