Stock is the term the Super Smash Bros. series uses to describe what many other games call lives. In the Solo modes, such as Classic Mode, using up all the players' stocks brings them to the Game Over screen, where they may be offered the option to Continue at a price. In Versus Mode, it describes the mode won on the basis of which player is KO'd the fewest number of times, either up to a maximum number or to a time limit.
In single-player modes
Players can choose to begin with between one and five stocks, with three as the default number. This cannot be increased after starting and before quitting or receiving a "Game Over", although the player's damage percentage resets between matches as well as after using up a stock. Stocks remaining are displayed as small icons — icons of their character's face (in SSB, Melee, SSB4 and SSBU) or dots (in Brawl) at the bottom of the screen above the damage percentage. When a player is KO'd, they lose a stock. If the player can complete the mode without losing a single stock, they will receive a bonus, whose value varies depending on the game.
When the player uses up all of their stocks, the game gives them the option to Continue. If the player chooses "No", then the game ends, and the player is sent back to the Character Select screen. If the player chooses "Yes", then the game restarts at the stage that they were defeated in. However, the player's score is cut in half, and in Melee and Brawl, the player must pay a small compensation price with coins they have collected; if the player cannot pay the price, they cannot continue. The amount varies on the difficulty; higher difficulties require more coins. Additionally, in all three games, the player is given a significant point deduction of 20,000 points for continuing (but this deduction only applies once, regardless of the number of continues used).
In SSB4's Classic Mode, players have two stocks in every match, regardless of whether or not they lost stocks in the previous match. Losing both stocks brings up the Continue Screen. Continuing or not costs some of the items that player had gained up to that point, and continuing automatically reduces the Intensity by .5 (the player has no choice in the matter) and their Global Smash Power. As such, the player must clear the game without continuing to win at Intensity 9.0.
In SSBU's Classic Mode, players have only one stock in every match, unlike the previous installments. However, choosing to Continue after losing that stock will respawn the player back into the middle of the match they lost their stock in, rather than starting the match over again as in previous games.
Each player has only one stock to complete the entire mode, with their damage percentage carrying over between matches, although they can use up to three (Melee and Brawl) or two (SSB4) Heart Containers, and in SSB4, one Maxim Tomato and Fairy Bottle, each of which lie in the All-Star Rest Area, to help maintain their single stock.
Continues function the same way in this mode as they do in Classic Mode.
In SSB4, players cannot continue in All-Star Mode. Losing their one stock automatically makes a Game Over.
Adventure Mode (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
The player can choose their number of stocks (one to five only), similar to Classic Mode.
Continues also function the same way in this mode as in Classic Mode and All-Star Mode.
The Subspace Emissary (Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
Players are assigned a set number of stocks to complete a level, which they can supplement by finding Stock Balls. This does not carry over between levels.
Stock count is displayed on the left-hand side of the screen, as a head icon of each character remaining in their current party. In the event of the player holding more stocks than their current party size, the headshots are supplemented by Smash Bros. icons and the order of play repeats (i.e., a player with five stocks and a party consisting of, in order, Mario, Link, Samus and Donkey Kong would automatically use Mario again on their fifth stock.) This can only occur if the player has fewer characters available to choose from for their party than the number of stocks for the level or if they pick up a Stock Ball during it - players cannot choose one character to be placed in two spots in the order. If a second player enters a game in progress, they use up one of the available stocks and take the next character in the sequence - this means that if player 1 has no spare stocks, the second player cannot join.
When a player reaches a cutscene and is at the point where the player can select what characters to play as in their party, their stock is reset to the default number. After the level is completed, replays do not play these cut scenes, which can significantly reduce the number of stocks a player has to complete the level and thus substantially increases the difficulty of replaying long levels such as The Subspace Bomb Factory II.
In the event of a player losing all their stocks, they are sent to the Continue screen.
Crazy Orders (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U)
Crazy Orders functions similarly to SSB4's All-Star Mode, in that players only have one stock during the mode, and lose without a chance to continue should they get KO'd. However, their damage is automatically reduced by 30% of their total after each match, and in the last fight with Crazy Hand, their damage percentage is converted to hit points and will be added to a base stamina of 150 HP for a Stamina battle.
Spirits (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate)
In World of Light and Spirit Board, players have only one stock per battle. If they lose this stock in World of Light, they are sent to the Continue screen; if they lose in Spirit Board, they are sent back to the Target List.
The only exception to this rule is the final level of World of Light, where players are given three stocks. Much like The Subspace Emissary, each stock represents a character of the player's choosing; if one character is KO'd, then the next character will spawn in. The final level has three sections; between each section, if the player has two or fewer stocks, then they will regain a stock for the least recent character to be KO'd.
The amount of stock given to the player varies from event to event; they are displayed in the same way as Classic Mode.
The Stadium encompasses the following modes, which vary in the amount of stock given.
This mode grants the player only one stock.
Home-Run Contest does not use stocks, as it's almost impossible to be KO'd in this mode.
All versions of Multi-Man Melee in Melee, Brawl, and Smash 4 have the player use only one stock.
Like in All-Star Mode, the player gets only one stock and it has to last the entire game. Damage still carries over between matches and gives the player Heart Containers to use in the Rest Area (three in solo; six in co-op mode), but the player cannot continue if they get KO'd.
This mode grants the player one stock for each round; if the bomb is not launched by the time its fuse runs out, the bomb deals a one-hit KO to any characters in its blast radius, though the player technically is never actually KO'd — only the "Deadly Blow" effect shows up.
Training mode does not use stocks, as the mode operates via a never-ending Time match.
In versus modes
Stock is a mode that is playable in Versus mode in all five games. It can be chosen from one to ninety-nine lives. In this, the game acts as a "last man standing" game, where a player/team wins once all the other players/teams have lost all of their stocks and the announcer calls out "GAME!" ("GAME SET." in the original game, as well as the Japanese and Korean versions of all games and the Chinese versions of Ultimate). When "GAME!" appears onscreen, it has a different color: blue (Smash 64), crimson (Melee), and green (Brawl, Smash 4, and Ultimate). If a time limit is set in addition, then the player/team who has the most stocks remaining when "TIME!" is called wins. Players tied for the most remaining stocks go to Sudden Death to break the tie. However, in most major tournaments, a Sudden Death tiebreaker is normally ignored, and in that case, the player who ended with the lowest damage percentage wins, with other pre-determined tie-breaking methods used if there is a tie both for stocks and damage percentage at the end of the match. As with all modes, a player who has lost all their stocks cannot participate in the match; they may only watch. However, it is possible to share stock, allowing fallen teammates to take stocks from an active team member should they have at least one extra in reserve. While time mode is the default setting of the game, in tournaments and most serious matches, the mode is set to stock match due to the orderly, set fashion that it creates (though a time limit, usually of eight to ten minutes, is used to prevent a player from camping infinitely, and encourages players to approach). The standard number of stocks that are set in tournament matches are five for Smash 64, four for Melee, three for Brawl and Ultimate, and two for Smash 4. The number of stocks is due to gameplay differences between the three games; Smash 64 has many ways for players to create 0-death combos with nearly every character in the game; Melee, while not as combo-heavy as the original due to reduced hitstun and the introduction of directional influence, is generally faster-paced, resulting in a shorter amount of time for players in these two games to be KOed; and in Brawl, KOs occur more slowly due to the lack of true combos at higher percents and generally slower movement speed. In fact, the slower pace of Brawl can be so taxing on the players and spectators that some Brawl tournaments use a format for one stock, three-minute matches, as a rarely seen "tiebreaker" match would normally be in other formats. In a one-on-one match in Ultimate, the current stock count briefly appears onscreen when a fighter loses a stock.
In the Smash community, there are terms used to describe the margin of victory a player wins by. The term "X-stocked the opponent" is used to describe the number of stocks a winner ended a match with, where X is the number of stocks the winning player has. For example, a two-stock victory means that the victor defeated their opponent with two stocks remaining at the end of a match. Sometimes the term is applied over multiple matches, such as "8 stock" referring to two consecutive four-stock matches.
The term "JV" refers to winning with a fresh stock with zero opponent-inflicted damage; for example, a "JV two-stock" means the victor defeated their opponent with one stock remaining and not having been damaged by the opponent in any way, referencing that the winner was only one hit away from a two-stock. This is often used for varying levels of bragging rights for skill. For example, (JV) three-stocking an opponent shows a greater difference of skill than if the player "merely" two-stocked them. Furthermore, a "JV five/four-stock" (winning with all four/three stocks remaining without taking any damage in Melee and Brawl, respectively) is considered a perfect game, and successfully performing one shows an extreme difference in skill level or incredible ability of the winner to perfectly read the loser's actions, as the loser failed to land even a single hit on the opponent. The term "JV" was coined by and named after Jv3x3 and was popularized by Ken, who would often yell the phrase at tournaments, such as Super Champ Combo.
A variation of "JV" is the "Freshman", where a player wins with 40% damage or less on their current stock. For example, if a player has three stocks remaining, but has 30% damage on their character, it is considered a "Freshman four-stock".