Ryu (リュウ, Ryū) is a playable character and newcomer in Super Smash Bros. 4. As the fourth downloadable character announced, Ryu was revealed and released alongside veterans Lucas and Roy on June 14th, 2015. Ryu is the fourth of six playable third-party characters for the game, alongside Sega's Sonic and Bayonetta, Bandai Namco's Pac-Man, fellow Capcom representative Mega 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.
Ryu is currently ranked 12th out of 58 on the tier list, placing him in the A tier and making him the lowest ranking top-tier character. 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 made better by his multiple combo-breaking options such as Shoryuken, neutral air, and Focus Attack, all which have quick startup and make him surprisingly difficult to juggle, while the latter two also allow him to start damaging combos due to the good damage and speed of his moveset. His recovery is also resilient, as his entire special moveset grants him unpredictable ways to return to the stage. Finally, Ryu is exceedingly difficult to punish out of shield due to most of his moves having a hitlag multiplier of at least 1.8x.
However, Ryu's approach is problematic due to his overall below average mobility. Most notably, he carries over the "fixed arc" jumps from his series, giving him the slowest air acceleration in the game and making his aerial approaches 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, since none of his throws can combo (barring down throw until 30%) or KO reliably. His 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, unlike other highly ranked characters. Regardless, he has overall been very successful in competitive play, thanks to his extremely rewarding performance once mastered. However, despite his success and outstanding potential, Ryu's current ranking on the tier list is debatable. Though he has good tournament results from dedicated mains like Trela, Darkshad and Locus, the more consistent and frequent tournament success of characters formerly ranked below him, particularly Mewtwo, Bayonetta, and Marth, has caused his tier ranking to drop.
Ryu is an average sized heavyweight with below average mobility and recovery, but possesses a mix of combo-based moves and finishing moves with very high knockback. Apart from these, some of his traits are similar to Mario's, such as his dashing speed and the individual damage output of his attacks. This owes to the fact that Ryu, like Mario, is an "all-rounder" in his home series. Despite his balanced attributes, however, Ryu has low jumping force and the single slowest air acceleration in the game. This makes his aerial approach somewhat difficult, while his walking speed (the third slowest in the game) can make his grounded approach difficult outside of dashing.
Ryu's controls are unique in the Super Smash Bros. series and attempt to emulate the control scheme of his home series. The strength of his attacks depend on how long the attack button is pressed; tapping the button initiates a weak attack, whereas holding the button initiates a strong attack. Additionally, his neutral, side and up special moves can be inputted using half-circle and quarter-circle motions plus either attack button for stronger variations. Generally, his tapped tilts are good at chaining with one another due to their low knockback and high speed, which gives him a unique combo-based damage-racking playstyle. This works by keeping opponents in hitstun before launching them away by ending any combo chain with a finisher (typically a held tilt attack or inputted special move), similar to the combos in his home series. Additionally, almost all of Ryu's special attacks (sans Focus Attack) gain benefits from using his unique button inputs, as they do more damage and knockback or have additional effects when done with inputs compared to just with the special button, making mastery of his button inputs imperative if the player wishes to deal higher damage and knockback at all times, especially since they can also be used as a reliable finisher for his tilt combo chains. Effectively, this means Ryu is the only character to have true combos from almost any tilt, allowing him to immediately and effectively switch from damage racking to a finisher instantaneously.
However, Ryu has some weaknesses, one of which is his recovery. Despite being very long-distanced overall, it is very short if many extendable elements, such as Focus Attack and Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, are not utilized due to Shoryuken's recovery being almost strictly vertical while also having high aerial lag and thus completely stops his momentum until he is helpless. This property is exacerbated by his very slow air acceleration. While his specials offer him a decent horizontal recovery, his vertical recovery is largely reliant on Shoryuken, leaving him vulnerable to gimping and meteor smashes.
Ryu's neutral game is also held back by several issues. He has a very slow walking speed, which hinders the otherwise great utility of his tilt attacks. While his tapped tilts and neutral aerial are very quick and useful for pressuring shields, they have short range, especially for his tall stature. His only projectile, Hadoken, is slow, short-distanced, and laggy, making it telegraphed and punishable, and giving him a difficult time against opposing camping, and he has no real way of forcing approaches. Aside from the speed and combo ability of his neutral aerial and Focus Attack's mix-up potential, Ryu's aerial approach is comparatively poor. Despite having above average air speed, his aerial acceleration, which is the slowest in the game, prevents him from maneuvering effectively in midair. 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. As Focus Attack is also Ryu's main method of escaping combos against such characters, Ryu's high weight and rather fast falling speed leave him susceptible to combos and juggles, and unlike most other fighters, his fast falling speed increases his normal falling speed by 40%, rather than 60%, giving him occasional difficulty landing.
Ryu's grab game is mediocre at best, aside from its high damage output and quick pummel. Due to its high knockback scaling, down throw has poor combo potential past lower percents. His other throws have high base knockback, giving them little to no follow-up potential, while their weak knockback scaling makes them unreliable for KOing. Another weakness Ryu has is the inability to "force" KOs. While Ryu does possess some powerful moves such as his sweetspotted forward smash and his input Shoryuken, those moves mostly require setups, and most of his other moves have low knockback scaling, such as his forward aerial, which KOs well beyond 100% despite dealing as much as 15%. Without reads or proper setup and with opponent's great SDI, Ryu can have a difficult time taking stocks from opponents. His unique button inputs can be a double-edged sword, as his normal specials have lower power without traditionally inputting them and it is possible for a simple slip of the hand to cause Ryu to use the wrong move at an essential time. Ryu's combos can also be hard to start outside of reads, precise punishing, or Focus Attack. Finally, like other DLC characters, Ryu lacks custom moves, though due to the strengths his default special moveset posseses, this weakness is pretty small overall when compared to the other DLC characters.
Hence, Ryu's moveset rewards players who know how to reliably use his special inputs and chain them together, and he excels at grounded combos that overwhelm opponents with quick, low knockback attacks that can be mixed up with his multiple special moves. Overall, Ryu's strengths overpower his weaknesses, as his unique mechanics deliberately give him the true combos necessary for many characters' competitive success. Despite this, his learning curve is very high; much practice is generally required for his command specials in order to use them reliably and consistently rather than accidentally inputting the wrong move, such as self-destructing with Tatsumaki Senpukyaku when Shakunetsu Hadoken was intended. 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 for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. As a result, Ryu has few strong results in competitive play when compared to other well-regarded characters, though his tournament representation still remains strong, having the third highest representation among the DLC characters, while possibly being tied with Cloud for the second best results of any DLC character, and he is regarded as a very viable character.
Ryu has hardly changed at all since his debut in update 1.0.8, but has indirectly benefited from the games' general changes overall. Update 1.1.0 only increased the length of his turn around animation, allowing the player to more easily use his directional inputs without accidentally turning him around. However, the same update's changes to shield mechanics and update 1.1.1's universal increase in shieldstun have greatly helped Ryu by enhancing his combo game as well as Collarbone Breaker and Focus Attack's shield breaking capabilities.
Oddly, Ryu's up and side taunts have their voice clips swapped from Street Fighter IV. In said game, Ryu also does not turn around while adjusting his headband.
In competitive play
Tier placement and history
Ever since his release, Ryu has been considered a very viable character. The control input carryover from the Street Fighter series benefitted Ryu immensely, giving him excellent combo potential on his attacks out of grounded, repeated weak moves, while also giving him improved versions of three of his special attcks, namely his Shoryuken becoming a fearsome KO option at relatively low percentages. This gave him excellent tournament representation and results for his DLC status, namely from smashers like 9B, DJ Jack, 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 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 and current tier list. Ryu's strengths, while larger than some other top-tiered characters, are held back more than said characters by his weaknesses and very high learning curve and the dexterity to input his moves, and as such has deterred his tournament results from being as great as they initially were.
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