Super Smash Bros. Melee’s wavedash is a physics exploit that became a key tactic

Super Smash Bros. Melee wavedash exploit bug glitch changed the game, became a feature for pro players

Cast your minds back to 2002, one year after both the GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Melee released. The game had captured the hearts of Nintendo fans around the world, and people had begun playing it in a formal competitive setting. That year, a player by the name of Toadbanjoconker popularized the wavedash, a means of flying across the stage at a high speed, which would go on to become a critical technique in the arsenal of most players to come.

It took time for the technique’s full power and versatility to become understood in the community, and in fact knowledge of the technique predated Toadbanjoconker. Nonetheless, once it took off, it took off, and the rest is history. The move takes its name from Tekken Tag Tournament, where it was possible to perform a fast crouching slide that would bring you closer to your foe or make it easier to block incoming low attacks.

By wavedashing towards or away from an opponent in Super Smash Bros. Melee, a player can avoid taking incoming damage or get up close and deal a colossal finishing move in the blink of an eye. To perform a wavedash, players need to jump and then immediately air dive into the ground. Doing this quickly enough will negate the jump but maintain the momentum that the character would have had from the air dive. That momentum is put into the direction that the player chooses with the analogue stick, but the direction that the character is facing never changes.

While there’s no denying that wavedashing is a key part of Super Smash Bros. Melee pros’ move set, this technique is still very much an exploit. Masahiro Sakurai and the team were aware of its existence during development but chose to just leave it alone. They likely didn’t expect how prominent the move would become in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and the ability to wavedash in Brawl was consciously removed so as to lessen the skill gap between players.

At a very basic level, wavedashing converts your air dodging momentum into directional momentum in the arena. However, it’s not perfect. Different characters have different wavedash lengths, which are dependent on a number of factors. Each character has a traction rating, which will shrink their wavedash length the higher it is. Certain arenas have special factors in play that increase a character’s traction though, like the Oil Slick on Flat Zone or the UFO on Fourside.

It’s crazy to think that what is essentially the game making sense of incredibly fast controller input has become a staple move for high-level Super Smash Bros. Melee players. Wavedashing has returned with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it’s much slower and nowhere near as useful as it was almost 20 years ago as a physics glitch. To this day, there are many fans that prefer the competitive play of Melee over that of any other entry in the series, and wavedashing is largely to thank for that.

What are your wavedashing skills like?

Jamie Sharp
Started out playing Metroid 2 on the GameBoy at around 5 years-old, and now I write about games all day long. Can't play Switch and drive, I've tried. As time goes on the Switch is quickly becoming my favourite console of all time.