What the Addition of Minecraft’s Steve Means for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Minecraft's Steve is the latest character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. What comes next for the remaining fighters and the series' future?
No matter who you wanted to be yesterday’s newest character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the one we got probably wasn’t what you were expecting. He’s been called a “meme pick” through the years, a character that everyone always joked about adding to Smash alongside Master Chief, Sora, Goku and the L-shaped block from Tetris. But now Minecraft‘s Steve, along with a bunch of other characters from the massively successful title are in Smash, and likely by the end of the year will be fighting alongside Nintendo’s cast of classic, iconic characters.
Reactions to the character’s reveal have been extremely varied. SylesX2, a prominent Smash YouTuber, reacted with disbelief, laughing at most of the trailer. Another hit YouTuber, Alpharad, recorded his reaction to the reveal from his bed, although it didn’t stop his surprise or excitement. One of the legends of competitive Smash, Armada, uploaded his reaction as well, although he was more disappointed than anything, hoping for either Phoenix Wright or Crash Bandicoot.
Regardless of what you or your favorite social media personalities think of the Smash Bros. and Minecraft crossover, this latest addition to the franchise throws picks for the game’s next four characters into question, and sets a new precedent for the series moving forward.
Let’s get right to the point here: the addition of Minecraft‘s Steve to Smash Bros. takes everything off the table. I know this isn’t the first time you’ve heard someone say this – it was probably said after the reveals for Persona 5‘s Joker, Banjo and Kazooie, and maybe even Terry from Fatal Fury. But I maintain that this addition is what really does it, mainly because Steve is so radically different from other characters added to the game so far.
Let me ask you a question – who do you think Steve is? What is he like? Is he strong, is he goofy, is he brave, is he serious? What does his design say about him? These questions could quickly be answered for almost every other character in Smash (looking at you Game & Watch, you weirdo), but what about this latest addition? Steve is a strange pick for Smash, not because of the game he’s from, but because he has no personality. He’s more of an empty shell character, someone for players to conflate with themselves. If you’re playing Minecraft, you never call your character “Steve,” they’re “you.” Smash doesn’t have many characters like that – its roster is full of personality, from the fierce Ridley to the soft, friendly Kirby.
Besides that distinction, Steve and the other Minecraft characters making their way to Smash Ultimate are also visually divergent from the rest of the game. Just looking at Steve among the cast of characters, he stands out. His jagged edges and pixelated design play into that. In his reaction, Armada called Steve “random,” and I have to agree. In the context of Smash Ultimate, this new addition to the roster is random. Steve and the other Minecraft characters don’t fit the game’s style at all.
For Smash, this is a big change. Every character until now has been altered in some way to fit the look and feel of Smash Ultimate. Steve doesn’t do that – he’s portrayed here the same way he’s portrayed in Minecraft. This could potentially point to a change in priority for Smash Ultimate. What a character looks like doesn’t matter anymore; they can still be added in.
That’s huge, considering we still have four characters left to go for the second Fighters Pass in Smash Ultimate. Now, there isn’t the extra layer of scrutinizing a character’s appearance: they can look like anything. A giant man in a green suit of armor? Doesn’t matter. The Smash Bros. style guide is officially out the window. While Steve’s addition shakes things up for predictions for Smash Ultimate‘s remaining characters, the real question here is what happens after Smash Ultimate? The answer to this is far down the line, likely years away, but today does give us something to speculate from.
If the next Smash continues to ignore a style guide, what kind of game will we be looking at? Ultimate has been called a “celebration of games” instead of a “celebration of Nintendo” for its additions outside of the Japanese developer and publisher’s IPs. For a while now, Smash hasn’t just been about Nintendo characters; it’s been about Konami’s characters, and Rare’s characters, and Square Enix’s characters. It’s about the prominent figures in gaming.
While it might not have meant to, Smash has become a kind of pedestal for games. If your games and characters are good enough, one way or another they’re ending up in Smash, and I feel that mantra will be used liberally to justify additions to the roster for future Smash titles. The developer of the game doesn’t matter, and what the characters look like or who they are doesn’t matter. Nintendo will approach and ask if developers want their character to be able to beat the snot out of Mario if their title is successful enough.
The future of Smash is all up in the air of course, but from here on it feels more open. As I said, you’ve probably heard it before but now more than ever, nothing is off the table for one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. Going forward, I’m done calling characters that people want “meme picks” (unless it’s Geno, in which case it’s never happening) because there aren’t any anymore. That’s all because of the addition of one, strange pixelated character.