‘Arms’ beginner’s guide: How to outpunch and outthink your opponents

arms beginners guide tips and tricks header
Nintendo

Arms carries a lot more depth and nuance than you might expect at first blush. While the Punch-Out-like game boils down to throwing springy armed punches to wallop your opponent from afar, there’s a lot more at play than aiming your punches and dodging of your opponent. The game is full of customizable elements and subtle mechanics that you’ll need to keep in mind if you want to win a fight. From knowing the characters, to picking the right gloves for the fight, here’s everything you need to know to knock your friends out.

Learn to steer

The most important skill you need to master in Arms is controlling your punching abilities. Every punch you fire off can be guided in the air after its thrown, and often you’ll need to correct its course for it to be effective. It’s worth spending a few rounds in Arms’ Grand Prix mode, which will allow you to get the hang of how punches move and can be altered using both motion and traditional controls. Note that different gloves move differently — you’ll want to send your boomerang-type attacks wide, for instance, to take advantage of their arcs.

Learn the characters

Each character in Arms has a different special ability that affects how they move and fight. Ninjara, for instance, teleports when you use his dash move while in the air. He also teleports when a punch hits his shield when he’s blocking, which is great for immediately setting up a grab and throw move or firing off a one-two punch on an unsuspecting opponent. Every character is a little different, so try them all and get familiar with how their individual moves work. You’ll want to know both how to use your favorites as efficiently as you can, and how to counter the abilities of your opponents.

arms nintendo switch nintendoswitch screen 10

Block punches with punches

Early on in Arms, it can be tempting to dodge every incoming attack. But, eventually, you will need to defend yourself when you can’t move. The best way to do that is often by matching an incoming shot with punch of your own. Hit an incoming glove with your blow, and you can cancel it. Even better, a successful counter often leaves your opponent vulnerable to a follow-up.

Make sure you use the right glove for the job, though. Lighter gloves, like the Buff, can block other light gloves and incoming grabs. But a Buff can’t stop a heavier glove like a Megaton, and you’ll still get punched in the face if you try. Likewise, use a Megaton to block an incoming punch and your glove will keep going to hit your opponent. It’s handy to keep a heavy glove in your loadout for just such an occasion.

Get good at blocking

Punching can be a great defense, but some times you need to block, too. If you spot an incoming punch, a block will stop it dead. Plus, you can absorb most or all of a Rush attack with your block and suffer no consequences. So block early and often, as you’ll protect yourself from more hits without ever having to aim a punch.

While blocking is generally a phenomenal defensive move, it has one key vulnerability: It makes you completely vulnerable to a grab. Stick to dodging and matching punches once your opponent gets in close.

Charge up your punches

When you choosing your gloves, keep in mind that all of your gloves have elemental attacks that make them even more powerful. To charge your gloves, hold down the block, dash, or jump button after using them to charge up for your next punch. Elemental attacks come in four flavors: Fire, which does additional damage; ice, which slows opponents; wind, which sends enemies spinning into the air for extra combos; and electric, which shocks enemies for an easy grab or another blow. Beware of incoming elemental attacks, too.

Don’t waste your Rush

Your yellow Rush meter lets you know when you can unleash a powerful, rapid-fire attack. The attack is easily disabled if you take a hit in the middle of it, however, so plan accordingly. Make sure you’re ready to use your Rush when your opponent has committed to a move you’ve dodged, otherwise you’ll waste it. Also, note that a well-timed Rush can block an attack — computer opponents love that trick.

arms nintendo switch nintendoswitch screen 11

Heavy characters are tougher to knock down

Bigger characters, like Master Mummy, can take more punishment before they’re staggered or knocked down. They also move slower. Knowing how much punishment you’ll need to deliver against an opponent to put them on their back can help you time and plan your attacks.

Get airborne

You are much harder to hit when you’re in the air, and several maps offer opportunities for you propel yourself higher in the air than usual. Make use of jumps when you can to trick your opponent and keep yourself tougher to pin down. Keep in mind that taking a hit in the air will send you flying, though, and not in a good way. You can also get bounced in the air for additional hits — and you can bounce opponents, too.

Use power-ups for a chance to attack

Health and Rush meter recovery bottles can be essential in a battle. You want to save them for yourself, while keeping your opponents away. If you’re on the attack trying to take a health or Rush bottle, note that you can use it to your advantage. The area around power-ups is bathed in opaque light, which can make it tough to see incoming attacks. If you’re smart, you can make your opponent back off by hitting him or her while their vision is obscured.