Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!
Week five: (7) Super Smash Bros. Melee
According to a couple of authoritative sites (at least as far as the Internet goes), Super Smash Bros. Melee was the top selling GameCube game of all time. It well outranked the likes of other best-selling games such as Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing, and Super Mario Sunshine. Is that simply because it offered up a fun and colorful take on the fighting game genre? Is it because it greatly improved upon the success of its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64? Is it because it shined new lights on a number of familiar faces from the Nintendo empire?
It’s likely all those things and more. For most of the 2000s, Super Smash Bros. Melee was the game, let alone the Nintendo game to have. And if there was one reason to have a GameCube, for many folks, Super Smash Bros. Melee was it.
With this Play or Pass entry, I’m going to go a different route than before — a more objective route. Because…well…while I’ve played Super Smash Bros. Melee (and it’s the only SSB game I’ve played), I never really latched onto the game. BUT. That’s not to say anything except, unlike my previous cop-out write-ups about The Sims 3 and Counter-Strike, maybe I can still give Super Smash Bros. Melee its due credit. Because if there’s one gigantic thing of which I am readily aware concerning SSBM, it’s that the game, which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year (and that makes it rightly ancient by some standards), remains a fan favorite at current fighting game tournaments, including the hugely successful EVO.
Maybe the 15-year birthday factors in there somewhere, but yup, it’s going to be there this year, alongside its much newer iteration, Super Smash Bros. WiiU, as well as Super Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, and Tekken 7. All these games represent massive leaps forward, supposedly, in fighting game “technology” since Super Smash Bros. Melee broke all the GameCube records. So there’s got to be something special about SSBM when it can, today, still stand head-to-head with its modern counterparts, right?
I honestly can’t speak much to what makes SSBM different or better (or worse) than other games in the series, so I hope that some of you will take this up in the comments. However one of the nice things about the game that I do recall is that it was (and still is, it seems) wonderful for both new and seasoned players. You really can’t say that about many fighting games. It often takes lots of time and effort on the part of the players to hone their skills, find their favorite fighters, learn ALL the combos, etc. What I remember most from my brief time with SSBM was that it wasn’t punishing. Rather, it encouraged you to get better if you wanted to. And if you didn’t, you could still have loads of fun just mashing your way through other players. (Or trying to, anyway. Even losing was entertaining!) It’s fast and frenetic action was also thrilling to watch as well. I wasted away many an hour being perfectly content to watch other folks try their hand at the game. Even if you were the worst, you were still the best. And that’s part of what makes SSBM quite enjoyable to watch at the competitive level. Even the best SSBM players can still be beaten. I’m not sure you can really say that about your Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat regular tourney champs. (Okay, Lupe Fiasco vs. Diago Umehara notwithstanding.)
So there. SSBM is a good game however you measure it. Now, it’s question time.
Have I played Super Smash Bros. Melee?
If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why?
It’s a “must.” It’s fun, accessible, and likely introduced lots of new players to fighting games who might otherwise have ignored them. Plus, where else are you really going to see Bowser finally pummel Mario for all those dastardly plans he ruined?
If no, do I want to play the game before I die?
Bonus points for Super Smash Bros fans: how would you rank SSBM against other titles in the series? If it’s your “must” play, what makes it stand heads and tails above the rest?