Gamers have tested their mettle in the Super Smash Bros. series since the very first days of the Nintendo 64 release. The highlight of the experience has not just been the development of skills, combos, or techniques, but also the chance to master all of these with everyone’s favorite Nintendo characters. All the greats are present, and the stars from The Legend of Zelda series are no exception. Standing at the top of these characters in terms of importance and prominence is none other than the Hero of Time himself: Link.
As Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s release draws near, it’s worth taking a look back at Link’s history in each game. Despite all the fun to be had while playing as him, Link’s impact on the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene has, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired.
Princess Zelda’s Study is a series where we examine the history of The Legend of Zelda to bring you some fascinating (or just plain weird) trivia. In our studies, we’ll explore each game’s development, curiosities within the rich lore of the franchise, and the impact it has had on our culture. From time to time, we’ll also look at Nintendo’s past to unearth some facts about our favorite company.
Even from the beginning, Link has faced an uphill battle. In Super Smash Bros. for the N64, Link was a powerful heavyweight with decent projectiles, range and kill power, but his overall speed and mobility left a lot to be desired. His play style is primarily defensive and focuses on using items to block approaches, but once an opponent closes the gap, the combination of Link’s size, weight, and fall speed makes it very easy to trap him in combos. Added into these problems is his terrible recovery move and options, which give him few ways to return to the stage. This version of Link typically sees no significant tournament results and is often placed near the bottom of competitive tier lists.
Moving onto Melee, Link saw some improvements over his N64 self, but many of his same weaknesses followed. In Melee, Link has a much better approach method and is equipped with multiple low-lag attacks to apply pressure with. His long range and items are also more useful and allow for more setups into combos. However, Link is still weak to combos himself, thanks to his weight and fall speed, which are even more of a detriment in a faster game like Melee. His recovery is also weak and easy to counter. All of this makes Link a poor choice in the competitive scene and leaves him near the middle of the character rankings.
Brawl is the game where things got ugly for Link. He retained his kill power, item play, range, and defensive options from the previous games, but was overall nerfed from his appearance in Melee. His movement across the board is abysmal, and his already lackluster recovery move was weakened, making it one of the worst recovery specials in the game. His aerial game and attacks, which were okay in Melee, are no longer helpful. His weight and fall speed still leave him susceptible to combos as well. In general, Link has almost no favorable match-ups with the majority of Brawl’s roster, leaving him with negligible tournament results and a bottom five placement on the current tier list.
Finally, we have Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, otherwise known as “Smash 4”. This game is an example of the power of patches. Link’s metagame was not prominent during the first part of Smash 4’s life, but thanks to a mixture of time and software updates, his abilities and potential were able to increase. He is not a top-tier character by any means, but his noticeable enhancements since Brawl made him a greater competitive option, with the inclusion of better recovery, more powerful moves that can kill reliably, and a number of combos and kill setups. Still, he retains the same weaknesses now seen throughout the series, and his mixture of laggy moves, large size, weight, and fall speed make him an easy target for combos.
Luckily, this version of Link has been able to earn far better tournament results than any previous incarnation, which has earned him a spot on the game’s tier list mid-level. Much of the credit for his placement can be given to the players dedicated to playing him. Of special note is the Link main T, who earned third place at 2GGC: Civil War, which stands as one of (if not the) largest and most competitively intense tournaments in Smash 4’s history.
Link’s certainly had it rough in the Smash games, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will hopefully deliver on a strong and competitively worthwhile version that the hero deserves. Only time will tell.