Super Smash Bros. Melee is an iconic game for a number of reasons. A house party staple, legions of fans across the world laud it as one of the most innovative multiplayer games ever created. It receives continuous tenure among the world's top eSports events and is one of the most action-packed and nostalgia-inducing gaming experiences Nintendo has ever created.
But there’s one aspect of the game that I hold more dear than anything else, and it has nothing to do with wavedashing or edge-guarding: Adventure Mode.
The alternate option to the typical ‘Classic’ arcade experience in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Adventure Mode consists of 12 stages, each exploring and celebrating the highlights of Nintendo’s history within the games industry.
There’s important context here. At 6 years old, and an only child, my parents bought me a Nintendo Gamecube, complete with Smash, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and Luigi’s Mansion.
I didn’t have a sibling or many friends to play it with so, naturally, I was drawn to the single-player gameplay in Melee. Even though the game gained its cult following based on the multiplayer, I couldn’t pull myself away from the relatively fresh idea of a campaign within a game that is primarily about brawling. Yes, I was that guy playing quick versus games to unlock Mewtwo.
Out Of Bounds
Each level pit your character against certain foes, but it was the way Adventure Mode went beyond the confines of that arena that made it so compelling. On top of a one-on-one brawl with Donkey Kong and Bowser, you’d spend time frantically sprinting through the racetrack of Big Blue and searching for the Triforce in a relentless maze full of Redeads and Like-Likes.
Platforming and side-scrolling levels padded out the battles and were packed with small details, like the golf course that stays consistent in the background of the Mushroom Kingdom stage, paying homage to Mario Golf. They were full of passion – effectively vignettes that acted as love letters to Nintendo’s storied catalogue of franchises.
Even better, each small capsule of nostalgic Nintendo joy was connected to an interlinking story told with gorgeous cutscenes.
You’re greeted with one following the Metroid-themed mission where your chosen character has to frantically platform their way to the Brinstar Escape Shaft, for instance. As the planet Zebes explodes, the camera pulls out from the scene, and Kirby’s star is seen hanging in the sky. From there, it leads seamlessly into a brawl in front of Whispy Woods, the boss from Kirby’s Dream Land.
As the series moves through console generations, Adventure Mode has sadly fallen to the wayside.
Within the narrative throughline between these stories, you’d reclaim the statues of warring characters. Each test you passed would pad out your trophy room, filling it with more Nintendo paraphernalia and consoles, effectively creating a home within a game and immortalizing your progress with the bustling roster. It was a bold experimental crossover from Nintendo.
The overall story may not have been cohesive per se, but it was enough. And for the eagle-eyed and obsessive kids like me, there were so many reasons (and expertly hidden secrets) to come back.
Secret characters would appear out of nowhere thanks to happy accidents. Like Luigi’s surprise appearance – leapfrogging over Mario’s head no less – if you accidentally let the seconds timer land on 2 during the Mushroom Kingdom stage, like I did. Or, conversely, defeating Giant Bowser only to have to face off against Giga Bowser in an unexpected follow-up boss fight if you managed to beat the campaign in under 18 minutes. Quite the reward.
Adventure Mode also served as the perfect introduction to a host of Nintendo characters you may have previously had no experience with. For anyone born in the ‘90s, you may have skipped the chance to experience a Metroid or Starfox game. Hell, as someone born in 1995, it wasn’t until much later in life that I figured out fighting wasn’t Captain Falcon’s day job.
As the series has moved throughout console generations, Adventure Mode has fallen to the wayside. Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary was a burgeoning, cinematic spin on the formula, but it sadly lacked Adventure Mode’s compact charm. Since then we’ve had a commitment to Classic Mode and the hopeful but piecemeal inclusion of Smash Run in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. But as of writing, we’ve yet to hear about the existence of any single-player content for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Ultimate has the perfect opportunity to revitalize Adventure Mode.
The latest game in the series is heavily committed to bolstering the roster, bringing every previous contender back but also padding it out with fighters from excellent new games in the Nintendo catalogue like Splatoon and Breath of the Wild. This sounds like the perfect opportunity to create a revitalized Adventure Mode, one that celebrates both the past and present of Nintendo with the competitive flair and quality of life improvements found in a modern Smash installment.
Even if this isn’t possible, my only hope is that 17 years later, fans won’t forget about the wonderful celebration of Nintendo’s history that was Melee’s Adventure Mode. I hope we can eventually see a similar single-player experience that builds upon the original and pays homage to all of the wonderful experiences Nintendo has conjured since.
Jordan Oloman is a Freelance Writer for IGN who attributes his gaming knowledge to the countless hours he spent studying the Melee trophy gallery.