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Opinion – Super Smash Bros. Brawl Is My Favorite In The Series

by Justin Mikos on Apr 15, 2015 at 12:11 PM

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is not a bad game. I’m surprised that I have to say that up front, but many Smash fans claim it is, especially now during the revival of Melee’s competitive scene and the release of the fourth Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS. Some see Melee as the pinnacle of the franchise, while others are becoming invested in Smash Bros. 4, but Brawl remains my favorite game in the series.

I’ve been playing Smash Bros. since the original released in 1999. It was a fun game, but it was rough around the edges and lacking in many extra modes and features. When Melee came out following the launch of the GameCube in 2001, it cemented Smash Bros. as one of Nintendo’s greatest series and ensured that each subsequent release would be an event. I’ve easily put more than 500 hours into Melee and yet, despite my continued love of it and how much I’m enjoying the newest game, I appreciate the third Smash Bros. entry even more.

Brawl shines bright in several key areas, and first and foremost is speed. Brawl is much slower compared to the lightning-fast pace of Melee and Smash 4, which causes many to look down on it, but it is actually a great strength that makes its chaotic fighting more approachable. I understand why people appreciate faster fighting games; my favorite fighting-game series, BlazBlue, also offers high degrees of control and moves much faster compared to a stiffer game like Street Fighter. It’s liberating to have so many options and to be able to move your characters with such exact precision.

Brawl’s pace is slower and the gravity is floatier than the other Smash Bros. games, which is problematic for some of the most advanced players, but I think that better plays into what separates Smash Bros. from other fighting games. By moving at a slower pace, the chaos onscreen becomes more manageable. This is important for newcomers who are learning the game as well as the average player, because when it takes longer for moves to execute, you have a larger window to recognize what move your opponent is using so you can respond to it. By helping to ease players into understanding each member of the large cast, it allows players to start playing mind games with each other sooner, which is arguably one of the most fun aspects of fighting games.

The lighter gravity similarly helps Smash newcomers pick up the game sooner. With Melee in particular, you fall so fast in the air that it becomes very difficult to get back on the stage, especially since you often need to learn how to triple jump with a character in order to successfully recover. I’ve seen many casual players give up on Smash Bros. because of how difficult it can be to recover, so I’m appreciative that Brawl made it easier to allow more people to have fun playing. 

Crucially, the slower speed of Brawl makes the four-player free-for-alls less chaotic. When the matches are moving super fast it’s hard to keep track of what every player is doing, let alone any other additional chaos caused by stage hazards and items. Advanced players who frequently battle one-on-one are free to revel in Melee’s speed, but Brawl is more conducive to a smoother fighting experience for the majority of players fighting with friends. I feel it was the right move to balance the game for four-player matches, since that is core to what Smash Bros. is all about. While the 8-player smash mode from Smash 4 has its appeal, the fights become so out of control that skill and experience becomes buried – ultimately making it less satisfying. 

Brawl also has a fantastic roster. It upped the character count to 35 fighters (not counting characters’ multiple forms) from Melee’s 26, which strikes a good balance between offering enough combatants to keep things interesting without being so overwhelming that it becomes too hard to remember everybody. New fighters have interesting gimmicks to play around with, such as Lucario’s Aura boosting his strength as he takes more damage, and Olimar managing an army of Pikmin during combat. Many of the clones in Melee were further developed to stand apart from their inspirations, and new characters that could have easily been clones (like Lucas and Wolf) were made unique. Many point to Meta Knight as a failure (and he is absurdly broken), but Melee has characters like Peach that broke many aspects of competitive play.

The third Smash Bros. packs in an absurd amount of content that greatly expands on Melee’s foundation. Many modes from previous games are fleshed out in Brawl, such as certain stadium modes gaining cooperative play for the first time. Brawl uniquely offers a full story mode complete with cutscenes and boss fights that you could play together with a friend. There are more trophies to collect than Melee and, unlike Smash 4, Brawl doesn’t recycle any trophies which makes them all stand out. A new challenge was also added to collect hundreds of songs, complementing the new My Music feature which allows you to adjust the frequency of songs played. A stage builder essentially makes the replay value of Brawl endless if your imagination is up to the task. These improvements make for a truly substantial experience such that it is unsurprising that Smash 4 isn’t able to contribute much more beyond Brawl’s additions.

For all these reasons and more, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is my favorite game in the series. I’m still eager to watch Melee matches and see how Smash Bros. 4 continues to evolve over the years through DLC and patches, but for me Super Smash Bros. Brawl remains the champion.