Super Smash Brothers: The fascinating story behind one of gaming’s most Iconic franchises 


With the upcoming release of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch, (December 7, 2018) now is as good a time as ever to look back on the only franchise where an electric mouse, plumber, princess, and dragon can do battle.

So here is the history of the five games in the franchise and the man behind them: Masahiro Sakurai.  Sakurai came into the world at just the right time. He was born in 1970 and when he was 7, the original Atari 2600 game console released. Video games quickly became a phenomenon, and Sakurai knew what he wanted to devote his life to. He created Kirby when he was only 19! He created and developed multiple Kirby games for HAL Laboratory. After the success of Kirby, he started work on a new fighting game that was then called: Kakuto-Geemu Ryuoh (Dragon King: The Fighting Game).

The project wasn’t approved by Nintendo at the time, so he just worked on it for fun. He added some Nintendo characters and pitched it to the higher-ups for the new N64 console. They approved, and he started development for the original Super Smash Brothers. The game came out in January of 1999. The roster was: Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Fox, Link, Samus, Captain Falcon, Ness, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, and (of course) Kirby. The game was a hit, and they started development on Smash Brothers Melee for the GameCube.  

Melee was one of the first games for the GameCube and in order to meet that deadline, Sakurai slaved away for 13 months. Sakurai has since stated that those 13 months were the worst of his life. He said that his lifestyle was “destructive”. He took no holidays or long weekends, he didn’t eat well, and he worked more than 40 hours at a time. Sakurai is proud of his creation however, and he says it controls the “sharpest in the series.” He added 14 new fighters and created a game that is still played competitively to this day. Not many games can say that. It released in 2001 to worldwide acclaim.  

Sakurai took a well-deserved four-year break before starting development on Super Smash Brothers Brawl for the hit Wii system. During that break, he quit HAL Laboratory because of their demanding nature for sequels. Because of the Wii’s casual appeal, Sakurai made Brawl more accessible to a wider audience. This led to some backlash when the game released in December of 2007. Some questionable choices with gameplay and extra modes made this less appealing to long-time Smash fans. The game is praised for its Subspace Emissary story mode and its massive roster. After Brawl, Sakurai focused on some passion projects like Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS.  

The Wii U was plagued by awful add campaigns and a mediocre game library. There were many gems that were beloved by many, (Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, etc.) but those games weren’t enough to get people to pick up the poor console. On the other hand, the 3DS was selling like hotcakes. The 2011 announcement of Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U and 3DS (or Smash 4) made many people pick up one of the two systems exclusively to play Smash. Sakurai became even more infamous during Smash 4’s development. He started appearing in Nintendo’s quarterly announcement-filled livestreams, Nintendo Directs. Sakurai would talk to the camera about the game and announce a few characters. He quickly was memed and given a god-like status among the Nintendo community. People also started to realize that Sakurai has found the Elixer of Life, because the man doesn’t age! Look at this picture! He’s freaking Benjamin Button!  


This madman added 21 new characters! That is insane! It also introduced 8 player smash and new side modes. This game was also strenuous on Sakurai. The living legend developed calcific tendonitis in his right arm that still affects him today. The 3DS version released in October of 2014 and the Wii U version was released a month and a half later. The Wii U version quickly became the highest selling game for the Wii U. Fans considered it a big step up from Brawl, and they couldn’t imagine how they could improve on this… 


In March of 2018, an untitled Smash game was announced for the Switch. The hype was unbearable. We knew nothing but the inclusion of Splatoon characters until E3 that same year. The game was revealed to be Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. They also revealed that “EVERYONE IS HERE”. Every character in any Smash game ever (plus over a dozen newcomers) will be playable. According to Sakurai, this was a monumental task and he said that when he pitched it to his team, he was met with dead silence. 103 stages and 68 characters have been revealed thus far, from the interstellar dragon Ridley, to the epic vampire hunter Simon Belmont. Sakurai says there is even more to come! Those who have played the game have raved about how it plays and the little tweaks that have been made that mean the world. Super Smash Brothers Ultimate releases on the Switch on December 7, 2018 and retails for $59.99. I am very excited for the future of Smash and whatever is next for Sakurai.