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 or spinning animation for this technique, hence the name, though others without a very acrobatic physique (such as Zelda or Mewtwo) will instead step back, slide or even teleport (the latter being the case for Palutena and Rosalina) into the direction the Control Stick is flicked, while others such as Kirby and Mr. Game & Watch use a cartwheeling 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.
After rolling, characters 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 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.
Computer players often use rolls to evade attacks, especially at high levels. 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, even using them over their regular shields. In reality, due to its noticeable duration and vulnerability frames near the end, excessive rolling can leave the user more vulnerable against attacks, as the opponent can read their reaction and throw an attack into the direction they are going to roll into 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 threaten and condition such a player into rolling, allowing the rusher to punish them.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, rolling repeatedly causes each subsequent roll to be executed slower (thus increasing its lag) and grant less intangibility frames, leaving the player far more open to punishment should they fail to use the technique sparingly. This trait also applies to sidesteps and air dodges, in a way so overusing any dodge also affects the others.
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 currently.
*Activates Bat Within if hit on frames 3-5.
Rolling distances (Smash 4)
Average of forward and back rolls
Ads keep SmashWiki independent and free :)