There are few things that I enjoy more on a conceptual level than combining two very different things that I love. It was this reason that, when I stumbled across the idea of re-populating the Smash Bros roster with Marvel characters, I ran with it. What started as me idly thinking about the Marvel vs. Capcom series slowly spiraled into me building an entire roster of Marvel’s biggest heroes and villains over a series of four games in an attempt to mirror the real-life Super Smash Bros games. In the end, I liked the result so much, I decided to write down the fruits of my labor.
Let’s start from the very beginning; if we were building an original edition Super Smash Marvel, what would the roster look like? Well, the first thing to start with would be the size; we should probably stick with the twelve character roster the original game used. What’s more, they’d probably have to be a who’s who of the Marvel universe, more or less. And while Nintendo’s choices were all All-Stars of gaming, it’s also worth looking at where they were pulling their stars from. Super Smash Bros covered only ten different series, with Mario and Pokemon being the only franchises with repeats. Also, DK and Yoshi were called their own franchises, even though they’re both spin-offs of the Mario series to different degrees, so if we need to, we could pull three or four characters from one series without it being too unbalanced.
Also, since the game we’re was released in early 1999, we should probably account for which characters were popular at the time to match up Super Smash Marvel’s release date. This will be a little more relevant later in the series than with the first release, since we’ll mostly be dealing with the most timeless of characters this go-around, but it’s worth considering. Let’s go from there.
If we were building a roster of Marvel All-Stars, who would be necessary? Obviously, it would be nearly impossible to build such a roster without Spider-Man and Wolverine; Spider-Man is one of the most recognizable heroes around, while Wolverine is the face of their biggest franchise in the X-Men. Even with other characters getting more fame through the movies recently, I’d still argue that no other Marvel character is more famous than those two. Back in 1999, they’re no-brainer first choices.
Speaking of the X-Men, it’s pretty clear they’ll be taking over the Mario franchise’s title of “Most Represented” here. No other Marvel series has as many well-known characters as the mutants, and they’d provide us with a variety of distinct play styles and movesets. To be quite honest, we could probably just make half of the roster X-Men, but let’s try and keep them to a third of the roster for the time being to match Nintendo’s standards. We’ll return to the question of which X-Men to include shortly.
We’ll want the most distinctive of Avengers for the rest of the roster, a who’s who of the Marvel universe. Captain America and Hulk are obviously at the forefront, as both have been icons for years. Thor and Iron Man might not have been as popular back then as they are since their movies were released, but I think they were still definitely among the most famous Avengers back then. With them, we’ve filled half of the roster.
While the franchise has been in a rough place recently, between declining sales leading to the book getting shelved and poorly-received movie representations, it’s hard to conceive of a list of Marvel’s biggest heroes with zero representation from the Fantastic Four. And if we were to only get one Fantastic Four rep, it’s hard to see it being anyone other than long-time fan favorite The Thing. Will there be space for another? We’ll return to that shortly.
We can probably return to the question of X-Men now. If we were to get three more mutants, which ones would we go with? It’s tough to pick from such a deep cast, but I would say the best starting place would be with Cyclops and Storm. Both have long histories and been leaders of the team at various points. It’s also worth noting that Storm is our first female representative, something that almost brings us in line with the original Smash Bros roster, which featured only Samus and Jigglypuff*. We’ll come back to the fourth X-Man in a moment.
* Jigglypuff is a female 75% of the time in the game, but gender didn’t exist in the Pokemon games until Pokemon Gold and Silver later in 1999. Still, we’ll call it a 10:2 male-to-female ratio for our roster purposes.
One thing worth noting is that Super Smash Bros also featured a pair of “clone” characters in Mario and Luigi. If we were to feature a clone in Super Smash Marvel, who would we be the most likely candidate? Given that we’re considering this in the 1990s, I think there’s a reasonable front-runner in Venom. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the character, but the ‘90s were probably peak Venom, between the multiple extended storylines focusing on the him or teaming him up with Spider-Man as an anti-hero (like “Maximum Carnage”, or “Planet of the Symbiotes”). Plus, it makes sense to have one ‘90s-specific character, as I’d argue Jigglypuff fills that role in the original (the character was much more notable back in the beginning of the Pokemon franchise, and I’d argue that it would be an unlikely pick were Smash Bros to start over in the present day). If he’s being counted as an anti-hero, it could closely mirror Donkey Kong’s status as an original antagonist who gained his own following and series*. Plus, Venom and Spidey could move apart in moveset and play-style while remaining mostly similar, much as Mario and Luigi have done.
*Also, it’s worth noting that this matches the original Super Smash Bros, were Donkey Kong was the only character could even remotely be considered a villain. Venom is a little more villainous than DK was at that point, but I think we could consider them similar enough for our purposes.
Backtracking a little, who are our choices for the fourth X-Men slot? If I were to pull a list of names from the top of my head of likely choices, I’d start with Beast, Rogue, Iceman, Phoenix, Shadowcat, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, Gambit…And heck, if we’re factoring in ‘90s tastes, we should probably throw in Cable as well. My initial thought was that Cable might have actually taken the spot had this game existed given his popularity in the 1990s, but I think one ‘90s-favorite is more than enough, and he has so much competition for that last X-Men slot that I think he wouldn’t be a definite fourth choice. If this roster were half X-Men, I might go with him, but I think they’d go with a character with more history. With that in mind, I think that Rogue would be a solid guess, for a variety of reasons. She gives us a second female on the roster (which makes some sense, as the women of X-Men have always been some of Marvel’s most famous superheroines), she makes for a nice analogue to the original Smash Bros’ Kirby in that both can copy abilities, and she was lined up for a major role in the first X-Men movie that would be coming out a year after this game’s release. The other mutants will have to wait for the sequels. Also, if we really wanted to copy Super Smash Bros, we could label two of them with the original “Uncanny X-Men” line and group the others under one of the spin-off titles like “X-Men” or “X-Factor” or something else.
So who takes the last slot? This is a tough call, and I can see it going a number of ways. In the end, I think I’d go with Daredevil. I’m not super sure of that call, and I feel like there are a number of ways it could go. I hope that in the end, they’d default to a more consistently-popular character for the slot rather than a flavor-or-the-month type (say, the Punisher, who would have been a reasonable choice in the ‘90s but would look a little dated now given that his popularity hasn’t held up as well). On the other hand, it’s hard to get more classic than a founding Avenger like Ant-Man or Wasp, or a long-time member like Vision or Hawkeye or Black Panther or any number of other choices. But Daredevil combines the long-history with timeliness and popularity, given that he had seen a huge surge in popularity under Frank Miller in the 1980s and had just helped to launch the new Marvel Knights imprint in 1998. I think he would make a respectable twelfth choice for our roster.
And with that, we’re already out of slots. For as tough as some of the calls were, I think it’s hard to argue too much with the end results. Tune in next week when I continue the series with the fictional follow-up Super Smash Marvel Melee.
Our Super Smash Marvel Roster: