When the top 100 Melee players of all time are ranked, the top spot is always going to be one of two names: America’s Joseph “Mango”’ Marquez or Sweden’s Adam “Armada” Lingren.
Both men have a very legitimate claim to top spot, as any Melee fan knows. And sure enough, when PGStats made their own "All Time Top 100" effort recently, they were the names in first and second spot, with Mango prevailing and taking the title of "greatest of all time."
The problem with separating the pair was the same for Panda as it has been for many others: Picking which criteria are the keys to your ranks, and then working along those lines. The problem for PGStats, though, is that the criteria they may have used to put Mango first and Armada second is not just slightly faulty, but is also directly contradicted by other choices made in the same list.
Put simply, when you look at their respective records and the head-to-head, there is a good chance Mango was awarded the top spot at least partly based on his longevity, with the American having been dominant in the states before Armada made his first trip over, and having continued to be a contender since the Swede retired.
While this seems, on paper, to be a fair way to judge things, there is a context that makes it less balanced and reasonable, and choices made a little further down the list also point to contradictory logic being used elsewhere.
We’ll address the second point first, as it’s easier to illustrate. Just behind the two contenders for the top spot were Juan "Hungrybox" Dibiedma, followed by Ken "SephirothKen" Hoang in fourth, and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman in fifth, much to M2K’s chagrin. HBox himself is pretty unarguable in third, and Ken’s position over M2K makes a lot of sense if you choose to value peak performance over longevity. After all, he totally dominated the world of Smash for close to four years at the start of the game’s life.
M2K, on the other hand, was only truly dominant for short periods, but played for far longer, with his elite career lasting ten years, from 2007 to 2017. He was active before that period, but took some time to make the jump from lab monster to a legitimate major threat, and has continued to dabble since 2017, but with far less commitment than before. However, as the sharp-eyed among you will probably recognize, there is a lack of consistency in the reasoning from the PGStats team.
If Mango’s longevity is worth the top spot over Armada’s peak, then Ken should have been below M2K in the all-time list. Sure, he was able to dominate — albeit at a time when the game was far less developed — but only for a few years, while M2K remained a major threat and top-five player for at least twice as long as Ken. By this logic, either M2K deserved fourth, with Mango top, or Ken’s ranking over M2K should have meant Armada was awarded top spot over Mango, using the logic that peak > longevity in this list.
Melee top 100 ranking: Supplementary evidence
There are a lot of other reasons that Mango’s spot should — or at least could — have been lower than it was. It’s hard to say anyone but HBox comes close to the top two, but equally difficult to justify anyone but Armada being number one with context and history taken into account.
The Swede had so much stacked against him in his quest for greatness in comparison with his American rival that a straight results comparison shouldn’t work, but somehow it does, and still comes out with the Swede on top.
From the moment Armada began coming to America, it was clear he was on a different level to the rivals Mango was used to beating. Between 2011 and 2013, Armada entered 15 major events in Europe and the states, winning them all, and he did the same in 2015, winning 10 major events without a single placing lower than first.
This all came despite a bevy of handicaps when compared to his American rival, who enjoyed crowd support at 95% of the events the two attended due to Melee’s US-centric scene. Mango had better practice partners, and more of them, as well as never having to travel outside of his home country.
Despite all of this, the head-to-head shows that during Armada’s time as a motivated player he dominated the world of Smash, winning whenever he made the trip to the states, and ruling Europe with an iron fist until his motivation waned.
With all of that in mind, it seems that the only real way to arrive at the conclusion that Mango is the Melee GOAT is by valuing longevity over all else, which we’ve already seen was not the case for M2K and Ken.
There can be no doubt that Mango is an all-time great, and arguably the most important player in Smash history (as he was Armada’s motivation to travel to the states and prove himself), but when it comes to picking your GOAT, it takes a fair degree of mental gymnastics to put him above his Swedish counterpart.