For this blog post, I will be talking about one of my favorite games of all time: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For the uninformed reader, Smash Ultimate is the latest installment for the wildly popular Super Smash Bros. franchise. This franchise features classic Nintendo characters that even the most casual gamer would recognize — like Mario, Kirby, and Link from Legend of Zelda. In Super Smash Bros., players select from a roster of these characters and pit their skills against each other in tense, high adrenaline fighting matches. Players conduct their business on stages that can be marvelously complex or as simple as a single platform. In any case, the stage floats in the air — alone — with no structure above, below, or to its sides. The very structure of the stages conveys a single objective to the players: knock your opponents off-stage and try to stay on at all costs.
It is this dynamic that makes Smash so addicting — every (good) match is a high-stakes competition against a skilled and equally invested opponent. Each match is thrilling from start to finish. Indeed, the drama of the match increases as the match progresses closer to an end! That design is intentional and has a lot to do with how the mechanics of each character is designed. In short, each character has a “damage bar” that demonstrates how much damage that character has taken. As that damage bar approaches (and exceeds) 100%, the character becomes more susceptible to being knocked off stage in a wild and dramatic fashion. This ups the stakes and adds to the tension of play. Even still, some characters are designed as equalizers: they deal MORE damage as THEY become more damaged — this further plays up the pressure of the match and keeps both players invested even when the fighting seems one-sided.
All of this goes without mentioning the incredible diversity of gameplay that arises from the individual designs of each character. Each of the 70+ characters have their own move set that distinguishes them from the rest. Some characters are slow, lumbering giants with potential for delivering massive swings of hurt while other characters are small, speedy, and more primed to deal damage at range. This diversity of actions maintains the spiciness of the game and keeps players invested between matches and across them.