Can Smash Ultimate Recover from 2020?

Smash Bros Ultimate has now been out for nearly two years. It has definitely lived up to its name as the ultimate form of Smash Bros. The roster is huge, and the new additions provide both excitement and genuinely fresh movesets to the game. It is hard to think of what else you could want from a Smash Bros game.

Early in its life Smash Bros Ultimate was finally looking set to become The Smash Bros game. Yet, it hit a roadblock, and a pretty major one that has derailed all momentum the game had. Melee is back to being No. 1.

Can Smash Ultimate recover from its terrible year?

Can Smash Ultimate Recover from 2020?

© Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Smash Ultimate So Far

Smash Ultimate released to be pretty widespread acclaim. On the Esports side of things, it felt like the first Smash Bros game to be designed with some attention paid to the competitive community. While it is still a party game at heart, Smash Ultimate was sped up significantly and was a lot more competitive than Smash 4 or Brawl.

This was reflected in its early competitive outings. Within a year, Smash Ultimate was the Smash Bros game to play seriously. It replaced Melee at major events and its big tournaments became a lot more numerous than anything we’d seen before. Smash Ultimate set records in its EVO outing. It looked very healthy, and it may have been a safe bet to think that Ultimate could replace Melee.

That progress ground to a complete halt this year though. The Covid-19 outbreak lead to cancellations of the majority of in-person tournaments. This has hit the fighting game communities pretty hard, but most games have found a way around it. That’s aside from Smash Bros Ultimate, which hasn’t seen a major tournament since Dreamland in March.  The only big thing on the horizon is the Smash World Tour, which happens to feature Melee alongside ultimate.

So what went wrong and can Smash Ultimate recover?

Why Ultimate Has Frozen

The biggest roadblock to Smash Ultimate recovering has been the online play. With the weird circumstances of 2020, a decent online framework is now vital. Unfortunately, Ultimate lacks this. It feels strange that a highly supported game for the Switch is failing to measure up to the online play of a GameCube title, but that is the situation at the moment.

Melee has received great mods for NetPlay, which has allowed tournaments like the Slippi Champions League. Ultimate on the other hand has withered. The game plays completely differently online to IRL. It almost feels like an entirely different skillset. Some Wi-Fi warriors are great at adapting to this different environment. By and large though, it is far from a fun way to play.

Ultimate’s continued DLC and balancing patches show a very healthy game that is only getting more attractive as an Esport. Yet, it can’t really sustain itself on online matches alone, at least not on a competitive level. Ultimate was set to replace Melee, but this roadblock might stop it dead in its tracks.

This isn’t to say that players have abandoned Ultimate. Its viewership on Twitch is strong and players are continuing to improve. Even with some allegations rocking the community, Smash Ultimate remains a great game to get into. It is just one that isn’t particularly competitive.

Can Smash Bros Ultimate Recover?

Smash Bros Ultimate is the biggest and most expansive Smash game that we’re ever likely to get. This roster of characters probably won’t make a return next time around. So we should be rooting for Ultimate to recover, even if you mainly play Melee.

Melee is going to be around forever, or at least until the world’s last CRT finally succumbs to decay. For those who like a more accessible Esport though, Ultimate’s fumble might prove to be a major set-back. The first events that start back for Ultimate have the potential to kick things back off like nothing ever happened.

It would be a terrible shame if Ultimate couldn’t recover. If its scene was permanently downsized solely because of its poor online gameplay. The game is built for a competitive player, and it offers the most depth of any title since Melee. New fighters like Steve stand to liven things up in a big way.


New additions are exciting, but Smash games have been ruined by much more minor things in the past, like characters randomly tripping over their own shoelaces. For now, Ultimate is a waiting game until IRL tournaments make a return.

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