Makiko Ōmoto reprises her role as Ness in Melee with new voice clips.
Ness is currently ranked 23rd out of 26 on the tier list, placing within the D tier. This is a slight fall from his already very low placement in Smash 64, where he was 10th out of 12 characters in the NTSC Version, and his worst placement to date. While still possessing great throws and a great aerial and combo game thanks to his double jump cancel, Ness is strongly held back by having almost non-existent approach options on the ground due to significant range issues in most of his attacks; having one of the worst recoveries in the game, and he also has significant trouble KOing opponents, due to him possessing some of the worst smash attacks in the game, having overall very weak KO power and due to his aforementioned poor range. As a result of these significant weaknesses, Ness has terrible matchups, with six nearly unwinnable, and his favorable matchups being either too slow or having even worse range to combat his tools. As such, he is considered non-viable in competitive play, with matchups remaining overall very poor and having almost non-existent representation in the modern metagame.
Ness is an unusual blend of character archetypes; many of his attributes are unique in comparison to other characters, such as his projectiles, his recovery and his midair jump. Ness has above average traction and a below average falling speed, giving him an above-average wavedash that is relatively quick. Ness is a projectile-heavy character, as he has 3 projectiles: PK Flash, PK Fire and PK Thunder, while also having a healing move in his PSI Magnet.
Arguably Ness's greatest strength is his combo game. Despite a poor SHFFL due to his high short hop and low falling speed, Ness has many ways to pressure and combo in the air thanks to his double jump cancel (often abbreviated DJC). By cancelling out of his midair jump with an aerial, Ness can quickly and efficiently use his multiple aerial attacks; this is especially important considering the utility of his aerial attacks. His neutral aerial and forward aerial attacks acting as potential combo starters (especially the latter) and his back, up and down air attacks serve as good KO moves. Due to this, his air approach is considered to be much better than his ground approach.
Although Ness has a poor ground approach, he still boasts two effective options: his grab game and the Yo-yo glitch. Ness' throws all have excellent utility; his forward throw has extremely high base knockback, making it ideal for starting edgeguards. His down throw is a decent combo starter, having potential to lead into his DJC'd aerials. His up throw is a decent chain grab and can be used in conjunction with PK Thunder to rack up damage or play mindgames. Finally, his back throw is the strongest throw in the game, making it a deadly KOing option. As for the Yo-yo glitch, Ness is the only character to have access to this technique. It is initiated through his up smash, and can be used to attack or grab with near limitless range or attach certain single-hitbox attacks to Ness's body. This can significantly increase Ness' range and options when performed properly.
Ness' greatest flaw, however, is his significant range problems. All of his attacks (especially his tilts) have little range or small hitboxes, making hitting an opponent very difficult. Although wavedashing can help out this problem somewhat, Ness' ground based options have too little utility overall to benefit noticeably. When combined with his somewhat slow movement, Ness has significant trouble approaching opponents. Thus, his dash attack is considered to be his only reliable ground approach option, due to its decent range unlike most of his other attacks. Also, Ness's grab has the second shortest range in all of the game (only to Pikachu), thus making it difficult for him to take advantage of his versatile throws, while his dash grab is extremely laggy and barely improves its range. Finally, against opponents with particularly good spacing games, most notoriously Marth, Ness can be easily overwhelmed in his attempts to approach opponents in the air despite the power of his DJC.
Assuming he can approach his opponents, Ness suffers from noticeable KOing problems, largely due to his poor power and range. He possesses by far the worst set of smash attacks in the game: his up and down smashes are by far the weakest of their kind and his forward smash needs to be sweetspotted at the tip of the bat to KO effectively. Outside of his smash attacks, most of his strongest finishers suffer from poor range (his back, up and down aerials, along with his back throw), long start-up and ending lag (his down aerial), low base knockback (up aerial and back throw), having small, unreliable sweetspots (his aforementionned forward smash), or simply being unsafe and situational (PK Flash and PK Thunder 2).
Ness' special moveset also has some problems: it is rather situational overall. PK Flash boasts extreme power when fully charged and is great for punishing poorly positioned opponents offstage, but it is limited to edgeguarding due to it being very slow and difficult to land. PK Fire can trap opponents and leave them open for follow-ups, and can even gimp fast-fallers. However, it has short reach for a projectile and is very easy to SDI out of, making it easy to punish. PK Thunder is Ness' most useful special move; it is unique for controlling a thunder ball which can be moved in any direction, allowing for mindgames, offstage gimps, and even a powerful KOing option in PK Thunder 2. However it has one critical flaw: the player loses control of Ness during the move, leaving him open to extremely powerful attacks if he can't hit the opponent quick enough. Finally, PSI Magnet can heal Ness and put him in a better position defensively, but it is rather slow and completely dependent on the opposing character, as it only absorbs energy-based projectiles.
Outside of his poor approach, Ness also suffers from a catastrophic recovery. Ness's recovery has its merits; he has the second highest midair jump in the game (second to only Yoshi) and his midair jump has unusual properties in its trajectory; PK Thunder 2 also grants a rather long distance, with a moderately large sweetspot and a long period of invincibility frames. The move is also very risky to block due to possessing KO power that reliably KOs at 90%. Despite these benefits, however, Ness's recovery still is cited as arguably the worst in the game, in spite of its long length, due to possessing many notable flaws. If Ness uses an aerial to fend off edgeguarders, his double jump is cancelled and can prevent him from recovering if unable to act soon enough. PK Thunder's projectile instantly disappears upon hitting opponents, and this is very easily abusable by edgeguarders, further worsened by PK Thunder 2's slow startup. In the process of having to start PK Thunder 2, characters with good recoveries (such as Jigglypuff or Samus) can merely jump into the projectile and take minor knockback and damage, immediately sending Ness into a state of helplessness, though this is a risky strategy. Projectiles such as Link's Boomerangs and the Ice Climbers' Ice Shot can easily disrupt the projectile as well, and in these cases, damage is not even inflicted to the opponent. PK Thunder 2 also suffers from a number of problems. Notably, it is difficult to angle correctly, and it can easily curve under lips of stages, most notably on Battlefield. Its linear nature can also make it easy to read and edgeguard for many characters, despite the invincibility frames found within it, and attacks like Mario's Cape or Link's Spin Attack can easily intercept the attack as Ness charges to the stage. Finally, PK Thunder 2 has significant ending lag, and if Ness recovers directly onto the stage after using it, opponents can easily capitalize on this ending lag by landing a powerful hit on Ness that he cannot hope to counter.
Changes from Super Smash Bros.
While Ness is considered to be a low tier in Smash 64 owing to his poor range, mobility and most notably; his poor recovery, he was initially considered to be top tier character in the game's early meta due to the strength of his double jump cancel which gave him a powerful combo game as well as giving him excellent shield pressuring potential. Likely as a result of this, Ness received a mix of buffs and nerfs in his transition from Smash 64 to Melee but was ultimately nerfed overall.
Ness received a number of helpful buffs; his range was increased as a whole to help alleviate one of his main flaws from the previous game. This can most notably be seen with his altered dash attack and forward aerial which have now become disjointed multi hitting moves. The former has become a decent combo starter and an edgeguarding tool while the latter in particular has now become a solid spacing move with good combo potential (something he sorely lacked in the previous game).
Ness' mobility has been drastically improved, possessing a much faster dashing speed and air speed, making it much easier for him to approach, run away and chase opponents. Ness also benefits from the introduction of air dodging for two reasons; it gives him a much needed additional recovery and it gives him access to wavedashing. Ness overall has a solid wavedash due to his average traction and short jumpsquat giving him a useful movement option. Ness overall has a better recovery outside of PK Thunder due to his aforementioned increased air speed and ability to air dodge meaning that Ness does not have to rely on PK Thunder to recover as much.
Ness is also significantly heavier which considerably improves his endurance along with his higher falling speed although these factors also make him more vulnerable to combos. Ness has also gained a useful up throw and down throw with both throws being decent combo starters. Lastly, Ness now has access the Yo-yo glitch if he charges his up smash and releases it at the right time. When performed correctly, Ness has access to much greater range, as well as having hitboxes attached to him and new mindgames giving him a unique and unpredictable option.
However, Ness has received a much greater quantity of nerfs which along with universal changes, have drastically crippled him overall. Ness' damage output has been reduced which has also hindered the KO potential of many of his moves. Some moves such as up aerial, forward smash and back throw simply KO later than in the previous game while moves such as up smash, down smash, forward aerial and forward throw are now practically useless moves for KOing. This naturally hinders Ness' damage racking capabilities as well as his ability to close out stocks and as a result of these changes, Ness' ability to KO opponents has gone from being disproportionately high to rather low.
Ness' aerial game has also been considerably toned down both due to nerfs to his key aerials in the previous game as well as various universal changes. All of Ness' aerials have increased landing lag and (with the exception of neutral aerial) worse auto-cancel windows. Due to the weakening of L-canceling, these changes do impact Ness hindering his aerial combo game when combined with the reduction of hitstun and the introduction of DI as well as making his aerials easier to punish. Ness is also one of the characters who was the most affected by the changes to shields. With shields having more HP, taking less damage from attacks and with shieldstun being significantly lower; this combined with the aforementioned weakening of L-canceling has greatly hindered Ness' shield pressuring potential with his DJC, completely removing his ability to perform shield break combos. Ness' own out of shield options are also worse due to his longer jumpsquat, slower grab and his slower down aerial.
Ness' down aerial in particular has seen rather drastic nerfs. Previously, it was an extremely fast and powerful meteor smash which was a good combo starter as well as an excellent combo ender, edgeguarding tool and shield pressuring tool. In Melee, the move has about 5x as much startup lag and 3x as much ending lag and the move no longer auto-cancels while its hitboxes are out now having decently high landing lag (although it still has one of the most lenient auto-cancel windows in the game). Being a meteor smash, it also suffers from the addition of meteor cancelling making it significantly easier to survive against despite its much higher base knockback. When combined with the aforementioned changes to shields and L-canceling, this removes most of its KO potential and completely removes its use in shield break combos and DJC combos in general, significantly hurting its damage racking ability.
Despite already being an exploitable recovery move, PK Thunder has been made much worse. PK Thunder itself travels faster but has received angling issues due to this change and Ness can no longer auto-snap the ledge while using it making it completely useless to use at the ledge if Ness does not hit himself. PK Thunder 2 travels a much shorter distance and has increased ending lag making it even easier to exploit than it already was. PK Thunder 2 is also much weaker as a KO move and has received a weaker late hit reducing its utility outside of recovering. This makes Ness' recovery arguably the worst in the game.
Lastly, Ness' weaknesses from the previous game were not properly addressed. While the range in some of his attacks has increased, his range is still among the absolute shortest in the game and his mobility is still mediocre even though its not quite as poor as it previous was. As a result, Ness still has a difficult time approaching opponents and winning the neutral as he can still easily be outspaced. His recovery also is now among the absolute worst as while he has better aerial mobility and he can airdodge to avoid having to use PK Thunder, PK Thunder retains all of the issues it had in the previous game and has even become a considerably worse move/recovery option overall.
Overall, Ness still retains the weaknesses he had in the previous game while the strengths he had were either toned down or removed. As a result of these changes, Ness is one of the characters who was nerfed the most severely alongside Yoshi, Pikachu, and Kirby and he remains one of the worst characters in the game.
For a gallery of Ness's hitboxes, see here.
In Competitive play
Most historically significant players
Tier placement and history
Ness was initially viewed as low-mid tier character in the metagame, with a peak of 15th place on the second tier list. Following this, however, Ness's standing on the tier list almost instantly fell down to the bottom tier, with most players noticing that his nerfs from Super Smash Bros. severely impaired his KO power and his already poor linear, predictable recovery; this was especially noted in the earlier Smash 64 metagame, as Ness was initially viewed as a top-tiered character.
On the current tier list, Ness places at 23rd, in the D tier, and he is considered non-viable for tournament play. Dedicated Ness players are rare in the current metagame, with most Ness players often using him only as a situational counterpick. Hungrybox only used Ness once in all of Apex 2013, in an attempt to catch Armada's Young Link (which was developed specifically to fight Hungrybox) off-guard, and he mostly used Jigglypuff for the rest of the tournament. Other players of Ness are semi-active and generally do not place very well with him.
In Classic Mode, Ness can appear as an ordinary opponent, as an ally or opponent in the team battles, alongside Yoshi, Peach, or Mewtwo, as a member of a multi-character battle, or as a metal opponent. In Ness's appearance, he appears on either Onett or Fourside (if unlocked) as a regular opponent and on Battlefield as a metal opponent. When on a team with Yoshi, he appears on Yoshi's Island.
Ness's appearance in the Adventure Mode is in Stage 9: Onett. In the stage, the player must fight against three computer players, each one being Ness, on Onett; in the fight, the only item that appear is Mr. Saturn. The player must defeat all three opponents within five minutes to continue.
Ness and his allies are fought on Onett.
Ness is featured in the following event matches:
In addition to the normal trophy about Ness as a character, there are two trophies about him as a fighter, unlocked by completing both Adventure and All-Star modes respectively with Ness on any difficulty: