Character Archetype is the defining term for a character's general strategy and gameplay style. In fighting games, it is common to see certain recurring archetypes that compose and evolve the metagame.
Archetypes are universal: they can be applied to nearly every kind of game, be traditional board games, sports games, among others. The purpose is to inform the player what type of opponent they might encounter, and how to apply a plan of attack against said archetype.
There are three categories of archetypes: offensive, defensive and flexible. Those, in turn, have different variations to specific kinds of strategy, and because of that, characters can fit into more than one archetype due to their mindgames and gameplay style.
Offensive characters are the ones with better tools for approaching and chasing down opponents. They usually attack relentlessly without giving any breathing room.
Also known as Balanced, they are usually easy to learn, with very balanced stats overall, being good at everything. Usually have both short range and long range attacks, as well as reliable KO moves, as well not having any major weaknesses. Because of that, however, they are usually the "jack of all trades, master of none" archetype, in that they don't really excel in anything, but are prepared for everything. With that in mind they can do very well in both offensive and defensive play. Examples: Mario, Yoshi, Pit/Dark Pit, Ryu, Mr. Game & Watch.
Fast characters that specialize in close range combat and combos/juggling. Purely offensive, sometimes with no projectiles, but even if they use some long range attacks, they're always on the offense. Many of them are fast-fallers with good aerial speed. Examples: Fox, Sheik, Wolf.
Characters that focus on close-range combat, usually to exploit openings and weaknesses on their enemies quickly. Characters with this archetype tend to overwhelm their opponent and punish them with high damage combos, leaving no room for reactions. Examples: Pikachu, Peach, Roy, Kirby.
Hit & Run
Fast melee characters that excel on getting in and out of their opponent range. While they might not have many powerful attacks, with the few they have requiring good precision, they are quick enough to keep their distance and approach as fast as they retreat, punishing the mistake of their opponents. Examples: Captain Falcon, Greninja, Wii Fit Trainer, Bowser.
Perform best at close range, with versatile movesets based on tactics and mind games to exploit their opponent's weaknesses. They sometimes have mid to long range projectiles that allow them to zone well, and are generally more well balanced than Pressure characters. However, they are not balanced to the extent that All-Rounder characters are, since they usually can't play defensively, and have much more obvious/exploitable weaknesses. Examples: Falco, Lucas, Rosalina & Luma and Diddy Kong.
These characters are formidable combatants as they have a bit of everything, combining Rushdown, Pressurer, Hit & Run and Mix-Up tactics. They can quickly disrupt opponents with their high speed and combos, completely dominating the battlefield while maintaining a safe approach. Examples: Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, Sephiroth, Sora.
These characters are similar to Rushdown and Pressure characters, but with very high power. They have very formidable speed, but also a damage output that rivals even powerhouses. They tend to have very high exploitable weaknesses, though, but are different from Glass Cannons as they do not suffer from low defenses. Examples: Roy, Cloud.
These characters excel at close range ground combat, having superior priority and/or speed on their attacks while on ground. They tend to be less combo oriented than Rushdown characters, but boast from superior attack power. Examples: Ike, Little Mac, Greninja, Ryu.
Also known as lightweights, These characters have some of the most powerful attacks in the game, but at the expense of having very low defensive capabilities. They can dish out damage very fast and often have superior range. However, aside from lower defenses, they also usually have some kind of heavily exploitable weakness, such as slow attack speed, short range attacks, and/or low priority, being easily outmatched by characters that can outperform them. Examples: Zelda, Mewtwo, Mr. Game & Watch, Pyra/Mythra.
Also known as Puppeteer, these characters are basically two entities in one form or another. Mastering them is usually a very daunting, yet rewarding task. Generally suffer from low defenses, but make up for it by having devastating freestyle strings. Examples: Ice Climbers, Rosalina & Luma.
Traditional Fighting Game Character
The opposite of offensive characters, defensive characters usually avoid their opponents and bait them into setups to exploit their weaknesses from a distance before delivering a punishing blow.
They focus on controlling the stage, mostly with tools and projectiles that outrange opponents. They sometimes lack speed and power to fight, focusing on wearing down opponents from a distance. Examples: Samus/Dark Samus, Link, King Dedede, Villager, Duck Hunt, Min Min.
Bait & Punish
These characters are usually good with multiple or all moves that pressure their opponents and manipulate their behavior, allowing them to punish mistakes effectively. They also have the tools for close range combat in order to take them down. On the other hand, they can be purely melee oriented characters that use their superior speed and/or power to create openings and exploit opponents. These characters usually face towards opponents and get close in order to deal heavy amounts of damage.
Certain Mix-Up characters can also fall under here, as they also rely heavily on mind-games. Most of them, however, tend to favor an offensive fighting style over a defensive one. Examples: Bowser Jr., Captain Falcon, Wario, Steve and Diddy Kong.
A combination of Zoners with some Bait & Punish tactics. These characters are utterly defensive, tending to avoid opponents and lure them with traps that apply a lot of pressure. They tend to have a lot of indirect options to constantly keep their opponents on their toes. They differ from Zoners in that they can attack while facing away and evading their opponents. They also excel in multi-tasking, usually stringing combos with their traps and their close range moves. They are considered much more difficult to use than Zoners as they rely heavily on using a lot of pressure and mind-games. Examples: Pac-Man, Robin and Snake.
Most of the time these are also Zoners, being super defensive characters that focus on wearing their opponents down completely by hitting them from afar or with indirect moves. They can also be Hit & Run characters in the fashion that they poke opponents with projectiles while keeping a safe distance. Some of these characters usually don't perform well at close range, but tend to have fast melee attacks. Examples: Link, Samus, Villager, Isabelle, Palutena.
Those can be considered the Hit & Run of the defensive category, but with some traits from Zoners. They excel in getting in and out of the opponent's space, not excelling in damage, but being very "annoying." They excel at keeping opponents at bay without letting them react. Examples: Samus, Sonic.
These can be considered a combination of Turtle, Zoner and Trapper. They excel at keeping opponents at bay by having a variety of long range attacks to adapt to every single situation and cover all their weak points, slowly building a barrage of projectiles that prevent opponents from approaching. Examples: Duck Hunt, Mega Man, Snake.
These characters use their grabs as a large part of their play style, with many also being Bait & Punish specialists. There are no true grapplers in Smash Bros. due to its gameplay aspects differing from most fighting games. Instead, all characters that have heavy focus on throws are considered Half-Grapplers. These characters are usually forced into defensive play because of their slow speed, large size and/or inferior jumps, but make up for it with very powerful moves, and very little hit-stun. They essentially wait for their opponents to get in close to punish them for it. Examples: Incineroar, Donkey Kong, Luigi.
Alternatively, Half-Grapplers can also be fast characters that not only have many setups and combos from grabs, but also good variety of moves to mix up their play; they're actually more offensive than defensive. While being quite agile, they lack the speed to be Rushdown characters, and the long-range to be All-Rounders or Mix-Up. Examples: Luigi, Ness.
These characters can easily alternate between offensive and defensive gameplay as the situation demands. These characters tend to not incline towards solid offence or defense, so this can be considered a sub-category. This category also includes archetypes that are unique to a single character or that only fits in Smash Bros.
These characters are known for having a unique quirk or ability that affects their play strategy directly. These are characters that rely on power ups, such as needing to charge a meter in order to use their stronger attacks, or special stances that increases their parameters. They may have access to a variety of tools that allow them to effectively change their attributes. Examples: Olimar, Shulk, Cloud, Inkling, Joker and Hero.
These characters rely on specific sweetspots in order to deal their full damage, or have attacks that requires pinpoint accuracy. If they hit with their sourspots, the attack power tends to be vastly inferior. Examples: Marth, Zelda, Ridley, Roy and Mr. Game and Watch.