Fighting face-to-face in Smash isn’t for everyone. Some would rather stay far away and launch lazers, fruit, and ballistic missiles at their foes. This tactic is called “zoning.” Many consider it a nuisance, but we all have to learn to deal with this strategy at some point. Others embrace zoner life and cater their character choices to the playstyle.
For those wanting to adopt their far out ways, here are the five best zoners in Ultimate.
Palutena is arguably the most well-rounded character in Ultimate. Her exceptional range helps control the pace and spacing in nearly any matchup. Explosive Flame (Side B) is perhaps the game’s most infamous projectile. With it, Palutena launches a powerful burst of energy a great distance away from her and the range is extended when charged like a smash attack. This move is an oppressive ledge guarding tool and KOs at a reasonable percentage.
Autoreticle (Neutral B) is another effective zoning tool in her kit. When used, a blue reticle homes in on the opponent and fires three beams of light at them. This attack doesn’t deal high damage but is great for tacking onto percentages and slowing momentum. Both Autoreticle and Explosive Flame cannot be spammed, as they must momentarily recharge after use.
Skyworld’s goddess of light possesses all the tools to zone opponents out but also excels at mauling them in neutral. Her aerials threaten to KO below 100% while her tilts and smash attacks have great range to complement her zoning. Palutena’s Up Smash even acts as a pseudo-projectile, firing a tall beam of light directly above her.
Fully loaded with a military-grade arsenal, Solid Snake is tailor-made for zoning. He throws Hand Grenades (Neutral B) at various speeds and angles that explode after a short time. Snake can also delay the throw and move with the grenade in his hand. Remote Missile (Side B) fires a piloted projectile that is controlled with the left stick. Snake is completely stationary and defenseless while the missile is active.
While it isn’t a projectile, Snake’s C4 (Down B) is another highly useful spacing tool. He places it on the ground and detonates on command when the opponent is over the bomb. It is great for trapping the opponent in one section of the stage and limiting their range of mobility. When used near an opponent, Snake will plant the C4 onto their body and detonate for direct damage.
The one drawback of Snake’s projectiles is that some deal friendly fire. If you hold a Hand Grenade for too long, it will go off in your palm. C4 will also detonate on its own after some time, potentially under Snake’s feet. Snake has no resistance towards any of his own explosives and will even KO himself from their blasts.
R.O.B. might have the most boring playstyle in Ultimate, but damn if it isn’t effective.
With extended survivability and two top-notch projectiles, slow and steady wins the race for R.O.B. Robo Beam (Neutral B) is his primary zoning tool. It is a full-screen lazer with three levels of power. Along with the standard attack, there is an uncharged version with little range and a Super Robo Beam that deals extra damage and covers more ground. The beam charges and recharges automatically and is indicated by the glowing red light on top of R.O.B.’s head.
Gyro (Down B) is R.O.B.’s second projectile that comes with a lot of utility. He charges a spinning top that deals differing degrees of damage and knockback. A slightly charged top extends combos while a whirling top assists with ledge guarding. The top acts as an item and can be picked back up while it is active and recharged for continued use.
R.O.B.'s abilities let him completely dictate the flow of a match with his zoning tools, but it takes keen awareness to use them right. It pays to be selective with Robo Beam and weary of which charge is available. Since it's an item, Gyro can be picked up by opponents and used against R.O.B. in a humiliating fashion.
The most unique fighter on this list, Min Min doesn’t need projectiles to zone out her opponents. Instead, she uses the extended reach of her ARMS to pester foes from afar. Min Min’s maximum range covers half the length of a standard Battlefield stage. This allows her to dish out heavy ledge pressure without risking any offstage shenanigans. Min Min’s long ARMS also stretch the range of her grab game and recovery.
Min Min’s right ARM has three modes that change using Down B. Ramram is a fast, lightweight attack that angles upward before returning. The slower, mace-like Megawatt deals much heavier damage. The Dragon is a middle ground option that also serves as Min Min’s default left ARM. When charged like a smash attack, it will breathe fire to extend her range even further.
Min Min doesn’t play like a traditional Smash character, and her control scheme might take some getting used to. When lashing out with her ARMS, the A button controls the left while B controls the right. Her attacks also change entirely when her opponent is in close, so she must always maintain proper spacing to avoid whiffing.
No one plays keepaway in Ultimate better than gaming’s first superstar, Pac-Man. His Neutral B alone yields eight different projectiles with different levels of power and speed. The five fruits and flying Galaga alien do moderate damage, but the bell and key are lethal enough to cause nightmares. Everything Pac-Man throws is an item that can be caught by enemies and turned against him.
Fire Hydrant (Down B) is a space creating tool that spouts water from each side, pushing foes away. If it takes enough damage, it will tumble and become a live projectile in favor of whoever hit it last. When Pac-Man attacks the Hydrant it turns into an unstable wrecking ball, but his opponents can do the same.
Outside of his projectiles, Pac-Man’s range is pretty stubby. However, his smash attacks are incredibly strong and can be set up with the bell. Power Pellet (Side B) is a chargeable homing attack with great range, but is very unsafe and best used for offstage recovery.
Other Super Smash Bros. Ultimate zoners
If none of these fighters tickle your fancy, there are plenty more zoners in Ultimate to choose from. Mega Man and Samus just missed out on this list and are strong options in the current meta. Link, along with his Young and Toon echoes, are projectile-heavy sword fighters with versatile toolkits. If you like to tough it out with low-tiers, Banjo & Kazooie, Zelda, Duck Hunt, and the Belmonts are characters to explore.