The Top 100 Melee Players of All-Time: The Final Five

Hello, everyone! Pikachu942 and I are happy to present the next part of our Top 100 Melee players of all-time. In our last post, we uncovered the players ranked 6-10. Today, we’ll be going over the players ranked 1-5. Here’s a brief FAQ on our project:

What is the Smash History Top 100 Melee Players of All-Time project?

It’s a ranking of the top 100 Melee singles players of all-time, determined by both members of the Smash History research and editorial series team: Edwin Budding (myself) and Pikachu942. The project is also an expansion of what I wrote in 2016, but with even more research, having taken us half a year to prepare on its own.

How did you guys determine the Top 100?

In order to rank players, we collected a list of every player ranked within the Top 25 of SSBMRank, mentioned within RetroSSBMRank and every player who placed in the top eight of a supermajor since Game Over in 2004, what we consider the start of competitive Melee as we know it today.

After creating this initial list, we added more notable names that we felt were “outlier” players whose results and rankings may not accurately reflect their playing impact on the Melee scene, such as international players.

What did you take into account when ranking players?

The four key factors we looked at and tried our best to stay consistent to were the following:

  • How well did a player perform at the biggest majors of their era?
  • How consistent was this player during their active years of competing?
  • How long did their playing career last?
  • If this player never existed, how much does their absence impact the metagame, large major results or the greater scene in Melee history?

I’ve never heard of you or Pikachu! What makes you guys think you’re qualified to determine Melee’s best players above anyone else?

Because until someone else helps write over 300 pages of Melee history on a personal website for free, we feel like we’re about as qualified as anyone can reasonably be.

5. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman

1st at Cataclysm 3
1st at MELEE-FC Diamond
1st at Super Champ Combo
1st at The Big House 3
1st at Shine 2016

When you ask a person about competitive smash, chances are Mew2King will be one, if not the first, person that comes to their mind. His name is synonymous with the game series at this point, as he’s shown in prowess in every title the series has to offer. However, every story has to have a beginning – and Mew2King certainly is no exception.

M2K started his Smash career working on a detailed catalogue of frame data, one that he did by hand, that served as one of the most important tools in the early years for people who looked into the finer details of the game. Even today, they are still within a one percent margin of error, which is crazy given the timeframe, age and method Mew2King used when creating it. Outside of this list, however, people did not value his actual in-game skill, as he rarely went to tournaments and only practiced with computers. When he finally did attend a tourney, community doubts were confirmed when he disappointed. He would eventually climb up the ranks of Tristate locals, fighting against players like DA Wes and eventually placing a respectable 23rd at his first ever major, Gettin’ Schooled 2 in 2005.

As 2006 rolled around, Mew2King’s star shimed ever brighter, as his Fox began to take names left and right, defeating Chillin, NEO, KoreanDJ, Isai and later even Azen, PC Chris and the king of smash himself, Ken. By 2007, M2K had won his first major, Cataclysm 3, and slowly began to solidify himself as the best in the world with his newfound main: Marth. M2K has not slowed since, staying at a consistent top five level and tournament threat up to today, picking up characters like Sheik and Peach along the way to deal with particular matchups.

He retained a level of expertise few can say they have, and has done so for longer than anybody else, well over a decade at this point. His innovations with characters like his Marth are  to be admired, as the chaingrab combos on his favorite stage, Final Destination, are still something to this day very few, if any, can say they’ve perfected to the same level as Mew2King. His sheer length at the top, multitude of major wins, and brief period where he was considered the best in the world happily bestow upon the King of the Mews a rightful Top 5 spot.

4. Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

1st at Battle of the Five Gods
1st at The Big House 7
1st at EVO 2016
1st at Smash Summit 5
1st at Smash n Splash 3

Hungrybox’s story is one of constant struggle and pain, where he had to work for everything he has gotten in this game. From the beginning in the years of 2007 and 2008 as a young teenager with his friend Crunch, people did not take him seriously, especially when he utilized what people perceived as a harmful character in Jigglypuff. Even worse, he played in what many people considered a “lame” way, receiving ridicule from the onset of his career.

Nonetheless, he persevered and powered his way to the top of Florida alongside DaShizWiz and Colbol. At his first major, Revival of Melee, Hungrybox made it to top eight, defeating the legendary KoreanDJ, before placing an amazing third at Genesis with a plethora of previously unthinkable wins. Even as he got better, eventually winning Revival of Melee 2 over PPMD, he continued to be underseeded, as people simply did not respect his play.

Throughout the year of 2010, Hungrybox asserted himself as the best in results, with his dominant win at Apex 2010, having swept Mew2King and Armada. However, even as he was begrudgingly considered No. 1 on results, people still cited the sandbagging of Mango as the reason, further proved by subsequent friendly sessions between the two. Hungrybox then declined as the years went on, with brief glimmers of hope here and there, but nothing substantial. Some people even considered by the end of 2014 if Hungrybox was even a God anymore, further bolstered by the rise of Leffen and his first woeful ninth at The Big House 4. But, like the story goes so far, Hungrybox fought on. With his friend and newfound coach Crunch by his side, Hungrybox has innovated Jigglypuff in ways nobody has done before.

By the end of 2015, Hungrybox was a serious threat to consistently take majors, and his epic win at Evo 2016 in one of the greatest sets of all-time cemented him for a short time as the best in the world. He quickly lost the spot, but regained it the following year, and at the current day stands as the dominant force in Melee. While crowd reactions remain similar, Hungrybox’s rise in the face of adversity is extremely admirable, and you can give nothing but respect for what he’s done in the game.

3. Ken “Ken” Hoang

1st at MELEE-FC 3
1st at Jack Garden Tournament
1st at MLG Chicago 2006
1st at MLG Dallas 2006
1st at MLG Anaheim 2006

The choice between 3rd and 4th on this list was extremely close, but in the end, we had to go with the king of smash himself, Ken.   Unlike Hungrybox in his rise to stardom, instead of facing adversity from the start, Ken quickly asserted himself as the best in the nation, easily winning his debut tournament of Tournament Go 4 over its defending champion Recipherus. Following with victories at TG5 and Game Over, Ken had a slight stumble at TG6, where people began to doubt his abilities. Ken didn’t care and surged through once more, winning major after major in a seemingly endless string.

The 2005 MLG Circuit run from Ken is one of, if not the, most dominant streak we’ve ever seen in Melee history. Never placing outside Top 2 and winning nearly ever major he attended, Ken was quite simply a monster who needed to be stopped. As 2006 came around, competition grew with PC Chris, KoreanDJ and Mew2King stepping onto the scene, but still Ken prevailed, winning more majors than anybody else in the year and placing in the majority of grand finals. Ken then retired from the game after MLG Las Vegas, but later came back at Zero Challenge 3 and then won the biggest tourney of 2007, Evo World in stunning fashion, cementing his legacy. Winning the largest major of an era outside of your prime is something nobody else can really say they’ve accomplished, and Ken truly showed why he was still king.

Later returning in 2012, Ken still plays sporadically to this day, with varying success. He placed an impressive 13th at Evo 2015, and was a Top 50 level player within that same year. Top players of today still praise his mind for the game, though he takes a backseat now to stream and just live life. Ken’s dominance of an entire era is something unparalleled by anybody else in the history of our game, and as such he more than deserves a spot at #3 on the list.

2. Joseph “Mango” Marquez 

1st at Pound 3
1st at EVO 2013
1st at The Big House 6
1st at GENESIS
1st at Pound 4

Does anything even need to be said about him? Mango, seen by many modern smashers as “the protagonist” of the competitive scene, remains the community’s most popular player. Starting from his young roots as a stubborn Jigglypuff who somehow beat Mew2King and Ken en route to finishing third at Evo World 2007, Mango then had another third at Super Champ Combo before winning Pound 3, shortly following Brawl’s release.

Since Pound 3, Mango won 22 more supermajors, ending up with a resume that boasts more titles than anyone in Melee history. Many of these tournaments are among Melee’s most important. Take Pound 3, which marked the end of Melee’s initial glory days, or the first Genesis, a tournament that happened close to the mid-point of Melee history. Meanwhile, Pound 4 brought in the new era of live-streamed tournaments and Evo 2013 cemented the start of the modern Melee renaissance. The list goes on, with many of the titles also marking different stretches of dominance by Mango. To date, his reign of terror from Pound 3 to Pound 4 is among the game’s greatest.

Without a doubt, Mango’s Fox, Falco and Jigglypuff stand among each character’s greatest and most influential representatives ever. In fact, Mango’s skills transcends each of them to where you could say they reflect a different part of Mango’s personality. Before he stopped playing her, Jigglypuff highlighted his young, stubborn and prideful tendencies. His Fox, without a doubt his greatest weapon, shows more disciplined, grounded, matured aggression. Meanwhile, Mango’s Falco embodies a mix of all these traits, but also his love of the game, having been his most-played character throughout his career.

Mango remains a threat to take any national today, but it’s hard to determine how much longer he can stay at this level for. With a Twitch stream that now has thousands of subscribers who watch him play games outside of Melee, he’s publicly contemplated retiring from competition numerous times. Will Mango soon hang up his GameCube controller or does he have anything more in the tank?

1. Adam “Armada” Lindgren

1st at GENESIS 2
1st at EVO 2017
1st at Apex 2013
1st at GENESIS 3
1st at Smash Summit

Few names evoke such admiration and fear in the eyes of competition like Adam Lindgren. The most dominant smasher to ever touch a GameCube controller, Armada has been the world’s No. 1 player for longer than anyone else in the game’s history. Here’s a fun fact to put Armada’s career in perspective: since his breakout tournament at Genesis, Armada has never missed a top eight at a supermajor he competed in.

Armada’s number of titles doesn’t even come close to capturing how exceptional he is as a smasher – had he lived in the United States instead of Sweden, he might have had even more major victories. Not only is he the most consistent smash player, but contrary to what many might claim, his “peaks” frankly make every other smasher look puny in comparison. Watch Genesis 4 grand finals, if you don’t believe that.

If Masahiro Sakurai developed an android just for the sole purpose of playing Melee, it would take years before it could catch up to Armada’s punish game, discipline and precision.  That’s not even going into two of his biggest strengths: his legendary adaptation skills and his unbreakable willpower. Even with 2017 being a relative blip in Armada’s star-studded resume, he still ended up winning three of Melee’s premier events in Genesis 4, Smash Summit Spring 2017 and Evo 2017. Imagine calling that disappointing for anyone else.

That’s the kind of dominance we consider underwhelming and sometimes even take for granted. There’s a common misconception that Armada made Melee boring through his dominance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – he is the standard for greatness. He’s the terminator; the most terrifying opponent possible; the embodiment of unshakeable valor and our unquestionable pick for the greatest player of all-time.

I’d like to thank the Melee Stats discord, particularly ycz6, KayB and 343: a trio of three Samus players who, by sheer coincidence, have a knack for grammar, editing and writing. Organizing and running this project wasn’t easy, but you guys gave me a lot of help.

I’d also like to thank community figures like Chillin, Juggleguy, HugS, the Crimson Blur and tafokints for showing interest in our series and giving us valuable feedback and criticism. Pikachu and I love talking about smash history and consider ourselves quite knowledgeable, but making this list, like anything else, is a learning process. If we did this again in a few years, I’d personally like to make the grading criteria even more specific and follow through with creating a larger panel of old-school and modern players.

Although Pikachu and I are happy to talk about smash history at any time, we’re once again splitting apart to each work on our own endeavors. I’ll be continuing to write articles for this website in my spare time and will finally conclude the underdog run series, which has become a running gag that I know many of you have personally reached out to me about finishing. Pikachu will soon have an announcement of his own, which I won’t spoil for anyone who remains interested.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of my readers for showing an interest in Melee’s immortal history.  During the project, I received many words of encouragement from both community leaders, friends and those who just simply enjoyed my articles. You all make the community worth writing about.

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