Just this week, the original Super Smash Bros. and the series itself turned 20 years old, making it the perfect time to look back and reflect on that everything the series has brought fans, myself included. I’ve been playing the games since the very beginning — I even remember renting the first title from a Blockbuster way back when, in awe that so many characters I recognized were on the box. Now Ultimate is out and that number of characters has skyrocketed (with still more to come). In honor of the occasion, I’m comparing what “young me” of way back when thought of the original eight Smash characters to where they are now.
8 – Pikachu
Then: “Hey a Pokemon! I wish Charizard was in…”
Now: “Out of the way, Pichu’s back!”
Pikachu led the charge as the first of what would become several Pokémon additions to the series over two decades. While there’s no doubt #25 deserves to be here as the face of its franchise, I’ve always felt it was a little plain compared to later additions like Aura-based Lucario, or now the emotive wrestler Incineroar. Young me was always confused that its B attack was called Thunder Jolt and not an actual Pokémon attack. (TCG doesn’t count.) When it comes down to it, Pikachu’s lightning-quick moveset does have its charm, but I really think Pichu does it better.
7 – Fox
Now: “Out of the way, Wolf’s back!”
The leader of Star Fox gets to lead the charge in World of Light, but his defining role in the series will always be his dominance in Melee. High gravity, high speed, and a high-launching up air have made this fox fast and deadly by design. There was a novelty of him being on foot and having an original moveset for Smash, with his skill and charisma still apparent. Just like Pikachu he’s gotten to inspire a few other characters, those being wingman Falco and rival Wolf, but Fox here’s the only one who’s got a standing invite to Final Destination (no items).
6 – Kirby
Then: “Oh wow, my favorite!”
Now: “Oh wow, my favorite!”
Good ol’, reliable Kirby. I’ve loved this little guy from the get-go and he holds the honor of serving as the first Smash character I ever played (and later the first amiibo I ever bought). He’s not my main anymore, but I’ve always put time into Dream Land’s finest to keep that edge. Thanks in part to this series, he’s no doubt got the most impressive hat collection in all of gaming. His biggest claim to fame here is how he gets to be one of the biggest heroes in both Subspace Emissary and World of Light, which is really saying something when you look at this cast.
5 – Yoshi
Then: “Why don’t they get a third jump like everyone else?”
Now: “Why doesn’t everyone else get to be made of yarn like they do?”
Back in the day, Yoshi was probably one of my top three favorite Smash characters. They were my go-to pick for any Mario spinoff at the time, and I put plenty of time into Yoshi’s Story when it was first released. They looked a little strange here, taking after their Super Mario World proportions — but then again, looking a little different was always Yoshi’s thing. Crayon drawings, pop-up books, and now crochet and crafts are just another day for them. And hey, Egg Throw gives them a little height now! Progress!
4 – Samus
Then: “Who’s that robot guy? Haven’t seen them in an N64 game.”
Now: “When’s Prime 4, Reggie?”
Unlike the rest of the starting Smash roster, this was my first exposure to Samus Aran. Super and Prime have both defined her for me since, but something about the way the Charge Beam works in Smash made an impact with me. Ridley’s finally followed her to Smash, but with Ultimate out, Prime 4 has jumped to top of a lot more people’s most anticipated Switch game list. Bring on her next great adventure, Nintendo, because even if she belongs in Smash, there’s just something about the lonely reaches of space that brings out the best of Metroid.
3 – Link
Then: “Wow, he’s barely even on the box…”
Now: “There’s three of him now?!”
None of these icons have changed across Smash like Link has. Having clear phases where Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess defined the character, he was outright overhauled thanks to just how popular Breath of the Wild was. As much as I’ve loved Zelda across the years, I’ve never taken to Link due to how slow he is. Still, he’s beaten Mario this time around by having three distinct versions of himself in the roster next to the plumber doctor’s two, and more than earns the kind of box real estate he’s been given.
2 – Donkey Kong
Then: “He has no style… he has no grace…”
Now: “This Kong has a funny face!”
The first member of the DK Crew was the original heavyweight, and that alone made me want to give him a try. DK was the reason I learned how to grab in the first Smash, thanks to how he could carry characters right off the stage — and honestly, pulling off his punch is still satisfying 20 years later. He’s got a little buddy and really angry croc fighting with him, a way better model and facial animations, and plenty of callbacks to his arcade roots across the years — and for good measure, he stars in one of the best 2D platformers on Switch. He’s no longer the only (or even biggest) heavyweight in the game, but this Kong’s still king of the jungle.
1 – Mario
Then: “I dunno, I think I still like Mario Party more…”
Now: “Oh yeah, Mario number one!”
Remember that ‘seeming kinda plain’ bit from Pikachu’s entry? That goes double for Mario, though it seems that’s more by design. Still, Mario just works here which is probably more a testament to his everyman nature than anything. The majority of my N64 years were spent playing Mario Party when it came to multiplayer, but from the GameCube on Smash was number one, just like Mr. Video Game Himself.
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