Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Beginners Guide

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Image credit: Nintendo)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is out at last with the biggest cast, music and stage selections, and game mode selections in the series yet. It's good news for fans of the series who wanted more to do both with and without friends, but it can be daunting for new players whose first experience with the Smash series is on the Nintendo Switch.

If you need help getting started and just don't know where to begin, here's a good overview of what you need to know to start getting your feet wet in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:

Basic Controls

You can play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with a variety of controllers, including the Joy-Cons, the Pro Controller, and the special GameCube controller. Regardless of which you choose, the buttons will be mapped the same way. As a complex fighting game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has a wide variety of combos and moves you can pull off depending on how you chain moves together, use your directional buttons, and whether or not you're in the air. However, if you're just starting out, here are the basics you'll need to know to move and hit things somewhat efficiently with any character:

  • A - A weak, standard, close up attack. If you hit this button a lot of times in a row, you'll normally perform a combo of some sort
  • B - A more powerful attack with a special effect depending on which character you're using.
  • X and Y - Both of these buttons will cause your character to jump. All characters can jump twice in the air before needing to land.
  • Directional buttons - Your character moves left and right with the control stick, can duck if you press down, and will jump if you press up on the stick.
  • ZL and ZR - These buttons will cause you to put up a shield that slowly degrades the longer it's up/the more it's hit
  • L and R - These buttons will cause you to grab your opponent. You can then hit them with your attack buttons, or throw the opponent by pressing a directional button

There are a number of button combos and other functions to learn, but these are the basic ones that will get you by to start.

Playing Smash Mode

If all you want to do with this game is pick it up and play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in your living room with some friends, this is the mode you want. Up to eight players can join in and fight in a standard Smash battle with rules you create yourself.

You'll first be prompted to set those rules. You can choose from Timed, Stock, or Stamina rules and then set the specifics of those. If you're unsure what to pick, you can leave these on the defaults and just have a timed match where the person who has the most points from KOs at the end of the time limit wins. Stock is another good standby, where each player has a set amount of "lives" after which point, they're removed from the match.

Next, you can choose your stage - all of which are unlocked at launch. There are tons of these! If you're struggling to find a favorite, don't be afraid to hit Random and let the computer choose for you. If you need something easy and predictable, the first stage listed, Battlefield, is a good stage just to practice on.

Finally, you can choose your characters. At the start, you'll only have eight to choose from, but you'll gradually unlock more as you play more Smash. You can press ZL and ZR to change your character's color palette, and use the button on the right-hand side of the screen with the + sign to add more players if others want to join in. Up to eight people can Smash at a time, either real people or computer players.

When you're ready, start the match!

Playing Spirits Mode

Tom Nook Spirit in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Tom Nook Spirit in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Image credit: Nintendo)

The other main mode of the game you'll want to pay attention to, especially as a beginner, is Spirits Mode. Spirits Mode has many components, but the one you'll want to hone in on is its Adventure Mode. This Adventure is essentially a single-player story mode through which you can unlock characters, currency, items, and support characters known as Spirits who can boost your main fighters if you choose to turn their functions on in the main Smash modes.

You'll start by playing as Kirby, and will gradually unlock more playable characters the further you get. Spirits Adventure places you on a large overworld where you'll move along a path, fighting a series of opponents that have different quirks or augments based on what Spirits they have equipped. You yourself will gain Spirits to equip on your own that you can power up as you adventure, strengthening your fighter.

Spirits Mode is by far the best way to get used to the feel of the game, especially since you start with the easy character Kirby and unlock other easier characters (such as Mario) fairly early on. I highly recommend working through this mode on Normal or even Easy mode as an introduction to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Plus, by playing, you'll unlock lots of new characters and Spirits you can use in the main Smash mode. It's a great way to get used to the game's mechanics and become familiar with the different fighters, and it's very forgiving early on - if you lose, you just try again from where you left off!

Playing online

As mentioned above, you can play with friends locally in Smash mode. You can also connect to the Internet via the game's Online mode on the main menu, though you'll want a stable Internet connection to do so. You'll first be prompted to set up an identifying Smash tag, and then will be thrown into the online mode proper.

Online Smash has some limitations from regular Smash, but it also has some perks. By jumping into Quickplay, you can either play alone or with another locally nearby person as a team and fight in battles against random other players around the world. Winning matches will raise your Global Smash Power, which will cause you to be placed against stronger opponents, while losing will make the pool a bit more even for you. You can also set preferred rules for these Smash bouts, for example, if you prefer to play Stock matches you can try to be matched with folks who also have that preference.

Playing online can be tricky for beginners, so I recommend holding off until you're confident in your Smash powers. But once you do, it's a great way to jump into more challenging matches without having to have a living room full of friends.

Best characters for beginners

At the start of the game, you'll only have eight characters to choose from: Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Kirby, Fox, and Pikachu. You'll unlock more the more you play (just spending time playing in matches or in Spirits Mode counts), but for now, this is what you have to work with.

Of these eight, the two absolute best for beginners are Mario and Kirby. Kirby is nice and floaty and easy to get back to the stage if he falls, making him ideal for beginners who might struggle with movement. The issue with Kirby is that he has no long-range attacks and can struggle against fighters who do.

That's where Mario comes in. Mario can shoot fireballs, has a cape that deflects projectiles, and is a little weightier and harder to send flying, even though he doesn't have quite the same jump power.

Once you're comfy with Kirby and Mario, Link and Pikachu can be a bit trickier to master but have similar feels, making them good second choices. Beyond them, you'll start unlocking characters either by defeating them in Spirits Adventure or through enough playtime in a specific order. The first few you'll collect at Ness, Zelda, Bowser, Pit, Inkling, and Villager. Ness, Bowser, and Pit can be a bit tricky to master, but Villager and Zelda are good choices - Zelda especially if you like ranged fighting.

Tips and tricks

  • Under Games and More, there's a Training Mode where you can practice if you're really struggling to master a new fighter. Try it out!
  • You can change the difficulty of Spirits Adventure at any time from the menu
  • If you're struggling using Spirits, check the "Level Up" section in Spirits Mode to feel your Spirits and level them up to help you take down more powerful foes
  • There are lots of other game modes scattered throughout the menu. Don't be afraid to experiment with them to see what you like best!

Want to know more?

Struggling to win matches in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to help!

Reb Valentine