Pikachu is a small lightweight, tied with Kirby, Olimar, and Mewtwo for the seventh lightest fighter. It has overall good mobility, possessing fast walking and dashing speeds, high jumps, is tied for the ninth-highest air acceleration and has the fourth-highest traction, but slightly above average falling speed and gravity and below-average airspeed. Due to its fast mobility, a good projectile in Thunder Jolt, good frame data and some of the fastest defensive options, Pikachu has a good approach and great neutral game.
Pikachu has a decent grab and throw game despite its poor grab range. It has a fast pummel and its forward and back throws are good for edgeguarding and up and down throws are good for combos, with the former being able to KO at around 170%. It has a strong combo game, with moves such as up tilt, its aerial attacks and its throws that can start, extend or end combos reliably, and along with Thunder Jolt, that is good for pressuring the opponent. It also has a strong recovery: Skull Bash and Quick Attack both travel a long distance and the former does not leave it helpless, while the latter can be angled and Pikachu jolts twice, although it cannot be done in the same direction. This makes Pikachu's recovery one of the best in the game, as it is long-distanced and its Quick Attack can be unpredictable.
Pikachu's biggest strength, however, is its amazing air game and dominant edgeguarding game, with the latter being considered among the best of the cast: all of Pikachu's aerials can autocancel in a short hop and its neutral, forward, back and up aerials are fast, all of them except for the latter are multihits that can combo into each other, with their extremely low ending lag making them excellent for combos, edgeguarding, and potential zero-to-deaths, while down aerial can meteor smash in its first two active frames and is fast for its category, while up aerial is good for juggling. Pikachu's down aerial also is its only aerial with over 20 frames of ending lag. As a result, Pikachu has strong zero-to-death potential.
Pikachu is not without weaknesses, however: it has poor range outside of forward smash and down tilt, with many attacks either having small hitboxes or the hitboxes are placed too close to its body, thus it fares poorly with characters with long disjointed range and many projectiles, such as Simon or Young Link. It also has very poor endurance, due to being light and falling faster than the characters around its weight class. It also bears inconsistent KO power: forward and up smash are burdened by several sourspots, with the former being stronger in the mid hit, while its forward tilt, forward and back aerials and its up and back throws are unfit for KOing until around 150% or above, and while Thunder is powerful, it's slow and has high ending lag, giving it many unreliable finishers and poor KO ability. To make this worse, Pikachu doesn't have setups for its KO moves outside of up throw into Thunder, which is not reliable at high percents, and Thunder itself requires good timing to use, as while it can meteor smash to lead into the discharge it emits when it hits Pikachu, this only works near the cloud, or else it will launch opponents away from the attack and the opponent can punish Pikachu. Due to its reliance on Thunder Jolt, it also has a disadvantage against characters with reflectors. It also has a notable disadvantage against Ness, Lucas, Mii Gunner, and Mr. Game & Watch, due to its projectiles being energy-based, they can absorb its projectiles and recover damage.
While Quick Attack is very good for recovery purposes, it's not the best approach option, as it's unsafe on shield and can be punished by moves that are fast enough, and Skull Bash has high ending lag and can be reacted to.
Overall, Pikachu's strengths outweigh its weaknesses and it is regularly considered a top-tier or even a contender for the best character in the game.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
At the end of SSB4's metagame, Pikachu was considered a high tier character (ranked 15th out of 55 characters). In its transition to Ultimate, Pikachu has been heavily buffed. All of its moveset's aspects were greatly improved during its transition, in addition to its moveset benefitting noticeably from the changes to gameplay mechanics.
Pikachu's largest buffs arguably come from its improved speed: its already above-average mobility has been increased, many of its moves have less ending lag, and its aerials have drastically reduced landing lag; while the former and latter buffs are shared with the rest of the cast, they especially benefit Pikachu, the former due to its small size and the latter since its aerials had among the highest landing lag in SSB4. These buffs improve Pikachu's neutral game and overall comboing capabilities plus, due to its "pancaking" during many of their landing animations, allow it to avoid mistimed attacks with more ease and retaliate. To further complement this, its already great air game was enhanced as well: Pikachu has a new neutral aerial that acts similarly to Mewtwo's own and has much more combo potential; both forward and up aerials have increased KO power, alleviating one of Pikachu's biggest weaknesses in SSB4; back aerial auto-cancels from a short hop, now consistently launches opponents behind Pikachu, and has a faster animation, which gives it combo potential into itself several times at low percentages, to the point it's able to perform a pseudo-Wall of Pain with the move; and down aerial now has a clean hitbox that meteor smashes opponents, further improving Pikachu's aerial KOing ability.
Although not as buffed as its aerial game, Pikachu's other moves have also seen noteworthy improvements. In particular, dash attack has increased KO power and significantly increased shieldstun, to the point it is now unpunishable on shield. Forward smash has increased range, making it a more dangerous tool for trapping opponents on the edge; up smash's strong hit lasts longer, making it more reliable for KOing; and down smash will always send opponents in the direction Pikachu faces and at a lower angle, making it more useful, as well as gaining a KO confirm into it from Pikachu's new neutral aerial. Pikachu's standing grab extends farther; down throw now inflicts additional hit lag on the opponent on release, improving its combo ability; and up throw has increased knockback, allowing it to KO at high percentages. On top of this, some of its special moves were significantly buffed, as Thunder Jolt has less ending lag, which improves Pikachu's neutral game and grants it a trapping option if opponents shield it from far away; Skull Bash has drastically reduced ending lag on hit, making it much safer unless it is perfect shielded; and Thunder's cloud hitbox deals set knockback, allowing it to connect consistently into the discharge, which also inflicts much more knockback.
Finally, Pikachu notably benefits from the changes to game mechanics. The new limits to air dodges and smaller edge sweetspot sizes make Pikachu's already great edgeguarding prowess more dangerous, especially with down aerial's new meteor smash hitbox, its stronger aerial attacks all-around, and improved primary projectile in Thunder Jolt; they also don't impair its disadvantage state much thanks to its long-distanced and unpredictable recovery. The changes to air dodging also make its on-stage offense even more effective, which combined with its improved mobility, streamlined jumpsquat, and reintroduction of dash-dancing allow it to chase opponents, giving it an excellent combo game that has the potential of causing zero-to-death combos. The nerfs to rage also notably improves its poor endurance, while not nerfing its KOing ability due to its stronger moveset.
In spite of mostly receiving drastic buffs, Pikachu is not without a few nerfs. The most significant nerf Pikachu has received is the removal of Quick Attack canceling, which noticeably reduces its mobility and approach options, making it more predictable. The changes to neutral aerial, in lieu of an improved combo game, also remove its KO potential. The increased startup and ending lag on its grabs, and dash grab and pivot grab not reaching as far, limit the benefits its grab game has received. Lastly, up throw's altered knockback, while giving it KO potential, makes it more difficult for Pikachu to combo into Thunder. Outside of these nerfs, however, other nerfs Pikachu received have generally been minor, while a good amount of the buffs it received make up for said shortcomings, most notably its improved neutral game.
In the end, Pikachu's entire moveset has seen drastic improvements all-around, it benefits significantly from the new engine, and its limited KOing ability was mostly alleviated, causing its buffs to severely outweigh the nerfs it received. Although Pikachu still suffers from the same weaknesses that plagued it in SSB4, such as short-range, poor endurance, and still limited KOing ability, its improved strengths now more than compensate for its shortcomings, arguably cementing it as the most viable threat between its fellow "fragile speedster" brethren, alongside its clone Pichu. While Pikachu is not as common as some other top- or high-tier characters, it has still received strong results in competitive play, courtesy of players like ESAM and Captain L. This has led to a very strikingly positive reception of Pikachu, with many top players describing it as a top 5 character in the game (if not the single best character). Regardless, Pikachu is considered much better than in SSB4, and has fared significantly better overall than in previous games (bar its appearance in SSB64).
Throws and other attacks
Pikachu has been slightly buffed via game updates. Its grab game was slightly improved, thanks to a faster pummel and larger grabboxes. The only nerf it has received so far is Thunder Jolt's shield damage being slightly decreased as part of a near-universal nerf to projectiles.
For a gallery of Pikachu's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
Even before the game was released, Pikachu's buffs caused players to think of it as one of the best characters in the game, with some claiming Pikachu was broken during the demo. Pikachu has winning matchups with the vast majority of the cast with only a few troublesome exceptions, such as Mr. Game and Watch, Ness and Mario. This perception became more evident after patch 3.1.0's nerfs to Pichu, Wolf, Olimar, and Peach. Many top players consider Pikachu to be either the best in the game or among one of the best, alongside Joker, Peach, Palutena, Wario, and Zero Suit Samus. Players such as MkLeo, VoiD, and ZeRo believe that Pikachu is a top 5 character, and the best Pikachu player in the world, ESAM, thinks Pikachu is the best character in the game.
Despite these claims and high reception from top players, as with Brawl and Smash 4, Pikachu has a relatively small playerbase and less high placements in major tournaments compared to many other top-tiers, with ESAM being the only Pikachu player to have consistently high placements.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
Classic Mode: I Choose You!
Pikachu fights against other Pokémon on various Pokémon stages, with Poké Balls as the only available item. Excluding Mewtwo, the opponents are ordered by their National Pokédex number. The title is a reference to Ash Ketchum's signature catchphrase in the Pokémon anime, which doubles as the title of the first episode and the 20th movie.
Credits roll after completing Classic Mode. Completing it as Pikachu has Road to Viridian City - Pokémon Red / Pokémon Blue accompany the credits.
Character unlock tree
Pikachu's Classic Mode character unlock tree includes the following characters in order:
Each character can be unlocked by clearing Pikachu's Classic Mode, or the Classic Mode of any preceding character, if all preceding characters have been unlocked. Once all the above characters are unlocked, clearing Classic Mode with any of them will default to Mario's character unlock tree, starting with Sonic.
Role in World of Light
Pikachu was among the fighters summoned to the cliffside to fight an army of Master Hands.
During the opening cutscene, Pikachu was present on the cliffside when Galeem unleashed his beams of light. While attempting to run away, Pikachu was noticed by Sonic, who slowed down for Pikachu in an attempt to save it. However, both of them were vaporized and placed under Galeem's imprisonment along with the rest of the fighters, except for Kirby.
Pikachu can later be found stuck on an island that can only be accessed by falling into the current of a waterfall, then the player must confront the spirit of Esna before they can battle to awaken it.
Pikachu's fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 500 coins. Unlocking Pikachu in World of Light allows the player to preview the first spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a fighter spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. Its Pikachu Libre outfit has a fighter spirit of its own, available through the shop. Each fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their artwork in Ultimate.
Additionally, Pikachu makes an appearance in a few support spirits.
In Spirit battles
Conditions in italic aren't listed on the Spirit Battle preview screen.
As the main opponent
As a minion
Character Showcase Video