Announced at E3 2001, Sheik (シーク, Sheik) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. She transforms from Zelda by using her down special move (Transform), and can transform back. By holding the "A" button at the stage loading screen, Zelda will automatically transform into Sheik at the start of a match.
Jun Mizusawa reprises her role as Sheik from Ocarina of Time in the game.
Sheik currently ranks 5th on the tier list, in the top of A tier. One of Sheik's greatest strengths is her formidable punish game. Sheik's down throw is one of the best combo starters in Melee, as it can chaingrab many middleweight characters and create tech chases on fastfallers. Her forward tilt, dash attack, and down smash are all excellent at racking up damage, and multiple down throw chain grabs or tech chases can quickly apply high amounts of damage against opponents. Sheik possesses a fast dashing speed and great frame data on her attacks, with many extended hitboxes on moves such as her down smash, up tilt, and back aerial, which make her extremely difficult to break through defensively. Sheik's attacks also have great reach, especially her forward aerial, back aerial, forward tilt, and down smash. Sheik also possesses great finishing moves, including her up aerial, back aerial, and forward aerial, and her down throw, forward tilt and dash attack can all easily set up into one of her KO moves. Her forward aerial is notorious as one of the deadliest edgeguarding tools in the game, as it sends opponents at a horizontal angle that is extremely hard for many characters to recover from.
Sheik's primary weakness, however, is her short and heavily exploitable recovery. Her primary recovery move, Vanish, travels an extremely short distance and lacks a hitbox when she reappears, providing her with virtually zero protection as she returns to the stage, and Sheik receives a large amount of landing lag upon landing on the stage. As a result, her recovery is easily edgehogged, and if she lands on the stage, her opponents can freely land a large hit on her. If Sheik is forced to recover with her up special on stage, skilled opponents can continuously hit her back offstage and repeat until she gets KOed or self-destructs. Sheik also has difficulty dealing with crouch canceling, as none of her moves besides a grab can break through crouch canceling at low percents. Combined with her slow horizontal air speed, this limits her ability to find openings in the neutral game, especially against characters such as Jigglypuff and the Ice Climbers. Sheik's punish game can also be unreliable, especially against fastfallers, because her down throw tech chase requires her to correctly predict her opponent's actions, which can limit her damage output if she incorrectly reads the opponents' tech patterns. This is especially so in the PAL version of Melee, as her down throw sends opponents diagonally rather than vertically, making it even more difficult for Sheik to land a strong punish in this version of the game.
Sheik is a very agile fighter, possessing a fast dash, high falling speed, good jumping prowess, and very quick, combo-friendly attacks. While only a small portion of her moveset can reliably KO to compensate for her speed, such options are very reliable combo finishers at most percentages, greatly offsetting her power loss. Sheik, however, has poor air speed (tied for 5th worst among the cast) and a rather high short hop. As a result of having high traction and a high falling speed, Sheik has a rather short, but fast, wavedash.
Sheik's main strength is her edgeguarding ability, which is among the best in the game. While she lacks a spike like Marth, or even a meteor smash, Sheik's good jumping prowess and fast, powerful aerials give her amazing options off the edge. Sheik's forward aerial is among the most feared in the game, due to its fast startup, high knockback scaling, semi-spike angle, and its ability to autocancel itself if used correctly, and is her main pressuring and edgeguarding tool, while also being an outstanding combo finisher. Her back aerial is slightly weaker (but still very powerful if sweetspotted) with a more diagonal angle, but has more reach and is safer to use, allowing for it to be used as a potent edgeguarding option as well. Sheik also has one of the best projectiles in the game, Needle Storm, which aids in her edgeguarding; the needles are quick to charge, can travel quickly when thrown, and can cut through or stop most other projectiles in the game, allowing Sheik to neutralize projectiles from characters who rely on them to cover their recovery, such as Samus. Needles also have high hitstun and low knockback, making them excellent for intercepting recoveries, especially more linear options such as Fire Fox. In addition, Needles travel in a diagonal downward path when thrown from the air, presenting the edgeguarder with more options. Sheik also has the means to force edgeguarding situations very easily, possessing a back throw that sets up edgeguards on fastfallers, and the speed to effectively corner opponents once they're close to the ledge.
Sheik is also notable for having among the best punishing abilities in the game. Her tilts, dash attack, and up smash all come out quickly and all send the opponents straight into the air, giving Sheik guaranteed aerial followup options, especially at lower percentages. Aside from the aforementioned forward and back aerials, Sheik's other aerials also possess amazing utility for punishing, despite her low air speed. Her neutral aerial is a quick sex kick that serves as a potent out of shield option that can dispel the opponent's shield pressure; her up aerial is a combo extender at lower percentages that can reliably KO at higher percentages, especially near the ceiling; her down aerial, while possessing the slowest startup out of all of her aerials, sends opponents upwards with a great deal of hitstun, allowing followups into her aforementioned up, back, or forward aerials, or even a sweetspotted up smash. Due to their low lag and high power, most are of relatively low-risk to use off the edge. Sheik's aforementioned Needle Storm also aids in her punishing game; when used in midair, the needles travel diagonally downwards, allowing them to hit grounded opponents. Due to the fact that Needle Storm has no landing lag after being used in midair, Sheik can use the hitstun or shield stun from her needles to immediately grab or attack the opponent upon landing. This is further compounded (in NTSC only) with Sheik's excellent down throw, which boasts a chain grab on many characters in the game at lower to mid-percentages, including Pikachu and Link, and sets up tech chasing situations on fastfallers such as Fox, Falco, and Falcon. Skilled Sheik players can convert a single down throw into potential stock losses for the foe by utilizing either chain grabbing or tech-chasing until the opponent is at combo-friendly percentages, where they will use Sheik's launching options to begin nearly inescapable combos that result in a KO or a fatal edgeguarding situation.
Sheik's neutral game, however, is merely average at best, especially compared with other top tiers. Due to her high short hop, Sheik suffers from a poor SHFFL, which impairs some elements of her aerial approach. Sheik also possesses a short dash-dance, forcing her to rely on her short wavedash to adjust her spacing. While Needle Storm has no landing lag when used in midair, it does have significant ending lag when used on the ground; however, Sheik's needles will only travel straight if she throws them while grounded, impairing her ability to approach with her projectile from afar. Sheik usually struggles in approaching opponents who are at low percent, as they can use crouch cancelling to make her tilts, dash attack, jab and aerials unsafe, forcing her to rely on grabs or her downsmash. Sheik also lacks universal disjoint, causing her to have a very small and concentrated "threat zone" where she can create openings by threatening the opponent with a forward aerial, her tilts, or an aerial Needle Storm into a grab. As such, high-level Sheik players will often look for openings to close distance and go into that "threat zone," a spacing where Sheik can threaten the opponent with her outstanding punish game. This is easier to do against characters with even worse neutral games, particularly low- and bottom-tier characters, as they lack the means to zone Sheik out of that ideal area. However, other top-tier characters have the tools to keep Sheik out, whether it be through projectiles or disjoint, and can similarly harshly punish Sheik if she unsafely attempts to close this distance.
One of Sheik's more universal weaknesses is her exploitable recovery. Despite her high midair jump and fast aerial attacks that can aggravate edgeguarders, Vanish does not give significant vertical or horizontal distance, and when she reappears, there is no offensive hitbox, allowing easy edgeguarding. Additionally, Sheik is horizontally locked after performing Vanish, disallowing her from drifting back to the stage from afar. In some situations where Sheik cannot recover at all, Sheik may be forced to utilize Transform and use Zelda's superior recovery to try and safely get back onstage and retransform. If Zelda does not quickly retransform back, the opponent can send her back offstage and repeat the cycle or even outright KO her. A common strategy is to DI upwards and use Zelda's superior air speed and lower falling speed to drift back to stage, or in worst case scenarios, use Farore's Wind to recover. Further compounding these recovery flaws are Sheik's fast falling speed and low air. Sheik can wall jump, but its use is situational, dependent on the stage, and is shorter than most others due to Sheik's fast falling speed. Sheik's low air speed compounded with her fast falling speed also makes her very easy to combo herself, especially against characters with reliable launching throws or attacks such as Marth, Falco, and Jigglypuff.
Overall, Sheik is a versatile character with the tools to combat every fighter in Melee. She is a very punish- and control-based character, relying on her excellent comboing abilities to rack up damage and force edgeguarding situations where she can intercept the foe for quick edgeguarding KOs. However, against most other top tiers, Sheik must play with the utmost caution and precision to create those same openings and succeed.
Like other characters, Sheik has received some changes in the PAL version of Melee, which nerfed her overall. This is due primarily to the changes to her down throw, which caused Sheik to lose her chaingrab, some tech-chasing options, and several KO setups. Along with the nerfs to her finishers, Sheik generally has a much harder time KOing characters that she had no trouble KOing in the NTSC version, such as Peach and Marth, resulting in much poorer matchups against them.
For a gallery of Sheik's hitboxes, see here.
In competitive play
Most historically significant players
Tier placement and history
Sheik has always been a high/top tier character, as her amazing neutral state, combo game, and advantage state has led her seeing widespread use in all levels of play. For the first five years of the Melee metagame, Sheik was considered the best character in the game, ranking at the top of every tier list up until the eighth (July 2006). Her chain throwing ability was considered especially powerful in the early metagame, and her ease of use allowed Sheik mains to succeed consistently, especially since counterplay to her options had not yet been popularized. In fact, at some points, players believed Sheik was so good that they contemplated banning her, although such a ban was never carried out. However, over time, competitive players slowly adapted to Sheik's weaknesses, leading to growing matchup problems that would still be present in the modern metagame.
Sheik's dominance as a character was faltered with the discovery of the incredible potential of Fox and Falco. With these characters now perceived as having much higher skill caps while still being good against relevant top tiers, they took the top two spots while Sheik dropped to third place. With these developments in place and the growing skill of the playerbase, players soon found that Fox had an advantage over Sheik, as did the Ice Climbers, both of which were growing in prevalence in the metagame. Soon after, Mango and Hungrybox would take Jigglypuff to the next level, and reveal that it, too, was a very poor matchup for Sheik and possibly her worst. With three bad matchups and the meta being more adapted against its strengths, Sheik was no longer considered even a contender for the best in the game.
Other top-tiered characters started improving their Sheik matchups as well (most notably Marth and Peach), causing less of an incentive for players to pick up Sheik just to deal with those characters. Due to this, and opinions on Marth improving further due to his better matchups against Fox and Falco, Sheik dropped to 4th in the twelfth tier list, and further to 5th on the thirteenth and current tier list due to the rise of Jigglypuff. Although she has fallen from dominance, with some even arguing that she should be lower, Sheik remains one of the best and most consistent characters in the game. Players such as Plup and Swedish Delight continue to push her capabilities, incorporating shield dropping and more robust platform movement to keep up with the evolving metagame.
Like several other characters who would coincidentally become known to be top-tiered, Sheik was nerfed in the PAL version of Melee. Her up aerial was weakened, making it more of a juggling move than a KO move, and her down throw, which boasted a chaingrab on much of the cast in NTSC and gave Sheik follow-up options, now has a much more horizontal launch angle, removing those guaranteed chaingrabs and follow-ups. These changes make some of Sheik's winning matchups in NTSC much harder. For example, in NTSC, Sheik could KO Marth, Peach, and sometimes Jigglypuff reliably with down throw to forward or up aerial. In PAL, however, not only does down throw send those characters too far at KO percentages, up aerial is no longer a reliable KO move until much higher percents. Sheik must, however, still deal with Marth's range and more effective neutral game and Peach's edgeguarding and Vegetable projectiles.
Despite these nerfs, there were initially more Sheik professionals in PAL regions than in NTSC regions, namely Amsah, Aniolas, and others. Due to Sheik's nerfs, they adopted an even more defensive playstyle using primarily Needle Storm and forward aerial camping to find openings. These PAL Sheik players were very successful at that stage of the metagame, even moreso than NTSC Sheik players, arguably because they developed stronger fundamentals (with less of a reliance on grabs) to overcome their more difficult punish game. For nearly 5 years (March 2010 - March 2015), Sheik was ranked 2nd on the PAL tier list, higher than she was in NTSC during that time span. However, Sheik's shortcomings over other top-tiered characters became increasingly prevalent as the technical ceiling of Melee increased, and she is now ranked 5th on the PAL tier list instead. However, she still retains her powerful air game, punish game, and excellent combo ability despite her down throw nerf.
In single-player modes
In Classic Mode
Sheik herself can only be fought if the opponent is Zelda; animations left on the disc, however, suggest that she could have immediately began matches against the player, instead of having to wait for Zelda to transform.
In Adventure Mode
Sheik's sole appearance in the Adventure Mode is in the second portion of Stage 3, the Underground Maze. The player has to fight against Zelda on the Temple stage; Sheik can be fought if Zelda transforms.
In All-Star Mode
In All-Star Mode, Zelda/Sheik and her allies are fought on the Temple stage.
In Event Matches
Sheik is featured in the following event matches:
Sheik and Zelda share ending images for the one-player modes, as well as the same cinematic; clearing the mode with one also gives the player both of their trophies.
This is Zelda's alter ego. Using a variation of the name of the ancient Sheikah tribe, she appears before Link and teaches him melodies instrumental to his success. It's believed that she's not just a quick-change artist, but rather that she is able to instantaneously alter her clothing and her eye and skin color by using her magical skills.
Strategically switching between Zelda and Sheik is key. Compared to her Zelda form, Sheik is nimble and has gorgeous moves, but she lacks a strong knockout attack. The number of needles thrown in Needle Storm is based on how long you hold the B Button before releasing it. Use the Control Stick to wave the Chain after brandishing it.
The best strategy to use when playing as Sheik is to let her flow from one powerful attack into another, like a river of quicksilver. Zelda has some techniques with more punch, however, so in one-on-one battles, use Transform as needed. Sheik only travels a short way when using Vanish, but the move comes with a small explosion that damages foes around her.