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Super Smash Bros.: How Characters Evolve

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate provides a wide variety of characters. It built up from four different games that pushed the standard definition of a fighting game. Currently, the roster has 71 different characters, but by the end of the year, there should be at least 73. The recent announcements of The Hero and Banjo-Kazooie bring two beloved characters that fans clamored for. The metagame will evolve as time passes, but the characters will remain in the game. Some are easy to play, while others are hard to master. However, as the patches keep coming to the game, the metagame never stops evolving.

Banjo-Kazooie have been major parts of a lot of DLC wish lists, and in E3 2019 they finally got their spot on the roster – Image: Nintendo

The balancing team is on the right track so there shouldn’t be any ridiculous nerfs. Recently, in patch 3.1.0, there were many changes that benefited the game. Top tiers were reasonably nerfed, and most underwhelming characters received beneficial additions to their toolkits. Some characters got harder to play and others became easier. Characters have two very important areas for them: their inherent potential and their difficulty in play.

A character potential comes as a reflection of the limit of the possible performance at top level play. A character’s difficulty is how a measurement of how much time and effort that character necessitates in order to reach that potential. These two aspects of every character go hand-in-hand. While potential leads the way, the difficulty changes the path in a character’s metagame. It all depends on how far players push their respective characters.

Metagame Development

Duck Hunt’s meta is all due to Tetsuya “Raito” Ishiguro, a very talented Japanese player. – Image: Geek

In the first few months after a game’s release, the easier to play characters get the spotlight. These are characters which toolkit is self-explanatory and don’t really take a while to take off. Good examples of these are Cloud from Smash 4, Chrom from Ultimate and Sheik in Melee. They all shined very brightly at the start of their games metagame. Some like Sheik and Cloud remained to be high-level characters because of their high potential. Their flaws weren’t underwhelming and they didn’t suffer too much from the passing of time. However, Chrom got hit hard. His poor recovery is an enormous flaw, and as players adapted, he fell down the list. This doesn’t mean in any way that he is a bad character,  but compared to the initial expectations, his performance is underwhelming.

Difficulty influences the metagame in the opposite way that accessibility does. A character that begins his journey as a low tier doesn’t necessarily stay there. As players optimize, experiment and adapt, the character’s potential evolves.

Smash 4 – Mega Man

In Smash 4, Mega Man started out as a pretty underwhelming character. People didn’t really think he was a great character and just brushed off his presence. However, in due time, he got a chance to shine. Takuto “Kameme” Ono developed him and swept everyone off their feet. In EVO 2016 he placed second while playing Mega Man. Through the use of footstools and metal blade, he developed a new tech that allowed him to easily secure kills. This was one of the first great applications of footstools that eventually led to other characters’ metagames evolving.

Smash 4 – Lucario

On Japan “Tsu” specialized in Lucario and developed some neat tech using his Aura Sphere. In Frostbite 2017, he showed the west Lucario’s true potential. He placed second, after ZeRo, and blew many fans mind in what is considered to be one of the best sets in Smash 4’s history.


All of these developments shifted the tier list. No character is glued to its place in the metagame. As players keep experimenting and learning about the game, the tier list starts to change. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is still in its early stages, and there is a lot to find out. Now there is another way low to mid-tier character to get prominent results.


Players can achieve a level of mastery that counteracts the character’s potential. Most of the time, this is by veteran players that carry years of experience in their respective characters. They beat highly skilled players leaving spectators in awe. Recently Lily “Bocchi” Palmieri, an Isabelle player, upset the talented Snake player Elliot Bastien “Ally” Carroza-Oyarce. Ally carries an over the top record in Ultimate, winning Pound 2019, and achieving respectable placings across the board. Now looking from Bocchi’s corner, she has two years of competitive experience and managed to beat a highly skilled veteran using a bottom tier character. All the dedication put into Isabelle paid off, cashing in on the big win.

In the end, whomever players decide to main is up to where they take it. The difficulty and skill only come to define the present reality. However, with enough dedication, any player can turn the tier list upside down.



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Featured image provided by Kotaku

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