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Skullgirls Beginner's Guide

Skullgirls Beginner's Guide

Femi Famutimi
15 min

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The game is over a decade old, but there has never been a better time to pick it up

Skullgirls 2nd Encore was released in 2015 and has grown into a game with a cult following. While not as popular as the main FG titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls has carved a community for itself that is close-knit and long-lasting.

The game has gone through a lot, but in recent years has seen a resurgence. It will be featured at Combo Breaker and will be a mainstage game at Evo 2022, which has breathed new life into the game. There is no better time to get into Skullgirls than right now. In this guide, we’ll look at some things to look into and some of the unique mechanics you’ll find while playing Skullgirls 2E

What is Skullgirls?

Skullgirls is one of those games that doesn’t give too much to its lore. The events of the story center around an enigmatic item known as the Skull Heart, which is supposed to be able to grant the wielder any wish they desire. However, the Skull Heart has a tendency to distort the wish of the wielder. 

With a colorful cast of characters, Skullgirls is an absolutely enjoyable game. As a fighter, it can be categorized as a 6-button game, meaning that, for the most part, the input buttons consist of these 6: 

  • Light Punch (LP)

  • Light Kick (LK)

  • Medium Punch (MP)

  • Medium Kick (MK)

  • Heavy Punch (HP)

  • Heavy Kick (HK)

Skullgirls is a versatile game as it can be played as a team game or a single-character game. This means that you have the chance to use between one and three characters. Therefore, in a match, one person can decide to use one character against another individual who goes for a three-character team. 

Game Modes

As with any fighting game worth its salt, Skullgirls is chockfull of game modes for the player to fiddle around with and enjoy. The game can be played by a solo player or multiple players. It also has an online mode which most people will be interested in. 

Single-Player Mode

As the name implies, this is the mode that supports one player, and it has a lot of modes that enhance the game-playing experience. There are the following modes under the single-player section:

  1. Story Mode - In this mode, you follow the story of an individual character. They fight different characters as they make their way to the Skull Heart, which is central to the story. In this mode, you use a single character to clear the game and get to the end of the story.

  2. Arcade Mode - This is the more traditional single-player mode, and in it, you use a select team of characters to battle through the game to the end 

  3. Survival Mode -  This is a common concept in many fighting games. In survival mode, you are tasked with surviving through as many fights as you can. The further you advance, the more difficult the opponents get, and the better you do, the more life you get between rounds. 

Versus Mode

Versus mode pits you against other people to determine who is the best. 

  1. Tournament - This lets you play a local tournament with your friends

  2. Local Only - This is a match to play with the person next to you. So it is best used in a casual setting with your friends

  3. Quick Match - This is a quick online match that is ranked 

  4. Lobby Play - This puts you into a lobby and lets you play with other people online

Training Mode

Perhaps the mode that is of most interest to the newbie. Before you hop on to the ranked matches to play people from all over, it is perhaps best to learn the basics of the game through the training mode. Skullgirls is a very deep game, but it does its best to help new players to ensure they can grasp what is going on. 

  1. Training Room -  This is the regular training mode you are probably used to. In it, you’re left on your own to play as you please with a training dummy. You can use this to master moves and combos and lab everything you’d like to and help yourself become more proficient in the game. 

  2. Tutorials -  In this setting, you get to learn all you need about the game. Skullgirls has a pretty in-depth tutorial that teaches you everything from the most basic movement to advanced techniques like Alpha Counters and Snapbacks. If you are a newbie, it might be a bit too much to deal with, but you don’t need to go through everything to learn what you need to be competent. On the other hand, if you are a player with fighting game experience, this mode will be a godsend. 

  3. Challenges - In this game mode, you are tasked with facing AI opponents with different conditions. For example, you could be asked to defeat an opponent without jumping. 

  4. Trails - This is for the character specialists who want to know all they can about certain characters. This game mode helps you explore that and gives you various combos to do with a character. With this, you could become an execution monster. 

Character Select

After going through the tutorial, it is now time to pick the character you want to use. While Skullgirls has been around for a while, the game has stuck to a relatively small cast of characters. There are 16 characters to choose from currently (soon to be 17 with the addition of Black Dahlia). Since it’s a team-based game, you can be a bit flexible with your thinking. Sure even when using three characters, you’ll always end up with one main character that’ll be your go-to while playing. 

The general rule for beginners is to pick a character that is easy to use. When you pick someone like this and start out, you can slowly build your game to the level where you are a lot more confident to pick someone else. Skullgirls has a variety of character archetypes, including rushdown, zoning, and grappler characters. There are also varying levels of complexity when it comes to character choices. The best advice to give to a newbie picking up the game for the first time is to go with Filia. She is the main protagonist of the game and, as with most protagonists, is designed so as to be easy to use. She has simple moves, combos, and strategies to make her a great choice for people just starting out. As time goes on, you might want to pick someone more complex or who requires a more patient style of play, in which case you can consider Valentine.

While the likes of Double and Eliza have interesting designs, they can be quite difficult to use unless you have some experience in the game and have mastered the basics. 

In a nutshell, it would be best to use Filia, learn the game and then pick whoever you want moving forward. 

Core Mechanics

With the characters out of the way, it is time to look at some of the mechanics that make Skullgirls tick. There are a few of them to examine, so let’s take them one by one. 


This is a system in which you can create some space between you and the opponent by pressing two P buttons. This space gives you some breathing room when you are being pressured. Blocking is a pivotal part of any fighting game, and it is even more important in Skullgirls, which is really combo-heavy. You can air block in this game which isn’t something you’ll find in many fighters. 

OTG Combos

OTG is an acronym for ‘Off-the-ground.’ This is a combo that knocks the opponent down and then hits at them while on the ground to continue the combo. This can only be done once per combo, and if you do an OTG combo and the opponent is knocked down again, they automatically recover. Therefore, you are advised to practice combos that cause your opponent to land on their feet so you can perform longer combo strings. 

Assists and Tags

These are core team mechanics that you’ll need when playing the game to tag in new characters to come into the fray. The typical game of Skullgirls involves three characters whom you can either call to assist or tag in to continue the fight. When you call for an assist, one of your characters, who is off-screen, comes on and does a pre-assigned move and goes back out. This is performed by inputting LK+MP or MK+HP depending on which character you want to call for an assist. If you pick only two characters, then both inputs will work for the same character.

On the other hand, if the fight isn’t going your way due to the matchup, you can tag in one of the other characters you have chosen to continue the fight and see if they have a better time out there. To tag in a new character, you input MP+MK or HP+HK again, depending on the character you want to come in. If you choose only two characters, both inputs will still be available to you. 


This is an offensive system in which you can force the current character off the screen to bring in another character. This is executed by inputting the QCF+tag command. 

Delay Hyper Combo

Tagging in a new character could be really dangerous as the new character usually has a short window of vulnerability where the opponent can hit them without being able to block. Hence, the Delay Hyper Combo is necessary. This mechanic is one in which you cancel into the super of the character you’re about to tag in while doing the super of the current character. This results in the super being performed being cut short and another super from the tagged in character taking off. Once done, the newly tagged character remains on screen to continue the fight. It is considered the safest way to tag in a new character.


Combos are integral to this game, and they are intricately built. In Skullgirls 2nd Encore, combos are divided into five stages. The first two stages of a combo are safe and free, but from the third stage, a few things come into play that we’ll have a look at.

Infinite Prevention System (IPS)

This is a system that seeks to reduce the length of a combo and ensure that the game is more fun for both parties. IPS kicks in after a certain amount of time, after which the opponent will emit some sparks and then burst out of the combo. IPS starts tracking during the third stage of a combo and really kicks in if you use a move that you’ve performed before. This way, it discourages infinite combo loops. 


This is another prevention system that stops long combos. Drama was created to stop TOD (touch of death) combos. There is a thick, black bar underneath the health bar which starts to fill up the longer a combo goes on. It can be compared to the stun bar in Street Fighter V, but unlike that game where a stun leads the opponent to a free combo when the drama gauge is full, it enables the opponent to break out from the combo. 

There are a few rules to consider with Drama, for one, when the bar is full, it allows you to finish that combo chain before activating. Also, if you stop the combo before the bar is full, it’ll decrease gradually. Meanwhile, once full and activated, the bar empties out, immediately starting the process again. 

Pushblock Guard Cancel

This is fairly advanced tech but might be useful as you grow in the game. Pushblock Guard Cancel or PBGC is a mechanic in which you can counter an opponent after a push block. It isn’t the easiest technique to master as each character has a slightly different timing of vulnerability after a push block. If you can time it right, though, you could potentially counter your enemy with a combo after a push block. 

Alpha Counters

This is a technique in which you can counter the opponent with the help of an assist while blocking. Normally blocking is seen as a defensive strategy in which you are helpless, but with the help of an Alpha Counter, you can turn it into a dangerous situation. When blocking, you can tag in a new character who comes in with 13f invincibility and can get the opponent off you. 

Snapback Infinite

Now, this is definitely advanced tech, but it is also a lot of fun. You know how you can’t do combo loops due to IPS and Undizzy/Drama? Well, this does not apply to assists. Therefore, you could use loop combos on an assist and kill them. How do you do this? Well, you can do it by performing a snapback and hitting the assist and then chaining into a series of combos that eventually kills them.

Burst Baiting 

This is as advanced as advanced gets, but burst baiting is a system in which you purposely fill up the Drama gauge or cause an IPS with the aim of getting the opponent to burst and then avoiding the push back and doing another combo. So it looks something like this: You combo the opponent to the point of them doing the burst. Normally, the burst will push you to the other end of the screen, but if you block or dodge, you can avoid the push back and still be close enough to punish the opponent. While the opponent is safe during the startup for a burst, they aren’t safe during recovery. In this moment, you can take your opportunity and deal some damage.


There are still many things we could go over in Skullgirls, but this will have to do for now. Due to the longevity of Skullgirls, most of the playerbase is already really advanced, so you have some real catching up to do, but once you have all the basics down, all you need is experience. 

For this, you can make use of some of the incredible resources available. The best is the Skullheart website, where you can find almost all the information you need. There are designated coaches for each character and several other resources for learning the game. You can also check out the Reddit page for Skullgirls, which is famed for its beginner-friendly nature. There are several tournaments for newbies through which you can become even better. 

We hope this has been helpful, and we wish you all the best as you chase down the Skull Heart

Good luck, Skullgirl

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