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The COVID-19 pandemic posed a serious problem for competitive players of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a game notorious for its poor netcode. At this point, players have competed exclusively online for more than half of the game’s lifespan.

But there’s hope on the horizon. Offline locals have begun again in parts of the United States and other places around the world, while regions like Georgia and Tristate have invited some of their best players to compete in offline invitationals. Additionally, in-person Smash Ultimate majors are set to resume this fall.

As offline competition becomes relevant again, newer players may soon get the chance to compete in-person for the first time. Upcomer spoke to Tanner “SKITTLES!!” Jordan and Robert “Myran” Herrin to get their insights on how wi-fi warriors can effectively transition from online Smash Ultimate to offline.

Major differences in online and offline Smash Ultimate

For players looking to make that transition, it’s crucial to understand that online and offline Smash Ultimate are two rather different games. Besides the inconsistency that lag can create online, one major factor contributes to the difference between online and offline Smash: reaction times.

The high amount of input delay in the game’s online mode makes it difficult to react to the opponent’s actions. As a result, reactive bait-and-punish playstyles are less viable, while playstyles built around throwing out safe moves or making hard reads are difficult to contest.

“Certain characters with really strong frame data would essentially force you to play their game at all times,” Myran said. “I think those types of playstyles are going to be a bit easier to deal with [offline].”

The ability to react quicker offline allows players to adapt how they position themselves on the stage. Online, many competitors try to play passively at a safe distance so they have more time to react to their opponent’s actions. But offline, players can reliably play within a closer range, allowing for more aggressive gameplay.

SKITTLES!!, a Young Link main, got accustomed to using his character’s projectiles liberally online. Since he started attending in-person locals again, he has become more selective with his projectile use.

“You can’t just be throwing them out all willy-nilly,” SKITTLES!! said. “People will actually react to it now.”

Wi-fi warriors transitioning to in-person competition may have to learn to be more thoughtful with their move placements in the neutral. But, if they can hone their own reaction times, they’ll also be able to more reliably punish any careless moves their opponents make.

Olimar and Diddy Kong in Smash Ultimate.
Olimar and Diddy Kong may see increased usage in offline Smash Ultimate. Screenshot provided by Nintendo via YouTube.

What characters will rise offline?

While certain characters that require a high degree of precision fell off during the online era, Smash Ultimate players can expect these characters to show up at a high level again as offline returns. Such characters include Joker, Peach, Zero Suit Samus and Fox.

“Pretty much, characters that actually have to think more about their moves,” SKITTLES!! said of the characters he expected to see at top levels of offline play.

Myran predicted that his own main, Olimar, would start to fare better as offline competition returned. In addition, SKITTLES!! said he wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Diddy Kong, even though the character did not have significant top-level results before the pandemic. Recently, players like Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey and Aaron “Aaron” Wilhite have found success with Diddy Kong at both in-person and online tournaments.

What characters will fall off?

Of course, as some characters rise back to the top, others will fall from the heights they reached over quarantine. Characters like Sonic, Ness and even Steve will likely be less dominant at the top level. Conversely, there are some characters, such as Cloud and R.O.B., that can do extremely well both online and offline.

As characters begin to trade spots at the top of the tier list, that still leaves plenty of low- and mid-tier fighters. Myran suggested that those characters would begin to do worse in an offline setting.

“I think you’re also going to see less of those middle-of-the-road characters, the random zoners or things like that that do really well online out of nowhere but have very minimal presence offline,” Myran said. “There’s always top representatives for them, but I think in a setting where players can react and they’re feeling more comfortable, it’s a lot harder to get farther with some of those.”

There are very few totally nonviable characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. As a result, players have a good deal of leeway in determining which characters fit their playstyle best. Even so, any new offline player will have to weigh the strengths of their character to determine if they can make it work or if they should switch to a more prominent offline character.

Fox, who fares much better in offline Smash Ultimate than online.
Fox is one of many characters who will likely do better as offline Smash Ultimate returns. Screenshot provided by Nintendo via YouTube.

How to get better at offline Smash Ultimate

For anyone who’s gotten used to playing online Smash Ultimate over the past year, acclimating to the quicker pace of offline can be a jarring experience. The key to adjusting and improving is simply to spend time playing offline.

Both Myran and SKITTLES!! had years of experience with offline Smash prior to the pandemic. Yet, even they found that it took practice to get back into the habits that helped them do well offline.

“At first, some of my inputs felt kind of off, I felt a bit slow on some combos, ledgetrapping felt off,” SKITTLES!! said. “But, after playing it again with friends for just a few hours, I was already starting to get back into it.”

There’s good news for the most active wi-fi warriors: Time spent competing online wasn’t wasted time. The match-up knowledge gained through online play transfers offline in many cases. Offline simply grants players the ability to more freely and intentionally execute their strategies.

“If I learned how to fight them online, it only gets easier from there [offline],” Myran said.

If you’re a fan of Smash Ultimate, keep your eyes out for local tournaments in your area whenever the COVID-19 situation in your region improves. Practice may not make perfect right away, but it’s certainly the best way to grow accustomed to offline competition, the superior version of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.


Dylan Tate is a student in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.


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