Nintendo Switch; Sora/Bandai Namco/Nintendo
Wildly disparate heroes from Nintendo history – from Mario and Pikachu to Street Fighter II’s Ryu – meet for matches of thrilling, barely controlled chaos
There’s magic to the concept of the crossover, when strange worlds collide and wildly disparate characters meet, which Nintendo has often leveraged by bringing its various mascots together to engage in mortal combat (or occasionally go-karting). But Smash Bros Ultimate takes things to a maximalist extreme. In the 70-odd-strong fighter roster, Nintendo heroes such as Mario, Splatoon’s Inklings and Pikachu stand alongside outsiders such as Castlevania’s Simon Belmont and Final Fantasy’s Cloud. A palpable love of video games infuses everything, and tributes and references to their colourful history are omnipresent, from iconic and world-famous series to esoteric games that you thought nobody else even remembered.
Smash’s fairly basic goal – build up damage on opponents to launch them off the stage – belies the depth and complexity underneath. A match of Smash is the kind of thrilling, barely controlled chaos that feels like you’re dancing on quicksand. Spacing and positioning are paramount, as is the ability to predict an opponent’s next moves and movements. Couch multiplayer remains the most raucous and often hilarious of modes – shouts of “what just happened?” are not uncommon – but even when playing alone, the loop of split-second analysis followed by instantaneous action keeps you enthralled.