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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beginner’s guide

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is available exclusively for Nintendo Switch, and has become one of the most popular games on the system. With its massive popularity, however, there are bound to be new players who aren’t familiar with how the series’ mechanics work, what the different modes are all about, and how they can improve their skills and turn into a formidable opponent.

Further Reading

  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review
  • How to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with friends online
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: How to unlock all characters quickly

But that’s what we’re here for! In this Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beginner’s guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to get started in Nintendo’s universe-melding fighter.

How to fight

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s control scheme is essentially identical to that used in every game since Melee, and the game even supports GameCube controllers for those used to that setup. Most actions are performed in the game with a single button press, as well as an optional stick movement to access special moves.

The goal of a basic Super Smash Bros. match is to score more eliminations than your opponents. As you deal damage, the percentage above that character’s icon will go up. The higher it is, the more likely it is that they’ll get sent flying after the next big attack. Matches can be determined by either “stock,” where everyone has a limited number of lives, or they can be timed. In the latter option, the winner is determined by subtracting your deaths from your kills.

Basic attacks

Press the “A” button on your controller without moving the left stick to perform a neutral attack. Moving the stick left, right, up, or down while down this will give your character a different standard attack.

Standard attacks are quick, and good for building up damage on your opponent if they’re a slower character who cannot keep up with your movement speed.

Certain characters will perform longer attacks if you repeatedly hit the “A” button. Fox, for instance, will deliver a flurry of kicks, quickly racking up damage from the ground.

Special attacks

The “B” button in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is devoted to special attacks. These are moves tailored to each characters’ unique abilities, and often deliver radically more damage at the cost of speed. Mario, for instance, can spin a target around with a cape and deflect projectiles, as well as launch targets into the air as he collects coins.

Like with the basic attacks, moving the left stick while pressing “B” will change the attacks. All characters have neutral specials, up-specials, side-specials, and down-specials, though not all of these are attacks. Pokémon Trainer’s down-special, for instance, changes out the three available monsters instead of dealing damage.

Special attacks are great options for keeping your opponent on their heels, and for characters with projectile weapons, you can use them to deal damage from afar. Just don’t rely on them exclusively as many of them have long windup times that make them easy to avoid.

Smash attacks

Perhaps the most important move you’ll use in the game, smash attacks are the moves you’ll often use to knock an enemy off the stage. They take longer to use than standard attacks but can be quicker than special attacks, making them a great option later in fights.

There are a few ways to perform a smash attack. The first is to use the right analog stick (the C-stick on the GameCube) and simply move it in the direction of the attack you want. This will deliver a quick version of the attack, albeit not at its maximum power.

To deal even more pain, you can perform a smash attack by slamming the left analog stick in one direction while holding down the “A” button. Your character will begin charging up a more powerful smash attack and will execute it once the button is released. This is a riskier move, but it has a massive payoff.

Movement and other actions

You can move left and right, duck, and travel between thin platforms by using the left analog stick by itself. If you slam the stick to the left or right, you’ll perform a run, which can come in handy when you’re closing in on a stunned enemy to perform a smash attack.

Jumping can be done by either pressing the stick up or by using the “X” or “Y” buttons. If you’re below a thin platform, you can jump on top of it without having to go around to the edge.

To use your shield, press the ZL or ZR buttons on a Switch controller, or the left or right triggers on the GameCube controller. This will protect you from damage from attacks, but the shield takes damage over time. If you let it run completely out, you’ll be stunned and left open to an enemy smash attack.

You can also counter another player’s shield by performing a grab —  use the L or R trigger buttons on the Switch controller and the “Z” button on the GameCube controller. This will ignore the shield and allow you to then throw your enemy, but performing a grab while an enemy is attacking will result in your character taking damage.

You also have access to a few evasive and recovery moves that can help you stay in a fight. Press the shield button and either left or right on the left stick to perform a dodge. You can do this both on the ground and in the air, and it’s crucial for avoiding big attacks.

The up-special attack can also be used as a recovery move for reaching ledges after you’re knocked away. Typically, your character will launch themselves upward for this move, but a few characters require more work. Ness, for instance, fires a lightning bolt from his body which you then must manually direct toward him in order to launch him back to the ledge.

Picking a character

The most important thing you can do when getting started in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is to pick a character who is balanced and easy to use. Certain fighters like Incineroar and Ness are a ton of fun once you’ve become used to the game’s pace and mechanics, but you are going to struggle with performing recovery moves or reliably doing damage if you play these characters right out of the gate. Here are some great characters to try when first starting out:

  • Mario
  • Pikachu
  • Kirby
  • Donkey Kong
  • Link
  • Fox
  • Marth

Experiment with a few of the characters in the above list and determine which one most closely matches your preferred play-style. Link and Fox rely heavily on projectiles, for instance, while Donkey Kong is a slow and heavy character. If you find yourself enjoying Donkey Kong, consider then trying out Charizard or Bowser, who have similar attributes but very different attacks.

You should have multiple characters you feel comfortable using, and you should have characters who work well in one-versus-one and larger battles. Fast characters perform particularly well in individual fights. At the same time, the chaos afforded in multi-person free-for-all battles gives characters like Ganondorf and Ike the opportunity to unleash huge attacks.

Make sure you’re making use of all of a fighter’s moves before judging their effectiveness, as well. Simon, for instance, has several different projectile attacks, none of which will win a battle if used alone. When used together and alongside his standard whip attack, however, they’re absolutely vicious.

Other moves should be used in combination with attacks, and there is no better time to learn this than when you’re picking a character. Mario’s F.L.U.D.D. blaster doesn’t do damage on its own, but it can send an opponent soaring away from the stage if you use it to follow up a smash attack!


There are several different menu options you’ll be greeted with when you boot up Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the first time. Below are the main ones you’ll want to try out right away.


In the Smash mode, you can play traditional battles against either the computer or another local player. Click the Smash icon and on the next page, you’ll see options for traditional Smash at the top.

Also in this mode is the special Squad Strike, which pits three or five characters against each other in an elimination-style battle. You can also start a tournament here.

Last is Special Smash. In this option, you can play a custom match with your own rules, a sudden death match where every character starts at 300% damage, and the new Smashdown mode. This mode forces you and your opponent to use a new character in each match until all available fighters have been played.

Games & More

The Games & More section includes several of the series’ longest-running modes. It’s also where you can go to connect Amiibo figures or design your own Mii fighters.

At the top is Classic, which tasks you with using a single character across several different battles and challenges, ultimately ending in a boss fight.

Training gives you the chance to try out your fighter of choice against an opponent using a customized ruleset. If you want to try a certain attack, you can make your enemy non-hostile.

Mob Smash is where you can try different challenges against a group of fighters. Century Smash pits you against 100 enemies, All-Star Smash features a bunch of different fighters, and Cruel Smash is a more difficult option for veterans.


In the bottom-right corner is Online. This is where you’ll go to play online multiplayer. The Smash option will give you the choice between quickplay, where you’ll just pick a character and get thrown into a match, and Battle Arena. In Battle Arena, you join a group of players who take turns fighting each other. You also have the option to spectate the action. For more on how this mode works, you can read our guide on how to play online with friends.


In the bottom-left corner of the menu is Spirits. This option contains your Spirit Board, which houses special support characters you can equip to give yourself additional boosts or items. The spirits are primarily used in the campaign mode, which is also on this page.

Select Adventure to start the campaign World of Light. This is a long mode that gives you the chance to battle many possessed versions of fighters and unlocking them in the mode will also give you access to the characters throughout the rest of the game. It’s not the best way to unlock them, but we have a separate guide detailing how you can build up the whole roster quickly.

While progressing in World of Light, the most important thing to do is continue leveling up your primary spirits. You’ll be given special “snacks” that can quickly get them up to maximum level, and this increases your fighter’s power in matches. A sort of rock-paper-scissors system also helps determine an advantage against opponents. Grab-type fighters are good against shield-types but weak against sword-types, so ensure you have one of each leveled up all the way.

Each primary spirit has a set number of slots that can be filled by support spirits. Support spirits can give your fighter a certain attribute, such as immunity to poison. Some instead give your character an item at the start of a fight and depending on how many slots your primary spirit has, you can mix and match these perks.

In addition to your spirits, there is also a skill tree that you can use to enhance your characters in combat. Skill points will be rewarded as you complete fights, and by visiting the skill tree, you can enhance your damage, running ability, shield strength, and much more. It’s easy to forget about these during your time in the mode, but they really can make a huge difference.


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