The new era of Melee is officially upon us. With Zain Naghmi winning his second consecutive Genesis title this past weekend, he makes a strong case for the consensus number one player in the world. Top 8 was filled with other hungry competitors coming for the throne, including IBDW, n0ne, and Jmook. While these players are certainly not newcomers, they look poised to take that next step and reach the mountain top of Melee. In the post-pandemic landscape, it seems the era of the Five Gods may finally be coming to an end.
Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma, a legendary figure in Melee and the general Smash scene, did manage to make Top 8 as one of the few members of the old guard. The innovative Jigglypuff main managed to defeat Arjun "lloD" Malhotra in something of a revenge match before falling to Cody "iBDW" Schwab and settling for a 5th-place finish. However, Hungrybox’s most meaningful match of the tournament might’ve been his Loser’s Top 12 set against another one of the Five Gods – Joseph "Mango" Marquez.
Hungrybox vs. Mango — Defining the Five Gods era
The two titans of Melee have an extensive and well-documented history playing against each other. Their first match dates back to 2009 and they have played at least one tournament set every year since. Mango dominated at first but Hungrybox has gained an edge in recent years.
They have played exactly 95 sets with Mango ahead in the series 45-40. They’ve also squared off in Grand Finals 21 times, including Mango’s victory at EVO 2014. However, Hungrybox actually has an 11-10 advantage in Grand Finals sets.
Early on, an intense rivalry developed as both players mained Jigglypuff, albeit with totally opposite styles. Hungrybox plays slow, patient, and defensive while Mango is aggressive and takes a lot of risks. This difference of opinions caused friction between them, as Mango was not a fan of Hungrybox’s campy, play-to-win strategy. On the other hand, Hungrybox thought Mango was immature and was a poor representative of Smash despite his unquestioned skill.
Over time, Mango switched to Fox and Falco while Hungrybox went on to revolutionize Jigglypuff as a character. They are now two of the most iconic figures in Smash both in competitive formats and content creation. Their feuds also diffused as each found more success and the respect for one another became undeniable.
The Hungrybox and Mango rivalry continues at Genesis
At Genesis 8, the dueling Gods met once again in a Top 8 qualifier match. Hungrybox was coming off his first loss of the weekend to n0ne in an extremely close 3-2 contest. Meanwhile, Mango had been scraping and clawing through the Losers Bracket after dropping an early set in Pools to Fizzwiggle.
Unfortunately, the latest chapter in their epic saga was not exactly memorable. Hungrybox routed Mango 3-0 in a quick and decisive victory.
Going off their lofty standards, the match was pretty uneventful compared to previous matchups. Hungrybox even tweeted: "What just happened."
For instance, they last faced off at Smash Summit 11 in Summer 2021. There Mango defeated Hungrybox 3-1 in both the Group Stage and Losers Finals en route to lifting the Summit trophy and cashing in nearly $50k in prize money. While Hungrybox got his revenge at Genesis 8, he still ultimately fell short of his goal to win the entire tournament. The significance of their most recent meeting has little to do with the result or the outcome. Rather, it is a testament to both players’ longevity and their unparalleled impact to Melee’s history.
With Armada, Mew2King, and PPMD all retired from competing consistently, Mango and Hungrybox are the lone members of the Five Gods of Melee still active today. There was once a time where one of these players was all but guaranteed to win any given major tournament for Melee. That reign began to subside with the emergence of names like Leffen, Plup, and now Zain.
The future of Super Smash Bros. Melee beef
Even with new generations of Melee pros passing them by, Mango and Hungrybox remain two of the world’s top players by a wide margin. Their exemplary models of excellence and consistency across more than a decade of competing are rivaled by very few in the FGC. The mere fact that we still get to see these living legends play at the highest level is a treat for all Smash fans.
Following Top 12 finishes at Genesis 8, neither Mango nor Hungrybox are showing any signs of slowing down. Mango recently confirmed he will be attending Pound this weekend after reaching a sub goal on Twitch. Following his Top 8 qualifier victory against Mango at Genesis, Hungrybox took to his stream to thank his supporters for encouraging him to keep competing online through the pandemic. He also mentioned that the thrill of offline Melee has him hungrier than ever to reclaim his throne.
The most impressive thing about these players’ drive to succeed is that it may not even be necessary. Both Mango and Hungrybox are two of the biggest streamers in fighting games, averaging thousands of viewers any time they go live. On top of that, they have each won countless tournaments and seemingly reached every possible achievement there is in Smash.
They have nothing to prove to anyone, yet their passion for Melee and the spirit of competition keeps them from walking away. This type of dedication is unheard of in modern esports, where pro players turned successful streamers almost never return to competitive play. Just another quality that separates Mango and Hungrybox from their peers in gaming.
While Hungrybox’s 3-0 dismantling of Mango at Genesis is largely forgettable, the aura surrounding the match is what truly matters.
These players are some of the forefathers of competitive Melee and helped shape it into the global phenomenon it is today. They’ve also done wonders for the Smash community and FGC alike by hosting tournaments, promoting players, and bringing fighting games to a larger platform. Their work ethic, determination, and fabled performances are why new players look up to them as GOATs. Mango and Hungrybox have already raised the standard for Melee two times over, but we can’t wait to see what more they have in store for 2022 and beyond.