Ness (ネス, Ness) returns as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Ness was officially confirmed on October 3rd, 2014, alongside Falco and Wario, coinciding with the Western release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. As in every previous Smash Bros. installation, Ness is once again voiced by Makiko Ōmoto, who has now recorded new voice clips for both versions of the game.
Ness is ranked 28th out of 55 characters on the tier list (tied with Lucas), placing both him and Lucas as the lowest C tier characters and the lowest high tier characters. This is a vast improvement from his 26th out of 38 in Brawl, and his best placement relative to previous Smash Bros. games. Ness no longer suffers from having 10 extra grab release frames, which was a huge detriment to his survival. Besides that, Ness possesses arguably the best grab game among the entire cast (competing with Mewtwo's and Luigi's), with his forward and up throws leaving opponents in very unfavorable positions, his down throw being a great combo starter at lower percentages and his back throw being the most powerful throw in the game, on top of being difficult to DI properly. Other notable strengths include an effective projectile game with PK Fire and PK Thunder, a formidable air game courtesy of his powerful aerials, and a versatile combo game thanks to his throws and aerials. Despite being a middleweight, he also has high raw KO power and high damage output, a prime example being his aerials, forward smash, PK Flash and PK Thunder 2. Finally, due to the strengths above, Ness possesses very useful options to cover getups from a ledge or on the ground.
However, Ness has rather sub-par mobility and range, which often forces him to be methodical with his approaches, or play defensively in order to gain the lead, which can leave him at a disadvantage against characters with greater range on their attacks such as Cloud. Lastly and the most problematic is his recovery. Despite being greatly improved, PK Thunder remains quite gimpable as the lightning bolt can clang with other attacks, while opponents can forcibly push Ness out of the way or even take a hit from the lightning bolt, making his recovery fail.
Currently, Ness's tier placement is debatable. While Ness has poor matchups against several characters that were ranked higher than him, particularly Rosalina & Luma, Marth, and Corrin, Ness has achieved good representation and above average results thanks to top players such as FOW, BestNess, S1, The Great Gonzales, Gackt, and NAKAT.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
After completing one of the two methods, Ness must then be defeated on Magicant.
In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Ness is playable from the start.
Ness is an unusual blend of character archetypes, being a short, projectile-heavy character with a lot of versatility with his moves. Ness's weight is average and his falling speed is rather slow, giving him no disadvantage with weight alone. His walking speed is slow while his dashing speed and air speed are both sub-par, but his air acceleration is very high.
Ness possesses three projectiles: PK Flash, PK Fire, and PK Thunder. PK Flash can be used as an extremely powerful punishing or edge-guarding option, dealing huge knockback which can KO even Bowser, the heaviest character, under 70%. PK Fire possesses a good amount of range and holds opponents in it when it hits them (due to being impossible to SDI out of), granting Ness guaranteed follow-ups (such as grab, an additional PK Fire, or a forward smash to finish the opponent) as long as he acts quickly enough. Also, it can be used off-stage against characters with more linear recoveries to combo into down air. PK Thunder is one of the more unique projectiles in the game. When used, the player will lose control of Ness and instead take control of a large thunder ball for a few seconds. PK Thunder can essentially be used to knock opponents towards Ness for follow ups, to mindgame opponents into a PK Thunder 2 trap to finish them, to edgeguard, and to juggle opponents. The knockback it provides can also hit an opponent over the upper blast line (especially light and floaty characters), allowing it to be used as a situational KO move as well. His down special move, PSI Magnet, provides a psychic shield that can heal him when hit with an energy based attack, making it extremely effective against characters with slower projectiles such as Samus or the Mii Gunner. PSI Magnet has fast start-up and end-lag, this allows Ness to cancel his double jump momentum and allows him to reverse himself mid-air more reliably, making it effective for avoiding vertical attacks such as Mario's up smash when Ness is on the air.
Ness's biggest strength is found in his superb aerial game. Most of Ness's aerial moves can be used to either space, combo, or KO. All aerials, excluding down aerial, are capable of auto-canceling out of a short hop. His neutral aerial possesses very little startup and ending lag, and hits on both sides of Ness, making it a useful out of shield option. His forward aerial has quick startup, a disjointed hitbox, and traps opponents, essentially allowing it to chain into either itself or another move. It is a powerful spacing tool and is helpful in approaching opponents. His up aerial, one of the strongest in the game, can be used to combo at lower percents and KO reliably at higher percents. It possesses a large hitbox and little lag, making it low risk, high reward. His back aerial is another reliable KO move that possesses low lag. His down aerial can occasionally be useful in edgeguarding, although it has significant startup in comparison to his other aerials. Down aerial has a large autocancel window, giving Ness the ability to decrease the length of his shorthop, as Ness extends his hurtbox by using the move. Ness can use this property to Tomahawk much more effectively, buffer landing options, mix up his platform movement, and occasionally avoid techchase situations. Thanks to his floatiness, Ness can perform a neutral aerial or up aerial after a short hop air dodge, allowing him to jump through moves with invincibility and whiff punish.
While Ness's aerials make him a formidable fighter at close quarters, he can struggle to pressure from afar. His dash attack has an exceptionally long range and is a decent approach, but leaves him vulnerable to landing aerials and is only safe if properly spaced. PK Fire covers a lot of ground and can be used to perform a PK Jump, a technique that allows Ness to approach or retreat by inputting the move 1 frame after double jumping. If Ness buffers an airdodge after double jumping, he can increase the height of his double. If Ness uses PSI Magnet then PK Thunder by the ledge, he will snap immediately, rather than stalling as he would normally. By combining these two traits together, Ness can often recover without having to use PK Thunder to travel, alleviating one of his biggest weaknesses.
Ness's grab game is also very potent. His standing grab has slightly below average range and is fast. His pivot grab is surprisingly disjointed and his dash grab gives him a substantial speed boost. As mentioned earlier, Ness can trap opponents with PK Fire or PK Jump in order to set up for a grab. Ness possesses one of the fastest pummels in the game, allowing him to deal a decent amount of damage before throwing. His down throw neatly sets up for aerial attacks, leading into a forward air chain at lower percents or an up air at higher percents. Ness's forward throw has very high base knockback and can set up edgeguards. Up throw can be used to play situational mindgames with PK Thunder. Ness's infamous back throw is the strongest throw in the game; while it has very low base knockback, it has extremely high knockback scaling and is often regarded as his most effective and commonly used KO option.
Ness is far from perfect, however. He possesses below average speed in both the ground and the air, making it hard for him to chase most opponents. His ground game is also generally weak as he possesses short-ranged tilt attacks. His up and down smashes are also somewhat situational. While his up smash can be used as an out of shield option and his down smash as a useful edgeguarding option to two-frame opponents, both KO considerably later than his other KO options in a neutral situation, and his forward smash, while extremely powerful, possesses both high startup and ending lag, making it easily punishable if it misses. Ness's biggest flaw, however, is his recovery. While there have been various buffs to his recovery that make it much more reliable and viable than in previous Smash games, it is still easy to gimp if Ness is not careful enough with his double jump offstage. Characters with multiple jumps, such as Jigglypuff, Kirby and Meta Knight, with counters, such as most of the Fire Emblem characters, or with moves that reflect or absorb, such as Rosalina, Villager, and Pit can force Ness into disadvantage when offstage.
Custom moves can give Ness great advantages and brand new options. PK Freeze can freeze opponents, allowing free follow-ups, especially with PK Fire. PK Fire Burst has more range and power and always goes straight, making it a spacing tool rather than a combo tool. Lasting PK Thunder goes right through opponents and moves slower, allowing for better control. Recovery with PK Thunder 2 is also longer, significantly improving Ness' offstage survivability. Rolling PK Thunder travels much slower but is much stronger. While the recovery with PK Thunder 2 is mediocre due to the drastically decreased distance of it, the move is also significantly stronger, which allows it to KO even earlier than normal PK Thunder 2. Forward PSI Magnet is the same, but has a semi-spike hitbox in front of Ness, functioning similar to Fox's Reflector. Finally, if the opponent has no energy projectiles, PSI Vacuum is the optimal choice, as it draws opponents in and is the strongest of Ness's down special moves damage-wise.
Overall, Ness is viewed as a viable character in tournament play, due to his good combo game and extremely potent kill options. Despite this, he is believed to have a somewhat volatile matchup spread; he is especially vulnerable to characters that can abuse his poor mobility and low range to zone him out. Characters such as Rosalina and Luma, Marth, and Corrin are seen as especially troublesome matchups for Ness.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Ness has been heavily buffed in the transition from Brawl to SSB4. His grab-release animation with 10 extra frames of ending lag, which was one of his most detrimental flaws, has been removed, and many of the other flaws he had (mainly his recovery) have been addressed. Ness also greatly benefits from the general changes of SSB4, as the new edge-trumping mechanic makes his recovery much harder to gimp, and the changes to hitstun canceling allows him to combo with his moves much more efficiently while the weakening of SDI makes his multi hit moves more reliable. The introduction of rage also benefits him as it improves his KO potential when he's at higher percents. He also greatly benefits from the removal of chain grabbing which was one of the main reasons why his longer grounded grab release was so exploitable.
As for direct changes outside of the length of his grounded grab release animation, he has seen a mix of buffs and nerfs. Ness overall has greater mobility, his smash attacks are stronger and his down smash can now be used as a powerful edgeguarding tool as Ness can now charge to close to a ledge and it now semi-spikes opponents.
However, Ness has seen more direct nerfs overall. Ness' damage output is overall lower and a variety of his moves have smaller hitboxes. His aerial game has seen some downgrades as his forward aerial deals less damage, has more landing lag and has much smaller hitboxes making it a less effective spacing tool while his down aerial has less range, is considerably weaker and it has lost its extremely lenient auto-cancel window making it no longer auto-cancel in a short hop and making it a much worse move overall. His down throw also has considerably increased knockback hindering its setup potential at higher percents.
Overall, Ness is significantly better than he ever was in previous Super Smash Bros. games due to the general changes to the mechanics greatly benefiting him overall and he has also seen solid tournament representation and greatly improved results due to his vast improvement.
Ness has been slightly nerfed overall in game updates. His most notable nerfs are the reduced damage output to his down throw and PK Fire having slightly more endlag. The changes to shield mechanics also hamper him slightly due to the majority of his non PSI-based moves having a rather low damage output. Ness has also got some other useful buffs, however, such as a faster PSI Magnet and his down aerial having a bigger hitbox and lasts one more frame (though it's still his least useful aerial), and while the buffs do not truly compensate for his nerfs, he remains a strong character.
For a gallery of Ness's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Opinions on Ness' competitive viability have been controversial throughout the game's lifespan. During the early life of SSB4, smashers immediately noticed the vast buffs made to Ness. Many smashers recognized that Ness no longer have the 10 extra frame grab-release animations, his combo game has been markedly improved, and his recovery is much harder to gimp by the addition of a new edge-trumping mechanic. From these initial buffs, Ness was widely considered to be a prominent high tier or even a top-tier character. From possessing arguably one of the best throw games in SSB4, a highly versatile aerial game, alongside excellent KO power and damage output, Ness's expectations continued strong, leading to great tournament representation. His results had been splendid throughout 2015-Early 2016 thanks to likes of FOW and Shaky. With FOW's 7th placement at EVO 2015 and 5th place at GENESIS 3 and Shaky's 7th placement at CEO 2015 and 9th placement at GENESIS 3, it solidified Ness into 13th position on the first official 4BR tier list.
After the first tier list, his results slightly fell from the slight inconsistency from FOW and the sudden inactivity from Shaky. While Ness made a slight decline, the release of Bayonetta, the significant buffs to Mewtwo and the increased representation of Mega Man drop Ness even further. Despite this, Ness' results and representation went on strong and would drop slightly on the second tier list, placing at 16th.
Over time, Ness' flaws came to be more apparent, with players noticing that his subpar mobility, mediocre ground game, and notably gimpable recovery made him struggle against high and top tiers, despite his buffs. As a result, opinions on Ness began to fall off drastically. His results would become stagnant, as many of his players became significantly inactive (Specifically after EVO 2016 to 2GGT: ZeRo Saga). During the period of stagnation, Ness had been rivaled against his fellow EarthBound semi-clone, Lucas. While Lucas was initially considered inferior to Ness in the Smash community, over time, the community questioned about Ness' and Lucas' viability. Lucas' buffs received from patches and his commendable results thanks to Taiheita slowly led the community into believing that Lucas is superior to Ness. At the same time, some of his previously not so troublesome matchups such as Marth and Lucina would also gain a large spike in popularity and viability, and prove to now be worrisome matchups for Ness. Despite again gaining results on Winter 2016 and 2017, most noticeably FOW's 17th placement in 2GGT: ZeRo Saga and S1's 5th placement in B.E.A.S.T 7, it didn't compensate the loss of his stagnant results he had suffered from mid to late 2016. This resulted in a much larger decline to 24th on the third tier list, being tied with Pac-Man for the largest tier drop between the second and third tier lists.
Throughout 2017, several mains began to return to the scene, with FOW briefly coming out of retirement to place 13th at 2GGC: Nairo Saga and 25th at 2GGC: Civil War respectively. NAKAT, despite using Ness as a secondary in favor of Fox in 2016, began to co-main Ness. With his Ness, NAKAT placed 3rd at Smash Factor 6, 13th at EVO 2017, 17th at GameTyrant Expo 2017, and 17th at 2GGC: FE Saga. The Tristate Ness main, The Great Gonzales, placed 5th at Royal Flush and 17th at Smash 'N' Splash 3 respectively. Most recently, a Japanese Ness player, Gackt, made a breakout performance at The Big House 7 by claiming wins against ANTi, Locus, Mistake and secured 17th place. Regardless of these improved results, opinion from Ness worsened and many Smashers, including ZeRo, Dabuz, MkLeo, and Nairo, widely believed that Lucas is superior to Ness, despite Ness' accomplishments. From this, Ness dropped once again on the fourth and current tier list, at 28th, now sharing the spot with his fellow EarthBound fighter Lucas though due to the expansion of the tiers, he is now considered a high tier character rather than a mid tier character.
Fortunately, opinions from Ness began to improve for the first time as he continues to net above average results thanks to Gackt, BestNess, taranito, and S1 earning notable results in their regions, and even in some major tournaments such as BestNess getting 25th at GENESIS 5 and 13th at The Big House 8, S1 placing 5th at Midwest Mayhem 11, and almost causing a huge upset vs CaptainZack, taranito placing 17th at EVO Japan 2018, and Gackt placing 2nd at Frostbite Ursa Minor 2 and taking sets off of komorikiri, dyr, and Ned. These results have even been more impressive than some of the characters ranked above him such as Greninja, Villager, and Bowser. While Ness continued to grow, his fellow EarthBound fighter, Lucas (Who is currently tied with Ness for 28th on the current Smash 4 tier list) dropped in quality from his declining results in Japan and the absence of Taiheita, leading Dabuz to say that Ness is the superior character. On top of this, FOW recently confirmed his return to the Smash scene and has had decent placings such as 2nd at Expand Gong 3. Because of these notable results and his continuous rise, it is unknown whether Ness will continue to stay as a mid to high tier or if he will regain his former glory. Regardless, Ness is still viewed as a viable character in tournament play and can even achieve favorable placements in national level when solo-mained. However, he may require to have secondaries on certain matchups.
In Event Matches