Super Smash Bros. turned 20 in 2019, a major milestone for Nintendo’s premier fighting series that brings together many of the company’s most famous characters as well as a group of unlikely guests. In fact, the series boasts a roster of over 70 fighters, from Mario and Link to Bayonetta and Solid Snake. With so many characters to choose from, the question must be asked: who is the best fighter in the series?
Over the past several years of writing at Den of Geek, I’ve ranked many fighting game rosters worst to best, including Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Tekken, Guilty Gear, and now it’s time for Super Smash Bros. to get the same treatment.
I’m going to go against our usual ruleset on this one because we’re talking about a very different kind of roster. Normally, I count various versions of the same character as one entry, but I’m sidestepping that. Regular Samus and Zero Suit Samus will get their own entries. Guest characters are also being taken into account since that’s part of the lifeblood of the series, so to hell with it. If I can compare Marth to Little Mac, I can compare Marth to Bayonetta as well. I am leaving bosses off the list, so don’t expect me to wax poetic on which giant hand is better than the other.
I’m ranking these guys based on design, style, storyline (when applicable), impact, as well as my own personal preference. This list is not about tier rankings, stats, or any of that. Seriously, don’t take this list seriously. It’s unhealthy.
That especially goes for you Lucas fans out there…
Lucas is an alternate version of Ness (a character I’m already not too big on) from a game that never even got released outside of Japan, and from what I’ve read, his big characteristic is that he’s whiny. I mean, what am I supposed to do with that?
Chrom was considered for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but Nintendo realized that he would be too much like the other Fire Emblem swordsmen and scrapped the character. Even Pit made fun of him in-game for being redundant. Then Ultimate came around and added him in anyway. Fantastic.
He’s not different enough for me to care, especially in a sequel that gave us an obese crocodile king and a wrestling fire beast. The only real saving grace is Pit and Viridi’s excitement at seeing him finally show up as a playable character.
70. KEN MASTERS
As a big fan of the Street Fighter cast, I have to admit that I was let down by Ken’s inclusion in Smash. I don’t hate the guy (he ranked high enough on the Street Fighter character list) and get that Capcom just wanted a Ryu clone. That’s what Ken’s been about since the beginning, but even as a Ryu knockoff, he’s one of the least interesting. Sure, you can use Spirits and stuff, but I would have been more excited to see Akuma, Dan, or Sakura take this spot. I’d even take Sean over him.
Iconic doesn’t always mean better. Try again, kid.
69. PIRAHNA PLANT
It’s creative, I’ll give you that, introducing a new character and making a classic minor baddie from the Mario games into a fully functional fighter. That said, the Piranha Plant seems like a waste of a DLC character in Ultimate.
It says a lot that the most interesting thing about Piranha Plant is how cute Kirby looks after copying him. To be honest, Piranha Kirby looks like an uncircumcised penis. It’s distressing…
That creepy, vacant smile… I don’t want to talk about Villager right now. Or ever. He’ll know. He’ll hear me. Somehow, he’ll hear me and I’ll be next.
67. CAPTAIN OLIMAR
I’ve never played any of the Pikmin games, but something about the design of Olimar, the Pikmin themselves, and their Smash stage just rubs me the wrong way. It’s quirky but doesn’t engage me and I certainly don’t want to fight as this guy. Too bad, considering his minion-based fighting style is unique enough to separate him from the rest of the pack.
66. YOUNG LINK
Young Link simply isn’t very necessary. Not just because he is the weaker version of the regular Link, but because Nintendo eventually replaced him with Toon Link, who at least has a neat aesthetic. With him around, Young Link only showed up in Ultimate for the sake of having the complete roster. Nothing against the kid. He’s just redundant.
“You can now play as a baby Pikachu.”
“Oh, does it have any cool abilities?”
“It hurts itself with electricity.”
“It’s smaller and gets eliminated faster…I mean…it’s therefore cuter.”
“Pikachu is cute enough, thank you. Hey, does it solve crimes while talking like Deadpool?”
“What? No! Why would–?”
Imagine making a game about your company’s all-stars and giving one of the roster spots to a character from a game that hasn’t even come out yet. Roy was added to Melee as a gamble because Nintendo was still finishing up Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and the company wanted to promote it in Japan. This ended up working out great for everyone, including the North American audience who had no idea what a Fire Emblem was. Roy and Marth added a new dynamic to the cast. Mission accomplished.
Roy is one of several characters with the same move set, alongside Marth, Lucina, and Chrom. Marth was the original and Lucina was an interesting twist, but Roy doesn’t stand out enough to be more than an extra spot on the roster. Thanks to Bowser Jr.’s alternate skins, he isn’t even the best Roy in the game!
Ness wins Nintendo points for representing a game that’s both somewhat obscure but also very much beloved, but man…he never did anything for me. No, wait, that’s not true. He annoyed me a lot. Ness’s battle cries are just the worst.
Being a silent protagonist, Ness doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of personality. He doesn’t have much to offer in terms of abilities, either. Ness uses his yoyo and baseball bat, which isn’t a big deal when everyone is able to wield a baseball bat, and his other abilities are copied from his Earthbound buddies.
He does deserve credit for meeting a kid named Poo and choosing to befriend him instead of laughing at him until the heat death of the universe.
62. DR. MARIO
Dr. Mario is a pretty random concept, considering it has nothing to do with the life of an Italian plumber. That said, this version of the character has starred in a series of fun puzzle games.
Then Nintendo made him a playable Smash character because more Mario is never a bad thing, right? Just replace Mario’s fireballs with pills and give him even catchier theme music. The result isn’t very memorable.
61. PRINCESS DAISY
The more I think about it, the more I’m fascinated by the fact that Daisy and Luigi are an item. The basic reasoning is sound: Mario and Peach are together, so Luigi needed his own love interest. Makes sense. Thing is, there’s no hero/princess narrative that makes this a storybook romance. The Mario and Peach relationship is based on the hero regularly rescuing her from Bowser. Meanwhile, Luigi never saved Daisy. Mario rescued her back in Super Mario Land and that was it.
In other words, Daisy chooses Luigi on his own merits and not out of gratitude. I like that. Or maybe she’s jealous that Mario’s taken and has to settle for second best. Anyway, she’s just a Peach clone in Smash, so there’s not much else to talk about. Daisy’s okay, I guess.
60. FOX MCCLOUD
It’s the guy synonymous with esports Smash, which is the boring kind of Smash, so he’s getting this spot on the list.
Fox has his own squadron named after him and yet he still isn’t the coolest guy on the team. Not the most uncool either, what with the annoying frog dork constantly crying for help. While Falco is Han Solo, Fox is half of a Luke Skywalker. He has the daddy issues but without the mind-blowing twist. He gets to blow up the enemy stronghold, but he doesn’t get any sweet weapons that separate him from the rest.
That said, Fox gets points for taking out a giant gorilla brain flanked by gross eyeballs. That’s one hell of a boss battle to survive.
“Here’s another Fire Emblem fighter.”
“Ugh. Hard pass.”
“The character has dragon DNA.”
At first, I rolled my eyes at the thought of another Fire Emblem character, but then Corrin started busting out fireballs and long-ranged attacks, making him/her seem more like Witchblade or Carnage. Corrin felt fresh, but maybe not fresh enough for a DLC spot in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
As the years have gone by, I’ve grown less and less interested in Yoshi. Didn’t help that he was annoying as hell in the Super Mario World cartoon and forgettable as hell in the Super Mario Bros. movie. The moment Yoshi stopped being Mario’s multi-colored horse and became one of his tennis/go-kart/soccer equals, he lost his magic.
Yoshi’s peak was during the SNES era. Yoshi represents the absolute “Why isn’t it Christmas morning yet so I can play this?” beauty of Super Mario World, and Yoshi’s Island was one of the last truly fantastic games to come out on the console.
Once the SNES era ended, so did my ability to care for this guy.
57. DARK PIT
Kid Icarus: Uprising introduced an anti-hero version of Pit, so might as well just toss him on the clone pile. Dark Pit, or Pittoo, was a mirror image of Pit created by the villainous Pandora. Although she meant to create an evil version of Pit, it mostly affected how he listened to orders. In other words, Dark Pit’s defining trait is that he’s independent.
So he’s Jason Todd to Pit’s Dick Grayson, I guess. Pretty cool way to play that development instead of making him a simple evil clone, but he doesn’t get more interesting than that.
Shulk’s deal is that he can occasionally predict the future, which mainly means that he has a counter move and that he is the first to realize how screwed everyone is at the beginning of World of Light. This new blood also brings Monado Arts to the table. He’s able to mess with his attributes mid-battle, but always in a way that keeps things fair and balanced.
He’s not too shabby, but he ended up being overshadowed by the rest of the Smash 4 roster. Well, everyone but Dark Pit.
In terms of gameplay, Falco has the same move set as Fox, but with different attributes. That means that, even though he gets to be the cool rebel among mercenaries, he doesn’t get to really show off in any interesting way. Whether it’s Smash or Star Fox, Falco just does the same stuff that Fox does. It’s his job to remark about how much better he is, then admit in the end that he isn’t because he’s only the supporting character.
I compared him to Han Solo earlier, but this would be if Han Solo dressed like Luke all the time, didn’t have his trademark blaster, and was bound in place as his sidekick. Seems like a waste of good character design.
Here comes the controversial pick.
The Smash version of Ganondorf feels like the worst of various worlds, honestly. It doesn’t help that he was a last-minute inclusion based on Captain Falcon’s moves. Nintendo didn’t even let him use his sword until Ultimate, and even then it was just for a couple of moves. While he was the stronger/slower version of Captain Falcon, he lacked the goofball energy of the character and tried to make up for it in villainous posturing.
Ganondorf is a great villain and all, but his Gerudo form mainly exists for the build-up until it’s time for him to hit his Ganon form so that the true battle can begin. He…remains his lesser form, only becoming Ganon for his Final Smash or for a specific boss fight.
I don’t know. I feel that this is the one guy that Smash did the biggest disservice to.
53. DARK SAMUS
Being a clone character, there’s not much to Dark Samus outside of the creepy aesthetic. The attacks are Samus’, but the movements, lightness, and even default floating sells the idea of Dark Samus getting her own select screen spot instead of being just an alternate color scheme. There are a lot of dark versions of heroes in this game, but Dark Samus makes the most out of it by being unnerving in the best way. There’s something straight-up icky about organic missiles and bombs covered in veins.
So my rules say that Zelda and Sheik have to have different entries. That means discussing Zelda without the Sheik aspect.
She’s just kind of there. Nothing too special but nothing outright bad. Even her magic is generic until she’s able to conjure up knight armor to fight for her. Not the best look when you’re known for having to be rescued all the time.
In this case, Bruce Wayne has nothing on Batman.
51. WII FIT TRAINER
Wii Fit Trainer is good people. She’s there for us and our health. Being a sentient mannequin with an emotionless voice and the ability to break reality by exercising, Wii Fit Trainer feels like a nightmarish entity from a horror movie that happens to be a force of good. She doesn’t want to drive you to madness. She just wants you to feel the burn.
Wii Fit Trainer fits in with Mr. Game and Watch and R.O.B. as one of those ridiculous Nintendo personalities that’s so stupid that it works in this setting. Maybe one day they’ll be joined by Nester.
50. TOON LINK
Outside of Luigi, Toon Link is probably the most fitting clone character in any of these games. This cel-shaded, big-headed Link is a popular part of The Legend of Zelda’s history. His art style may have been phased out, but it deserves to be remembered as more than just an alternative look for the beloved hero. Having him replace Young Link was the correct call.
Palutena reminds me of the old Dick Tracy cartoon from the ’60s. They started rerunning the cartoon around the time when the 1990 Warren Beatty movie was coming out and I’d watch it because seeing Dick Tracy thwart gimmicky criminals sounded like a good time. Instead, each episode was Dick Tracy calling up some other, lesser detective and saying, “Flat Top is up to no good. Go catch him for me.” It frustrated me because, like, no! You do it, asshole! You’re Dick Tracy!
So while Palutena was a damsel in distress in the original Kid Icarus games, Kid Icarus: Uprising turned her into Pit’s boss. She would tell him to do her dirty work despite being this all-powerful goddess, and she’d just playfully berate him while sitting on her lazy ass.
Her appearance in Smash is a double-edged sword. It’s great to see her actually taking part in the battle for once, but she could also probably use a bit of humility. At least her magic offense is more satisfying than what Zelda has to offer.
48. SIMON BELMONT
Simon Belmont makes his Smash debut, and for a second, everything feels right as he’s reunited with Mega Man and Pit. Ah, nostalgia for a mediocre TV show that in no way aged well. Simon also hits those nostalgia buttons with his jump-and-whip win pose. I appreciate that.
Simon brings all of his bells and whistles into the arena and makes the best of it. He’s a welcome sight, but his inclusion lacks the impact of most of the other guest characters. Plus I think he looks uncool whenever he isn’t a non-descript 8-bit sprite.
Even if he does look like a weenie, he’s still a guy who’s able to throw axes at Death and survive the fight. Not to mention his addition means all that sweet Castlevania soundtrack goodness.
47. RICHTER BELMONT
The two Belmonts are so similar that I really need to rank them consecutively. They have all the same abilities, so it really comes down to which character has the better backstory coming into Smash.
Even if Simon is the original, I’m going to have to side with Richter. He comes from a time when the bloodline concept was more realized, meaning he appeared in more interesting stories. He even got to have that “miserable pile of secrets” dialogue with Dracula in Symphony of the Night, which itself belongs in a museum.
Richter also got to hang out with the cool Alucard, while Simon met the cartoon version of Alucard, known for annoying his father with his radical skateboarding moves. Good God, that show sucked.
46. ZERO SUIT SAMUS
Even though she was originally the second form of Samus, Zero Suit Samus became her own fighter. I get the fact that she’s supposed to show that there’s a Captain America under all that Iron Man, but I’ll take the firepower over the finesse.
I like that she’s an option, though. Samus appearing in her Zero Suit in the original Metroid is a big part of video game history and I dig that they’re keeping that image alive. Whether it’s empowerment or fan service is up to you. Either way, without the iconic armor and arm cannon, Samus is no pushover and it shows.
45. LITTLE MAC
I held out hope for Little Mac for years. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is one of my top three favorite NES games and I was so jazzed when they revived the series for the Wii. Unfortunately, Mac only appeared in Brawl as an assist trophy. It was nice, but not enough.
When he finally showed up in Smash 4, I was overjoyed…and also disturbed by all the Little Mac/Samus shipping going on. Punching people into oblivion is indeed a blast. Unfortunately, it’s clear to me now that Little Mac wasn’t the most interesting part of the Punch-Out!! series. It was his outrageous and at times politically incorrect opponents. Maybe we would have been better off with Bald Bull or Super Macho Man.
You could probably just make King Hippo an Echo Fighter of King K. Rool, now that I think of it.
After Marth and Roy introduced the sword-swinging style of Fire Emblem to Smash, Ike spruced it up with some snazzier animations and attacks. He lacks the finesse but makes up for it with pure strength. More Scotsman than Samurai Jack.
With so many noble bloodline characters acting as Fire Emblem protagonists, it’s refreshing to see a grittier mercenary type show up to add a little diversity. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like Ike.
Full disclosure: Pokemon was never my bag. I respect the franchise, but I never really got into it, so my knowledge mainly comes from cultural osmosis and Smash games.
Lucario is still rad to use and he has one of the more interesting dynamics in that the more damage he takes, the deadlier he becomes. A literal take on what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This is one Pokemon that looks like it belongs in a fight.
Nothing against the Fire Emblem crew, but there are too many normal-looking humans fighting with swords in Smash. Sword fighting was neat when it was first introduced to the franchise but now there are too many Fire Emblem characters with similar abilities in the series. Luckily, Smash 4 gave us Robin and his/her sorcery.
Interestingly enough, Robin’s weakness is the limited use of his/her weapons. Using too much magic depletes the character’s powers, which need time to refresh, a pretty creative idea. Why should the Smash items be the only weapons to be bound by that logic?
Villager does nothing for me, but taking a bunch of his moves and giving them to an adorable dog version of Leslie Knope is a massive improvement. She isn’t someone I’d regularly want to play as, but I do appreciate the cute energy of a desperate workaholic who is for some reason battling it out in a multiversal epic about the battle between light and darkness. Being in Smash and letting loose with excessive violence is probably mentally healthy for her.
Ah, the princess who can stand up for herself except when she can’t. Which is most of the time.
It’s a shame since, when Peach is on the offense, she’s actually pretty awesome. Featuring her as a playable character in Super Mario Bros. 2 was a big deal, and it was great watching her brain bad guys with a frying pan back in Mario RPG. Probably her finest moment is in that Super Mario Adventures manga where she dressed like Luigi and went on a bomb-wielding rampage.
That reminds me, Nintendo needs to bring back Friendly Floyd the salesman. Make him DLC, maybe.
While I love her tough-as-nails characterization from that story, there is something to be said about her “aw, shucks” personality in modern Mario games and Smash itself. Standing tall over her enemies and innocently asking, “Aw, did I win?” is the perfect helping of salt.
I’m of two minds when it comes to Ryu in Smash. On the one hand, it makes absolute sense. Ryu is the ultimate fighting game crossover champion. He’s taken on the likes of Marvel, SNK, Tekken, Tatsunoko, and so on. His spiel is that he just wants to fight anyone and anything in the name of finding meaning in the world. Smash is his dream come true.
I even ranked him pretty high on the Street Fighter character ranking because there is an excellent character under all that monotone talk about how “the fight is all.” That said he feels a bit too stiff in Smash. Capcom fit him nicely in a Marvel battlefield, but in Smash, but Nintendo doesn’t quite accomplish the same.
Wolf O’Donnell is the evil version of Fox McCloud, which automatically makes him better than Falco because he’s able to act on his bad attitude. Falco’s deal is sitting back and begrudgingly admitring that Fox is actually the better pilot. Wolf can admit that he respects Fox’s abilities – and will even team up with him at times – but at the end of the day, he openly wants to kill that his counterpart and will try at the drop of a hat.
Wolf is the second Fox clone character in the series, but he has more alterations to his style than what they did with Falco. Overall, he comes off as a more charismatic Fox. Even that howl he makes when being launched into the horizon has more personality than the Star Fox crew.
37. ICE CLIMBERS
Ice Climber was one of those games I had as a kid that I didn’t really like, but I played it a bunch because what else was I going to do? Go outside? That’s where the bees are!
Popo and Nana don’t have much going on in terms of character or even story. They’re two very close people who climb ice and wield mallets for… reasons. Are they siblings? In a relationship? Both? Forget it, it’s Chinatown.
What matters is that Nintendo took an obscure property and came up with something unique for a game series known for repackaging characters. The two-for-one concept is pretty unique.
In fiction, certain gods, like say Galactus or Palutena, take a specific form because it’s the only way human beings can comprehend what they’re even looking at. That’s basically Pac-Man. Namco gave us a game about a yellow ball being chased by ghosts while eating dots. A classic and addicting game, mind you, but one that really shouldn’t be more than that.
You can pump out lore to make sense of most games, but Pac-Man as an actual character is something that shouldn’t be. We aren’t meant to comprehend him and any attempts to give him an identity have always been too strange to exist. Pac-Man breaks reality. There were several cartoons that tried to turn his games into a narrative and they’re utter nonsense.
While Pac-Man is a very welcome addition to Smash, he also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a character.
They say that all Pokemon are created equal, but Mewtwo and Pikachu prove that’s not true. Normally, if you go one on one with another Pokemon, you have a 50/50 chance of winning. But Mewtwo’s a genetic freak and it’s not normal! So you have a 25 percent chance AT BEST of beating him. Then you add Jigglypuff to the mix?! Your chances of winning drastically go down!
Mewtwo, the Akuma of Pokemon, gets points for actually having a personality, a backstory, and a motivation. Being an escaped experiment that considers committing genocide against the human race is way spicier than “random animal that says its own name.” Genetic engineering in a world of wacky creatures is just asking for trouble and Mewtwo is the payoff.
Not sure how I feel about Mewtwo’s status in Melee, though. I love unlocking characters, but getting Mewtwo took FOREVER!
Lucina has one of the better backstories when compared to the rest of the roster, as she’s sort of a cross between Joan of Arc and Cable. I’m a sucker for time-travel stories in which heroes have to help out their parents. Lucina also pretends to be from the past by taking the identity of her ancient ancestor Marth. Ergo, she’s a shoo-in to be a Marth clone in Smash.
Her strength is her biggest weakness, though. We already have Marth and Roy, and with Smash 4 being the game that started to get looser with how Fire Emblem folk fight, Lucina didn’t bring too much to the table.
Back in the days of Super Mario Land, they established that Mario’s universe had space aliens. That was a thing. Then, many years later, Nintendo decided to revisit that, sending Mario to space in the process. That, in turn, gave us Rosalina, the cosmic princess who watches over tiny star people.
Rosalina is a fresh addition to the Mario franchise and a welcome face at his parties and go-kart races. In Smash, she adapts the Ice Climbers concept as her own fighting style, thanks to her partnership with Luma. This makes her move set stand out among the other Mario princesses.
32. POKEMON TRAINER
Pikachu worked because it’s the Pokemon mascot. Jigglypuff worked because it was easy to repurpose Kirby animations. Pichu…was there. Even though there are so many iconic Pokemon out there, there are only so many spots on the Smash roster.
Nintendo solved that particular puzzle by simply allowing you to select the Pokemon Trainer, who unleashes a trios tag team of Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard. If you’re a Pokemon fan, the world is suddenly your oyster.
If you want to punch Red in his stupid face, you’re out of luck as he hangs out in the background while his Pokemon do all the work.
While Mario is sort of this generic gaming entity, Luigi is allowed to have a more distinct personality. Unfortunately, his personality could be described as “frightened loser weirdo. Don’t get me wrong — Luigi’s fine, but it says a lot that people spend more time asking for Luigi’s evil doppelganger, Waluigi, than Mario’s taller brother.
Pit is a big part of Smash’s history and existence. Before Smash, he was nothing more than a hero from a forgotten NES game and its even more obscure Game Boy sequel. Gamers only knew him as “Kid Icarus” thanks to his appearance on the Captain N cartoon. Then Brawl reintroduced him to modern audiences.
His inclusion in Smash paid off and he got a long-awaited new adventure. Not only did he return for more Smash installments, but so did two other characters from Kid Icarus: Uprising. Way to go, nostalgia!
With Mr. Game and Watch on the scene, Nintendo really needed to dig deep in order to follow up on that impressive level of obscurity. The company stuck the landing by bringing back R.O.B., a failed peripheral from the early NES days that, depending on your generation, made you either think of Wall-E or Johnny 5. For many ’80s kids, R.O.B. was this holy grail that our parents would never let us have. A robot that played video games with you!
Then the internet happened, and nostalgic YouTubers with a knack for tearing down the past showed that R.O.B. was actually completely terrible, only worked with two games (although barely). It was the Power Glove all over again, except fewer people bought it.
Tossing R.O.B. into Smash and making it part of its bizarre storyline was inspired. It may have been a hunk of overpriced junk, but it still seemed cool at the time and those memories are worth celebrating.
I always dig it when a face in the crowd goes on to become the mascot of a franchise. That this electric rat was one of so many and eventually became a cultural phenomenon is impressive.
Pikachu is the awesome pet that you can never have. Lovable, loyal, cute, and yet not helpless. That you can use it to command lightning bolts to smite your enemies is the icing on the cake.
Now Pikachu’s solving crimes as a snarky detective and sometimes dresses as a Mexican wrestler. What’s not to love?
Greninja is a frog who does kickass ninja stuff. It’s Frog Strider. The tongue scarf is a great touch.
While there’s not much to the creature because it’s a Pokemon, the design is excellent and it fits like a glove in such an outrageous fighting game setting. Greninja was the only new Pokemon added to Smash 4 and it was a great choice.
Since we’re not getting Battletoads in Smash, this awesome Pokemon will have to do.
Bayonetta was brought on thanks to popularity polls, but I’m still surprised to see her to this day. Smash has dealt with characters who have dabbled in M-rated territory, but Bayonetta is just raunchy as hell. Her gimmick is that the harder she attacks you, the more naked she gets because hair is both her weapon and her clothing.
The mass-murdering sexpot makes a fine fit for Smash, oddly enough, and her special abilities work with the engine. Most importantly, Bayonetta’s inclusion busts the doors wide open for even bigger surprises. Who knows who might show up down the line?
This one was such a long time coming. Seeing Ridley in the Melee opening fighting Samus felt like such a tease. He was a boss character in Brawl and had a role as a stage hazard in Smash 4, but that wasn’t enough.
And so he appeared, flapping his jagged wings and scraping enemies across the floor in Ultimate. He straight-up murdered Mario and Mega Man in his reveal trailer and people cheered it!
Ridley is the most menacing villain of the entire Smash roster. Most Smash villains are goofballs at heart or have some sense of honor that allows them to work alongside the heroes. But Ridley? He comes across as horrifying, pure evil. There’s nothing light-hearted about his H.R. Giger-inspired design.
He’s a monster and he’s intelligent enough to revel in it.
24. DIDDY KONG
Funny enough, it’s Diddy Kong’s ability to evolve that makes him such a dynamic character. Back in the first Donkey Kong Country, he got by as the quick and tiny guy. But as Nintendo started adding more supporting characters to the Donkey Kong franchise, Diddy had to learn some new tricks to stand apart.
By the time he showed up in Smash, Diddy had peanut pistols and a jetpack, coming off as a primitive James Bond with the tactical height of Oddjob. Which is pretty cool.
23. BOWSER JR.
Baby Bowser’s design from Yoshi’s Island was so good that Nintendo just had to reappropriate it for a new character. What we got was a bratty, new part of the Mario mythos that added a little extra dimension to Bowser. Put Bowser Jr. in Smash and you have yourself an amusing and unique brawler.
A further stroke of genius was to include all of the different Koopalings as Bowser Jr.’s alternate outfits. It still boggles my mind that one of Bowser’s kids, Morton Koopa Jr., is named after that guy that Roddy Piper sprayed in the crotch with a fire extinguisher at WrestleMania. Bowser must have loved his trashy ’80s talk shows, I suppose.
22. CLOUD STRIFE
This Final Fantasy hero had already fought alongside the Disney multiverse, so joining the Nintendo universe was a cakewalk for him. Now that I think about it, crossing over with both Mickey and Mario is an impressive feat.
Cloud works perfectly in this franchise for the same reason Sonic does. Even though he isn’t a Sony property, Final Fantasy VII was the Nintendo killer of the pre-Xbox console war by being THE exclusive PlayStation game. By having him trade blows with Link, it gives a nod of respect to the game that bruised the Nintendo 64 while showing how different things are after a couple of decades.
Somehow, we’re going to get Master Chief to show up in Super Smash Bros. Cataclysm in 2032.
21. MR. GAME AND WATCH
Mr. Game and Watch is to Nintendo icons what Bosko was to Looney Tunes. He’s such a delightful deep cut. It’s been eighteen years since his Smash debut and I’m still in awe over what a brilliant addition he was. In a game about mismatched properties and characters, nobody seems like more of an oddball than this janky gentleman.
Yeah, he’s just an amalgam of Game and Watch figures and he has not actual backstory, but consider this: Smash is the only time anyone’s ever had actual fun playing an LCD game. That’s impressive.
20. KING K. ROOL
Nintendo gave us Wario and Waluigi, but even though we never got a “Wabowser,” King K. Rool is close enough. His personality takes the Bowser template and makes it a bit more dangerous, deranged, greedy, and bumbling. Bowser is mostly straightforward and imposing as a villain, while K. Rool is more eccentric and over-the-top.
The character also makes for an imaginative contrast to the big, heavy villain types in Smash. Weaponizing his crown, pulling out a cartoony gun, and whipping out a boxing glove out of nowhere makes K. Rool incredibly fun to use, especially since his wacky offense hits like a train.
On another note, the King Dedede trolling fakeout in King K. Rool’s announce trailer is the absolute best.
As a damsel, Zelda is a bit too similar to Princess Peach, which is why the creation of Sheik was a stroke of brilliance. Instead of a damsel, Zelda could now work alongside Link as an ass-kicking, masked ninja. Tossing out magic spells was one thing, but Zelda was suddenly a straight-up superhero. It didn’t do her much against Ganondorf, but at least she’s a blast to use in Smash.
It would have been so easy to make Wario just another Mario knockoff in Smash. But Nintendo didn’t do that. Instead, he’s much wilder in the fighting series, a gross psychopath who runs over people with motorcycles and chomps down on people. Then he turns into a farting superhero because why the hell not. Wario is a WAY better evil Mario design than that Cosmic Clone Mario from 3D Land. That guy gives me the creeps.
“Planet of the Apes but the world is overrun with hip squid children” is a hell of an idea, and it’s that creativity that makes Splatoon the new Nintendo hotness. Much of Ultimate’s new roster is made up of popular secondary characters and guest fighters, but at the forefront, you have the Inklings. They’re vibrant, energetic, and are easily the most exciting additions to the Smash roster.
Their ink-based fighting style not only adds a new flavor to the Smash gameplay, but it also looks great during matches, as the environments and characters are splattered with ink. It’s very Double Dare.
16. META KNIGHT
Oh, boy. This guy cracks me up. It’s Frank Miller’s Kirby. I imagine him looking up at Super Sonic and asking, “Do you bleed?”
Even though he existed long before Smash, it was the fighting series that really made him a popular character. He’s this honorable swordsman with a sinister growl, stylish armor, and nightmarish batwings, all while clearly having a Kirby-like body.
An adorable puffball with an outer shell of murder. You will take him seriously and stop patting him on the head, damn it! Sucks that he helped kill Brawl’s competitive scene, though…
Marth was virtually unknown in North America when he first appeared in Smash. His inclusion in Melee was a huge shot in the arm for the RPG series, which enjoys a bit more popularity in the States today.
The Fire Emblem hero may not be the most charismatic fighter on the roster, but his backstory, unwavering moral compass, and ability to rally soldiers for the greater good makes him deserving of his legacy. Ganondorf not having a sword probably helped make Marth seem more welcoming, too.
In the Smash arena, Jigglypuff is one of the better Pokemon because it’s both cute and deadly. There’s not much to Jigglypuff as a character, but its status as the super adorable nuclear option in a roster of warriors and monsters makes it stand out. A voice that makes you lose consciousness mixed with a punch like Saitama, Jigglypuff will knock you out twice over. Not bad for a character that’s basically a rehash of Kirby assets.
13. DONKEY KONG
Okay, so this Donkey Kong is the grandson of the original Donkey Kong, who is now the elderly Cranky Kong…but he still deals with Mario…who never ages? Do gorillas age like dogs?
DK is a blast to play as, especially when unleashing his ground-slap move in a match against seven opponents and everyone’s bouncing around like ping-pong balls. His wind-up punch is perfect, too.
12. SOLID SNAKE
When they put Sonic in Smash, it came off as a bit of a victory lap for Nintendo because it really represented the company’s win over Sega. In a way, Snake showing up is also something of a victory.
Snake had already appeared in DreamMix TV World Fighters, a Japanese-only Smash ripoff featuring the likes of Bomberman, Optimus Prime, and more. Having Snake come to Smash as the first announced third-party character was an act of pure dominance. Maybe next time they can bring in Captain Planet from Punch Time Explosion.
The most grizzled soldier in mainstream video games, Snake somehow fits in quite well with the rest of the crew. And he comes with plenty of homages to the Metal Gear series, including the secret codec calls you can unlock in Brawl and Ultimate. In one such call, Snake talks to Slippy Toad, who yells, “SNAKE! SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!” It’s brilliant.
“This Pokemon is a cat version of Brock Lesnar with a flaming championship bel—“
“Shut your stupid mouth, I’m in!”
I’d never even heard of this thing before his trailer hit but I fell in love immediately. The animations, the facial expressions, the ability to summon wrestling ropes out of thin air, etc. This Pokemon is entirely my shit. Of all the Nintendo wrestling characters, I’d even take him over Kin Corn Karn.
10. MEGA MAN
I love the Mega Man series to death. Well, the core series and early Mega Man X. I never delved into the other stuff. The games still hold up and the Blue Bomber remains one of video games’ greatest icons. Including him in Smash is a no-brainer, but it’s also rather important.
Capcom was starting to forget about the legendary character at the time. With Smash, Nintendo made it plain and simple: Mega Man is important. Mega Man is an institution. Mega Man deserves better. MEGA MAN…IS…MORE…THAN…A…ROBOT!! DIE, WILY!!
The hero’s side-scroller-based move set is a perfect fit for this fighting game series, and having blast Mario, Sonic, and Solid Snake from across a stage might actually be the most ambitious crossover in history.
9. KING DEDEDE
Nothing but respect for MY king. In this battle of heroes and villains from so many worlds, there’s this guy. This wild card. This corrupt king who is too much of a doofus to be considered evil. This loveable giant who will happily hug you one moment and smash you with a giant mallet the next.
Not to mention, it’s great to have a real heavy character who isn’t some force of malevolence like Bowser, King K. Rool, and Ridley, but just a cheerful penguin with delusions of grandeur. He looks so happy to be in Smash and I’m happy to have him there.
8. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
I wish Sonic was more enjoyable to play as in these games because his inclusion is such a huge deal. Still, Mario fighting Sonic is the ultimate crossover. For those of you who miss the 16-bit golden age of gaming, it doesn’t get better than zooming through Nintendo-inspired stages with Sonic the Hedgehog.
Even though I feel Wart’s been given the shaft (seriously, where is he?), I’ve been able to make my peace with it because Bowser is totally the shit. Psychotic megalomaniac at worst, frenemy bully at best, and fan-art dominatrix at weirdest, Bowser is such a fun antagonist. He’s also a total blast to play as this slowpoke powerhouse who can interrupt a battle of three opponents by crushing them from above and sending them all into the stratosphere.
Smash also makes Bowser even more frightening by blasting him with gamma radiation. Sure, his Giga Bowser form is just slower and bigger, but the redesign and the way he carries himself makes you feel like everyone in his vicinity is about to die horribly.
If they brought back his Japanese-only Mario RPG win pose where he flips you off, he’d be #1 on this list by a longshot.
I’m counting all instances of “Link” as being one entry even though the one from Ultimate isn’t the same as the one from previous games. I really like that he’s functionally the exact same as his Smash predecessors despite being a different Link. It’s really what I see as the soul of Link himself. He’s not just a generic hero, but a force of pure mythology. Whether it’s timelines, history repeating itself, or a multiversal thing, there will always be a determined hero out to stop Ganon with the Master Sword and Triforce.
He is the legend and he will be re-imagined again and again. There would be no Smash without the Hero of Legend.
Samus stood out from the rest of the original Smash roster in the best way. Not only did she have the coolest armor and abilities, but she came from a world of dark tragedy and violent alien wars as opposed to whatever was going on in the Mushroom Kingdom and elsewhere in the Nintendo universe. I mean, I guess Fox has that too, but Samus doesn’t have to hang out with Slippy, so that’s points for her.
4. DUCK HUNT
Thank you, Nintendo. Thank you so much.
I have never played as Duck Hunt in Smash. I don’t have any plans to. Even so, I can’t applaud Nintendo hard enough for making this a reality. This is reparations in video game form.
Now, for the youngsters reading this list, Duck Hunt was a moderately fun game for NES that was played with a gun controller. The point of the game was shooting ducks and clay discs while your dog companion held up the dead birds in celebration. If you lost – and eventually you would – that freaking dog would pop up and laugh at you. Always laughing. Even in my dreams. You pull the trigger, but nothing happens. The laughs continue.
Video games are about making the impossible possible. So many years later, it was finally possible to get my revenge on that bane of a canine. Only it’s left me empty with the taste of blood in the back of my throat. Now I must continue my work and take to the streets with a skull on my chest and a gun in my hand. There will always be someone to punish. My quest is never-ending. End War Journal Entry #452.
Sorry, I blacked out for a second.
Mario is such a great Mickey Mouse-type of mascot for Nintendo, but recently, I’ve been bothered by how much of a cipher he is. While being the mute hero works fine for Link, Mario comes off as a pretentious weirdo when compared to the other people from his world. Like how in Mario Party, if Mario becomes your ally, Toad will tell you that Mario is joining you while everyone else will outright say so themselves. Loosen the leash, Nintendo. Jeez.
What I love about Mario in Smash isn’t just his move set, which works his gameplay quirks into a perfect beginner’s character, but his attitude. Mario’s usually such an upbeat guy, but in Smash he usually has a pissed-off look on his face. Even with the company’s restraints on giving him a personality, the guy is SO INTO the fact that he’s in a fighting game and he’s pumped to unleash violence on his opponents.
2. CAPTAIN FALCON
“Racer X meets Captain Commando” is one hell of a concept. Coming from F-Zero, Captain Falcon didn’t really have much going on in terms of identity, just a dashing dude from the future with a completely kickass theme that I am listening to right this minute. That said, what we got in Smash was awesome.
Captain Falcon is a hammy, over-the-top martial artist whose enthusiasm for his attacks is nothing but contagious. Whether he’s making the biggest deal over his ability to punch really hard, running people over with his space car, or exclaiming, “Show me your moves!” the guy is so lovable and so defining to the Smash series that Nintendo could have made him the franchise mascot and I’d be okay with it.
Kirby is the glue holding Smash together. He’s the action hero of this impossible, inexplicable story about giant hands and endless crossovers and whatever the hell else is going on. He’s the one surviving cosmic genocide and cutting through doomsday lasers, all while looking either slightly peeved or completely aloof. There’s something so perfect about all this epic shit going on and Kirby barely acknowledging it.
Then there’s his absorbing ability, which is one of the best things to come out of this crossover party. Kirby not only steals power from every character but also takes a version of his opponent’s appearance while doing it.
Now do the right thing, Nintendo. I want to see Kirby swallow up and then dress up like a yellow ninja skeleton from Hell. I want to hear a squeaky and adorable, “GET OVER HERE!”