Being fast has been an unfair advantage in every installment of the Super Smash Bros. franchise. From Smash 64 to Smash for Wii U, the speedy characters have reigned over the slower and less fortunate fighters. Did Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bring an end to the tyranny of speed? We’ll examine both that and the prevalence of speed here.
Before we get into it, there will be an accompanying graph for each game. We’ll look at each game’s prominent tier list ranking versus the character’s run speeds. This should show us a visualization of how intertwined the two are.
Note: Pokemon Trainer was removed because each Pokemon has its own speed.
Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 set this iconic fighting game series off in favor of fast characters with a trend that still carries forth today. The game’s best character, Pikachu, also happens to be the fastest character in the game. The next two fastest characters—Fox and Captain Falcon—are also in the top-four of the commonly accepted tier list.
Run speed isn’t the only thing that makes these characters good, though. All of them have punishing combo potential that would put them in the higher tiers by itself. This is the case with the major outlier of 64, Kirby, who despite being ranked as the second best character, is among the slowest.
Super Smash Bros Melee
Even though Melee is the fastest paced Smash game, this isn’t as prevalent when looking at speed versus ranking. Across all games in the series, Melee features the largest outlier: Jigglypuff. Her ground speed is the slowest in the game, but she still finds herself at the top of the tier list.
Puff gets by as the slowest character by pairing the fastest airspeed with eight jumps. This allows her to replace slow ground play with the fastest and most usable aerial drift in the game.
Other characters like Peach, Falco, and Ice Climbers use infinites, seemingly unbeatable edge guards, or a frame one combo-starter (and a litany of other tools) to compensate for average to below-average ground speeds.
Melee made good use of a more diverse pool of characters to show players an array of viable character types. Despite this, fast characters still had a distinct advantage over slow, heavy-hitting characters like Bowser or Ganondorf.
Super Smash Bros Brawl
Brawl took the idea that Melee tip-toes around—give a slow character the right tools and they can make their way to the top—to an entirely new and much-hated level. The most despised mechanic in the game, tripping (characters randomly stumble to the ground, unable to move, when running) also makes running faster more dangerous. The more ground a player covers, the more likely they are to trip.
Meta Knight, the game’s consensus best character, is only the sixth fastest character. However, his moves featured such high priority, disjoint and kill potential that he could have been stuck in the ground and still been the best character in the game. He also had multiple jumps, meaning that he could stay off the ground and avoid tripping entirely.
On the other hand, Sonic, the fastest character in the series to date, is ranked 22nd out of 36 characters. So many aspects of Sonic’s game were subpar that no amount of quickness could save his viability.
In Brawl, the importance of speed gave way to more independent attributes like chain grabs and being able to fight Meta Knight. Speed had next to no importance in Brawl and was replaced with something worse—gimmicks.
It still didn’t make Bowser viable.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Smash Bros. for Wii U featured the return of speed’s importance. It trails only Smash 64 in terms of speed’s correlation with character rank. Fox and Sonic, who were average or worse in Brawl, regained prominence in the metagame. This eliminated two major outliers that made Brawl less speed-friendly.
Smash 4 did have its signature outlier: Bayonetta.
Bayonetta’s brutal 0-Death combo game was more than enough for her to overcome being a below-average character in ground speed. She, like the other good slow heroes, had a great aerial game. Her special let her follow opponents through the air as she escorted them to the top blast zone.
The game wasn’t built around being fast, though. In this case, it’s likely that speed and powerfully designed characters go hand-in-hand. Most of the slow characters, like Ganondorf or Zelda, wouldn’t suddenly skyrocket into the S tier if they got a speed boost.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The defining thread between successful slow characters has been aerial prowess or unique mechanics. Think Ice Climbers with wobbling in Melee or Kirby’s combo game in 64. With 69 non-echo fighters in the game, these mechanics aren’t in short supply. Inkling’s roller and ink take her from a slow character with great combos to one of the best in the game. Peach returns with her float cancel. Simon and Richter are large and slow but have a wealth of projectiles.
Slow characters may be in their best place in the history of Smash. This early in the game’s run, it’s also hard to say anything definitively. However, we are likely missing a top-tier, large and slow character. Bowser, Ganondorf and Donkey Kong are all considered firmly outside of the best group of characters. While Donkey Kong in particular looks to be in the next tier down, as of yet, the old-school villains still haven’t gotten a dominant main.
Hopefully, in the coming months, a patch will elevate DK or Bowser to the A+ tier. Regardless, Ultimate has done a great job of offering players a large variety of characters and styles to be successful.
Featured image courtesy of Nintendo.
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