Through what must be time wizardry, it has been 20 years since Nintendo decided to pit a bunch of their beloved characters against each other in Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. To celebrate, Sandbox’s resident Smash expert Tony reflects on the franchise’s 20 year history.

Nintendo 64 and GameCube

The original Super Smash Bros. 12 character roster included some of Nintendo’s most recognizable characters, like Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Link and Pikachu alongside some less recognizable ones like Ness and Captain Falcon. The game was a true classic; although its aggregate score of 79 on Metacritic is the lowest of any game in the series, the game became a Nintendo 64 Player’s Choice title.

Super Smash Bros. Melee released on the Nintendo GameCube just two years after the original, giving the new console its first marquee title. Melee added 14 new characters, including Bowser, Mewtwo, Peach, Zelda, Marth, and Dr. Mario. Melee was faster and significantly more competitive than the first game, and people still play competitively today. The game also featured wavedashing, a “bug” which allowed players to slide horizontally very quickly if they air dodged diagonally into the ground – a technique that became essential in competition. With a Metascore of 92, many players consider Melee the best game in the series.

Nintendo Wii and Wii U/3DS

After the positive reception of Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl launched in 2008 on the Nintendo Wii. While fans enjoyed Melee, creator Masahiro Sakurai made some changes to make Brawl a more accessible party game. Brawl removed wavedashing from the game and slowed down gameplay while introducing a story mode, Subspace Emissary. Brawl also featured a controversial random tripping mechanic that irked many fans. Non-Nintendo characters such as Snake from Metal Gear and Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog were included for the first time in the series. While Brawl never garnered the competitive audience that Melee did, the game was enjoyed by casual fans and critics, scoring a 93 on Metacritic.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U launched in 2013 with Nintendo and the Wii U in need of a jolt. Playable on a portable console for the first time, Super Smash Bros. also introduced 8-Player Smash battles and was the first game to support competitive online play in a new mode called “For Glory.” Super Smash Bros. also included DLC Characters for the first time; the most notable were Ryu from Street Fighter, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and Bayonetta. Reception for the game was mostly positive, as the game seemed to find a balance between Melee‘s competitive play and Brawl‘s casual style – although many felt Bayonetta was too overpowering for the competitive scene. The game received a Metascore of 85 on 3DS and 93 on Wii U.   

Nintendo Switch

(See Super Smash Bros. Ultimate featured in our 2018 Games of the Year blog post.)

The new Smash Bros. Ultimate builds on 20 years of games to make what many are calling the definitive version of the game. Every character to ever appear in a Smash game is on the roster, along with several new characters and even more to come in the form of DLC. Ultimate is currently the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch game, with an estimated five million copies sold worldwide in its first week of release. Ultimate is too new to really gauge how the competitive scene is going to be it has been very well received so far. Judging on its return to faster gameplay, the addition of parrying and Nintendo’s promise to release balance patches as needed, Ultimate will likely have a long, healthy life as a popular fighting game.