Well, here we are. The real meat and potatoes of Smash speculation: Fighters. I’ve made all manner of weirdo predictions over the years. I didn’t even remember until I went back and looked at it, but I predicted K Rool back in September 2017. Who knew? But that post was more for a poops and giggles type of situation. Today I want to put together a list of folks I think have a real chance of showing up.
First, let me start by saying I have no earthly idea what to expect here. They’re currently sitting at 81 fighters (67 regular and 6 echo). I like even numbers, and with the right combination of echo fighters stacked on top, I think it’s reasonable to expect the game to land at a cool 90 playable characters. So far for actual new fighters we have Inlking, Ridley, King K. Rool, and Simon Belmont. I really have no clue how many more new fighters they might be willing to throw into the mix, so I’m not even going to bother speculating. Regardless of how many slots are left to fill, here’s who I think might be on the horizon. Let’s start with Nintendo’s own.
Spring Man/Ribbon Girl (ARMS series)
Honestly, there aren’t a ton of 1st party Nintendo characters left that you could reasonably expect to show up as fighters. Assist trophies, I could go for days. Fighters, that’s another story. ARMS may not have set the world on fire the same way Splatoon did, but it was pretty darn successful in its own right. Selling over 2 million copies worldwide is nothing to scoff at, and I think Nintendo wants this particular franchise to have a long life in front of it. With that level of success and the incredibly cool character designs & stages the ARMS universe contains, it would be flat-out criminal to not include at least 1 fighter to represent it. Popularity in Smash could even lead to more ARMS sales too, so Nintendo would have to be crazy to not throw someone in there. My bet lands on Spring Man as the main with Ribbon Girl as the echo. They both would have pretty similar movesets anyway, so it would work spectacularly. Their moves would be so different from anyone else in the roster, it just makes too much darn sense. The hitch is how new the property is. I can’t imagine the Smash team has had nearly enough time to properly make a character out of them, considering the Inklings never made it into Smash 4, but then what do I know? Maybe it’s been in the works since day 1, which would have been a bit of a gamble on the Smash team’s part if ARMS turned out to be a colossal flop, but since it didn’t and these characters are awesome, I think it’s a lock.
Rex & Pyra (Xenoblade Chronicles series)
I don’t have much to say about these two except that they’ve been requested by a lot of people online, and with Xenoblade 2 being the relatively large success it has been, this would make sense. Shulk needs someone to play with anyway. But having never played Xenoblade 2 myself, I’m going to go ahead and leave this right where it is. They’re pretty cool character designs, and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them in the game.
Sakurai loves taking forgotten Nintendo characters and giving them a fresh coat of paint. Melee did it with the Ice Climbers. Brawl did it with Pit and ROB. Smash 4 did it with Duck Hunt. There really aren’t a lot of classic Nintendo franchises that have been left out of Smash, but nobody’s touched Mach Rider yet! Mach Rider is a cool cyborg dude with a motorcycle. He could easily be made into a completely unique character in the Smash universe, which would undoubtedly lead to a new game for him too (fingers crossed). Mach Rider for NES is one of the original black box games, and while it may not be the best on the platform, it certainly isn't the worst either. It’s pretty fun once you get the hang of it. It’s also got some really catchy music, meaning a Mach Rider stage wouldn’t just be cool-looking, but it would sound really nice as well. He’s appeared as a trophy before, and there’s been a remix of his main theme on the soundtrack since Brawl, so now’s the time to give him a remodel and shove Mach Rider back in the spotlight. He’s a great idea, and I would pay good money to see it happen. He could even go for motorcycle races with Wario!
Of course, there’s at least one other black box NES game that could potentially see some Smash love, and my money’s on the often maligned Urban Champion. This game sucks. There’s no two ways about it. But it sucks in that “cool old Nintendo game” kind of way. It was a one on one fighting game before that was really a thing. It’s got oodles of charm, and it’s got a really cool Hip Tanaka soundtrack. The trouble here is that while the Urban Champions done up in Smash Style would look remarkably cool, their movesets wouldn’t necessarily be all that interesting. Their potential stage though, would be killer. Manholes to fall down, potted plants and cop cars to avoid, the stage basically builds itself. I’m sure they could find a way to make the Champions more interesting, maybe incorporating elements from other games like Hogan’s Alley a-la the Duck Hunt dog and Wild Gunman. The potential is there, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these guys show up as fighters.
Now let’s look at some 3rd party possibilities.
Sora (Kingdom Hearts series)
I know I mentioned Sora before as a possible echo fighter for Cloud, but I think there’s an equal chance that if Sora makes it into Smash in some flavor, he could also be as a unique fighter. His moveset wouldn’t be very challenging to come up with, and his look would fit in with the Smash universe like a white Mickey Mouse glove. But that right there points us to the biggest problem with Sora: Disney. What’s Sora without Goofy and Donald? They would have to be there. But that means getting Disney licensing involved in Smash Bros., and that might not be worth the trouble. Of course there’s probably a way to just put Sora in by himself without any real Disney references, but I don't claim to know how deep Disney’s ownership of that character goes, especially with the Mickey keychain on Sora’s keyblade, so again, what do I know? But if we truly do live in a world where that level of licensing is doable, can you even imagine all the cool things they could do with a Kingdom Hearts stage? It could take place on the Gummi ship and travel to different Disney worlds, and now you have a whole new angle to convince people to buy a Switch and Smash. Link and Aladdin could be in the same place at the same time, Mickey and Mario could wind up standing next to one another. Thinking of the worlds of Disney and Nintendo colliding is enough to get any old-school fan like myself pretty darn jazzed. A visit to the world of Tron in Smash Bros.? Yes please. I know it’s just one character and stage, but that’s the kind of thing people would pay money for. It wouldn’t be easy, but if done right, it might be worth it.
This one goes a little more toward how well Ubisoft and Nintendo have been getting along than any sort of real desire from the gaming world at large. Still, Rayman is something of an iconic character, and he could bring some rather interesting mechanics with him, as well as a pretty nice-looking stage and/or assist trophies. He’s fairly low on my personal list of hopefuls, but I think there’s a real possibility he might show up. He had his own trophy in Smash 4, after all. I guess we’ll see.
The Crash/Mario rivalry was never as heated as the Mario/Sonic rivalry, but it was definitely still there. I mean, the commercials for the original Crash games had a dude dressed up as him standing outside of Nintendo of America calling for Mario to come out and fight him. The introduction video of that finally actually happening would be hilarious enough to warrant his inclusion. I’ve never really played Crash before, and what little I did play didn’t exactly resonate with me, but I can appreciate that I’m in the vast minority there. After positively burning up the charts on PS4 last year, the N-Sane trilogy has been selling like literal hot cakes (especially in Europe) on Switch. This would be a pretty huge opportunity to feed off of that particular flavor of nostalgia, and Nintendo & whoever holds the rights to Crash these days would be fools to pass it up. Plus, I think he might actually make for a pretty fun character. Stages and assist trophies would be a pretty easy sell, too.
Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden series)
With the addition of Castlevania to the worlds of Smash Bros., basically every big-name series from the old NES days is now represented in Smash Bros., even 3rd party ones. I suppose there’s still a case to be made for Contra, Double Dragon, and Wizards & Warriors, but for as much as I adore those games, they aren’t quite on the same tier of legendary status as the likes of Mega Man, Castlevania, or even Metal Gear. But I’ll tell you what is: Ninja Gaiden. The original NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy is absolutely the stuff of legend, and Ryu Hayabusa is just as deserving as anyone to be up there in the Smash roster. Just like Simon Belmont, his moveset practically writes itself. He’s got the fire wheel, the giant boomerang shuriken thingy, the shadow Ryus, and his sword attacks would be way different than pretty much any other sword wielder Smash has to offer. Then there’s his stage, which could be any number of incredibly iconic locations from the NES game. The amazing castle from the first game, that totally rad tower from the second game, or my personal vote, the moonlight duel scene from the opening cutscene of the original game. Throw Ashtar and Jaquio in as stage hazards and you have yourself one amazing level. But nothing would be as exciting to me personally as hearing what the crazy army of composers attached to Smash would do with the classic tunes. For my money, the Ninja Gaiden trilogy’s music is nearly as iconic, if not just as much so, as Mega Man or Castlevania. It’s pretty under the radar because the Ninja Gaiden brand isn’t exactly what it used to be, but if Smash can ignore the Lords of Shadow universe for Castlevania, then they can just as easily ignore modern Ninja Gaiden and give us the reimagining of classic Ninja Gaiden we deserve.
This is probably the fighter I’ve seen requested more than anyone else (except Waluigi for some dumb reason, but let’s not wade into that particular pool). This is another franchise that never really clicked with me, but I can absolutely understand why folks want this particular duo in Smash. They may be owned by Microsoft now, but they will always be iconic Nintendo characters. That’s an unavoidable fact of their creation. Banjo-Kazooie is consistently ranked as one of the most memorable Nintendo 64 games, and at the time it was published by Nintendo and made by the then partially Nintendo-owned Rare. Their moves, stages, and music would all fit perfectly in the world of Smash, and people would absolutely lose their flipping minds over their inclusion. So much so, that if this actually did come to fruition, they would likely be the last one they do because there’s simply nothing in the universe they could do that would top their announcement.
But you can’t imagine this scenario without addressing the big green elephant in the room. This property is wholly owned by Microsoft now, which is something of a problem. That said, there’s never been a better time for this particular aisle crossing to happen. Not only has Banjo appeared on Nintendo platforms post-Microsoft buyout before, but Nintendo and Microsoft have been pretty chummy as of late. There’s lots of cross-platform play available between Switch and Xbox One, so much so that they even made a commercial together about it. The “Better Together” ad is one of those things you never would have even imagined possible back in the Genesis vs Snes days, but here we are, with two major platform holders peacefully coexisting. Not just coexisting, but actually working together for the benefit of players. Heck, to top it all off, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has flat out said he’d be cool with having Banjo in Smash. That would be some seriously amazing fan service right there, and would definitely make some humongous waves were it to come to pass. It may be nuts, but I seriously think it might actually happen, and when it does, it will be a magical day.
And there you have it. All my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about the new Smash Bros. Well, not all my dreams. I’m not crazy enough to think StarTropics or Stunt Race FX or TinStar will find representation in Smash no matter how much I want them to. So let’s just call them my realistic dreams. No matter what happens from here though, this has been one exciting Smash hype cycle so far, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here.
In case you missed them...
Part 3: Modes and Stuff
Part 2: Echo Fighters
Part 1: Assist Trophies