Universes collide as famous Nintendo characters do away with their kiddy image and engage in some hard-hitting fisticuffs.

The Super Smash Bros. series is a Nintendo staple nowadays. But until the late ‘90s, the thought of Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascots knocking the living stuff out of each other seemed absurd.

Created by Masahiro Sakurai (who’s also the creator of Kirby), Super Smash Bros. actually started out as a game called Kakuto-Geemu Ryuoh (Dragon King: The Fighting Game). The core gameplay of this prototype was similar to that of the final Super Smash Bros., allowing for up to four players and featuring the series’ distinct KO system. Sakurai’s idea for this concept was inspired by the state of the fighting game market at that time, which had stagnated in terms of sales and gameplay ideas.

The game eventually became Super Smash Bros. when Sakurai used Nintendo’s characters – without permission – in his prototype to give it the visual character he felt it had been missing. While it’s impossible to say, it’s likely Nintendo wouldn’t have approved the project had it not been for this.

Compared to more recent titles in the Super Smash Bros. series, the N64 iteration is noticeably basic – a result of the game’s very limited budget. It features only 12 characters (of which four must be unlocked) and nine stages.

But the game’s popularity doesn’t stem so much from its content, but rather its novel gameplay concept. Unlike traditional 2D fighting games, Super Smash Bros. doesn’t incorporate a health bar system. Instead, players have a percentage score, which increases as they take damage. The more damage you take, the farther you fly when you get hit, and thus the goal is to send your opponents flying off the stage, rather than to deplete their life.

Upon release, Super Smash Bros. was incredibly successful, which surprised Nintendo; it was originally meant to be a minor Japanese-exclusive release. The game didn’t receive much in the way of marketing, yet sold nearly 2 million copies in Japan alone (impressive given only 5.54 million N64 systems were ever sold in the country). It went on to sell another 3 million copies worldwide.

The game has since received numerous sequels on each of Nintendo’s home console systems since the N64. In 2015, the series made the jump to handheld in the form of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS.

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