It’s been a while, but welcome back to Smash History! 2016 is almost over – and with it another year of tournaments, heartbreak, triumph and legacies being formed. With Thanksgiving coming up, we’re almost at the time of year for SSBMRank, when Melee It On Me counts down their Top 100 players of the year.
Given the moderate success of the Smash History and RetroSSBMRank series (hopefully, if you’re on this website, you’ll give them a read), which go over the different years in Melee’s competitive history and each year’s top ten players, this website is launching a new project: UltimateSSBMRank. This will act as a totally-definitive-and-not-subjective summary of the greatest Super Smash Bros. Melee players to ever touch a GameCube controller.
As you can tell from the tone, keep in mind that the arguments and criteria I set forth for my personal top ten list essentially abides by the following standard:
No. of years ranking in the top ten of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank
No. of years ranking in the top five of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1
No. of titles
Remember that I’ve defined a title as a tournament victory in which a player places first over at least two other top five players or over three top five players seriously competing. I’ve done this to ensure that tournaments like Good Shit German or the Tourneyplay series are not held to the same standard as a tournament like Apex 2013 or EVO 2016.
With that said, before getting into the individual player posts, let’s go into the honorable mentions for who didn’t make the all-time top ten.
I know what a lot of you are saying: it’s hypocritical to avoid ranking these guys for the Smash History series, but still keep them as Top 30 players of all-time. I’ll admit that the Crimson Blur changed my opinion on these players. Even with a relative lack of data about these players, it’s still important to acknowledge their respective influences on the game and status as international legends. That alone should let them be considered Top 30 players ever – even if they never had the results in America to back them up (save for Amsah’s third place at Pound 4).
EK and Masashi were both considered the best of their region from 2004 to 2005. In fact, EK’s acronym was actually often thought of as standing for “European Ken,” after Captain Jack was asked to describe EK’s relative skill level, as EK won every tournament he entered from The Renaissance of Smash to RoofSM in early 2006, losing to Captain Jack.
Speaking of which, when asked about Masashi in the United States, Captain Jack would often respond that Masashi was the best player in the world – even after he himself finished second at Tournament Go 6, then the biggest Melee tournament of all time. Masashi’s name drop often came as a surprise, given the lack of wavedashing within his gameplay, as seen from the few videos smashers had of him. Nevertheless, his campy, laser-heavy and deliberate style of Fox influenced generations of players even before people like PC Chris came into the metagame. Here’s something to ponder: who was better in 2004 between Ken and Masashi?
Amsah, however, is the player I feel the most bad for “snubbing.” Given how he exceeded expectations at Pound 4, ended 2010 as a Top 10 player in RetroSSBMRank and won every single tournament he entered from The Renaissance of Smash 3 (July 2006) to SMASH ATTACK (April 2009), Amsah could be argued as a Top 15 or 20 player in Melee history. That said, his lack of American data makes it tough to say where he deserves to be placed – I chose to put him at No. 28 just to be safe and give credit to the more well-known American players.
24. Fly Amanita
These were the players that were highly viewed within their own region and guaranteed honorable mentions in their prime, if not Top Ten players. Often viewed as hometown heroes, albeit with occasional matchup problems and slumps through their career, these players also had breakout tournaments every now and then – and sometimes even impressive singles victories.
For HugS, this came with his second-place performance at EVO World 2007 or, arguably his most impressive achievement, defeating Mango’s Captain Falcon, SilentSpectre, Zhu and the Pacific Northwest legend Ka-Master in two grueling grand finals sets en route to winning UCLA V.
Meanwhile, Lucky had impressive runs at Pound 4 (seventh place, defeating Amsah) and, three years later, at The Big House 4 (fifth place, defeating Colbol, Hungrybox and Westballz), showcasing that the SoCal Fox legend could maintain his aggressive positioning heavy style over the years. Players like Fly Amanita, SFAT and Hax similarly have victories over “gods” like Mango and Mew2King, with the first two also holding sets over Hungrybox.
Dark Horse National Threats
This is a pretty big tier of players, but to be fair, many of these players are fairly interchangeable with each other, though I gave a fair bit of bias for older players. These players, in their prime, were solidly Top 10 players for more than two years and sometimes dark horse threats to win nationals. Here are some questions a few of you might have.
Is Chillin really a Top 20 player of all-time? Isn’t he that weird guy from the documentary who got buff and made that rap video against Leffen, only to get 5-0’d?
Although he’s often associated with his charismatic personality, Chillin was quite good in his prime. In addition to taking two sest off Ken in 2004, often scaring Ken into Fox dittoing him instead of playing Marth, Chillin also had wins over his frequent training partners in Chu Dat and Azen, PC Chris, KoreanDJ, Isai and Mew2King (twice, when Mew2King was thought of as untouchable against Fox). That’s a pretty remarkable resume, even if Chillin’s placings were sometimes fairly inconsistent.
In other words, Chillin had defeated all the gods of his own era over four years – all of which he was Top Ten. Not even the “modern” demigods have done that. For whatever it’s worth, he also has a set over Mango at Bar Wars 2 and finished ninth at EVO 2014. While I doubt Chillin will remain Top 20, given the upward trajectory of Westballz, Plup and Axe in their careers, his legacy as a player deserves respect.
Who is Jman and why is he so high? Pun unintended.
Jman’s legacy is a peculiar one. After starting off 2008 relatively quietly, he exploded in the second half of the year, being the only person on the East Coast to take a set off Mew2King after Pound 3. This doesn’t sound too impressive, but consider that this was at a time when Melee was dying and almost everyone in the East Coast assumed that Mew2King was untouchable. A year later, he beat his rival twice at Apex 2009 to win the tournament and also took another tourney (Mass Madness 15) off Mango.
Jman also technically has something that no one else in this tier of players has: a tournament victory where two gods attended, at Don’t Go Down There Jeff. After defeating Mango’s Marth, which routinely messed up the rest of the West Coast in 2010, even while the SoCal immortal was sandbagging, Jman beat Zhu and Lucky to end one of the strangest tournaments in competitive Melee’s history. It gets only more bizarre when you consider that almost no one thought Jman was anywhere close to being the best player in the world after his win, as well as how he quietly faded away from the competitive spotlight.
How are Zhu, Wobbles and Shroomed ahead of everyone else?
While Zhu is often remembered for his role in the “Wombo Combo” video, as well as his famous Falco combo videos, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Zhu, in his prime, was a dark horse threat at the nationals he attended. With a nail-bitingly close, but heartbreaking five-game set against Hungrybox, as well as an upset over Mew2King (among many wins), who use to frequently struggle against Zhu, the California Falco legend had arguably the most pleasantly surprising placing of a non-god at a national (fourth at GENESIS) until Javi’s fourth place at Apex 2012.
And the next surprising non-god placing of the decade? Well, before getting into that, consider that from 2011-2013, Wobbles was an annual Top 10 player – and even in 2010, he still was an honorable mention in RetroSSBMRank. During that period of time, Wobbles not only dominated his home region, Arizona, but he also had multiple victories over Mew2King, defeating him twice in a row.
The Arizona Ice Climbers legend peaked during his legendary EVO 2013 run, where he defeated Mango, Dr. PeePee and Hungrybox en route to a second-place at what’s easily the most important tournament ever for Melee’s growth. In the middle of 2012, he was even ranked by Smash’s ELO rankings to be the world’s No. 5 player, just a spot above Mango. This isn’t even going into his performance at Battle of the Five Gods, where Wobbles defeated the likes of Plup, PPMD and Mew2King. To date, Wobbles is one of three players (along with Plup and Axe) who has defeated every Melee “god” except for Armada. Oh – and he also has a victory over Ken in 2007, showing that his greatness transcended eras.
On the flip side, Shroomed’s remarkable consistency as a Top 10 or close to Top 10 player in the world is practically unmatched among his contemporaries. If Shroomed finishes in the Top 10 of SSBMRank for 2016, it will mark the fifth year of this decade that he’ll be regarded as a Top 10 player – a bigger number than any of his relative contemporaries. Although he hasn’t won a title yet, Shroomed’s status as a NorCal legend and consistent force at nationals this decade, with top eight performances at GENESIS 2, Apex 2012, Kings of Cali, EVO 2013, Apex 2015, CEO 2015, The Big House 5, Smash Summit, Smash Summit 2, GOML 2016, CEO 2016 and Smash Summit 3 certainly puts him as a Top 15-20 player ever.
Title-holding Sheik players with short primes
13. Captain Jack
Documentary watchers will know these two already, but both of the two Sheik players are similar in that they had arguments to be considered the world’s No. 1 at certain points of their prime (said documentary fans might also be wondering where 2002-2003 legend Recipherus is – I’ll write more about him later). While neither ended up as No. 1 on any of the RetroSSBMRank lists, they were certainly top five in their short-lived primes. Think of them like quick championship belt holders.
Captain Jack is an intriguing, albeit mysterious case. After going back and forth in Japan against Masashi from 2003-2004, Jack came to America, beat Ken several secondaries in public friendly sessions, and placed second at Tournament Go 6, only losing to Azen twice. As if that wasn’t enough, the Japanese Sheik main tore up MLG San Francisco 2004, 6-0ing Isai in two sets and officially throwing himself into the discussion for being the world’s best player, even if Captain Jack would insist it was Masashi.
Though he didn’t win MLG New York 2004, his last American tournament until Zero Challenge 2, Captain Jack placed third, confirming that at the very least, he was a top five player in the world. It wasn’t as if he only beat Americans too – Captain Jack defeated regional legends like the previously unbeatable Kupo, who was thought of Australia’s best player, at @M, as well as the Netherlands’ Remen at Dutch Tournament 10. To put this stretch of international dominance in perspective, Captain Jack’s worst tournament was the one he hosted: Jack Garden Tournament, when he was more focused on running a successful event than he was on winning.
If Captain Jack’s legacy was one of an international invader – the embodiment of a Melee fiend searching for competition – KoreanDJ’s is one of ruthless persistence. After going to several MLG tournaments in 2006 and ending the year as a Top 10 player, KoreanDJ started focusing more on his schoolwork in 2007. While most of his fans were certain that KoreanDJ was still practicing and better than ever, it was reasonable to wonder if the once always-money-matching Melee fiend had lost his competitive fire.
Unsurprisingly, the answer was “no.” Losing to only four people throughout all of 2007, KoreanDJ won MLG Long Island 2007 over players like Mew2King, PC Chris and Chu Dat, still placing second at Cataclysm 3 and fourth at Viva La Smashtaclysm. Even after Mango’s legendary Pound 3 victory, several of KoreanDJ’s biggest supporters still claimed that KoreanDJ could have won had he shown up. It was practically a running gag on GameFAQS that he was always secretly the world’s best player. When I talked to Elen, a former New England TO from the post-Brawl era and friend of KoreanDJ, at Shine 2016 about this, he laughed and responded, “well, duh.”
The Fan Favorite
No. of years ranking in the top ten of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 3 (2004, 2005, 2006)
No. of years ranking in the top five of RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank: 2 (2004, 2005)
No. of years ranked as RetroSSBMRank/SSBMRank’s No. 1: 0
No. of titles: 1 (MLG Los Angeles 2005)
(Alright – I used my Top 10 formatting for a player that’s technically an honorable mention. Deal with it.)
As it turns out, the following behind Isai was truly as big as the documentary made it out to be. In almost every Smashboards thread from 2004, which discussed the best players in the world, Isai’s name was often mentioned as a dark horse candidate, often with the caveat that he could certainly be the best “if he tried.” Yes – that was actually something people said back then and not just something that new smash documentary watchers say to their friends.
What stops him from being any higher on my list? It’s somewhat of an unfair answer, given how many people treat this like it’s more reason to put him higher, but his effort. Even during his time as a top player, Isai would often sandbag at tourneys, either openly picking low tier characters in tournament or fooling around mid-match, as he does in this cringeworthy “comeback” match against Captain Jack at Apex 2012. Even if his doubles legacy with Ken is one of a kind for a consistent team in Melee history, his lack of singles consistency hurts him in comparison to other contemporaries from his era.
Nevertheless, Isai was a monster at his best in singles. Along with defeating Ken at MLG San Francisco 2004, he proved that it wasn’t a fluke at MOAST 3, where Isai defeated him twice in one of the most revolutionary Melee sets ever recorded (even if not technically a “title,” per my criteria). He was the first true Captain Falcon main, often going for things like shield dropping and seemingly coming up with innovative combos on the spot. As much as we take it for granted, we don’t have bread and butter follow-ups like stomp into up air into knee if it weren’t for Isai.
With one title (and a tournament victory over Ken at MOAST 3), Isai is unquestionably the greatest Captain Falcon player of all and easily a Top 15 player ever. He was my pick for No. 11, which begs the question: who made it into my Top 10? You’ll have to find out next week!
Tweet your love/hatred/critique to @ssbmjecht. Whom do you think deserves to be No. 10?