Footsies is a silly term that actually has a very extensive meaning in fighting games, whether you’re playing Street Fighter or Smash.
Like everything else in the fighting game world, there's a lot of history and nuance behind everything, but we can still attempt to break it down. One word you've probably heard before is "footsies." But what is footsies referring to in a fighting game?
There is a simple explanation for footsies. It's basically when two players approach each other in a fighting game and attempt to find the right positioning to get a good hit in. Of course, there's more to it than that if you're trying to master the art of footsies in a fighting game.
Footsies and the neutral game
Whether you're playing Super Smash Bros. Melee or Tekken, there is something to keep in mind called the neutral game. This is when neither character has the upperhand or better positioning. It's a moment when both players are trying to figure out how to get the upperhand.
Footsies is a cute way of saying that the players are trying to get control of the space in front of them, essentially getting the better positioning and having an advantage over the other player. It can be a bit of a back and forth — you're trying to get a range you like while also denying your opponent the range they want. The term footsies most likely came into play because players will try to take control of the space by crouching and doing some jab-like kicks to keep the opponent back.
FGC and footsies in fighting games
Footsies can mean something different to basically everyone within the FGC, however. It changes depending on which game you're playing and who you are playing against. Everyone has their own definition of footsies.
One guy on Reddit said: "For me, footsies are basically just toying with the frontier of reaction. There's a range after which you can react to anything your opponent does — and if you're weaving back and forth across the edge of that range, your opponent is never quite sure whether or not you'll be able to react to what they do. You have to make them think that you can't, when you actually can."
Another said it's when you are at mid-range — this is when you can get in some poke attacks from a safe distance. These little pokes are considered "playing footsies" because they're often a kick in Street Fighter and Tekken.
Does Smash have footsies?
You probably have noticed that most of the games mentioned in this guide are the typical arcade style fighters. Meanwhile, Smash is considered a platform fighter, where players can jump around the map instead of fighting for one particular space on the screen.
But Smash does still have footsies, although you won't hear the term used as often. In Smash, this would be when both fighters are in neutral state and are trying to figure out how to get that little hit in that gives them the upperhand, opening them up to a bunch of devastating combos. But instead of little kicks and jabs, this would be done with tilts, trips, and other unique Smash mechanics that will leave the other player prone or give you the ability to read their next movement and punish it.
How to get better at footsies in fighting games
The way you go about footsies depends on the game you're playing. But in general, the key to getting better at footsies is understanding your chosen fighter. You need to learn what positioning will give that specific fighter the upperhand. For example, in Smash, some characters have the advantage when they are right in an opponent's face while others have the advantage when they are spaced far away.
Then you need to keep that character's moveset in mind. For another example, Rose in Street Fighter has a roundhouse kick that makes opponents a bit weary when approaching. Getting a good hit in with this roundhouse kick will give you the advantage since your opponent is now on the defensive and trying to maneuver around your kick, giving you control of the stage.
The third step is to really read and understand your opponent. You want to get a sense of their tendencies and patterns, their overall playstyle. This will help you know what to do and when. For example, do they jump to avoid fireballs? If so, you'll want to get them into the air and hit them with some powerful aerial combos since you are now prepared for their reaction and can respond to it.
As you can probably see, footsies is a mental game. While you're physically trying to get good spacing, you're also trying to get in your opponent's head.