The Super Smash Bros. series has had over five installments featuring over 80 playable characters. And while any of those characters can be solid in their own right, when it comes to tournament play there will inevitably be some characters better than others.
In the long history of competitive Smash, there have been some characters who are clearly a cut above the rest; some to the point where they are considered broken, or at least highly controversial. We’ll do a dive into these characters and why they are so good.
The Best, Most Broken Characters In Smash
1. Meta Knight (SSBB)
The first one that comes to mind when people think of “broken” Smash characters is Meta Knight in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Meta Knight was clearly a cut above the rest of the cast from the get go, and without balance patches, it became a heated topic of discussion on if he should be banned from competitive play or not, with many tournaments opting to ban him.
Meta Knight was considered broken due to his incredible frame data, his many KO options and his ability to win in any situation. His multiple jumps allowed him to gimp just about any character offstage while being next-to-impossible to gimp himself. Meta Knight had the tools to play aggressively or defensively better than any other character in the game.
He wasn’t without his flaws; he had no projectile and his light weight meant he was easier to KO than most characters. But his overwhelming strengths made him a go-to pick for Brawl tournament players, with 38 of the 100 players on the SSBBRank 2014 either maining or co-maining Meta Knight.
2. Pikachu (SSB)
Pikachu in the original Super Smash Bros. is the undisputed best character, with many players feeling he overcentralizes the meta with how strong he is; there have been talks before that the game would be more diversified if he was banned.
The character has an outstanding combo game, and is able to edgeguard most characters easily. His Quick Attack recovery has the most range in the game, and the ability to angle it makes it the most unpredictable as well. He can also zone and camp out other characters, forcing them into bad positions. With Super Smash Bros. in particular having a heavy reliance on neutral, Pikachu has all the tools to maximize every part of the game.
Much like Meta Knight, however, Pikachu is a lighter character and thus susceptible to getting KO’d early; he’s also combo food for a lot of the cast. These weaknesses quickly fade in the presence of his numerous overbearing strengths.
3. Diddy Kong (Smash 4) – [PRE-PATCH]
The early edition of Diddy Kong in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was considered one of the most busted in characters in Smash history, with some saying it may be the most broken ever. Part of this is because of his toolset and the fact that he was the simplest of all the top tier characters in the series’ history.
Diddy Kong’s down-throw up-air combo (dubbed the “HOO HAH!”) was a very easy and very reliable combo that could rack up damage very quickly, and also serve as a kill confirm to get KOs at lower percents, especially with rage. Couple this with his banana, which could either trip people into a grab or smash attack, or it could force people to shield which meant they’d be vulnerable to a grab, and you have a simple game plan with a devastating payoff.
Update patches eventually nerfed the strength of his up-air and forced Diddy Kong players to diversify their play. As such, any talk of early Diddy Kong’s brokenness is referred to as “Pre-patch Diddy.”
4. Fox (SSBM)
Fox in Super Smash Bros. Melee is the best character in the game, and there is a lot of talk about his potential to be broken; this is the basis of the 20XX meme in the Melee community.
Fox has unbelievable KO power and speed, with a ton of tools for capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes and also winning neutral. His laser makes for an effective camping tool that forces enemies to approach him. His frame-1 Shine move is a great pressure tool on stage, as well as arguably being the best gimping tool in the game. With a recovery that has great range, it seems like Fox has everything going for him.
So why isn’t he considered “broken” like Meta Knight or Pikachu? Well, Fox is an incredibly demanding character to play; fully optimized Fox play requires tons of frame-perfect inputs, and even basic Fox play can demand hundreds of actions-per-minute. On top of this, Fox is very easy to combo for a lot of the higher tiers, and his recovery (while great) is very linear and susceptible to punishment.
Thus, while Fox is widely considered the strongest character in Melee, he hasn’t been able to dominate the way other “broken” characters have in their game.
5. Kirby (SSB)
Kirby in the original Super Smash Bros. is also known for being incredibly strong with a slightly simpler game plan; in fact, Kirby and Pikachu are clearly the top 2 characters in the game.
Kirby’s disjointed hitboxes make for very effective zoning and combo tools; his up-tilt can string together multiple times and also serve as an effective anti-air. His moves can be tough to beat out and his packs a ton of power into his aerials and smash attacks. Several characters in the game can feel invalidated fighting against a Kirby.
However, he still has flaws, such as a long-ranged but predictable recovery that can be punished. He’s also very light and easy to combo and KO. His simplicity, unlike Diddy Kong in Smash 4, can be a hindrance; certain characters can effectively maneuver around his best options.
There are some players who feel that Pikachu and Kirby would both need to be banned to diversify the SSB64 meta, as both are clearly the top two characters in the game, and only banning one of them will cede ground to the other. As of now, both characters remain legal in tournament play.
6. Bayonetta (Smash 4)
Bayonetta in Smash 4 may be one the most controversial character in Super Smash Bros. history. The way she plays is very antithetical to how most Smash characters play in the series, and she remained unbelievably powerful even after patch updates.
Bayonetta boasts a very impressive combo game, with the ability to “ladder combo” people upwards and KO them off the top of the screen; the most famous case of this being in grand finals of EVO 2017. The tools that can lead into her combos are also very effective at controlling neutral.
Her most controversial move is Witch Time, a very fast counter that triggers if the opponent attacks Bayonetta during the window that the move is active. Bayonetta can heavily damage or even KO a character off of one single Witch Time.
The true dominance of Bayonetta didn’t show up until around late 2017/early 2018, and by this time Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was on the way. As a result, Bayonetta was never issued a widespread ban, although events such as EVO 2018 sure did leave a lot of players salty (for justified reasons) about the character. Had Smash 4 had a longer lifespan, a Bayonetta ban might’ve actually happened.
7. Ice Climbers (SSBB)
Ice Climbers in Super Smash Bros. Brawl weren’t broken in the sense that they won every event; in fact, Meta Knight was a fitting counter to Ice Climbers in that game. It’s more that the way they played was so devastating to a large portion of the cast, and the way you had to play against them was so specific that it hurt the overall view of the meta.
Ice Climbers operate around an infinite chaingrab, where one grab when both climbers are around can mean a stock lost. Because of this, the opposing character needs tools that can zone effectively and avoid getting grabbed at all cost.
But the only character with strong enough tools to realistically avoid getting grabbed was…Meta Knight. Other characters were still good at zoning out Ice Climbers, but Meta Knight had a diversity of tools that made him very appealing.
Because of this, it was thought that a long term Brawl metagame would devolve into Meta Knight and Ice Climbers matches, with other characters becoming obsolete. There’s a school of thought that believes Brawl matches are much more entertaining and diverse to watch when both Meta Knight and Ice Climbers are out of the picture.
Other “Broken” Characters
While the above characters carved out their spaces as the best and most broken in Smash, some other characters have, at one time or another, been considered either broken or potentially broken if optimized fully. Examples include Sheik and Jigglypuff in Melee and pre-patch Sheik in Smash 4.
There will always be imbalances when it comes to characters in competitive Smash; but it does take something special to be considered above and beyond overpowered; luckily it’s only been a handful of characters of the 80+ in the last five games.