Announced at E3 2001, Sheik (シーク, Sheik) is a starter character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. She transforms from Zelda by using her down special move (Transform), and can transform back. By holding the "A" button at the stage loading screen, Zelda will automatically transform into Sheik at the start of a match.
She used to be first on the Melee tier list until the eighth version of it, where Fox took top spot, and has continued to hold it. Sheik currently ranks 4th on the tier list making her the highest ranked female, in the S tier primarily due to her chain throw on many of the lower tier characters, excellent combos, a great finisher in her forward air, a very good approach due to fast aerials and high jumps, and one of the best edgeguarding games in Melee. Sheik, however, suffers from a relatively short and predictable recovery, vulnerability to comboing, as well as a rather short but quick wavedash. She also is relatively weak to crouch canceling.
Sheik is a very agile fighter, possessing a fast dash, high falling speed, good jumping prowess, and very quick, combo-friendly attacks. While only a portion of her moveset can reliably KO to compensate for her speed, such options are very reliable combo finishers at most percentages, greatly offsetting her power loss. Sheik, however, has poor air speed(tied for 5th worst among the cast) and a rather high short hop. As a result of having high traction and a high falling speed, Sheik has a rather short, but fast, wavedash.
Sheik's main strength is her edgeguarding ability, which is among the best in the game. While she lacks a spike like Marth, or even a meteor smash, Sheik's good jumping prowess and fast, powerful aerials give her amazing options off the edge. Sheik's forward aerial is among the most feared in the game, due to its fast startup, high knockback scaling, semi-spike angle, and its ability to autocancel itself if used correctly, and is her main pressuring and edgeguarding tool, while also being an outstanding combo finisher. Her back aerial is slightly weaker(but still very powerful if sweetspotted) with a more diagonal angle, but has more reach and is safer to use, allowing for it to be used as a potent edgeguarding option as well. Sheik also has one of the best projectiles in the game, Needle Storm, which aids in her edgeguarding; the needles are quick to charge, can travel quickly when thrown, and can cut through or stop most other projectiles in the game, allowing Sheik to neutralize projectiles from characters who rely on them to cover their recovery, such as Samus. Needles also have high hitstun and low knockback, making them excellent for intercepting recoveries, especially more linear options such as Fire Fox. In addition, Needles travel in a diagonal downward path when thrown from the air, presenting the edgeguarder with more options. Sheik also has the means to force edgeguarding situations very easily, possessing a back throw that sets up edgeguards on fastfallers, and the speed to effectively corner opponents once they're close to the ledge.
Sheik is also notable for having among the best punishing abilities in the game. Her tilts, dash attack, and up smash all come out quickly and all send the opponents straight into the air, giving Sheik guaranteed aerial followup options, especially at lower percentages. Aside from the aforementioned forward and back aerials, Sheik's other aerials also possess amazing utility for punishing, despite her low air speed. Her neutral aerial is a quick sex kick that serves as a potent out of shield option that can dispel the opponent's shield pressure; her up aerial is a combo extender at lower percentages that can reliably KO at higher percentages, especially near the ceiling; her down aerial, while possessing the slowest startup out of all of her aerials, sends opponents upwards with a great deal of hitstun, allowing followups into her aforementioned up, back, or forward aerials, or even a sweetspotted up smash. Due to their low lag and high power, most are of relatively low-risk to use off the edge. Sheik's aforementioned Needle Storm also aids in her punishing game; when used in midair, the needles travel diagonally downwards, allowing them to hit grounded opponents. Due to the fact that Needle Storm has no landing lag after being used in midair, Sheik can use the hitstun or shield stun from her needles to immediately grab or attack the opponent upon landing. This is further compounded (in NTSC only) with Sheik's excellent down throw, which boasts a chain grab on many characters in the game at lower to mid-percentages, including Pikachu and Link, and sets up tech chasing situations on fastfallers such as Fox, Falco, and Falcon. Skilled Sheik players can convert a single down throw into potential stock losses for the foe by utilizing either chain grabbing or tech-chasing until the opponent is at combo-friendly percentages, where they will use Sheik's launching options to begin nearly inescapable combos that result in a KO or a fatal edgeguarding situation.
Sheik, however, has a mediocre neutral game, especially compared to other top tiers. Due to her high short hop, Sheik suffers from a poor SHFFL, which impairs some elements of her aerial approach. Sheik also possesses a short dash-dance, forcing her to rely on her short wavedash to adjust her spacing. While Needle Storm has no landing lag when used in midair, it does have significant ending lag when used on the ground; however, Sheik's needles will only travel straight if she throws them while grounded, impairing her ability to approach with her projectile from afar. Sheik also lacks universal disjoint, causing her to have a very small and concentrated "threat zone" where she can create openings by threatening the opponent with a forward aerial, her tilts, or an aerial Needle Storm into a grab. As such, high-level Sheik players will often look for openings to close distance and go into that "threat zone," a spacing where Sheik can threaten the opponent with her outstanding punish game. This is easier to do against characters with even worse neutral games, particularly low- and bottom-tier characters, as they lack the means to zone Sheik out of that ideal area. However, other top-tier characters have the tools to keep Sheik out, whether it be through projectiles or disjoint, and can similarly harshly punish Sheik if she unsafely attempts to close this distance.
One of Sheik's more universal weaknesses is her poor, predictable recovery. Despite her high midair jump and fast aerial attacks that can aggravate edgeguarders, Vanish does not give significant vertical or horizontal distance, and when she reappears, there is no offensive hitbox, allowing easy edgeguarding. Additionally, Sheik is horizontally locked after performing Vanish, disallowing her from drifting back to the stage from afar. In some situations where Sheik cannot recover at all, Sheik may be forced to transform and use Zelda's superior recovery, this is not without its risks however, as Zelda is much less viable in top level play, which is where Sheik performs. A common strategy is to DI upwards and use Zelda's superior air speed and lower falling speed to drift back to stage, or in worst case scenarios, use Farore's Wind to recover. Further compounding these recovery flaws are Sheik's fast falling speed and low air. Sheik can wall jump, but its use is situational, dependent on the stage, and is shorter than most others due to Sheik's fast falling speed. Sheik's low air speed compounded with her fast falling speed also makes her very easy to combo herself, especially against characters with reliable launching throws or attacks such as Marth, Falco, and Jigglypuff.
Overall, Sheik is a solid character with the tools to combat every other fighter in Melee. She is a very punish- and control-based character, relying on her excellent comboing abilities to rack up damage and force edgeguarding situations where she can intercept the foe for quick gimp KOs. Against characters ranked lower than her, Sheik usually has free reign over the match and can easily close distance and convert a single opening into a clear advantage. However, against most other top tiers, Sheik must play with the utmost caution and precision to create those same openings and succeed.
Sheik has one of the best matchup spreads in the game. She is soft countered by three characters, has one even matchup, soft counters six characters, counters five, and hard counters ten.
She generally has an advantage against characters possessing
Significant vulnerability to chain throwing and 0-deaths, such as: Bowser, Ganondorf, and Link, as they lack the proper tools to combat her grab game and KO setups. Sheik can chaingrab nearly half the cast with her deadly down throw, or unleash dangerous combos to KO her opponent
Susceptibility to her powerful edgeguarding tools, like Roy and Captain Falcon. These fighters mostly have a very tough time against moves like b-air, n-air, and especially f-air, usually causing gimps.
Bad neutral games, inferior approach, or faulty setups that give Sheik an easier time taking a stock, such as Kirby, Zelda, and Mr. Game and Watch, as they cannot effectively counter the multitude of options Sheik has at her disposal
High lag moves or sluggish speed, such as Link, Bowser, and Samus, thanks to her superior punish game and swift speed
On the flipside, Sheik tends to struggle against fighters with
The ability to effectively camp, for example: Fox, Jigglypuff, and Falco, which lets these characters escape her approaching choices, while opening up punishment to Sheik
Strong neutral/ground games that can dispel her pressure, such as Ice Climbers, as they're able to exploit combo setups and deadly punishes against her
Potent combo tools, like Marth or Fox, as Sheik has a combination of attributes that give her a disadvantage in escaping these options
Excellent recovery, such as Peach, due to Sheik's mediocre recovery and need to utilize Zelda for efficient safety.
Overall, Sheik's advantages give her amazing matchups over the majority of the cast, and she only loses against a very small number of characters in Melee. Sheik also has the distinction of having the most hard-counters, and fewest even matchups in the top-tier