Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (SSBU)

Guide for Beginners: How to Improve

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A beginner's guide to competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch. If you are new to Smash Ultimate and wondering how to improve, see the steps you should take in order to get good, make it into Elite Smash, and make your debut into competitive smash!

Smash Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Find your main

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The first task any new Smash Ultimate player will have is deciding on who they want to main. With over 80 characters in the full roster, this task can be quite daunting. Learning the strengths and weaknesses of each character, and which characters are the easiest or best to pick up is the first step in deciding on a main.

In choosing your main, there are a couple of factors you should consider:

  1. The character's place in the metagame (tier list placement, matchups, etc)
  2. How easy the character is to learn and use (if you have less time to devote to practice, you may want to consider a character with a lower learning curve)
  3. How much you enjoy using the character (if your main goal is to win, this is less important, but if you will be playing a single character for a long time, it's best if this is a character that you feel clicks with you)
  4. How that character can amplify your strengths while mitigating your weaknesses (if you have a hard time recovering, choose a character with a good recovery. If you are good at edgeguarding, choose a character that excels in this.)

If you simply choose a character because you like them, or you are a fan of the game they are originally from, that is also fine! Just be sure to pick a character who you can play with and continue practicing without giving up. See our character guides for a full analysis of each character and their strengths and weaknesses.

List of Characters

Learn the fundamentals


Make sure that you understand how Smash Ultimate functions as a whole. This means taking time to figure out everything from how to recover, how to land, how to get back on stage, to punishing your opponent after they throw out a slow move. Fighting games such as Super Smash Bros mostly rely on throwing out “safe” moves (moves that are hard for your opponent to punish), until you find an oppening, and then using that opening to put your opponent into a disadvantageous stage.

In addition to learning all of the moves that are at your disposal in Smash Ultimate (jabs, tilt attacks, smash attacks, specials, grabs, etc), you need to figure out the best scenario for using each one of those moves. You also need to have a solid understanding of all of the movement options you have at your disposal, and how they can be used in order to play the neutral game.

While this guide alone will not be enough to go into the full intricacies of learning Smash Bros. fundamentals, there are a few things that are important to master in order to have a solid understanding of how the game is played.

  1. Controls and movement (Dashing, Attacking, Jumping/Recovering, Rolling, Spot Dodging, etc)
  2. The Neutral Game (How to play when both players are at an even playing ground, usually in center stage)
  3. Advantage vs Disadvantage state (being in an advantageous situation, such as having stage control or putting your opponent into a combos, vs being above the stage and trying to land)
  4. Edgeguarding (preventing your opponent from getting back to the stage by attacking them as they try to recover)
  5. Ledge Trapping (Trying to counter how your opponent goes from the ledge to the stage, by covering one of more of the following options: ledge attack, ledge jump, neutral get up, and ledge roll)
  6. Frame data, safe/unsafe attacks, and punishing moves
  7. Pressure (Poking at an opponent with safe moves to bait out an option)
  8. Out of Shield Options (Using an aerial, up special, up smash, or grab while holding shield to counter an unsafe move on your shield)

While some make the argument that certain characters are better than others for learning fundamentals, the fact is that any character relies on a player's fundamentals in order to be played properly, so after choosing your main, you should make learning the character and the game's fundamentals a simultaneous process.

Devote time to your main


After you've selected a character you will be maining, it is important to actually learn all the ins and outs of that character. Additionally, while it is fine to pick up a secondary or duel main, you should only do this after you have given your first main plenty of time in practice. If you still have many holes in your gameplay with your primary character, picking up another character that you need to learn won't do you any good!

After deciding on your main, you should begin working on the following things with that character:

  1. Learning how to recover as that character
  2. Learning how to play neutral as that character, and when you should use each move
  3. Mastering that characters combos in training mode, and then applying them in real matches (first with CPUs, and later with real opponents)
  4. Figuring out a basic gameplan for each matchup you play as that character

Each character has a community of like-minded players who are also maining that character, and they are usually eager to share useful info such as combos and matchup advice for that character. Join a character discord, and take an active role in asking questions when you need to know something about how to use your main.

Learn to read your opponent and adapt

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One of the most important things in any fighting game is learning how to read what your opponent will do, and adapt accordingly to counter it. Smash Ultimate is no exception. Most players have some kind of habits that they display during a match, and picking up on these is crucial toward figuring out a counter strategy. If you learn how to read an opponent's patterns, you'll be capable of blocking or dodging even safe moves, and finding a way to punish their moves.

It can be hard to stay conscious of this as you play, but by practicing, you will eventually reach a point where you can pick up on opponent's habits on a more subconscious level. Take a mental note of how your opponent reacts in the following scenarios, and look for a way to counter it!

  1. What options they pick out of shield, and how often they use them. Many out of shield options are punishable, so if you have a read on their next move, bait it out and punish it!
  2. How they react when in disadvantage. When put into the air, characters have a few different options they can use to try and escape a combo (attack with a fast move, air dodge, or double jump). Keep an eye on which option they tend to pick, and try to anticipate it. For example, if an opponent uses a counter each time they are in the air, you might try baiting it out, and then punishing with a more powerful move as they land.
  3. How they like to recover from the ledge. Players can use ledge attack, ledge jump, ledge roll, or neutral getup (as well as some variations of these) when they try to recover to the stage. If an opponent frequently uses the same option, try and use a move to counter it. For example, shielding at ledge to block their ledge attack will let you punish them. If possible, try and cover multiple options at once.

These are just a few habits to look out for, although there are numerous patterns that are observable in an opponents gameplay, so it's up to you to find them and punish them for their bad habits!

Practice your tech skill

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Like all fighting games, there are a ton of tech skills you need to practice in order to improve at competitive smash. The full list of techs is quite extensive, but here are a few of the basic ones you should absolutely master in order to fair better in matches.

Essential techniques

Tech How to Use
Parry (Perfect Shield) Release your shield right as an attack hits it
Allows you to act out of shield for a quick punish without depleting your shield.
Roll Move the stick left or right while shielding
Allows you to quickly move out of the way of an attack
Air Dodge Press shield while midair. Can also be done with a direction on the control stick for a directional air dodge
Grants you momentary invulnerability in the air, allowing you to dodge an attack
Short Hop Press and release the jump button very quickly
Allows you to hit a grounded opponent with an aerial attack more easily
Shield Grab Press A (or Grab) while holding shield
Allows you to grab an opponent up close without the shield drop animation
Fast Fall Press down on the control stick after the apex of a jump
Allows you to land quickly so you can attack your opponent, or escape their attack
Tech (Roll) Press the shield button the moment you land after being hit by an attack. Pressing left or right at the same time also will allow you to roll.
Grants you a brief period of invulnerability when landing so you can avoid an opponent attacking again when you land
Attacking Out of Shield While holding shield, press ↑+B, ↑+A, or jump followed by an aerial. For Up Special / Up Smash, the inputs must be made simultaneously.
Allows you to counterattack an opponent's move on your shield with an attack

Develop your Punish Game

Punishing an opponent refers to finding an opening and capitalizing on it with a combo starter (grab, tilts, etc) or a heavy punish move (such as a smash attack to finish out stocks). While reading can play a big part in this, simply being able to react to an opponent when they throw out a move will also let you find an opening for a big punish.

Punishing Landings

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When an opponent is in the air and they try and land, they may throw out an aerial attack, or even an air dodge. Since they will suffer a few frames of landing lag where they are unable to shield or do anything, you can punish them right as they land. Fast low hitting moves and long lasting hit boxes (dash attacks, down tilts, etc) will often be your best bet for this.

Punishing Endlag

Similar to landing lag, all moves have a short period of time (frames) after ending where the character is unable to act, known as endlag. For the most part, more powerful moves (especially on large characters) will have longer endlag associated with them, making them easier to punish if they whiff (miss) the move. Watch for these moves from your opponent, dodge the move so it doesn't hit you, then punish them while they are unable to react.

Save your replays and analyze them

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Online Smash is great for playing against many characters and playstyles, but be sure to buy an ethernet adapter!

Each time a game ends, you have the option to save a replay of it and rewatch it later on. This can be a great tool for improving. While everyone loves to rewatch their VODs where they managed to pull of a cool combo, saving the replays where you lost will allow you to rewatch and figure out what decisions you made, which habits you are prone to, and how your opponents capitalized on them.

Play as many games as you can with a wide variety of players (who will ideally have different skill levels, use different characters, and even make use of different playstyles), and don't focus too much on winning. If you do winーwonderful! If not, you can always save that data and use it to find holes in your own gameplay. Many players would even be happy to watch over your replays and help give you advice on how you can improve!

Watch tournament VODs of professionals who use your character

Being exposed to as many different playstyles as possible is one of the keys to improving at competitive smash. Not just playing the game, but also watching others play, can be a huge insight on how to improve. Youtube has a plethora of Smash Ultimate VODs available to watch. Find some videos of skilled players that use your character, and see what options they take in different situations. Be sure and watch actively, and compare it with how you have used your character in a similar scenario.

Beginner's Guide Summary

It's impossible to lay out all of the steps you need to take in order to go from beginner to expert in a game as complicated and vast as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Luckily, there are tons of resources for mastering each aspect of this wonderful game. Use the steps provided here to get a head start, and continue to learn and make adjustments as you improve.

Like all hobbies, Smash Ultimate is a game that takes time and devotion in order to master. Remember to keep your cool, and strive for long term improvement instead of getting upset if you don't win every game. Continue to expose yourself to a wide variety of players, and ask for advice at every opportunity you have. While some advice you hear may be more easy to apply than others, it is important to keep a good mentality, and never stop learning. Keep practicing, and your results will eventually speak for themself!

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