Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s amiibo metagame has completely blown Super Smash Bros. 4’s out of the water. From an objective point of view, Ultimate’s Figure Players are stronger, more versatile, and more fun to watch. So what are we doing talking about an outdated game, then? Well, Smash 4 began the trend of amiibo training as we know it. Like it or not, it’s history! And we’re here today for a bit of a history lesson.
By the way, to those of you still playing Super Smash Bros. 4, did you know we have a complete set of amiibo training guides for that game? They’re kind of well-hidden, so if you didn’t know they existed, I don’t blame you. Still, though, if you’re bored and have a Wii U, you could probably kill an hour or two training an amiibo just for fun. It’s much different than training an amiibo in Ultimate, so you might find it a little jarring. Regardless, let’s begin our lesson! Today we’re talking about which characters were best in the Smash 4 amiibo metagame as per our tier list.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s amiibo metagame is well-understood, sure, but Smash 4’s metagame was straight-up defined. Before we can talk about the best characters in 4, we need to know what the metagame was like! Here’s an important fact: Smash 4 amiibo had really potent defensive capabilities. With proper training, they could perfect shield just about any attack, and then respond with a move of their own. I’d say that FPs in 4 were better at defense than they are in Ultimate, but that’s not saying much. Point is, shields in Smash 4 were excellent. The most successful amiibo knew how to perfect shield and then respond with an appropriate smash attack.
And because FPs were so defensive, tournament-ready FPs were never trained to use aerials! Aerials were really easy to block in 4, and amiibo would perfect shield the aerial move and then instantly up smash. Which proved very deadly. So basically, the best amiibo were grounded and defensive. Fun.
Figure Players also weren’t as active as they are in Ultimate. They’d often walk instead of run, and it was extremely difficult to get them to go off-stage and edgeguard (especially against other amiibo). More often than not, an FP would jump off-stage, but chicken out and recover back instead of actually attacking. To review, FPs were grounded, defensive, and never went off-stage. This sounds exhilarating, doesn’t it?!
And finally, FPs would sometimes freeze. This was hard-coded, so it had nothing to do with training. Both amiibo would walk up to each other, stop, and stare for a few seconds. And then one would use a move – most often a smash attack – and the other would block, dodge, or get hit. Rinse and repeat until the match is over. It might sound boring – and it is – but in a way, it’s funny to watch this play out. Now that we’ve gone over how FPs generally act in 4, we can better understand what makes a good character. It’d be a fighter with good smash attacks and high shield damage. Fast frame data helps, too! If you want to learn more about the Smash 4 metagame, check out our wiki page. Without further ado, let’s start listing some really good characters!
Of course, we have to start with Little Mac! He was by far the strongest character in Smash 4 amiibo. In fact, he was the most hideously overpowered fighter in any metagame I’ve ever participated in. Yup, he was that bad. First, have a look at this video. It’s a thirty-second replay of a Little Mac amiibo winning a two-stock match with just three attacks. Little Mac FPs could use a maxed-out Attack stat and Critical-hit capability (which gave its user a 20% chance to deal tripled damage) to one-hit KO opponents. We shut this down pretty quickly, and so Little Mac was banned from amiibo tournaments.
A few months later, the community realized that critical hits were a problem, too. The bonus brought with it an insane attack buff, so matches often came down to which fighter could land a critical hit first. Critical hits were eventually banned, so Little Mac was allowed back under one condition: his Attack stat needed to be 0 or lower, and he wasn’t allowed to have any Attack-boosting bonuses. Despite these restrictions, he remained a high-tier contender until the end of the metagame’s lifespan. Little Mac is nowhere near as crazy in Ultimate… thank goodness.
Bowser has it good. In Ultimate, he’s so good that he isn’t allowed in most amiibo tournaments. More info on that here. Bowser was strong in Smash 4, too! Except this time, his claim to fame was his side special, Flying Slam. FPs in 4 had no idea how to deal with command grabs, and would often let themselves get grabbed and attacked over and over again. Bowser’s smash attacks were incredibly powerful, and for some reason, FPs wouldn’t always block his forward smash despite its high startup lag. This meant that Bowser could rack up damage and KO with ease, which made him a powerful force throughout the metagame’s lifespan.
Bowser often ran Critical-hit capability too, which made his attacks even stronger. However, there was an interesting bonus effect in Smash 4 called Explosive perfect shield. Whenever the user would perfect shield an attack, they’d create a damaging explosion that deals 15%. This would stack with critical hits, so a critical-hit Explosive perfect shield would deal 45%. As a large character, Bowser had a large shield, so his Explosive perfect shield had a lot of range and helped him rack up even more damage.
If Bowser was so good in Smash 4, why wasn’t he banned? Well, he had countermeasures. Literally. Marth and Lucina were the best characters in the late metagame, and both were capable of using their counter moves. If Bowser were to carelessly use his forward smash, Marth or Lucina could use their counter and one-hit KO him. I’d say that’s a pretty effective countermeasure! Unfortunately, FPs in Ultimate don’t use their counter moves nearly as well as they did in 4, so Bowser often gets away with spamming his tilts and smash attacks.
Marth & Lucina
These two were the champions of Smash 4’s late metagame. By 2018, both Critical-hit capability and Explosive perfect shield had been banned, which gave Marth and Lucina their chance to shine. Their claim to fame was their side special, Dancing Blade. It came out really fast and racked up lots of damage. Opposing FPs would sometimes shield the first hit, but then they’d drop their guard and fall into Dancing Blade’s consecutive attacks. Basically, Marth and Lucina would spam Dancing Blade until their opponent was at a high percentage. Then they’d either KO with the upward-angled Dancing Blade or a forward smash. This happens in Ultimate too, but to a lesser extent. FPs in Ultimate have the same issue where they’ll block the first strike of a multi-hit, but then drop their guard immediately afterwards.
And as mentioned before, Marth and Lucina had their counter as well! As you might recall, Smash 4 featured custom moves. And Marth and Lucina had a custom down special that helped them out a lot. It was called Iai Counter, and it had a 1.3x damage multiplier (as opposed to the default version’s 1.2x). It also activated faster and launched opponents backwards, making this move really good. A lot of FPs in 4 hit really hard, and some of them could even be one-hit KOed by a well-timed Iai Counter. Crazy stuff!
Here we have another heavyweight — Ganondorf! He was in a very similar position to Bowser. High survivability, a crazy command grab, and powerful smash attacks set Ganondorf a bar above the rest! Ganondorf could use his side special, Flame Choke, to rack up free damage on opponents. The AI was often “smart” enough to combo it into a down tilt, too, which proved fatal at high percentages. Keep in mind that Ganondorf in 4 didn’t use a sword for any of his smash attacks. His forward smash was faster in 4 than it is in Ultimate, and was one of his best finishers! Up smash was really fast and really strong, making it a solid aerial punish.
And because Ganondorf was a big character, he was able to use Explosive perfect shield to great effect as well. After the bonus was banned, though, Ganondorf remained very viable and was considered top-tier throughout the lifespan of Smash 4’s amiibo metagame. This was perhaps the first time Ganondorf was considered top-tier in a Smash metagame. How exciting!
At the beginning of 4’s metagame, Link was considered good, but not top-tier. Too many of his attacks were easily shielded, meaning they’d activate Explosive perfect shields and Link would take damage. The game changed when Explosive perfect shield was banned, though. No longer would Link be punished for simply attacking. He was able to make use of a good portion of his moveset! He could rack up damage with Boomerang and KO with his forward or up smash attacks. He also excelled in close-ranged combat thanks to his excellent jab. And yes, jabs were really good in the late metagame because other FPs couldn’t react to them in time.
Link performed well against Bowser and Ganondorf, and helped keep the two in check. That’s what was so nice about Smash 4’s late metagame. Each character struggled against another top-tier. Ultimate doesn’t have that, because Bowser and Incineroar are extremely strong and have virtually no counters (save for Bowser doing poorly against Incineroar, which doesn’t count in this case).
The final character we’re going to talk specifically about today is Cloud! He was actually almost banned. Similar to Little Mac, a critical-hit forward smash was capable of one-hit KOing opponents, and it could shatter a full shield too! Instead of banning him, though, Cloud was permitted under a restriction: his Attack stat had to be 60 or lower, and he could only use one attack-boosting bonus effect. Cloud’s AI was a little clunky sometimes, as it’d spam Blade Beam from a distance and didn’t always use every hit of Cross Slash. Even so, Cloud performed well enough using his smash attacks and jab.
The first honorable mention here is Ness! Unfortunately for him, Smash 4 tournaments allowed and encouraged equipment. The improved escapability bonus effect allowed FPs to escape from grabs before they could be thrown. This meant that Ness was often locked out of using his back throw! He really fell off towards the end of the metagame, but was still considered high-tier. He’s much better in Ultimate.
Next up, we’ve got Luigi. He wasn’t very good in the early metagame. Like Link, Luigi didn’t have much of an answer to Explosive perfect shield. When it was finally banned, though, Luigi FPs started relying on their jabs to rack up damage and trick opponents into dropping their guard. And they’d then finish off the enemy with a forward or up smash! It was a really simple game plan, but it worked well enough.
Then we have Charizard, who was actually high-tier on its own! It had really powerful smash attacks, including a strong forward smash that rendered its head invincible. Its jab was really good, too, so most of Charizard’s success came after Explosive perfect shield was banned. It also had a custom side special called Dragon Rush that would hit enemies multiple times (as opposed to Flare Blitz’s single strike) without any recoil damage. It’s a shame that Charizard is weighed down by Squirtle and Ivysaur in Ultimate… but oh well.
This was just a bit of a peek into how the Smash 4 metagame ran. If it sounds lame, it’s because it is, and that’s exactly why I liked it so much! With the advent of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there’s not much of a reason to go back to Smash 4 and train amiibo. Especially since there’s no more Smash 4 tournaments. But if for some reason this has piqued your interest, you can always check out our Smash 4 training guide archive right here. If you weren’t here for Smash 4, what are your thoughts? Does it sound interesting to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts down below! Or on Twitter or Discord. Either’s fine!
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