Best Zoners In Fighting Games

Ava Flores
• Saturday, 16 January, 2021
• 12 min read

While often viewed as a niche series Under Night In-Birth's loyal player-base and strong showing at the main stage of Eve has allowed it to carve out its own path within the fighting game community. The vast majority of Hilda's move set features disjointed hatboxes, meaning they can deal damage without leaving whiffed attacks vulnerable like those of Street Fighter's Dualism.

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Utilizing very strong normal that can safely poke opponents even when blocked, Nu-13 is capable of creating projectiles for any occasion. Ultimate, it was clear that Simon Belmont and his echo fighter, Richter were going to be some of the strongest zones available in Smash.

While the Guilty Gear series is home to many zones such as AXL and Dizzy, no other character is capable of manipulating space as well as Venom. The most recently released character on this list, Ferry is one of the most optimal zones in Gran blue Fantasy Versus.

The resident Zoner of Skull girls, Peacock's entire move set is designed around two things: pushing the opponent away and barraging them with projectiles. Peacock's super really ties all of these elements together, functioning as a full-screen beam that pushes the opponent to the opposite end of the screen.

Despite being the most straightforward entry on this list, Street Fighter guile's inherently defensive move-set contains everything needed to keep opponents far away. Guile's core strategy is built around his only two command moves: Sonic Boom and Flash Kick.

Sonic Boom is a very useful projectile that can be used repeatedly, altering its speed in order to throw opponents off. While Guile may appear simplistic, his move-set is so refined in its simplicity that he will forever be used as a measuring stick when discussing a Zoner's move-set.

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Toting a full-screen beam as well as numerous angled lasers that can take up large portions of the screen at a given moment, Doom can even be a thorn in players' sides if he's not the active character. Through the use of his Molecular Shield, Plasma Beam, and Photon shot, Doom is one of the strongest and most iconic zones in fighting game history.

While Mórrígan's zoning may not be the most flashy, primarily relying on numerous identical projectiles, in capable hands, she can easily wall out nearly any character on the roster with massive assaults that only grow in size when paired with projectile-based assists. We've gathered the ranks for the top five Zoner characters in Smash using the Events community tier list to see how they all are rated compared to the rest of the cast.

With Ultimate's heavily offensive and rush down style of play dominating much of the high-level tournaments, long-ranged fighters in upper brackets are few and far between in many cases with a few notable exceptions. Simon and Richter Belmont looked like they might really make a splash after their initial reveal in 2018, but their results have them all the way down at number 50 out of 80 for our tier list right by some other notable ranged characters like Camus, Zelda and Villager.

Cap com's first Smash fighter still has crazy shenanigans when it comes to his metal buzz saw and the item drop cancelling tech though that to require a closer position to hit as opposed to his Mega Buster. Players like Kareem show that Mega Man is still a wonderful character now even if he is shifting gears a bit from how he was initially touted.

Like his other variations, Young Link is just great at throwing everything and the kitchen sink at his opponent along with being the only member of the team who gets fire arrows. Developers also made him more distinct compared to standard Link now considering they changed the older fighter to have remote bombs and alter how his arrows work which isn't really better or worse than YL's.

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It's difficult to keep track of how many sets we've seen carried with Dinosaur doing most of the major lifting in most match ups where the middle evolution could just sit back and toss out Razor Leaf attacks at whomever may try and cross his path. Vine Whip is also great for keeping the opponent at bay plus recovery, but of course the only move most people ever talk about the character with is the explosive down air that would destroy players trying to recover under the stage.

Snake's enemies need to walk across a literal minefield to even try getting close to the super soldier with his ability to lob grenades constantly like a bad juggler. The damage and frustration Snake causes racks up fairly quickly, but more than that, it's sustained throughout pretty much the whole match since he can always just drop stuff at his feet or rely on his heavy weight and wonderful recover to keep him alive even if he takes a big hit to the face.

Even with some nerfs to powerful tools like neutral air, the Kid Icarus rep is still one of the best characters in Ultimate overall which is a testament to her strength with Joker, Pikachu and Peach all above her at number five. If you don't agree with these numbers and match up ratings, for Smash or any of the games we cover, make your voice heard by bringing your own experiences to the board.

If you’ve ever watched a competitive fighting game match on YouTube or Twitch, you’ve likely heard the term “zoning” or a character referred to as a “Zoner.” If you don’t have any prior knowledge as to what this is, then the match on screen can look somewhat boring; you might see a slower pace, fighters avoiding each other, and the same moves being used over and over. While it may look tiresome to the naked eye, there are a ton of fascinating decisions and interactions going on here that, once you understand them, can turn the match from a snore fest to a heart-racing experience.

How you use the space in fighting games is key to proper zoning. Zoning is whatever series of tactics a player uses to keep their opponent at a specific distance. Basically, the goal of zoning is to use projectiles, long-ranged attacks, and fast moves that are safe, apply pressure, and force your opponent into a disadvantaged state.

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A good Zoner will always look to maintain the perfect balance between keeping their character safe and applying some pressure to the opponent. It is important to figure out what “zone” is optimal for each character and matchup; if you’re too far away, you can’t apply pressure to your opponent and if you’re too close, you put yourself in serious danger.

Projectile users are especially effective in a game such as Super Smash Bros. where the free-flowing movement and different stages play a large role in the meta. Young Link has good mobility, many projectiles, and fast aerials, all of which play into the zoning game very well.

By placing projectiles strategically, you can eliminate the options your opponent has and force them into a bad situation where you can punish. Some characters can effectively zone using the range on their attacks as well as their movement to pressure people into bad situations.

Dualism’s long-ranged attacks serve as a solid non-projectile zoning tool, applying pressure from a safe distance. When the talk of using projectiles and ranged attacks comes up, it’s easy to equate these with “camping” and with “spamming.” While it’s certainly possible to do both of those in relation to zoning, zoning generally has a specific goal in mind, and people who cry “spam” when zones are doing their thing are generally just filled with salt.

When zoning, the goal is to keep the opponent at an optimal distance where their options are limited, and you look to press an advantage. Rather than looking to maintain a specific distance, the name of the game is to use movement and projectiles to have the opponent chase you down constantly, and when they over-commit, you can land a hard punish.

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Not zoning properly can lead to a world of hurt. Zoning is an essential part of fighting games, and can teach you a lot about the many interactions and decisions that go on during a match. Defensive and “keep-away” style tactics are very effective, but they require lots of mental energy, as you have to be aware and ready for many situations.

These fighters are some of the most aggressive members of their respective rosters and are characterized by their speed and potential to deal massive amounts of damage when up close and personal. As a weapon-based 3D fighting game franchise, a great deal of the SoulCalibur roster is made up of characters who often focus on delivering attacks from a moderate range.

On the other hand, Maxi wields a pair of nun chucks and seeks to get close to one's opponent to overwhelm them with a barrage of quick and unpredictable attacks. As one of the fastest characters in the Under Night roster, Seth is capable of applying absurd amounts of pressure on attacking opponents.

He can also play mind games when trying to get in and can land hits due to his access to numerous quick jumps, an air dash, and a fast fall. Between his combination of speed and unpredictable movement options, Seth is a rush down character capable of starting combos with ease.

Possessing an excellent air dash, Cilia is capable is able to both extend aerial combos and approach unsuspecting opponents. Additionally, Cilia's offensive tools are perfectly catered to aggressive play, as numerous moves in her arsenal can be used to create forward momentum.

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Meanwhile, other moves at her disposal can be utilized to mix up opponents and reset combos for maximum damage output. Possessing fantastic mix ups and terrifying pressure, Charlotte has access to incredibly impactful combos that can often swing a round in her favor if utilized in the corner.

The fastest character on the Guilty Gear roster, Chip is able to open up opponents and weave past their attacks with unparalleled speed and air dashes. In both the second and third games in the Marvel Vs. Cap com series, Magneto is insanely mobile, having access to an air dash and flight.

While Super Smash Bros. Melee is not a traditional fighting game, no rush down character is as overpowered and game-warping as this particular iteration of Fox. Possessing oppressive speed and combo potential, Fox has access to one of the fasted moves in the fighting games genre.

Just check out this exhaustive terminology guide, and you’ll be speaking the fighting game lingo in no time. A match is in neutral when neither player is attacking or blocking for an extended period of time and both are looking to start an offense.

Any super attack or technique that powers up an opponent for a limited amount of time. A period in a move where a character’s hurt-box disappears making them unable to be hit.

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A combo that knocks your opponent into the air and keeps them there through subsequent hits. A zoning strategy that involves filling the screen with projectiles while running away from your opponent in the hopes of whittling down their life.

When a character’s “Level 3 “is referenced, it’s whatever super they have that takes three stocks of meter. A move used in the middle of a combo specifically to make linking easier.

Usually easy to memorize while dealing decent damage. Often used as a derogatory term for someone who is playing poorly, though strategic mashing also exists.

Throwing out a move that has lots of active frames while an opponent is waking up. A series of attacks that need to be blocked or responded to in multiple different ways to avoid getting hit.

The portion of a fighting game characterized by choosing which moves to take while the opponent is waking up. Involves predicting the opponent’s next action in order to score a hit.

Keeping an opponent on block is a key part of good offense. A term carried over from poker describing when a player plays poorly after a few frustrating losses.

Option selects usually end up advantageous for the person performing them in either situation. Usually used to refer to high moves that are also executed from a standing position.

Any defensive technique that nullifies or responds to an opponent’s attack by executing just before it lands. Used to execute specials that require a rapid tap, like E. Honda’s hundred hand slap.

The range at which your character will enter their block animation when an attack is thrown at them. When far enough away, many characters will simply walk backward instead of guarding when an attack is used.

If an opponent is “caught pushing buttons” they are punished for repeatedly throwing out normal attacks. A technique that returns a character to a neutral state after executing a move, usually at the expense of meter.

Named after similar techniques in Blaze and Guilty Gear. Cooldowns have no hit-box, just hurt-boxes, leaving your character vulnerable for a short amount of time.

Ending a combo on purpose in order to start a new one before the opponent can react. Using invulnerable moves as reversals is a good way to stop the opponent’s pressure.

The ability to move forward quickly for prolonged periods of time. Usually faster than dashes but take longer to start up.

A style of play characterized by relentless pressure and mix-ups aiming to kill the opponent before they can effectively fight back. Used either to insult an opponent of lesser skill, or as a form of match collusion.

Named after Guilty Gear’s Zato-1 who could control a shadow demon independent of his body. For example, Dormant with the Reality Stone is a good shell for any other character in MVC.

A character with a projectile, a dragon punch, and another special move that makes them travel across the screen. Named after BYU who, according to the Street Fighter II manual, practiced Photon Karate.

In team games, any move that forcibly causes your opponent to switch his point character. Any move that causes a knockdown but allows your opponent to roll or otherwise perform an action before getting up.

Used as a synonym for any characters main command throw that requires a 360 input. Can also refer to switching a character’s fighting styles mid match.

The amount of time a move spends executing before its active frames. In Street Fighter the amount of hits you can take before getting dizzy.

A player is “styling” on another character when they use strategies and combos that are more flashy and entertaining than they are effective. Moves or techniques that can take a limited number of hits from the opponent before going into hit-stun.

A difficult to perform combo done specifically for the sake of being impressive. Canceling the recovery of a move by switching characters in a team game.

A series of normal that cancel into each other when otherwise they shouldn’t be based on the game’s mechanics. Requires the opponent to block and throw tech in quick succession and is usually hard to defend against.

Performing a special move input with a jump input tacked on to the end to execute an aerial special move as low to the ground as possible. Named after Saga’s move that used a similar input in Street Fighter II.

Any combo that can kill character regardless of how full their health bar is. A type of zoning character style known for laying traps around the battlefield that activate when the opponent runs into them.

A technique used by characters with an eight way air-dash that involves jumping before dashing back to the ground. Purposefully staying on block and forcing the opponent to approach you in order to deal damage.

A strategy often utilized by defensive characters with good responses. For example, every character in MVC has a universal launcher on crouching heavy punch.

A move that bounces your opponent off the wall or ground extending their hit-stun and allowing for multiple follow-ups. Whiffed moves are the most vulnerable and can be counter-attacked at any point during their animation.

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