Falcon Punch consists of Captain Falcon performing his iconic move: a slow but powerful punch wreathed in falcon-shaped flames.
Throughout the Super Smash Bros. series, the Falcon Punch has consistently been one of the most powerful special attacks. From Smash 4 onward (and excluding the Blue Falcon), it also possesses the highest knockback of any move in Captain Falcon's moveset (including charged smashes). Its power is counterbalanced by its predictability, due to its slow start-up time, along with Captain Falcon loudly announcing "Falcon...PUNCH!" every time he uses it.
Aesthetically, the move will cause Captain Falcon to kneel downward, charge up power during the delay, before punching forward while crouching. In Smash 64, Captain Falcon will shake his fist above his head while charging (if in midair, he cowers away from his orientation instead). In Melee, Captain Falcon's stance is straightened, with his arms lowered and his left hand out (in midair, he will also do a recovering inward turn after the punch). In Brawl, Smash 4 and Ultimate, the animation is somewhat similar, but Captain Falcon punches his right fist into his left before charging, and his pose is slightly exaggerated as a result of animation improvements.
The charging is accompanied by visible shockwaves in Smash 64, and fiery effects surrounding Captain Falcon's fist in every other installment. Each future game also improves the visuals of the move, starting from a simple sprite in Smash 64, to a full 3D model in Melee, and ending with realistic fire effects in Brawl and Smash 4. In Smash Ultimate, the flames produced by Captain Falcon's signature attack form an enormous fiery falcon.
In Smash 64 and Melee, Falcon Punch is stronger in the air, having higher base knockback (and shield damage in Smash 64) - although, from Brawl onwards, the aerial version is weaker, dealing less damage (and subsequently, less knockback) than the grounded version.
In Melee and Brawl, this move is one of the few attacks in the game that is more powerful than the Home-Run Bat at high damages, especially in the former game, due to its upward trajectory. Thus, it is common for a Falcon Punch to be used in place of the Home-Run Bat for a finisher while attempting Home-Run Contest world records, especially since Captain Falcon's own unique forward smash attack with any battering weapon (only in Melee) renders it impractical to use for this scenario.
From Super Smash Bros. Brawl onward, Captain Falcon can turn around during the start-up of the punch to perform a Reverse Falcon Punch. This slightly increases its already high damage and knockback, at the cost of slightly more start-up time. Uses of the reverse Falcon Punch includes mindgaming opponents, catching rolls, or simply making an offstage punish even more powerful. Although the move can be reversed in Melee like all neutral special moves, this does not change the damage or knockback dealt, nor does it make the move take longer to come out.
The Falcon Punch in Super Smash Bros. is the fastest version in the series, due to having much less start-up and ending lag than in the subsequent games. As a result of its speed, along with the game's lack of air dodging, high hitstun, and opponents only being able to affect it with SDI, it is easier to combo with than in every other game. Falcon Punch can also be used for recovery when Falcon is recovering from high up, as it gives additional horizontal distance as well as minor vertical distance when angled up.
It is also used as a combo finisher; Common tactics include forward throw to Falcon Punch (48-72% on fast-fallers using various jump heights) and up aerial to Falcon Punch if immediately inputted after a platform land. It can also be combod out of down air depending on %.
In Melee, the Falcon Punch was made much slower, which removes its use as a recovery and combo-finishing option. Due to Captain Falcon's down aerial being much slower than in Smash 64, along with the lowered effectiveness of L-canceling and the introduction of DI, the Tapion Combo was made more unreliable and very uncommon in competitive play, although other combos exist as a result of gameplay changes. The move has also seen a reduction to its knockback scaling, making it weaker despite its sweetspot dealing more damage.
The move is also much more unsafe against shielding opponents. In Smash 64, Falcon Punch caused immensely high shieldstun to the point where the move was frame positive on shield. In Melee, however, with shieldstun/shield damage being significantly reduced, the move causes much less shieldstun and has become highly punishable if it lands against a shielding opponent.
One of the most famous combos is the Sacred Combo, invented by Cort, which involves following up a Knee Smash into an aerial Falcon Punch. If performed successfully, this combo results in a KO in almost all cases, although by performing this combo, Captain Falcon may fail to recover back if he jumps too far off the edge. Additionally, the only reliable way to connect the two moves is if the opponent poorly DIs towards Captain Falcon. Regardless, KOing an opponent with the Sacred Combo is widely regarded as being one of the most stylish ways to do so.
The Tapion Combo, a down aerial to Falcon Punch combo named after a Smasher that landed it consistently, is also possible, though only works at specific percents.
The G-Regulate combo, named after G-regulate, is another combo that allows Captain Falcon to combo an L-canceled down aerial into a Falcon Punch against some characters at specific percents. It can be avoided with DI.
Besides the introduction of the "Reverse Falcon Punch", the Falcon Punch was nerfed (particularly the aerial version, which is now weaker than the grounded version). Falcon Punch has slightly lower knockback scaling, though this does not have a huge impact on the move since it can still KO as low as 60% from center-stage.
While retaining its ability to be reversed, Falcon Punch was nerfed from Brawl, having significantly lower base knockback, slightly less knockback scaling, a smaller hitbox and more ending lag, causing it to be unsafe on hit at 0% and making it weaker than his fully-charged forward smash. However, the move now deals more consistent damage throughout: a standard grounded punch deals 25% damage through its duration, while a reversed punch deals 28%, with neither variant having any sourspots (although the maximum damage output of the standard punch was reduced by 2%).
Compared to Brawl, Falcon Punch sees a little bit more utility due to air dodges having landing lag like in Melee. It should also be noted that, when used in the air, the Falcon Punch deals 3% less damage, but if it is charged in the air and activates on the ground, this penalty does not apply.
Falcon Punch is significantly stronger than in previous games, now being able to KO at around 50%. It also has slightly lower ending lag. However, the punch doesn't move Captain Falcon forward as much as before, hindering its range. Like many slow and powerful attacks, Falcon Punch causes Special Zoom if it lands.
Kirby's Falcon Punch
Kirby's Falcon Punch is notable, as with the exception of Smash 4, Kirby's Falcon Punch differs from Falcon's in every game.
In Smash 64, Kirby's Falcon Punch does not have a middle hit and its sweetspot is larger than Captain Falcon's. As a result, his 26% sweetspot is significantly easier to land compared to Falcon's. His aerial Falcon Punch, however, does not deal extra shield damage, unlike Falcon's.
In Melee, Kirby's Falcon Punch does not have a middle hit, and its sweetspot and sourspot are positioned differently from Falcon's (with Falcon's sweetspot being closer to him while Kirby's is further away from him).
In Brawl, Kirby's Falcon Punch has smaller hitboxes than Falcon's; however, it retains its knockback values from Melee, making it stronger than Falcon's. If Kirby uses the Falcon Punch immediately after a jump, he will get a large boost upward. This is most noticeable with his footstool jump, which goes nearly twice as high as normal. This is sometimes known as a footstool punch. Captain Falcon also has this vertical boost, although it is much smaller due to his higher falling speed.
In Ultimate, Kirby's Falcon Punch deals 1.2x more damage than Falcon's (as with most of Kirby's copy abilities), albeit with its knockback being compensated as a result.
Special Move customization was added in Super Smash Bros. 4. These are the variations:
The move originated in the Super Smash Bros. series and is generally considered part of the Super Smash Bros. universe, as well as simply being part of his falcon motif. However, after Melee's release, Captain Falcon famously performed a Falcon Punch in the final episode of the F-Zero animated series, F-Zero: GP Legend, where he uses it to defeat Black Shadow (see video). It has become quite memetic, as the clip makes it appear as if the Falcon Punch causes an explosion that can be seen from outside the Milky Way Galaxy (in reality, Captain Falcon is using the Falcon Punch to prevent Black Shadow from escaping said explosion). Outside of the Smash Bros. series, the Falcon Punch is often used to describe or add humor to powerful punch-based events as an imitation of its power in said clip and within the Smash Bros. games, with voice clips inserted (though special effects are not necessary).
The above mentioned meme is somewhat referenced in a Subspace Emissary cutscene, when Captain Falcon performs a Falcon Punch on a giant R.O.B. in a very similar fashion to the clip from the animated series while unwittingly killing a number of Olimar's Pikmin, much to his confusion. The meme has crossed all the way back to Super Smash Bros. and is referenced in Captain Falcon's codec with Snake (Otacon in this case, coincidentally sharing the same Japanese voice actor that voiced Falcon in the said animated series). Additionally, the crowd cheer for Captain Falcon is repeated chants of "Falcoooooon Punch!" in the English version of Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
As a testament to the move's popularity, it seems to have come full circle and crossed back over into F-Zero canon: it is mentioned in F-Zero GX's ending song, specifically in the line "When myopic confusion threatens your lunch / Falcon will be unleashing a Falcon Punch."