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Arms guide: punching, throws and blocking

Attacks and the circle of life

The basis of so many games — including Arms — is the time-honored playground classic rock, paper, scissors. It’s particularly important in the fighting genre, where attacks have particular types that all interact with other.

The basic relationship between attacks in most fighting games, like rock, paper, scissors, is this: Attacks beat throws, which beat blocks, which beat attacks. It’s a circular relationship. There is no single best move: players have to outguess their opponents based on their tendencies. If you only play rock, I’m going to only play paper. If you only block, I’m going to throw you.

  • The punch beats throws and loses to blocks.
  • The throw beats blocks and loses to punches.
  • The block beats punches and loses to throws.

Putting aside dodging entirely, this is the core rock, paper, scissors relationship in Arms. Let’s talk about how it works in practice.

Punching

Punch by either flicking a Joy-Con forward (motion controls) or pressing B or A (non-motion controls). For more on the controls, see that section.

Charged punches carry the elemental property of the weapon in addition to doing extra damage: a Toaster will set the enemy on fire, Sparky will stun them with electricity.

Punches are your basic tool for offense (and to a degree, self-defense) in Arms. If two punches meet, they’ll nullify each other. A punch will pass through a grab and often hit the opponent as well. Testing the opponent with single (not double!) punches is a solid general offense.

However, if I see you doing nothing but punching (try the “dodging punches” tutorial in Training mode), I’m going to block or dodge to get a counterpunch.

Throws

Throw by flicking both Joy-Cons forward (motion controls) or pressing A and B at the same time (non-motion controls.) This is a big move that beats blocking opponents but loses to punches. It has a high recovery, so if you miss a throw opponents can quickly punish you with fast attacks or a second grab.

Arms punch grabs

If I suspect an opponent is going to throw, I’ll wait for the moment and as soon as I see green, I’ll throw out a straight jab that will pierce through the grab and punch the opponent.

Wide throws

Arms wide grabs

This is a less obvious option. With motion controls, flick the Joy-Cons outward at an angle, and you’ll see your hands fly out for a throw in a wide arc. This isn’t much slower than a regular throw and it covers a lot more space, eliminating the possibility of them dodging the grab to the side.

At first it seems that controller players can’t do this, but this player figured out a clever input trick to get the same effect. To get a wide grab on a controller, first hold left on the analog stick and press B, then immediately (and we mean in that very moment) whip the stick over to right and hit A. Because there’s a gap during which the game accepts two punches that come out fast enough as a throw, this counts as a grab and it also goes wide. All credit to him on that. (Be aware that the wide throw trick may be patched out after the publication of this guide.)

Blocking and putting it together

We discussed this under movement, but it’s an important part of the attack circle. Blocking beats attacks and loses to throws. In this game, the block animation is very pronounced and fancy, more so than even the grab. It is so pronounced, in fact, that players often take it as a glowing neon “Throw Me” sign. They aren’t wrong, but you can use that perception to your advantage. Here’s a tactic that takes advantage of the whole circle.

Arms punch, block, grab

Don’t block for very long at one time. Instead, put on your guard for just a moment, and if no gloves come flying at you, then pop it right off and start moving again. Often, all it takes is a single flash of the guard to get your opponent to commit to a grab. Look for it, and if they take the bait, throw a punch through their grab.

To fully take advantage of this relationship, make sure to cycle through these actions unpredictably. The key is to have the opponent unsure about what you’re going to do next. It’s fine to punch repeatedly sometimes and to grab repeatedly sometimes. But if you follow the exact same pattern every single time (like the “jump and throw Ninjara” gameplan that is weirdly popular online), smart players will read you and beat you.