In the first Super Smash Bros. game, released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, there was, out of twelve playable characters, just one woman: Samus Aran. 1)I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid. That’s 8.3%. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube, the total characters goes up to 25 (if we count Zelda and Sheik, who we’ll call male, as separate) and the women went up to 3 with the addition of Princess Peach and Princess Zelda. We’re up to 12% now!
Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii upped the playable characters to 39 (again, counting characters that can change mid-battle as separate) but only added one woman: Zero Suit Samus. Seeing as Zero Suit Samus and Samus Aran are exactly the same person, just with different gear, I choose not to count her as a “new” character. That brings the percentage down to a paltry 7.9%. Yikes.
Things are changing, though. Pardon me for throwing more math and numbers at you, but out of the eleven new characters that have so far been announced for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, seven are women. 2)This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player. That right there is a whopping 63.6%. So, out of the 36 playable characters confirmed so far, and counting Zero Suit Samus and Power Suit Samus as separate characters because the game insists we’re now at 30% of the game being women. 3)ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting? Not a majority but it’s getting closer to the percentage of people in the real world that identify as women.
Okay, we’re done with numbers now. Here’s what all that means: they know. Masahiro Sakurai, Nintendo, Bandai Namco, everyone who’s working on this game knows. They know that making everything pink and gendered isn’t the cheat code to make games women want to play. Who knew!
That sounds vague. Let me explain a little bit further. Nintendo has always been a family-friendly company but only recently have they started targeting the family demographic. 4)The release of the Wii in 2006 is, in my opinion, the turning point. As I mentioned in passing in my article on EA Access, Nintendo does its own thing. Though they still make games for “””hardcore””” gamers, the majority of their titles are meant to be enjoyed by the prototypical family.
Most of the Wii U’s top sellers—Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land—are games that allow four or five people to play at once. 3D World in particular allows for a great deal of representation: out of the five playable characters, two (Peach and Rosalina) are women. Picture if you will a family playing this game. The young lady searching for a playable character that, at least on the surface, is “like” her doesn’t have to settle for a boy. There are two princesses to choose from. 5)Yes, yes, I know Rosalina is only unlockable near the end of the game.
Let’s add Super Smash Bros. to the mix because it will no doubt be one of the top sellers for the Wii U and tons of families are going to play it. It’s going to send a much better message to women in general than its predecessor. Say I’m reading too much into it if you want to, but let’s say you’re the same young lady from before trying this game for the first time. As opposed to Brawl, where there are only three female characters to choose from on the character select screen, now there are at least eleven.
Do you want to be a cool blue-haired lady with a sword? How about a tiny and cute villager lady? Or do you want the Mii you made to fight for you? What about the Goddess of Light? Maybe you’d like to be one of the princesses—there are three now. There are now many ways to be a woman and kick ass—something absolutely possible in real life but not that possible in Super Smash Bros. up until now.
You might saythat it’s ludicrous to imagine a young girl playing a Super Smash Bros. game. Of course it is! Up until now there wasn’t really anything there for them. The only woman in the original SSB wore a suit of protective armor and the next two games added just two more women. Now there’s a great deal of variety for those young girls to find someone they like and play as them. Who knows, maybe they’ll like them so much they’ll check out the series they were pulled from!
This entire article is dependent on hypotheticals, yes. But it’s absolutely realistic to imagine someone playing the new Super Smash Bros. for the first time, seeing how cool Lucina is with her sword, and wanting to know more about her. Fire Emblem: Awakening is right there. I use that example specifically because Roy and Marth’s inclusion in Melee was exactly what got me (and many, many others) into the Fire Emblem series as a whole.
Regardless of whether or not they’re setting out to include more women intentionally, Nintendo/Bandai Namco/Sora Ltd. Is opening a lot of doors previously left closed. Ubisoft is still reeling from the awful comments about including women in Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Meanwhile, Super Smash Bros. just keeps introducing new women.
The expansion isn’t just limited to SSB. Hyrule Warriors, which comes out for the Wii U in September, has ten confirmed playable characters so far, with seven of them being women. 6)This article was written before the Hyrule Warriors Direct on August 4, which introduced Zant, Ghirahim, and Ganondorf as playable. Part of being a family-friendly company making family-oriented games is, funnily enough, making games the whole family can play. Everything I said above applies to Hyrule Warriors, though I’ll admit that it’s less likely that a casual gamer will step into it.
And obviously, with two long months to go before the first of the two SSB games sees its release on Nintendo 3DS, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Will there be any more newcomers? What characters from previous games got the ax? In the interest of the theme of this article, let’s make some recommendations. These aren’t predictions, per se, but they’re realistic enough to where there’s a chance they’ll actually happen and they’re stuff (I believe) the game should do anyway. Without further ado…
Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Mama (I think that since she does stuff like gardening and camping now we can drop the “Cooking” from her given name) is absolutely a feasible character for Super Smash Bros. If we get one more third-party newcomer I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her. Heck, every single one of the twelve games she’s appeared in has been Nintendo-exclusive. Cooking Mama 5 comes out in America next month. The timing is perfect.
Couldn’t you see Mama being a bit similar to Villager? Obviously cooking utensils would be her expertise but she wouldn’t hesitate to whip out a gardening spade or some tools to pitch a tent from time to time. At the very least, seeing her as an Assist Trophy would be really cool. Plus, I’ll be honest here: I would love to hear the SSB announcer say “Mama!!!!!!”
Currently, there are three characters that have chooseable genders, not counting the Mii Fighters. 7)Those characters are Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and Robin. There are a few more characters which, though it hasn’t been explicitly stated, could easily have chooseable genders as well. Out of the four Pokémon announced thus far, only Pikachu is a species that exhibits gender dimorphism. 8)You can read more about gender dimorphism in Pokémon here. Most of the differences, including Pikachu’s, are weird and sort of unnecessary.
That said, it would be pretty neat to see the minor difference reflected in SSB. It would certainly be a lot cooler than the palette swaps available for Pikachu in previous games, which have just been different types of headgear.
Another possibility for a reskin is Pac-Man. Yes, you know exactly where I’m going with this one. MS. PAC-MAN!!!! If we can put hats on Pikachu we can put a bow and some makeup on Pac-Man and make it a Ms. Pac-Man reskin. Considering she was the title character for the #5 selling arcade game in history I think it’s only fair to show her some love in SSB.
Finally, we have a bit of a stretch: Princess Daisy as a reskin for Princess Peach. It’s actually already sort of the case, though instead of Daisy we have Peach with Daisy’s outfit and hair color. Daisy would, admittedly, need a different voice actor and, in all honesty, might be in no-woman’s-land. She’s too similar to Princess Peach to justify a separate character entirely and yet she’s too different to make a reskin a viable option. Plus, she hasn’t been in a non-spinoff game since her first appearance in Super Mario Land way back in 1989.
One possible option is to embrace the fact that she plays a shitton of sports. Make her a separate character but instead of wearing her dress, put her in some sports gear from one of the spinoff games. Theme her attacks around sports, karting, and partying. She’s characterized as a “tomboy” anyway—I’d love an attack where Daisy just beans people in the head with a soccer ball.
Someone else from Zelda
That’s a bit of a cop-out, yes, but there are so many options. Sakurai said during the roundtable at E3 that the roster has been set in stone since development started so it’s highly unlikely the development of Hyrule Warriors influenced proceedings at all. But, as stated above, the Zelda series is full of women who could hold their own against Nintendo’s best and brightest. Sure, Midna has already been confirmed as an assist trophy, so she’s out of the question, but what about Impa? Princess Zelda’s warrior bodyguard and also one of the Sages from Ocarina of Time is a pretty good résumé. Plus, she was in Skyward Sword apparently. 9)I have not played Skyward Sword.
Considering the three deities in Hyrulean lore are all goddesses it makes sense that a lot of strong women make their living in the world of Zelda, but that’s a topic for another article. Some other possibilities include but are in no way limited to Princess Ruto and Nabooru who are both less likely than Impa seeing as their only major appearances were in Ocarina of Time. Who knows, maybe the success of Link Between Worlds means there’s a Princess Hilda reskin for Zelda on the way.
Remember when Nintendo was really pushing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze earlier this year? Good times. It was a damn good game, for what it’s worth, with the additions of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong as semi-playable characters injecting a good dose of freshness into a game that, worst case scenario, could have been an awful rehash of the previous game in the series. Instead, new mechanics like Dixie’s ponytail-swirl double jump and Cranky’s cane/pogo stick made it a game that challenged you to think creatively, and also die a lot. 10)The rocket-barrel levels…oh, the rocket-barrel levels.
With only two representatives of the Donkey Kong series in SSB, there’s certainly room for a third. And though the Kong family tree is vast and terrifying, Dixie and Cranky stand as the best bets to enter a SSB game considering all the other Kongs haven’t been heard from in quite some time. Except for Funky. He just won’t stop fucking calling and trying to sell me knives.
Anyway, Dixie Kong has something Cranky Kong doesn’t: she starred in a game, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble with her cousin Kiddy Kong. That star power, coupled with her recent appearance in DKCTF, makes her a definite option to consider for SSB, even though she may not be a human.
Knowing my skill with predictions (even though these are strictly recommendations), none of these will be correct. But even if they’re not, SSB and Nintendo have both come a long way already and the hope is that it’s not just a temporary thing but a sign of further things to come.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid.|
|2.||↑||This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player.|
|3.||↑||ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting?|
|4.||↑||The release of the Wii in 2006 is, in my opinion, the turning point.|
|5.||↑||Yes, yes, I know Rosalina is only unlockable near the end of the game.|
|6.||↑||This article was written before the Hyrule Warriors Direct on August 4, which introduced Zant, Ghirahim, and Ganondorf as playable.|
|7.||↑||Those characters are Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, and Robin.|
|8.||↑||You can read more about gender dimorphism in Pokémon here.|
|9.||↑||I have not played Skyward Sword.|
|10.||↑||The rocket-barrel levels…oh, the rocket-barrel levels.|