Helpless (also known as freefall, special fall and various other names, and called "fallspecial" in game data) is a state in which characters are unable to take any action, with the exception of grabbing a ledge, manoeuvring left/right, fastfalling, or climbing a ladder, until they land on the ground or pass a blast line. Helplessness is typically associated with just having used one's recovery move(s), namely the up special, though some other special moves that provide additional movement also incur this state. Before Ultimate, many special moves involving controllable projectiles (such as Ness's PK Flash and Zelda's Din's Fire) caused helplessness as well.
Some special moves are programmed to transition to helplessness early upon contact with a platform. In the case of soft platforms, holding down to drop through them will result in the player becoming helpless before the move is usually over, though it can also be seen if the user breaks the platform it landed on with the landing potion of the attack (where applicable), or if blown off the platform with a move that deals no hitstun.
Helplessness most commonly ends upon landing on the ground or being KO'd, 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 flickering black overlay and a distinct falling animation.
A state similar to helplessness exists in falling after having one's shield broken and then being stunned.
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 (not just when a character is helpless).
Moves that invoke helplessness
|Sora||Aerial Sweep||Up Special||Sora can input Sonic Blade at the apex of the move for an additional boost to his recovery.|
|Ike||Aether||Up Special||Normally, the move does not end until Ike lands on the ground, grabs the edge of a stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform Ike has landed on disappears or something causes him to slide off while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless.|
|All||Air dodge||Melee only.|
|Shulk||Air Slash||Up Special|
|Mii Swordfighter||Airborne Assault||Side Special||In Ultimate, a half-second window is granted after the move's usage to execute other actions before the helplessness is inflicted.|
|Mii Gunner||Arm Rocket||Up Special|
|Villager, Isabelle||Balloon Trip||Up Special||Can happen sooner if balloons are popped by opponents. Villager's helpless animation is based on that of the "defeated" animation from Balloon Fight.|
|Ice Climbers||Belay||Up Special|
|Sephiroth||Blade Dash / Octaslash||Up Special|
|Zero Suit Samus||Boost Kick||Up Special|
|Sheik||Burst Grenade||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Mii Gunner||Cannon Uppercut (SSB4)/Cannon Jump Kick (SSBU)||Up Special||Functionally identical to one another, with only the animations being any different.|
|Cloud||Climhazzard||Up Special||If the follow-up attack is executed, Cloud will fall rapidly; normally, he will plummet until he either hits solid ground, grabs the edge of a stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform Cloud has landed on disappears or something causes him to slide off while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless. Additionally, in exceptionally tall stages (such as a custom stage or Smash Run), Cloud enters helplessness after one full second.|
|Incineroar||Cross Chop||Up Special||Incineroar will only enter helplessness if it fails to hit solid ground again upon rebounding after using the move.|
|Daisy||Daisy Parasol||Up Special||Daisy 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). Additionally, Daisy will automatically enter helplessness after eight full seconds of floating.|
|Ganondorf||Dark Dive||Up Special||If the move's grab connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless and can use the move again.|
|Meta Knight||Dimensional Cape||Down Special|
|Zelda||Din's Fire||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Marth, Lucina||Dolphin Slash||Up Special|
|Corrin||Dragon Ascent||Up Special|
|Meta Knight||Drill Rush||Side Special|
|Duck Hunt||Duck Jump||Up Special|
|Yoshi||Egg Roll||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in SSB4 and Ultimate.|
|Steve||Elytra||Up Special||In addition to normal helplessness when the move ends, Steve can also cause his glide to stall if he climbs too far.|
|Lucario||Extreme Speed||Up Special||If Lucario hits a wall during the move, it will wall cling instead of becoming helpless. However, it cannot use the move again.|
|Falco||Falco Phantasm||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in SSB4 or Ultimate.|
|Captain Falcon||Falcon Dive||Up Special||Like Dark Dive, if the move connects with an opponent, Captain Falcon does not become helpless and can use the move again.|
|Zelda||Farore's Wind||Up Special|
|Kirby||Final Cutter||Up Special||Normally, the move does not end until Kirby lands on the ground, grabs the edge of a stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform Kirby has landed on disappears or something causes him to slide off while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless.|
|Mr. Game & Watch||Fire||Up Special||Only causes helplessness in Melee.|
|Falco||Fire Bird||Up Special|
|Fox||Fire Fox||Up Special|
|Wolf||Fire Wolf||Up Special|
|Ganondorf||Flame Choke||Side Special||If the move connects with an opponent, Ganondorf does not become helpless, although he (and his victim) will fall until he hits the ground or bypasses the lower blast line. If the opponent mashes out of the move before hitting the ground, Ganondorf does not become helpless.|
|Fox||Fox Illusion||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in SSB4 or Ultimate.|
|Ganondorf||Gerudo Dragon||Side Special||Melee only.|
|Donkey Kong||Giant Punch||Neutral Special||Does not cause helplessness in SSB or Ultimate.|
|Meta Knight, Charizard, Pit||Gliding||If the user has used all their double jumps, they are put into helplessness once the glide ends (either by stalling or by attacking). Brawl only.|
|Samus||Grapple Beam||Grab aerial||Melee only.|
|Mii Brawler||Headache Maker||Side Special|
|Wii Fit Trainer||Header||Side Special||Only causes helplessness if the user airdodges during the move.|
|Mii Brawler||Helicopter Kick||Up Special|
|Mii Swordfighter||Hero's Spin||Up Special|
|Link, Young Link||Hookshot||Grab aerial||Melee only.|
|Greninja||Hydro Pump||Up Special|
|Little Mac||Jolt Haymaker||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Palutena||Jump Glide||Up Special||Attacking while under the move's effect cancels the glide and triggers helplessness.|
|Rosalina & Luma||Launch Star||Up Special|
|Villager||Lloid Rocket||Side Special||Villager only enters helplessness if he rides then jumps off of the Lloid Rocket, does not hit an opponent during the ride, or if Lloid is destroyed. Based on defeated animation of Balloon Fighter.|
|Mii Gunner||Lunar Launch||Up Special|
|Meta Knight||Mach Tornado||Neutral Special|
|Robin||Nosferatu||Down Special||Robin only enters helplessness after Nosferatu finishes dealing damage to an opponent in mid-air or over a temporary platform that is no longer active.|
|Mii Brawler||Onslaught||Side Special|
|Pac-Jump||Up Special||All jumps trigger helplessness for Pac-Man. When the trampoline is red, both Pac-Man or any other character who lands on it will instantaneously enter helplessness.|
|Peach||Peach Parasol||Up Special||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). However, if Peach is 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. In SSB4 and Ultimate, Peach will automatically enter helplessness after eight full seconds of floating. The Parasol item allows any character to do this in Melee.|
|Mythra||Photon Edge||Side Special|
|Olimar||Pikmin Chain||Up Special||Normally, Pikmin Chain makes Olimar helpless after the move is used in the air. However, if he uses grounded Pikmin Chain and the platform he's standing on disappears (such as falling off a conveyor belt), or he uses ground Pikmin Chain while the stage is rotating, he will become helpless. Brawl only.|
|Piranha Plant||Piranhacopter||Up Special|
|Mii Brawler||Piston Punch||Up Special||Only available in SSB4.|
|Ness||PK Flash||Neutral Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Lucas, Ness||PK Freeze||Neutral Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate. Ness's variant is accessible via SSB4 customs only.|
|Lucas, Ness||PK Thunder||Up Special|
|Pit, Dark Pit||Power of Flight||Up Special|
|Pyra||Prominence Revolt||Up Special||Normally, the move does not end until Pyra lands on the ground, grabs the edge of a stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform Pyra has landed on disappears or something causes her to slide off while she is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), she will become helpless.|
|King K. Rool||Propellerpack||Up Special||Normally, when King K. Rool uses the move, he will enter a slow fluttering state when it ends. However, if he fastfalls during this state, he will enter the helpless animation. While K. Rool is not technically considered helpless during the fluttering state, he cannot perform any action during it.|
|Pikachu||Quick Attack||Up Special|
|Ike||Quick Draw||Side Special||In SSB4 and Ultimate, a half-second window is granted after the move's usage to execute Aether. Otherwise, Ike will be sent into a helpless state.|
|Captain Falcon||Raptor Boost||Side Special||In Ultimate, hitting an opponent with this move won't cause helplessness and Falcon can use the move again.|
|Mythra||Ray of Punishment / Chroma Dust||Up Special|
|Terry||Rising Tackle||Up Special|
|Little Mac||Rising Uppercut||Up Special|
|Palutena||Rocket Jump||Up Special|
|Diddy Kong||Rocketbarrel Boost||Up Special|
|Diddy Kong||Rocketbarrel Barrage||Final Smash||Does not cause helplessness in SSB4.|
|Jigglypuff||Rollout||Neutral Special||(contact )||Only causes helplessness in Melee, as in the later games, Jigglypuff will keep rolling and won't be able to move if it hits while mid-air (making it literally helpless until it lands or takes knockback).|
|Samus, Dark Samus||Screw Attack||Up Special|
|All||Screw Attack (item)||Item||When this item is thrown at opponents (Melee only), they will involuntarily execute a Screw Attack and thus become helpless.|
|Ryu||Shin Shoryuken||Final Smash||Ryu becomes helpless after he executes the final attack, whether it connects or not.|
|Meta Knight||Shuttle Loop||Up Special||In Brawl, while the initial execution of the move does not make Meta Knight helpless, he does become helpless if the glide ends. In SSB4 and Ultimate, gliding does not exist and Meta Knight is made helpless after the move concludes.|
|Ryu, Ken||Shoryuken||Up Special||The helpless animation starts after Ryu/Ken falls below his starting point. Before that, Shoryuken is unique in that it allows none of the usual maneuvering after executing it (making Ryu/Ken literally helpless).|
|Mii Swordfighter||Skyward Slash Dash||Up Special|
|Mii Brawler||Soaring Axe Kick||Up special||Normally, the move does not end until the Mii Brawler lands on the ground, grabs the edge of the stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform that the Mii Brawler has landed on disappears or something causes them to slide off while they are in the landing animation (Such as falling off the conveyor belt) they will became Helpless. In Ultimate, helplessness is only inflicted if the downward attack is not executed. If downward attack is executed and they fall during the endlag they will become helpless.|
|Chrom||Soaring Slash||Up Special||Normally, the move does not end until Chrom lands on the ground, grabs the edge of a stage, or bypasses the lower blast line. However, if the platform Chrom has landed on disappears or something causes him to slide off while he is still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), he will become helpless.|
|Sora||Sonic Blade||Side Special|
|Link, Young Link, Toon Link||Spin Attack||Up Special||Normally, Spin Attack makes Link, Young Link, or Toon Link helpless after the move was used if in the air. However, if he stands on a platform while using a 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.|
|Donkey Kong||Spinning Kong||Up Special|
|Ice Climbers||Squall Hammer||Side Special|
|Mii Gunner||Stealth Burst||Side Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Mii Swordfighter||Stone Scabbard||Up Special||Normally, the move does not end until Mii Swordfighter lands on the ground or grabs the edge of a stage. However, if the platform Mii Swordfighter has landed on disappears or something causes them to slide off while they are still in the landing animation (such as falling off a conveyor belt), they will become helpless.|
|King Dedede||Super Dedede Jump||Up Special||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.|
|Wii Fit Trainer||Super Hoop||Up Special|
|Inkling||Super Jump||Up Special||Despite lacking the flashing effect helplessness normally leaves on a character after using a specific action that causes it, Inkling cannot perform any other moves until she lands or grabs a ledge. There is a hitbox upon landing from this animation.|
|Mario, Luigi, Dr. Mario||Super Jump Punch||Up Special||Their helpless animations are based on the Mario Bros.' death sprite in games such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 (in Luigi's case, this applies only in SSB and Melee).|
|Mii Brawler||Suplex||Side special||Only available in Ultimate.|
|Mii Brawler||Thrust Uppercut||Up special||Only available in Ultimate. Replaces Piston Punch from SSB4.|
|Mii Brawler||Ultimate Uppercut||Neutral Special||Only available in SSB4.|
|Simon, Richter||Uppercut||Up Special|
|Ivysaur||Vine Whip||Up Special||Does not cause helplessness in Ultimate.|
|Shulk||Vision||Down Special||Shulk will only become helpless if he uses the reverse-inputted variant of the attack, and if the platform he’s on disappears before the animation is finished. However, Shulk is granted a brief window of time to execute any other action before the helplessness is inflicted.|
|Bowser||Whirling Fortress||Up Special|
|Ridley||Wing Blitz||Up Special|
|Olimar||Winged Pikmin||Up Special|
|Pit||Wings of Icarus||Up Special||Pit can also avoid becoming helpless by using an aerial attack when using this move. Brawl only.|
|Joker||Wings of Rebellion||Up Special||Can only access this move if Arsene is summoned via Joker's Rebellion Gauge.|
|Wolf||Wolf Flash||Side Special|
|Hero||Woosh / Swoosh / Kaswoosh||Up Special||All three stages of this move cause helplessness.|
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" internally in Melee. Because air dodging enters this state and wavelanding involves air dodging into the ground, when wavedashing is performed, Melee's debug menu shows "landfallspecial" as the character state. This originally led some players to believe that the "landfallspecial" designation was specifically designed for wavedashing and that developers intentionally put wavedashing in the game, 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 supposed variants — created solely for the wavedashing animation. All incarnations of this story have been proven false, and should not be themselves taken as evidence that wavedashing was intentionally put or left in Melee.
Freefall Carryover Drift
In Ultimate, if a fighter uses a special move which will put them into freefall, but they land before entering freefall, they may enter a glitched state if the special move's ending lag doesn't transfer from an airborne to a grounded state. Upon entering this state, the next time the character enters the air, they will initially adopt their normal air speed, but after a few frames will revert to the air speed they would have when entering freefall from the special move used, which is usually lower than their normal fall speed. This will persist until they double jump, grab a ledge or land on the ground again.
Fox's helpless animation in Melee.
Fox's helpless animation in Brawl.
Fox's helpless animation in Super Smash Bros. 4.
Fox's helpless animation in Ultimate.
- 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 condition prevents them from using their recovery move again if grabbed and released without pummeling before touching the ground (except for R.O.B.).
- If Kirby copies a move that causes helplessness, he will be affected just as the original character would be. These moves are Giant Punch (Melee through Smash 4), Mach Tornado, PK Flash (until Ultimate), PK Freeze (until Ultimate), and Rollout (only Melee).
- In all games except Melee, some characters are unable to become helpless through their own moveset. These include Yoshi, Jigglypuff, Mr. Game & Watch, Snake, Ivysaur (in Ultimate), Sonic, R.O.B., Mega Man, Bowser Jr., Bayonetta, Banjo & Kazooie, Byleth, Min Min, Pyra and Kazuya.
- R.O.B. is not programmed to have a helpless state in Brawl, and attempting to see it via hacking causes the game to crash. All other characters in the game have a helpless state, even if they cannot enter it without hacking.
- Moves like Final Cutter, Stone Scabbard and Prominence Revolt do put their respective characters into a helpless state, but only when landing on the ground, making this mechanic unnoticable in normal gameplay. If the character is somehow pushed off the stage before exiting landing lag, they will retain their helpless state and fall to their deaths.
- Smash 4 and Ultimate introduced Pac-Man's Pac-Jump, which automatically triggers the helpless state to characters that touch the red trampoline. This is the only way to see the helpless animations of the aforementioned characters in normal gameplay.
- 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 helpless state.
- Additionally, whenever Link, Samus, and Toon Link perform a grab aerial, it's possible to see their helpless animations by pausing just before the end of the animations.
- Meta Knight is the only character whose entire set of special moves leaves him helpless.
- Meta Knight is also the only character with two different helpless animations; one with his wings, and one without.
- The unique animation caused by landing while helpless is the cause of the landing lag glitch.
- Melee is the only Smash game in which all characters can become helpless through their own moveset.
- Every game in the series except Smash 64 and Brawl has a method in which a character can become helpless as a result of someone else:
- Melee has the Screw Attack, which can be thrown at someone to make them perform a move similar to Samus's Screw Attack, leaving them helpless after it.
- Smash 4 and Ultimate have Pac-Man's trampoline, which will make a character helpless if they bounce on it while it is red.