False characters are enemies featured in The Subspace Emissary in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and World of Light in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. They are the result of trophies of characters being duplicated by Shadow Bugs, or replicated through an unknown power and possessed by Spirits forced to do the bidding of Galeem or Dharkon. Most false characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl retain the look and abilities of the original with the addition of a shadowy purple aura, solid and glowing yellow irises, and darker color hues (outliers that do not entirely conform to these schematics include Samus and Mr. Game & Watch); in battle, they are simply rendered with a purple tint and constantly glowing eyes, lacking the glowing aura. Like the original characters, they revert into trophy forms upon defeat, but these duplicate trophies quickly dissolve afterward. Similar to metal characters, they are voiceless. All false characters are slightly larger than their normal counterparts (or much larger in the case of the giant false Diddy Kong), and deal slightly more damage while having slightly more knockback resistance.
False characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's World of Light appear differently than how they did in Brawl's Subspace Emissary and have been appropriately rechristened as "puppet fighters." They initially appear as lifeless dark gray statues, but once spirits are forced to take control of them through their strings, the puppets gain color; said color represents one of the original characters' many costumes (typically their alternate costumes outside of a handful of exceptions)—sometimes colored similarly to the spirit possessing them or something else related to said spirit (i.e. the Yoshi puppet fighters containing Eevee's spirit are blue, yellow, and red in reference to Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon—Eevee's first Eeveelutions), and their eyes gain a distinct red glowing color (the color is instead purple for when Dharkon is controlling the fighters), though the color's pattern varies — the Mario puppet fighter containing a Smoky Progg's spirit displayed lighter red for his irises and darker red for his pupils during the opening cutscene, while outside of this the puppet fighters inverted this while also having pink sclera (in the case of the puppet fighters cloned from Samus or Dark Samus, their entire visor lights up, rather than their eyes simply shining through it); the Marth controlled by Dharkon in the Hero's reveal trailer displayed a dark purple pupil, even darker purple sclera, and almost white lavender irises while the other characters displayed darker irises and brighter pupils much like they do in gameplay. In gameplay itself, all fighters under Galeem's control (and later Dharkon's) display glowing eyes while only the original fighters possess an aura during gameplay (they do display such a characteristic in the Hero's trailer).
Puppet fighters additionally display abilities and sometimes attack behaviors that the original fighters do not possess or normally resort to, in conjunction with the originals' own, such as the Mario puppet fighter containing Smoky Progg's spirit occasionally turning metal. Much like the colors, these extra abilities often relate to the spirit possessing the fighter, such as the Wario puppet fighters containing the Chargin' Chuck spirit utilizing Wario's new dash attack, or the Zelda puppet fighter containing Yuri Kozukata's spirit frequently summoning said Assist Trophy.
Arguably, the spirits encountered on the Spirit Board are also utilizing puppet fighters as many battles are shared between it and Adventure Mode. While the battles have similar schematics, rather than using the playable spirits attributes conferred upon a character as in normal gameplay, albeit the process of claiming the spirits are different: World of Light simply requires defeating the puppet fighter to free the spirit while the Spirit Board additionally requires shooting at the stunned fighter post-battle with a specialized gun. These "puppet fighters" do not appear to be under the control of Galeem or Dharkon. Regardless of mode, puppet fighters have a slightly darker coloration when compared to playable fighters (this is more noticeable in the Hero's trailer where they appear much darker than in gameplay and almost colorless).
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
False Bowser makes his first appearance in The Lake, attacking Fox and Diddy Kong at the very end of the stage. After Fox and Diddy defeat him, his trophy remains dissolve, and then the real Bowser makes his entrance in an attempt to capture the two. It is believed that Bowser ordered a fleet of Shadow Bugs to copy him and serve as somewhat of a decoy.
Another False Bowser appears later during the opening cutscene of The Lake Shore after Bowser uses a Dark Cannon on the princess that was rescued by Kirby in the Midair Stadium. This false lookalike is ordered to revert into the Shadow Bug form to swarm on and duplicate the trophified princess (as can be seen in the image at right).
False Diddy Kong (Giant)
As Fox and Diddy walked through The Swamp, they were ambushed by Bowser, with Bowser using his Dark Cannon against Diddy, turning him into a trophy. Bowser then summons Shadow Bugs to swarm Diddy's trophy, creating False Diddy. As it was starting to worsen, Falco then flies down in an Arwing and destroys the Dark Cannon, forcing Bowser to retreat by means of his Koopa Clown Car. Afterward, False Diddy gathers even more Shadow Bugs and grows to an enormous size, effectively making him a minor boss in this fight. Fox touches Diddy's trophy, thus reviving him, then Diddy freaks out at the sight of the giant clone and the three defeat False Diddy. Once defeated, False Diddy's trophy disintegrates into the original Shadow Bugs.
Because both the actual Diddy and False Diddy appear in this fight, the false Diddy uses a pink palette swap for its icon on the bottom-of-the-screen HUD in the battle.
After Pikachu and Zero Suit Samus fought their way through the Research Facility, Samus located her Power Suit. Before she can retrieve it, however, two purple and red versions of Samus attacked the duo. After defeating them, Samus donned her Power Suit and continued, destroying the R.O.B.s sent to attack her. The Samus suits are similar to the color scheme of the Metroid series' Gravity Suit.
It is implied that these false Samuses are duplicates of Samus's Suit rather than Samus herself, as the in-game name of the cutscene in which they appear is titled "The Copied Power Suit", no purple aura surrounds these false Samuses, and Samus is never seen as a trophy for any Shadow Bugs to duplicate before this point.
False Mr. Game & Watch
When Snake, Meta Knight, and Lucario storm the bridge of the captured Halberd, they discover 5 Mr. Game & Watches. Snake proceeds to knock them out of the window, onto the deck, and into the midst of the tea party held by Peach, Fox, and Zelda (disguised as Sheik during that time). The duplicates then dissolve into Shadow Bugs and assemble Duon, beginning a boss fight. After Duon's defeat, a swarm of Shadow Bugs flies away, leaving behind Mr. Game & Watch's trophy.
Unlike previous false characters, the false Mr. Game & Watches are perfect clones of him, perhaps because he was the source of the Shadow Bugs.
The story segment here changes depending on if the player (as Kirby) saved Peach or Zelda in the beginning when fighting Petey Piranha. After the Shadow Bugs cover Peach/Zelda's trophy, they morph into False Peach/Zelda. While Mario and Pit/Link and Yoshi are running, the false princess attempts to shoot them with a Dark Cannon. However, right before she is able to, the other duo arrives, and Link/Pit destroys the Dark Cannon. The false princess glares at the arriving duo, and they fight. The duo wins the battle, turning the false princess into a trophy and causing it to dissolve. Meanwhile, Mario/Link mistakes Link/Mario as having defeated the real princess and attacks. The previous duo then defeats the arriving duo, turning the two into trophies which are taken by King Dedede. Kirby saves the two, and the princess's trophy is later taken away by Bowser when he and his Koopa Troop storm Dedede's castle.
Later on in the story, both Peach and Zelda's trophies are taken aboard the Halberd, locked up in cages. When Snake, Meta Knight, and Lucario enter the room where their trophies are, Shadow Bugs come in and once again transform into False Peach and False Zelda. The three newcomers battle the false princesses, defeating them and restoring the original Peach and Zelda.
Unlike most Shadow Bug duplicates, False Zelda's skin takes on a greyish tone. This may be based on Ganon's Puppet Zelda, the penultimate boss in Twilight Princess, who is possessed by Ganondorf. This tone lasts for the length of the battle.
In The Great Maze
Different versions of false characters appear in The Great Maze. These versions of false characters are slightly larger than the originals and sport a shining yellow-green look. No reason has been given for this change in color compared to those found outside of Subspace, though it is speculated that this is their "natural form" while inside Subspace.
One duplicate of every character that has been seen so far in the plotline (therefore excluding Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, Jigglypuff, Toon Link, Wolf, and Sonic) appears in The Great Maze. Each duplicate is fought on a different stage, though all of them share a similar background and platform design. Along with all of the bosses (except Master Hand and Crazy Hand), they must be defeated in order to confront Tabuu in the final battle.
Images of each false character in The Great Maze can be found here.
During a battle with a false character, a music track, usually dark-themed and derived from the character's game series, plays in the background. However, some characters, such as Fox and Pit, have their battle themes taken from another character's game series.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
False characters reappear in World of Light. This time, instead of Shadow Bugs, they are formed by a strange glowing substance being poured over the trapped fighters, which forms a lifeless replica. These "puppet fighters" are then animated by spirits bound by Galeem or Dharkon, which can be claimed by defeating the puppet fighters. More information on these fights can be found here.
During the final battle, false characters appear as either light-blue silhouettes with red eyes or dark silhouettes with a shining red look and purple eyes. The light fighters are created by Galeem and are based on fighters found in the Light Realm or surrounded by Galeem's spirits in the final world. The dark fighters are created by Dharkon and are based on fighters found in the Dark Realm or surrounded by Dharkon's spirits in the final world. A gallery for those false characters can be found here.
Unlike in Brawl, Kirby can get Copy Abilities from them in Ultimate.