For a decade and a half, I could only beat up Pikachu in the privacy of my own home.
I could only spar with Samus Aran while planted on my couch. I could only dodge Mario’s fireballs while connected to a console. Every iteration of Nintendo’s mascot fighting game Super Smash Bros. was released for a console: the Nintendo 64, the Gamecube, the Wii. That all changed on October 3, 2014, when Smash went portable.
Since the game’s release on the Nintendo 3DS, I’ve fought gaming’s best, cutest, and fiercest stars while commuting into work on the train, in spare moments at a coffee shop—basically at any chance I get. It’s been action-packed! It’s been energetic!
It’s been lonely.
Playing video games alone is hardly a foreign experience. Outside of the haggard days of link cables with Game Boys and limited Internet connectivity on modern systems, handhelds are designed for the solo gaming experience. Beyond that, there have been plenty of console games made for the individual instead of a group. Smash just isn’t one of them.
Much like other games in the Mario Bros. canon—whether the Italian plumbing hero is go-karting, playing tennis, or having a party—Smash is designed as a social game. Only part of the experience actually happens on the screen. The rest is about the interaction with friends as you play. It’s the playful trash-talking and the debates over which characters are best, the cheers of victory and indulging in a loss despite your disappointment. Without having the people you’re fighting in the same room as you, that dynamic goes away. It becomes only half a game.