Ganondorf (ガノンドロフ, Ganondorf) is in his original Gerudo form as he appears in the more recent installments of the series. His design is based on his appearance from the SpaceWorld demo, which is itself based on his appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Instead of using magic or swords like in The Legend of Zelda series, Ganondorf is a clone of Captain Falcon, and as such, he fights in a brawler style similar to Captain Falcon, but in a slower, more powerful manner.
Ganondorf currently ranks 14th in the E tier on the Melee tier list's mid-low tier, his only ranking in the Smash series where he is not bottom-tier. Ganondorf boasts extreme power, good reach, decent chaingrabbing ability, and very useful aerials, including the strongest meteor smash in the game in his down aerial. He also has several effective edgeguarding options including the aforementioned down aerial, both the strong and weak hitboxes of his up aerial, and his back aerial. Nonetheless, Ganondorf has extreme flaws to counteract these great strengths as well. He has a bad neutral game due to his poor dash dance and lack of non-committal approaching moves, forcing Ganondorf players to rely more on reads and baits, and the punishes that come with them. However, Ganondorf is also very susceptible to punishes himself, as he is easily comboed and chaingrabbed due to his size and weight, and is very easily edgeguarded due to his very predictable (albeit long) recovery; however, the latter would be among the worst should the aerial Wizard's Foot be absent during the process. He is also vulnerable to projectiles and has few ways to deal with characters that outrange him or have very fast attacks. Because of this, while Ganondorf has good matchups against other mid-tier and low-tier characters, including two nearly unloseable ones against Pichu and Kirby, he struggles against the top tier characters (especially Fox and Sheik).
How to unlock
As a slower, larger clone of Captain Falcon, Ganondorf sacrifices speed for power and range. He is often considered to be the most powerful character in the game, along with Bowser (Though Ganondorf has a greater amount of KO options than Bowser, with 16 as opposed to Bowser's 12). This is counteracted by his poor mobility, as he has the 4th slowest dashing speed, the 3rd slowest air speed (tied with Kirby), and a rather short and slow wavedash. However, his mobility is not all bad, as he can Moonwalk, has a great platform-dashing game, and, resulting from being a clone of Captain Falcon, has one of the fastest and farthest rolls.
One of Ganondorf's greatest strengths is his extreme power and damage output. His up smash, though laggy, is the strongest in the game if fully charged and both hits connect. His neutral special, Warlock Punch, and his notorious up tilt are two of the slowest moves in the game (the latter is the slowest), but can KO as low as 30%. His down aerial is both the strongest aerial attack and meteor smash in the game; it is notoriously difficult to meteor cancel regardless of damage percentage and is nearly impossible to recover from, even at low percentages, and can reliably star KO some grounded characters under 100%. Ganondorf's powerful attacks are counterbalanced by their slowness, but although most of his aerial attacks have long periods of landing lag, Ganondorf is perhaps the character that benefits the most from L-canceling, as it allows him to effectively combo other characters.
Despite Ganondorf's extreme power, he does not suffer from poor combo ability due to the knockback in his attacks like Bowser, as he manages to retain some of the excellent combo ability from his clone. His aerials flow very well into each other, and when L-canceled, he can chase his opponents and land a follow-up despite his poor air speed. Due to his benefit from L-canceling, a low short hop, and decent falling speed, Ganondorf has a good SHFFL. The core of Ganondorf's combos lie in his grab game; despite a rather poor grab range, his throws have immense versatility, and his up and down throws are excellent launchers, as well as effective chain-grabs. His forward and back throws can also set up edgeguards.
Ganondorf's greatest strength, however, is his superb edge-guarding game. Despite his poor air speed, he is one of the best edge-guarders, with more aerial guarding options than any other character in the game; all of his aerials deal high damage and knockback and are guaranteed to knock people off the stage, his down air as aforementioned is an extremely powerful meteor smash, and Wizard's Foot is a non-recoverable spike. In particular, his sourspotted reversed up aerial (performed while facing away from the edge) is one of the best gimping moves in the game because of its long duration, range (330° bicycle kick), semi-spiking knockback (hard to tech out of) at a 20° (rear hitbox) or 0° (rear bottom hitbox) trajectory with gravity following suit, extremely high hitstun, and cannot be DI'd due to its low knockback.
Ganondorf's major weakness is his poor approach and neutral game. He is highly susceptible to combos and chain-grabs due to being large, heavy, and falling quickly, although these attributes also make him harder to KO. His mobility and approach are ultimately crippled by his short, relatively slow wavedash and poor dashing and air speeds, and he lacks a projectile and a way of dealing with projectiles against him. He also has a very poor dash-dance, as it is among the shortest in the game and does not improve his dash in any way. He also has no moves that allow him to approach noncommittally. As a result, Ganondorf is dependent on punishing opponents through reads and baits.
Ganondorf is also regarded as one of the most easily edge-guarded and edge-hogged characters in the game. On paper, he has a long, extendable horizontal recovery, thanks to his down special, Wizard's Foot, which is one of the only two specials that allow the character to regain their midair jump (the other being Falcon Kick, but is considered inferior to Wizard's Foot because of how much farther downward it travels and Captain Falcon's higher falling speed). However, Ganondorf has terrible air speed, which prevents him from efficiently moving off-stage, and his his jumps fail to give enough height. His up special, Dark Dive, is also unable to attack opponents hanging from an edge. As a result, simply grabbing the edge if Ganondorf is unable to get back on stage without edge grabbing will send him to his doom.
Overall, Ganondorf is a powerhouse; with some of the strongest moves in the game, he can easily KO the entire Melee cast at significantly lower percentages than most other characters can achieve. All that's holding him back are his low speed, few approaching options and recovery, so players must be patient and wait for their opportunity to land their powerful moves while being careful not to get thrown off-stage.
The PAL version of Melee nerfed two of Ganondorf's aerials, with his his forward aerial no longer being a reliable KO move (although it can combo into itself better), and his down aerial dealing less knockback and damage (while still remaining the strongest meteor smash in the game.)
Differences from Captain Falcon
Ganondorf is lower ranked than Captain Falcon due to his slower mobility and a weaker combo game, giving Ganondorf a weaker approach game and difficulty in competing with faster characters like Fox or Sheik. However, Ganondorf boasts extreme power (exemplified by his outstanding edge-guarding game) and greater reach, has no sourspots on his attacks (sans forward tilt), and still retains a few of Captain Falcon's good combo starters, potentially giving him greater damage output and the ability to KO earlier than his counterpart. Despite being designed as a "slower" Captain Falcon, almost all of Ganondorf's moves have the exact same frame data in terms of start-up and ending lag, although all his aerials do have much higher landing lag. A few of Ganondorf's moves also have different knockback angles, usually toward vertically rather than horizontally. Finally, Ganondorf has more electric effects in addition to darkness on his attacks, but only one move (up tilt) using flame.
For a gallery of Ganondorf's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
According to the matchup chart, Ganondorf's matchup spread holds the 8th highest weightest rank. Ganondorf has mostly positive matchups. He is countered by two characters, soft countered by three and has three even matchups. He soft counters eight characters, counters seven, and hard counters two. Notably, he counters the Ice Climbers, despite them being in a higher tier placement than him. Ganondorf is one of the most easily edgeguarded characters in the game, making him struggle against characters with strong air and edgeguarding games such as Jigglypuff. His large size and high weight also make him susceptible to characters who can chaingrab him easily, such as Sheik. Overall though, Ganondorf has a rather strong matchup spread for a character of his tier and can beat many of the characters.
Tier placement and history
Ganondorf is currently ranked 14th on the tier list. Historically, Ganondorf has been considered a high or mid-high tiered character, having fluctuated between 8th and 12th for the first eleven tier lists. Although Ganondorf's slow speed and poor recovery was acknowledged, his great power helped him maintain his ground with the rest of the cast. However as the metagame progressed along with the rise of Pikachu, Luigi and Yoshi, Ganondorf's tier placement started to falter. This is reflected in the most recent tier list where he is ranked 14th, the lowest he has ever placed.
In Classic Mode
Like Roy, Ganondorf does not appear as an opponent in the game's Classic Mode, though he can appear as an ally in Team and Giant battles.
In Adventure Mode
Upon being unlocked, Adventure Mode makes no concessions to Ganondorf whatsoever.
In All-Star Mode
In All-Star Mode, Ganondorf and his allies are fought on Brinstar Depths. Unusually, the music remains unchanged.
In Event Matches
Ganondorf is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Ganondorf as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing the Adventure and All-Star Modes as Ganondorf, respectively, on any difficulty: