When it comes to childhood memories, one of your favorites may be duking it out with our favourite Nintendo characters. Sure, we all had our favorite individual games such as Super Mario 64, but when the Nintendo 64 first released Super Smash Bros, we finally had a chance to pit the likes of Mario, Link and Pikachu against one another! Finally there was a level playing field to see who really was the system’s most iconic figure. Not to mention it also bred a competitive nature in gamers who were supposed to be more passive, childish and relaxed compared to their PlayStation counterparts. Despite the lack of blood and gore, here was a title that charged the competitive juices and asked us to be ruthless! Nothing settled an argument better than a duel, but who are the most powerful characters in the series?
Deciding on a top ten was difficult, but that’s the fun of the game. Power is a variable that can be in the eye of the beholder. The characters here are powerful in different ways, with traits that make them specifically rare in their ability to smash an opponent, defend arrays of attacks, recover from certain death and speed across the screen without sacrificing themselves. We all have our favourites but did yours make the cut?
Sluggish and clunky, Bowser relies on brute force to defeat his enemies. While he is sacrificing speed and grace, there is no denying his strength. While his signature move, breathing fire, exists only to increase the damage on an opponent, it is the downward exploding smash that can quickly end a tightly fought melee. But with great strength comes an even greater frame that struggles to deal with fast opponents such as Fox, Sheik and Samus. In a discussion of power is it only fair that Bowser earns a mention, especially because he is forever stuck in the shadow of the grand hero, Mario (do you think he makes this list?). Deathly claws, an intimidating presence and the unique ability to retreat inside a shell make him an attacking weapon with a side of defense.
9. Donkey Kong
King of the Kongs (some may even draw similarities to King Kong), this tie-wearing villain-turned-hero is a buff primate who is surprisingly nimble for his large size. His signature move, the giant punch, can be wound up to create a powerful blow that often ends matches too quickly. He creates earthquakes, spins his inflated fists and unleashes countless headbutts to demonstrate his strength to anyone who ventures too close. Where others struggle, DK thrives; he can carry big items such as crates and party balls without it impacting his speed, while others slowly step around the arena struggling to hold the extra weight. Even his regular moves register high amounts of damage, making him one of the more difficult opponents to send flying off the screen. Other than his weight, which causes him to fall very fast if he is knocked off an edge, he is a worthy beast.
His entry into the series took a while, but better late than never. Wario’s shoulder barge describes his fighting style to a tee: strong, slow and erratic. He is also largely based on comedy, with moves such as farting, riding his motorcycle and a dash where he strangely dances, but isn’t the game also about having fun? Despite this, he was always going to fall into the heavyweight category and can cause large amounts of damage in small amounts of time. When he consumes garlic and turns into Wario-Man, we see a superhero that would’ve ranked higher on this list. Unfortunately, a fat rump and a choice of humour mean the anti-Mario must settle for 8th spot on our power list. His defensive capabilities and speed in the air are traits that make Wario an unpredictable entity capable of winning battles in a variety of ways.
A bizarre addition to the playing roster considering his origins and game format, Snake’s warfare tactics and weaponry make him a powerful man to combat. Metal Gear Solid‘s protagonist can set up bombs, has an obvious focus on hand-to-hand fighting and can move well despite his heaviness. He has been banned from various tournaments due to his unique abilities, especially as seasoned gamers can utilise tactical mine placements and set-up a victory well in advance. Even though he doesn’t use handguns, Snake is still seen as a sophisticated and at times ‘older’ choice, as the PlayStation veteran lacks a comical side and is focused on completing a mission. While mastering this character may take time, his power is enough to intrigue SSB veterans and his normal punches alone are worthy of mention.
No power list would be complete without the saviour of Hyrule. His sheer array of weaponry enough to beat out other Nintendo favourites that lack originality. There is nobody like Link on the playing roster, as he wields a devastating sword, throws bombs, grapples onto surfaces with his hookshot, flings a boomerang and looks the part of a badass. His downfall, a poor recovery move that often sends his heavy (and armour filled body) to the depths, is the primary reason for the Hyrulian legend not challenging for top spot. As the series has progressed, more moves have been added to Link’s kit bag, including the bow and arrow combo that is a favourite in the titles he originates from. Toon Link is another form of the character we all know and love, but the adult from Ocarina of Time/Twilight Princess remains one of the most heavily utilised choices in the game.
This Fire Emblem veteran beats out Roy and takes a place in the top 5 on our list of power. He has a range of long-reaching sword attacks that make quick meals of Mario and co., and can escape a situation as hurriedly as he gets into one. The tip of the blade, if used well, can become a weapon that hits the ‘sweet spot’ more than any other. Marth’s combos are quicker than the eye, thrusting into the opponent and bumping up the HP before anyone realises what has happened. There will always be a debate between Marth and his clone Roy, the fire user, but in professional analysis it has been concluded that Marth has small differences that allow him to be the better SSB fighter. For a real challenge, pit Marth, Roy, Link and Meta Knight together and let the jousting begin.
4. Meta Knight
This sword-wielding speedster has the ability to recover from even the furthest hits (like Kirby) but also possesses a more powerful arsenal of attacks (and a more warrior-like style). Rather than puff to fly, Meta Knight uses wings to soar around the arena and joust his enemies. He is considered the perfect choice due to his balance between attack and defense, and was banned in various SSB tournaments around the world because of the abilities Nintendo thrust upon him. He is small, meaning hard to hit, yet has sword maneuvers that occur at a frame-rate that is faster than any other. Meta Knight even looks the part, with a steel mask, a cape and other intriguing features. One of the most used characters nowadays.
3. Captain Falcon
A hidden character in the original title, Captain Falcon soon established himself as a fan favourite due to his powerful fighting style. ‘Falcon Punch’, when timed correctly, is one of the strongest signature moves in the SSB universe and dwarfs the likes of Mario’s fireball, Pikachu’s thundershock and Yoshi’s tongue…thing. Add ‘Falcon Kick’ to the argument, a sweeping flame that wipes out an entire area, and his offensive speed and you have the full package ready to be chosen. Despite being a hero in the game F-Zero, Captain Falcon is one character more famous for his role in Super Smash Bros.
Fox is a different kind of powerful; fast, defensive, elusive and at times impossible to land a hit on. A player who has mastered Fox is often the hardest to defeat. His rapid-fire blaster may only serve to cause damage (the opponent doesn’t even flinch) but the speed in which it is performed can create an entire three minutes of havoc. The reflector shield is an underestimated talent. Having Samus charge a full powered beam, only to have it used against her, is the epitome of frustration. As the series continues, Fox has been made even faster, zooming across screens at speeds that are hard to control. But spend enough time using this StarFox critter and you’ll find you rarely lose.
Link’s arch nemesis uses the same physics as Captain Falcon, yet has a raw power that is unmatched in the series. A worthy holder of number 1 spot, the antagonist of The Legend of Zelda may be slow but his reach and strength make him a character to fear when chosen by opposition. Ganondorf’s ‘Warlock Punch’ alone demonstrates great K.O. potential, and his aerial moves are ranked higher than any other selectable fighter (most capable of sending a player off the screen). Here is a heavyweight if ever there was a true claim to the title, a stylish and cunning villain that thrives on any challenge. The best method to conquering this mad man is to keep your distance, wear him down with projectiles and then risk getting close…good luck.