Footsies: The Tao of Fighting games

Jun 30 2020 4 min read

Footsies is the next installment in our The Tao of Fighting games series. Mastering this technique will help step up your game.

Footsies are another mid-high level technique in fighting games that would be an exceptional addition to any beginner's arsenal. Because it exists in virtually every game in the genre, it should be a familiar term to those that watch and take part in the competitive scene. 

What are footsies? 

To understand what footsies are, you first need to know what we refer to as pokes. These are mid-range attacks players use to keep their opponents outside their combo range and launch attacks of their own without the risk of being punished themselves. 

Footsies build upon this by controlling the space between players through the combination of speed, distance, and reach. Pokes are used not just to attack but also to bait opponents into whiffing and blocking, allowing the player to punish them and control the flow of the match. 

Successful footsies initiate attacks from neutral into advantageous positions, but it has a lot less to do with reaction and more about prediction. The shimmy is just one aspect of footsies and takes the mind games even further. 


Mastering footsies

Footsies are both a defensive and offensive tool that requires a couple of things: 

  • First is the shimmy, the back and forth movements players enact as they move in and out of each other's poking distance. The trick here is to bait your opponent into launching an attack or grab that whiffs and allows you to counter with a poke. If your attack is faster than your opponent's, it could connect before they've even finished their attack. 

  • Secondly, we have a balance between the range and speed of your pokes. Stronger attacks have a longer reach but sacrifice speed as a result. This makes them a bad choice as pokes because medium or light attacks will either stop their heavy attack in its tracks or immediately after it whiffs. Knowing the range of your opponent's pokes is essential because even if you guess their next move right, it's all for nothing if you can't get out of the way in time or punish it afterward.

  • The third is resource management. Be it reversals, specials, and whatever else they're called in your chosen game; if they make use of resources from some sort of gauge, then there's the chance that it will be relatively fast, pack a punch, and could also have invincible startup frames. This makes it necessary to keep an eye on your opponent's resources and anticipate when they might use it during your footsies. A perfect example is when you're facing an opponent with a command grab that's too fast for you to react to and covers a reasonable range. These can be whiffed too, but the best option is often to break them out of it if the command grab doesn't have invincibility. If it's some other kind of attack, blocking might be your best option, allowing you to punish it afterward.

  • Fourth, you need to know how to punish your opponent's moves. Which pokes do you have that can open them up for a big combo? What's the right distance to bait them and how do you react to someone that's unresponsive to your baiting? I find that grabs are an excellent way to deal with turtles (players that always resort to blocking), and they're also particularly susceptible to cross-ups and overheads. Know your options and which have the range and speed to connect in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

  • The fifth is to make sure you have a game plan. You want to figure out your opponent's habits and get into their head. This will help you better predict their actions, scare them away from making rational decisions, and initiate moves that you can easily exploit. Footsies are a risk/reward situation that relies on your ability to read your opponent and turn their actions into disadvantages.

The term footsies began with older fighting games, which had sweeps as the best option to control space in the game. Players would position themselves at just the right distance so that only their character's feet hit the opponent when sweeping, hence the name.

Today, however, footsies are all about how you control space with the multitude of options you have from neutral. Perfect your footsies, and you'll be well on your way to becoming an FGC legend.


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