There is a tier list.
Most Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players will agree to a general placement of fighters. Like Pikachu is S-tier and almost nobody will dispute this. The Pokemon is a rushdown fighter with great recovery, edgeguarding, and combos. It's also common knowledge that Ganondorf is pretty low on almost all accepted tier lists because his recovery just sucks.
But that doesn't mean nobody is using Ganondorf. In fact, despite Ganondorf's crap recovery and the ease in which the lumbering fighter can become combo food, Japanese players voted him the second-most popular fighter.
It's actually quite common to find mid and low-tier fighters in Japanese tournaments. While there is still a meta and accepted tier list — Joker and Lucina are wreaking havoc on Japan's online server — I was highly entertained by the eclectic mix of fighters in the Smash World Tour Ultimate Championship bracket.
"The joy of playing low-tier fighters is learning a character and creating a playstyle all your own."
You could see crazy plays from surprising characters like Ice Climbers and Min Min. Japanese players also favored Pyra over Mythra, even though players in North America automatically confirmed that Mythra was the better of the two swords thanks to her recovery and incredible speed.
One of my all-time favorite SSBU players to watch from any region is Takuma "Tea" Hirooka, the best Pac-Man player in the world. He's also the fifth-best player in Japan and ranked 12th on the PGRU. Pac-Man is not low-tier by any means but he's a complex character that you don't often see in the competitive scene.
The way Tea has mastered Pac-Man is mesmerizing to watch. He knows exactly what to do in almost every situation, catching opponents in crazy combos that only a player like Tea can pull off. His opponent will get hit by Pac-Man's Galaxian Starship, Tea will grab it again, throw it at them again, and then leap over the stunned enemy, dropping a hydrant right on them, leading to a KO. Like, come on...
Almost everyone can agree that it's more satisfying and entertaining to watch than seeing a Pikachu main pull off a string of combos. That's the entire point of Pikachu. He does combos. He's fast. We all know this.
But Pac-Man isn't automatically good in everyone's hands. This is a character you have to master. You have to grind this fighter, learning their in's and out's, strengths and weaknesses. You have to learn or create your own combos since you probably haven't played against many people using the fighter. There also aren't many pros to watch, streaming combos and tips for the fighter.
At the same time, your advantage is that opponents don't know what to expect. I am a Ridley main and my opponents' most-used excuse is: "I've never played against Ridley before." Of course, I use this as well (when it's true). There's no denying that I have an advantage against some opponents who don't know how far Ridley's moves can reach or weren't aware of how fast his forward tilt is. Some opponents aren't even aware that Ridley has three jumps and will time attacks based on two, allowing me to punish them pretty easily.
"It's been a lot more enjoyable going into battles as Ridley. People underestimate him. And they also underestimate me, believing I don't know anything about the coveted tier list."
But for me, the joy of playing low-tier fighters is learning a character and creating a playstyle all your own. The creative freedom with Ridley is just refreshing. Obviously, you can make up whatever random stuff you want with any character, even Lucina and Pikachu. But there's no denying that there's an effective way to play them that put them in S-tier.
Meanwhile, Ridley is sitting comfortably in the middle. It's not like there's a playstyle that makes him undeniably have an advantage at all times. Instead, you come up with your own ways of improving the character. How can you surprise opponents? What can you do to make Ridley a bit less punishable?
Also, Ridley's down taunt is the best in the entire game and this alone makes him a worthwhile fighter in my humble opinion. This is the only taunt you need. This is the only taunt that should be in the game.
Before Ridley, I was a Yoshi main. While I still play Yoshi, I feel that a lot of opponents already know what to expect.
"Yep, here comes the egg throw. Luckily I've seen this 2304832048 times and already have a plan in mind."
I tried to switch it up. I watched a few pros do their thing with Yoshi but it was hard to emulate for me. I'm bad at copying things. You should see me playing Just Dance (as in, you shouldn't). I felt a pressure to perform, especially when I'd select him and other players would say, "Oh, here comes Yoshi."
It's been a lot more enjoyable going into battles as Ridley. People underestimate him. And they also underestimate me, believing I don't know anything about the coveted tier list. They also don't know just how long certain things last or how far Ridley's moves reach. Sometimes they don't even know certain moves exist. And since they haven't played against many Ridleys, they don't know exactly what to expect. Everyone plays Ridley differently since we all came up with our own styles when the game came out.
Don't be afraid of picking whichever fighter you want in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Unlike Melee, almost every fighter in Ultimate has a chance to excel. They all have various strengths and styles that can make them tough opponents with enough dedication.
Of course, there will always be characters that have an easier time being competitive. But that doesn't mean the lower-ranked fighters CAN'T be competitive. It might just take more time to figure it out. But that's the fun of the game.
P.S.: This is not me trying to get fewer people to play swordies so I don't have to face them. Definitely not.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.