Welcome to our Super Smash Bros. history retrospective. Nintendo’s most adored fighting and party game series, Super Smash Bros., debuted its latest game in December: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Nintendo Switch!
I’ve been a fan of Smash since the original title came out in 1999 on the N64. As a lifelong fan, I’ve played party matches with friends, traveled to several states in the U.S., and entered tournaments against some of the best players in the world. Yet no matter the circumstance, I’ve felt the same, undeniable charm from every Smash game. Each title had something special that made it the most enjoyable game possible. With that said, we’re going to cover SSB over the years.
Super Smash Bros Table of Contents
The History of Super Smash Bros
Developed and created by Masahiro Sakurai, employee of Nintendo’s subdivision, HAL Laboratories, Sakurai got his start as the creator of Kirby. Much like Mario, Kirby starred in 2D platformers. Among Sakurai’s games included Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby’s Adventure, and Kirby Super Star. The platforming action and physics carried over to the original Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64.
In Super Smash Bros., you jump, use items, and use special moves dictated on which direction you input along with the B button. Unlike the traditional fighting game, you don’t whittle down your enemy’s HP to zero. Plus you have much more control of your movement. As such, the gameplay feels much like Kirby, but tailored to each character, such as Luigi, who jumps high, or Link, whose added range and items let him attack from far away.
Super Smash Bros. featured multiplayer matches between 2 and 4 players. Taking cues from Mario Kart, you could use items to attack your opponent or power yourself up, possibly giving you the edge in battle. Plus with the multitude of stages, each one featured different layouts and obstacles that challenged the players.
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After Super Smash Bros. released in 1999, Sakurai immediately went to work on the sequel for Nintendo GameCube. Dubbed Super Smash Bros. Melee, this introduced many prominent Nintendo characters. Bowser and Peach from Mario, Zelda and Ganondorf from Legend of Zelda, and even the Ice Climbers from the titular NES game. In addition, Marth and Roy, from Fire Emblem, debuted in the U.S. This would in turn lead to Fire Emblem being released in the U.S. due to fan demand.
Melee changed the scope of gaming and became one of the most copied games in history. Platform fighters, such as Cartoon Network PunchTime Explosion XL, Rivals of Aether, and Brawlhalla all set to derive from the groundwork that Melee built.
Unlike SSB, Melee was adjusted to be a much faster game. Adding a 4th special move, new dodging abilities, and faster physics, Melee became a popular GameCube title. Sakurai added tons more content as well. Trophies, Adventure Mode, Home Run Contest, and All-Star Mode were among the many pieces added to the series.
Most notably, however, was the introduction of the tournament scene. Super Smash Bros. history changed when players, such as Ken and Mew2King, discovered new technique. As a result, players began to enter tournaments and play the game more seriously. 1v1 matches, no items, and few stages were among the rules. Players introduced “tier lists” which dictated the most and least viable competitive characters.
Melee’s legacy would continue for over 18 years and counting. Despite the presence of its sequels, Melee would still appear in major tournaments, such as EVO, Genesis, and CEO.
Nintendo’s own Marth and Roy, from Fire Emblem, gave rise to fan demand. Despite only appearing the Japanese-exclusive series, their character designs pushed fans to ask Nintendo for a western series release. Consequently, Nintendo would later release Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade for Game Boy Advance in 2003. This would continue with the release of later Fire Emblem titles in the U.S.
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SSB Brawl’s first trailer featured Solid Snake from Metal Gear. As a Konami title, Snake’s appearance marked the first time a 3rd-party character would appear in the Nintendo franchise. As a result, players demanded to see other popular gaming characters in Smash. This would give rise to the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in the title’s final release.
Once the sequel to Brawl was revealed, Super Smash Bros. Wii U’s initial trailer featured Mega Man, a requested character who could not make it into the previous title. Once again, this gave rise to new crossover possibilities. In addition to the return of Sonic, Sakurai would later add Pac-Man from the titular series, Ryu from Street Fighter, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, and Bayonetta from the titular series.
These character additions gave rise to the culture of demanding characters in SSBU. The new game gave the spotlight to Simon and Richter from Castlevania, Ken from Street Fighter, Joker from Persona 5, and the Hero from Dragon Quest. What started as a Nintendo crossover became the new home for gaming icons.
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Tournaments have been played since Smash on N64. However, they steadily became more popular in Super Smash Bros. Melee and would continue gaining popularity upon future releases. Super Smash Bros. Brawl introduced online play, enabling many new faces to play against each other in the comfort of their homes. Players who lived in areas without established competitive scenes could test their skills. The internet offered guides to help players hone their skills.
Meanwhile, more and more members of the community would develop tournament scenes. One in particular gave rise to the Genesis series, which many hail as the Smash community’s largest tournament series.
SSB for Wii U offered players a title that began to tilt towards more competitive balance. Game balance patches, an online mode featuring “Final Destination” stages, and Nintendo’s push towards tournaments at E3 would enable more to enter tournaments. This began a meteoric rise for Super Smash Bros. tournaments.
Popular players would become icons on Twitter social media, more communities would appear from the development of tournament scenes, and major series, such as EVO and CEO, would regularly host Smash tournaments. This gave rise to Super Smash Bros. Esports era. Nintendo created the “NintendoVS” Twitter account and would shoutout top players who won tournaments. They would partner with major tournaments, such as Super Smash Con, and allow them to broadcast events on Twitch.tv.
Super Smash Bros. hit a new peak with EVO 2019. Featuring over 3,000 players entering the tournament, Twitch hit a viewer count of over 279,000 people – the largest for any Smash event to date. With Nintendo Switch’s popularity, Nintendo and tournament organizers capitalized on the console and game’s own popularity. Smash fans took Ultimate seriously thanks to its competitive mechanics and introduction of the series’ past entire roster. Smash Ultimate became the peak of the series and gave rise to the largest scene in Smash Bros. history.
Smash came from one man’s dream to unite Nintendo’s iconic characters in a multiplayer party game. Doing so launched a competitive scene that united the world with eager players proving to be the best at the game. Super Smash Bros. over the years introduced new characters from different series which, in turn, would enable players to request more characters to add to the already stacked, iconic roster.
The fighting game feel of Street Fighter, the platforming of Mario and Kirby, the item usage, party game feel, and chaos of Mario Kart, and the realms and characters of dozens of legendary franchises all paved the way for the future of Super Smash Bros. Passionate players spoke of their sheer love for Smash while Nintendo eventually caved in to fan demand.
Allowing Smash to be streamed on Twitch.tv, Nintendo saw opportunity and cashed in on it. Seeing the fans’ preference for Melee, Nintendo pushed for Ultimate to cater to competitive players without losing the whimsical feel of Smash’s origins. Doing so created the ultimate party game and a competitive game that would shatter records for tournament entrants and stream viewership.
The legacy of SSB over the years is paved by passionate players that helped shape the series into what it is today. All along with a man whose passion remains unrivaled for his game, his company, and especially his fans.
— 桜井 政博 (@Sora_Sakurai) August 5, 2019
Thank you for reading our Super Smash Bros. article. What do you love most about the series? Let us know in the comments below!