Ness is a playable character in the Brawl mod Project M and is ranked 19th out of 41 on the official official tier list, at the top of B tier. This is an improvement over his placements in Melee and Brawl where he was 23rd out of 26 and 26th out of 38, respectively.
His placing on the tier list comes from having one of the best punishes in the game, as well as a solid neutral. However, he is held back due to a susceptibility to crouch canceling from most of his moves, being easily outranged by a lot of the cast, and a recovery which is generally easy to edgeguard despite sending him far.
Ness is a flexible character suiting both aggressive and zoning oriented playstyles. With an average weight and fall speed, he remains somewhat susceptible and exasperates his unreliable recover. His aerial moves lead into each other well, giving him a strong combo game once he can get his opponent off the ground.
Ness's smash attacks all have unusual properties. His forward smash can reflect projectiles if timed correctly, and deals extreme damage and knockback if the sweetspot near the tip of the bat is hit, similar to Marth's Sword. It can be angled up or down by a few degrees if the control stick is tilted during startup. The down angled forward smash is especially useful for intercepting opponents attempting to sweetspot the ledge.
His up smash involves his yo-yo, sending it whipping around his body in a circle. Although it does not grow stronger as it is charged, it maintains a weak hitbox on the yo-yo, sitting in front of and disjointed from Ness's body. This makes it useful for flinching approaching opponents comboing into the strong hit on upward swing the up smash release. The upswing itself is useful for intercepting aerial opponents due to it's disjoint. These combined properties mean that this move is useful near the ledge. Hanging the yo-yo off of the ledge can make it difficult for some characters to sweetspot and if the opponent passes close above or in front of Ness he can still intercept without moving. However, it can no longer be used to perform the yo-yo glitch like it could in Melee.
Ness's down smash is similar to his up smash when charging, except that the weak hitbox comes out behind him. This makes it useful if Ness is being pursued on the ground. The release drags opponents in front of Ness, setting up for an aerial follow up.
His forward tilt is a quick kick that is useful in it tight situations where there is no time to initiate a smash attack, while still putting space between Ness and his opponent.
Down tilt is fast and combos into itself if the opponent does not smash DI. Against experienced opponents only a few hits are possible to land, but the move retains usefulness in that it can be used to mix up timing before using a different move.
Up tilt is useful for its high base knockback at low percents. Useful for aerial followups, but does however lose out to double jump cancelled up air for sheer utility.
Ness's aerial moves have a mix of their properties from Super Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Melee.
His neutral aerial comes out quickly and deals moderate knockback, making it one of Ness's best moves. It is very similar to Peach's neutral air. In addition to being a good choice for interrupting combos, it can also serve as a K.O. move in many situations. On stages with narrower blast lines, hitting an opponent with neutral air on stage, than following with another off stage can K.O. an opponent by pushing them into the side blast line at medium low percents. Characters with short recoveries can also be killed very early regardless of the distance to the blast line.
His forward air has multiple disjointed weak hits, making a useful combo starter, before chaining another forward air to continue the combo, or a neutral air to launch opponents away. It is also useful for dragging opponents down to the ground before using a grab or grounded attack.
Ness's back aerial is very strong when sweetspotted, and is a great aerial for getting a K.O. off of the side blast lines. It easily combos out of down throw at lower percents setting up for an edgeguard. It can be used as in a reverse aerial rush, giving it similar utility to Captain Falcon's knee somewhat reduced due to Ness's slower speed.
His up aerial is a juggling move at lower percentages, and makes a great combo finisher for K.O.ing foes above the upper blast line at higher percentages. This is often possible after landing a down air on a grounded opponent at high percentages, due to the high hitstun of an opponent bounced off the ground.
Ness's down aerial now functions similarly to how it did in Super Smash Bros. The move is a powerful, quick, and easy to sweetspot meteor smash, making it effective for edgeguarding opponents. In addition it has great utility out of shield and for pressuring shielding opponents. If two players are shielding back to back, Ness can jump and use down air to cover his escape upwards or pressure his opponent's shield.
Ness's ability to double jump cancel advances his already potent air game by giving him even more combo options and allowing him to do multiple aerials in quick succession close to the ground.
Ness's specials are vastly improved from their other iterations.
PK Fire is Ness's primary offensive projectile allowing him to control space and prevent opponents from approaching recklessly. Ness fires it horizontally when grounded, and downward diagonally when in the air. Upon hitting an opponent, projectile or destructible object, the projectile ignites. It deals doing one strong hit, followed by successive weak hits, and engulfs opponent in place. Ness maintains momentum after using PK Fire in the air, making the move useful for protection when landing.
PK Flash does not travel as high and has a much faster but still very slow startup, but it travels very quickly if Ness sends it forward. Fully charged it covers a very large area and launches very powerfully upwards. Though difficult to time, it can cover the ledge while an opponent is trying to recover and force opponents to recover low or air stall. It is a very large commitment as the long cool down prevents Ness from moving in time to attempt another edgeguard, even if PK Flash forces the opponents with a slow recovery close to the blast zone. Regardless, it still remains an effective finisher or edgeguarding move in certain matchups.
Ness's up special PK Thunder, has two phases. The first phase, is much more useful than in previous games. It has a hitbox on its tail allowing it to trap opponents in certain situations. The angle of collision determines the angle at which Ness is launched. PK Thunder can also be used as an offensive projectile to juggle or KO airborne opponents or knock grounded opponents closer to Ness. Characters with slow recoveries are especcially vulnerable to it while trying to recover. It does competes with PK Flash in this utility though. The second phase in which Ness's movement takes place occurs if Ness directs his thunder into himself. PK Thunder 2 deals massive damage and knockback and sends Ness a very far distance, at the cost of being easy to gimp, relatively hard to control, and having a huge amount of ending lag. The ending lag can be mitigated by sweetspotting the ledge with PK Thunder 2, however this can be difficult. Furthermore, projectiles that are not transcendent can destroy the PK Thunder and leave Ness helpless. PK Thunder can also be used as an offensive projectile to juggle or KO airborne opponents or knock grounded opponents closer to Ness.
Ness's grab game is generally effective. His back throw is a very reliable K.O.ing move at higher percents. Ness's forward throw has very low knockback scaling, giving it a decent launch power even at 0 setting up for very early edgeguarding. Up and down throws both can be used as combo starters, sending opponents into the air and setting up for an aerial attack depending on the weight, damage, and fall speed of the opponent. Ness's grab range is very short, limiting the usefulness of his standing grab.
Ness's recovery, despite its length, has significant weakness as it can be intercepted before and after initiation. Additionally, his relatively floaty falling speed makes him vulnerable to many vertical finishers (i.e. Fox's up air) and gives him some difficulty getting back to the stage. Ness tends to fare poorly against characters with large disjoins and a strong edgeguarding game. Marth and Ivysaur are notable examples. Characters with fast, solid projectiles like Sheik can make it very difficult for him to recover low because of the long start up time of his recovery. He also has limited options for dealing with pressure, giving him weaknesses against fast characters with aggressive playstyles. Ness tends to have favorable match ups against heavy, larger, slower characters due to the extensive length of combos he can pull off on them, and the strength of his zoning tools.
Changes from Melee to PM
Ness received many considerable buffs from Melee to Project M, having many more options for racking up damage and KOing.
Grabs and Throws
Up to date as of version 3.6.
In competitive play
Ness' alternate costume is his blue-striped pajamas he wears in the beginning of EarthBound and while in Magicant in the international releases of EarthBound.
3.5 gave Ness' pajamas additional recolors to be used for team battles, and a purple costume based off of Yes Man Junior.
Ness receives more recolors in Project+ inspired by other characters from the Earthbound franchise.
Z-Secret Costume (Poo): Wears an alternate costume inspired by Poo from Earthbound. The costume includes his headband.
R-Secret Costume (Ninten): An alternate costume that turns Ness into Ninten, the protagonist of Earthbound Beginnings.