Last Updated: March 6th, 2024

This page is my attempt to answer the many questions new players often ask about competitive Super Smash Bros.

Disclaimer: The answers on this page are my opinion. I try to ground my answers in the general consensus of the competitive community, but no one is immune to bias.


What’s the best controller? What controller should I use?

There’s no best controller; check out the controller guide for your options. If you’re new and can’t decide, my recommendation is the Chori, or the Warrior 64 if you have smaller hands. Both are very cheap (Choris can be under $10) and competitively viable, and it’s an easy switch to Hori later.

Smash 64 has a very wide variety of controller options, and the choice of what to use comes down to personal preference. While there are some objective factors to look for, in many cases preference outweighs these factors. For example, the locations of the X and Y buttons on the Gamecube controller aren’t as good for doublejump cancels (DJCs) as the C buttons on the original N64 controller. But if you’ve used the Gamecube controller for years and love it, that shouldn’t stop you (and there’s a great adapter for it!). The higher range and low resistance of the Hori and its immitators make DI easier, but can also make tilt attacks and other subtle movements difficult. Some people love it and others hate it, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

The Hori gets better DI than the OG, doesn’t it? Is that unfair? Could it get banned?

Reasons why Hori is legal:

  • While produced by Hori, it’s an official Nintendo-licensed controller
  • It was released during the N64’s original lifespan, and was available (at least in Japan) to Smash players of the time
  • The original N64 controller has serious wear issues, and for years the Hori was the only good substitute
  • Although higher range has advantages in DI, the Hori’s greater sensitivity also makes precise movements more difficult than on OG
  • It’s been legal for decades at this point, and experienced players have spent their whole careers using it

Although Hori has seen high-level play for years, the majority of top players use some form of OG. It’s unlikely the Hori or similar high-range controllers will get banned, so feel free to use whichever you like better.

How do I turn off stick jump/tap jump?

Stick jump cannot be disabled in Smash 64, and even if it could, you wouldn’t want to.

Unlike jumps in other Smash games, grounded jumps (not double jumps) in 64 are analog, meaning there are dozens of possible jump heights, with the C buttons only inputting 1 of them. Crucially the highest possible stick jump goes higher than a C button full hop, which is important for movement, combos, and edgeguarding high recoveries.

What are the rules for keyboard and box controllers?

The complete, official controller rules for 64 are:

All controllers are subject to the following restrictions:

● Maximum 1:1 mapping of original buttons on first party controller allowed (Hori) (1 A button, 2 Z’s, 1 R, etc. No extra buttons that aren’t on the controller)

● Maximum 4 directional mappings or 2 joystick axes allowed, combinations of the two are not allowed

● Macros, other than Z+A, are illegal

● Turbo buttons and functions are illegal

Violation of above rules will result in immediate disqualification from an event and all previous wins in the event are forfeited. Examples of legal controllers are, but not limited to, the original N64 controller, Hori Mini Pad, GameCube controller, Xbox/keyboard/other wired input devices as long as they meet the restrictions above.

These are the rules used at Smash Con and all other major tournaments. Of course, the tournament organizer (TO) of each event is the ultimate authority on that event’s rules.

The purpose of these rules are to limit controllers to the capabilities of the officially licensed controllers contemporary with the game, the original N64 controller (OG) and Hori mini pad. Controllers exceeding these capabilities would create an arms race and force long time players to constantly give up their controllers to switch to ever more capable options, which would be bad for the game.

Breaking down each line:

● Maximum 1:1 mapping of original buttons on first party controller allowed (Hori) (1 A button, 2 Z’s, 1 R, etc. No extra buttons that aren’t on the controller)

Pretty self explanatory. You can’t make a controller with 5 A buttons or 3 Zs. You also can’t break 1 to 1 mapping, for example by making a button that’s A in some cases but B in others. While the OG only has 1 Z button, the Hori is considered an official controller and has 2, so other controllers are allowed to have 2 as well.

● Maximum 4 directional mappings or 2 joystick axes allowed, combinations of the two are not allowed

This rule covers the analog stick, and is the cause of the majority of confusion with the ruleset. There are two options for a controller to produce analog inputs, and a controller can only use one:

  • It can use a stick. Only 2 joystick axes are allowed, which essentially means only one joystick is allowed (you can’t have 1 very sensitive joystick and 1 very insensitive joystick). It would be legal to have 2 1-axis joysticks (for example a joystick that could only move left and right), but as far as I know no controller does this. Extra buttons or control options that modify the stick’s inputs are not permitted.
  • It can use buttons. In this case only 4 buttons are allowed, with one bound to each of left, right, up and down. No additional joystick control buttons of any kind are allowed, including tilt buttons, angle buttons, modifiers, restrictor buttons, etc. Yes, this is different from Melee.

● Macros, other than Z+A, are illegal.

This rule should be read as “macros are illegal”. The carve out for Z+A is because the R button in Smash 64 functions as an in-game macro for Z and A, so that caveat is just saying that R buttons are allowed. Macros other than R for Z+A are not allowed, and you can only have 1 R button.

Forbidden macros cover essentially anything other than a normal button on an N64 controller. You can’t have a button that performs multiple inputs, or the same input multiple times; you can’t have a button that performs an extra function when the button is released, you can’t have buttons that use timers or modify the functionality of other buttons. Use some common sense here.

● Turbo buttons and functions are illegal

Some third-party controllers produced in the 90s and early 2000s had built-in turbo functions. If you’re going to use one in tournament, you should visibly disable it.

Why can’t I use modifiers? I need them for tilt attacks!

The simple answer is that tilt and angle modifiers give an unfair advantage in consistency when compared to controllers with joysticks.

It’s still possible to do tilt attacks using buffering (holding the direction first during another action), and keyboard players are able to compete at a high level using it.

There’s another answer you’ll sometimes get if you ask this question, which is that because stick jumps in 64 are analog (see stick jump question above), modifiers would allow players to hit perfect lands that are impossible to do consistently on controller. They would also allow for perfect Pikachu up-b ledge cancels and other movements.

That’s true, and it is a reason modifiers aren’t allowed, but even if those exploits were prevented using randomization or some other method, the unfair consistency of modifier buttons compared to joystick inputs in normal movement would still be bannable.


Is it true Smash 64 is only played on Dreamland? Why were other stages banned?

Yes, the 64 community has been Dreamland-only since the banning of Congo Jungle and Peach’s Castle at Super Smash Con 2015, although Japanese tournaments had been using the ruleset before that point.

Stage Why it was banned
Peach’s Castle Lack of ledges makes recovering on this stage very difficult for most of the cast. When this stage was legal, it was mostly only used by Pikachu and Kirby players hoping for an easy counterpick win. The stage’s design gets in the way more than it offers anything interesting.
Mushroom Kingdom POW block is disruptive, walk-offs impair gameplay, ceilings.
Yoshi’s Island Vertical camping: the stage. A modded version without clouds was briefly used in doubles; it’s not great there either.
Congo Jungle The harsh reality of Congo Jungle is that it’s banned because no one likes it. This stage was legal for a time as a counterpick along with Peach’s Castle, but was only really used as a gimmick pick by players hoping their opponent was unfamiliar with it. Even when it was legal, you rarely saw anyone play for fun on it, and certainly no one does now.
In terms of objective reasons: it’s too dark, the ground being permeable is annoying, platforms are high and easy to camp.
Hyrule Castle The center top platform and side tent are easy to camp and offer almost no way to approach, as demonstrated in the infamous Superboomfan vs Gerson that finally resulted in the stage’s ban in Peru.
But the stage has even deeper problems. Hyrule is massive, to the point that it’s essentially 3 or 4 stages in one. If both players can’t agree on which section is to their advantage to fight on (and unless it’s a ditto, they probably can’t), then the match grinds to a halt. And I didn’t even mention the tornados!
Planet Zebes Platforms are too high above the ground, making platform control too dominant. Lava (acid?) breaks edgeguarding. Awful hazard.
Sector Z Far too large; faster characters can run away from slower ones forever. Bad hazard. No platforms.
Saffron City Certain characters (Ness) struggle to recover here. Lack of platforms makes the stage very linear and incentivises camping. Bad hazard.
Meta Crystal (aka Metal Cavern) Not accessible without mods. Too small. Uneven surfaces are annoying.
Duel Zone (aka Battlefield) Not accessible without mods. Really adds nothing compared to Dreamland, except the ledges are worse and the platforms are higher, making them less accessible. Playing on this stage is a popular suggestion among people that have never tried it. Functions only as a gimmick counterpick, see Kongo Jungle.
Final Destination Platforms are a core part of what makes Smash a fun and interesting game. They’re fundamental to movement, to combos, to neutral and approach options. The game invented the genre of Platform Fighter. This stage doesn’t have any platforms.
There are balance issues, there are camping issues, but ultimately it’s just boring. Yes, this stage is legal in Melee. 64 is not melee.

Couldn’t we just make a rule against camping? Or just tell people not to play lame? Isn’t camping OK, since we have a timer?

It doesn’t work that well, and it’s better to play on a stage that doesn’t incentivise those behaviors in the first place.

If you want to play on a stage that promotes camping, you might think the issue can be solved with rules. This is challenging. One approach would be a vague “don’t camp” “don’t play lame” type rule. This requires a judgement call, and a tournament organizer cannot watch every match to settle disputes about whether a player is approaching enough. Even if you had 50 TOs to watch every setup, they wouldn’t give out the same rulings, because there is no objective measure of how much approaching is “enough”, or even what counts as camping. This method might work when you’re playing with your roommates, but it doesn’t scale to a competitive event with thousands of dollars on the line.

Timers are good, but they don’t prevent camping, in fact they give it a win condition. The gameplay pattern of whoever gets the first hit taking an unassailable position and waiting their opponent out doesn’t make for a good game either way.

Can we disable whispy yet?

Maybe when you’re older.


I’m trying to learn <character>, can you give me any tips?

My advice for learning any character is the same. First, watch some videos or guides going over the character’s basic mechanics. Then study videos of top players using the character, practice the character’s techniques and combos in training mode, play a lot of matches using the character against diverse opponents, and repeat.

To make this process easier, I’ve made a character guides page, which has links to character specific resources, top players to watch, and example match videos. Check it out!

What’s the current tier list?

An official tier list for Smash 64 hasn’t been made in a long time, making the one that currently exists out of step with both popular opinion and recent tournament results.

A rough sketch of current opinion might be:

A Pikachu, Kirby, Falcon, Yoshi
B Fox, Jigglypuff, Mario
C Samus, DK, Ness, Link, Luigi

People will argue endlessly about the order of the weakest characters or the divisions between tiers, but the above should be fine for any practical purpose, like cheering loudly when a low-tier player makes an upset. Some people might reorder A a bit or separate out an S tier; see what character should I play to win below for a more in-depth discussion.

I found this matchup chart, but some of the matchups seem wrong!

There are a couple really old matchup charts floating around with very wrong numbers on them. As far as I know there is no up-to-date matchup chart.

What character should I play? What character is good for beginners?

Whichever character makes you want to play more Smash.

If you haven’t tried every character, do that. Watch some vods of top players, mess around in training mode and play a couple games. This game takes hundreds of hours to master, and the most important thing is that you’re having fun. You have plenty of time to figure out which character clicks with you, and you’ll have plenty of time to switch characters later if you change your mind. A huge part of this game is fundamentals that transfer between characters.

I disagree with the idea of a “beginner” character. If you like a character, you should play them. You won’t benefit from restricting yourself to playing some other “easy” character first.

If you’re a complete beginner and your main priority is winning your matches against other beginners, play Kirby. But you should stay a complete beginner for as little time as possible, and most of your games probably won’t be against other beginners anyway.

If you insist on me picking your character, play Pikachu. Can’t go wrong with Pika.

Ok, but I just want to win. What’s the tryhard character choice?

Pikachu or Yoshi.

There are 4 characters in Smash 64 that are a clear cut above the others in terms of tournament results: Captain Falcon, Kirby, Pikachu, and Yoshi. Of these, Pikachu and Yoshi have the strongest results when used as a solo main. Pikachu is the most popular character in high-level play, and has strong matchups against most of the cast. Yoshi has the best matchup against Pikachu of the cast, without any drastically bad counterpicks.

Falcon and Kirby are very useful and popular, but usually have a secondary or co-main. Kirby’s only losing matchup is Pikachu, and the matchup is far from terrible, but the frequency of Pikachu and the often exhausting nature of the matchup makes a secondary desirable. Falcon’s matchup against Kirby is bad enough to warrant having a Pikachu to switch to, but Pikachu is useful in so many matchups that it makes more sense to main Pikachu and use Falcon as a counterpick. This transition is very common for Falcon mains.

I can never beat Kirby, he’s broken! Have you seen his up tilt??

Kirby is a common challenge for newcomers, but feels more fair as you get better. Work on your movement and punish game, and respect his utilt and dair.

Kirby is a competitive character and a solid member of the big 4 at all levels of play, but he tends to dominate games between beginners, giving new players a false impression of his strength and popularity. At competitive tournaments with experienced players, Kirby tends to be the 3rd or 4th most popular, and tends to be more popular a counterpick character than a solo main.

Punish skill is a deciding factor in many games, and at low levels Kirby’s punishes are by far the easiest, with a few uptilts in a row racking up tons of percent, followed by an edgeguard or a few fsmashes for the kill. Meanwhile Kirby’s easy to use recovery and light weight make him hard to kill in return. This difficulty gap gives kirby very stron results in all-beginner tournaments.

Once players of other characters improve their recovery and master their own 0-to-death combos, Kirby’s life becomes harder. He often needs multiple openings to kill, and throwing out laggy fsmashes is risky against opponents that can pivot back and turn the whiff into a death. Kirby can keep up, but it requires putting in work and mastering more advanced combos and movement options.

To players struggling against him, focus on your character’s basic movement options, recovery mixups, and bread-and-butter combos.

Pikachu is the best character, right? Why don’t we ban him?

There are a lot of reasons against bans, but ultimately the burden of argument is on the side of saying something should be banned, and the argument for banning him isn’t good enough.

Pikachu is the best character, but it’s pretty inevitable that there will be a best character. Everyone plays Pikachu and he only has 2 arguably losing matchups*, but you ban Pikachu and Kirby has 0 losing matchups. You ban Kirby and everyone plays Falcon who has…. 2 arguably losing matchups†. You’re back where you started with 17% of the cast missing and all the history and all the practice and work put into those characters wasted.

There was a movement in 2017, led by Superboomfan, to ban Pikachu and Kirby, seemingly out of frustration that he couldn’t beat Alvin’s Pikachu in the ditto. The next year he tried Falcon instead and hasn’t lost to Alvin since. The need to ban Pikachu suddenly became less urgent.

* Matchups you can argue he loses, not matchups he definitely loses. (Falcon and Yoshi)
† Fox and Yoshi

How do Yoshi’s armor and parry work? What’s the difference?

Yoshi has two totally separate mechanics that let him block attacks: parry, which uses the startup of his shield on the ground, and double jump armor, which he can perform in mid-air by jumping.

Parrying is possible because Yoshi’s shield is invincible for its first 3 frames. You can see this on Frame Display here, invincible hitboxes are in green. Yoshi can then simply stop holding Z to release shield, or jump out of shield to gain an additional 2 frames of intangibility (shared by all characters).

Armor is a property of Yoshi’s double jump, which reduces all knockback by a set amount. If a move doesn’t do enough knockback, Yoshi will take damage but not take hitstun or knockback and can attack back immediately. If the move does more knockback than the armor can absorb, it’ll “break” the armor, putting Yoshi into hitstun and giving him the remainder of the knockback. Because knockback scales based on percent, each move has a percent at which it’ll break armor. You can see a table of these percents here: Yoshi Armor Table.

Why do people call Pikachu rat?

The story i’ve always heard is that Isai kept getting copyright claims against his VoD uploads when he used Pikachu in the title, so he started saying rat instead. Is that true? No idea. He does look like a rat though, doesn’t he?


What’s waterfall format?

Waterfall is a popular bracket format for Smash 64 tournaments that involves multiple divisions of round-robin pools, with winners of each division moving on to the next.

Unlike straight double-elimination pools that pair the strongest players against the weakest in the first round, waterfall focuses on round-robin pools (groups where everyone plays everyone else) that attempt to match players of similar skill level together. If you’ve never played in a Smash 64 tournament before, you’ll likely be placed in the lowest division. The number of divisions will vary by tournament, usually between 2 and 4. In your division you’ll be placed in a pool, and you’ll play everyone in that pool. If you place well enough, usually around the top half of the pool, you’ll move on to the next division. Keep winning and you’ll eventually make it to the finals, usually a top 8 or top 16 double-elimination bracket.

I hate tiebreakers. Why use round-robin instead of double elimination for pools?

Smash 64 tournaments are unfortunately limited in number, and travel, lodging, and entry are expensive. No one wants to go to a tournament and only get to play 2 matches. That sucks. We try to maximize the number of competitive matches played instead.

Some people prefer double-elimination because it’s more “decisive”. This decisiveness is an illusion. Let’s say you’re in a 4 man round robin pool. One player goes 0-3; you beat one of the other 2 and lose to last person of the others you beat 1 and lose to the other, creating a 3 way tie. The tie is determined by tie-breakers, which will be game count, or if that’s tied, another round of matches.

This situation would not occur in double-elimination, because the player seeded to play the 0-3 player would win and get out without having to face the person capable of beating them. In this case, double-elimination is effectively round-robin with seeding as the only tiebreaker. We prefer game count.


Is it true that they play a different version of the game in Japan? What’s J version?

Yes, there is a separate Japanese (J) version of the game that differs from the international (U) version both in language and in gameplay.

J version has many changes compared to U, although J came first, so it makes more sense to say U has many changes from J version. These changes include different character names, different sound effects, weaker DI, and many character-specific changes. You can find a full list of changes here.

What are Japanese tournaments like? Why are they so different from events in the US or Canada?

Japan has two series of major tournaments events: Kanto and Kansai, both named for their regions. The structure of these tournaments has evolved over time. The current most common format is:

  • Best of 1 Round Robin pools. Stock counts are recorded and used as a tiebreaker.
  • Seeding is minimal, usually limited to spreading out the top few players into separate pools.
  • Two double elimination brackets, A and B. Players in the top 3 or 4 (based on event size) of their pool play in the A bracket, everyone else in the B bracket.
  • Brackets are usually best of 3 throughout; best of 5 is almost never used, including for finals. Sometimes the loser’s side of each bracket is best of 1. Best of 1 for more of the bracket was common in the past.
  • Japanese tournaments sometimes use the “character lock” rule, where players are required to use a single character for the entire tournament. Since 2017, this rule has not been used at Kanto, but has continued to be used at Kansai.
  • There are almost never prizes paid out, due to anti-gambling laws.

Japanese tournaments are almost always limited to a single day, with time for a social drinking party afterwards, so the brackets need to run quickly to finish on time.

Why don’t we switch to J version? Isn’t it more balanced?

It’s not really more balanced, and the changes made in U version improved the game.

Many character-specific changes were made in the release of the international (U) version, some of which act as significant buffs and nerfs. Looking at a modern tier list, there’s very little pattern to the changes. Pikachu is mostly unchanged competitively in U, Kirby and Fox were slightly nerfed, Falcon was significantly nerfed, Yoshi and Puff were hugely buffed, and Ness and Link were nerfed. It adds up to two version with different balance, but I don’t find the arguments for J superiority very convincing. With a slightly stronger Kirby, significantly stronger Falcon, and much weaker Yoshi, the top tier in J is even stronger and separates itself further from the rest of the cast.

The main problem with J version though is that the changes made in U were clearly made to make the game better. As an example, Fox’s recovery is not very good, and is in fact slightly better in J version. However, the way it’s slightly better is that it has a period of invincibility during startup, incinvibility that has no visual indicator and doesn’t line up with the animation. Even if you were trying to buff Fox by improving his recovery, this is not how you would do it, and the buff is fairly minor, because players used to it can hit Fox before or after the invincibility. J Fox’s downsmash also sends opponents upwards diagonally for some reason, which makes no sense and is a nerf.

The U character changes almost all follow this pattern, in that they don’t necessarily improve the balance of the game, but they do make it more fun to play and make more sense. Kirby’s only notable change in J is an fthrow with a brutal angle that makes it harder for him to kill other light characters but even easier for him to gimp characters with bad recoveries. Falcon is slower and significantly floatier in J version, which makes his uair combos much less diverse while making his movement less fun. J Yoshi has weaker armor that makes his recovery much worse. J Puff’s rest doesn’t function as a kill move. Overall characters tend to be more linear, less interesting, and jankier.

Finally, J version has significantly weaker DI than U version. As a result, combos tend to be much more similar, with no way for the defender to force the comboer to improvise. For players used to U version, this feels sterile and repetitive, especially in combo-heavy matchups. Even in less combo heavy matchups, the ability to anticipate attacks and to read and follow the opponent’s DI is exciting and skill testing, and makes U version feel more dynamic.

Why doesn’t Japan switch to U version?

Some Japanese players, especially those that frequently player in international tournaments, prefer U version, but it’s far from universal. Japanese players have a strong appreciation for tradition, and it’s hard for me to see them switching to a foreign version after two decades of tournaments on J. Even if they wanted to, Japanese tournaments are held on all original hardware, and are much less accepting of mods, so acquiring and using U version copies of the game would be a logistical hurdle.

J players traveling to international events like Super Smash Con often practice U version on netplay, sometimes starting months beforehand, so they’re well prepared for international competitive despite not using it in their own events.

Are Hori controllers banned in Japanese tournaments?


There is no written rule against using Hori or other alternative controllers in Japanese tournaments, and many foreign players have used them there without issue. However there is a general sense among Japanese players that the OG is the controller to use for Smash, and as far as I know none of them use anything else. There are several Japanese players that use Steel Sticks, though.


What’s the difference between invincibility and intangibility? Does it matter?

When a character or hurtbox is invincible (English meaning: cannot be defeated), they can be hit, but they take no damage or knockback from the attack. Examples of invincibility include the 2 seconds after a character leaves the respawn platform, yoshi’s parry, and the star item.

When a character or hurtbox is intangible (English meaning: cannot be touched), it cannot be hit, and is treated as though it doesn’t exist. Examples of intangibility include the 1 second after a character grabs the ledge, pika’s upb startup, and being on the respawn platform.

The difference is relevant in 2 main ways:

  • When attacking an invincible player, the attacker will go into normal hitlag (freeze frames), which makes them especially vulnerable to counterattack. Attacks against intangible players don’t hit, so there is no hitlag.
  • Mosts attacks only hit once. If an attack hits an invincible player on frame 5, and on frame 6 that player loses invincibilty, the attack has already hit and won’t hit them again. However if an attack overlaps an intangible player and they become tangible while the attack is on them, they will be hit.

Have people really asked all of these questions?