As the year 2021 draws to a close, we at Inven Global are looking back at the players, casters, events, and games that made this year of competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee so special. In a year of turmoil, the Smash community continued to thrive and bring some incredible competition.
We're excited to present the second year of the Inven Global Awards (IGA). Voted by the editorial crew of Inven Global, along with some of the game’s most well-respected players, casters, and community figures, the IGAs celebrate the many strong facets of Melee in 2021 — the best players, casters, content creators, etc.
We’re in one of the wildest eras in Melee’s history. There’s loads of diversity in the meta, several excellent players capable of winning a major, and a ton of exciting storylines built throughout the year. Here are the cases for each of these players.
Fans can also vote for the content piece they think deserves it the most, and the player with the most votes will receive the IGA Community Award.
While you can argue if you don’t think he was the best player of 2021, Zain was the gold standard. It was always news whenever Mango defeated him, and his loss to iBDW was one of the biggest moments of the latter’s year. Though he didn’t win an offline major this year, he was always seen as the bar.
While he was absent from every in-person tournament outside of the two Smash Summit events, Zain’s dominance online alone allows him to maintain his elite status. Along with Mango, he was just so much better than everyone — he eats spacies for breakfast, floaties for lunch, and everyone else for dinner. Almost every event saw him juggernaut his way through to have any round against his rival.
Even in the few sets where someone else beat him — it was never a loss he seemed gassed or just playing poorly, a position Mango sometimes found himself in. Every set someone’s taken off of Zain, they had to duel with him till his sword was down to the hilt. Another great year for his growing legacy. Hopefully we will soon see him in more regular competition.
Also, had to mention, his Roy is nice.
Joseph "Mango" Marquez
In six tournaments, Mango may have the strongest argument for being the best player in the world. His short play time throughout the year probably matches that of a UFC fighter — he was just that good that no one could discount him refusing to attend many events.
Explaining the mechanics of why Mango is good at Melee feels redundant at this point — he’s still the versatile, clutch, and hyper-technical monster he’s always been. He didn’t add anything game-altering to his toolkit — what works, works. The point to focus on is that he’s still doing it. His win at Smash Summit 11 was the most notable of the year — the narrative of the event, the skill of the opponents, and the insane manner in which he clutched out a win. Then, without even having a warm-up event like Zain for Smash Summit 12, he somehow almost won that as well.
There wasn’t much data from this year to judge Mango on. Usually, when someone hasn’t played for months, someone will question if they’re honed enough to be ready for competition again. Mango went missing for months at a time. And even still, no player, commentator, or fan questioned his supremacy. That’s how good he is right now.
Cody “iBDW” Schwab
One word describes 2021 for iBDW: catharsis. The standards for the Fox main this year were sky-high — no more top results. At the end of 2020 he proclaimed he was sick of always being considered third, and would do anything in his power to change that. With how much Mango and Zain were wrecking faces, it was a tall order.
And yet, he did it.
The beginning of the year saw him placed back in the bronze prison he was determined to escape from, and continued grinding. While one could argue that iBDW was perhaps the most talented Fox player in the world, his mental fortitude wasn’t as sturdy as Zain or Mango’s. And besides, most of his best results were online — could he even stand up to the pressure of an offline event?
As the months went by, iBDW overcame every hurdle. His dominant win throughout Riptide 2021 showed what a monster he was in peak form, but already the question became if he could do so against his two demons — the one’s conveniently ranked right above him. Smash Summit 12 was everything going right for iBDW. We saw the ridiculously talented and well-practiced Fox now with ice in his veins — winning against the best even with his back against the wall. Even with such high expectations for the year, iBDW somehow met them.
Justin "Plup" McGrath
Considering his in-game speed, it’s fitting how gracefully Plup hit the ground running during his return this year. After taking a break near the end of 2020, he didn’t compete in a 2021 event until April. When he returned at NA’s LEVO #12, it was as if the Plup Club had never closed. Pushing Sheik’s speed and platform movement, he once again made his main look unfair. He kept that going throughout the rest of the year — creating one of the best tournament resumes despite his four-month absence.
Though his absence at some of the most consequential events is a bummer, making the finals of Riptide 2021 and winning the Smash World Tour 2021 Melee Championship easily make up for it.
Perhaps one of the most impressive parts of Plup’s play this year is his adaptation. Think about how remarkable coming back after several months away from competition is for the Slippi era. Every player was grinding to try to grind him — a fate several of his formerly elite brethren have faced. Someone like John "KoDoRiN" Ko has slashed every Sheik in his path, yet Plup finds an answer. Very few can find an answer for him, though.
Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett
As high-tier characters continue being optimized, someone is bound to question the viability of Captain Falcon. As history keeps proving, though, Wizzrobe is bound to prove it. He did just that in 2021.
All throughout the year Wizzrobe made a strong case for being a top-five player. He never placed outside of the top eight in an event and had great runs at Smash Summit 12, Summit Champions League - Season 2 Week 3, and Mainstage 2021 — winning the latter two. Earning his second offline major win, it should come as no surprise why Wizzrobe is so revered.
Fans are almost spoiled at this point with how incredible it is to have a Captain Falcon player competing at this high of a level. Wizzrobe isn’t just a lucky duck bathing in Cinderella-story runs, his skill floor is so high that it’s expected he’ll be near the top. The craziest part: he’s only speeding up. His tech skill, neutral game, and overall game sense have never been so polished. Paired with his already elite tech chasing — he’s ever closer to the complete Captain Falcon. With what he accomplished this year, it shouldn’t be shocking if we see it sometime soon.
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
What has your vote for best Melee player of 2021?
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.