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‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’: Everything you need to know

From new fighters to DLC, here's all we know about 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Nintendo’s long-running Super Smash Bros. series has come to every Nintendo home console (and one handheld) since its Nintendo 64 debut in 1999. It’s almost the Nintendo Switch’s turn for the brawler phenomenon. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launched on Switch on December 7.

From what we’ve seen and heard so far, it’s poised to be the most comprehensive entry in the franchise to date. Here’s everything you need to know about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, from the huge character lineup to new gameplay tweaks to stages.

Fighter lineup

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Smash Bros. Ultimate will have more fighters to choose from than ever before. You’ll start off with the 12 characters from the N64 original: Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus, Fox, Link, Kirby, Yoshi, Pikachu, Luigi, Captain Falcon, Ness, and Jigglypuff. Most of the characters will have to be unlocked. It’s not expected to take as long to unlock characters in Ultimate. Here’s a full list of the 75 fighters we know of so far.

*Bold indicates new to the series

Bayonetta Little Mac Richter (Simon’s echo fighter)
Bowser Lucario Ridley
Bowser Jr. Lucas Robin
Captain Falcon Lucina (Marth’s echo fighter) Rosalina
Chrom (Roy’s echo fighter) Luigi Roy
Dark Pit (Pit’s echo fighter) Mario Ryu
Dark Samus (Samus’ echo fighter) Marth Samus
Diddy Kong Mega Man Sheik
Donkey Kong Meta Knight Shulk
Dr. Mario Mewtwo Simon Belmont
Duck Hunt Mii Brawler Solid Snake
Falco Mii Gunner Sonic
Fox Mii Fighter Toon Link
Ganondorf Mr. Game & Watch Villager
Greninja Ness Wario
The Ice Climbers Captain Olimar Wii Fit Trainer
Ike Pac-Man Wolf
Inkling Palutena Yoshi
Isabelle Peach Young Link
Jigglypuff Pichu Zelda
King Dedede Pikachu Zero Suit Samus
King K. Rool Pit Daisy (Peach’s echo fighter)
Kirby Pokémon Trainer Cloud
Link R.O.B. Corrin
Incineroar Ken (Ryu’s echo fighter) Piranha Plant (pre-order bonus)

What are echo fighters?

As you can see above, six characters are dubbed “echo fighters.” Essentially, these characters have very similar moves to the fighter they are based on. So expect Daisy to play similarly to Peach, Dark Samus to have similar skills as Samus, etc.

Spirits add even more characters to the fight

During the most recent Nintendo Direct, Nintendo outlined Spirits, a new feature in Ultimate. Spirits are essentially power-ups, all of which hail from the same series as the fighter. Each fighter can have one primary Spirit assigned at a time. For instance, Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey is appropriately Mario’s primary Spirit, and Hal from Metal Gear Solid is Snake’s primary Spirit. Primary Spirits essentially act as a teammate when activated. They have one of three types of special moves that include either an attack, grab, or shield move. Spirits are also split up into four rankings: Novice, Advanced, Aces, and Legends.

Additionally, primary Spirits can have multiple secondary spirits attached. The system sounds similar to assist trophies, but it seems a bit more nuanced and strategic. Spirits have to be unlocked before you can use them in battle. Like character unlocks, you’ll have to first beat each Spirit in battle and then complete a unique challenge to attach them to your fighter. Taking the time to unlock Spirits sounds worth it for a number of reasons. First, they can help you in battle, but they can also be sent off on training exercises to earn you treasure and rewards. Spirits can partake in these missions even when you aren’t actively playing Ultimate.

Spirits have their own adventure mode called “World of Light”

While not a full story mode, the new Spirits feature plays into the adventure mode, dubbed “World of Light.” The adventure mode will have some voice acting and cut scenes between battles. Kirby, not Mario, appears to be the star of the adventure mode.

103 stages

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Along with the massive roster list, there will also be a huge number of stages to battle on. Many of these stages hail from earlier games and will have to be unlocked through play. Based on trailers and information provided by Nintendo, the following are stages that have been confirmed thus far.

Super Smash Bros. 64 Stages Super Smash Bros. Melee Stages Super Smash Bros. Brawl Stages Super Smash Bros. Wii U Stages Super Smash Bros. 3DS Stages New Stages
Dream Land Battlefield 75M Big Battlefield 3D Land Dracula’s Castle
Final Destination Big Blue Bridge of Eldin Boxing Ring Arena Ferox Great Plateau Tower
Hyrule Castle Brinstar Castle Siege Coliseum Balloon Fight Moray Tower
Kongo Jungle Brinstar Depths Delfino Plaza Duck Hunt Dream Land GB New Donk City Hall
Mushroom Kingdom Corneria Distant Planet Flat Zone X Find Mii
Peach’s Castle Final Destination Flat Zone 2 Gamer Gerudo Valley
Saffron City Flat Zone Frigate Orpheon Garden of Hope Golden Plains
Super Happy Tree Fourside Green Hill Zone Gaur Plain Living Room
Fountain of Dreams Halberd Great Cave Magicant
Great Bay Hanenbow Kalos League Mute City
Green Greens Luigi’s Mansion Mario Circuit Paper Mario
Jungle Japes Lylat Cruise Mario Galaxy Pictochat 2
Kongo Falls Figure-8 Circuit Midgar Prism Tower
Mushroom Kingdom 2 Mario Bros. Mushroom Kingdom U Reset Bomb Forest
Onett Mushroomy Kingdom Pac-Land Spirit Train
Pokémon Stadium New Pork City Paletuna’s Temple Tomodachi Life
Princess Peach’s Castle Norfair Pilotwings Tortimer Island
Rainbow Cruise Pictochat Skyloft Unova League
Temple Pirate Ship Super Mario Maker
Venom Pokémon Stadium 2 Suzaku Castle
Yoshi’s Island Port Town Aero Dive Town and City
Yoshi’s Story Shadow Moses Island Wily Castle
Skyworld Wii Fit Studio
Smashville Windy Hill Zone
Spear Pillar Wrecking Crew
Summit Wuhu Island
Ware Ware Inc. Umbra Clock Tower
Yoshi’s Island

You choose the stage before your character

In a move that is sure to lead to new strategies, in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the stage is picked before you choose your fighter. Some stages are obviously set up better for certain move sets, so this is an interesting change that indicates that Nintendo is paying attention to how competitive players play.

Sometimes you’ll play multiple stages in one match

One of the biggest new features in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is called Stage Morph. Throughout a match, a stage can literally morph into another, which can completely change the match. Many Super Smash Bros. stages already go through changes throughout a fight, so this is just the next step in that evolution.

New brawling mechanics

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Besides the jump from the original to Melee, Super Smash Bros. has largely retained its core mechanics. While professional players would likely argue there are huge differences between each entry, the casual player (the brunt of the audience) probably doesn’t notice too much change between iterations. That said, some new and tweaked mechanics hark back to Melee, a game that still retains a huge following in the competitive scene today. So far, these are the new gameplay features we know about.

  • Damage has increased in 1v1 battles.
  • You can dodge in specific directions (returning from Melee).
  • You can attack while climbing ladders.
  • Small hops allow you to perform aerial attacks while opponents are grounded.
  • Charge attacks can be started while airborne.
  • Pressing A and B together initiates a Smash Attack
  • You can achieve a “perfect shield” by releasing the shield button. Successful perfect shields initiate counter-attacks.
  • Final Smash attacks have shorter animations.
  • Assist trophies can take damage and even be eliminated from the playing field.

New gameplay modes

While we imagine most Smash players are content with Classic mode (the single-player gauntlet) and standard versus modes, there are several new modes coming to Smash Bros. Ultimate.

  • Squad Strike: A battle mode set up as 3v3 or 5v5. Each player(s) picks a set of fighters to square off in an elimination battle. Last fighter standing wins.
  • Tourney: A tournament mode with a bracket supporting up to 32 contestants.
  • Smashdown: A series of battles in which you have to pick a new fighter every round.
  • Training: A neat mode that helps you learn best practices for Smash success.

New items

Part of the fun of Smash Bros. comes from experimenting with the array of items that drop onto the battlefield throughout a fight. While you can expect to see plenty of familiar items, a handful of new items have also been revealed.

  • Banana Gun
  • Death’s Scythe (Castlevania)
  • A magical staff
  • A (fake) Smash ball that kills you on contact
  • New Pokémon: Mimikyu, Marshadow, Ditto, Lunala, Pykumuku
  • Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom (from Earthbound)
  • Bomber (from Kirby)
  • Healing Field
  • Launch Star
  • Black Hole

Assist trophy items

There will be 59 Assist trophies in all. These are the ones we know of so far.

  • Andross (Star Fox)
  • Chef Kawasaki (Kirby)
  • Gray Fox (Metal Gear Solid)
  • Ghosts (Pac-Man)
  • Jeff (Earthbound)
  • Kapp’n (Animal Crossing)
  • Klaptrap (Donkey Kong)
  • Krystal (Star Fox)
  • Knuckle Joe (Kirby)
  • Knuckles (Sonic)
  • Lyn (Fire Emblem)
  • Metroid
  • Midna (The Legend of Zelda)
  • Moon (The Legend of Zelda)
  • Nikki (Mii)
  • Nintendog
  • Rathalos (Monster Hunter)
  • Riki (Xenoblade Chronicles)
  • Shovel Knight
  • Starfy (The Legend of Starfy)
  • Waluigi
  • Zero (Mega Man)
  • Yuri Kozukata (Fatal Frame)
  • Isaac (Golden Sun)
  • Black Knight (Fire Emblem)
  • Thwomp (Super Mario)
  • Spring Man (Arms)
  • Wily Capsule (Mega Man)
  • Tiki Fire (Fire Emblem)
  • Guile (Street Fighter)

Can you use GameCube controllers?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The GameCube controller has been kept relevant solely because of its popularity within the Smash community. Like the previous two iterations, you will be able to use GameCube controllers to play Ultimate. You will need a USB adapter to do so and if own the Wii U GameCube adapter already, that will work just fine.

‘Smash Bros. Ultimate’ supports up to eight players

You can play with up to eight players locally and online in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Pro controllers, GameCube pads, and Joy-Con can be used to play.

Matchmaking tries to set you up with likeminded players

When you jump online for the first time, you’ll create your own Smash Tag. You’ll get the Smash Tags of every opponent you beat online. Before you search for a match online, you can set your own rules just as you would locally. Matchmaking will then look for players with similar rules, and then one participant’s ruleset will be chosen at random. Your Global Smash Power, the rankings system and leaderboards, will also affect who you are matched up with online. The system will try to locate players in the same region as you, so don’t expect to play very many matches against users from other countries.

The Battle Arena lets you find a match, play with friends, or watch your friends’ matches in spectator mode. You and a friend can make a two-person team on a single console and play matchmaking online. While online, you can send short messages to other players similar to the system in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

As you move up the Global Smash Power ladder, you will be able to partake in “elite” battles with other highly ranked brawlers.

Will there be DLC?

Nintendo has confirmed that there will be paid DLC fighters post-launch. These will be completely original fighters (not echo fighters). For $6 a pop, you’ll get a new fighter, their stage, and numerous music tracks. Alternatively, you can buy the Fighters Pass for $25, which includes five fighters/stages and all of the songs.

The first DLC fighter, Piranha Plant, will be released in February 2019 but will not be counted as one of the five fighters since it is free. Joker from Persona 5 was also announced and will be the first of the five to be released, though he doesn’t have a launch date as of yet. It’s possible that it will take a year before all five fighters are released.

Limited edition console bundle, special edition, and Pro controller

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Nintendo is releasing a Super Smash Bros.-themed Switch console on November 2. The cast from the original game appears on the front of the dock. The $360 console comes with a digital copy of the game (you cannot play it until December 7, though).

There’s also a $140 Special Edition, currently only in stock at GameStop, that comes with a copy of the game and the Smash Bros. Ultimate-themed Pro controller. You can also buy the Pro controller separately for $75.

Amiibo support

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, like all first-party Nintendo Switch games, will support Amiibo. Three new Amiibo have been announced in celebration of the game, each of which launches alongside the game:

Nintendo has also said additional Amiibo for Ultimate will arrive in 2019, including a Piranha Plant Amiibo releasing in February.

It has a ridiculous soundtrack

In a game brimming with content, perhaps the most impressive stat about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate comes from its soundtrack. Boasting more than 800 tracks, you will be able to customize your playlist for each stage with the “My Music” feature.

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ launch date and pre-order bonuses

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launches on Nintendo Switch December 7. It will be available both in stores and through the Nintendo eShop.

If you buy the game before the end of January, you’ll get Piranha Plant as a playable fighter (yes, really). Hailing from Super Mario, the Piranha Plant spews poison and spike balls and is more of a long-range fighter. Piranha Plant’s Final Smash move turns it into Petey Piranha. Yes, it’s weird that it isn’t Petey Piranha to begin with. Piranha Plant won’t be playable at launch, but if you register your My Nintendo points after purchasing the game, you’ll get it automatically when it arrives.

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Steven Petite
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven is a writer from Northeast Ohio currently based in Louisiana. He writes about video games and books, and consumes…
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