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Sucking Less at Fighting Games Part 2: Attacks

Still plagued with losses against your friends and opponents because you’re terrible at fighting games or just can’t be bothered to put in the effort? We’ve all been there. Understanding some properties of those attacks you keep throwing out while button mashing can go a long way to improving your skills in fighting games. It certainly won’t bridge the gap on its own, but understanding the basics of hitboxes, block, hit, stun, and attacks with special properties are a step in the right direction.

Hitboxes are a part of every fighting game, and having a general awareness of them is very important. Hitboxes in games are used to detect collision, or when attacks connect. So whenever you hit your opponent with an attack, it means the hitbox on your attack connected with your opponents hitbox when they weren’t blocking. The easiest way to think of a hitbox is to imagine a fighting character standing idle. While the character is doing anything, their hitbox is in the general shape of the character. So when you kick with your character, your hitbox will follow suit as well and count the leg you’re kicking with as the attack, but not the rest of your body. It seems like a lot of mumbo jumbo talking about hitboxes like this, but understanding hitboxes means to understand the threat ranges on your attacks, as well as those of your opponents.


When a player attacks in fighting games some of their hitbox will go "active" and turn red. If any part of this hitbox connects with an opponent it will either cause a hit or be blocked depending on the opponent's action.

When a player attacks in fighting games, some of their hitboxes will go “active” and turn red. If any part of this hitbox connects with an opponent, it will either cause a hit or be blocked, depending on the opponent’s action.


Let’s say your opponent attacks you and the attack connects. Understanding the hitbox on the attack allows you to dance in and out of your opponent’s range to strike for maximum damage in the future. Be aware: some hitboxes can be very weird, have odd characteristics, or sometimes just be very large in proportion to the actual attack and often times this can make a move much more effective than expected or more applicable than you’d originally think. A lot of the time, players can abuse these moves to great effect when playing against opponents for easy victories. If your opponent doesn’t block it, then why mess with success, right? It’s fine if you want to spam these moves to win, but bear in mind that when you spam the same move over and over again with your friends, it does make you seem like a contemptible asshole.

Additionally, hitboxes can be unique between depending on the characters. For example, Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter series have very similar-sized hitboxes due to the characters playing and looking very similar, but Zangief for T. Hawk from the same series have much bigger hitboxes and can suffer because of it. Most of the time, people will find out that having a big hitbox is not a good thing, as it simply means that it is a lot easier for your opponent to hit your character because there is simply a lot more character to hit. If you are playing a bigger character and it seems like your opponents hit you a lot more than when you play a smaller character, it may not be because you’re bad at the character. Maybe you just have a ginormous hitbox and are easier to hit because of it. The opposite can be said for very small characters; sometimes that really tiny character is really hard to deal with and hit for your opponents and you’re not winning because of skill, but because your character is literally a third of the size of the rest of the roster.

Frames are something else players should be aware of. Frames are basically a measure of how long it takes to perform an action in fighting games. When a player says it takes X amount of frames for a character to perform an attack, it is important to know that fighting games run at either 30 or 60 frames per second (fps). So, when a character takes 5 frames for a jab to go from standing idle to performing the attack, it means that the jab takes either 1/6 or 1/12 of a second for the attack to be performed. It may seem scary when you think of it in terms of speed like that, but attacks that are at that speed are few in number compared to slower, more damaging attacks. Understanding frames means you know how long it takes to do basically anything in a fighting game. While you don’t need to understand the exact frame data of a move, it is good to have a general idea of how long it takes to perform an attack. You don’t want to use long range slow attacks when your opponent is in your face spamming super quick moves.

Things such as hit and block stun are measured in frames as well. Hit stun is when a character is struck by an attack and, for a certain amount of frames, the character will be in a “hit animation” where the opponent can continue to combo them. This is the basis of how combos are performed, as a player chains attacks together keeping the opponent in hit stun while trying to do as much damage as possible with consecutive attacks. Block stun is the counterpart to hitstun, and is a tool used for pressure to try and open up an opponent’s defenses. Block stun is when an opponent blocks an attack and for a set number of frames. Depending on the attack, the player is stuck in the blocking state and can’t do much else. Additionally, when a player is aware of the frame data for their attacks, it opens up new paths to the player. Again, you don’t need to dive into spreadsheets and look at the exact frame data to understand things like block stun; just hitting an opponent with an attack and remembering how long they are stuck blocking sometimes is enough to allow you to adapt and improve.


Hitstun makes up the basis of combos and understanding them as well as frames allows a player to be a lot more flexible with their attacks.

Hitstun makes up the basis of combos and understanding them as well as frames allows a player to be a lot more flexible with their attacks.

It should go without saying, but not all attacks are normal and a lot have unique characteristics. Some attacks make players immune to certain kinds of attacks, some have the character rolling low to perform an attack and therefore won’t get hit by attacks that aren’t hitting low, some attacks briefly render a character invincible to things such as projectiles. What’s important about these types of attacks is that they give characters an answer to a specific type of situation. It’s key to know the proper time to use them. An example would be If your opponent is constantly putting pressure on you, and you have the option to use that uppercut that has invulnerable start up, then you can use that move to stop that pressure for the time being. However,you need to be careful not to overuse the move. Eventually your opponent is going to wise up to you spamming a certain move in a situation, and they will start to expect it and will begin attempting to bait out these attacks to punish you harder. Don’t just use the same moves over and over, or you’re going to get blown up.


Falling into patterns with your attacks means it'll be that much easier for your opponent to counter you and crush both you and your spirit.

Falling into patterns with your attacks means it’ll be that much easier for your opponent to counter you and crush both you and your spirit.