Super Smash Bros. was first released in January 1999 for Nintendo 64. Its creator, Masahiro Sakurai, wanted to create a high-quality fighting game that would outdo the flood of similar games that had saturated the market at the time.
His idea was to use Nintendo characters in the game to give it a different feel. When he approached the company for permission, they jumped at the chance to develop a game that would showcase the superiority of the N64 controller.
The game was an immediate success, and 23 years later, Super Smash Bros. continues to be one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises.
But how does Super Smash Bros. operate as an eSport? How do people set up competitive leagues to play in organized tournament competition?
Let’s check out some of the details concerning how Super Smash Bros. operates as a competitive eSport.
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Understanding Super Smash Bros. General Gameplay and Competitive Ruleset
The thing that makes Super Smash Bros. different from its combat game predecessors is that rather than depleting your opponent’s health bar, you ring them out by launching them entirely off the screen.
The more damage you build up, the farther they fly. Several ways exist to increase damage, especially if you manage to get the devastating final smash. Players make their way back onto the fighting stage by using jumps and special moves.
Super Smash Bros. has 70 fighters to choose from, all characters from the Nintendo franchise. Each fighter has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Some have unique moves or weapons that others don’t. Kirby has an easier time getting back onto the stage, mario throws fireballs, inkling squirts an inkstorm all over the place, etc.
In addition to fighter choices, players can fight on any one of over 100 different fighting stages, some taken directly from scenes of their favorite games. And of course, each level has its own layout and obstacles for players to learn and gain the upper hand.
During a fight, different objects will appear for players to grab and use to their advantage. These include a banana peel, a blue spiny shell, a giant hammer, or even the coveted Smash Ball, which will decimate the stage to instantly give you the upper hand.
With so many variables, the different iterations of the game are seemingly endless, which is why when Super Smash Bros. is played as a competitive tournament, a ruleset must be in place that keeps some of the more unpredictable elements of the game in check.
So, what are the official tournament rules of Super Smash Bros.? Technically, there are no official rules per se. This is because Nintendo hasn’t supported tournament play on a large scale, leaving it up to individual tournament organizers to decide how the game should be played.
While there may be some variations from league to league, the main rules have stayed consistent:
- Each player gets three stocks.
- Battle time is limited to six to eight minutes.
- No special items are allowed to appear.
- Stage hazards are turned off.
- Players may not use Final Smash.
- No spirits are allowed to power up existing players.
This lack of items and special advantages serves to level the playing field, but the playing field itself is also limited during tournament play. Only a few of the 100+ stages are legal for competition, and which stages are allowed varies depending on who is hosting.
As a general rule though, stages that change shape during battle are not allowed. Floating platform worlds are often the preferred setting.
Nintendo Blesses the Panda Cup: The First Company-Sponsored eSports Event Ever
While the competitive Super Smash Bros. community has been around for decades, Nintendo has never officially supported any of it. Tournaments such as the yearly EVO Championships and GENESIS tournaments are held in high esteem within the community, but they have never been backed or supported by the game’s developers.
All that changed in late 2021, when it was announced that Nintendo would be partnering with the Panda Global Circuit in 2022 for the first ever officially licensed championship games. The circuit runs from late June until its culmination in December. The prize pool is $100,000.
Historically, unofficial tournament play began with the release of Super Smash Bros: Melee in 2001. Melee has a small but passionate fanbase that continues to hold competitive tournaments.
The most storied and skilled players flock to Melee due to the different techniques that are difficult to perform but provide a competitive advantage.
However, it’s the latest release, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, that will be played in the Panda Cup. This game has an enormous roster with 89 playable characters.
It requires much of the skill that Melee does, but players also need to have an immense amount of character knowledge to compete as a top player.
The Panda Cup holds 40 qualifying events from July through October. In December, 32 finalists will travel to Los Angeles to compete in the Panda Cup Finale.
The winner of the 2022 tournament will make history as the first officially licensed Super Smash Bros. Championship winner.
Super Smash Bros has a storied history as a competitive eSport. The community has endured the last couple decades without Nintendo support, creating some of the hallmark moments in gaming history, but the newly formed Panda Cup points toward a competitive scene blessed with organizer support and large prize pools for tournaments.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the eSport scene of Super Smash Bros. Feel free to add any questions, experiences or insights in the comments!