In relative terms, a counter is a character that can be used with reasonable success and/or ease against another character. Matchups are typically measured in a ratio to determine counters.
 Hard counter
A counter or hard counter is a character that holds a strong advantage against another. It is always used in relative terms; in Melee for instance, Peach is often said to be a hard counter to the Ice Climbers; Peach counters the Ice Climbers. An example in Brawl is that the Ice Climbers are a hard counter to Ganondorf. A hard counter usually has a combination of the following elements, such as an infinite or "zero-death" (from zero damage to death) combo or chain throw, an especially high imbalance in the characters' abilities, the ability of one character being able to KO the countered character considerably early or gimp them with considerable ease, and the inability for the countered character to approach effectively, that makes the match extremely difficult for the countered character. A hard counter is usually considered to be a matchup that is 35-65 or worse.
 More examples of hard counters in all three Super Smash Bros. games
- In Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong and Luigi hard counter Jigglypuff and Kirby hard counters Yoshi. Donkey Kong can cargo release and then regrab into a Giant Punch from 0% to KO while Luigi KOs Jigglypuff with his Super Jump Punch as low as 30%. Kirby's up tilt outspeeds and outreaches all of Yoshi's moves, thus preventing Yoshi from approaching effectively. Many characters hard counter Samus and Link, and no one hard counters Fox, Kirby or Pikachu. Most hard counters are due to range in Super Smash Bros. or the ease of one character being able to "zero to death" another.
- In Super Smash Bros. Melee, Kirby is hard countered by Fox and Marth hard counters Luigi. Kirby's combination of very light weight and floatiness allows Fox to KO him very quickly with his powerful vertical finishers, while Luigi struggles with approaching Marth, due the fast speed and high disjointed reach of Marth's attacks. Sheik, due to her chain throw, also hard counters various characters, most notably Bowser.
- In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Pikachu hard counters Fox due to a "zero to death" chain throw with Pikachu's down throw, and a large amount of characters hard counter Ganondorf. Among the worst matchups in all the Super Smash Bros. games is the Ice Climbers versus Ganondorf, usually considered to be 90-10 in the Ice Climbers' favor as Ganondorf does not have enough reach or fast enough attacks to avoid being shield grabbed and infinite chain thrown to a KO. Marth hard counters Ness and Lucas due to a zero to death grab release. Ness and Lucas's unusually long ground release animation allows Marth to regrab or set up a KO move at high percentage.
 Soft counters
A soft counter indicates a matchup that favors one character noticeably, but only slightly. In Melee for instance, Fox can be said to soft counter Sheik. In Brawl, Snake can be said to be a soft counter to Diddy Kong. A soft counter tends to fare better, usually through an advantage that can't be capitalized on as easily. In terms of numbers, soft counters are usually 55-45 or 60-40 matchups. These matchups also tend to change depending on the stage. As with the Meta Knight versus Snake matchup, it is routinely said that Meta Knight only has a slight advantage on Halberd due to its low ceiling, while Meta Knight has a large advantage on Brinstar due to the aerial based fighting it supports. Regarding matchups in which Marth soft counters his opponent, many of these matchups are more in his favor on Battlefield. Most soft counters are defined as being soft counters on the starter stages, as there is usually a slightly greater chance of the advantageous character winning on the starter stage.
Players often switch to a counter when counterpicking.
 Examples of soft counters in all three Super Smash Bros. games
- The majority of matchups in Super Smash Bros. are soft counters outside the examples said above. This is due to the easiness of "zero to deaths" in the game.
- Many high tier versus high tier matchups in Melee are soft counters.
- In Brawl, soft counters tend to change per stage. King Dedede is usually said to soft counter Snake, but this may change on stages where Snake can more easily avoid chain throws or suffer less damage from them.