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18 best Super Smash Bros. Ultimate characters, ranked

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In a series featuring over 89 playable fighters, there’s no shortage of options for the player to choose from. While the franchise has always been known for stuffing each subsequent title full of characters, usually each with their respective balancing concerns, there are still a decent number of standout figures that most people in the Smash community can probably agree warrant inclusion on any list of must-picks.

Smash Bros Ultimate Donkey Kong
Image via Nintendo

18. Donkey Kong

When it comes to heavy-weight powerhouses, it’s hard to overlook the king of the virtual Nintendo jungle, Donkey Kong. Regardless of which Super Smash Bros title you’re playing, if you’re looking for a brawler that can quickly rack up your opponent’s damage numbers, at the risk of having an enormous hitbox, Donkey Kong will always be a great pick. Few things are as satisfying as using DK’s grapple to forcibly hoist your opponent onto your back, and carry them off the cliff in a move of spiteful, self-destructive pettiness. Just be careful not to find yourself too close to a ledge, as it’s easy to fall, but difficult to rise.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Toon Link
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Having three Links in the same game, as is the case with Super Smash Bros Ultimate, probably raises a few eyebrows, but it would be a clear mistake to dismiss each of these characters based on their similarities in name and appearance, as their respective playstyles are anything but identical. Landing successful combos using Toon Link’s bombs and hookshot, in addition to the usual light and heavy attacks, will allow you to steadily punish any opponent foolish enough to not counter with shields or a dodge. However, be careful, as your reduced physical stature also affects your damage numbers, resulting in less damage per hit than the adult Link variant. Consistency is more important than landing individual attacks.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Samus
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16. Samus

Samus has always excelled at being the premier zoner in the Smash Bros. franchise. Having high damage output with a bit of a tradeoff to close-range attacks, she can be seen as a one-trick pony. While a lot of her kit does revolve around her Charge shot, do not count other things as being useless like her missiles, Bomb attack, and her grab. She has a lot of ranged tools to work with before she will even let her opponents get within close range of her.

However, by the time she peppers her foes with all these annoying projectiles, her kill potential is still solid at close range.

Super Smash Bros Ganondorf
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15. Ganondorf

Ganondorf is the best character to introduce to someone who doesn’t play heavies. Especially in Ultimate, never has this Captain Falcon clone felt so fun to play. You can easily kill your opponents in less than five hits. Bonus points if you yell “dooriyah” every time you perform his forward smash.

Super Smash Bros Snake
Image via Nintendo

14. Snake

In a fighting game, long-range damage isn’t usually the de facto playstyle, but as Snake here also proves, it can definitely be a rewarding playstyle. Being a fast-moving character, Snake specializes in both hand-to-hand combat, with quick jabs and dash attacks that can easily interrupt slower enemy attacks. He also sports long-range, guidable missiles and grenades that can absolutely ruin someone’s day even at a distance. Like the reptile of the same name, Snake can strike fast and subsequently get out of range again faster than one might expect. Stay on top of him if you want to live to tell the tale.

Super Smash Bros Meta Knight
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13. Meta Knight

Knowing when to dive in, and when to run away, are key pieces of information for any Meta Knight player to know if they ever want to find themselves landing in the top spot. He may not be at the top of the food chain as he once was like in Brawl, but once he starts picking up momentum, he can be a force to be reckoned with.

Mega Knight’s wide range of powerful attacks, all of which can be initiated in rapid succession, allows for many different combo opportunities. His recovery moves can be difficult for less experienced players to pull off, which is likely why the developers allow for the player multiple attempts, rather than a singular failed recovery resulting oftentimes in immediate death, as is the case with most other characters. Given the cheap cost and high reward of basic moves, along with the knockback that can be produced from more powerful abilities, Meta Knight remains a powerful contestant on the battlefield.

Super Smash Bros Kirby
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12. Kirby

Everyone’s favorite pink copycat blob may not be anywhere near top-tier, but the gimmicks he has can give you a run for your money.

If you’re after adaptability, it’s hard not to pick Kirby. His ability to swallow enemies whole, absorb some of their characteristics, and spit them back out, has always made his playstyle unique compared to the other fighters. Super Smash Bros Ultimate saw Kirby get a decent-sized buff, with his Inhale ability now being able to absorb projectiles, in addition to players and most objects. His Hammer Flip ability also proves crucial in destroying an enemy’s shield, leaving them momentarily exposed for a follow-up attack. While far from the strongest in the roster, the variety of options for play and counter-play in Kirby’s kit can make him a strong asset for a moderately skilled player.

Sonic Super Smash Bros Ultimate
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11. Sonic

Being true to his character, Sonic is the fastest one in the huge roster of Smash Ultimate. That’s where all of his strengths reside too. He can use his speed to constantly get in and out of the fray. Because of that. he’s hard to hit. By the time you catch the Blue Blur, your damage percentage is probably in the red. One good smash attack or aerial against you will cost you a stock. Maintain your cool when this guy zips all over the screen.

Mr Game & Watch Ultimate
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10. Mr. Game & Watch

Mr. Game & Watch flew under the radar for quite some time until a player by the name of Enrique “Maister” Hernandez Solis showed the true potential of the character. Many perceived G&W to be some slow, gimmicky character until we saw how lethal he can actually be. He might be light, but he’s the true definition of a glass cannon. Mr. Game & Watch has good recovery on his attacks and has an answer for a lot of cheap attacks thrown at him.

Super Smash Bros Pokemon Trainer
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9. Pokemon Trainer

Let’s be real; many of us chose Pokemon Trainer just to use Ivysaur. There’s no reason for him to be that good. Despite all the nerfs, he alone can carry this iconic trio of Pokemon. However, that’s where the fun comes in. When people face Pokemon Trainer, they’re expecting just to fight Ivysaur. If you master Squirtle and Charizard, you can constantly condition your opponent to approach you differently in combat.

Super Smash Bros Peach
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8. Peach

Have you ever been put in the ground while being smacked by golf clubs, tennis rackets, and frying pans? What about being gassed by Toad or just getting smacked around by the regal Princess Peach? While still appearing prim and proper, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to play a few matches as Peach. Whether you enjoy sending people flying with a well-timed slap, or putting your opponents to sleep with a melodious display of your vocal talents, Peach is a versatile fighter who specializes in recovery and unbelievably strong combo setups. Mistaking this princess for your typical damsel in distress could very well be a fatal mistake.

Super Smash Bros Ness
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7. Ness

If the phrase “PK Fire” hasn’t given you nightmares yet, you clearly haven’t played against Ness enough to know. He’s not a top-tier pick, but he is definitely very annoying to play against. Being so floaty, having good zoning, and extremely high kill power, Ness deserves a spot to be one of the best characters in Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Super Smash bros ROB
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6. R.O.B.

R.O.B. used to be that character who was kind of a gimmick. He was such a niche and dorky character until his Ultimate iteration came out. Now he’s such a menace and can cover all styles of play. He has good zoning, high kill potential, great recovery, and a good neutral. Admittedly, R.O.B. is also a lot of fun to play, mostly because his strengths make him good against anyone (“play lame, win game” as they say.

Super Smash Bros Fox
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5. Fox

If speed, almost to the exclusion of all else, is your preference, Fox is a perfect pick. His blaster is great for poking enemies at range, and his Fox Illusion and Fire Fox (not related to any browser you may have heard of) abilities are good for either recovery or closing the distance between you and your opponents. As a lightweight character, similar to Toon Link, building up damage on your opponents will take time, but the aforementioned speed and survivability make Fox a great pick in nearly any situation.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Joker
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4. Joker

Not only is the leader of the Phantom Thieves looking good in everything he does, but he is a dominant force in the Ultimate meta. Joker has everything needed to be a top-tier character in this game: a projectile, a counter, good recovery, speed, combos, kill power, and a comeback mechanic. He has to be dealt with quickly before Arsene comes out. Otherwise, he can easily overpower most of the roster with an insanely buffed move list.

Even without MKLeo putting this character on the map, the community would soon realize that Joker is close to being a perfect character.

Super Smash Bros Pikachu
Image via Nintendo

3. Pikachu

In the end, the rat won. With every major balance patch that came to Ultimate, so many people were hoping that Nintendo would “nerf the damn rat”, yet all we got were Pichu nerfs. With Pikachu remaining untouched, he’s considered to be one of, if not the best characters in the game.

Super Smash Bros Pyra Mythra

2. Pyra/Mythra

Also referred to as Aegis, this duo character is probably the best swordie in Smash Ultimate. Their neutral game, namely Mythra’s, is almost unmatched. They can dominate the stage easily, with strong, fast moves with decent range. Their only downside is when they are offstage for whatever reason. Still, in higher competitive play, they are scary to go against.

Super Smash Bros Steve
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1. Steve

So, Steve has become a problem. He is close to Brawl Meta Knight levels of broken, where people want him banned in competitive play. Because of all these crazy block setups and traps, Steve breaks the conventional way to play Super Smash Bros. Still, these setups are quite wild and entertaining to watch. To be on the receiving end, though, not so much.

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Image of Elliott Gatica
Elliott Gatica
Contributing Writer - Elliott has been writing about video games since he was in high school. Carrying that momentum forward, he has now appeared in outlets such as App Trigger, Attack of the Fanboy, and now Destructoid. He focuses heavily on Warframe, but he is also an avid fan of fighting games and shooters. When he isn't here, he's probably getting salty in Mortal Kombat 1 or climbing the competitive ranks with his friends on Overwatch 2.
Image of Daniel Lenois
Daniel Lenois
When not writing pieces for Destructoid and other sites, Daniel enjoys playing videogames, discovering narrative plot holes in books, films, and shows, and planning small getaway trips where unexpected adventures will likely ensue.