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.
A counter or hard counter is when a character 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. Thus, 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. In terms of matchup ratios, a hard counter is usually considered to be 35-65 or worse.
Other notable examples of hard counters in the Super Smash Bros. games
Most hard counters in Super Smash Bros. are due to range, or the ease of one character being able to "zero to death" another.
- Donkey Kong and Luigi hard counter Jigglypuff. Donkey Kong can cargo release Jigglypuff and then regrab it into a Giant Punch from 0% to KO while Luigi KOs Jigglypuff with his Super Jump Punch as low as 30%.
- Kirby hard counters Yoshi. 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 Captain Falcon, Kirby, or Pikachu.
- Among the worst matchups in the game is Sheik against Bowser. Once Sheik lands a grab, she can chaingrab Bowser to extremely high percentages and then send him offstage with nearly any combinations of aerials, then easily edgeguard his poor recovery. Bowser's sluggish movement and abysmal neutral allow Sheik to easily grab him, and he has no setups of his own to offset this weakness.
- Peach hard counters Roy. Roy struggles to get any sort of opening on Peach; with weak aerials and a poor down tilt, almost all of Roy's approach options can be crouch cancelled by Peach, leading to an inevitable punish. He also gets nothing off of grabs, as they all send Peach too far away to follow up with any meaningful attack. Roy also struggles to KO Peach until absurd percentages nearing 200%; his smash attacks are the only attacks in his moveset with KO potential, but Peach easily spaces out of their range just by floating. In return, Peach can dismantle Roy off of one opening by simply knocking him into the air, abusing his terrible aerial game, or sending him off-stage where she can cover nearly all his recovery options with good Vegetable placements.
- Fox hard counters Mr. Game & Watch because of how susceptible the latter is to Fox's typical pressuring and KO setups. Game & Watch's terrible shield allows Fox to easily shield poke him while applying shield pressure with aerials. Unlike several other light characters such as Jigglypuff, who can use their weight to their advantage by avoiding Fox's combos at high percentages, Mr. Game & Watch has a faster falling speed and suffers much more hitstun, meaning that Fox's up throw on him unavoidably combos into up aerial even well past KO percentages.
- Pikachu hard counters Fox due to a zero-to-death chaingrab with Pikachu's down throw that is extremely easy to execute.
- Marth hard counters Ness and Lucas due to a zero to death grab release. Ness's and Lucas's unusually long ground release animation allows Marth to regrab or set up a KO move at high percentages.
- 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 at least 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, while lacking the mobility to avoid being grabbed nor the ability to get through the Ice Climbers' zoning, and the fact that Flame Choke is made completely ineffective by the Ice Climbers' 2-in-1 gimmick.
- Meta Knight hard counters Rosalina, due to the ease at which his fast and high base knockback moves can eliminate Luma, and his ladder combos being extremely effective against Rosalina. Her large size and floatiness make it very difficult, if not impossible, to escape them, and she gets KO'd by said combos at very early percents due to her light weight. Meta Knight can start these ladder combos just by landing his very fast and large range dash attack.
- Zero Suit Samus is considered to hard counter all large heavyweight characters, due to their large size and weight making it very difficult for them to escape her very punishing juggles and ladder combos, and their size making it impossible for them to SDI out of Boost Kick. These attributes lead to them sustaining even more damage than usual when punished, while still getting KO'd at rather early percents, nullifying their main advantage of being able to live a lot longer and abuse rage to get early KOs. Additionally, most large heavyweights have poor neutral games, making them unable to exploit Zero Suit Samus's primary weakness of having a weaker neutral herself.
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 the 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.
- Most matchups are heavily disputed one way or another in Smash 4 among higher tier characters, though some generally agreed upon soft counters include Sonic beating Mario, Diddy Kong beating Zero Suit Samus, and Mario beating Diddy Kong.