Still the best party game around, the fourth Smash Bros. game doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’ve been enjoying Smash Bros. since 1999, and the core of the series hasn’t changed much since then. You get your friends together, pick some colorful Nintendo characters, and beat each other senseless until somebody flies off of the stage.
Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U are just bigger, better versions of that original good idea. There are nearly 50 fighters now, each packing a unique set of moves. Learning characters and finding which ones fit me has always been my favorite part of the series. With so many options now, I’m still finding new combos and techniques for new characters, and mastering my strategies for old favorites.
The online functionality is near perfect for the first time in Smash history, and has changed the way I experience the game. Instead of having a couple of times a month for friends to come play, I can play with anyone at any time. When friends aren’t available, it’s easy to load up the online mode and have an intense match with a stranger. Playing 1v1 in online matchmaking is my favorite new feature, because it allows me to train against and learn from players at a much higher skill level.
While it’s the best Smash we’ve seen, it’s still the same Smash Bros. we’ve loved for decades, which keeps it from ranking higher on this list. I’ve had just as much fun with Smash Bros. than I have with anything else this year, but the lack of truly fresh ideas makes it “merely” great instead of revolutionary. I miss the epic single player mode of the Subspace Emissary in Smash Bros. Brawl, and Smash Run just doesn’t compel me to come back more than once. Even with its flaws, the new Smash is one of the many reasons to own a Wii U now, which is quickly becoming my favorite console. The 3DS version works just as well though, aside from a few missing features and less stunning colors.
While it’s a retread of what’s come before, what came before was still really, really good. Smash Bros. is my favorite fighting game series, and I’ll be playing this one for the next half-decade until we see its return.