Boss Rush Banter: Is Smash Bros. a Fighting Game?

Let’s have a talk for a moment. For years, we’ve had our fighting games such Street Fighters, our Virtua Fighters, our Mortal Kombats, our Tekkens, so on and so forth. Everything was fine, and everyone knew what a fighting game was (or should) be. Then, in 1999, a game was introduced on the Nintendo 64 home console system and the conversation has never been the same.

Super Smash Bros. was a crossover game published by Nintendo that originally featured characters from Nintendo’s most beloved and revered franchises. It would go on to spawn four sequels, include characters that weren’t wholly Nintendo properties, and become a fixture in the world of gaming. It would also start one of the most heated debates the gaming community would ever have: Is Super Smash Bros. a Fighting Game?

Wikipedia has Super Smash Bros. described as a “crossover fighting video game” published by Nintendo. But, when you talk to people from within the FGC (Fighting Game Community), the Wikipedia description appears to be “erroneous” at best.

The Super Smash Bros. series does possess the basic elements of a fighting game. It features close combat between a limited number of fighters. The stages design is usually containing fixed boundaries. The characters fight each other until all other opponents are defeated or a time period expires. But, on the surface, what you have with Super Smash Bros. is more akin to a party game that incorporates fighting game mechanics.

Going back to the Wikipedia entry for the series, there’s also a number of things that make Super Smash Bros. differ from many fighting games. The game’s chief mechanic has players working to launch their opponent(s) off the stage and out of bounds instead of winning by depleting a life bar. Battle items are also another factor in the series that makes this game not fall into the “traditional” role of a fighting game. Fighting games are almost always known for having in-depth and specialized move-sets for their character rosters but, in contrast, Super Smash Bros. roster of characters finds their move-sets simplified (mainly one or two buttons, sometimes a directional control is applied) and then variations of attacks based on whether your character is on the ground or in mid-air.

To reign this entire topic in, the community seems to argue constantly about whether Super Smash Bros. is a fighting game, or if it is a brawler, or if it is basically a party game faking it as a fighter. Series creator and director Masahiro Sakurai once stated (in a 2006 interview in Nintendo Power) that Super Smash Bros. wasn’t a fighting game. He’d go on to say that more times over the next several years as well. Then, while being interviewed by Gamespot, Sakurai explained why he doesn’t see the series as a fighting game.

“I think the idea of the fighting game genre can be somewhat limiting…. as soon as you define your game specifically in those terms, you start limiting your creative range because you’re thinking of the limitations of that genre.”

To better paraphrase it, Sakurai does not consider Super Smash Bros. to be merely a fighting game.

So, when you look at Super Smash Bros., you have a game featuring two or more players in a competition to best their opponents. The game’s design of having a stage with a boundary, combined with the challenge to eliminate your opponent either through a ring-out or by a time-up judgment pretty much puts Super Smash Bros. into the fighting game category.

Personally, I say it isn’t. I spent years in arcades and in front of televisions learning character-specific moves to beat down anyone that came my way. Those experiences are what made me formulate my opinion on what a “fighting game” truly is, but I won’t go around and tell any lover of the Super Smash Bros. series that they are wrong if they say it is. Well–I won’t seriously tell them that.

How about you? Do you feel that Super Smash Bros. is a real fighting game? Or is it just a charlatan wearing a fighting game’s clothes? Share your thoughts on our Discord or in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Boss Rush Banter: Is Smash Bros. a Fighting Game?

  1. Smash Bros. does have the hit points mode though, so I would argue that it is a fighting game; it’s just not merely a fighting game. I think that’s the fairest classification, if that makes sense.

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