Helpless (known as various other names, called "fallspecial" in game data) is a state in which characters are unable to take any action, with the exception of grabbing a ledge or climbing a ladder until they land on the ground. Helplessness is typically associated with just having used one's triple jump, although it also occurs after using certain other special moves (usually ones which help recovery). Helpless characters can move sideways and fast fall but are otherwise defenseless.
Helplessness usually ends upon landing on the ground, although it also ends if characters flinch, allowing them to attack or re-use their triple jump. A helpless character is denoted by both a black overlay and a distinct falling animation.
Curiously, the helpless state gives characters an extra ability in Super Smash Bros.: the ability to fall through soft platforms without landing on them. Starting in Melee this can be done at any time.
 Landfallspecial and superdashtechnique
As a unique animation is used for falling while helpless, characters enter a different animation than usual once they land on the ground. This is called "landfallspecial" in Melee. Because airdodging enters this state, and wavedashing involves airdodging into the ground, when wavedashing was tried in debug mode, "landfallspecial" appeared for the character state. This led some players to believe that the "landfallspecial" designation was specifically designed for wavedashing and that developers put wavedashing in the game intentionally, further fueling the various debates over wavedashing's legitimacy. At one point, the myth morphed to where, instead of just "landfallspecial", there was purportedly another debug mode designation, cited as "superdashtechnique", "superdashattack", or other variants, created solely for the wavedashing animation. All incarnations of this story have been proven false and should not be taken as evidence that wavedashing was intentionally put or left in SSBM.
 Moves that invoke helplessness
|Air dodge||Melee only.|
|Dark Dive||If the move's grab connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless and can use the move again.|
|End of Day||Being ejected from the crashing spaceship puts Olimar into a state that is not exactly helplessness (it uses his tumbling animation, lacks the black overlay, and unlike helpnessness prevents his Pikmin from chasing him), but it is essentially the same, as the player can only move to the left and right, and cannot attack or air dodge.|
|ExtremeSpeed||If Lucario hits a wall during the move, it will wall cling instead of becoming helpless.|
|Falcon Dive||Like Dark Dive, if the move connects with an opponent, Captain Falcon does not become helpless and can use the move again.|
|Final Cutter||Normally, the move does not end until Kirby lands on the ground. However, if the platform Kirby has landed on disappears while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless.|
|Fire||Does not cause helplessness in Brawl.|
|Flame Choke||If the move connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless, although he (and his victim) will fall until he hits the ground.|
|Giant Punch||Does not cause helplessness in SSB.|
|Gliding||If the user has used all their double jumps, they are put into helpless once the glide ends (either by stalling or by attacking).|
|Parasol||Peach only enters helplessness if she decides to fastfall (which retracts the parasol) after using the move - she can also end the helplessness and resume parachuting by pressing up (re-opening it), the only character able to do so. However, if Peach was under the effects of items that make her shrink or grow while she fastfalls, she will become helpless, as her parasol disappears once she's back to normal. The Parasol item allows any character to do this in Melee.|
|Pikmin Chain||Normally, the Pikmin Chain makes Olimar helpless, after the move was used it in the air. However, if he use grounded Pikmin Chain and the platform disappears (such as falling off a conveyor belt), or he use ground Pikmin Chain while the stage is rotating, he will become helpless.|
|Rollout||Does not cause helplessness in Brawl; Jigglypuff will keep rolling and won't be able to move, however, if it rolls off the stage.|
|Screw Attack (item)||When this item is thrown at opponents (Melee only), they execute a Screw Attack and become helpless.|
|Shuttle Loop||While the initial execution of the move does not make Meta Knight helpless, he does become helpless if the glide ends.|
|Spin Attack||Normally, the Spin Attack makes Link, Young Link, or Toon Link helpless after the move was used it in the air. However, if he stands on the platform while using grounded Spin Attack and the platform disappears (such as falling off a conveyor belt), or he used grounded Spin Attack while the stage is rotating, he will become helpless.|
|Super Dedede Jump||Normally, the move does not end until King Dedede lands on the ground. However, if the platform King Dedede has landed on disappears while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he hits a ceiling while using the move, or the move is cancelled by the user, he will become helpless.|
|Super Jump Punch|
|Wings of Icarus|
 Helpless air speeds (Brawl)
- The moves Fire, Robo Burner, Spring Jump, and Cypher do not cause helplessness in Brawl, although they do restrict the user's choice of moves until they land - Mr. Game & Watch and Snake simply cannot use the recovery move again, while Sonic cannot use any special moves and R.O.B. cannot air dodge. Through a programming oversight, this prevents them from using their recovery move again if grabbed and released without pummeling before touching the ground (except for R.O.B.).
- Pit can also avoid getting helpless by attacking in the air when using Wings of Icarus.
- If Kirby copies a move that causes helplessness, he will be affected just as the original character would be.
- In Brawl, certain characters are unable to naturally become helpless, as they lack any moves that cause it. These characters are Jigglypuff, Sonic, Mr. Game & Watch, Snake, R.O.B., and Zero Suit Samus.
- In fact, R.O.B. is not programmed to have a helpless state, and attempting to see it via hacking causes the game to crash. All other characters have a helpless state, even if they cannot normally enter it. This is curious from a developer's point of view as there is no apparent reason to do this.
- In Brawl, since Jigglypuff's and Mr. Game & Watch's air dodge animations carry over from Melee, pausing just before the animation ends allows the player to see their Melee helpless state.
- Characters can still Space Jump while helpless.
- The unique animation caused by landing while helpless is the cause of the landing lag glitch.