The 9th March 2023 marked the 15th anniversary of Super Smash Bros. Brawl‘s US launch. We took some time back in January to discuss the game (specifically the Subspace Emissary single-player mode) in honour of the same milestone for the Japanese version, but we thought it high time to revisit this ranked list of the Best Smash Bros. games and rejig it to reflect the thoughts of Nintendo Life readers.
And so we have! The following ranked list is now governed by each game’s User Rating on the site, which means it’s subject to real-time change, too. So if you haven’t rated the games below, feel free to do so and potentially influence the order, even after publication…
Note. For those of you wondering, NL staff originally ranked all the Smashes in the following descending order: Super Smash Bros. (N64), Brawl (Wii), For Nintendo 3DS (er, 3DS), For Wii U (you get the picture), Melee (GC), and Ultimate (Switch). Scroll down to see if you lot agree…
When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate arrived on Switch back in 2018 and brought with it every single fighter from the series’ history, it sent us back through the older games. With the original Super Smash Bros. now well into its third decade, it’s incredible to see how the series has evolved over two decades. Just how do they rank against each other? Is this ‘Ultimate’ iteration on Switch really the last word in Smash?
There’s a strong argument for it, but just how do the other entries measure up against the Switch game? Well, simply scroll down to see where Ultimate sits compared to its predecessors according to Nintendo Life readers…
Squeezing Smash’s frantic brawling onto a handheld seemed like an impossible feat, but Sakurai’s team of wizards managed to get practically everything from the Wii U version onto the 3DS while also adding stereoscopic 3D, plus exclusive modes (Smash Run and StreetSmash) and stages. This one introduced the ability to customise your fighters by changing their attacks and providing unique power-ups to create a playstyle that works best for you. It also introduced amiibo support, allowing you to train CPU characters and import them into a match with a simple tap of the figure on the console.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS even allowed you to use the 3DS as a controller for the Wii U version – of course, the constant tension and rapid button presses mean it’s definitely not the most comfortable way to play, but back in 2014 3DS owners were treated to an honest-to-goodness, full-fat Super Smash Bros. on a handheld, and over a month before it came to Wii U. It’s still an impressive game to this day and worthy of a place in your collection.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Bearing in mind how carefully Nintendo began managing its characters and their image after the misfire of the (first) Super Mario Bros. movie in the early ’90s, it’s remarkable that the original Super Smash Bros. and its inter-franchise scrapping got off the drawing board at HAL Laboratory. Fortunately, Masahiro Sakurai’s crossover brawler was permitted to exist.
At the time, the idea of a ‘platform’ fighting game without health bars was pretty revolutionary. Instead, as you beat up your opponent, they’d become more vulnerable to knockback from your attacks, with the aim being to knock them out of the arena entirely. Catering for up to four players with a simple control scheme (especially compared to other fighting games) and the addition of weapons and power-ups to spice things up, this first Smash was a rock-solid foundation for a series that would become one of the world’s biggest fighting franchises.
The number of combatants and complexity of the N64 original may pale in comparison with later rosters, which plucked from the annals of video gaming history, but we still look back fondly on the very first time we had the opportunity to open a can of whoop-ass on Pikachu.
The third entry in the scrap ’em up series, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the first to introduce Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, and included the lauded Subspace Emissary mode.
Picking up the baton from the celebrated GameCube entry, Brawl pushed the series in an all-encompassing direction as far as content was concerned, and set the precedent for the ‘more is more’ approach to stages, fighters, music, and more that kept Masahiro Sakurai occupied eight-days-a-week for many years after.
In many ways, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U felt like a direct response to criticisms of the series’ party-friendly aspirations. The crossover fighter series had its innocuous start as a goofy game with a playground spirit, allowing players to finally see who would win in a fight between the world’s two most famous Italian plumbers and some of their friends. This theme would continue, only with more figurines in the toy box to choose from and more playgrounds in which to do battle.
All that fantastic fan service was still present here, and more polished than ever, but the series finally embraced its hyper-competitive side, all the while still managing to deliver one of the most enjoyable eight-player party games in years. With the inclusion of exclusive modes (Smash Tour, Special Orders, and Event Mode), support for a wealth of controllers, and the inclusion of Special Smash, this was a smarter, more focused blast of fighting mayhem, confident in its ability to appeal to any audience willing to give it a chance.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
There’s a reason that to this day Super Smash Bros. Melee has a dedicated hardcore following in the fighter community. Fans will say it’s tighter, faster, and requires more skill than other entries. They’ll point to it being far more entertaining to watch than its successors, down to this faster pace. They’ll point out its better balance. All compelling arguments.
More broadly, though, it’s a brilliant local multiplayer brawler that sanded the rough edges off the N64 original, added a metric ton of content, and — yes — feels the most balanced of all entries in the series before the roster ballooned. Smash would continue to grow from here on out, but there’s an elegance and purity to the GameCube iteration that makes it worth revisiting if you’re knee-deep in Ultimate and want to try a different flavour of superstar brawling.
How does this ‘ultimate’ version of Smash stack up against the rest? Vocal concerns about past games were actively addressed. Every single fighter from the series is present (even Pichu) and joined by a colossal roster of DLC characters from the annals of gaming (let’s not forget that this is the game responsible for bringing Banjo and Kazooie back home to a Nintendo console). The customisability is overwhelmingly vast, and it’s all topped off with super-solid single-player modes to boot.
We’re not sure how you could make a more robust or pleasing Smash game. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly is the ultimate instalment in the series, and it makes you wonder where Masahiro Sakurai can possibly take this franchise next.
Where does your favourite Super Smash Bros. sit on the list? Do you agree that Ultimate really is the, er ultimate Smash? Are Melee’s days as a tournament fave numbered? Let us know in the comments section below.
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