Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been widely praised by critics and fans alike, but one game before it is often panned by fans: Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Brawl deserves more credit: it laid the groundwork for Ultimate’s success. 15 years after its release, I’m here to tell you why this reviled installment of one of the most successful game series of all time deserves more respect.

The Brawl-to-Sora pipeline is essential.

(Almost) everyone is here.

Super Smash Bros. series known for its epic character crossovers. And the eclectic cast just wouldn’t work if The Subspace Emissary brought them all together. A continuation of the melee adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary is filled with high-quality cutscenes that weave together an interesting story. It’s not easy to combine characters like Snake and Mario into a single world, but Brawl does it masterfully in this mode.

You’re always interested to see what happens next, and the story it tells is a true love letter to video game history. Subspace Emissary also introduced elements of a light role-playing game, with stickers you can put on each character, adding stat boosts. This laid the foundation for the Spirits system in Ultimate; you can’t run before you can walk, after all.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brought back some of the narrative-focused single-player and those nice elements of a light role-playing game, but it sorely lacked the storytelling of Brawl. Ultimate lacked a fun mix of beat-em-up and platformer in one game. Brawl used locations from Nintendo’s history to introduce challenging bosses like Pokémon’s Rayquaza and Super Mario Bros.’s Piranha Pete, climactic encounters sorely lacking in its sequel.

You might have forgotten that some of the most beloved items in the series also got their start in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Without the game we wouldn’t have Final Smash or Assist Trophies. Despite being derided by the competitive community, these two items enhanced the casual gameplay of Brawl and helped make it a party hit that many remember fondly. Fighting for the final smash in a four-player match is always a rush, bringing chaos to even the most predictable match-up.

When you finally get the power inside the sphere, your character will unleash a powerful, satisfying attack that can leave the field wide open. For example, Mario fires a powerful fireball that covers the entire map, knocking his opponents back in an instant. As far as comeback mechanics go, it’s quite the hype.

Assist Trophies are also a staple of the Super Smash Bros. series. Similar to Pokéballs, they challenge a character to play, and the potential ally you get is always a lottery. This could be a hero or villains from a lesser known Nintendo series like Golden Sun’s Isaac and Saki Amamiya from Sin and Punishment. It also allows other favorite characters like Waluigi or Crystal to have their time in the sun as well.

Nothing can stop Mario when he throws the wobbler.

Brawl may be simple compared to the last version, but there are still some elements that were in the Wii game that its Wii U and Switch counterparts don’t have. You can create your own stages in Brawl, for example. Players created stages based on their favorite game series, or created levels based on tricks like having two platforms between a large gap of spikes.

Photo mode, it used to be cool.

For the first time, you could also take pictures of the chaos on the screen, and this was long before photo modes in the PS4/Xbox One generation. You can pause the game at any time, adjust the angle and zoom, and then take a screenshot. It can then be saved to the SD card. At the time, it was a brand new feature that was loved by many users on forums and social networks. There’s certainly an argument to be made that this popularized the ability to take in-game screenshots, perhaps paving the way for subsequent generations of consoles to really embrace the feature.

Elsewhere in the development of the series with Brawl, the music became a more important factor. Instead of one song in a Wii title, you can choose from many, and you can even change the probability of songs playing at each stage in the settings. Previously, Ultimate presented frankly ridiculous 1000 tracksBrawl was the best we had – and it did well.

List of Super Smash Bros. characters shown.  Brawl including Donkey Kong, Mario, Samus, Link, Kirby, Pikachu, Wario and more
The composition is still impressive.


Super Smash Bros. Brawl opened our eyes to some of the more obscure characters from Nintendo’s history, who are still beloved fighters in the series. The pit is probably the most spectacular highlight. His mid-air moveset and redesigned character were so well received that he even got a new 3DS game, Baby Icarus: Rebellion, after launching Brawl. Accident? Maybe not.

Wario, the character of the fantastic joke, will continue his career as a professional fart-obsessed troll in the game. Pokémon Trainer gave us the unique ability to switch characters on the fly, alternating between Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard, each of which had different strategic options for players (and made you feel like Champion Red himself if you knew your combos and timings well enough).

But perhaps most importantly, we have Brawl to thank for the side characters. This is where Sonic and Snake debuted – we’re breaking the mold and proving that Nintendo can make this incredible fighting game outside of its own walled garden. When Metal Gear Solid’s Snake popped out of his box at E3 2006, the crowd was amazed. And that thrill of discovery is what defined Smash.

Cruisin’ for a bruisen’.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl has also raised the bar for its stages. They’ve taken you through the stunning Delfino Square, picked you up and dropped you in spinning locations, or sent you soaring into space combat on the Lylat Cruise. Compared to its predecessors, Brawl has more challenging stages that kept you in suspense.

Just look at the Twilight Princess scene “Eldin’s Bridge” where King Bulblin marches in on his pig-like creature and drops the bomb. It explodes, opening a rift. After a few seconds, the bridge reconnects and a twilight portal appears above the stage. You never knew what would happen next! The stages were alive!

Super Smash Bros. Brawl deserves more respect from the community. It introduced many of the features that Ultimate perfected and introduced a whole new generation to some of the more weird and wonderful aspects of Nintendo’s history. Complete with an incredible story mode, Brawl proved that the series can be more than just a cornerstone laid by Melee. Smash wouldn’t be what it is today without Brawl, so let’s treat it with more respect.