A rolling dodge, or simply roll (called EscapeF and EscapeB internally in Melee's debug menu and Brawl's files, depending on which direction the character is rolling) is a maneuver that moves the character left or right and renders them intangible for a short period of time. It is performed by pressing the control stick left or right while holding a shield button.
Characters experience intangibility frames while rolling, though the amount, duration and timing of these frames varies from character to character. It's an advantage to have quick and long rolls because if it's slow and short, the roll is more predictable and the character is more vulnerable when in a followed animation to attacks and some KO moves. Most characters use a rolling, somersaulting, spinning animation or even teleportation (such as Palutena and Rosalina) for this technique, hence the name, though characters without a very acrobatic physique (such as Zelda or Mewtwo) will instead side-step or slide into the direction the Control Stick is flicked, while others such as Kirby and Mr. Game & Watch use a cart-wheeling animation. Yoshi and Samus use unique special animations for it: Yoshi rolls while in his Egg, and Samus goes into Morph Ball mode, though both rolls are considerably slow.
Characters when rolling will always end up facing the opposite direction they rolled into. That is, characters that roll backwards will remain facing the same way, while characters that roll forwards will turn around. This allows rolling through a character to then execute attacks with more ease, but can disrupt them when trying to dodge projectiles and approach the opponent at the same time. Interestingly, a character cannot roll off the stage if a player performs this move near an edge; the character will instead perform the remainder of the rolling animation in a stationary location right next to the ledge.
CPUs often use rolls to evade attacks, especially in SSB. Due to the rolls' unique trait of moving the character while dodging attacks, most casual players tend to overrely on them attempting to keep themselves safe from attacks, using them over other dodging techniques like sidesteps and air dodges, and even over their regular shields. In reality, excessive rolling can easily leave the user vulnerable against attacks, as players can just read their reaction and throw an attack into the direction they are going to roll to punish them, or use attacks that hit at both sides and/or have long-lasting hitboxes, such as down smashes and neutral aerials. Additionally, simply faking a rush can cause the other player to feel in danger and execute a roll, allowing the rushing player to punish it.
Rolling vs. wavedashing (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
Many casual players believe that rolling and wavedashing play the same role and that the wavedash is just a superior version of the roll. This misconception exists because professional players wavedash in most situations in which casual players would roll. In fact, rolling and wavedashing play very different roles: rolling provides intangibility and generally more distance than a wavedash, but has a determined length and is more easily punished; it is generally used to get behind an attacking opponent or avoid attacks that cannot be wavedashed away from. On the other hand, wavedashing allows a character to act faster and attack while moving sideways at the expense of intangibility; it is generally used to quickly alter spacing or move towards an opponent while standing without turning around (like a forward roll would cause). If the wavedash did not exist, upper-level smashers would replace the wavedash with a dash dance in most situations, not a roll.
Rolling frames (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
These lists show the intangibility and the total lag frames of the rolls, but not the distance travelled or the size of the character while rolling.
Rolling distances (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
Average of forward and back rolls
Rolling frames (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Rolling frames (Super Smash Bros. 4)
In Smash 4, rolls have been sped up slightly for the majority of the cast, making them safer for repositioning and getting away from attacks. However, the intangibility on all forward and back rolls has since been decreased by 1 frame in version 1.1.0 of the game, and once again by the same amount in version 1.1.1. The following list shows the frame data of rolls as of 1.1.5.
*Activates Bat Within if hit on frames 3-5.
Rolling distances (Smash 4)
Average of forward and back rolls
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