Hey! I’m still here! And I even write stuff sometimes! With the recent release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (most literal game name ever) and the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (same), I felt like it was about time for me to finally create a top 10 Smash Bros. stages list. Can you believe we don’t have one here yet? Weird. Anyway, hold onto your butts because this is going to be highly controversial. Ok, probably not. But you will almost certainly disagree on some of my choices.
What makes a good Smash Bros. stage? Obviously the most important thing is how fun it is. But I also get really excited about stages from my favorite franchises, especially since my favorite franchises tend to have awesome music and Smash Bros. soundtracks are legendary. So what I’m saying is this list is totally going to be biased towards Metroid and Zelda stages. Probably. Deal with it.
I have no ground rules for this one other than the fact that I’m not going to pick any stages from the 3DS game. It is still way too early to add any of those stages to my list. Maybe after the Wii U game releases and I have really gotten deeper into all of the stages in both of the new games I will make another top 10 list of all-time. I can definitely say that at least a few 3DS stages would make that list, as I have been very happy with them so far.
Norfair makes my list because it is set up almost opposite of your usual “simple” Smash Bros. stage. Instead of space becoming limited as you go up, it becomes limited as you go down, with just a single tiny platform near the bottom. And of course, the lava comes up from the bottom a lot, which makes that single tiny platform a precarious space. Yet it is in the middle of the stage, so you can’t ignore it. Interesting dynamics arise.
Yoshi looks straight up terrified…
And then the safe area pops up and a wall of lava starts building, and man… it’s hilarious when you get to it first and manage to keep everyone else outside.
Also, it makes my list because Metroid rules. Shut up. It’s my list and I can do whatever I want.
Star Fox - Sector Z (N64) / Corneria (Melee / Brawl)
I know a lot of people didn’t get into the Smash Bros. series until Melee, but I was a fan from day one. My brother and cousins and I used to play the N64 game all the time, and it quickly became one of my favorite Nintendo games ever.
Whenever I think of classic Smash, Sector Z comes to mind.
There are a decent variety of stages in the original Smash Bros., but the one that always stood out to me as defining that game most is Sector Z (which came back slightly modified in Melee as Corneria, which then came back again in Brawl, so I’m going to include them all here.) Sector Z was a relatively basic stage, but it was just the right size to lead to some long (but not overlong) battles, and the lower right side of the ship was a tight little spot that led to some close-quarters brawling.
F-Zero - Big Blue (Melee / Brawl)
I really love the F-Zero stages where you are on a platform and flying around the track, and then end up on the ground battling each other with cars racing by. However, none of those stages quite made this list, barely missing out. Big Blue, on the other hand, did make it in. Because it is awesome.
Staying alive during Big Blue insanity is no small feat.
Big Blue was an unlockable stage in Melee which also returned in Brawl. Frankly, I didn’t expect another F-Zero stage in Melee and was presently surprised when I unlocked this one. Instead of the racing perspective, it puts you in a side-scrolling stage where you have to hop from cars to platforms and back, with a lot of huge gaps in between, and if you fall off and hit the ground at such a high velocity you’re essentially toast. This ends of being one of the most intense Smash Bros. stages, and it really separates the n00bz from the veterans. Definitely one of my favorites.
Mario Kart - Mario Circuit (Brawl)
Many people view Mario Circuit as just a cheap knock-off of the F-Zero stages, and it is true that the idea isn’t exactly a new one. However, I love both the simplicity and depth of this stage.
Yo dawg I heard you like your Nintendo party games in your Nintendo party games…
Instead of flying all over the place, you’re stuck in a single spot on the track, with Shy Guy driven karts coming at you from both back background to foreground, and side to side. This is an interesting stage too as there are no pitfalls, and you can actually walk a bit off the edge of the screen before getting a KO. Why would you do that? To make people think you’re panicking and rush in for the kill, but in truth you have set a deadly trap for them. Love it.
The Legend of Zelda - Pirate Ship (Brawl)
I have a sort of love / hate relationship with Wind Waker, the Zelda game that Pirate Ship is based off of. I pretty much adore the visual style and parts of the soundtrack, but as a game it fell a bit short for me. Well, compared to other Zelda games, which means it was still one of my favorite games on the Gamecube. Love / like relationship?
One of the most beautiful games ever… in Smash form!
Pirate Ship is such a neat stage though. I love that you can fall into the water and still manage to recover yourself with some skill. I love the random storm that will throw the ship high in the sky. I love having to fight in between a rain of bombs. I love the random crashing into a rock that makes everyone abandon ship for a bit and fight on said rock. Such a fun and dynamic stage. And it looks so darn pretty!
Super Mario Bros. - Rainbow Cruise (Melee / Brawl)
Is this a controversial choice? I honestly have no idea. I get the sense that a lot of people hate the scrolling stages, and frankly, they’re usually not my favorites. But I have always had a place in my heart for Rainbow Cruise.
Scrolling stage, you either love 'em or hate 'em. Or like 'em, I suppose.
I guess part of why I love this stage is that it almost feels like a platformer at times. A side-scrolling Super Mario 64 platformer, which is pretty awesome. It creates a neat dynamic where you’re battling and platforming at the same time, and you can’t really just focus on one or the other. Blended skills.
If I could change one thing though, I’d change how fast you have to get back down on the ship at the end of the loop. I have been KOed there many a time.
Super Mario Bros. - Yoshi’s Island (Melee / Brawl)
This is a small little stage that probably wouldn’t make many people’s top 10 lists, but what can I say? It really works for me.
Way to confuse people with your Smash Bros. stage names, Nintendo.
The middle of this stage can get pretty crazy, with turning blocks both in the air and on the ground, which leads to some chaotic battling to hold the middle ground. Of course, you can always take it over to the hill on the right side, where many fighters have been knocked slightly off screen and thought they were goners only to get right back on and keep fighting. And the left side pipe? Well, I try to avoid the left side, still never quite figured out how to fight well on that pipe.
Note that there are two different Smash Bros. stages named Yoshi Island, this one from Super Mario World, and another from the game Yoshi's Island. Weird.
WarioWare - WarioWare, Inc. (Brawl)
If you haven’t played the WarioWare games, then I hate you with a fiery passi… I mean, then let me explain quick what they are. Basically, they are games full of “micro” mini-games that take mere seconds to complete, and half of the skill comes in quickly recognizing which game it is and what movements you need to make. Someone over at Nintendo / HAL took one look at that concept and thought hey, why not just throw it into the middle of a Smash Bros. stage?
Hey, stop fighting and come hang out with a cat under this umbrella for a bit!
So for a bit you fight on a relatively plain stage, but then it shifts into a micro mini-game, and you have seconds to try to compete in the game… in the midst of fighting. Maybe it is staying under an umbrella to not get wet. Maybe it is dodging arrows that ninjas shoot. Or maybe it is standing completely still, which opens up the possibility that someone will decide to ignore the game and just try to smash the opponents. The “winners” of the mini-games will get special power-ups, while the losers get nothing. It’s a game within a game and it’s a super neat idea that is well executed. Congratulations WarioWare, Inc., you rule.
The Legend of Zelda - Bridge of Eldin (Brawl)
At first glance this is just a very wide bridge with no platforms or pitfalls or anything, which would put it in the running for the least interesting Smash Bros. stage ever. But some interesting dynamics come from this sort of layout, including a need to focus on up-smashing.
I would never have thought a flat stage could be so awesome.
And of course, there is more to the stage. King Bulblin will charge through on occasion, flattening everyone in his path and often blowing up part of the bridge, which creates a fairly large pitfall in the middle of the stage. Often people will just hang out on whatever side they were on when the bridge broke, but adventurous Smashers will brave the large gap for glory! And after some time a twilight portal will appear and fix the bridge, which is nice.
Honestly though, a large part of why I love this stage is that it is just plain stunning to look at. You can see Hyrule Castle far off in the distance with a bleeding sky from a setting sun. Gorgeous.
Metroid - Brinstar Depths (Melee)
And finally, the number one spot. To be honest this was a tough choice, and depending on how I feel at any given moment my top six or seven spots are all interchangeable. By tomorrow I may be looking at this list being all "what the heck was I thinking?!"
Brinstar Depths doesn’t feel like a particularly interesting stage when you are first playing it, but then the huge Kraid in the background smashes into the stage and it rotates, forcing players to scramble to get over to what has now become a new top. On and on this goes, giving players just enough time to get used to the new environment before Kraid smacks it and it changes again.
Tell me you didn’t want a 3D Metroid game with a giant Kraid in it after playing Melee?!
There is also a tiny little platform that, at certain times, if you go down to it is next to impossible to get back up with certain characters. Might be tempting to follow someone down and finish them off, but then again, maybe you will be the one finished? Who knows?!
This kind of dynamic gameplay is what I love about Smash Bros.! It’s such a simple concept, but very well executed, which is why it gets a spot so high up in my list.
So I suppose that is about it. Agree / disagree / have a list of your own? Post in the comments below!
Final count by game (first appearance): Brawl - 5 Melee - 4 64 - 1
This final count actually surprised me for a bit, because I remember when Brawl first came out thinking that its new stages were not quite as good as Melee's new stages? But I guess my mind changed over time...
Final count by franchise: Mario - 2 Metroid - 2 Zelda - 2 F-Zero - 1 Mario Kart - 1 Star Fox - 1 WarioWare – 1
Runners-Up: The Legend of Zelda - Hyrule Castle (N64), Super Mario Bros. - Kingdom II (Melee), Fire Emblem - Castle Siege (Brawl), PictoChat - PictoChat (Brawl), F-Zero - Aero Dive (Brawl), and more!
Hm, I always enjoyed Bridge of Eldin, myself. I'm not crazy about walk-offs, but there's something appealing to me about this big, long level. I really like the atmosphere, too, with the sunset and all. Gerudo Valley is kinda similar but it feels a little too small for my tastes.