The jab cancel, or jab fake, is a technique available in the Super Smash Bros. series. It is used to perform quick combos at close ranges by using precise timing to interrupt a multi-hit neutral attack. Although it is usable throughout the series, jab canceling is considered a far more potent strategy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. 4.
The jab cancel can be performed by any character with a multi-hit neutral attack combo. At any point in the combo, before reaching the "final" hit, the player can shield, crouch, or quickly turn around and back to cancel the combo. As a result, this allows the character to perform other moves without using the entirety of the neutral attack.
Jab canceling is beneficial because the final hit of a neutral attack is usually either a medium strength attack that launches the opponent away, or a multi-hit attack that is easily DI'd out of. It also allows the player to take advantage of the hitstun and low knockback of the first few attacks in a neutral attack to continue to attack the opponent, instead of launching them away uselessly or pointlessly using neutral attack repeatedly at nothing after an opponent DIs out of a multi-hit attack.
The jab cancel can also be used to rack up extra damage on the beginning of combos with quick moves, such as tilt attacks. It can also be used to open the opponent up for a grab, although this is not to be confused with a jab grab. This is especially useful against a shield grabbing opponent, as most neutral attacks are faster than grabs, allowing the jab canceling character to attack a shield, using the neutral attack when the shielding character attempts to grab, and segue into a grab of their own. Jab cancels can also be used to open the opponent up to attacks that are often difficult to land on their own. Because neutral attacks tend to be very quick and often have good range and low knockback (or even knockback that launches the opponent closer), they are a great way to land difficult moves. Two of the best examples of this are Zero Suit Samus's down smash or Paralyzer, and Luigi's sweetspotted Super Jump Punch.
Despite its impressive utility, jab canceling's effectiveness has not been universally consistent throughout the series. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, jab canceling can be performed by shielding to cancel the neutral attack. Due to the longer time it takes for a shield to drop, however, jab canceling is seldom used in Melee. In comparison, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate universally modified neutral attacks by adjusting their launching angles and knockback values in order to consistently keep an opponent in place throughout the attack's duration. As a result, jab canceling is almost totally nonexistent in Ultimate; although R.O.B. was able to jab cancel his neutral attack's first hit into his down tilt, this was removed in update 4.0.0, which resulted in Mr. Game & Watch, Snake and Little Mac (after 3.1.0) being the only characters whose neutral attacks are currently capable of jab canceling reliably.
The jab cancel can also be used to repeatedly redo the starting hits of a neutral attack against an opponent. This is most potent with neutral attacks that move the character slightly forward, such as Sheik's. This is performed by using neutral attack, canceling it with a jab fake, and reusing neutral attack. This can be done repeatedly until the opponent DIs out, or is sufficiently damaged to the point of being launched out of it.
- In specific portions of the opening movies for Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee, jab canceling is displayed. In SSB's movie, Mario can be seen jab canceling into his down smash, whereas Captain Falcon can be seen jab canceling into his forward tilt in Melee's movie.