Link (リンク, Link) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. His return to the series was announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct on June 11th, 2013. He was also among the first wave of amiibo that are compatible with SSB4. Akira Sasanuma reprises his role as Link's voice actor, albeit via voice clips recycled from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Link is ranked 31st out of 55 on the tier list, placing him in the D tier. In addition to rendering Link as the second-highest-ranking mid-tier character, this is a significant improvement over his bottom-tier placement in Brawl, where he was ranked 35th out of 38 and his best placement to date. Link possesses multiple projectiles in the form of his Hero's Bow, Gale Boomerang and Bomb, each of which serve as great tools for combos, camping, gimping, and disrupting approaches. Aside from his projectiles, Link's Master Sword grants him disjointed range and above-average power.
In addition to his retained strengths, his recovery has been greatly buffed from Brawl, thanks to Spin Attack and Clawshot covering noticeably more distance, and Bomb's shorter fuse improving its recovery potential. As a heavyweight, his respectable durability allows him to take advantage of the rage mechanic introduced in SSB4, which further bolsters his already powerful attacks.
However, Link remains held back by his relatively sluggish frame data. He has moves that are quite easily punishable if they are whiffed, while his heavyweight and slow mobility without Bomb Sliding render him vulnerable to combos, especially from the fast, rushdown-oriented characters that are prevalent in the metagame. Despite Link's new assets, several of his fellow veterans gained more significant buffs, which downplays the effects that his own buffs grant him in competitive play.
While Link's early tournament results were mediocre at best, he has managed to attain a dedicated player base that consists of professionals such as Izaw, Scizor, Sova Unknown and T, who have managed to achieve top 8 and 16 placements more frequently, even at the national level. T, in particular, has demonstrated Link's viability, placing 3rd at 2GGC: Civil War, one of the most competitive SSB4 tournaments in the world, and being ranked 46th on the PGR 100, the all-time ranking for Smash 4.
Link is a heavyweight and the majority of his attributes are largely reflective of his weight class. His only attribute that is atypical of a heavyweight is his walking speed, which is above average. His most unique attribute is his fast fall; while his regular falling speed is tied with that of R.O.B., Ryu, and standard Mii Swordfighter as the 24th fastest in the game, his fast fall is actually the third fastest in the game, behind Fox and King Dedede. This is because Link uniquely increases his falling speed by 90% when fast-falling, as opposed to the standard 60% that all other characters (bar Ryu) adhere to.
Like his alternate timeline counterpart, Link possesses two shields instead of just one. In Link's case, he wields the Hylian Shield, which blocks opposing projectiles if he is standing still or walking. Like Toon Link, Link also wields his respective version of the Master Sword, which grants him disjointed range and above average strength, the latter of which is most evident in his forward tilt, smash attacks, dash attack and Spin Attack. However, his forward, up and down aerials also boast impressive power while possessing certain traits: his forward and back aerials can hit twice, his up and down aerials have long-lasting hitboxes, and his down aerial can meteor smash.
Link is one of the handful of characters in SSB4 with a tether grab, with his Clawshot being a useful supplement to not just his recovery, but also his zoning and combo games. Although its damage output has been lowered since Brawl, Clawshot still boasts impressive range, has minimal landing lag, and comes out even faster than before as an attack. It also assists his combo game, due to his down throw's impressive combo potential, while his up throw possesses KO potential. Lastly and most importantly, Clawshot is a pivotal part of Link's recovery, especially due to his sluggish mobility.
Link's special moves all have their uses. Hero's Bow is a strong option against characters who struggle at approaching and is good for providing long-ranged pressure. Gale Boomerang is a decent spacing option and has follow-up potential upon contact or via its wind-based drag effect. Gale Boomerang's drag effect also grants it gimping potential in the form of Gale Guarding. Spin Attack's overall recovery distance has noticeably improved since Brawl, while its already impressive power has been further increased, which in turn improves its KO potential or as a way to punish rolls. However, Link's Bomb is perhaps the most versatile weapon within his arsenal thanks to its utility. Throwing a Bomb at an opponent can cause enough hitstun to help Link's approach and/or set up combos. Conversely, if the opponent shields it, the Bomb simply bounces off, allowing it to be used for spacing. Even holding a Bomb long enough for it to explode can be useful; while doing so damages Link, it gives him a small vertical boost and removes him from being helpless, aiding his recovery and/or allowing him to break out of combos. Like in Brawl, his bombs can also be used for a technique called Bomb Sliding, which noticeably supplements his ground mobility. When combined with the overall fastest item throw animations in the game, Link's Bomb allows him to pressure opponents at a deceptively fast speed.
Despite his benefits, Link retains some of his flaws from his previous appearances. Even though his recovery has been noticeably improved after formerly being one of his most significant flaws in Brawl, it still limits how far he can go offstage safely. Link is also still susceptible to combos from faster characters, such as Sheik. As a result, he must make good use of reads, spacing, and camping to avoid giving the advantage to such characters. His neutral aerial also allows him to break out of many combos, although its start-up lag is merely average for a sex kick. As a tether, his grab is quite slow and punishable when whiffed. In addition, Link's KO potential is hindered by lag, particularly in regard to his forward tilt, dash attack, forward aerial and down aerial.
In terms of customization, Link's custom moves benefit him. Power Bow grants Link's arrows incredible power, being able to KO significantly easier. However, this comes at the cost of heavily decreased range and increased charge time, with uncharged arrows lacking any utility. Quickfire Bow fires magical arrows at an extremely quick rate that are also unaffected by gravity, granting them spammability. However, they are much weaker and have shorter range. Boomerang removes the wind effect from the Gale Boomerang and makes it act like the Boomerang from Smash 64 and Melee; it can now be angled easier, has four hitboxes instead of two and deals damage when returning to Link. However, most of Link's setups are now removed since the Boomerang can no longer pull opponents in. Ripping Boomerang possesses no windboxes, deals less damage and has shorter range, but it hits multiple times, goes through opponents, has four hitboxes similar to Boomerang, and stuns victims, making it good for setups. Shocking Spin is an electrically charged Spin Attack with significantly stronger damage and KO potential, and the aerial version semi-spikes. However, the grounded version has increased ending lag, while the aerial version lacks back hitboxes and worsens Link's already sub-par recovery by decreasing its horizontal momentum and vertical distance; additionally, while the aerial version can semi-spike, it only works if the opponent is in front. Whirling Leap drastically improves Link's recovery, granting him significantly improved vertical and horizontal distance, alongside very high aerial control during its duration. However, it is solely limited to being a recovery option due to its lack of any hitboxes. Giant Bomb has Link pull out a massive bomb that has a greater explosion radius and damage. However, it has slightly more startup lag and does not explode upon impact, limiting its tactical use compared to the standard Bomb. Meteor Bomb is a much smaller Bomb with a shorter fuse that meteor smashes anyone it hits with moderate knockback. This gives it unique edgeguarding potential and can set up for interesting combos, but as it also affects Link, this prevents him from extending his recovery unless the bomb is used to interrupt potentially deadly vertical KOs.
Overall, Link is very capable at both spacing and camping, yet also possesses impressive power and a deceptively useful combo game. However, Link's sub-par mobility and reliance on both camping and his combo game can result in his playstyle being difficult to utilize at higher levels of play, largely because of the speedy and combo-oriented characters that are prevalent in the metagame.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Link has been buffed significantly in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. Both his ground and aerial games have been improved. His overall mobility has slightly improved and his attacks have seen adjustments to either make them more reliable or to improve their utility. An example of this is with dash attack as while it is much slower and has no followup potential, it is much stronger now being the second strongest dash attack in the game. His air speed has been increased and a few of his aerials have seen some useful adjustments; forward aerial's first hit is much stronger, up aerial is stronger and down aerial's clean hit now meteor smashes granting it edgeguarding potential as well as the later two aerials having less landing lag. His grab game has also considerably improved as his grabs have less ending lag and his down throw is weaker giving it greater followup potential especially when combined with the changes to hitstun canceling. He also is a potent edgeguarder, with his down aerial now being capable of meteor smashing to go alongside his other offensive options against opponents on the edge. Additionally, Spin Attack covers much more distance and is less reliant on momentum while Clawshot has increased range as a tether significantly improving his recovery, removing one of Link's most detrimental flaws in Brawl. Lastly, his camping game has seen some improvements due to his projectiles, most notably Bomb, being buffed in certain ways.
Link also benefits from the general physics changes brought about by SSB4. The edge trump mechanic combined with the increased speed to air dodges immensely improves his recovery allowing him to make much greater use of his new and improved recovery options. The rage mechanic further boosts his power and can be utilized well, due to his excellent endurance. The changes of hitstun canceling has also improved his combo potential especially out of back aerial and down throw.
However, Link has also seen some nerfs. While the removal of hitstun canceling improves his own combo potential, it makes him more susceptible to combos himself and it removes momentum canceling hindering his endurance especially vertically (although Link does notably benefit from the removal of chain grabbing). Link also lost access to the advanced techniques he had in Brawl most notably DACUS which significantly hinders his approach potential combined with his up smash having more ending lag. He also no longer has access to Quickdrawing and the removal of edge momentum shifting has hindered Gale Boomerang's utility. As for his more direct nerfs, his overall damage output is lower (although it is higher relative to the cast) with his forward and down smash seeing significant nerfs to their damage and some of his moves have worse overall KO potential due to their alterations such as with down tilt and down aerial. His grab aerial is also worse on stage as while it connects with the strong hit more reliably, it is weaker, launches opponents at a less favorable angle and has more landing lag hindering its use as a spacing tool. Lastly, while his out of shield game has improved due to his faster Spin Attack and the general changes to shields, his spot dodge is drastically worse going from being one of the best to a very mediocre spot dodge.
Ultimately, Link is considerably better than how he was in Brawl as his buffs are of greater quantity than his nerfs and while most of his direct changes do not greatly benefit him, the changes to the game's mechanics greatly benefit him overall as they improve his combo and KO potential and most importantly, they make his recovery far better fixing one of his main issues in Brawl. Despite this, his other issues including his poor mobility and frame data were not properly addressed and in some cases, worsened and he did see a few notable hindrances from the changes to the game's mechanics. Nevertheless, he is a significantly more effective character relative to the cast and has seen greater tournament results although he still struggles against the higher tiered characters.
Link has been heavily buffed via game updates. In update 1.0.4, the knockback of the first hit of his forward smash was lowered, allowing it to connect better into the second hit. In update 1.0.6 though, he received a mix of buffs and nerfs, which hindered his KO and damage racking potentials, but improved his range and combo game. However, update 1.0.8 brought Link significant buffs in the form of a much more effective grab game and better KOing options, the latter of which helped mitigate the nerfs to his KOing potential that update 1.0.6 brought. In update 1.1.0, his grab game was buffed by slightly decreasing the start-up lag of his dash and pivot grabs.
Updates 1.1.3 and 1.1.5 also brought several buffs, which further increased his already high KO potential. Lastly, he was indirectly buffed due to the changes on the shield mechanics in updates 1.1.0 and 1.1.1, as the increased shieldstun and the fact that hitlag modifiers now apply on shielding opponents improve Link's close-range game by making his moves safer on shield. Altogether, these buffs have resulted in Link being viewed as a better character than how he was in Brawl and even better than during the initial release of SSB4, much like Samus.
Tier placement and history
Since SSB4's release, Link's nimbler mobility, stronger projectile game, higher power and improved range saw him perceived as noticeably better than his appearance in Brawl and, according to some players, a mid-tier character like his ancestor was in Melee. However, opinions on Link started to decline in light of more developed metagames and higher popularity of certain other characters, whereas Link's representation in competitive play remained rather poor. This culminated in him being ranked 42nd on the first tier list.
Opinions on Link, however, started to improve after certain respectable placings by dedicated mains, such as Izaw and Scizor. This resulted in him being ranked 43rd on the second tier list, after the inclusion of Corrin and Bayonetta. Thanks to T notably achieving strong results with Link after the second tier list, Link was ranked 39th on the third tier list. This resulted in him being reassessed as a mid-tier character, while his placement itself was also very similar to his ancestor's in Melee.
After T placed 3rd at 2GGC: Civil War, one of the most competitive tournaments in SSB4's lifespan, Link's perception has further improved, to the point that he is viewed as deserving to be in the upper portion of the mid-tier. This has been reflected in the fourth and current tier list, in which Link is ranked 31st.