With 2021 in the books, we here at Inven Global wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on a record-breaking year for one of the oldest esports, giving a bit of shine to some outstanding names. Nobody’s plans went perfect these last 12 months, but there were definite high points, with Melee being the game that just keeps on giving, year after year.
We’re here to bring you our own Inven Global Smash awards, curated and created by our team, and populated and nominated by some of the finest minds in Smash. This is a celebration of everything Melee, and we hope you enjoy reading it and voting as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together.
Today we have the nominations for the caster of the year. With the commentary role one of the most vital parts of the viewing experience in any game, Smash is fortunate to be blessed with an incredible array of talent. So without further ado let’s get into the list of Melee’s five best casters of 2021.
While other casters have stepped back a touch in recent years, Toph’s enthusiasm for Melee seems to be growing, with the long-time caster now making some excellent YouTube content aimed at fans of the esport in particular. His partnership with Scar is rarely seen in the wild these days, partly due to a lack of LAN events — and partly due to Scar’s family commitments — but Toph is able to bring his trademark energy and humor to any desk, and enhance any final with it too.
He’s added to his skillset down the years, with a more analytical, technical approach to commentary coming from him in 2021. Just as comfortable yelling about an insane sequence as he is explaining the minutiae of spacing in a high-level final, Toph is one of the most complete commentators in the scene, if not the fighting game community as a whole. His commentary in 2021 has only added to what was already an incredible body of work down the years.
Waffles is one of the voices of Smash, but his influence goes way beyond the esport, with the infamous wombo combo clip spawning imitators far and wide. His commentary today is a long way removed from the way Smash used to be presented though, with 2021 Waffles capable of bringing the heat when he needs to, but also giving us genuine insight into the game — which is unsurprising given how much he still plays himself.
He’s also done a huge amount for the community away from the commentary desk, with his online events helping the scene stay vital while COVID choked the life out of live events. And while that’s not strictly relevant here it does demonstrate his endless love for the game. When he’s with his old partner in crime, Phil, there is no better duo in the game, but Waffles has become such a well-rounded and high-quality caster that he can create magic in any setting, with anyone.
Oscar "Lovage" Nilsson is a slight anomaly on this list. While Scar, Waffles, and others are known for their energy, hype, and knowledge, Lovage has adopted a slightly straighter, more earnest style of commentary — and perfected that art. His knowledge of the game as a former Big House champion is obviously beyond doubt too, but his ability to survive and thrive in the modern esports meta is equally a testament to his intelligence as it is his love for Melee as a game.
At the online Summit, he worked in a professional capacity more usually seen at sporting events, effortlessly hosting or commentating as the moment required, and when installed on the couch at Summit 11 or 12 he turned up the excitement. As a genuine lover of the game, his enthusiasm for Melee and competition shines through, and he certainly can bring as much energy and excitement as anyone else, when the time is right.
Phil is…hard to quantify. For those who have been around the game a long time, his legacy is secure and without question, but newer fans might not have been exposed to his work as much, given the step back he’s taken from events in recent years. However, you only have to watch him on the Summit couch for five minutes to see his razor-sharp wit is teamed with an incredible analytical brain that still thinks about Melee way more than the average player.
In some ways, Phil has the most range, capable of moving from extreme hype to relaxed, even low-key humor when required — and he’s not afraid to ask a difficult question or point out an error either. As time passes, his commentary only gets better, like a fine wine, and any chance to hear him work should be treated as a privilege by fans of the game he has contributed so much to down the years.
With the reduction in LAN events and changes in his personal life, Scar hasn’t been as constant a presence at tournaments as he once was — but his skills are sharper than ever. As a commentator, he has continued to evolve over the years, from the Puff-hating kid to the most electrifying man in esports entertainment, to today’s more thoughtful, almost philosophical style. But the quality of his work has only improved as time has passed, and that was evident during his appearances at Smash Summit and other major events.
His work in 2021 was basically limited to Summit events, be they online or offline, which added a sense of import and occasion to those tournaments, and his tenure in the scene means there are few, if any, players he isn’t comfortable talking with on camera. Like a lot of names on this list, his chemistry with other casters is as much a result of his time in the scene as it is his talent, but Scar really is the father of modern Smash commentary in many ways, and as much a part of the furniture as Mango or Hungrybox.
The Inven Global Smash Awards panel for Melee
- Alexander Lee
- Austin Watts
- John "Oddball" Popko
- Julian Carney
- Tim Masters
*Note: Nobody can vote for themselves in the Inven Global Smash Awards
Who has your vote for best Melee caster?