Smash Bros Ultimate: 5 of the Best Designed Characters

Super Smash Bros Ultimate has perhaps the most varied roster in fighting game history. This list will analyze 5 of the best character designs in the game, based on a variety of factors such as fun, balance, moveset variety, and skill cap.

Not all of the 80 playable characters in Super Smash Bros Ultimate are created equal. With this many characters, it’s a wonder that the roster is as balanced and varied as it is; however, some fighters are definitely better than others in terms of design. To compile this list, I painstakingly analyzed every fighter in the game based on a set of factors to assess how well they are designed. This list is comprised of 5 characters within the “top tier” of design in Ultimate.

They are not ranked in any particular order, and are far from the only top tier designs in the game. I considered the following factors during my analysis:

Factors

  1. Balance – Is the character generally overpowered or underpowered compared to the rest of the roster, to an extent that feels unfair?
  2. Visual Design – How interesting or appealing is the character design? Does it adequately convey their traits? How visually appealing are their moves and particle effects?
  3. Audio Design – How satisfying and well made is the audio design for the character’s moveset?
  4. Moveset Variety – Does their gameplan rely too much on a particular move? How well does their moveset coalesce?
  5. Matchups – Do they have dynamic and diverse matchups against the rest of the roster?
  6. Skill Cap and Ease of Play – Ideally, a character would be fun and easy to learn, but difficult and rewarding to master.
  7. Fun – How fun are they to play as? How fun are they to play against?

#1 – Captain Falcon 

Moveset Details

In Ultimate, Captain Falcon follows the same glass cannon formula he has always followed. He is combo heavy, explosive, quick, and has iconic meme status; essentially, he exists for the purpose of hype. Despite how little this formula has changed, it is still as great as ever. One must constantly be wary of Falcon’s quick burst options, the most notable of which are Raptor Boost and dash grab. His high ground speed makes this a difficult and engaging task, though.

Captain Falcon in Smash Ultimate

Captain Falcon in Smash Ultimate

The hype nature of his moveset gives him high marks in the fun category. For example, his iconic forward air, the “Knee”, is hard to land, but its power and satisfying visual effect make it more than worth attempting. Another iconic example is his down air, the “Stomp”. The Stomp serves as both a combo tool and a spike.

Captain Falcon is well balanced; he possesses great offensive firepower at the expense of significant defensive. His recovery is very exploitable, although proficient players can make it look better than it is. Additionally, the straightforward nature of his game plan can be exploited, and his fastfalling physics leave him susceptible to combos.

#2 – Greninja

Moveset Details

Greninja is one of the most well rounded and balanced high tier characters in Smash Ultimate. None of his buttons seem unfair or unreasonably good, which can’t be said for almost any other kit in the game. Instead, his strength comes from a player’s ability to use his excellent speed, mobility, and combo game to get the most out of his buttons. This makes him one of the harder characters to master.

Greninja roughly follows the “jack of all trades, master of none” formula. His combo game is above average, his recovery is really great, his movement is great, and his kill power is above average. His weak out of shield game and weight are the only glaring flaws. This balancing style, as well as Greninja’s high skill cap, make every match fun and rewarding for both players.

Greninja in Smash Ultimate

Greninja in Smash Ultimate

Greninja’s design is also great from a spectator perspective; fast, agile, and combo oriented characters always provide flashy-looking gameplay. Additionally, his side special, far reaching recovery, and unique aimable counter allow for very dynamic and exciting offstage situations. 

#3 – Shulk

Moveset Details

Shulk is defined by his neutral special, Monado Arts. Each of his 5 Arts strengthens a particular attribute at the expense of another one. For example, the Smash Art gives his moves insane knockback, but in exchange, it reduces his durability and damage output. 

Shulk’s ability to change his attributes in the heat of battle is wholly unique, and makes any match with him feel somewhat removed from the typical Smash Ultimate experience. Both the Shulk player and his opponent must continuously change their gameplan according to what Art is active at the time. When Smash Art is active and both players are within kill percent, it becomes a tense game of hit and run. When the mobility-buffing Speed Art is active, Shulk’s opponent must avoid getting blitzed by his speedy aerials and find an opportunity to punish his short hops.

Shulk in Smash Ultimate

Shulk in Smash Ultimate

The dynamic nature of Shulk‘s matchups and his uniquely strategic gameplay gives him high marks in terms of design. He also excels in the skill cap category. The simple ability to alter his attributes gives him insane depth and complexity, despite his relatively straightforward buttons.

The only reason he is not higher on the list is that a couple of his Monado Arts can feel cheap and exploitable at times. The ability to jump huge heights with Jump Art gives him the ability to camp while it is active, by staying out of his opponent’s reach. The other problem is the aforementioned Shield Art; this Art is essentially a Shulk player’s get out of jail free card whenever they start getting combo-ed. 

#4 – Fox

Moveset Details

Smash Ultimate‘s iteration of Fox McCloud is perhaps his best showing since Melee. Given that Melee‘s Fox is arguably the most iconic fighting game character in history, this is very high praise. Fox’s moveset has remained largely unchanged throughout Smash Bros, but Ultimate‘s faster pace of play allows for his style to flourish much more than it did in Brawl and SSB4.

Matches against Fox are fast paced, reaction based duels. Fox’s ludicrous dash speed (the fastest in the game) and his many reliable combo starters and burst options allow him to effortlessly overwhelm opponents. His speed allows him to lurk just outside of an enemy’s range, weaving in and punishing any mistake they make. This forces a high level of attentiveness and careful spacing from them, as well as a solid understanding of how to predict Fox’s punishable dash attacks and short hop neutral airs.

Fox in Smash Ultimate

Fox in Smash Ultimate

Fox is among the most fun characters in the game, but also quite challenging to master. His kill power mostly comes from his up smash and back air, but mostly the up smash. This is a quick and devastating anti air attack, and his neutral air can combo into it if done correctly. The looming threat of this move creates tense and challenging end-game situations for both players. The Fox player must be hopping around, fishing for a neutral air, and scanning for an opportunity to dash in and deliver the killing blow. Meanwhile, the opponent must be wary of hitting Fox’s shield or getting snagged by a back air mix-up. These matchups always test the skill and knowledge of both players, which is a mark of great design.

#5 – Zero Suit Samus

Moveset Details

Zero Suit Samus (shortened to ZSS) is a flashy and fun combination of mobility and kill power. Her lightweight physics and hit-and-run gameplan are both similar to Fox, except her electric whip allows her to stay at a comfortable distance while throwing out attacks. Between her air speed, ranged whip aerials, and Flip Jump, trying to hit her can feel like a nightmare sometimes.

Despite ZSS’s propensity for campy gameplay, her high skill cap makes up for it. Good spacing and proper utilization of her air mobility are crucial for safely pressuring an opponent. Although her aerials have low lag, her ground options are not great, and the good ones are generally burst options. Thus, rushing her down and scrapping up close can lead to good results.

Zero Suit Samus in Smash Ultimate

Zero Suit Samus in Smash Ultimate

Speedy combo characters are generally very fun to use in Smash Ultimate; ZSS’s flexiblity of movement only adds to this. Flip Jump, her jump height, and z-air allow for countless recovery options and unlimited offstage play.

Her kill power and ledge pressure contribute greatly to her hype factor. Despite being hard to land, Flip Jump spikes offstage, killing the opponent at virtually any percent. This leads to a variety of incredible looking edgeguard kills. It also can be combo-ed into with neutral air, giving ZSS insane pressure at ledge. Another powerful tool is her up special, Boost Kick, a frame 3 move that kills at around 90 percent at ledge. It is often used as the finishing blow of ZSS’s flashy ladder combos. Additionally, Flip Jump buries opponents and her neutral special paralyzes them, leaving them open for attack. Her moveset coalesces very well, resulting in a kit with much potential for combos and creative kills.

ZSS: Additional Ladder Combo Exercises

(Video by STAWBs Orio.)