Ryu (リュウ, Ryū) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. Initially leaked via data mining of update 1.0.6, His appearance in the series was formally announced alongside Roy during a Nintendo Direct on June 14th, 2015, and he was made available that same day as downloadable content alongside Lucas and Roy. Ryu is the fourth of six playable third-party characters in SSB4, alongside fellow Capcom representative Mega Man; Sega's Sonic and Bayonetta; Bandai Namco's Pac-Man; and Square Enix's Cloud.
Ryu is voiced by Kyle Hebert in English and Hiroki Takahashi in Japanese, both of whom have voiced him since Street Fighter IV and make him sound akin to his appearance in Street Fighter V.
Ryu is ranked 11th out of 55 on the tier list, placing him at the bottom of A tier. In addition to tying him with Marth, this renders both of them as the lowest ranking top-tier characters. The control input carryover from the Street Fighter series benefits Ryu immensely, with his tapped attacks being useful combo starters and his held attacks being great combo finishers or potent KO options. This is complemented by his multiple combo-breaking options, such as Shoryuken, neutral aerial, and Focus Attack, all which have quick start-up and make him surprisingly difficult to juggle, whereas the latter two also allow him to start damaging combos due to the good damage and speed of his moveset.
Ryu's recovery is also resilient, as his entire special moveset grants him unpredictable ways to return to the stage. Ryu is exceedingly difficult to punish out of shield due to most of his moves having a freeze frame multiplier of at least 1.8×. Additionally, Ryu's light and heavy tilts' stale independently from each other, allowing him to attack with light tilts without weakening, and in some cases even strengthening his heavy ones.
However, Ryu's approach is problematic due to his overall mobility being slightly below-average. Most notably, he carries over the "fixed arc" jumps from his home series because of his air acceleration being the slowest in the game; as such, Ryu's aerial approach is very committal. Additionally, his only projectile, Hadoken, is slow and very easily intercepted, while his ground attacks have short ranges. His grab game is also lackluster, as none of his throws possess KO potential, while only his down throw has minimal combo potential at low percents.
Ryu's recovery is also very easy to gimp if Shoryuken is his only available option, due to its fixed movement and inability to edge sweetspot until the later half of its animation. Finally, Ryu often suffers with "forcing" KOs, as he lacks reliable finishing moves outside of set-ups from Focus Attack or his tapped tilts, making it difficult for him to KO without starting a combo.
Due to possessing one of the highest learning curves in the game, Ryu's representation is merely average compared to other highly ranked characters. Regardless, he has overall been very successful in competitive play, thanks to his high reward potential. However, despite his success and great potential, Ryu's tier ranking is debatable as other characters above and around him have achieved higher amounts of success on their own.
Ryu has one of the most unique archetypes in SSB4, being a heavyweight of average size and mobility. Most of his attributes liken to the balance of Mario in regard to several key attributes: Ryu has decent frame data; an average damage output; and an overall dependable ground game and mobility, due to his slightly above average traction and average dashing speed. This owes to the fact that Ryu, like Mario, is an "all-rounder" in his home series. However, the rest of his attributes are polarized due to them attempting to mirror the physics of Street Fighter: in contrast to his dash, Ryu's walking speed is the third slowest, while his above average air speed is counteracted by his moderately fast falling speed and very short jumps (being the fourth lowest, tied with Little Mac). His jumps also follow a fixed "arc" due to him having the lowest air acceleration, and a unique trait where his air friction stays locked at 0 while jumping, despite having a standard amount while attempting to decelerate. Finally, Ryu's fast falling speed increases his normal falling speed by 40%, instead of 60%. Overall, Ryu has effective burst movement through dashing and jumping, but has to fully commit when approaching through the air, and can have trouble moving short distances or landing.
Ryu's controls set him apart from any character in the Super Smash Bros. series, in that they emulate how he functions in his home series. The speed and power of his attacks are based on whether the player taps the attack button (fast but weak) or holds it (strong but slow). Additionally, Ryu's special moves (aside from Focus Attack) have different effects; altered hitbox sizes/durations; and/or increased power if the button is held and/or the move is used with its input in Street Fighter. This essentially gives Ryu two movesets, both with different uses: in general, one opens up reliable combo chains and racks up damage quickly, and another KOs outright. Not only does this make Ryu the only character in the game that has access to true combos from nearly any move that can be chained directly into KO options, it also gives him a wide array of punishing mix-ups. This grants him arguably the most reward off of landing combo attacks in relation to the cast.
Apart from his control scheme, Ryu possesses another unique trait: nearly all of his attacks (even his tapped tilts) have a freeze frame multiplier of at least 1.8×, making his attacks surprisingly safe on shield for a melee fighter. This makes it easy for Ryu to pressure foes who shield abusively, while making some of his combo-initiating attacks hard to escape despite his average damage output. His previously mentioned air speed complements his ability to take advantage of hitstun and keep opponents in long combos until high percents, both while grounded and in the air.
Ryu's moveset also boasts significant utility. As mentioned above, his tapped attacks have the advantage of being fast, weak and extremely spammable, alongside other useful traits. Both his tapped neutral attack and down tilt hit on frames 2-3, with the former being useful as a simple pressure reliever, and the latter being an excellent combo extender due to it lightly launching prone opponents and setting up for a followup, including a grab. Tapped up tilt is notoriously effective for combos due to its speed, active frames (3-6) and low knockback, with notable combos including itself (on fast-fallers/heavyweights while buffering a step forward), Shoryuken, and even a true combo into a down aerial meteor smash at certain percents. Held forward tilt (Collarbone Breaker) deals very high shield damage, which benefits due to Ryu's already excellent shield pressuring ability and high hitlag. Held down tilt can be immediately canceled on hit into a special attack to pressure shields or follow up with a quick damage racking combo, even at high percents. Up and down smashes have unique perks, with up smash making his hitbox small while charging, and down smash being damaging for its speed.
Ryu's aerial moveset shares his grounded moveset's utility. His neutral aerial is a sex kick with high effectiveness, due to it having very low knockback and the lowest landing lag of any aerial in the game. Combined with the ability to use it twice in a short hop and its very weak late hit, it has excellent utility as a combo starter and KO set-up even at high percents. Forward aerial is quick, has good range and deals high damage, can be chained into itself with jumps, and its sourspot's high shield damage can pressure shields. Up aerial starts fast and has a deceptively high reach, granting it juggling capabilities. Up and down aerials are also able to autocancel from a jump, with down aerial doing so from a jump.
Alongside these tools, Ryu has a wide array of very powerful finishers: some of his held tilts, smash attacks and aerials are capable of ending stocks swiftly due to their overall speed. Held up tilt grants upper body intangibility from frames 4-10 while hitting on frame 7, making it deceptively safe for KOs alongside its speed and combo potential from tapped up tilt. Up smash's wide vertical hitbox can punish aerial approaches and substitute for the previously mentioned combo. Forward smash, while slow, has a long range compared to most of Ryu's attacks and is his strongest standard ground attack, making it good for hard punishes. Back aerial's hitbox is small, but it is his strongest aerial while being fast with good range. Meanwhile, forward and up aerial's overall utility are further enhanced by their KO potential at high percents. Finally, down aerial is a powerful diagonal meteor smash with a long duration and fast start-up, making it deadly at the edge. With this abundance of finishers tying in with his excellent combo ability, Ryu has a plethora of set-ups and combos that can begin with almost any of his attacks connecting.
Ryu's special moveset features his signature moves, and are all effective in their own ways. Hadoken is a large ki projectile that has two travel speeds and three slightly distinct versions based on the input, with the standard projectile being capable of locking, and the input and Shakunetsu versions dealing more damage (the latter being a multiple-hit flame projectile). Tatsumaki Senpukyaku propels Ryu forward, does not render him helpless, and deals more damage after an initial travel distance. Ryu's signature Shoryuken functions as his main vertical recovery move; however, it is most well-known for its outstanding offensive use, due to its sweetspot's high knockback and slight intangibility (frames 3-5). The input version of Shoryuken has fearsome KO power, grants even more intangibility (frames 1-6), much higher knockback, and halved landing lag, alongside being easily capable of chaining from Ryu's other moves. Finally, Focus Attack allows him to tank a single hit during its use, with a half to fully-charged blow incapacitating opponents on the spot and granting an opening. It can also be canceled on hit or after tanking a blow, allowing Ryu to fake out with a shuffle that can provide a horizontal recovery boost.
The mentioned moves above grant Ryu his two final strengths: a rather versatile recovery and a surprising resistance to combos. A combination of a canceled Focus Attack's momentum boost and the large hitboxes of Tatsumaki Senpukyaku grant him surprisingly effective horizontal distance and gimp protection, while Shoryuken reaches above edges, granting him protection while recovering, and is able to stage spike reckless edgeguarders. Meanwhile, Focus Attack is a dependable and powerful combo breaker, allowing him to quickly and immediately escape a disadvantageous situation, while neutral aerial and input Shoryuken grant the speed and intangibility needed to escape, and can potentially open up combo or KO opportunities respectively. This grants him excellent staying power for a heavyweight with above average falling speed, allowing him to potentially use rage to maximum effect, most notoriously with input Shoryuken.
Despite his abundance of strengths, Ryu has his weaknesses, some of which are exploitable. Despite his aforementioned recovery being very long-distanced overall, it is very short if many extendable elements, such as Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, are not utilized. Canceled Focus Attack still requires a brief charge before it can be canceled. Tatsumaki Senpukyaku's long duration makes it susceptible to being interrupted by long-ranged attacks during use, and he can only use it once before landing (unless he is affected by hitstun). Ryu's falling speed, low jumps and very poor air acceleration causes his vertical recovery to suffer if he is constantly forced offstage at lower trajectories, which is exacerbated by Shoryuken's recovery being almost strictly vertical while also having very high aerial lag. As such, while Ryu has a manageable horizontal recovery, his vertical recovery is easy to predict and interrupt. Additionally, while Ryu excels at shield pressure, his grab game is otherwise poor. Aside from its high damage output and quick pummel, none of his throws have effective follow-up or KO potentials due to them having too much knockback to combo, and too little to secure stocks. Down throw is his only combo throw, but only at very low percents, while the unique mechanics of his other throws only work in doubles play (down throw instantly breaking shields, and up throw being capable of KOing bystanders).
Ryu's strong combo potential is also held back by his neutral game, with several factors making it difficult for him to find openings. His very slow walking speed hinders the otherwise great utility of his tilt attacks, and his overall range is very short despite his good frame data (especially in regard to his tapped tilts and neutral aerial), giving him trouble with characters who possess disjointed hitboxes, especially when including his tall stature. His only projectile, Hadoken, is very easily telegraphed and punishable due to its sluggishness and lag. Overall, these two issues force him to play patiently and take advantage of any openings, due to his difficulty with contending against opposing camping and inability to force approaches. Aside from the advantages granted by his neutral aerial and Focus Attack, Ryu's aerial approach is comparatively poor due to his fixed arc jumps, which forces him to commit with air attacks. Furthermore, the advantages offered by Focus Attack are match-up dependent; it is relatively ineffective against characters with several multiple hitting moves (most notably Meta Knight and Fox), with some characters being able to exploit it for a free hit (such as Shulk and Cloud with their up aerial and Cross Slash, respectively). As Focus Attack is also Ryu's main method of escaping combos against such characters, Ryu's high weight and rather quick falling speed leave him susceptible to some combos and juggles, and his slow fast-falling speed gives him occasional difficulty landing.
Notably, Ryu suffers from the inability to "force" KOs, as his KO potential relies heavily on stringing his aforementioned combo moves. While Ryu does possess some powerful moves, such as his sweetspotted forward smash and back aerial, those moves mostly require hard reads to land, while most of his other moves have low knockback scaling due to being tailored for combo use (a prime example being his forward aerial, which fails to KO well beyond 100% despite dealing as much as 15%). Ryu's great combo ability compensates for this and often makes it less of a necessity for him to KO early; regardless, without the proper use of reads, setups, a heavy knowledge of Ryu's moveset, or a lack of compensating for an opponent's SDI, Ryu can have a difficult time taking stocks from opponents due to his significant lack of moves that can KO without prior combos. Finally, the emphasis of using Ryu's unique button inputs cause his normal specials to have lower power without traditionally inputting them, and it is possible for a simple slip of the hand to use the wrong move at an essential time, most notoriously with him accidentally self-destructing while recovering.
Like other DLC characters, Ryu lacks custom moves, though due to the strengths his default special moveset possesses and the blanket ban of customs, this weakness is rather negligible when compared to the other DLC characters.
Overall, Ryu is a combo-oriented fighter with a fearsome offensive ability, due to his unique mechanics deliberately giving him the true combos necessary for many characters' competitive success; his ability to overwhelm opponents by trapping them in hitstun/shield pressure, multiple options to negate and escape combos, along with his dependable recovery all tie in to him being very rewarding and unpredictable, with his strengths overpowering his weaknesses. However, his polarized movement, mediocre vertical recovery, and lack of approach make him difficult to use optimally without mastering his options. Possibly his biggest issue is his notably high learning curve; much practice is generally required for his command specials in order to use them reliably and consistently rather than accidentally inputting the wrong move. Additionally, using the C-stick or other separate analog stick for tilts is arguably more essential to Ryu's optimal playstyle than to any other character, due to the dexterity required to pull off his command inputs during combos, making him more difficult to play using controllers that lack a second analog stick or on a first generation Nintendo 3DS system.
As a result of his high learning curve, Ryu's results run slightly cold compared to other characters regarded as highly. However, his strengths make him widely considered as a very effective character, with players such as Trela and Locus showcasing Ryu's potential to great effect.
Ryu has been buffed both directly and indirectly via game updates. Update 1.1.0 increased the length of his turn around animation, which allows for easier usage of his directional inputs without accidentally turning him around. The same update's changes to shield mechanics, alongside update 1.1.1's universal increase in shieldstun, also greatly helped Ryu's already impressive shield pressuring potential.
For a gallery of Ryu's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Ever since his release, Ryu has been considered a viable character, with the control input carryover from the Street Fighter series benefitting Ryu immensely. Early on, he received excellent tournament representation and results for his DLC status, namely from smashers like 9B, DJ Jack, Locus, Venom and, most notably, Trela. The nerfs to other top tier characters such as Diddy Kong and Sheik further contributed to his better status. Ryu's tier placement, however, was a great topic of debate due to his weaknesses, namely his trouble at approaching reliably, the buffs other characters had gained, and the release of Cloud, a DLC character that was seen as just as viable as him. Despite this, he was ranked 4th on the first 4BR tier list, becoming a top-tier character.
Ryu's results would continue to decline due to the release of Corrin and Bayonetta, the buffs to Mewtwo in game updates and the spike in popularity Cloud had gained. This caused some smashers to drop him and reduced his tournament results significantly, which in turn made him rank at 9th on the second tier list, and eventually 12th on the third tier list. Ryu's results would also become more unstable, hovering between mediocre due to Trela's temporary retirement, and above average due to Locus' rise as a top player. With Trela's comeback, however, and Venom's improved results, Ryu would rise slightly to 11th on the fourth and current tier list, now sharing the spot with Marth. Overall, while his strengths are larger than some other top-tiered characters, they are held back more than said characters by his more pronounced weaknesses and the dexterity to input his moves, and as such gives him a very high learning curve that has deterred his tournament results from being as great as they initially were.