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Background and context

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is a game available on Nintendo Switch, in which players can choose characters from various video-games and have them fight. While designed as a party game, playable by up to 8 players simultaneously, it is also played competitively, mostly in 1 vs 1 situations.

As there are more than eighty available characters, each having unique characteristics, the game cannot be perfectly balanced, and some are better than others. From a pure competitive point of view, playing the best character could give a crucial edge, even though โ€˜being betterโ€™ is a complex notion depending on the players. This is why establishing a ranking of characters is a recurring topic in the smash scene, especially since it is so subjective.

One reason for this subjectivity also was the lack of extensive data. This was up until, in August 2020, u/Adewotta wrote on reddit a blog post analysing over 600,000 matches, thus yielding a precise matchup chart. I decided to use said matchup chart to compute an automatically generated tier list.

The tier list

R.O.B.
Snake
Palutena
Cloud
Luigi
Sonic
Ness
Terry
Bowser
Wolf
Mr. Game & Watch
Pokemon Trainer
Zelda
Ike
Yoshi
Wii Fit Trainer
Donkey Kong
Samus
Pikachu
Banjo-Kazooie
Pac-Man
Inkling
Mario
Link
Joker
Ken
King K. Rool
Young Link
Hero
King Dedede
Robin
Zero Suit Samus
Greninja
Bayonetta
Roy
Bowser Jr.
Lucas
Captain Falcon
Mega Man
Lucina
Little Mac
Ganondorf
Peach
Toon Link
Jigglypuff
Diddy Kong
Richter
Piranha Plant
Isabelle
Chrom
Ridley
Kirby
Shulk
Mii Swordfighter
Dark Samus
Pichu
Fox
Wario
Duck Hunt
Incineroar
Falco
Byleth
Mii Gunner
Dr. Mario
Ryu
Villager
Ice Climbers
Dark Pit
Corrin
Lucario
Olimar
Marth
Mii Brawler
Min Min
Sheik
Rosalina
Simon Belmont
Mewtwo
Pit
Meta Knight

Analysis

Before any further comment, three observations should be made : - this is not per se a tier list, as tiers are not explicited : as my method actually returns a score for each character, I could probably work this out, but do not really care doing so; - one character (Daisy) is missing : there simply was not any information to rank it ; - in general, characters are not evenly played, thus some of them lack matchup informations and as a result their ranking could be considered flaky. This especially affects echo fighters. While I could have discarded these characters, I did not bother put a threshold and rather decided this is not an important matter.

One satisfying result is that this tier list seems to comply with tier lists designed by actual top players, like this one :

Outside of underrepresented characters, two characters have very distinct placings between these two tier lists : Min-min and Joker. Min-minโ€™s placement can easily be explained by her being a new character, thus getting played by a lot of this players, this ban