Marth (マルス, Marth) debuted in the first game of the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (Ankoku Ryuu to Hikari no Tsurugi). Marth was placed in Super Smash Bros. Melee due to heavy requests from Japanese players; as his games had never been released outside of Japan prior to Melee, his character was among the most obscure in the game in other regions. His popularity as a character, alongside Roy, eventually caused Nintendo to begin releasing the Fire Emblem games internationally; the first internationally released game came two years after Melee.
Marth currently ranks 3rd on the Melee tier list, in the S tier. Marth has many powerful tools at his disposal, including fast overall startup in his attacks, long and disjointed range, large amounts of additional power at the tip of his blade, very potent juggling and combo ability, the longest non-disjointed grab range, and great edgeguarding capabilities. Marth also has a multitude of good movement options to approach and pressure with; his dash-dance and wavedash are among the longest in the game, complementing his already-impressive range extremely well. Marth also has many options to KO his opponents and finish combos, such as his down aerial (a very potent spike when sweetspotted, and the closer to the notorious Ken Combo) and forward smash.
On the downside, his ability to punish approaches is somewhat limited in comparison to other top-tier characters due to the lack of a projectile and the short duration of his moves. Marth also has lackluster defensive properties; his weight makes him very easy to combo and does not provide sufficient knockback resistance to survive heavy hits at kill-percent, and his out of shield game is also notoriously poor despite his attacks' fast startups. His recovery is also problematic; while it is extendable with his side special and can end with a fast up special that covers decent distance, it is also rather predictable. However, Marth's main weakness is the fact that most of his moves have considerable endlag and are thus very punishable if whiffed. As such, Marth is very susceptible to momentum shifts; a punished move puts Marth in a defensive position where he has few options to retake the advantage.
So overall, despite his low technical learning curve, many consider Marth to be one of the most difficult characters to play at high levels due to the intricate spacing ability required of top-level players to overcome his aforementioned flaws. Regardless of these flaws, Marth has excellent matchups against many characters, including six that are nearly unloseable.
How to unlock
To unlock Marth, players have to use all fourteen starter characters in VS. matches, complete or fail Classic Mode or Adventure Mode with all fourteen starter characters, or play 400 VS. matches. Upon completing this, Marth will be fought on the Fountain of Dreams stage, with the track "Fire Emblem" playing.
Marth falls under the fighter archetype of being mobile, with the ability to easily outmaneuver most of his opponents; Marth has a very fast dashing speed, a long wavedash (specifically the fourth longest in the game) and rather good jumping speed, with average falling speed, contributing to a good SHFFL. With a large dash-dance window and a disjointed hitbox, Marth has great approach options in this game, both on the ground and in the air.
Marth's primary strength is his range in his normal attacks; the Falchion grants Marth a very large disjointed hitbox that can allow him to safely attack from a distance. Additionally, the tip of the Falchion, its sweetspot, is remarkably easy to connect, making Marth stronger when he is further from his opponent. In addition to this, Marth's attacks are very quick in terms of startup lag, and his long wavedash and dash-dance allow him to further extend his already long reach. This long hitbox with a far away sweetspot also contributes to Marth's superb combo game.
In addition to his disjointed range, Marth has a fantastic combo and juggle ability; despite a slightly below average air speed, with a combination of good jumping prowess, and an average falling speed, as well as quick, low lag, high-ranged, easy-to-sweetspot aerials, Marth has among the best air games in Melee, and a great combo ability. Additionally, Marth's grab game is also good, as mentioned before due to a surprisingly long grab range (the longest of the non-grapple grabs, thanks to it extending far past his hand). His throws possess low damage and knockback, allowing him to chain his throws into each other and combo into other attacks. In particular, his up throw can chain throw most fast fallers at low to mid percentages, and it can directly segue into an up tilt or an aerial, and can be used for KOing at high percents on a platform due to being the third strongest up throw in the game. Marth's long dash-dance also makes him a superb tech-chaser.
Marth also has plenty of powerful attacks; some of these attacks are very fast and have high range, such as his up tilt, while others can KO at close ranges, such as the Reverse Dolphin Slash technique. Marth's forward smash is feared due to its high speed and power when tipped, with the capability to "break" through some projectiles found in the game thanks to its priority; it also works well when wave-smashed, due to Marth's long wavedash. Marth's down tilt and Shield Breaker act as good edgeguarding options, with the former being a semi-spike and the latter have a large hitbox. Most notable, however, is his down aerial, which acts as a powerful spike in NTSC regions, and an equally powerful meteor smash in PAL regions; it can KO reliably even as low as 40%, and many of Marth's attacks can easily combo into his down air, most notably his forward aerial as part of the Ken Combo. Marth also has access to a grounded meteor in his Dancing Blade. While its uses for KOing are somewhat situational, it can set up tech-chases well, as well as free jab resets.
Marth's primary flaw is his lack of defensive options. His weight does not enable him to survive powerful attacks, while also being enough to be vulnerable to combos such as Fox's waveshine combos in NTSC regions (although he is light enough to not be waveshined in PAL regions). More significantly, while Marth's attacks are very fast in terms of startup, they travel in predictable, low-duration arcs and have high ending lag (his down aerial is an example of this, having the quickest startup lag but among the highest ending lag for a spike or meteor smash). This leads to Marth having a terrible out of shield game due to the low duration and high ending lag of his moves, while also being open to punishment. Marth also requires significant knowledge of spacing with his aerials in order to properly combo. For most of his attacks, the sweetspot hitboxes have the lowest priority, so they only hit if none of the weaker hitboxes connect on that frame. As such, Marth requires significant knowledge of hitbox spacing with his moves due to the non-tipper and tipper hitboxes of Marth's moves having very different knockback values and angles. In many cases, a specific hitbox is needed to extend the punish.
Another problem for Marth is his rather lackluster recovery. His up special, Dolphin Slash, grants little horizontal distance and decidedly average vertical distance; its ending lag also makes it very easy to punish. Marth's average air speed also prevents him from moving far after entering a helpless state. However, Marth can mitigate the lack of a true horizontal recovery by using Dancing Blade to give him some horizontal distance, though this grants no vertical recovery and must be timed well. Additionally, Marth's ground-based approach is slightly held back by a lack of a projectile, limiting his approach in comparison to other high tier characters, such as Fox.
Overall, Marth's long reach, excellent combos, and powerful finishers result in him being a very potent character in the current metagame. A Marth player must be wary of his weaknesses and spacing, but due to his low technical learning curve, Marth is an effective character to pick up and play.
Like some other characters, Marth received some changes in the PAL version of Melee, which slightly nerfed him overall, as he lost the ability to reliably KO and edgeguard with his down aerial. However, because other top-tier characters, such as Fox and Sheik, were noticeably nerfed, Marth has an easier time fighting against them, improving his matchup spread overall. As such, he is considered to be better relative to most of the top-tier cast in PAL than in NTSC, which reflects in his PAL tier list placement, where he is ranked 2nd instead of his current 3rd place.
For a gallery of Marth's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Marth has among the most positive matchup spreads in the game, being soft countered by two characters, having four even matchups, soft countering three characters, countering ten, and hard countering six. He tends to have an advantage against characters with poor range, such as Dr. Mario (who he can easily outspace on the ground and in the air alike), and characters with poor mobility on the ground, such as Zelda. He is also one of the three characters in the game to have an even matchup against Fox. However, his recovery is rather poor, as characters such as Jigglypuff, Sheik, and Fox can edgeguard or gimp him pretty easily in most offstage situations. Additionally, he is vulnerable to combos and dash-dance follow-ups from faster characters such as Captain Falcon if he fails to land reads or punishes. Overall, however, Marth is one of the most difficult matchups for many of the characters in Melee.
Tier placement and history
Very early in the Melee metagame, Marth was seen as a character that relied too much on rolling and C-stick abuse, traits that led to a negative low-level perception of him despite his then-high-tier placement. Shortly before the third tier list iteration (June 2003), Ken won Tournament Go 4 with Marth, introducing the uses of dash-dancing, chain throwing, and a higher focus on spacing and aerial combat, including the creation of the infamous Ken Combo. Later, Ken incorporated other advanced techniques, such as wavedashing, into Marth's metagame, and showed how powerfully he could punish enemies off small mistakes and reads. Because of this, Ken is credited for largely improving Marth's metagame. Ken, and a handful of other top Marth mains such as Azen, are credited for moving Marth up to the top tier for years to come, usually around the second to fourth highest spot on the list. Marth's first drop into the high tier since then was in the eighth tier list (July 2006), where he dropped to fourth place. However, in the ninth tier list (October 2008), he again moved up to second place, in what became his highest tier placing in all the tier lists.
In the post-Brawl metagame, however, professional opinions of Marth began declining. After Mew2King's absolute dominance with Marth for a short time span around Brawl's release, Marth's placement in tournaments began to fall, as newer players learned to exploit his weaknesses, and many Marth mains, including Ken and Azen, became inactive from competitive Melee. Mew2King himself eventually switched to playing primarily Sheik, and up-and-coming Marth players, such as Tai and PewPewU, frequently struggled to make an impact at tournaments. This led to players questioning Marth's true viability in the metagame, which conicided with a drop to fifth place on the tenth tier list in September of 2010, and a fourth place finish on the eleventh tier list in July of 2013. Upon briefly returning to the scene in 2012, Ken notably claimed that Marth was a mid-tier character who lost in every important top-tier matchup. Mew2King's personal tier list in 2014 also decisively ranked Marth as fifth, claiming that while Marth could punish the entire cast solidly, he got punished too easily in return, leading to losing matchups against Fox, Falco, Sheik, and Jigglypuff on all non-Final Destination stages.
Despite this, new innovations in the modern metagame by the aforementioned PewPewU and PPMD, as well as arguments centered around Marth's frame data, as compiled by various community members such as Kadano, have maintained Marth's viability and changed several opinions concerning his tier placement. PPMD's victory at Apex 2015, where he beat several top Fox players using primarily Marth, showed that despite Marth's more apparent weaknesses today, he is still a character who can win large, top-level tournaments. Reflecting this, the twelfth and most recent tier list released in December of 2015 ranks Marth as third, underneath Falco and Fox, respectively.
Like several other top-tier characters, Marth was nerfed in the PAL version of Melee. His down aerial, a powerful spike in NTSC, had its launch angle changed in PAL, making it an equally powerful meteor smash. As one of Marth's staple moves can now be meteor canceled, impairing his ability to finish off opponents quickly and throwing a wrench in the consistency of the infamous Ken Combo, it may seem as if Marth is worse in PAL overall. However, Marth still retains many other options to KO enemies, and has several other potent (albeit less reliable) options to substitute for down aerial in the aforementioned Ken Combo and other combos, such as his neutral aerial or a reverse Dolphin Slash. Marth was also made slightly lighter, which slightly impairs his survivability, but allows him to escape several of Fox's waveshine follow-ups. The most notable option loss for Fox is waveshine to grab, which greatly impairs Fox's ability to rack up damage on Marth by converting from a shine and forces Fox players to use weaker options instead.
Because some other top-tier characters, such as Fox or Sheik, were nerfed more significantly than he was, Marth has a much easier time fighting against them than he does in NTSC versions, as he maintains almost all of the advantages he has against those characters, while losing several of the shortcomings that made those matchups difficult. Aside from the aforementioned loss of several waveshine follow-ups for Fox, Marth also able to edgeguard Fox more efficiently, due to the nerf in Fire Fox's recovery distance. Sheik's disadvantages in the neutral game are still prevalent against Marth, as she must still cope with his range. However, Sheik's grab is much less of a punishment threat than it is in NTSC, as its launch angle does not guarantee KO setups (such as forward or up aerials) in PAL. These new advantages, as well as various other changes to Marth's matchups, make Marth arguably stronger relative to the cast than he is in NTSC. This is reflected in the PAL tier list, where Marth is ranked 2nd, a decent improvement over his recent positions in the NTSC list.
Despite Marth's theoretical superiority in PAL, there exist very few notable Marth mains in PAL regions, with reaper, Mahie and Salepate being the extent of his current representation; both Mahie and Salepate have also struggled to make an impact outside of France. Furthermore, Ice, once considered one of Europe's best Marth mains, later chose to exclusively main Fox to improve his standings in tournaments.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
In Classic Mode, Marth can appear in one-on-one matches, team battles alongside Link and Zelda, and as a metal opponent in the mode's penultimate stage. In his appearances, bar his metal match, Marth appears on Great Bay. On a team with Zelda, he appears on Temple. In all such instances, the track "Fire Emblem" plays on the stage, which does not occur in any other mode. Unusually, this does not happen when fighting Marth + Link, during which it will still play the "Great Bay" theme.
In Adventure Mode
Marth makes no appearances in the game's single-player Adventure Mode. Music associated with him, however, can play in the Underground Maze.
In All-Star Mode
In All-Star Mode, Marth and his allies are fought on Fountain of Dreams, as Marth was not designated a specific home stage. When fought on the stage, the track "Fire Emblem" plays instead of the standard music.
In Event Matches
Marth appears in multiple Event Matches:
Marth is considered to be more verbose than Roy in the games, speaking in the Results screen, in his taunt and during his Counter if it activates.
In addition to the normal trophy about Marth as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing the Classic, Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Marth on any difficulty.