In relative terms, a counter is a character that can be used with reasonable success and/or ease against another character. Matchups are typically measured in a ratio to determine counters.
A counter or hard counter is a character that holds a strong advantage against another. It is always used in relative terms - in Melee, for instance, Peach is often said to be a hard counter to Ice Climbers; Peach counters the Ice Climbers. Another example in Brawl is that Ice Climbers is a hard counter to Ganondorf. A hard counter usually has some element, such as an infinite or "zero-death" (from zero damage to death) chain grab, an especially high imbalance in attack priority, or inability for the countered character to approach effectively, that makes the match extremely difficult for the countered character. A hard counter is usually considered to be a matchup that is 35-65 or worse.
More examples of hard counters in all SSB games
- In Smash 64, DK and Luigi hard counter Jigglypuff and Kirby hard counters Yoshi. DK can cargo release and then regrab into a giant punch at 0% to kill while Luigi kills Jigglypuff with an up b as low as 30%. Kirby's up tilt goes through all of Yoshi's moves preventing Yoshi from approaching. A bunch of characters hard counter Samus and Link and no one hard counters Fox, Kirby or Pikachu. Most hard counters are due to range in Smash 64 or the easiness of one character to "zero to death" another one.
- In Melee, Kirby is hard countered by Fox and Marth hard counters Luigi. Kirby's light weight allows Fox to kill incredibly quickly while Luigi struggles approaching characters with priority and high range. Sheik, due to chain grabs, also hard counters various characters. Hard counters in Melee vary from range to priority to approach.
- In Brawl, Pikachu hard counters Fox due to a "zero to death" chain grab and a majority of characters hard counter Ganondorf and Falcon. One of the overall worst matchups in any smash game is Ice Climbers vs Ganondorf, usually considered to be 90-10 as Ganondorf does not have enough range to not be shield grabbed and be "zero to death'd". Most hard counters in brawl are due to chain grabs, as there are a bunch of characters who do not have the range in order to not get grabbed.
A soft counter indicates a match-up that favors one character noticeably, but only slightly. It also sometimes indicates an even match-up between two characters far away from each other on the tier list - in Melee, for instance, Donkey Kong can be said to counter or soft counter Fox in Melee, though the match-up is generally considered about even. In Brawl, Meta Knight is said to be a soft counter to Snake, but the match is generally accepted as even. A soft counter tends to fare better, usually through an advantage that can't be capitalized on as easily. In terms of numbers, soft counters are usually 55-45 or 60-40 matchups. These matchups also tend to change per stage. As with the Meta Knight vs Snake matchup, it is routinely said that Snake has an advantage on Halberd due to its low ceiling. Or in soft counter matchups regarding Marth, most of these matchups become slightly more favored on Battlefield. Most soft counters are defined as being soft counters on the neutrals, as there is a slightly advantageous chance for one character to win on the neutrals.
Players often switch to a counter when counterpicking.
Examples of soft counters in all 3 Smash games
- The majority of matchups in Smash 64 are soft counters outside the examples said above. This is due to the easiness of "zero to deaths" in Smash 64 and the equally high priority moves of basically all characters outside of Pikachu, who is said to have multiple hard counters, and Samus, who is said to counter no one.
- Most of the higher tier vs mid tier matchups in Melee are soft counters.
- In Brawl, soft counters tend to change per stage. King Dedede is usually said to soft counter Snake, but this may change on stages where Snake can escape chain grabs easier.