- Applicable Games
- Smash 3DS, Smash Wii U
If you have no idea what Greninja is, finding the answer can be confusing. Some will tell you that Greninja is hidden top tier character with difficult but incredibly potent combos. Others will say to you that Greninja has no potential, due to not having any real strengths. You’ll hear stories of how Ver1.0.0 3DS Greninja was a metagame Icarus, who came crashing down to the ground for flying too close towards broken territory. There are many conflicting viewpoints about Greninja as a character, which can make him hard to understand - and intimidating to main. These reasons are why this guide was created: to demystify Greninja for prospective Greninja mains or other curious smash players. This guide will not teach you how to play Greninja, though I will be covering some concepts you will need to know if you do wish to become a Greninja main. For the most part, the information in this FAQ is my opinion, but the majority of it is in line with the consensus of Greninja players.
What’s a “Greninja”?
Greninja is a bipedal frog-like Pokemon that made his debut in Pokemon X/Y for the 3DS. He’s the fully evolved version of the Pokemon Froakie, which is the water-type starter Pokemon for Pokemon X/Y. He’s a Water/Dark type Pokemon with high speed, above average firepower, and low defenses. Greninja has gotten high popularity through the Pokemon anime as being Ash’s starter and having the mighty Battle Bond transformation known as “Ash Greninja.” Greninja is unique amongst the characters for smash, as he was developed as smash character before his design was finished for the Pokemon series (hence the slight design differences between his appearances in X/Y and Smash Bros).
What kind of Character Archetype does Greninja fit into?
Greninja, along with many characters in Smash 4, doesn’t fit neatly into archetypes. To get a better understanding of what kind of character he is, we should review his strengths and weaknesses.
Greninja has a robust offensive kit. First of all, his raw mobility is the best in the game. Sixth highest run speed, fourth highest walk speed, eight highest airspeed, frame four jump squat, highest short hop, second highest full hop, with low landing lag on the majority of his aerials.
Greninja also has a very good projectile in the form of water shurikens. Shurikens uncharged are great at pressuring, disengaging, and deterring camping, while charged shurikens are good at trapping foes who spot dodge/air dodge.
He has a great grab game. He has one of the best dash grabs in the game. In conjunction with the excellent frame data on his dash grab, he has strong throws as well. Up throw is a great combo starter at low and mid percents, and becomes a good kill throw at high percents. Down Throw is also great for DI mixups and 50/50’s
Greninja also has powerful disjoint via Forward Air. Though it’s startup, range, and active hitboxes are more limited than, say, Cloud’s Back Air, it still has good reach, kill power, landing lag, and auto-cancel windows.
Lastly, Greninja has terrific juggling and edge-guarding tools. Up tilt, Up smash, and Up air are all incredibly good at juggling opponents, especially when you consider how good his air mobility and jumps are. When foes are offstage, Back air, charged water shurikens, and hydro pump can make it hell to get back on stage.
Of course, Greninja has weaknesses. Greninja biggest weakness is his OOS options. His grab OOS is slow, so block strings that usually wouldn't be true on your average character work on Greninja. He also is lacking in other defensive areas as well. He has no invincible moves, doesn’t have a sex kick, and his back roll is somewhat vulnerable. OOS grab, is underrated in my opinion, because it has an excellent range for a non-tether, and has an extremely low cooldown. It’s still better for punishing spot dodges than punishing risky blocked moves, however.
His kill power is also hinted at as a “weakness,” which I can understand. Compared to characters like Fox who can convert almost any stray hit into death, Greninja is more opportunistic. Greninja has kill confirms with down tilt and neutral air, but he has to sometimes take a risk and get close for a kill. However, this weakness is significantly circumvented with his up throw. His up throw is reliable and kills consistently, especially with rage.
Greninja’s recovery is also hinted at as a weakness, but again this can be worked around. Hydro Pump doesn’t have a front-facing hitbox, but the windbox properties and various amount of angles he can perform helps him mix up his recovery. Unless he’s fighting an edge-guarding behemoth like Sheik or Bayonetta, he doesn’t need to worry about getting back to stage that much.
Considering Greninja’s speed and offensive potential, you might be tempted to say Greninja is a rushdown character. I don’t believe this to be the case necessarily. Greninja can rushdown an opponent if it’s optimal in a matchup, but his practical range is not close up like, say, MVC2 Magneto. He spends a lot of neutral at mid-range akin to Marth or Mewtwo. However, his zoning has an added layer of a threat of rushdown. Marth will never be able to go from spacing Fairs to zipping up next to you and dash grabbing you for 20-30%. Greninja can. An intelligent mix of aggression and zoning can make Greninja scary in neutral. However, developing a level of play where foes have to respect your zoning along with your rushdown is the tricky part.
Is Greninja a difficult character to play?
Simply put, yes.
First off, Greninja’s mobility is drastically different from a mass majority of the cast. Switching from someone like Pit to Greninja will feel like upgrading your mom’s minivan to a Ferrari. It will be challenging just to run and short hop right. Then you have to be able to space Neutral air and Forward Air accurately. This task can be arduous when you consider these aerials’ wacky frame data, their tight active frames, and Greninja’s unbridled speed. Then, you will also need to learn how to juggle right with Gren’s funky air physics, because juggling/edge-guarding is where a good chunk of his damage output originates. You will also have to get used to not having a shield. Technically Greninja has one, but if you rely on it like with other characters, you will be limiting yourself significantly. By far the hardest thing about Greninja is the matchups. Though Greninja has an excellent matchup spread, he has to change up his game plan a lot from character to character. Overcoming this will come from research and trial and error.
Oh yeah, and the footstool combos.
Frankly, footstool combos get over-hyped by people who don’t understand him. Landing Nair will rarely lead to zero-to-deaths. DI and tournament nerves can screw with your combos when the opportunity comes (which isn’t very often). I wouldn’t stress about these too much, but you should still plan to learn them.
Is Greninja a hidden top tier? If not, how relevant is Greninja to the current meta?
I’d say that I’m cautiously optimistic about Greninja’s meta. Though he does struggle with a few familiar matchups, His losing matchups have shown gradual improvements. Greninja already has excellent matchups against the rest of the cast as it is. Greninja has a wide variety of tools at his disposal, and only the creamiest of the crop have real answers to most of them. I’m somewhat skeptical of the idea of a top-tier Greninja, but I would think it’s foolish to believe Greninja is declining or has reached his full potential (as of this writing).
What are Greninja’s hardest match ups?
Though there is a still raging debate over how bad these match ups are, it’s the consensus that Greninja loses to the Core Four:
- Diddy Kong
These four characters have been giving Greninja players trouble for the majority of the game’s lifespan. I went ahead and listed them from hardest to most comfortable (in my opinion, of course)
Oh, Sheik, Greninja has been living in your shadow for the longest. So many times have people called Greninja a “poor man’s Sheik.” Though this is not true, Sheik players have been slightly incorporating Greninja tactics into their play since she was nerfed (I see you with them drag down Up Airs, Void!).Sheik has been a gatekeeper to Greninja for the longest. This current patch Sheik is beatable for Greninja now, though. Top Greninja’s have been able to topple sheik mains now (Stroder took a game off of ZeRo’s Sheik, Lea has beaten Void, Venia AND Elexiao have beaten Vinnie), but the “Mr. R style” Sheik is still the number one Greninja killer in the meta. Sheik can keep up with Greninja's speed in mid-range and punish any of his options. Greninja cannot comfortably set up his footsies game plan. When a sheik player smartly places his Forward Airs and Nuetral Airs, greninja will struggle to get in that first. Sheik dances all around Greninja's shield with Fair and cross-up shenanigans, while Greninja will struggle to pressure her shield with OOS Nair, Fair, and Forward Tilt. Most of Greninja's damage output will come from juggles and punishing landings, but this can be difficult because of how good Sheik is at resetting neutral. Until I see Greninja players beat Mr. R, I would withhold from saying it’s even for now. However, if you’re skilled enough, you might be able to topple Sheik players who don’t know the Gren match up very well.
Greninja’s other supposed gatekeeper is Sonic. Greninja lacks the lingering disjoints to stop Sonic's spin dash easily, so dealing with it will be tough. Greninja’s usual gameplan will be exploited very easily. Like the Sheik matchup, however, there has been progression. Some overcame KEN multiple times, Salem beat Sonido, and DarkAura has been able to beat SuperGirl Kels. Until I start seeing Greninja’s beat more campy Sonics like Wrath and Oni Heero, I’d avoid calling this MU “even” as well.
Now onto the slightly more debateable half of the Cour Four: Fox and Diddy Kong. Fox has been argued to be even by a faction of Greninja and Fox players, and I can understand this. Fox consistent damage racking and kill power is quite intimidating for Greninja, and his ground speed amplifies this threat. However, Fox is quite susceptible to high damaging combos and traps on Greninja’s part, and Greninja’s edge-guarding can be quite vicious towards Fox. Greninja players do have wins over Sodrek, Dekillesage, and Shogun as well. It’s agreed upon to be a slight advantage in Fox’s favor, but there are some merits for it being even.
Diddy Kong also has some merits on being even as well. Diddy Kong’s walling aerials can take away Greninja’s aerial game. Greninja is forced to play grounded, but this isn’t all bad news for our ninja frog though. Greninja’s small size, high speed, dash grab/pivot grab, and projectile can allow him to dance around in Diddy’s zone and harass him. Also, don’t forget Greninja’s fearsome edge-guarding either. There isn’t as much evidence to support this to be even as Fox, mostly due to it not being as commonly seen. I know that Sensei Ninjalink would scold me if I didn’t at least bring this up though, haha.
Is Greninja solo viable?
Greninja isn’t that solo viable, in my opinion. But he does have a terrific matchup spread. I’d still solo main him, at least for the start, though, but I’ll explain that in a bit. Anyway, here’s how I feel about Greninja’s match-ups as of November 2017:
Note, I consider all the volatile match-ups “even,” in the sense that the nuances of the matchup won’t allow you to circumvent inferior or superior skill in comparison to advantageous or disadvantageous matchup scenarios. The better player should still win, but there are some slight leanings to or against Greninja when the players are evenly matched. This matchup chart could be considered optimistic by some (most likely on Cloud being even instead of disadvantage), but none of my opinions here are too controversial.
How solo viable Greninja is will somewhat depend on how your scene is. Strong Sheik or Sonic players will make solo maining Greninja frustrating (at first). But a scene with a low density of strong Sheik/Sonic players can be quite ripe for Greninja to thrive. At the highest level, however, Greninja is not solo viable, as his difficult MU’s are nigh unavoidable. It’s very feasible for a Greninja player to still perform well in such a tournament, but to winning, majors will be quite challenging and unlikely.
Regardless, I’d still solo main Greninja. I think Greninja is too tricky to dip your toe in and yank out when you get too close to challenging match ups. I believe that if you’re going to become a “Greninja player” you might as well go all out. Secondaries aren't usually worth the trouble to develop, but that’s only my opinion.
Who would be a good secondary for Greninja?
Well, Greninja does have some good options available to him. The main matchups Greninja needs to cover are Sheik and Sonic, then Fox and Diddy. Someone to cover Cloud would be nice too. My personal favorite for quite some time was Mewtwo. His incredibly strong neutral lets him stay evenly matched against Sheik, especially. He also does better than Greninja against Sonic and (arguably) Fox. They both have some difficulty navigating around Cloud and Diddy Kong though.
Sheik/Greninja is a very complicated duo to master at the same time, but in theory, it should work. Sheik covers all of his awkward matchups, especially Cloud. Sheik is also a perfect choice to defend against Greninja dittos. Have fun trying to beat Sheik mains with their character though.
Zero Suit Samus is a pretty neat secondary too. They have some nice overlapping qualities ( high ground/air mobility, not relying on OOS grab, etc.) and ZSS does better against Sheik and Sonic. Diddy Kong is debatable though. ZSS is not an easy character, but is more accessible than Sheik.
You could also be incredibly basic and pick Cloud. Cloud is the “just add water!” equivalent of secondaries and isn’t as useful to Greninja as a secondary compared to other characters. If you need a dedicated Sonic Slayer secondary, he’s fine, but his Sheik and Diddy Kong matchups are incredibly suspect to me.
Other choices for secondaries that deserve an honorary mention include Diddy Kong, Lucario, Pikachu, Mega Man, Marth, Fox, and Mario.
Can Greninja be a good secondary for someone else?
I really couldn’t recommend this, especially if you’re not experienced with Greninja. Switching play styles mid-tournament or mid-set is already hard, why do it with an unusual, complicated character like Greninja? The only way I see this working out is if you are a previous Greninja main and wish to “demote” him to a secondary.
If you want to use him as a secondary, he could be useful. He does above average against the Mario Bros, Zero Suit Samus, Ryu, Marcina and Captain Falcon.
What are some good Greninja players I should be watching?
Despite popular belief, there are many relevant and robust Greninja players across the world.I went ahead and listed Greninja’s from varying skill levels, as a new Greninja can have a hard time learning from an elite Greninja right away. As of this writing, the Greninja players I have listed are active in their respective scenes:
(* = high level wins WITH Greninja)
- Venia (NY)*
- Ninjalink (NY)
- IceArrow (MA)
- Shinjoebi (MN)
- Nicklecat (MI)
- Donquavious (NC)*
- Dr. Copter (TN)
- Salem (FL)*
- AkashicSword (FL)
- Xoxo (FL)
- Stroder (AZ)*
- Ludi (CO)
- DarkAura (CANADA)*
- Keekay (DR)
- FullMoon (Brazil)
- iStudying (Netherlands)*
- Elexiao (France)*
- Eddy (Germany)
- Tarik (Germany)
- Le Goat (UK)
- Alias (Sweden)
- Shadowclaw (Denmark)
Closing Thoughts & Thanks
I will repeat this; this guide isn't meant to teach you how to "play" Greninja in the way a typical guide does. The topic would take me ages to explain, and Ludiloco has already done a pretty good job at it.
I wrote this guide because picking up Greninja can be a very confusing task. I, like some others, wanted to main Greninja because he was a technical combo heavy, technical, hype as hell, secret top tier character. In some ways, this is true. As I've played Greninja, watched top Greninja players progress, and talked with more knowledgeable Greninja mains, however, I gained a much deeper understanding of the character. Obviously, the birth of Discord and the better progression of Greninja's meta will make him more comfortable to learn than it did for me in 2015, but there has always been that aura of mystique around Greninja. You'll still need to go through the hardships and growth that comes with playing any new character, but hopefully, after reading this, you have a clearer understanding of what you are signing up for should you choose to main him.
Don't let my blunt writing style scare you away though! Greninja is totally a blast to play, and the work will be worth it. I just want to share my love and knowledge about the character with you tadpoles out there. Whoever you end up maining, best of luck.
Thank you, Gren Discord and Gren Skype, for being supportive of my project and providing some ideas for this FAQ. I won't even bother pretending like I know everything about the character, so thank you guys for helping me fill in the gaps.
Though I'm not the greatest smash player, I have learned a lot about Greninja in the past three years, and do enjoy writing. Maybe I'll continue to write about lesser discussed topics in the future? We shall see.
See ya around.