Game Theory of Super Smash Bros. Melee

I’m going to completely nerd out for this post (not that I haven’t been doing that in the past). I’m going to be telling you about my favorite video game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and more specifically, about some of the Game Theory involved in competitive play. But first, there are a few aspects of the game that I need to talk about first. In Melee, unlike most other fighting games, the characters don’t have life-meters. In order to take a life, a character has to be hit beyond the boundaries of the stage. Each hit that a character takes increases the accumulated damage counter (0%-999%), and the higher the damage accumulated by a character, the more knockback a hit will cause. This increases the likelihood that at a higher percent, a hit will kill.

Each character has their own unique properties; speed, attacks, movement, weight, falling speed, etc.… which leads to each character not only having their own unique strategies against other characters. Some characters are undeniably better than others. Since the competitive Melee scene was established, every year or two, the community releases a “Tier List” of the characters, as well as match-up rankings (which characters have an advantage/disadvantage against others characters, and how large that advantage is). Often, the characters that are ranked the highest, and do the perform the best in tournaments are considered to have the most, and the best, “options.” Options are just considered any action that can be done at any point in time. If a character is faster, or can do a larger series of moves for a certain situation, they are said to have more options.


Looking at the tier list, we can see that some of the fastest characters are ranked the highest; Fox, Falco, Marth, Sheik, then also Captain Falcon. Many of the characters considered the worst are considered bad because they so slow, as Bowser, Zelda, and Ganondorf. We’ll take a quick look at case study of Fox, the fastest character in the game. Because Fox is so fast, a user has multiple different options trying to attack an opponent.

Most characters have to play the simplified game of Grab beats Shield, Shield beats Attack, Attack beats Grab (sometimes).

We can see below that while Fox can move fast enough to avoid getting shield grabbed by putting out another aerial attack. Click the image below to view a gif.


However, Captain Falcon could just choose to stay in his shield, but Fox has a unique option called “Shine Grab” which quickly allows him to grab after using his reflector to punish players staying in shield, seen below.giphy (1)

Because Fox is so quick, he doesn’t really play by the same rules as a lot of the cast. He has more options at any given point in time, allowing him to win in situations where most characters wouldn’t.


Sources: Video, Youtube Channel


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