Super Smash Brothers is a game that just about anybody who has ever gamed will recognize, and think back fondly to hours upon hours of playtime with family, friends, and maybe even the occasional stranger. One thing that person would also most certainly remember is who among them was the one to beat! We all strive to be the best at any game we practice, and Super Smash Bros. is no exception. The only thing about trying to keep up with a game that has been around as long as this one has: you have to roll with the punches! For an ever-growing competitive scene and for a game with constant updates, so many characters, and most importantly, so many remote control options, it’s easy to feel like you’re left in the dust. If you are looking to work towards the competitive scene for Smash – this is for you. Nothing would make me happier than to save a reader from the frustration and embarrassment, and the extra blood, sweat, and tears that you can be spared in misdirected hours on the grind.
It only seems fitting to start with a little bit of history, to get from where we started, to where we are now. Like many fans of the franchise, I got my start with Super Smash Brothers Melee for the GameCube. Anyone in love with the series knows that Super Smash Bros got their start on the Nintendo 64, but they really took off with the GameCube flagship so many still cling to as the “only true Smash Experience” to this day. That explains how the game maintains its price tag of anywhere from $70-$500 depending on condition and how much the seller knows about what people are still willing to pay for this now almost 19-year-old game.
Flash forward to the 2018 release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and it still holds its own as a most beloved multiplayer game. It is arguably one of the few local multiplayer games that have maintained its relevance over the years. The series has gained and lost different characters over its 5 iterations, only to be reunited in the most recent edition. Still, occasional updates add new characters 2 years after Ultimate’s release.
But that’s not what we are here to talk about today. Any pro can make most characters off of any roster work. It’s the…. “creative” options Nintendo has so brazenly (or recklessly) released for its controllers over the years that has added some confusion and edge to the ever-growing competitive space.
I still remember holding a nunchuck in one hand, Wii remote in the other, trying to understand how this was supposed to be an ergonomic option over the comfort and familiarity of the GameCube controller. Curiosity still got the better of me, and before I knew it, I (almost) preferred the Wii remote and nunchuck combo for quite a while. I would even enter local tournaments here and there, to find that I wasn’t alone. Even with the option for GC remote compatibility, many gamers (myself included) were showing up with this wireless dual remote monstrosity AND kicking butt with it! This was the golden age for my own SSB career. My main (Lucas) and I were going places, and as for my own circles, I was close to unbeatable.
As the years have passed and school and work kept me increasingly busy, my Super Smash Bros game went from local semi-pro to casual gaming, at best. Skipping now to Super Smash Bros Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch with online play being a new option, I became reinvigorated to train hard and attempt to regain some of my former glory. The Pro Controller, with its sleek design and wireless convenience, was an all too tempting choice to train with. This seemed like the wisest option, considering that even the Smash Bros edition of the Nintendo Switch release came with a nicely themed Pro Controller to compliment the console skin. It’s also worth noting that there was something unappealing about requiring dual USB dongle adapters to hook up a classic GC controller or to purchase a USB wire remote for the sole purpose of playing one game.
After training long and hard for well over a year, I felt ready to finally reach back out into the competitive space and try my hand against some of the local pros. A local spot seemed appealing enough, with weekly smash bros nights for only a $10 entree fee. There I was, strolling in with my custom skin Pro-controller, walking towards the Super Smash Bros section of the venue with a hop in my step, and all the eagerness to test myself. You could imagine the look on my face when I ask “so where should I set up” to the obvious coordinator for the match-ups, who simply look at my remote, laughs under his breath, and points to the opposite corner of the room and says “you might want to start over there with that controller”. I look to see the clearly forgotten group of casuals who seem to have never played before, versus the very serious looking 1on1 matchups to the other side with nothing but combos and spikes off the map. I was shocked to find I was disqualified simply for using a wireless controller….the pro-controller I had poured hours of sweat and tears over this very game into. On top of that, it’s worth noting that, though a wired off-brand version of the pro-controller was accepted for serious play, it was still wildly disrespected, next to just about any wired iteration of the GameCube style controller. It’s amazing what a few years will do to a competitive space.
I immediately made it down to the nearest Game Stop to find my next controller, to try and regain those ancient hours of playtime back on Super Smash Bros Melee. I actually left with 2 different iterations of the GC controller, with a USB connector as well as an adapter for the classic game cube controller. Here’s what I learned, and I hope to save you the trouble and wasted hours I lost on the wrong remote that I went through.
Starting with the classic GC controller off the adapter… Now I know I may get some hate for this, but I am going to say it anyway. It was my LEAST favorite wired option. The reasons are simple and would apply to anyone who hasn’t stood firm with the original GC controller since Super Smash Bros Melee. The shoulder buttons have A LOT of travel, some heavy lag from when you first press down to when you get that “click”, and getting a 20+ year-old joystick to perform as it did in its hay-day is near impossible when factoring in how well-loved this remote truly is. There is always the version with the 10ft cord that was released by Nintendo during the Wii era, but the purists will tell you that it’s not the same. Unless you have stayed loyal to the original GameCube remote, I just don’t think it’s worth jumping on the bandwagon now with other options and some clear advantages they have.
This brings me to the PowerA wired GameCube controller that goes for around $20. I have a few gripes with this controller. As far as a near-identical look-alike to the Classic GameCube controller, It’s almost perfect. Also, a USB wire absolutely beats needing the clunky GameCube adapter, and it’s licensed by Nintendo Switch with a nice logo dead center above start and select. However, it’s only about a fraction of the weight of the original GameCube controller. This may not sound like a big deal….till you hold it and start giving it the abuse of a few rounds. I was not only fearful to break it, but it simply did not feel good like a controller should. Much like a weighted mouse for the PC, a little weight under the hood goes further than you would think. On top of that, If you aren’t completely used to the travel distance you need on those shoulder buttons to get that “click”, I just don’t see why you would put yourself through that. Responsiveness is key to any competitive gaming.
Finally, the surprisingly preferred aftermarket choice is the PDP Wired Fight Pad Pro, which will set you back for a mere $25. Now, I know what you’re thinking…..how could an aftermarket such as this even compete with anything holding license or branding rights. What drew me to it in the first place is that you can get it themed with dozens of characters from the Super Smash Bros roster. I can’t help but appreciate the opportunity to personalize a piece of hardware. On top of that, the finish of the remote is a very subtly textured matte finish, that is great in a clutch, especially after hours of the ever-sweaty vice grip we are all familiar with. As if the theme and finish weren’t enough, it comes with a changeable joystick top, if you would rather your C-stick have the same nice grip as the joystick. The controller has a very nice weight that gives it a surprisingly solid feel. And the “pièce de résistance?” Those shoulder buttons are nearly perfect. They are wide and curved, to seat the finger nicely, while also sitting very low and close to the controller, with virtually no travel and an immediate “click”.
If you’re still using your pro-controller for Super Smash Bros and you don’t plan on hitting the competitive space, I STILL recommend making the switch. It wasn’t long into my wired controller experience before I noticed the difference in responsiveness, as well as how many times I would press a button on a wireless controller, with it just not registering. That’s something I never noticed before – but when you’re pressing so many buttons a minute amidst the other wireless controllers around you, it becomes almost immediately apparent when you’re on the wire. I’m also happy to report that the transition was easier than I thought it would be. I do find myself improving at a faster rate now than I ever could with the pro controller. In short, go with the wire for Super Smash Bros. If you’re not too attached to your old GC controller, don’t be shy to see what kind of options are out there that might even serve you better.