Kirby (カービィ, Kirby) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. He is known for being a small, light character with quick and often surprisingly long ranged attacks, as well as surprisingly strong moves and a great recovery. He is voiced by Makiko Ōmoto, who would go on to keep voicing him in all subsequent video game appearances to date.
Kirby ranks 2nd on the current tier list and is his best tier placement in the series. Kirby has strong, fast attacks that can KO at damages below 100%, such as his forward smash, and he has a great edgeguarding game, due to his long recovery and powerful aerials, particularly his down aerial. Kirby also has several methods to space against opponents, with his back aerial and forward aerial having large disjointed hitboxes that have significant combo potential, and his up tilt is notably considered one of the best attacks in the game due to its large range, high speed, good combo ability, and ability to break shields.
However, Kirby's primary weakness consists of his recovery. Despite being long-distanced, he has few options for returning to the stage, creating a slow, linear recovery that can be easily intercepted. Furthermore, Kirby's combination of having a light weight and being rather floaty makes him vulnerable to juggling and vertical KOs. Kirby's combo game is also predictable against certain characters, being reliant on solely his up tilt and forward aerial on such characters, and these two attacks do not complement each other very well.
Regardless of these weaknesses, Kirby's strengths outweigh his weaknesses by a considerable margin, and he has had very strong tournament results alongside above-average representation.
Kirby is a small, light, and somewhat floaty character. He is relatively difficult to combo horizontally and offstage, though is vulnerable to juggling and many vertical KO techniques (as well as not being too hard to KO horizontally either). His "signature move" is Swallow, which allows him to use an opponent's neutral special move and copy their appearance.
In general, Kirby possesses quick yet powerful moves. Some of his moves are infamous for possessing high range and being able to space well, most notably his up tilt (which covers the range of more than one Kirby both horizontally behind him and vertically), as well as his forward and back aerials. This makes a Kirby playing defensively correctly rather difficult to punish. However, Kirby's defensive ability is hindered slightly by his average to below average movement speed, with average dashing and walking speeds, low air speed, and below average falling speed. Kirby's smashes are powerful, especially his forward smash, which is by far the best forward smash in the game due to being the most powerful, having quick startup (though it has a bit of ending lag), and being an excellent punish or panic option. Kirby's throws are also fairly powerful, with his good grab allowing him to utilize them efficiently.
Kirby's up tilt and forward aerial are especially useful combo moves. The former can easily chain into itself at lower percentages and lead into aerials, a forward smash, or a up smash, while the latter is a great damage racker, being a very fast multi-hit move with the first few hits having set knockback, allowing them to lead into the final hit easily. The move can deal over 20% damage, and if the final hit isn't landed, it sets up a jab that can jab cancel into a grab to rack up further damage.
Kirby has an excellent recovery and offstage game. He has five midair jumps, and his Final Cutter not only extends his vertical recovery even more but allows Kirby to also move to the side while using it by tilting the control stick. While his recovery travels a spectacular distance (only rivaled by Pikachu's recovery), it is somewhat predictable, due to being on the slow side and Kirby's slow air speed. His aerials can be used to edgeguard or guard break easily, especially his down aerial, which is a strong meteor smash that can also drag opponents down at lower percentages. With Kirby's aforementioned excellent vertical recovery, it is also easy to recover from.
Kirby's main weaknesses are his light weight and floatiness, somewhat lack of reliable combo options outside the basic up tilt and forward aerial, and a lack of ways to KO onstage outside forward smash. He is additionally easy to juggle, being vulnerable to vertical combos from Fox, Captain Falcon, and others to a lesser extent.
Differences between game versions
Kirby was noticeably nerfed in his transition to NTSC-U. Despite his smaller size resulting on him being harder to hit (while not compromising his moves' huge range), a few of his moves deal less damage making them weaker. His recovery distance is shorter, due to Final Cutter covering less horizontal distance. Lastly, the higher presence of SDI makes Kirby's moves easier to escape, while the removal of momentum sliding hurts Kirby's approach, enforcing a slightly more defensive playstyle. Nevertheless, due to Kirby's immense strengths not being immensely toned down, he is still one of the most viable characters in the game despite the nerfs.
For a gallery of Kirby's hitboxes, see here.
Most historically significant players
Numbers in brackets indicate position in 2019-2020 Smash 64 Power Rankings.
Tier placement and history
Kirby has widely been considered a top tier throughout the entire competitive history of the Super Smash Bros., only rivaled by Pikachu for best fighter in the game. This placement is largely due to his above average recovery, quick yet powerful attacks with deceptive range, and being able to easily punish bad recoveries, which happens to be most of the roster. Likewise, he has seen excellent tournament representation and results since the beginning of Smash tournaments, including getting the most wins at Smash Bros. Fighting Battle: Smash Bros. Meijin Deciding Game in 1999. There was a brief period where Fox was considered better than Kirby, but that decision was quickly recinded and Fox now sits more comfortably in A tier while Kirby remains at S tier.
Inhale Sacrificial KO
Kirby can use his Inhale move on opponents and fall to the map's bottom blast zone for a sacrificial KO. However, Kirby can "spit out" his opponent under the stage (particularly useful on Dream Land) and then recover. Yoshi is the only character who is practically guaranteed not to be able to recover from this.
Final Cutter spike
The Final Cutter can spike opponents on the way down during its initial frames (approximately until the same height from which the Final Cutter was initiated).
Kirby's Sliding Up B Glitch
Mainly affects only the Japanese version, there is also a glitch called Kirby's Sliding Up B done by Dashing, wait for the dash to finish which is about 14 frames, turning instantly, and then do an Up+B 20 frames after you decided to do so. This is similar to Teleporting but is harder and is generally limited to flashy play/TASing. This was discovered by DSGnoll, a Japanese smash 64 players. The video, as popularized by Jpheal, a well known TAS player. In the non-Japanese version, the milder version of the up b slide travels less further and is not as useful.
Bigger Kirby glitch
If Kirby uses Final Cutter in midair, he will become slightly bigger. Normally, Kirby has a size modifier of 0.91× (0.94× in the Japanese version), meaning that Kirby's model in game is 91% its original size (94% in the Japanese version). When Kirby uses an aerial Final Cutter however, his model size resets to 1×, making him bigger. This effect remains until Kirby loses a stock and, due to how it functions, it only changes Kirby's size once. This effect is not purely aesthetic; having numerous gameplay effects. These effects include:
With Kirby becoming larger, this naturally means the glitch has its positives and negatives. As it increases the range of Kirby's attacks, this glitch is naturally useful to allow Kirby to land his attacks from further ranges; notably, it allows his up smash to hit opponents standing on the lower platforms of Dream Land (which it cannot do in the international versions). On the other hand, the increased size of Kirby's hurtbox makes a larger target, making him slightly easier to hit—for example, Kirby cannot crouch under moves such as a fully charged Charge Shot or certain grabs as consistently.
Since using Final Cutter is required for recovery, the bigger Kirby glitch is often unwittingly triggered by players who did not intentionally activate it beforehand, with players not figuring out Kirby's change in size until around 2014. In the Japanese version, the difference between regular Kirby and bigger Kirby is less significant than in the international versions (due to Kirby's larger default size in the Japanese version) although bigger Kirby is the same size in all versions.
In Single Player
Kirby appears as an opponent in the seventh stage of Single Player mode. The stage takes place in Dream Land and pits the player against a Kirby team of 8 Kirbys. Each of the eight Kirbys sports a unique hat (with the exception of one, which will be normal Kirby or one of the four unlockable characters after they've been unlocked) corresponding to each of the eight starter characters in the game. Except for the average and unlockable character Kirbys, they all appear in the selection screen order of the respective character whose power they copied. Keeping this in mind, if the player manages to defeat them in the right order (Mario, DK, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Fox, Pikachu, regular/random unlockable), he will be awarded the 25,000-point bonus Kirby Ranks.
From the Game
The 8-inch high Kirby hails from a distant, peaceful star. Like his simplistic appearance, he is an easily-understood character. True to his instincts, Kirby eats when he gets hungry and sleeps as soon as he grows tired. Nevertheless, Kirby remains a formidable opponent. In addition to his distinct flying and swallowing skills, he also has the ability to copy enemy attacks for ever-changing action.