Super Smash Bros. Ultimate continues to tout some of the very best crossovers in recent gaming history, having just added Final Fantasy VII megavillain Sephiroth to the game’s roster.
Since its launch on the Nintendo Switch, Smash Ultimate has continued to expand via the Fighters Pass DLC and its follow-up, the imaginatively titles Fighters Pass Vol. 2, collectively bringing 12 new contestants into the fold.
We’re currently 9 fighters in and have ranked them here from worst to best. Before I start, I do want to stress that this is not a tier list for competitive play. Personally, competitive viability isn’t everything when it comes to how good a DLC fighter is. There are three main factors I look for when a character makes their Smash debut.
Firstly, the manner in which a character was revealed and the consequent Smash fans hype. A character can benefit a lot from a trailer that may explain why said character was chosen or give a little context to their inclusion. Flashy trailers have seen their ups and downs with some of the worst being Mewtwo or Ryu’s trailers being revealed by a simple slow unveiling of the character model.
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Even though in-game ability isn’t everything, it definitely makes up part of my ranking criteria. Creator Masahiro Sakurai has done a stellar job making each individual character feel like they’ve been ripped out of their respective games. However where each character ranks in a competitive tier list isn’t what makes a great Smash character, overall. The stage and music that comes along with them is in some cases just as important as the character themselves.
Finally, how the character gels with the existing roster is something I find very interesting. This might mean whether the character fills a quota the current roster is missing, like how Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS saw the addition of a lot more female characters or how Ultimate saw a few more villains. Not just this, but the state of fan speculation and if the characters were leaked or heavily rumoured can lower the shock value and impact of a character coming to Smash. These elements, plus any other miscellaneous factors have also been considered in my list. With all this explained please remember that I will try and be as objective as I can when ranking these characters but I also want to sprinkle a few elements of personal attachment too. Now, please enjoy a ranking of the current DLC fighters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
9th Place – Byleth
In Game Content: 4/10
Total Score: 9/30
Sakurai has stated in the past the characters who appear in Smash Ultimate aren’t always 100% up to him. In the case of Byleth, it was said that this was a decision from the higher-ups at Nintendo, probably due to the timing of the DLC and the recent release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As for the trailer, fans were pretty sure it was Byleth within the first few seconds as he was centre stage. This was a disappointment for many people everywhere, as Smash has long been regarded for not only having too many anime swordsmen but specifically having too many Fire Emblem characters. The trailer also didn’t feature any other characters in its anime reveal apart from those seen in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
We did see a nice stage and good music added and as for Byleth’s ability in-game, many people saw the character as being very strong and powerful at range. Some, myself included, even stated the character was overpowered, having many abilities like a lot of super armour on moves, a huge reach on multiple moves, a great recovery and not many disadvantages. An all around poor character. On the bright side, Fire Emblem: Three Houses itself is an amazing game.
8th Place – Min Min
In Game Content: 7/10
Another very expected fighter for Nintendo – ironically the two lowest places on this list belong to two characters from the big N themselves. I don’t have a problem with Nintendo’s own characters appearing in the Fighters Pass, I just wish they were better than Min Min and Byleth. ARMS achieved relative success, but was soon forgotten about and simply didn’t have as big of an impact as Banjo Kazooie or Sephiroth.
The manner in which this character was revealed was peculiar too. In a very un-hyped move it was nonchalantly revealed that the next fighter in the pass was to be from the ARMS series which then led to a three month wait until Min Min was announced to kick off the second Fighters Pass. The trailer featured ARMS characters fighting for the Smash envelope similar to Terry’s trailer but this one also saw cameos from Captain Falcon and Kirby.
Min Min does feel like she was ripped right out of ARMS and therefore has a long range on many of her moves, but in return they aren’t very strong and she has a lot of end lag on them too. She isn’t particularly competitively viable in my opinion, but what makes Smash Bros. Ultimate such a great game is that if you’re good enough, nearly any character can be used in competitive play. She also brings with her an interesting stage that seems pretty basic from the start but can make for some interesting situations and the “woah” of the ARMS soundtrack is great to hear in Smash.
7th Place – Hero
In Game Content: 4/10
Ever since Super Smash Bros Brawl and outside the World of Light story mode, we haven’t seen the characters of Smash interact with each other in the form of CGI animated scenes. This is why any trailer which incorporates the many characters from the roster fighting each other, automatically makes for a better trailer. Hero’s trailer not only did this with characters like Meta Knight, Link and Marth giving Dragon Quest’s main protagonist a run for his gold, but also included another reveal that three other Hero’s from across Dragon Quest history would be making an appearance in the game as alternate costumes.
Many characters in Smash come from JRPGs which feature a plethora of moves and attacks to choose from. This made the inclusion of Hero’s more than 15 moves questionable when it’s not just Dragon Quest that features this kind of trope. It also makes the character feel a little messy and difficult to use. This aside, if you can figure out how to use Hero’s plentiful moveset he can be a force to be reckoned with, especially if you were a Link main before him as his other moves, physics and size feel very similar to the Legend of Zelda protagonist. Before Hero’s announcement he was already a very heavily speculated character, so his inclusion was a matter of when rather than if.
6th Place – Terry
In Game Content: 8/10
The idea of “who’s going to grab the envelope?” does cement the fact that in some cases, Sakurai does think about a company or series’ representation in Smash rather than the character itself. In Terry’s case, his trailer shows a slew of characters from the SNK archives fighting for the invitational envelope, bagging the reveal trailer some extra points. This kind of intro does now makes me think that this is what happens when the Smash team can’t think of a better trailer, though. Along with this, a stage with characters from the character’s series is also another trope that’s often used and can be found Joker’s and Byleth’s stages. However that’s not to say it’s all bad when it comes to Terry.
His stage, King of Fighters Stadium, has a new mechanic where players can die from either end of the stage, but only when thrusted hard enough into it. This is a unique mechanic for the stage and along with nearly 50 songs available to choose from, the content that comes along with Terry almost seems just as good as the character himself. Naturally, coming from a traditional 2D fighting game, he plays similarly to Ryu and Ken, but with all these fighting characters in the game, it now makes me wonder if we’ll ever see Tekken represented in Smash?
Terry isn’t a hugely popular character in the west and that’s mainly why he hasn’t ranked higher on this list. That’s not to say he isn’t a lot of fun to play. His moveset stays mainly physical with a unique ability where he unlocks extra moves when his percentage goes over 100%. These moves however, are hard to pull off with the button inputs being similar to a typical fighting game. Terry’s execution in the game was a lot better than the announcement itself and it’s what helps him rank higher than I initially thought.
5th Place – Piranha Plant
In Game Content: 8/10
This character was a bonus for anyone who bought Smash Bros. Ultimate when it first came out or it was available to download at a price soon after. As it wasn’t a part of any Fighters Pass, few toes were stepped on when it was announced, especially as it was free for early adopters.
The Smash series has certainly widened its net in terms of cameos, though Nintendo must have wanted to remind people that they’re still the ones in charge by including a character from their own mascot franchise, the Super Mario series. Its reveal was really unexpected and even after its announcement, fans still questioned if it was a joke or not – in my eyes that’s one of the best ways to reveal a character. There was no flashy CGI rendered cutscene, but with the nature of the character, it didn’t need one. The trailer features in-game footage of Mario walking up to Piranha Plant before it dodges one of his attacks and uses a smash attack in return, which was enough to send the fandom into a frenzy on its own.
As it was not officially part of any Fighters Pass it didn’t come with a stage, but Plant’s moveset has to be one of the most creative in the game and you can tell the developers had a lot of fun coming up with this one. Piranha Plant was an unexpected pick that still confuses people up to this day but at the same time makes sense when you think about Nintendo asserting their dominance and reminding people this is Nintendo’s game and they can do whatever they want.
4th Place – Joker
In Game Content: 7/10
The Game Awards has to be regarded as one of the biggest, if not, the biggest events in the gaming world. Huge announcements like the official unveiling of a new Mass Effect game and the reveal of Mortal Kombat 11 are just some of the biggest gaming bombshells to come from the show, and its 2018 show was no different. Mid-show the lights turn off and host Geoff Kieghley does a bit about the show getting hacked and taken over. This is then followed by the announcement that Joker is coming to Smash in an anime Persona 5-esque video which doesn’t show much else. Apart from the fact we don’t see gameplay or even Joker’s character model, this is a great way to not only reveal this character, but to get it out to a huge audience on such a big platform and highlight the game’s launch that very same day.
It would be very hard to create a moveset which would accurately portray how Joker fights in his game without modelling a bunch of Personas from Persona 5. This is why only having Arsene as Joker’s Persona is understandable, but still feels a bit off. That aside, the Persona series is known for its killer soundtrack and it’s so great to see there weren’t any licensing issues getting songs like “Last Surprise” and “Reach Out To The Truth” into Smash.
3rd Place – Minecraft Steve
In Game Content: 9/10
The best part of any trailer is seeing characters interact with one another but Steve’s reveal trailer only saw Mario come into contact with the character in question. The reveal itself was very nice and the fade to black followed by two blocks being mined to find Steve behind them was a sudden and surprising moment for any fan to have watched.
According to Sakurai it took over 5 years to incorporate Steve’s main mechanic into the game which is the ability to mine different materials from every single stage in Smash Ultimate. Steve then uses these materials in his vast moveset which goes from forcing people into minecarts that can fly off stage to straight up exploding dynamite. This is all whilst being able to choose from multiple skins for the character which consists of Steve, Alex, Enderman and Zombie. Their stage is aptly called Minecraft World and features changes for all the different biomes the game is known for.
The only thing about this challenger pack that is sorely missed is the incredible music from Minecraft composer and musical genius C418. Granted the music isn’t the most upbeat, but Smash has managed to turn any bit of music into a fighting game banger. Just see the the music from the Animal Crossing series for proof of this! The reason C418’s legendary music like “Sweden” and “Subwoofer Lullaby” isn’t in Smash was said to be because of how difficult licensing works across countries.
2nd Place – Sephiroth
In Game Content: 10/10
It’s hard to say this character’s name without going into an operatic tone and screaming it the same way it’s said in his victory screen. His reveal trailer is a personal favourite of mine and includes an extended CGI animation of Cloud fighting Sephiroth along with a bunch of cameos from other fighters. All this is included as well as Sephiroth killing the main antagonist from the game’s World of Light mode, just to show off how powerful he really is. The Final Fantasy series is known for its cutscene-heavy storytelling, so a trailer like this makes complete sense for revealing such an almighty foe.
He is also crazy powerful in-game, though has enough weaknesses to not be classed as OP in my opinion. He has a lot of range on his moves and they are also super powerful but, similar to Min Min, he has a lot of end lag on them. This does mark the second time we’ve seen Final Fantasy VII content in the game, but this time round we get more than just two songs and it’s great to hear. His stage is pretty basic but anything we got this time round was an improvement on the first time we had content form this series.
Not only was this character unexpected, but he’s also from a series that already has representation in this game. Could this be the start of more characters from already represented series’ coming to Smash Ultimate? Could we be seeing Tails, Chun-Li or even Raiden soon? It also marks the first villain we’ve seen in any form of DLC in the Smash series, which really sets him apart from the rest. The only thing not allowing him to take the top spot is the fact that his series is already represented in Smash.
1st Place – Banjo & Kazooie
In Game Content: 10/10
The number one spot goes to everyone’s favourite mammal and bird combo. Not only were the pair heavily requested by fans, but as stalwarts of 90s gaming, they seem to fit in the roster alongside Mega Man, Sonic and Mario so well. They were revealed back in 2019 during E3 with a trailer which harkened back to King K. Rool’s reveal. The trailer itself has all the aspects of a great reveal. It featured characters from the Smash roster, the fake out with the Duck Hunt Duo which was hilarious and it showed gameplay for the new character.
Their moveset is cute and charming, something which is ideal for a character who saw the height of their fame on the colourful and vibrant Nintendo 64. Their stage and music is also perfect and was exactly what fans expected and wanted to see. There is little to fault here when it comes to this character’s inclusion in the SSBU.
Such a fan requested character to be included in the game shows that Masahiro Sakurai and the rest of the Smash team really do care about their fans when it comes to choosing characters for DLC. Despite now being owned by Microsoft, Banjo & Kazooie always felt like a duo that was missing from the roster. This star of the 3D platforming era on the N64 standing shoulder to shoulder with huge games like Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, and Ocarina of Time was a huge feat. A huge fan response, a great reveal, and a fun, moveset: these are all great reasons as to why this character makes our number one.
That’s out ranking, but what about yours? Which Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighters have wowed you with their reveal, implementation and extras, and what characters would you like to see finishing off Fighters Pass 2?