Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Beginner’s Tips Guide

Struggling to take stocks? Our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beginner's guide will take you from zero to Zer0 in a jiffy!

Struggling to take stocks? Our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beginner's guide will take you from zero to Zer0 in a jiffy!

No matter how confident you are in your Smash skills, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate changes the formula in a lot of key ways.

Players will have to re-learn some of the basics in order to be competitive, from all-new defensive mechanics to the optimal ways in which to approach enemies.

Luckily, we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting over release weekend and put together a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beginner’s guide to help you take part in Elite Smashes in no time. 

We’ll cover, in the following order: 

  • Playing defense
    • Changes to rolling
    • Changes to perfect shield
  • Playing offense
    • Changes to smash attacks
    • Changes to short-hop aerials
  • How to use spirits
  • Tips and tricks for mitigating lag online
  • How to unlock characters

Playing Defense

Learning how to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can be slightly frustrating.

On the surface, it does play a lot like Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. But playing the game as if it were one of the previous versions will only end in despair.

Offensively, not much has changed, but the way that your character defends has changed drastically. If you’re not sure where to start on your quest to git gud, we recommend focusing on defense first.

Don’t Roll, Really … 

If you’re a constant roller, stop that right now. To make matches more interesting and to reward aggressive play, Nintendo has really nerfed the defensive capabilities of rolling.

What that means for you is that if you generally roll either as a defensive maneuver or, even worse, as a movement option, you’ll quickly find that you’re a lot more vulnerable than you expect.

Upon startup and finish, rolls have fewer invincibility frames, and as you roll more often, their effectiveness is reduced even further.

The good news is that there are plenty of other, better defensive options for you to use.

In most cases, simply jumping or running away from attacks works, as does shielding or sidestepping attacks. If you’re playing as a character like Inkling, Wii Fit Trainer, or Kirby, you can also duck under plenty of attacks as well.

If you’re having trouble breaking the habit, simply re-map your controls so that no buttons are mapped to shield. Play a few matches this way and force yourself to find defensive options that don’t involve rolling.

Before long, you’ll stop relying on it, and your play will improve dramatically. 

Changes to Perfect Shield

Another new wrinkle in the defensive game is the perfect shield mechanic.

Now, instead of a perfect shield occurring when you press the guard button at the perfect time, a perfect shield triggers when you drop shield at the right time. This is dangerous, as if you drop shield too early, you’ll eat an attack, but the tradeoff is that, much like in 2D fighting games, this perfect guard will give you an opportunity to counterattack.

Learning this timing is super tough, and there’s no shortcut to getting comfortable with it, so what we recommend is that you hop into practice mode, set the CPU to attack, and drill perfect guards until you’re confident!

Playing Offense

On the offensive side of the ball, changes are a little more subtle, and the end result is that players have more tools to work with.

Charge Smash Attacks Longer

The first, and most obvious change, is that no matter what character you play as, you can now charge Smash attacks for a whole lot longer.

Obviously, you won’t want to go around charging your attacks non-stop just trying to get lucky, but the new charge mechanics offer a lot of opportunities for mind games. Charging an attack can often give your opponent the sense that they can approach you, so if you can take advantage of that, you can catch them off guard.

Short-Hop Aerials

Another important change has to do with short-hop aerials, an advanced Smash Bros. technique that has been simplified for the new game.

Put simply, if you tap the jump and attack buttons at the same time, you’ll perform a jumping attack that skims the ground. These are super-quick attacks that themselves can launch combos, so it’s worth getting comfortable with them.

Spirits: A Primer

The spirit system in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate can seem daunting at first blush, but it’s pretty self-explanatory once you dig in a little bit.

The most important thing to remember (as the game will drill into your head through constant visual reminders) is that you’ll need to equip spirits of a certain type to stand a chance during the game’s Adventure mode or to pick up bounties on the Spirit board. 

Attack beats Grab, Grab beats Shield, and Shield beats Attack. 

Make sure to keep an eye on your opponent’s spirit type so that you’re always at an advantage, because some of these battles are really, REALLY tough.

Make sure you keep your spirits leveled up but focus more on the ones that have the “enhanceable” trait — those will transform into more powerful spirits once they reach level 99. 

More importantly, at least when it comes to the Spirit board, don’t be proud and go in without a team. You only get one shot at the bounties on the spirit board, so if you’re after a Legend- or Ace-class bounty, make sure you give yourself every advantage possible — especially when you’re just starting out.

The game will tell you you’ll get fewer rewards if you beat a bounty with a more powerful spirit team, and this is true, but it’s also irrelevant. These rewards usually come in the form of SP, gold, or spirit snacks, so it’s not worth it to risk missing out on unlocking the spirit just for those goodies, especially when the battles themselves are so hard.

Tips and Tricks for Mitigating Lag Online

You’ve probably heard this from everyone already, but it is highly recommended for you to snag a LAN adapter if you don’t already have one. Wi-Fi connections are notoriously spotty, and generally, aren’t suited to fast-paced fighting game action. 

Having said that, if setting up a wired connection to your Switch isn’t possible, you’re not completely sunk. You can actually mitigate a whole lot of lag super easily by fiddling with some settings in the Switch’s menus.

What you’ll want to do is open up your settings, then go to the Internet tab and select Internet settings. Once you’re there, select the connection you’re using, select Change Settings, then scroll down to the “MTU” setting.

By default, this is set to 1400, but most Wi-Fi networks support 1500 or more.

There’s a handy Reddit thread that gives step-by-step instructions on how to deduce the optimal MTU for your network,
but for most folks’ purposes, you should be able to just pop the number 1500 into the MTU settings and then perform a connection test.

If everything works, you’re good to go! You should immediately notice that you have less lag, and your download speeds should be increased.

Unlocking Characters

There are a ton of different theories on the quickest way to unlock the game’s entire 74-character roster, but this method is the most consistent one that we’ve been able to find. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Play for 10 or so minutes to unlock your first character.
  2. Save a rule setting
    • 10hp stamina one-on-one contest
  3. Change the language settings
    • This resets the game’s internal timer
  4. Battle as Fox, Falco, or a quick projectile character
    • Fight against a level 1 CPU 
  5. Beat them to get a new challenger
    • Win or lose
    • Change language settings again
  6. Repeat

In my experience, it can sometimes take two or more battles between unlocking characters, so keep that in mind. Don’t change the language setting until the next challenger appears.

Keep that up for a few hours, and you’ll have unlocked the entire cast in no time!

Oh, and don’t fret if you lose a few matches against the new challengers. Occasionally, when you lose, a door icon will appear on the “Games and More” section of the menu. Select it, and you’ll get another chance at defeating one of the challengers you lost to before!

There’s no better time to get into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate than right now. Everyone’s still learning, the meta is in its infancy, and the whole world is playing.

With the tips in this beginner’s guide, you’ll be at the top of your game in no time!

About the author


RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.