How to Improve at Mind Games

How can someone become good at playing mind games with their opponent in fighting games?

By practicing it deliberately.

See Also: How to Read a Book: Reads in Competitive Games

Specifically you should watch your opponent’s patterns. What do they keep doing and how can you exploit that? Watch what they do in each situation, get a feeling for their tempo and reaction time. If their reaction time is better than yours, then you need to beat them by acting on the tempo. If they do not adhere to the tempo, then you need to figure out by how much, and either act first to interrupt their options, or act second to punish them.

Watch for common player behaviors and keep a mental record of those. One example of this is, as Marth, I like to run through my opponent, then run cancel with a crouch, and fsmash back at the opponent I passed by. This is because when you run through, many people think they’re safe and do an option out of shield. However this is not foolproof. Players with good reaction time can grab me out of shield before I run through them. Players who are smart can recognize my pattern and either jump out of shield earlier, or hold onto their shield so my fsmash does nothing. At which point the correct response from me is to notice they are doing this and instead do run through, cactaur dash (run cancel and dash opposite direction), grab, because I’ve conditioned them to stay in shield.

Think about how everything you do conditions a response from your opponent and other things you can do instead that beat that response. If you do something that is exploitable, change it up in expectation of your opponent catching on. Watch what you do before you do an action, because that might give it away. Similarly watch for that in your opponent.

Getting good at mindgames is about studying other people, and finding 50/50 scenarios.

Also read this guide.

Here’s 3 other guides on it as it applies specifically to smash bros (though you can extend these lessons outside of those games too)

And here’s a paper on people’s patterns in Rock Paper Scissors and a basic guide to winning:

Click to access 1404.5199v1.pdf

(The short is, winners tend to stick with their choice more often, losers tend to switch more often, and continue switching to unused options.)

Think about what the opponent is actually doing. Remember their responses to scenarios, and keep updating to do the thing that will beat their current pattern. If you have found a pattern that keeps winning, keep doing it, or if it’s just a pure mixup, switch after 2-3 reps, because that’s when your opponent is likely to switch, unless they’re bad and don’t understand the counterplay of the different options.

Of course also look for scenarios in which you can cover all or most of your opponent’s options on reaction and just setplay them. Then you don’t need to guess.

The beauty of competitive games is that there’s a complicated web of counters to different options in different scenarios, with one covering many in many cases, and different ones changing in utility based on the scenario. But to exploit these, you really need to think and pay attention, or you’ll get played.

Is Street Fighter Made Obsolete by Smash?

Have traditional fighting games been rendered obsolete by Smash? How would you convince someone who thinks like that to try out, say, SF? Someone who thinks SF is the same thing every match.

Not a chance in hell. I’ve been meaning to make a post/video on the differences between Street Fighter and Smash Bros. The games emphasize totally different things. They have different forms of blocking, hitstun, combos, damage, moves, movement, knockdown, footsies, zoning.

In my opinion a lot of it stems from 1 really innocuous core change. In Smash Bros, you are allowed to grab someone during hitstun or blockstun. In Street Fighter, you are not. A basic issue that came up during the first version of Street Fighter 2, and Smash 64 was, if people are allowed to get advantage on block, then they can throw instantly, and that’s a guard breaker. So in SF2 World Warrior, you could jump in at someone, hit them with a roundhouse on their block, then just throw them. Easy unblockables. Similar stuff is possible in Smash 64, like shieldbreak combos, and unblockables off higher shield stun aerials. Continue reading

Nerfing Fox

Lemme cite Leffen really quick:

I don’t approve of Scrumpy’s balancing style for multiple reasons. First is, no balance patch exists in a vacuum. If you nerf the top tiers, then you turn away people who previously enjoyed those top tiers. Nerfs are occasionally necessary, and I agree that Fox could use a nerf, but I do not think these are the correct nerfs, especially because they change what fox is capable of and his options, making the character less deep.

I think the Project M fox nerfs were much more appropriately considered, especially the changes to shine and laser. Laser shouldn’t be limited to a single laser, players enjoy using double laser. It should be nerfed in damage instead. Sure this will keep its ability to reset scaling the same (though theoretically that could be jury rigged to count less often in the staling buffer, or be excluded from it completely) Project M went the extra mile and had its damage decrease over distance, while nerfing its base damage to like half a percent. Continue reading

Changes to Fix Melee Weirdness

have you ever done a post on what system-wide mechanical changes you would do to Melee if you could?

I’m pretty sure I did that already, but I have more ideas, so I’ll do it again.

My changes would be extremely minor, like increasing leniency on backdash, increasing the range on the controller that is registered as a dash, increasing the shorthop window, remove reduced jump height for frame 1 attacks, allow canceling IASA frames with airdodge or B moves, allow reverse grab boxes to grab at the end of up B moves, fade out portraits and % when they overlap characters. Plus incorporate all 20XX TE changes for convenience. If I want a balance mod on top of this, I’d go with SD Remix. And add more neutral/counterpick stages as appropriate. Continue reading

Stage Hazards

What do you think of stage hazards in fighting games? I don’t like them but I don’t know why. I might just be a scrub.

I am fine with them as long as they are predictable and don’t make the entire game about them.

Much as it may surprise you, I played smash bros casually for many many years before becoming competitive. I played on stages with hazards a lot. I even played with items on at one time in both melee and brawl.

Among the stages with hazards/gimmicks I liked Mute City, Port Town Aero Drive, Brinstar & Brinstar Depths, Pokefloats, Fourside, Big Blue, Onett, Peach’s Castle, Green Greens, Shadow Moses, Delfino Plaza, Mario Kart, Eldin Bridge, Norfair, Frigate Orpheon, Halberd, New Pork City, Skyworld, and Castle Siege. I liked that most of these telegraphed what was going to happen before it did. I liked playing around the unique difficulties of each stage. It was fun.

I don’t think stage hazards work as well in traditional fighting games because things like platforming don’t work as well in them. Smash Bros has a separate jump button. It has air control. It has a robust movement system on the air and ground that traditional fighters don’t. Also you’re allowed to walk through opponents in smash, and side switching happens a lot more often. Characters are smaller proportionally. It’s just better overall.

Over time, the stage hazard systems get less interesting to me, due in large part to how much they interfere with the normal flow of the match, the part I want to explore and improve at. Also most of these stages had serious balance issues, which is the real reason I don’t play on them anymore, that and I just don’t tolerate as much jank anymore. I didn’t like the slightly reworked versions of Skyworld or Temple: M that appeared in Project M while they were legal. I don’t like a lot of the technically legal stages that are in the top row of the PM netplay build. Making a stage that really feels totally right to me now is a lot harder.

The other issue is, a lot of stages with hazards suck. Like Distant Planet has lame hazards. And Summit. Stuff can come out of nowhere and occasionally you just get wrecked.

I liked how PSASBR allowed you to turn off hazards. I didn’t like how all the stages would go through the hazards just once in sequence and never repeat them ever again.

In Injustice I think it’s some cancerous shit.

Smash Bros Melee Beginner’s Guide

I get a lot of people asking me how to learn the basics of Melee. Here’s some essential resources for learning how to play Melee:

This video is a great rundown of the basic mechanics, in an order that is good for beginners:

This video is probably the best place to start, it lays out most of the advanced techniques that are still in use today. Some of the terminology is a bit outdated, some of the topics like DI aren’t explained in as much detail as they should be, but it’s still a pretty good guide overall. If you’ve NEVER played before, pay attention to the in-game how-to-play tutorial shown at the beginning of this one.

This channel is SSBMtutorials, it has tutorials for a ton of characters on a great variety of topics. It’s made by a top player and goes into a lot of detail.

This thread links to videos that show every advanced technique for every character in the game with the inputs for that technique on-screen.

This channel contains “trials” videos for the top tier characters (and Captain Falcon for some reason) showing you basic techniques you can practice in training mode that will help you understand your character better.

This is an article I wrote that explains in depth how the entire grounded movement system in Melee works:

This is another article I wrote about how the grounded neutral game tends to work in Melee:

This last one explains how all the recovery systems in Smash Bros work:

This page links to every characters’ hitboxes and framedata:

This is a compendium of practically everything you could ever want to know about smash bros.

Directional Influence is a subtle mechanic that isn’t explained very well in most tutorials online, here’s some pictures that explain it.
rivals DI tutorial 1rivals DI tutorial 2
directional influence DI infographic tutorial

Advice for Smash Players Picking up 2d Fighters

Do you have any advice for a smash player that wants to get into 2d fighters (especially stretch fighter 5) I’ve never played 2d fighter but I am thinking about trying it. Also what controller should I get for playing on pc

Only the same advice I have for players trying to get into traditional fighting games in the first place.
This links to a TON of other guides at the bottom. Please consult all of them, and the shoryuken wiki page for the particular fighting game you want to play.

What I’ll say is, the control system will not feel natural to you at first. You have access to more moves at a time, and it’s not going to be as obvious how all of them are used, because they all point in the same direction and they all come out and recover much faster. Learning what each of your normals is good for, getting them all down to the point where you know which one of them hits in which place at which range on command, and being able to identify what a normal is good for on a character you’ve never played before.

Practice anti-airing jump-ins. A great training technique is to record the bot doing something you want to practice against, like jumping in with a medium kick. A good thing to do is have the bot jab twice beforehand so you can react to the timing and simulate reading the move. Learn to use both normal anti-airs and special anti-airs. normals are good for reacting when you’re uncertain when they’ll jump, specials are good for reading, when you’re certain they’ll jump and when. You need both of these, you need to be fast and accurate at both of these.

Get down blocking. Blocking is absolutely critical, a lot of beginners don’t block enough. Block low all the time, then high when they’re in the air or doing an overhead attack. You can’t react to lows, but you can react to the other two, and lows deal more damage. As you get better, learn to fight standing up moving back and forth instead of being rooted to the ground in a blocking stance. Learn to do the block motion while jumping in, while attacking, while dashing, so you always do it the first instant after you stop. This will help you play charge characters too.

Learn what frame advantage/disadvantage is and how to identify which moves have it. Or look up framedata until you get the pattern. Learn when moves hit, how long they take to recover, etc.

You can use whatever controller you want. All major fight sticks have PC drivers. There are PS3 and PS4 drivers and wrappers to make them behave like 360 controllers (which is what most things on PC support). For 2d fighters the control choice doesn’t matter a great amount unless you plan to switch at some point.

Oh, and play a lot of people.

Less Dexteritous Smash Bros

How would you change the mechanics for melee so it would require less dexterity to play but still keep it’s depth?

There’s a lot of ways you could potentially do that. For one, you could fix the bug where the last frame of jumpsquat won’t count in determining whether you fulljump or shorthop.¬†You could allow Shorthops to be bound to a button instead of needing to release within the jumpsquat time. You could extend the valid dash range during dash dancing, add an extra frame of leniency to backdashing. Make it so jumping during normal turnaround still has you turned around. A lot of small input leniency changes that Project M made. You could make shield directly cancel into up smash or up B instead of needing to cancel through jumpsquat first. You could probably make L canceling automatic, and not lose that much (I just resent the idea that such a thing is totally pointless, especially when you have characters like ice climbers, who are very difficult to L cancel against, and who have a valid use for L cancel in the L cancel desync). You could add a small buffer period, like 2-3 frames. You could make Meteor Cancels mashable. You could remove the restriction on IASA frames to not allow dodges or B moves out of them.

And that’s about it. Beyond that, you’re changing the options the characters have or how difficult they are to perform in a way that affects game balance (due to strong options being too easy), or the distribution of options players will pick (due to certain options being over-centralizing).

The resulting game would still take a massive amount of dexterity to perform at, but you can’t really pare it down any more without giving something up about the identity of the game, in some ways this already is compromising some of the identity of the game.

The Smash Bros Movement System


This is a companion guide to

Okay, movement in Smash Bros is a tricky topic, there’s a lot of nuances to it that don’t exist in any other game I know of, so lets get down to business.


Up above is an image (made by Kadano) detailing all of the actions possible from a neutral standing state using the control stick alone, assuming you are facing right. When you tilt the stick forward, you will begin to walk forwards, with speed proportional to how far forwards the stick is pressed. If the stick is moved into the dash region within 2 frames of it being in the dead zone, it will initiate the initial dash animation, if after 2 frames it is not in the dash region, a dash cannot be initiated regardless of the movement of the stick until it enters the dead zone again. If the stick is moved back into the tilt turn or smash turn areas, then the character will initiate the turning animation, if it is in the smash turn area on the first frame of the turn animation, then the initial dash animation will be started in that direction.

While walking, you are allowed to perform any standing action, forward tilt, down tilt, up tilt, fsmash, down smash, up smash, and all your B moves. This means walking is a nice and delicate way to move while being capable of performing any attack at any time.

As noted above, when you “smash” forward, you’ll enter an animation state called initial dash. This animation plays for a different number of frames per-character, and if the stick is held forwards, it will transition into the run animation when it ends. If the stick is released, the initial dash animation will continue to play until it concludes, but you will not maintain your speed forwards, with friction slowing you to a halt (this is called a fox trot).


During the initial dash animation, you are not allowed to crouch, attempting to do so will make you crouch after a fox trot. You cannot perform any tilt or smash attacks during the initial dash animation, except for up smash (because jump cancels into up smash, and you are allowed to jump from all grounded non-attacking states.). If you smash turn during the initial dash state, you will re-enter the initial dash state in the opposite direction. There is a 2 frame leniency for this (unlike the 1 frame leniency for trying to dash in the opposite animation from standing), not reaching the opposite side fast enough will result in a fox trot.

This means that you can rapidly alternate directions to begin the initial dash animation over and over again in the opposite direction. This is called dash dancing. If you allow the initial dash animation to play out completely, entering a run, attempting to turn back will result in a long turnaround animation playing where you lose a lot of your speed and cannot perform any action except jump. Jumping during this animation will orient you in your original facing direction in Melee, and the opposite facing direction in Project M (called reverse aerial rush).

Because the turnaround animation during run is so long, many players elect to stay in dash dance to get the fastest turn times, allowing them to move with more agility than the run animation over a shorter range. The thing to get familiar with is learning how long you can hold dash in a direction before needing to turn around. This means that there is effectively a distance you’re allowed to move before needing to turn back. When you learn this distance well enough, you’ll be able to move at maximum speed over short distances, weaving in and out of opponent’s attack ranges. It’s possible to run across the stage, staying entirely in initial dash by turning back, then forwards every time you’re about to hit the edge of your range. This is a great way to practice using the dash dance purposefully. Varying your dash lengths and having great precise control over your dash will allow you to whiff punish any move.

During the initial dash animation, the only attacks you’re allowed to perform are the dash attack, grab (the running grab animation is slower, it’s recommended that you jump cancel grab to get your faster standing grab), your B moves, and up smash. However every time you turn during the initial dash animation, there is 1 frame where the character is in a neutral standing state. On this single frame, you are allowed to perform any neutral standing option, assuming you have good enough timing and dexterity. Performing an action on this frame is called a Pivot. Pivots are extremely tricky, but allow you to move at maximum speed and attack with impunity. Because they’re so difficult, many people only use pivots for specific applications, like moving in for a quick smash attack.

Once you enter the run state after the initial dash, your options increase a little, because you are allowed to cancel run with crouch at any time, and perform any move you normally can out of crouch (all special attacks, all smash attacks, all tilts). Worth noting is that crouching, then dashing the opposite direction is faster in a run than trying to do the run turnaround. This is called a Cactaur Dash.

Wavedashing is a technique performed by airdodging at an angle into the ground as soon as you leave the ground from jumpsquat. When you hit the ground, there are 10 frames where you cannot act due to landing lag. This means wavedashes effectively have a startup time of 10 frames + your character’s jumpsquat, assuming you do the wavedash frameperfect. You can also do this as you land from a jump or come up through a platform (fastest way to land on most platforms), incurring the same 10 frames of landing lag. The wavedashes of most characters are slower than dashing, with the exception of the characters with the absolute best wavedashes, like Luigi and Ice Climbers. Wavedashes are nice because they allow you to move at dash-like speeds without committing to the more limited set of dash options, as well as retain the same facing direction. So you can wavedash backwards while facing forwards. They help fill in a few holes in most characters’ mobility options. Wavedashes are bad, because they have a longer startup time than dashes and walking. During the jumpsquat, the wavedash inherits whatever momentum you had moving forwards, so dashing into a wavedash will make the wavedash move further.

The angle at which you dodge into the ground also affects wavedash length. More shallow angles that are closer to parallel with the ground will travel further along it. More deep angles that are perpendicular to the ground will travel with less distance. You cannot wavedash perfectly to the left or right, you’ll just get an airdodge, however you can waveland perfectly to the left or right when you jump up through a platform, or land on the ground. You need to do this exactly as you land, close to frame perfect if it isn’t totally frameperfect. Doing this will move you a lot further and faster than a normal wavedash, allowing even characters with terrible wavedashes like Ganondorf to move amazing distances.

If you are facing with your back to a ledge and have momentum, you will slide off the edge. Wavedashes allow you to do this, making them great for grabbing the ledge quickly to edgehog. Sliding off a ledge also can cancel any special animation, allowing you to attack faster, and attack animations can slide off ledges both backwards and forwards. In shield, sliding off ledges will put you into tumble, which can be taken advantage of by opponents.

Footsies in Melee


This is a companion guide to

Alright, here’s my footsies speech. I wrote this for my local smash group, and now I’m passing it on to you.

A lot of beginners when they learn to dash dance, don’t really know what dash dancing is for. They just do it because they know it’s tech and makes you unpredictable, then they get scraped because nobody’s going to respect someone who just DDs in place. Dash dancing really starts to work for you when you learn how to use your dash purposefully. You gotta understand that dash dancing isn’t just moving back and forth to be less predictable, it’s about your character having a certain range of space on the ground that they can move at maximum speed through, capable of weaving around attacks, and as long as you keep turning back at the periphery of this range, you can keep weave around anything. It’s helpful to be familiar with all the movement states in Melee, I might cover those in a different guide.

The first component of this is whiff punishing. When someone attacks you, and it misses, there is a period where that attack must recover. Dashes in Smash Bros are so fast that they can get in on people during that period, and usually grab them (depends on the character). So what you can do is, if someone comes at you with an attack, you can stand within that attack’s range, dash out of the range, let the attack whiff (miss you), and dash back in to grab them. This is the basic whiff punish.

You can whiff punish grabs, dash attacks, SHFFLs (on almost all characters), most tilts, most smash attacks, and a lot of other options, as long as you have enough space to move back, then forward, to hit your opponent when they miss. Because whiff punishes work on so many things, they’re extremely useful. They can beat out a lot of air and special move options too, forcing the opponent to respect whiff punishes on the ground.

Your other two footsie options are Pokes, and “Going Deep”. Pokes are moves you throw out to prevent your opponent from moving in on you. Poking too close to an opponent can lead to getting shield grabbed, so you want to poke at max range, while still hitting them. You want to throw pokes into the space your opponent is about to move into. Pokes are almost always fast startup moves with fast recovery and decent range, so Ftilts and Dtilts on many characters apply, as well as many character’s SHFFLs. Pokes get beaten by whiff punishes, unless they connect with either the opponent’s body or their shield.

Pokes can be beaten by other pokes, these are called counter pokes. Like a SHFFL will beat a dtilt frequently, and many ftilts or utilts can beat SHFFLs, but dtilts can go under those or outspeed them, beating those out. Poking before your opponent does will also beat their poke. Again, these options vary by character.

“Going Deep” is the equivalent to Throwing in Street Fighter, the idea is that when your opponent is non-commital, trying to bait something from you to whiff punish. If you go deep, then they need to poke you to force you out, or they get hit. Many attacks are great for this, especially because you can run cancel when you go outside your dash dance range. Dash attacks work for this on many characters as well. The idea is to overlap the space they’re going to dash in with a hitbox.

RPS triangle melee footsies.png

Pokes < Whiff Punishes < Going Deep (< Pokes again)

So you have this counter triangle, Pokes stop your opponent from moving in on you, going deep. Whiff punishes will beat pokes by avoiding getting hit, and retaliating. Going deep will beat noncommittal dash dancing, so it beats whiff punishes. Of course, poking to keep people out of your space can itself be whiff punished, so you can move into people’s space then out of it to bait a poke, and whiff punish that poke. Moving in is pressure, moving out is bait.

The goal is to watch what your opponent is doing, because you get to see what they’re about to do based on the way they move before they do it, then make a read, and try to beat whichever one of these three options they attempt, and convert that into a punish ideally. Figure out which of these three they’re relying on the most, and try to focus on the options that beat their particular play style, as well as read which option they’re going to go for right here and now.

All of these things open you up to risk, none of them are perfectly safe. Everything counts as a commitment in its own way. If you get scared, then you’re not going to make yourself safer by overly committing to any one option. Victory depends on your ability to figure out your opponent’s patterns while they simultaneously try to figure out yours, and both of you adjust on the fly based on what you just saw your opponent do. But this isn’t perfect rock paper scissors, you get hints based on what your opponent does before they actually commit.

So have some fun, change up your patterns, and figure out what theirs are before they catch on to you.

SSBMtutorials by Kira did a video on this topic and has a similar basis to mine with different terms.