When Nintendo announced a new Super Smash Bros. game for the Switch last week it made me realize just how much this franchise has meant to me.
From the Atari 2600 my dad bought me when I was three to the three consoles currently connected in my apartment, video games have been a constant and delightful hobby. But my personal experience with the Super Smash Bros. games is something else entirely.
I have extremely special, vivid memories from every single entry in this franchise and the opportunity to create more is something that genuinely fills me with joy.
It all began in my friend Steve’s first apartment back in Indiana in 1999. My oldest friend group had already gotten a lot of use out of the Nintendo 64’s four-player possibilities with many games of competitive Tetris and Mario Party. But when the first Super Smash Bros. came out, it became our absolute obsession. The prospect of pitting Nintendo characters we had grown up with against each other was extremely enticing.
For far too many hours (many of us were still in high school) we would sit around on thrift store couches, smoke cigarettes, and try to figure out our favorite character. Aaron was fantastic with Donkey Kong. Brian was amazing with Star Fox. Claire was wonderful with Pikachu. I preferred Link. The whole summer and fall went by like that. We didn’t need Smash to have a good time, but it certainly gave us an extra reason to be together.
We didn’t need ‘Smash’ to have a good time, but it certainly gave us an extra reason to be together.
Super Smash Bros. Melee had been out for a few years when a failed relationship broke my heart in 2003. I was a sullen little sad sack, too moan-y and upset to enjoy much of anything. Yet still, I have bright, shiny recollections of hanging out in my friend Will’s basement until the early morning hours playing this game. The two of us would try to best one another in the home run contest mini game, figure out how to play as Mewtwo, or attempt to collect every little digital trophy.
Though I definitely spent less time with the Wii’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl than the others, I’ll never forget how my friends came together to plan a “Brunch n’ Brawl” around the game’s release in 2008. It was a bright, sunny day in that well-lit, lofty Kentucky apartment as Steph made french toast casserole, Landis argued that a french toast casserole didn’t make sense, and I made hashbrowns. The people, the food, and that game made for a wonderful day.
In 2014, I basically bought a Wii U console because of Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. I was living in Seattle at the time and had recently managed to craft a friend group out of neighbors and nice people. Smash was an excuse to get them to come over to my apartment more and hang out with me. And it worked.
For that whole year, I used Smash the same way the only classmate with a pool uses their pool. It was a fantastic lure and helped deepen those friendships immeasurably. I remember throwing a “Soft Food Saturday” when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Ten or so people came over with variations of mashed potatoes and we all traded turns playing eight-player Smash; it was too chaotic to get competitive and too ludicrous not to be fun.
When Nintendo announced a new Smash for this year, you can understand why I would get excited. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a new game or a port from the Wii U’s great entry, as long as I have a reason to sit with friends and try to correctly time my smash attacks.
I’ve never gotten into following the hyper-competitive professional Smash scene. I’ve never gotten into playing for hours by myself with others online. I’ve never worried about being super good at it and winning every match.
For me, Super Smash Bros. has always been about spending time with others and bonding over the devastation when someone releases a legendary Pokémon, the irritation over someone who won’t stop Falcon Punch-ing, the satisfaction of a well-timed hit with that damn bat.
Of the hundreds of games I’ve played over the years, it is difficult to think of another one, or at least a franchise, that has left such a positive impression on me. I don’t think I’ve ever once sat down to play these games without a smile on my face. And I certainly don’t expect to whenever this next one comes out.