Super Smash Bros. seems nice, right? Family friendly, totally accessible, made for all ages, and a bomb-ass fighting game that can be played on the highest competitive levels.
But as shown via Game Theory, Super Smash Bros. has a dark side. A sobering and morbid side that will make you question what you’ve known about the series all along.
Enter Masahiro Sakurai, famed designer, writer, and director of Super Smash Bros. He has been integral in the creation process of the beloved franchise since its inception. Some may be thinking, “Wait, a writer for a fighting game?” Turns out, Super Smash Bros. has a story. For those playing the campaign mode, they will know all about Master Hand, the imposing, giant gloved hand that is the main antagonist throughout the entire series. As is detailed in this dissection by Game Theory, Master Hand and it’s alternate evil form of Crazy Hand are actually symbolic of Sakurai’s struggles with directing the Super Smash Bros. series over the years.
Sakurai’s main struggle is the sequelization of games. He is no stranger to game development and the insatiable cravings of the consumers for more of their favourite franchises. This is pointed out by Sakurai’s efforts to distance himself from the Kirby franchise – his previous creation – before moving onto Super Smash Bros. As quoted, Sakurai states, “It was tough for me to see that every time I made a new game, people automatically assumed that a sequel was coming. Even if it’s a sequel, lots of people have to give their all to make a game, but some people think the sequel process happens naturally.”
In the Super Smash Bros. series, Game Theory discusses the use of these antagonists as imagery to express Sakurai’s inner turmoil with the growth of Super Smash Bros. into the worldwide success it has become. From humble beginnings on the N64, Master Hand represented the creator – a playful arbiter putting its favorite Nintendo characters into combat. In following Super Smash Bros. games, we were introduced to Crazy Hand, erratic and dangerous. Now, in our latest iteration of Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U, we get Master Core. After defeating Master Hand, Master Core bursts out with chaotic and uncontrollable attacks, seemingly random and entirely dangerous, like a pure creative energy run amok. Finally, when defeated, it turns into nothing but a small ball with the Super Smash Bros. logo within it. A ball which doesn’t fight back, and simply waits for you to destroy it.
Game Theory argues that this is symbolic of Sakurai’s perception of the game shifting over time. First, being simple and sincere as Master Hand, then evolving into a frustration of inner anger with the evolution of the Super Smash Bros. franchise by showing Crazy Hand, then the inner turmoil and rage of wanting to continue a successful franchise with Master Core, before resigning to give us yet another game that we all to love. It’s a tough story. Is it true? I suppose that’s for the public to decide. You can get the full insight on Game Theory’s argument by watching their video dissection of the Super Smash Bros. series here.