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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: How to play

Are you new to Super Smash Bros. and need to learn the basics? Shacknews is here to help.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is arrives this Friday. For long-time Nintendo console owners, it's a return to one of their favorite fighting franchises. However, for new Nintendo Switch owners, this may represent their first Super Smash Bros. game ever. For this new generation of players, they may be wondering exactly how this game works.

Shacknews is here with a beginner's guide to Smash Bros. and how exactly to play this game.

What are the controls?

super smash bros ultimate buttons

There are several different ways to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And there are different settings for the three different controller types usable in this game. Select Options along the vertical bar to the right of the screen and from there, select Controls. Players will prompted to select which Nintendo Switch/Smash Bros. user profile's controls they'd like to adjust. After selecting the user profile, they'll see a screen like the above. Select the controls you'd like to adjust.

Here are the default controls for each controller type: The dual Joy-Con/Nintendo Switch Pro Controller/third-party Switch controller, the individual sideways Joy-Con, and the Nintendo GameCube controller.

super smash bros joy con controls
super smash bros sideways joy con controls
super smash bros gamecube controller controls

If these default controls aren't to your liking, feel free to adjust any of them and save them to your user profile.

What are the three different game types?

super smash bros ultimate game types

How to win in Super Smash Bros. depends on what type of game mode is selected. Here are the three primary game types available in Smash mode:

  • Time: The winner is determined by who has the highest net total of KOs at the end of the alotted time. Players are awarded one KO for knocking an opponent out of the blast zone (the limit to which the player can go in any direction). They lose a point for getting KO'd by an opponent. They also lose a point if they eliminate themselves, called a Self-Destruct.
  • Stock: Each player is given a limited number of lives (called stocks). The last player with a stock that remains wins.
  • Stamina: This is closer to a standard fighting game, with players given a finite amount of HP. Players who are taken down to 0 HP are eliminated from battle. The game continues until one player is left standing.

All of these game modes are available to play up to eight players. They can be played in either free-for-all format or you can toggle a setting on the upper-left corner of the character select screen to play Team Battle.

What does each type of attack do?

super smash bros ultimate attack types

Each character is armed with different attacks and specials.

  • The Attack button utilize physical punches and kicks. Just hitting the button unleashes a neutral attack. Holding the left stick with the Attack button releases a tilt attack. Flicking the left stick and holding the attack button unleashes a Smash attack.
  • Every fighter has five different special moves. Each of these is tied to the Special button. There's a neutral special and a different special move that's tied to holding a different direction on the control stick.
  • Each fighter can defend themselves with the Shield button. Hold this button to guard against enemy attacks. You can also flick the left stick while Shielding to dodge either forward or backward. Shield does not last forever and if your Shield breaks, you will be stunned for a brief period. However, if you hit the Shield button at the exact moment of impact, you'll perform a Perfect Shield and your shield will not be depleted, allowing you to punish.
  • You can grab fighters with the Grab button. While you have your opponent in your grasp, you can either hit the Attack button to pummel them or tilt the left stick either left or right to throw them.

If you get taken off the stage by a throw or a powerful attack, move back towards the stage with the left stick. Aid yourself with a special move, if need be. You will sometimes reach the very edge of the stage. If you're grabbing the edge, you can use the left stick to get back on, the Attack button to attack, the Jump button to jump awayy, or the Shield button to climb back and immediately dodge.

If you need a refresher on any of these moves or need to learn more advanced tricks, go to the Vault menu and select Tips. Select Techniques to learn more advanced moves to practice the next time you play.

Fighting with items

super smash bros ultimate item types

Items will appear on the battlefield throughout the game. You can pick one up with the Attack button and either swing it around or throw it, depending on the weapon type. We'll have a full item guide posted soon, but in the meantime, you can check out the full list of new items appearing in the game by visiting our guide on everything we know about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

What is a Final Smash?

super smash bros ultimate final smash

Final Smash moves are powerful finishers that are granted after breaking a Smash Ball. If you break a Smash Ball, hit the Special button (without tilting the left stick in any direction) to unleash your Final Smash.

There's also an option in the Smash rules to enable an "FS Meter." This Final Smash meter builds up as the game goes on. If yours fills up, you can use a slightly-less-powerful version of your Final Smash.

What is a Meteor Smash?

Meteor Smashes are advanced moves that launch opponent downwards. If they're performed while the opponent is off stage attempting to recover, it will send them straight down out of the blast zone for a KO.

Examples of Meteor Smashes include:

  • Mario's forward-air
  • Donkey Kong's forward-air
  • Samus' down-air
  • Yoshi's forward-air
  • Kirby's down-air

Certain special moves may also carry Meteor Smash properties. Experiment with the various fighters to learn more Meteor Smash moves.

Be sure to stop by Shacknews' Super Smash Bros. Ultimate walkthrough and guide for all the best coverage of Nintendo's latest brawler.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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