I am suffering from a character crisis. For those of us who play fighting games this is an incredibly common feeling. If you’re trying to improve it is recommended that you pick one fighter and main them, learning the game through the perspective of your character. I play Super Smash Bros Ultimate competitively which has 86 playable characters, many of which excel in one aspect or another. For the past four years my main has been Princess Daisy. She’s wonderful and is my favorite character in Smash. But I’ve often wondered with how large Smash’s cast is, could I be missing out on something?
Picking up a new character can be an incredibly daunting process. It feels like you must learn everything about the character just to stand a chance. Meanwhile you have to compete with people who have stuck with the same character for years. So why would you pick up a new character? Different characters are better at various aspects of the game, and learning the game from a unique perspective can provide deeper insight into Smash as a whole. When I was asked what my goals were for Smash this year I said I wanted to learn the game. For however long it takes, I intend on maining a new character each week until I finish the roster or give up and go back to Daisy. Hopefully, they don’t release a new Smash game before I’m done.
Every Tuesday I will provide my observations on a character as someone who doesn’t play them, spend the next week trying to understand them, hopefully land some cool clips online, and then test my newly acquired skills at my weekly local. I will then present my findings to you, the audience, and provide resources for those who are interested in learning the character for themselves. This is a brand new series on my blog and this YouTube channel and I would appreciate it if you liked the video and subscribed. There is no better way to begin this series with none other than the original Super Smash Brother himself, Mario.
Everyone knows Mario. The plucky plumber who’s saved Princess Peach more than a dozen times is here to Smash. I have played dozens of Mario games, with my favorite series being Mario Kart. Mario is a character that I have a lot of experience playing against, with one of my training partners being a Mario main. As someone who doesn’t play Mario I believe he is an excellent character. He has some obvious weaknesses such as his short range but his explosive combo game more than makes up for it. Mario is what I would classify as a high tier, as shown in this tierlist that I made after Genesis 9. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will change over the course of this series. Players such as Dark Wizzy and Kurama have shown us what the peak of Mario gameplay looks like, with his highest placing at a supermajor is Kurama placing 3rd at the Ludwig Invitational in 2022.
I believe a quick way to come to an understanding of a new character is to compare a matchup chart of my own creation to one created by mains of the character. (Matchup chart provided by @Juan_Pwn on Twitter). The first thing to notice is that I gave Mario a lot more losing matchups than they did. After having a chance to play the character I can understand why they feel this way. Mario has the tools to handle just about any matchup in the game. Even when you are losing, all it takes is one good combo to take the lead. I foolishly thought that Shulk wasn’t his most difficult matchup at first, but after fighting a good Shulk player online I can’t say I disagree. They have Jigglypuff as his best matchup, which surprised me but I can see how tools such as Mario’s Back-Air (Bair) and Up-Smash can make things difficult for Jigglypuff. The overall trend appears to be that Mario can succeed in any matchup, is favorable against at least half the cast, but loses to a few popular characters such as Steve, Cloud, and Mr. Game and Watch which could stop an otherwise great tournament run.
Mario is overall a fairly simple character but to succeed with him it’s important to learn a few things. Specifically the most important tech to understand is how to turn around. Mario has exceptional moves when his back is facing the opponent but from the front he can struggle to get something going. Mario’s Back Air (Bair) is one of the best walling moves in the game and he can get two out in a short hop. Pivot Up-Smash has surprising range and is safe on shield if spaced correctly. However, when facing from the front Up-Smash has very little range and his Fair doesn’t even come out frame 16, compared to frame 6 with his Bair. Practicing turning around with Mario is essential because having your back facing the opponent gives you much better options. At the end of the article I will include links to tutorials on how to do things such as Reverse Aerial Rush (RAR) and Pivot Up-Smash.
Arguably the most important thing to practice with Mario is his combo game. Mario can be deadly once he lands a hit, but you have to know how to follow up to make it matter. Following the combos presented in tutorials linked down below, I was able to get to a point where I felt confident about my advantage. It’s not quite as touch of death like you would expect from an optimized Mario main, but by the end of the week I was consistently able to get 40% or more in my combos. When practicing in training mode it is important to have a goal in mind. If you want the time you invest to be worth it, try to learn things that are applicable in as many games as possible. Use this as an opportunity to theory craft. For example, I realized that Nair can be an incredibly useful combo breaker and his Down-B Fludd can provide a burst of movement.
After I felt comfortable with the character it was time to try out Elite Smash. My first few games weren’t great. Trying to apply what you learned in the training room in an actual match can be incredibly difficult and it’s easy to get disheartened. My Mario fell out of Elite Smash during this process and I started cursing Mario for his awful recovery and terrible range. Slowly but surely things started to click. I started to learn what ranges I could play at, I became more consistent with my RAR, and I managed to put together some cool strings. Eventually I made my way back into Elite Smash and was even able to push past my previous highest GSP. By the end of the week Mario became my 5th highest character in Elite Smash, only outplaced by characters I have chosen to main or secondary in the past. Here’s a combo video from what I accomplished this week.
My local is fortunately pretty large and active. Utah has a very vibrant Smash community with my weekly averaging 60-70 attendees. Our Power Ranking includes Scend who is the best Ness in the world, Kreeg who is in contention for best Marth player, Banana Boy (check out his YouTube Channel) and many more incredible players. Going into the local I was ranked 51 on our Utah Smash power rankings. My goal is to be top 50 in the state while I also try to finish this series. It’s not going to be easy, but I hold the belief that at my level of play I am capable of beating anyone with any character.
Round 1 SOLDIER1st
I got paired against SOLDIER1st, a player who I previously held a 2-1 record against. We usually trade games and while in the past I was able to pull ahead because I was playing Daisy. Now all I have is my week 1 Mario. If I couldn’t manage a win here, what does that mean for the series as whole? I was lucky enough to have this be the first match played on stream. You can even see me down there with my yellow beanie. I confidently selected Mario and was surprised when SOLDIER1st chose Cloud, which I didn’t even know he played. I now had to play one of Mario’s worst matchups on stream and do my best to adapt on the fly. This was my chance to prove that this series was worth it and that I wasn’t wasting my time messing around with new characters each week.
The game starts out pretty rough for me. By the time I manage to take his first stock I’m already at kill percentage on my second. As dire as it looks, Mario has an insane clutch factor. I managed to put together a string that ended with a jab lock F-Smash killing SOLDIER1st at an absurd 68.8%! That combo was what I needed to get back into the game and I managed to clutch it out at the end. Game 2 was a different story as I started out with the lead, but got spiked at 60%. I tried to mount a comeback and almost got an early kill off the top blast zone, but just barely missed. I then got antsy and ran into Cloud’s sword over and over again until it was over. I reflected on why I lost that game and go into game 3 with a stronger gameplan. It pays off as I’m able to keep him cornered for his entire first stock. This is a skill that I learned from playing Daisy, so I’m happy to see those skills transfer over. By the time he takes my second stock I have him at 113% on his last life. However, he has limit and I know just how quickly I can lose because of that. I play evasive just long enough to get him to run out of limit. After Cloud stops glowing blue, I’m able to take his final stock with a Bair winning my first ever set with Mario!
This was a huge confidence boost not just for my Mario but for this series as a whole. If I could manage to beat a good player with my week 1 character in one of their worst matchups, who knows what is possible with the rest of the cast. Up next is Zurg, a player who first managed to make PR using Steve but now dual mains Mii Brawler. Zurg and I are good friends with him coaching me from time to time. He was ranked #9 on the PR last season, and is an incredibly skilled and intelligent player. Let’s see how my Mario does against one of the best in the state.
Round 2 Zurg
I get called on stream again which is great for me since I don’t need to remember to save every replay on my Switch. We start on PS2 and he leads with Mii Brawler. This was the best outcome for me matchup wise, and I also don’t want to learn the Mario-Steve matchup on the fly. Things start off really even with us both at 140% before Zurg nails me with an Out of Shield Up-B. However, I get off the angel platform and immediately get clipped. He cleaned it up pretty quick after that.
He then chooses to ban Town and City and Kalos leaving me with Battlefield as an option. Battlefield is Mario’s best stage, but I knew something was up. On PS2 I was constantly getting combo’d across the platforms and Mii Brawler is fantastic at comboing you vertically. So I decided to take him to Final Destination instead, which after talking with Mario main SpicE (@SpicE_Mario) turned out to be the correct choice in the matchup.
On Final Destination I take the first stock, and as the match progresses I manage to take his second stock with only 68% on my second. Final Destination saved me from getting killed by multiple Up-B’s but isn’t enough to stop a raw Up-Smash. Last stock is a nail biter as we both get up to high percent and do our best to space around each other. At the end he catches me off-guard with a ledge trump > Bair that takes the set.
I may have gotten farmed in the first game but by the end of game 2 I had proven that my Mario was a solid character that could put up a good fight against great players. After this match I got a bye which paired me up against Koru, a top 25 player in Utah who plays Ness. Last time we fought I managed to take a game off of him before he beat me. Could Mario make the difference?
Round 3 Koru
I waited a pretty long time in-between sets and as a result I wasn’t warmed up when I went to fight Koru. Not that it would have mattered much. Koru swiftly defeated my Mario landing a sweet 0-Death on me that the world will never know about because I forgot to click save replay on the first game. I got too comfortable with my matches being on stream I will admit. In game 2 I SD’d trying to go for a Fair for no reason, and I got 2-framed by PK Fire on my second stock which he combo’d into Nair. I was beginning to mount a comeback because he started trolling me with his jab, but it was too little too late.
I was seeded 36th and managed to place 25/77. My average at locals is usually going 2-2 so I managed to meet my expectations thanks to the bye. I couldn’t have asked for a better character to start the series with! Mario is an excellent all-rounder with fantastic attributes and a well-balanced kit that lets him go toe-to-toe with the whole cast. In one week I managed to refine a character who was solid but mediocre and turn them into a respectable part of my character lineup. If I were to go further with Mario I would work on optimizing my combo game and really try to pin down my movement so I throw out less Fairs when I mean to Bair. Mario was a great character to work on my fundamentals with and brought a fluid movement that made playing neutral incredibly engaging. But it’s time to move onto another character. Here are the results of my twitter poll. See you next Tuesday!