Super Smash Bros. in esports

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Professional Super Smash Bros. competition involves professional gamers competing in the Super Smash Bros. series of crossover fighting games published by Nintendo. Competition began in 2002 with multiple tournaments held for Super Smash Bros. Melee, released for the GameCube in 2001. Later tournaments also featured the original Super Smash Bros. (1999), Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and for Wii U (2014), and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018). Major Smash tournaments include Community Effort Orlando, DreamHack, Evolution Championship Series, Genesis, Super Smash Con and The Big House. From 2004 to 2006, Major League Gaming (MLG) included Melee in its Pro Circuit, and then supported the MLG Smash Series in 2007. In 2010, MLG had Brawl in its Pro Circuit. The MLG Anaheim 2014 and MLG World Finals 2015 championship also featured Melee and Wii U events. Super Smash Bros. games also have a large, widespread grassroots scene that supports tournaments at the amateur and local level.[1]

History of competitive Melee[edit]

Competitors at Low Tier City 3, a 2015 tournament

The first publicized Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments were held in early 2002 with the Tournament Go series.[2] Early tournaments had disputes over what the official ruleset should be, but the Tournament Go organizer, Matt "MattDeezie" Dahlgren, eventually came up with a ruleset that would become similar to the current fundamental ruleset.[3] On March 1, 2003 the International Video Game Federation hosted the first corporate sponsored Super Smash Bros. tournament, the IVGF Northwest Regionals, won by Jeremy "Recipherus" Fremlin. From 2004 to 2006, Major League Gaming sponsored Melee on its Pro Circuit.[4]

The period of 2003 to 2006 was the Golden Age of Melee, as the game was in the Major League Gaming circuit. Ken Hoang was considered to be the best player during this time, earning him the nickname "The King of Smash". In addition to Ken, Christopher "Azen" McMullen, Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez, Joel Isai "Isai" Alvarado, Christopher "PC Chris" Szygiel, Daniel "KoreanDJ" Jung, and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman were considered the best players at the time. Although it dropped Melee from its 2007 Pro Circuit, MLG still sponsored a number of tournaments as part of the underground 2007 Smash Series for a year.[5]

In 2010, MLG picked up Brawl for its Pro Circuit for a year. During this time, Nintendo prohibited MLG from live streaming Brawl matches.[6] At 2014 MLG Anaheim Melee was once again hosted at an MLG event. Melee was also included at the Evolution Championship Series (Evo) in 2007, a fighting game tournament held in Las Vegas. Brawl replaced Melee for EVO 2008, but received criticism for the inclusion of items. The competitive Smash scene shrank in 2009 due to criticisms of the mechanics of Brawl, especially its slower gameplay and random tripping. The period from 2012 to 2013 was the "Dark Age" due to Melee's temporary decline and then Brawl's decline. After this "Dark Age," EVO 2013 started Smash's comeback in the competitive scene and, thus, started the "Platinum Era," otherwise known as the "Five Gods" Era.

Melee was again hosted at EVO 2013 after it won a charity drive to decide the final game to be featured in its tournament lineup.[7][8] Due to the large turnout and popularity that year, Evo again included Melee at both their 2014 and 2015 event. New Jersey-based Apex is another prominent Super Smash Bros. tournament, and has a series of qualifying events that are a prerequisite to playing at Apex. In 2015 Apex announced that they were officially sponsored by Nintendo of America, which was the first official sponsorship of a community-run event.[9] Apex 2015 was the largest Smash tournament in history until EVO 2015 and featured every official title in the series. In June 2014 Nintendo held an exhibition Super Smash Bros. for Wii U tournament at E3 2014.[10] Despite the success of Apex 2015, the tournament series was muddled in controversy and structural issues. Apex has since been discontinued despite a small revival for Apex 2016. Smash Sisters, an initiative aimed at normalizing the participation of women at tournaments, held its first all-women bracket at GENESIS 3 in 2016.[11][12] Currently, the biggest Melee events in the United States are Community Effort Orlando (CEO), DreamHack, Evolution Championship Series (EVO), GENESIS, The Big House, Shine, and Super Smash Con (SSC).

One of the "Five Gods", Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, at a tournament at SXSW 2016

Currently – the Platinum Era – the best players of Melee, colloquially known as the "Five Gods", are Mew2King, Joseph "Mango" Marquez, Kevin "PPMD" Nanney (formerly known as Dr. PeePee), Adam "Armada" Lindgren, and Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma. However, William "Leffen" Hjelte broke through the barrier of the Five Gods, after defeating Mew2King at Apex 2015, that stood for many years, and is universally agreed to be at a comparable skill level; he is known to be a God slayer and the top 6 were collectively known as the "Big 6" and he was the only Smash player to have beaten all Five Gods.[13] Since then, only Justin "Plup" McGrath has also beaten all Five Gods to join Leffen as a God slayer, and since then the "Big 6" moniker was canned due to Plup's rise in the player rankings, peaking at second. Plup was also the first player outside of the Big 6 since Jeff "SilentSpectre" Leung and Amsah Augustuszoon in 2010 to take a tournament set from Armada when Plup beat Armada at The Big House 7. On September 18, 2018, Armada announced his retirement from playing Melee singles, citing a lack of motivation, a "sense of dread," and "almost physical sickness" when attending tournaments, bringing the number of active Gods to three, as PPMD had cited mental health issues since his last tournament in March 2016.[14]

SmashBoards estimated that in 2014 around 3,242 events featuring a Super Smash Bros. game had occurred worldwide.[15]

Other games[edit]

MKLeo at Frostbite 2020

The other Smash titles also had strong competitive scenes in the past, and are often still played at larger events that feature either Melee or Ultimate. The best Super Smash Bros. Brawl players included Ally, Mew2King and Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada. Daniel "SuPeRbOoMfAn" Hoyt is considered the best active Super Smash Bros. player, though Joel "Isai" Alvarado is widely considered to be the greatest of all time.[16] Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios is considered the best Wii U player, while other notable players include Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby, Ramin "Mr. R" Dalshad, Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada, Elliot "Ally" Caroza, Gavin "Tweek" Dempsey, and Leonardo "MKLeo" Perez. While most of Wii U's top players would go on to migrate to Ultimate, ZeRo would end up retiring from competitive play to focus on a career in online streaming. As of the most recent "Panda Global Rankings" list — an aggregated bi-annual list of the best players across Melee and Ultimate, managed by esports organization "Panda Global" — MKLeo is considered the best player in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[17]


The culture of competitive Melee has been met with some criticism by the game's developers. Masahiro Sakurai expressed concern for the skill gap between casual and competitive players, and has said that competitive play strays from his original vision for the game.[18] Before Evo 2013, Nintendo of America sent a cease and desist letter to bar the tournament from streaming Melee matches, but after experiencing public backlash allowed the live stream to continue as planned.[19][20]

Sakurai's philosophy for Brawl was for the game to be more readily accessible to new players.[21][22] Consequentially, Brawl is less popular among professional gamers due to its perceived lack of competitive depth and slow play. In response, some players used an exploit with the Wii's SD Card save system to mod the game, creating Project M, which has a gameplay and physics environment more similar to that of Melee's.[18][23] In addition, the less popular Brawl- was designed to make every character incredibly powerful and Brawl+ was developed to make Brawl more balanced, especially with the character Meta Knight being considered extremely overpowered in the original game.

For Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, Sakurai designed the game to appeal to both competitive and casual smashers, stating that his vision for the pace of two titles was between Melee and Brawl. However, some professional players have criticized it for resembling Brawl more than Melee.[24][25] Despite this, the game has endured an active competitive scene comparable to that of Melee, and held the record for the overall largest tournament of any Super Smash Bros. game, seeing 2,662 entrants at EVO 2016.[26] This record was eventually overtaken by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – a game that has seen greater overlap between the Melee and Wii U community due to further strides being made in its competitive mechanics – and ended up peaking at 3,534 entrants at EVO 2019.[27]

Ken Hoang, considered to be the game's best player for many years, has won over US$50,000 from Smash tournaments.[28][29][30] The competitive Smash community was featured in a 2013 crowd-funded documentary called The Smash Brothers by Travis Beauchamp. The film detailed the history of the professional scene and profiled seven prominent Melee players including Hoang and EVO 2013 champion, Joseph "Mang0" Marquez.[31][32] The other five players were Christopher "Azen" McMullen, Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, Isai "Isaiah" Alvarado, Chris "PC Chris" Szygiel, and Daniel "KoreanDJ" Jung. A full-length series called Metagame, also by Beauchamp, featuring Swedish player Adam "Armada" Lindgren and American player Kevin "PPMD" Nanney was originally set to be released in 2016 and raised over US$30,000 through Kickstarter.[33] However, Metagame has been met with considerable delays, but was released in December 2020.


Games played using competitive rules are generally played with lives (known as "stocks" in-game), with the timer set, and items turned off.[34] It is played either Double-elimination format, or a double-elimination bracket seeded from pools.

Super Smash Bros., Melee and Project M start with four stocks and eight minute time limit, Brawl with three stocks and eight minute time limit, and 3DS/Wii U with two and six minute time limit. Although Ultimate's competitive scene is in its infancy, three stocks and a seven or eight minute timer is the norm.

If the time runs out, the winner is determined by whoever has more stocks left; if both players have the same number of stocks, then winner is determined by whoever has the lower damage percentage. If both players have the same number of stocks and amount of damage, then, depending on the tournament, the whole match must be played again, or a shorter match with a single stock each is played.

Pausing can disrupt the gameplay; thus, if a player pauses while in the middle of a match to gain an advantage, then that player must forfeit a stock or the game. In stricter tournaments, the player must forfeit a stock regardless of advantage (or lack thereof), though the pause function is usually disabled in these tournaments. To facilitate this, Ultimate includes a ruleset option to toggle pausing on or off.

Most matches are played in best-of-three game sets. Best-of-five sets are played anywhere from top 32 to grand finals.[34][35]

There are stages that are deemed legal by the tournament organizers; these stages are starter stages. Players strike the starter stages before a match to determine the first stage they will play on; also, players must choose their characters without the other person's knowledge for the first match. In subsequent matches there are also counterpick stages allowed. For instance, in Melee singles, the starter stages are Battlefield, Final Destination, Dream Land N64, Yoshi's Story, and Fountain of Dreams. Players use a 1-2-1 format to strike which stages they do not want to play on until one is left. Once the first match is complete, the losing player can choose any of the starter stages or he or she can also choose a counterpick stage – in this case, Pokémon Stadium. After the first match is complete, the losing player chooses a stage, then the winning player chooses his or her character, then the losing player chooses his or her character before heading to subsequent matches. In best-of-3 sets, the winner can ban one stage so the losing player cannot choose that stage.[36] Generally, players cannot select a stage on which they have previously won; this rule is known as "Dave's Stupid Rule" or the "Stage Clause".[37] However, a modified version of this rule is being used currently, in which a player can select a stage he or she won on only with the other player's approval.

Competitive play may be either singles, or doubles. In singles, two players face off against each other. In doubles, two teams of two players fight each other. Sharing stocks with teammates is allowed. Friendly fire is enabled, so teammates can damage or save each other. This is to ensure fairness, as certain combinations of characters in teams can prove to be overpowered. It also ensures that two-on-one situations aren't overwhelmingly tilted in the winning team's favor. It also adds a couple of extra strategies. For example, some characters can absorb attacks, to heal themselves or to charge an attack for later use. With friendly fire on, a player can attack their ally specifically to allow them to absorb it. Additionally, most characters have a triple jump that, once used, prevents the character from taking any action until they are hit with an attack, land back on the stage, are KO'd. If a player is not going to make it back to the stage, their ally can hit them with a weak attack, allowing them to re-use their triple jump and make it back. A similar thing applies to Jigglypuff's Rest move, which is extremely powerful, but immobilizes Jigglypuff for several seconds, unless it is hit by an attack. An ally can use his or her weakest move to knock Jigglypuff out of this state, denying the enemy the chance to use a powerful move on it. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U adds an 8-player mode, which allows triples and quadruples teams, although there have been comparatively few tournaments.

In addition, a player gets port priority when he or she wins in a best-of-one of, usually, rock-paper-scissors.[38] Smasher Mew2King found out that the player who is player 1 or is closest to player 1 has priority in attacks that hit each other at the same time.[39] Also, a neutral start may be enacted if a player suggests it.[38]

In some Brawl rulesets, Meta Knight is either banned from certain stages or is completely banned from tournaments due to his overpowered nature of attacks.[40]

Wombo Combo meme[edit]

"Wombo Combo" is an internet meme from a December 2008 Melee doubles match that took place at the SCSA West Coast Circuit tournament. The match featured Jeff "SilentSpectre" Leung and Mitchell Tang on one team and Julian Zhu and Joey "Lucky" Aldama on the other. In the match, as Lucky lost all of his lives, SilentSpectre and Tang then performed several moves in tandem which removed Zhu's ability to respond. The commentators of the match – Brandon "HomeMadeWaffles" Collier, Phil DeBerry, and Joseph "Mang0" Marquez – exclaimed "Happy Feet, Wombo Combo. That ain't Falco". They then screamed wildly as SilentSpectre and Tang locked Zhu in a game-winning combo.[41] The meme is the subject of a mini documentary,[42] and is one of the memes seen in the Wii U eShop game Meme Run.[43] It has also been used in many "MLG Montage" parody videos.[41]

Sexual abuse allegations[edit]

In July 2020, some members of the Super Smash Bros. competitive community, including players and commentators, were accused of various forms of sexual misconduct. These included allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and child grooming.[44] Nintendo responded to the wave of allegations, condemning "all acts of violence, harassment, and exploitation against anyone and that we stand with the victims".[45]

Tournament results[edit]


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  2. ^ Smith, Wynton (January 14, 2015). "The genesis of Smash Bros.: From basements to ballrooms". ESPN. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
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  15. ^ AlphaZealot (December 27, 2014). "Smashboards Year End Update – 2014 had over $500,000 in Tournament Prizes". SmashBoards. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
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  17. ^ Suarez, Luis. "Smash Ultimate Rankings 1-10, #PGRU Spring 2019". PGStats. Red Bull. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
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  21. ^ Edge. August 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  25. ^ Pandaman. "This Is What Pro Smash Players Think Of Smash 4".
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  30. ^ Campbell, Sean (May 29, 2006). "Are they worth fighting for?". DPad. Got Frag. Archived from the original on February 16, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2008.
  31. ^ Hernandez, Patricia (October 6, 2013). "A Fascinating Look At The World's Best Super Smash Bros. Players". Kotaku. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  32. ^ O'Neill, Patrick Howell (October 6, 2013). "'The Smash Brothers' might be the best eSports documentary of all time". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  33. ^ Magdaleno, Alex (May 4, 2014). "How a YouTube Documentary Gave New Life to a Nintendo Classic". Mashable. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
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  35. ^ "Tournament Rules".
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  38. ^ a b "Apex 2015 Official Rulebook" (PDF). December 31, 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2016 – via Dropbox.
  39. ^ Zimmerman, Jason (December 18, 2012). "Mew2King's Melee Information and Discoveries". CLASH Tournaments. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014.
  40. ^ George, Richard (October 3, 2011). "Meta Knight: Banned From Super Smash Bros. Brawl". IGN.
  41. ^ a b Hernandez, Patricia (December 8, 2014). "Smash Bros.' Most Famous Moment, Explained". Kotaku. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  42. ^ D'Anastasio, Cecilia. "Perhaps the most notorious Super Smash Bros. combo in history—the "Wombo Combo"—has earned itself a".
  43. ^ Meyer, Lee (December 21, 2014). "Mele Run". NintendoLife. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  44. ^
  45. ^

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