ARMS for the Nintendo Switch is a fighting game, but it doesn’t use traditional fighting game mechanics like some might expect. This article covers ARMS tips and tricks to help you get a head start on the competition. We’ll take a closer look at some of the potential combos in ARMS, movement and blocking, how best to navigate around items and other general ARMS tips that should help you get started in the new Nintendo Switch game. If you want to know how to play ARMS, you've come to the right place.

When to Punch

Most people just want to play offensively and attack as much as possible in a fighting game. Generally speaking, that’s not going to win matches against skilled players. It’s important to know when to Punch and even how to start your offense, but even more important to know when to just let your opponent do their thing.

First and foremost, it’s almost never a good idea to punch first. However, if you’re going to throw the first punch, do not use both Arms at once. Toss out a single punch to test the waters if you must initiate the fight. Ideally, you want to wait for your opponent to throw a punch, then dodge or jump to avoid it and throw out a counter punch.

If the opponent throws a single punch, be careful about how you counter punch. Even if you dodge the single punch, the opponent still has a second Arm they can use. If you’re not careful they will wait until you dodge the first punch, then hit you with their second Arm. If you see the opponent use both Arms, more often than not you can avoid both attacks and counter with a punch of your own that’s virtually guaranteed to hit.

Distance plays a role in when you can counter punch and when you should just reposition yourself after dodging an attack. If you’re too far away your counter punch won’t make it to the opponent before they can move out of the way. Likewise, if you’re too close the chances of dodging an attack are less likely. You want to maintain a distance that’s just far enough so you can dodge an opponent’s attack as soon as you see it coming, but close enough that your counter punch will reach before the opponent can dodge to avoid it.

The proper distance depends on the weight of your Arms, as well as the weight of your opponent’s Arms. If you’re using heavy Arms they take longer to travel to the opponent. Lighter Arms travel much faster, but also don’t hit as hard. We’ll dive into what Arms you should be using a little later in this article, and we’ll also offer some in-depth tips on Arms selection in the near future.

Using Supers

You gain super meter by attacking with your Arms, as well as charging up your Arms, taking hits or standing in the super meter item area. Ideally, you don’t want to just randomly toss out a super move. In most cases this is easy to avoid and even counter punch you, putting your character in a bad spot. There are a couple of ways you can virtually guarantee your super will connect.

One of the best and most frightening aspects of the super moves in ARMS is that a super will go through any normal punch. That means once you have a full super meter you can just wait until the opponent throws out a punch, then immediately counter with a super. You need to have decent reactions and make sure you’re close enough for the super move to connect, but this virtually guarantees you’ll get full value out of your super meter.

You can also use a super move after you connect with any normal punch, or even some charged punches if you’re fast enough. To “hit-confirm” a super in this fashion you either need to know your punch is going to connect (perhaps if you used it as a counter punch after avoiding a throw), or follow up a stun. You have to be relatively fast if you’re going to hit-confirm a super move, but it can be done with practice.

If your opponent uses a super that can be avoided, it’s not always best to go for a counter punch. You can stop a super at any time during the animation, move to realign yourself with the opponent, then continue the super move. As long as you still have time left on the super move you can use it, so you don’t have to burn it all at once as soon as you activate. The time you have to use it isn’t long, but it’s long enough to quickly reposition if the opponent evades.

Once you evade a super move, if the opponent looks to be attempting to realign with you, either continue to dodge or simply block. If you don’t see any realignment happening, go for a counter punch. If you’re fast there’s almost always plenty of time to counter punch an opponent while they’re using a super move (assuming you evaded the super). Just be careful not to get caught if the opponent tries to realign after the initial miss.

Charging Arms

There are two different ways you can punch in ARMS. You can just toss out a normal punch attack, or you can charge your Arms and use a charged attack. To charge an Arm you need to either hold the dodge/dash button (the Y button for most controller options) or hold Guard (press inward on the Left Analog Stick for most controller options) until your Arms start glowing. As long as your Arms are glowing your next attack will be charged. This doesn’t last long, but the longer you hold your charge (the longer you hold Y) the longer your Arms will remain charged.

It’s easier for some characters to charge than others, and some can even charge up in the air. However, no matter what character you’re using, you want to be charged as often as possible to make sure you get the most out of every attack. Using charged attacks can lead to combos and other advantages.

Parrying

Most players don't use the parry, but if you hold block and dash as soon as you block an attack, you will parry the attack. Dashing forward is usually your best option so you can get closer to the opponent for a counter attack. When you use the parry the opponent's Arm has more recovery time. That means it takes longer to retract and become useable again. The heavier the Arm the more time you have to hit the opponent while the Arm is down.

It's important to note that just because you parry one Arm does not mean the opponent is completely open to attack. The opponent can still move (although slower since one Arm is out), and they can still punch with the other Arm to break throws or possible interrupt your attack. Use this lack of movement and one Arm defense to your advantage by throwing out two quick punches (one with each Arm) or even trying to fake out your opponent with a quick jump into a throw (which is difficult to interrupt with only one Arm available). It's an advanced tactic, but very useful in the right situation.

Combos

While combos are limited in ARMS compared to more traditional fighting games, they can be done. In most circumstances, you need to start with a stun or an attack that knocks an opponent into the air in order to combo. Arms of the electricity or ice elements will stun an opponent if they connect while charged. For the most part any charged attack that doesn’t stun will either knock an opponent down or into the air.

If you connect with an attack that allows for a juggle combo (stun or knocked airborne), you can follow immediately with almost any other attack. A stun can be followed by a grab if you’re close enough, just remember that grabs take longer to reach an opponent than a single punch. If you have trouble connecting a grab after a stun, just follow with a normal punch instead.

Depending on the Arms you’re using, different combos become available. For example, using any Arm with the ice element will “chill” an opponent if you connect a charged attack. This greatly slows their movement, making them a sitting duck for a follow up combo. If you connect with a charged ice attack, don’t immediately follow with your other Arm. Instead, wait a moment for the first Arm to retract, then attack with both Arms immediately. More often than not you’ll end up with a 3-hit combo for your trouble.

There’s no combo hit counter like in some other fighting games. But anytime you hit a series of attacks that cannot be blocked or evaded after the initial attack connects is considered a combo. Timing is key, but once you start to recognize when certain attacks will connect (especially when using a counter punch after dodging an attack), you’ll learn to react with a second punch almost immediately.

Which Character to Pick

The characters in ARMS are just as varied as the Arms themselves. Each character has a unique ability that we’ve covered in our best character article. For now, just know that you should generally start with a character that has more movement options such as Ninjara, Twintelle or Ribbon Girl. You can also opt for Spring Man who retains constantly charged Arms when his health drops below 25 percent. Slower characters such as Master Mummy or Mechanica, or more advanced characters such as Helix or Byte & Barq can be more difficult to use as your starting character.

Easy to Play Characters

  • Spring Man
  • Ribbon Girl
  • Kid Cobra
  • Ninjara

Which Arms to Use

We’ve already gone into detail about which Arms are the best. For now let’s take a look at the differences between Arms. Arms have different weight classes and travel at different speeds. They also have different elemental attributes that cause a variety of effects if you connect with a charged punch.

In order to decide what Arms you want to use, first you’ll need to determine which character you want to use. Each character starts with three default Arms. You can unlock these Arms for any other character, but unlocking Arms will take some time.

You need to decide if you want to play quick and light, slow and heavy or some combination of the two. Heavier Arms will hit harder, but they’re also slower to hit and slower to retract. You need to be pretty good at evading attacks and knowing when to counter punch if you want to be good with heavier Arms. Lighter Arms give you more time to evade and counter punch, but they won’t hit quite as hard. Some Arms even have multi-hit attacks or cover a wider attack area, but usually there’s some trade off with these Arms. Either they’re light and don’t hit very hard, or you need to connect all hits to inflict solid damage.

Novice players should start with lighter Arms so you can learn how and when to evade and counter punch. Once you have that down you can graduate to heavier Arms that require a bit more skill to be good with.

Movement and Blocking

A lot of new fighting game players don’t really like to block very much. Luckily blocking isn’t quite as important in ARMS compared to other fighting games. This is mainly because movement reigns supreme in the realm of ARMS. You should almost always be on the move, whether you’re dashing to charge up your Arms or change your position on the map, it’s much harder to hit a moving target.

Blocking will stop a lot of attacks in ARMS, but you can only block so much before your guard is broken and you’re unable to use your Arms for a short time. Some characters benefit from blocking, such as Master Mummy’s ability to regain health while blocking. However, it’s usually best to stay on the move rather than stopping to block.

If a Party Ball is about to explode near you, you can block to minimize the damage. You can also block super moves to greatly reduce the damage. There are definitely situations in which it’s better to block than try to evade, but outside of these circumstances you’re better off staying on the move. However, both options are better than taking a hit or attacking recklessly. Keep in mind, the best time to attack is right after evading a punch.

Grabs

Grabs or throws (whatever you want to call them) are the only way to get through an opponent that’s blocking. If you keep attacking a blocking opponent with punches, eventually their Arms will be damaged and they won’t be able to block for a short time, but this isn’t an ideal strategy. Going for a grab will ignore an opponent’s guard, but it can also leave you wide open to a counter attack.

It takes longer to perform a grab than it does a single punch. While you can catch an opponent in a grab once they’re stunned, even in this situation, if you’re too far away they might recover before the grab reaches them. With that said, it can be very difficult to avoid a grab at close range. If you can move in very close to an opponent, a grab is a viable option, especially if you have light Arms, meaning you can execute a grab a bit faster compared to heavier Arms.

There are a few different ways to avoid grabs as well. While grabs have a deceptive attack radius that can catch the tip of your toe even if it looks like you evaded it, dodging or even jumping is a viable way to avoid a grab. If you have good reactions, you can also use a single punch to interrupt a grab attempt. Any single punch will stop a grab before it reaches you so long as the Arm is traveling toward the opponent before you get caught in the grab. Once again, at close range it can be very difficult to dodge or interrupt a grab, but it is possible.

From even a moderate distance, grabs are not recommended in a 1v1 battle. If you’re playing 2v2 there are more openings to use a grab from a distance, but generally speaking the farther away you are, the easier it is for an opponent to evade and punish your grab attempt. In most instances, it’s better to go for a single punch than it is to go for a grab, especially against better players.

Items and Party Balls

In every game mode except Grand Prix you may encounter various items during matches. There are three types of items in the game: super meter up, health up, and Party Ball. The super meter up item is yellow and creates a small radius that will quickly increase the super meter of anyone inside. The health meter up item is almost identical to the super meter one except that it’s green instead of yellow and replenishes health instead of super meter.

Party Balls come in two forms, one that explodes and one that causes a stun from electricity damage. Both Party Balls drop from above and will not be active until hit by a player. Once active a Party Ball will start glowing, then explode after a short time. Any characters caught in the blast will take damage.

If you see a Party Ball you can hit it toward an opponent, but they’re usually easy to avoid. A smart player may leave the Party Ball inactive, score a stun or knock down on their opponent, then immediately knock the Party Ball in their direction so they don’t have time to avoid the explosion. Timing is critical to make this strategy work, but it can turn the tides of a match if timed well.

You can also use a Party Ball activation to predict an opponent’s movement. If you knock a Party Ball toward an opponent and they start moving to the right to avoid it. A well-timed punch that curves to the right could catch them off guard. The opponent will be focused on moving away from the Party Ball instead of avoiding your attack. However, even if they do manage to evade your attack, they’ll still have to move clear of the Party Ball before they can counter attack.

Finally, you can use the Party Ball as cover. Punches can’t go through the Party Ball, so if you stand on the far side of the item, placing the Party Ball between you and your opponent, one of you will have to move in order to attack. You can always use an Arm with more curve to it to swing it around the Party Ball, if you’re expecting a curved attack it’s easier to evade. You can also just block so you can safely charge up while the Party Ball is blocking your opponent’s vision.

We’ve got more strategies and advice in our ARMS game hub, so be sure to check it out if you’re looking to improve your ARMS skill!