Ness (ネス, Ness) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He was revealed along with the fellow EarthBound fighter Lucas and all other previous veterans on June 12, 2018 and is classified as Fighter #10. As in the original Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, he is unlockable, instead of being available from the start.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
With the exception of the third method, Ness must then be defeated on Onett.
Ness has a unique moveset that features elements of various archetypes. While his three projectiles allow for some zoning, he truly excels at short distances, where he can overwhelm opponents with fast aerials, steady shield pressure, and punishing throws. Ness' overall mobility is rather one-sided: on the ground his walking speed, initial dash, and dash speed are below average, but his aerial movement shines thanks to his excellent air acceleration, decent air speed, and above-average jump height. Moreover, Ness' low gravity and low falling speed allow him to perform multiple aerials in one short hop, and all of his aerials can be auto-canceled. Despite his small stature, Ness is a middleweight, tied with Lucas, Mii Brawler, and Inkling.
Ness enjoys a versatile set of special moves. His neutral special, PK Flash, is a large projectile that travels in an arc above Ness, gaining strength the longer the input is held. Because it has low ending lag and freezes opponents briefly when successful, PK Flash has great utility as a combo starter and juggling tool. It can also be guided with the control stick and no longer sends Ness into helplessness, making it useful for knocking opponents away from the ledge while Ness is offstage. Ness' side special, PK Fire, is a tiny projectile that travels horizontally a short distance and bursts into a pillar of flames on contact with an opponent, dealing multiple hits. The move is infamously spammable and can set up combos, condition opponents to jump, or simply rack up damage itself. Notably, when used in the air, PK Fire has a diagonal trajectory and decreased landing lag, bolstering its effectiveness on platforms. Ness' up special, PK Thunder, doubles as a versatile projectile and Ness' primary recovery option. The move sends a ball of electricity upward from Ness' head that can be guided with the control stick, costing Ness his mobility while active, but granting him the ability to pressure deep offstage, juggle opponents repeatedly, or at times KO into the upper blast zone. Ness can also send the lightning into himself at any angle, launching him in that direction for an extremely powerful PK Thunder 2 attack which also allows Ness to recover from deep offstage. Ness' down special, PSI Magnet, creates a psychic field around Ness that absorbs energy-based attacks and heals Ness a proportionate amount of percent. This is particularly effective against characters such as Pikachu, Wolf, and Snake, who tend to rely on energy-based projectiles in neutral. PSI Magnet also has newfound offensive utility in Ultimate, as it now features an active hitbox with set knockback. The aerial hitbox can confirm into several of Ness' normal aerials, while the grounded hitbox places opponents in perfect range for a sweetspotted forward smash, making it practical in jab lock situations. PSI Magnet also alters the momentum of Ness' double jump, a form of double jump cancelling that makes for a unique aerial burst option and a stylish way to start or extend combos.
Ness' signature strength is his amazing aerial game. All of his aerial attacks are disjointed, are useful for both comboing and KOing, and can autocancel from a short hop. His neutral aerial activates on frame 5 and functions well as a combo-breaker and out-of-shield option. It also sets up jab lock and tech chase situations at middle percents and has decent knockback at high percents, making it a viable edgeguarding and KO option. His forward aerial has a large disjoint and is quite active, making it excellent for starting combos, edgeguarding, and approaching. Ness' new multi-hit up aerial is strong and great for juggling, and its drag-down properties allow Ness to set up grabs, combos, and KOs. Ness' back aerial is very strong when sweetspotted, and his down aerial is a slow-but-powerful meteor smash useful for edgeguarding or starting vertical combos.
Ness' grab and throw game is also outstanding and among the best in the cast. His grab is relatively fast, and all of his throws have useful applications. Ness' down throw is a solid combo starter that will often lead into multiple forward airs, and his forward throw has very high base knockback, allowing Ness to reliably set up edgeguarding situations or even KO opponents at very early percents on some stages. Ness' up throw, while not as practical, is a solid mix-up that can set up juggling with PK Thunder or PK Flash. Most notorious, however, is Ness' back throw, which remains the most consistent kill throw in the game.
Ness' ground game, while limited compared to his air game, also has strengths. His forward tilt and dash attack are fast and strong enough to KO at high percents, and the latter has improved range. His up tilt is a good combo tool at low percents and can even KO at higher percents. His down tilt, which is very fast and highly spammable, can be used to two-frame, jab lock, pressure shields, confirm into a grab, or deal immense damage if the opponent is trapped at the ledge. His forward smash (baseball bat) has high start-up and ending lag, but deals very high damage and knockback, especially when sweetspotted with the tip of the bat. Excluding items, the bat is also the strongest reflector in the game, with a damage multiplier of 2.0 and a speed multiplier of 2.5. Ness' up and down smashes (yo-yo) have significantly improved knockback, deal damage while charging, and can hang below the stage, making them some of the best and easiest-to-use edgeguarding tools in the game.
Ness' strengths are balanced by notable weaknesses. Grounded PK Fire does good damage, but is punishable on shield and easily escapable with good DI, making it generally less useful than its aerial counterpart. While Ness' hitboxes are large and powerful, he can still be stuffed out by characters with even larger disjoints, especially swordfighters such as Shulk, Marth, and Lucina. Moreover, Ness' below-average run and air speed, as well as his lack of a quick, long-ranged projectile, render him slightly vulnerable to camping. This is especially true if Ness' opponent utilizes projectiles that are not energy-based, such as Link's arrows and boomerang. Ness is also vulnerable to juggling given his floatiness and lack of reliable landing options, as well as the removal of multiple air dodges. Powerful, disjointed aerials such as Palutena's and Ike's up aerials are particularly effective against Ness. However, Ness' most glaring weakness remains his recovery. Despite traveling a good distance, his PK Thunder 2 is quite exploitable: if the attack makes contact with an opponent or projectile mid-flight, its distance will be halved, often resulting in a gimp. Furthermore, opponents with good timing can hit Ness with a powerful attack or fall into PK Thunder 1 before he can launch himself. Because of its enormous knockback, PK Thunder 2 is also susceptible to many counters, and opponents who time their counter correctly will almost always kill Ness. Conversely, opponents who mistime an edgeguard against Ness will often die for it.
Overall, Ness is somewhat of a "glass cannon" character who excels in most offensive aspects of the game, including comboing, KOing, edgeguarding, ledgetrapping, and juggling, but suffers in certain defensive situations, especially when put offstage or high above his opponent. He also struggles against characters who can outrange his disjoints, though this is less of a problem than in previous games. As a result, Ness has a mixed matchup spread, with even or favorable matchups against many top-tier characters, including Pikachu, Snake, Wolf, and Joker, and poor matchups against others, particularly Lucina, Palutena, Shulk, and Mr. Game & Watch.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
In SSB4, Ness was considered a low high-tier character (28th out of 55 characters). Nevertheless, Ness has been heavily buffed in his transition to Ultimate. His forward tilt is now a viable KO option, and his dash attack has increased knockback and range. His up tilt has decreased ending lag and is useful for starting combos, while his down tilt racks up damage much more effectively, especially near the ledge. Among Ness' most significant buffs are the changes to his yo-yo smash attacks (up smash and down smash), which not only regained their charging hitboxes, but now hang below the ledge to set up easy edgeguards against most characters. His up smash especially has dramatically improved knockback, making it a viable KO option for the first time. Many of Ness' other tools are more effective as well: his down aerial has more range, can once again be autocanceled from a short hop, and has a much stronger meteor smash effect; his new up aerial has drag-down properties, enabling him to set up combos; his PK Flash charges much more quickly and no longer causes helplessness; his PK Fire has reduced lag (especially landing lag, making it far more useful when used in the air); his PK Thunder deals more damage; and his PSI Magnet now has a hitbox that helps Ness extend combos or set up kills.
Ness has also received indirect buffs via the universal changes in Ultimate, especially the new air dodge mechanics and general buffs to aerial attacks. The return of directional air dodges benefits Ness tremendously, as Ness' directional air dodge travels further than that of any character (aside from Lucas), providing a reliable recovery option aside from the notoriously exploitable PK Thunder 2. The removal of multiple air dodges also enables Ness to pressure opponents in the air with PK Thunder more consistently. Furthermore, Ness' already great aerial game is even better, as his forward, down, and up aerials deal more damage, and all of his aerials have drastically less landing lag, even compared to other characters. Most notable in this regard are Ness' neutral and down aerials, which have less than half their previous amount of landing lag.
However, Ness did receive some nerfs. His new up aerial has less horizontal range, decreased KO power, and requires landing all hits (which start from behind and move in an arc above Ness) to deal considerable damage, hindering Ness' ability to juggle opponents. His grab game has been toned down, as his slower, more standard pummel cannot rack up damage as effectively, and his down throw has more ending lag, hindering its combo potential past low percents. Lastly, the power of his yo-yo smash attacks now only increases by half as much when charged, and PK Flash, in exchange for its much faster charge, is significantly weaker when fully charged.
Overall, the buffs to Ness' neutral game, punish game, edgeguarding, and recovery outweigh the few nerfs he received. His main weaknesses, such as lack of range and an exploitable recovery, are still present, but generally to a lesser extent than in previous Smash games. Therefore, Ness' incarnation in Ultimate is typically considered his strongest in the Smash series. His tournament representation in Ultimate's early metagame has been stronger than in Smash 4, with players such as FOW, BestNess, Gackt, and Awestin achieving strong results with the character. As such, Ness is commonly considered a high-tier character.
Throws and other attacks
Ness has received a mix of buffs and nerfs. Update 2.0.0 increased autocancel frames for up aerial matching the ending lag of the move and his down aerial deals more damage while keeping the knockback the same. Update 3.0.0, nerfed yo-yo charging smash attacks which was infamous for breaking shields easily. He also received buffs such as PK Flash having a larger hitbox, and physics changes to the yo-yo that improved its potential as an edge guarding tool. Update 3.1.0 reverted the yo-yo physics back to its pre-patch state, and his neutral attack connects more reliably.
However, Ness has received a number of buffs in 9.0.0. Up tilt, dash attack and up throw deal more damage, though with knockback adjusted for the former two. In addition, down aerial and PK Flash have less start-up lag. Overall, Ness remains a strong character who can compete well with the rest of the cast.
For a gallery of Ness' hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
Upon the release of Ultimate, Ness was considered an upper-mid to low high-tier character, roughly on par with his Smash 4 counterpart. Despite his improved recovery and various buffs, Ness remained limited by the popularity of swordfighters, who can effectively stuff out Ness' trademark aerials. Furthermore, the loss of the ability to airdodge multiple times before landing and the smaller hitbox of Ness' up air led players to believe that landing would be more challenging for Ness than in Smash 4.
However, Ness' results in the early metagame of Ultimate have been stronger than in Smash 4. The overall mechanics of Ultimate and the changes to Ness' aerials and specials have greatly bolstered Ness' neutral, advantage, recovery, and movement options. In addition, many of Ness' hardest matchups from Smash 4 (most notably Rosalina & Luma, Cloud, and Corrin) were nerfed and are considered far less troublesome.
Ness' position in the current metagame remains up for debate. Although top players such as Dabuz still regard Ness merely as a mid-tier character, he has fairly strong representation in tournaments and appears to enjoy even or slightly favorable matchups against some of Ultimate's best characters: ESAM considers Ness one of only two losing matchups in the game for Pikachu, and MkLeo prefers to face Ness with a secondary rather than his signature Joker. Overall, Ness is a potent but balanced character at high level, with his overwhelming offensive kit and edgeguarding prowess offset by his limited recovery and landing options. Ness is not usually seen as a top-tier character, but has achieved results on par with a high-tier and had two representatives on the Fall 2019 PGRU: Gackt from Japan and BestNess from the United States. FOW, S1, and Awestin have also achieved strong results with Ness in their respective regions.
Notably, Ness is considered an even stronger character in Ultimate's online mode, as the presence of increased input lag ostensibly benefits him more than other characters, making his already fast aerials even safer and his recovery more difficult to challenge. These perceived advantages, while traditionally dismissed as meaningless in high-level competition, gained unforeseen significance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has temporarily relegated all major tournaments to an online format. Ness' strong online results include impressive first-place finishes by BestNess at The Quarantine Series: Minor Tournament 1 and The Box, the latter of which featured a $10,000 prize pool and the largest bracket of any Smash tournament (online or offline) to date.
Classic Mode: Home to Onett!
Note: Every stage plays a track from the EarthBound universe, no matter what universe the stage originates from.
Role in World of Light
Although Ness has been absent from the World of Light opening cutscene, he was vaporized and later imprisoned alongside the rest of the fighters (minus Kirby) when Galeem unleashed his beams of light.
Ness' fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 500 coins. Unlocking Ness in World of Light allows the player to preview the spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a fighter spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Each fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their artwork in Ultimate.
In Spirit battles
As the main opponent
As a minion
Character Showcase Video