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Super Smash Bros. Fans Have Been Tripping Over Themselves For 15 Years

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is celebrating its 15-year anniversary today, March 9, 2023. Below, we take a look at how a subtle new mechanic, tripping, had a massive impact on the competitive community.

Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and Tyrell “NAKAT” Coleman sat next to each other while fighting for their lives in the loser’s bracket of a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament in 2013. Both players, Coleman with the Ice Climbers and Zimmerman with Meta Knight, took a breath while Zimmerman dashed back and forth as the match began. Suddenly, Zimmerman’s Meta Knight tripped. Coleman didn’t waste a second taking advantage of the moment. He grabbed the Kirby villain over and over again in what’s called a chaingrab, eventually killing him and removing a stock. Zimmerman just looked around the room with a shocked look on his face.

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It was a regular tournament match for both players, but it’s one that’s gone down in Super Smash Bros. history as a pivotal example of how tripping, a mechanic added in Brawl where players will have a miniscule chance to fall over in a variety situations, has been one of the biggest things players at all levels remember about Brawl.

It’s now been 15 years since Brawl introduced tripping to the Super Smash Bros. series, and some players are still tripping over themselves just thinking about the game.

“Tripping is RANDOM,” Mew2King wrote in an early review of Brawl in 2008. “Sometimes you start a match, DASH TOWARD THEM right after the announcer says to start, and you just trip. It’s COMPLETELY random from what I’ve been able to tell these past few hours.”

Fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee were ecstatic in early 2008, believing that Brawl would set the competitive scene on fire. They were excited about new mechanics, new fighters like Pit and Meta Knight, and the hundreds of other additions and tweaks that Masahiro Sakurai and the rest of the development team would introduce.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a 93 Metascore, with many publications applauding its frantic gameplay and robust cast of fighters. It had more characters, stages, and music than Melee while only being in development for 13 months. In those ways, Brawl was a particularly impressive game and an ambitious project.

But many players, from casual fans to the best in the world, could not understand why they were tripping over themselves while fighting on Final Destination and Delfino Plaza.

There are several types of tripping, but the most critical are those that punish you for simply moving. Players believed these mechanics were a direct response to things like dash dancing and other advanced mechanics that competitive players use to move quickly. That sort of tripping–where there is a 1% chance that your character will trip and fall every time you initiate a dash and a 1.25% chance every time you turn around during a dash–has been a tiny thorn in the joystick of thousands of GameCube controllers.

“Random tripping like this is just so strange,” said YouTuber Big Yellow in a video about tripping in Brawl. “It’s such a small thing on paper, but man it’s had such an impact.”

Sakurai has never spoken about tripping publicly, so we don’t know the reasoning behind why the mechanic was added. Some players joke that he was inspired when he ate the pavement on the way to work, while others argue that it was a specific response to how competitive players played Melee. The creator of Super Smash Bros. has said that he wanted to slow things down in Brawl, both so players could use the Wii controller with confidence and to shrink the skill gap between players.

“Also, one of the things I felt when reflecting on Melee was that while a higher speed game is definitely exhilarating and fun, it makes the gap between beginners and higher level players too large, and you can’t really enjoy carefree, leisurely aerial battles,” Sakurai said in a translated interview. “On the contrary, you might say it makes the game rough, but it does shrink the breadth of the game a little. So this time, I made the speed slower, but on that point I think it would be best to think of Brawl and Melee separately, and enjoy them each in their own way.”

Nintendo has implemented mechanics in an attempt to level the playing field before. One example is the infamous Blue Shell from Mario Kart. The original Super Mario Kart didn’t have this item, making the kart racer a test of skill. Mario Kart 64 then added the Blue Shell, which was widely regarded as a “catch-up” mechanic.

“We wanted to create a race where everyone was in it until the end,” said Mario Kart 64 director Hideki Konno in a translated interview. Tripping, like the Blue Shell, was a mechanic that was intended to shrink the skill gap, even though they both lead to some frustrating scenarios.

While other types of tripping remained in future iterations, the tripping caused by dashes and similar mechanics did not appear in subsequent Super Smash Bros. games. Some players use that fact as proof that the mechanic should have never been added to the game in the first place.

“Tripping literally changed gamestate from advantage to disadvantage, or neutral to disadvantage,” said Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player Eric “ESAM” Lew in a tweet.

“[It’s] by far the worst.”

A vibrant community of fans still emerged around Brawl and some modders even came together to build top of Brawl with Project M, a modded version of the game that removed the random tripping mechanic and made a number of other changes.

They loved many of the changes Brawl brought to the series, but don’t want to trip over themselves in order to enjoy them.

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