I really, really love Smash Bros.
That’s something that’s stood true about me for many years now, and if you’re a Nintendo fan there’s a fairly good chance it’s the same for you as well.
I don’t remember exactly when I first played a Smash Bros. game, but I do know that it was a long time ago and that I liked it. The first two video games I ever played were Super Mario World and Star Fox on the Super Nintendo and those were really two of the only games I played for a few years before my parents bought me an N64 in the late 90s. To me, Mario and Fox McCloud were the two video game characters I knew really well before any others, and although I’ve played many many games since then and have a much broader scope of games that I’m interested in today, those two characters hold a special place in my heart (although only one of them continues to get good games released these days). Naturally I, like any other kid my age who played Nintendo games, saw the original Super Smash Bros. as something incredible. Here were my two favorite characters… in the same game! On screen at the same time! I could play as Fox McCloud out of his Arwing and fight against my brother who was playing as Mario. Back then I didn’t even know who characters like Captain Falcon and Ness. But I still loved the game, and the number of characters and stages seemed to give the game an endless amount of replayability.
My mind was blown again just a few years later when my friend’s older brother got a GameCube and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Again, I don’t remember when exactly I first got to play Melee, but I do remember being absolutely blown away by just how much stuff there was and how many characters were in the game. Now there were even more characters I didn’t know like Dr. Mario, Marth and Roy, Mr. Game and Watch, and Ice Climbers. Plus there were so many cool stages and an adventure mode and other new single-player modes. I remember playing that game nearly every time I went to my friend’s house and no matter how much we all played, I never got tired of it.
These days my Smash experience is a bit different. When I play Smash now, my friends and I really enjoy trying to beat each other. But I am by no means a competitive player. I tried going to a small tournament in my city once and was quickly shown just how large the gap is between myself and players who take the game seriously. Still, I really enjoy trying to get better by throwing down against my friends when we play together. It’s really a far cry from when the game was an overwhelming blend of unknown characters and stages and items to the me of 15+ years ago, and yet here I am still playing the games and I will likely be playing them for years to come.
Smash is an incredibly simple game to pick up and play and I think that’s a really big part of why it’s become so successful. I don’t have much experience in other fighting games like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat but I do know that if someone who hasn’t played a fighting game before is sat down and made to watch/play through the tutorial for Smash Bros. for Wii U and Mortal Kombat X, they’ll likely say that Smash seems far more accessible. While many fighting games require you to learn combos and how to press certain combinations of buttons, Smash, by comparison, is very simple: hit someone else on the screen and watch them go flying. Sure there’s a lot more to it than that and it’s unlikely that someone will pick up Smash Bros. for the first time and immediately be good at it, but it’s much more beginner friendly and things like the abundance of items and the ability to let up to eight people play at once just have something about them that looks fun and draws people in. When Smash 4 came out and more than four people could play at once for the first time, there were many times when I was at a party at someone’s house or had a bunch of people at my house and even people who weren’t really interested in video games normally would want to join in and play smash bros with a large group of people. Even though the majority of games these days are centered around online play and connecting to other people around the world, there’s something about sitting around the same TV with a group of people and all playing and having fun together that can draw in even people who would never play games otherwise, and I believe that Smash is the only fighting game (and one of the only games period) that can do that.
Even more than being easy to pick up and play though, the core appeal in Smash Bros is the character roster. While the original Smash Bros. only had 12 characters, Ultimate will launch with 78 unique characters plus more in the future. I can’t imagine what my childhood self would’ve thought seeing a roster that large. While all the characters in the original Smash Bros. could only be seen in games on Nintendo consoles, Ultimate has stretched the boundaries to include characters like Sonic, Ryu, Simon Belmont, Snake, and Cloud. Smash has stretched to the point where there aren’t many characters that are out of the question for inclusion in the Smash Bros. roster. More than just a showcase for Nintendo characters, Smash Bros could be considered a celebration of gaming history in general, ranging from characters introduced over 30 years ago like Duck Hunt, Mr. Game and Watch, and R.O.B. to those who were only created very recently like Inklings, Corrin, and Dark Pit. It’s honestly incredibly unlikely that someone would pick up a controller to play Ultimate for the first time and not know who any of the characters are. Almost everyone can find some kind of connection to Smash Bros. and that’s something truly amazing.
In today’s world of gaming, we’ve seen more than enough games start out with troubled launches, games filled with bugs, and lootbox ridden games with DLC being used as a way to get extra money out of players. Ultimate has none of that. There’s a staggering amount of content in Ultimate, and in a world where many games don’t seem like they deserve their price tag, $60 seems perfectly reasonable for this one. The largest roster ever, 100+ stages, hundreds and hundreds of songs, more single-player content than ever and loads of new options and gameplay tweaks all come together to make Ultimate worthy of its name. Sakurai has said more than once over the years that another Smash Bros. game may not happen, and while it’s absolutely possible he may yet again bring us a 6th iteration some years from now whenever the Switch’s successor comes out, it does feel like Ultimate may be his last time for real. He’s brought back every character that’s ever been in the series plus added more, and will continue to add more with DLC, plus added characters widely asked for by the community in Ridley, King K. Rool, and Isabelle. We even got Echo Fighters as an excuse for including characters that are basically clones of others. There’s so much in this game despite it releasing less than 3 years after Smash for Wii U’s DLC finished. Sure, not everyone’s most wanted character is in (RIP to Waluigi and Banjo and Kazooie) but there’s so much to be loved about this game that it’s hard to believe anyone can look at it and be disappointed.
If this really is the last time we get a Smash game or, more likely, the last time Sakurai makes one, I want to take this chance to publicly thank Sakurai and everyone else at Nintendo who worked on all of the Smash Bros. games throughout the years. This franchise has given me so many fun and good memories over the years and I know I am far from the only one who feels this way. Smash Bros. has always had the ability to bring people together in a way few games can and that’s something that I truly hope Sakurai and the Smash Bros. team can look back at and be proud of.
And now, I’m going to eagerly count down the hours until I can go pick up Ultimate from Best Buy so I can feel like a kid again.
Chris started loving video games at a young age, playing Super Mario World and Star Fox on his parents’ SNES. Although Nintendo (the Switch in particular these days) is still front and center for him, he also spends a fair amount of time on his PS4 and PC. He is also a huge fan of the Fire Emblem and Star Fox franchises. Chris enjoys watching basketball as well and is a huge fan of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Plays: Switch, PS4, PC.