Since this is the first time I’m posting on Smashboards, I might have a few new readers. For you newcomers, welcome! This is the final in a list of posts covering the victors (and the losers) of Brawl’s competitive scene each year the game has been active. Even though I like to include liberal references of the stats I use to create these rankings, I tend to focus on the storylines, the friendships, and the anticipation that made smash’s black sheep so interesting in competition: even despite everyone’s favorite winged boogeyman. I always include enough context so even someone who hasn’t played a single game of Brawl can get something out my writing, while still providing nods for the veterans that have been with the Wii title since its release. Since this is my last post, there are a few references to some of my older work, so if you’re interested, check out my older RetroSSBBRank posts on my blog. Now, without further ado...
Well, here it is, 2014’s SSBBRank. We started last year back in June and we’ve finally made it to the end. Can you believe it? I don’t know where this blog or account will go in the future: hell, the last two posts haven’t even been on Reddit. Times are changing. I just want to say thank you for reading all of this time and supporting me. Orange_ssbu has been many things to me, sometimes a distraction from work, sometimes a chore, but the support you guys have given me has given fuel to finish each post, however delayed it may be. If you remember, this post was supposed to be released in September of 2019. I keep rambling, enough talk about me. Who were the best players in 2014?
Larry Lurr (Socal)
Aki (West Japan)
20. Kie (West Japan)
As Brawl declined in popularity, dedicated mid tier mains slowly found more and more success as the meta became less and less competitive. Along with Wolf main Seagull Joe (LETS GO MARYLAND) and ROB main 8Bitman, Kie proved that mid tiers could succeed as Brawl entered its twilight era. Many of Kie's detractors said that his skill was simply a factor of "farming 9B". After all, Ice Climbers was Peach's only decent top tier matchup, and, by year's end, Kie was positive on the Osaka giant. Kie had had strengths outside of his record with Japan's #2 though. He held a even record on Honorable Mention Aki and remained Top 5 in Japan through the whole year. By Smash 4’s release in 2014, Kie had established himself among the best in Japan and the most skilled in the world.
19. Mr. R (The Netherlands/Europe)
Similar to most of players in 2014, Mr. R took a step back from stiff competition this year, possibly to put his all into what is now considered his most accomplished game: Smash 4. After all, in just the next year, he would place 3rd at Apex, 2nd at EVO, and generally be considered a solid Top 5 player. However, in the year before his ascent to international fame and respect in smash circles, he wasn’t the star studded champ that he would be known as in Smash 4. Hell, many were hesitant to call him the best in Europe. Although he was the highest placing European at Apex, he didn’t even play at SKTAR and the only tournament he attended with the top European competition present, he lost, falling to long time rivals QuiKsilver and Leon. In fact, if you just look at his results in just Europe at the time, you could argue him 4th in Europe; yeah, he wasn’t looking too good in all fairness. That’s why that 9th at Apex helped him so much. Although 9th may not look very remarkable, the wins over Tyrant, Leon, and FOW proved invaluable for his end of year rank. Overall, even though Mr. R was far from his high water marks in the years to come, his consistency and set wins proved his spot among Brawl's elite.
18. Anti (Tristate)
You’re probably catching on to the theme by now: whether out of disinterest in Brawl, preparing to go all out for Smash 4, playing more of the shiny new Project M, or even trying their hand in Melee, most Brawl players took a step back from competition in 2014. Anti was no exception. Right before his fantastic 2015 and stellar 2016, he travelled to just a single tournament the whole year. By making it to #18, you can probably tell that he made that one tournament count. On his way to 2nd, he beat up and comer Xzax, lost to Mew2King in Winners Finals, beat Xzax *again*, then beat Mew2King in Grand Finals just to lose to him in the bracket reset. It was a long day for the long time Brawl veteran but it proved that he still had some steam left in the game he loved.
17. Rain (East Japan)
Like many others that I’ve already talked about, Rain was another veteran that took Brawl’s last year more relaxed than normal. In his case, it was because of a return to Melee, a game he had excelled in back in 2004 - 2010, when he was considered among the best in Japan. At the legendary Melee tournament the Jack Garden Tournament in 2005 with Ken, he defeated the tournament’s runner up and visionary Falco main Bombsoldier in Winners bracket to eventually place 5th. No one could deny that he was legit at that game. But back to Brawl, even though Rain only played at one tournament the whole year, just like Anti, he made that one tournament count. He placed 3rd at this one tournament, Umebura 5, late in the summer. His strong run saw him getting wins on Otori, Kamemushi, and more. It’s interesting that Umebura 5 wasn’t some Japanese oldheads tournament where Rain would excel: many of the matchups he played against were his first time, disproving that he required player matchup knowledge to succeed in a big tournament. Either way, Rain ended his lengthy Brawl career with a whimper of sorts. Nevertheless, he would soon go onto be one of the best Japanese players in the early days of Smash 4, placing 26th on the first PGR. Let’s get onto some more players.
16. Kamemushi (East Japan)
Up until now, I’ve been describing player after player declining and becoming disinterested in smash but in 2014, Kameme was the exact opposite: he was just getting started with competition. The ambitious Zero Suit and Wario comain, only 17 upon the beginning of the year, further established himself as one of Japan’s biggest names with solid Top 8s at Umebura 3, Umebura 5, and Sumabato X Final, the biggest Japanese tournament of the year. He ended the year with a positive set record on fellow Zero Suit talent Choco and generally held positive records on every player outside of the Top 25. Kamemushi's only out of top 8 finish the whole year (at Umebura 1) was a result of being criminally underseeded. He had to face the eventual victor of the tournament, Otori, in the first round of winners and, after a notable losers bracket run, had to face his doubles partner Daiki to end the weekend with an underwhelming 9th. He kinda got robbed, right? Even with some solid runs and good wins, 2014 only ended up being a stepping stone in the eventual EVO runner up's lengthy career.
15. Leon (Ontario)
As some may remember, I ranked Leon in the Honorable Mentions on the 2008 Rank. Well, now the European Marth/Peach comain returns six years later… with a twist. During early smash history, the skill of most European smash players was unknown, or, at least, pretty murky. In a community where the Americans were king, to reach any relevance or notoriety, an international player would have to travel to a big American tournament to get reasonable recognition. Thus, when Leon ran circles around his European competition in 08 and early 09, most of the community never gave him a second thought. We’ve heard this story many many times before, of course. International player does fantastic in his home region but no one cares, then he surprises North Americans when he finally does play on their home turf. However, it didn’t exactly happen like this for Leon. For one, after 2008, he wasn’t the best in Europe, and when he did finally travel to the US in 2012, he got trampled by mid level threats, placing 33rd at Apex and 13th at SKTAR. Nevertheless, Leon never gave up, eventually surpassing his more successful European rivals Mr. R and QuiK. How did he do it? By moving to Canada for a year. Ok, yeah, it’s kind of gray area to say you’re the best in Europe when you live in Canada, and of course Leon didn’t move to Canada just to farm the best Canadian players but bear with me. In the many North American locals and nationals that Leon had the oppurtunity to play in during his fateful year long stay, he picked up valuable wins on players like Mew2King, V115, and Mr. R and overall placed pretty well at the tournaments he played at throughout the year. Extra kudos to him for making Peach work against the toughest competitors worldwide.
14. V115 (Ontario)
I remember the first time I heard of V115 was this Kotaku article a few years ago about Brawl players trying to give the game a second wind during Smash 4’s prime. Honestly I was skeptical when I first clicked: everyone knows Kotaku’s spotty track record when talking about smash, or any other video game for the record. Surprisingly, the article gave a cool, albeit shallow insight on the post 2015 Brawl scene and the various tournaments still being held today for the game. At the forefront of the article was V115, a Zero Suit Samus player from Canada, who, after being unenthusiastic about Smash 4 and its successor, continued to play Brawl in about every tournament that holds it. Nowadays, on the 2018 - 2019 ranking for the game, V115 holds #5 in the world, only outplaced by longtime Brawl legends Nairo, ADHD, and Anti (as well as relative newcomer Cody). The Canadian started his now 6 year streak in the top 20 in 2014 as a little known TO in a little paid attention to region in the greater Brawl community. What changed his luck? Leon. Not only did Leon attract renowned Canadian players to compete in southern Ontario but even some nearby American players came to test their skills against the European master. In addition to giving his region some extra attention, Leon’s stay in Canada gave birth to one of the best rivalries in late Brawl history with the ZSS main: soon after their first engagement, they both realized that they were nearly identical in skill. In the few months Leon lived in Ontario, they butted heads all the time in tournaments and untold amounts of times in friendlies. By Smash 4’s release, the two were tied 4-4 in sets, and, with their training, became two of the best players in the world. I already talked about Leon’s impressive victories on Mew2King, Mr. R and Rich Brown, but his rival carried a comparable slew of impressive wins too, most notably Ally, Larry Lurr, and Denti. Although his European rival would leave the land of maple syrup by the summer, the training V115 received would eventually manifest into one of the most successful post-Smash 4 Brawl careers of all time.
13. Nakat (Tristate)
Nakat was well known in the first months of Smash for 3DS as (arguably) the best player in Tristate and (again, arguably) a top 5 Smash 4 player in the world. All of this changed pretty soon upon the release of Smash for Wii U and by Apex 2015, most had forgotten about his impressive string of victories over Nairo, ADHD, and others on Nintendo’s smash installment on their first 3D handheld. What does this have to do with Brawl? Well, like most Ice Climbers players, Nakat was often stereotyped on his come up as a gimmick carried by wobbling. After all, he had a decent Fox but was never a top player until his fateful switch to the Climbers in late 2012. However, the longer 2014 went on, the more people recognized his skill for not just gimmicks, but talent and experience, all culminating to his ascent as maybe the best Smash for 3DS player in the world: all in 2014. What led to this? Along with general consistency against the Top 25, one of Nakat’s biggest strengths this year was his record against ZeRo, who was undoubtedly Top 4 at the time. Where many faltered to pull even a single set off of him and all but one failing to get a positive record on him (even Nairo was negative on the Chilean by the end of the year), Nakat stunned everyone by ending Brawl’s last year with a competitive 4-4 record against the giant. For lack of a better word, Nakat’s 2014 was extremely eventful: from borderline Top 10 in Brawl, to gaining his respect as one of the most skilled Brawl players, to becoming perhaps the best player in smash’s most forgotten installment. Nakat was well on his way to conversations of the greatest smashers of all time. Hell, he got a show deal with Disney out of it at least, right? Talking about the Top 10, who had better results than him?
12. Tyrant (Socal)
I listed Tyrant as Top 20 in the world in both 2009 and 2010 but between 2011 and 2013, the Meta Knight giant consistently fell short whenever he competed, especially compared to his in region peers. While his Socal rivals like DEHF, Rich Brown, MikeHaze, and FOW excelled, Tyrant consistently slumped: the 3rd at Genesis and 4th at EVO of his prime were quickly overshadowed by less than shapely results soon after like 25th at Apex 2012 and 17th at Apex 2013. He remained in the Top 50 during his darker years, but only barely. Compared to his 5th in 2009 and 17th in 2010, I ranked him 28th in 2011, 42nd in 2012, and 29th in 2013, so not befitting of the best in Socal or anywhere near one of the best Meta Knights (as he was conjectured to be during the first years of Brawl). However, Tyrant turned the tides in 2014. Springboarding off of a few regional wins in the fall of 2013 and a respectable 4th at Forest Temple losing to Nakat and ZeRo (two extremely understandable losses), Tyrant rode his momentum into an impressive 7th place at Apex 2014, beating Mr. R, Z, and Shaky. He kept up the heat for the rest of the year, winning every weekly and regional he attended but one (where he placed 2nd below Mew2King so not bad at all). By the time Smash 4 was released, Tyrant had solidified himself among the top Meta Knights once again and the definitive Socal player for the first time in 5 years. What a comeback!
11. Choco (East Japan)
There’s a lot of differences between the American and Japanese smash scenes. Everyone knows about the laws prohibiting gambling that prevent tournaments from having prize pools, and many people already know about the amicable sportsmanship that many Japanese players exhibit. One thing I've noticed that differs between the Japanese and American scenes is this one type of player. We here in the United States like to call them "character loyalists." Outside of maybe a couple exceptions, the majority of Japanese players move onto different characters between games while the States have more of a culture around sticking with a main no matter what. Idk it could be just me. Choco is a notable exception, however. He solomained ZSS in Brawl, rocked her in Smash 4, and still takes names with her in 2020 (currently being ranked 26th on the PGR). You don't see many Japanese pros sticking to the same character like Choco does, that's for sure. Although 2014 wasn’t the first year Choco competed in smash bros, it was the first he reached a significant amount of success. He attended basically every singles tournament held in the country, and placed Top 3 at all of them but one. His paramount performance was at KVO 2014 in May, one of the largest in terms of entrants of the year, where he placed first over the #1 and #2 in Japan (along with other respected Japanese players like Kie, Earth, and Aki). Even though he was one of the older competitors to try his hand at competition at 25 years old, Choco was undoubtedly the world’s most skilled Zero Suit Samus main and one of the best players to come out of Japan in a while.
10. Otori (West Japan)
Although he was at first just a young upstart in the scene, in 2014, Otori was one of most seasoned competitors in Brawl's history. Even though he once again failed to reach his 2012 peaks, the Osaka Meta Knight proved that he still had what it takes to be one of the world's best players. Unfortunately, 2014 would be the last year the smash community saw Otori competing. Along with his twin brother, he never held too much interest in Smash 4 when it came out, and, from 2015 and beyond, with the death of the Brawl community in Japan, neglected to compete in any tournaments. Nonetheless, you can still catch him as an active member of the Brawl discord server to this day, over five years since his last tournament appearance. Even though 2014 proved to be a dull year for Otori compared to his years of past dominance, he still picked up a couple valuable tournament wins. The first of these, Umebura 1, proved to be a great comeback tournament for the Meta Knight main, especially after the last tournament he played at, Piosuma 7, where he received an embarrassing loss in the Meta Knight ditto to Misaka (as well as being outplaced by Kie and Kameme, two players consistently considered below him in skill). Umebura 1 wasn’t just a notable big tournament: it was the first in what it now the biggest tournament series in Japan: Otori proved that he had the chops to fight the swelling amount of new blood in the scene. Although his second tournament victory at Umebura 3 wasn’t as symbolic as the first, he was able to settle the score with Piosuma 7 victor Kamemushi and triumph over some troublesome foes. The last tournament Otori played at, he received a respectable 4th place under RAIN, Edge, and Choco.
What does all of this mean? Basically, even though Otori wasn’t quite the competitor he once was, he still had fire to show the new generation of Japanese smashers. I’d say he ended 2014 as Top 3 in Japan and Top 10 in the world, but everything’s up to debate. 2014 marked the end of the careers of one of smash’s greatest players, but another one of Brawl’s greatest was just in the middle of his lengthy career. That was none other than...
9. Ally (Quebec)
Like many others, Ally took a sort of respite from high competition in 2014: for him, he wanted to focus on his budding Project M skills, in which game he was largely considered the best Ike in the world for a time. His notable PM accomplishments include a strong 7th place at Apex and 3rd at Get on My Level: the Canadian really wasn’t playing around. However, with this new focus on PM, Ally’s Brawl skills suffered, reflected in the lowest rank in the game barely surpassing his #10 spot in 2008. In addition, as he practiced less, he in turn competed less, attending only 5 Brawl tournaments the whole year, giving his already fading glory fewer moments to shine. In comparison, in 2014 alone, Ally played in 8 PM tournaments, clearly signifying his shift in priorities. Still, the Snake/Meta Knight combo had his fair share of highlights before year’s end. At Apex, he defeated Tyrant and Xzax to place 5th, and, at SKTAR, bested Nairo and Vex for another respectable 5th. In the summer, he retained his reputation as one of the best in Canada and defeated the best in Mexico in the Brawl event of Smash Factor 3 (while notably being defeated in Project M by a then 13 year old MkLeo). Overall, albeit an off year in many regards, Ally notched another jewel in his crown of accomplishments after an eventful 2014, just not in Brawl.
8. Vinnie (Tristate)
Although a bit removed from his 2013 heights, Vinnie finished 2014 as one of the world’s best players and Ice Climber mains. All of his previous strengths and weaknesses carried over, of course. Vinnie’s penchant for flopping at majors but excelling at regionals and weeklies stayed the same. In addition, his typical win rates didn’t falter. He still never lost a set to Nakat and typically won against Mew2King all the times they played. Honestly, 2014 was an extremely average year for one of Brawl’s most fatal competitors. If the Ice Climbers extraordinaire improved in anything, it was consistency. Even though he did worse at majors than you’d expect the world’s #8 to perform, his double 7ths at Apex and SKTAR were much better than the 49ths and 17ths he was known for. In addition, Vinnie cleaned up his record on bad losses. Time and time again in the past, he would lose to mid level Tristate players or low skill hidden bosses, even in his prime years, but this year, his worst loss was to someone that was ranked above him. To say the least, it was a giant improvement over his iffy past. Who was the worst player to take a set off the Tristate success story?
7. ADHD (Tristate)
Now as one of the most renowned Brawl players in history and the undisputed greatest Diddy Kong player, in many player’s eyes, ADHD could do no wrong. In a world overrun by Meta Knights and Ice Climbers, he was a respite from the game’s decomposing character variety. Hell, if you look at this top 10, he is the only player to not use either character in some capacity. In addition, while the meta was accelerating towards simple extreme camping, ADHD offered a breath of fresh air with his intricate setups and tricky item play. He even was on the upswing in 2014. Although I only ranked him a single spot higher from 2013, many players noted the Diddy main’s renewed energy in his craft manifesting into stronger results. So yeah, the man was pretty popular. Unfortunately for his fans, though, ADHD only competed in four singles tournaments the whole year. The ones he did play in though, he made every match count. At Apex, ADHD placed a strong 5th overall, trouncing Vinnie, Mr. R and Salem. At SKTAR, ADHD again placed 5th, but now beating ZeRo and Salem in an impressive run. The two other tournaments he attended were only regionals, but he still earned valuable wins on Leon, Zinoto, Vex, and Salem (the last who was bracket fodder for ADHD at this point lol). Couple all of this with no bad losses and a flawless year in doubles with Nairo, and ADHD was clearly one of the best Brawl players in the world.
6. Esam (Florida)
It only makes sense that one of smash’s most vibrant players has one of the most vibrant careers too. Well known for his extreme ups and downs, most would admit that Esam’s career has been a wild ride. As you can probably tell by his 6th place, 2014 was no different. Now unencumbered by the full college curriculum that weighed him down in 2013, Esam had the time and dedication to return to his spectacular heights. Although he never reached as high as 4th place like he did in 2012, he proved his consistency throughout the year as an undoubtedly borderline Top 5 threat, perhaps even Top 5 depending on who you ask. His high placement is contingent mostly on the double 3rd places he had at the two biggest tournaments of the year, Apex and SKTAR. At a time when strong results day in day out were substituted by ridiculous peaks and glum lows, Esam’s stability became a breath of fresh air, and earned him his well needed respect. Along with an impressive even record with ZeRo, Esam finished 2014 with positive records on Ally, V115, Leon, and Salem.
5. Mew2King (Tristate)
Like most people, Brawl’s undoubted greatest of all time player didn't take Brawl as seriously in 2014, mostly to pursue Melee and Project M more. In a few interviews and youtube videos, Mew2King himself said that starting in late 2013, his interest in the game was steadily waning, partly due to the rise of Meta Knight’s one equal, Ice Climbers. In addition, 2013-2014 was the famous “Return of the King”, when the multigame talent returned to Melee in full force, winning the Big House 3 and 16 straight tournaments after it, only being stopped by an impressive 2nd at Apex 2014. Overall, the period between October 2013 and June 2013 was incredibly impressive for Mew2King: aside from being Top 5 in Project M, Brawl, and Melee simultaneously, he won 33 Melee tournaments, 32 Project M tournaments, 15 Brawl tournaments, won his first Melee national since 2007, finished 2013 as the best player in the world in Brawl, finished 2013 as (very arguably here) the best player in the world in Melee, and earned his first win on Armada in his whole career. It was a very, very busy time for him. It only makes sense that he took a break from Brawl at the time. Nevertheless, even on an off year, Mew2King gave the best players more than enough to chew on. Throughout all of 2014, he only lost sets to Nairo, ZeRo, and Vinnie. Let me say that again: he didn't just have not have losing records on everyone else he played, he never lost to them. Those 15 Brawl tournament victories really came in handy. With strong winning records on Esam, ADHD, Ally, Nakat, and many many more, not a single loss outside the Top 10, and a solid 4th at Apex, Mew2King was clearly one of Brawl's strongest players.
Before I get to the Top 4, I would like to express just how close the top of the game was in 2014. For those unfamiliar, the best four players at this point in time (by a frankly wide margin) were a mix of familiar faces and a new challenger. 9B and ZeRo return from 2013’s Top 4 to this year’s Top 4, Nairo jumps a few spots from his 2013 sixth, and a newcomer, Edge makes his mark on the top of the scene as well. For those unfamiliar with Edge, nowadays he goes by “Etsuji” and is currently ranked 34th on the current Panda Global Rankings. What made the four players so close?
Well, going by alphabetical order, 9B was clearly Top 2 in Japan, maybe even the best in the country depending on who you asked. He packed quality, solid performances in Japan and won the second biggest tournament in the United States (SKTAR 3) over Nairo and ZeRo. However, as strong as his results were in both regions, Edge was the clear best player in Japan looking at head to heads and 9B often dropped out or lost when it really mattered. If you just looked at Japanese tournaments, Edge was the best player in Japan, and, arguably the world. He packed impressive highs without being bogged down by the inconsistency that competition often brings. However, out of everyone in the Top 4, Edge had the lowest low, a 7th at SumabatoX 2 and, although I can’t grade him too much lower for this, never traveled to the United States so we’ll never truly know his potential in that year. Nairo had the best supermajor performances out of his peers. However, he held negative records to both Edge and ZeRo and picked up the inconsistency that Edge avoided by placing poorly at a few locals and regionals (although never as low as 7th). ZeRo finished 2014 with a single negative record, a feat he was unique in accomplishing. He also only lost a single local the whole year, sweeping locals and regionals all across the US without much issue. However, he really faltered at big tournaments, finishing 2014 as the only Top 4 member without a supermajor win.
I remember when I was making this post that I often (internally) ridiculed the 2013 - 2014 SSBBRank for having a tie for first, when, in reality, all of the players were this close, albeit Clash Tournaments excluded Edge from the rankings and had a significant gap between ZeRo and the number one ties. This is only my interpretation of the data that I formed with frequent appeals to my friends in the smash community and the Brawl community discord for opinions. You guys aren’t the kind of pitchfork wielding fanbase but, just in case, it’s just my opinion. Onto the Top 4 then.
4. Edge (East Japan)
Even though he is the least well known player in this year’s Top 4, Edge had a solid enough claim as any of his contemporaries. In fact, if he had gone to the United States and won a large enough tournament, he would’ve undoubtedly been the best in the world. However, his lack of travel really makes him one of the biggest what ifs of the year and in all of Brawl. Now I would normally put Edge a bit higher for benefit of the doubt. After all, if you just looked at Japanese results, he was the best player in the country. But picture this: since at least 2010, the Japanese Brawl scene was respected worldwide as one of the best, if not the best region in the world. Otori, Rain, Nietono, and 9B were winning tournaments for years at this point and everyone, even Japanese players expected the scene to slumber down and decline as it entered its last year. Then, out of nowhere, a highschooler started exploding onto tournaments and winning over all of the best players. In the year before, 2013, he was barely considered Top 10 in Japan, and less than a year later, he was undoubtedly Top 2 (if not first) in the country. Even now, though, Edge’s rapid ascension to the top of the game is almost unexplainable. Of course, no one becomes good at smash or any skilled competition without years of training and practice. Yet still Edge’s rise to greatness was just that out of nowhere. One moment he was a nobody, the next, he was on top of the world. Even more interesting than his rise to prominence was his rapid descent into obscurity upon the release of Smash 4. He wasn’t a complete failure in Smash 4, far from it. He started making serious waves in 2017 when he played at a few American tournaments and started doing well in Japan too. His 2015 and 2016 were just that sparse in comparison to his marvelous 2014. All in all, although he has been more and more delegated to a footnote in smash’s overall history, in his prime, Edge made one of the biggest marks on any smash scene in an incredibly short period of time. However, his lack of American results and the lowest lows of any player in the Top 4 inhibit his overall ranking. Even after all of his accomplishments, Edge wasn’t even the best Meta Knight of the year. Let’s look at the two that brought smash’s most infamous character to another level.
3. ZeRo (Chile/Tristate)
The Chilean champion returned yet another year bringing his best to competition. Even though ZeRo split his time between Project M, Melee, and Brawl, unlike many players, his results never suffered in the slightest: in fact, even though he remained the same rank as 2013, ZeRo undoubtedly improved in Brawl; it's just the competition improved a lot more too. With his skills in every active smash game, ZeRo was quickly growing in popularity for the title of the best overall smasher in the world. In total, during just 2014, ZeRo was Top 3 in Brawl, Top 5 in Project M (probably best in the game, depending on who you ask), and Top 35 in Melee, all in one year! It’s no wonder that, when he focused all of his time and energy into Smash 4, that he became by far the best in the world at it. Looking at just Brawl though, ZeRo was playing and performing the same way he had since he started competing. However, even though it came with the same strengths, it was paired with the same flaws. Before now, Zero was always known for doing well at local and regional tournaments and this never changed in 2014. In fact, ZeRo took it to the next level, winning every regional and local he attended except one: that’s 13 tournaments (at one point, 8 in a row). ZeRo’s strengths didn’t end there. He tied with Edge for the least amount of losing records (1) and either won or went even with every other player he faced. This included an impressive 3-2 record with Nairo, 5-0 with Mew2King, 4-1 with Vinnie, 2-0 with Ally, and much much more. ZeRo wasn’t just on top of his game, he had conquered it.
There was just one issue though. Remember when I was talking about flaws? The problem was that even with stacks and stacks of regional tournament wins, ZeRo just couldn’t win a major. And this was a big obstacle to being number one, especially since there were only two, three, or four majors a year at this point. It made sense why, of course. If you have to support your whole family by competing, a big tournament with thousands on the line would give you a bit of pressure. So, even though he swept locals with multiple top 10 players with ease, he could never snatch that Apex or SKTAR prize that he needed to win the meaningful cash prizes. He fell just short of 1st place at Apex, losing to Esam and Nairo, and, at SKTAR, he fell to ADHD and Nairo again to place 4th. Both times he was close to nicking first place, his friend and rival Nairo took it from him. Still, ZeRo never relented. At Apex 2015 the next year, he cleanly won Smash 4 singles on the winners side, notching just the first jewel in a crown of what would become very many. And, before long, the rival who took so many tournaments from right underneath his fingernails would have the roles reversed on him in the tournaments of a new age of smash. Talking about his rival...
2. Nairo (Tristate)
Just like I’ve said in the writeups for a few of the other players, in many ways, 2014 painted a portrait for what was to come in Smash 4. As Nairo was the only American in the Top 4, many players could tell the winds were changing and that international domination was going to be a constant. Just as they predicted, Japan played an even bigger role in the competitive scene in Smash 4 than any other smash game (except for 64) and the best player in the world in every game other than Melee since 2014 has been from outside of the US. Nevertheless, Nairo represented the United States well this year, being considered the best player in the world for most of the year before being closely trumped by 9B in the end of the year. You see, if you just look at results at majors, Nairo had the clear edge over the competition. Looking at the three majors of the year, Nairo didn’t attend one, placed 2nd at another, and 1st at the other. Much better than Edge's general nonattendance and 9B's and ZeRo's spotty records. However, Nairo really faltered in his set records. Somewhat opposite of ZeRo’s incredible local consistency and subpar major performances, even though Nairo reached Grand Finals in every supermajor he played at, he kept getting bested at locals. Don’t get me wrong, as the #2 in the world, he won most of the locals and regionals he played at, but by the release of Smash 4, he was negative on both ZeRo, Ally, and 9B, and he barely held the edge over his longtime demon Mew2King by just a single set. ZeRo in particular was Nairo’s biggest thorn in his side. Even though the New Jerseyan bested his Meta Knight friend at Apex, he only won one engagement between the two until Smash 4 came out, and that was at SKTAR. Every single local that the two faced at, ended up in the Chilean’s favor, time and time again.
In the time I spent creating this post, I asked a few people who were playing at the time and the dichotomy of ZeRo and Nairo was something interesting that I picked up. Supporting his family and himself in a foreign country that he barely spoke the language, ZeRo was under constant pressure to perform well, and, although he usually did, the high pressure events got the better of him and he never could snatch a big trophy. Nairo, on the other hand, was still young and most of the tournaments were within a few hours of his house. He was financially secure and could attend nearly as many tournaments as he wanted, so he didn’t have to take the smaller events that seriously. This made him rather inconsistent: you can’t overlook that 4th at Shuffle V or the 3rd at KTAR 9, but it put less pressure on him to do well at supermajors, where he excelled. The back and forth nature of Nairo and ZeRo and their clashing backgrounds was interesting to watch for Brawl enthusiasts and players at the time, especially since they were the number 1 and 2 in North America. Leading up to SKTAR 3, the last big North American Brawl tournament before Smash 4, everyone was looking forward to who would get the last laugh and establish themselves as the best player in North America, and, possibly, the world. Needless to say, it didn’t go as expected. A dark horse from Japan emerged on top at the tournament, and arguably, in conversations for the best in the world. Let’s talk about him.
1. 9B (West Japan)
In my eyes, the three greatest Brawl players of all time are clear: Mew2King, Ally, and 9B. Everyone knows Mew2King, the unaware yet driven to optimization Meta Knight with a prowess for perfection in every game. Most, too, are familiar with Ally, although for unfortunate reasons lately. His creativity and pure fundamentals with Snake revolutionized the character and made him into one of the most memorable competitors by Smash 4’s release. But what was 9B known for? Few smashers nowadays even know who 9B is, much less know his playstyle. Now, if you've been reading my posts for the last year or so, you'd expect me to use some long drawn out explanation of his strides with his main, like how he was the greatest Ice Climbers player of all time, how he optimized the character to levels never matched before or after, and how he created many new techniques for the character that would popularize them into one of Brawl’s most played characters. Maybe I would go on a spiel about his tournament accomplishments like how he was Japan’s most successful player, how he went on an entire year without losing a tournament, or how he was the only player in Brawl history to win a major in the United States and Japan. But none of these things define 9B all the way. Of course he was a good player, everyone here is a good player, but what really made 9B 9B was the most Brawl thing ever: community. Even though 9B was always a good player, the thing he wanted most was to give back to the community by TOing. Starting in the end days of Melee, he started organizing tournaments in his hometown. As smash grew in size and scope, so did 9B’s love for competing. On multiple occasions he claimed that he never lost a day of practice between Brawl’s release and early 2013. But still, he never let it overcome his duties to the community and helping it grow to where it is now. After all, in the end of the day, the only thing that was left was the community: it wasn’t Mew2King’s discipline or Ally’s creativity or Nairo’s aggressiveness or ZeRo’s drive to improve, it was the community. And it’s only poetic that the voice of the community, 9B persevered in the end.
Of course, this could just be a big stretch. Just because you TO doesn’t make you the “voice of the community” and 9B’s love for smash and helping others wasn’t unique to him. I just wanted to point out what made the Japanese giant keep going. It wasn’t the money, or the “fame,” it was the love of helping others and providing a service to his friends and fellow smashers. And when I said that 9B was going, he really was going. I mentioned earlier that he was the only player to win a major in both Japan and the United States and it was this year that he achieved the feat, notching his first tournament victory in America early in the summer. Just like previous years, though, 9B continued to excel in his home country, albeit with a few more issues. His longtime bracket demon, Kie, the Peach player, returned with more fire than ever, finishing the year positive against the Ice Climbers main by September. In addition, although he never took a full set, Choco suddenly started giving 9B trouble. The biggest obstacle between 9B and total domination in the east like in 2011 and 2013, though, was Edge. In the five sets they played, Edge had the, um, *advantage* 4-1 against 9B and with that many ass whoopings, most players considered Edge the clear best player in Japan. 9B retaliated with his victory at SKTAR, and the two were even again in skill in the eyes of the community. The game point to decide the best in Japan ended up being Sumabato X Final in the heat of the end of summer, less than a month before Smash for 3DS hit stores in the East. And, in the most classic 9B move, 9B dropped out in Winners Semis to help organize the event. Without his biggest rival, Edge won the tournament easily, and the question for best in Japan was still open. These plot twists and close sets were what made making this ranking so hard. When I said 1 - 4 could realistically be in any order, I meant it. However, just 12 days before Smash 4 launched, the two had a climactic (out of tournament) First to 5 match to decide the best in Japan™. The victor? After a grueling 9 games, 9B emerged on top. The voice of the community prevailed, and, with that, 9B, at least in my opinion, solidified himself as the best player in the world. He had beaten Japan. He had beaten America. And he did it all while supporting and growing the community. Brawl had a new champion.
I guess this is it, huh? I would like to thank ADHD and Poyo for the info they gave in my interviews, Poyo again for the tireless fact checking, and Scribe and Strong Badam for helping me get set up on this website. What is the future for orange_ssbu? I'm not sure. Thank you for following me this whole journey though. Since the beginning you guys have been a great fanbase, from the constant post delays to the ever rampant formatting issues to, now, website changes (for some reason). Stay safe and I'll see you another time!
(Oh btw, here's my Twitter. I usually just retweet smash and general stuff, but who knows, I could enter the toxicity that is smash twitter, who knows. Later.)