Seven Nintendo characters fighting
Image: Sora/Bandai Namco Studios/IGDB

‘Smash Bros Ultimate’, and maining a character: my experience

Have you played Super Smash Bros Ultimate? It’s certainly possible – it’s the best-selling fighting game of all time, with more than 28 million units sold, and it boasts a formidable selection of characters from gaming history. Given the diversity and the breadth, it may come as a little surprise that some players forsake them all in favour of focusing on a single character. This is ‘maining’, and I have a mixed experience with it.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a main is simply the character that you use most often. This is generally because you like the character, because they’re particularly good in the game, or because they have a play style that suits you. It also implies that you’re very good with the character and, as a result, it’s mainly a competitive term – there are players who will dedicate hundreds of hours to honing their reflexes, learning a particular moveset like the back of their hand, and being able to respond to a wide variety of challenges.

Much though I prefer randomness, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t characters I preferred

For a long time, I found the idea of maining a character to be really counterintuitive. If you’re got a fighting game full of so many different characters (89 in Ultimate after the last DLC was through), why would you focus on just one? My selection is essentially always the ‘random’ button, and trying my luck with whoever I’m given – sometimes it works out happy, sometimes not, but that’s the fun of the luck of the draw. On a personal note, the idea of simply using the same character all the time is, frankly, a little boring.

My experience was also affected by a night with someone who was the stereotype of a bad player. When I was involved with the Warwick Student Cinema, we used to hold occasional gaming socials, and one night we played Smash on the Wii U. That night, this guy came along – I’d never seen him before, and never saw him since – and he meant business. Everyone else was picking random and trying their luck – he picked the same character (Fox) every time, and proceeded to dominate the night. When we suggested he let someone else have a go, he told me that he got to stay on because he was the winner, and that everyone else should just get better. He openly laughed at one of the members for choosing Pikachu because it was cute. And then, when one of us fluked a win, he stormed off, and never returned.

To me, that felt like the most miserable way to experience a game, and it kind of reinforced my belief that randomness was the best way to enjoy the game. Whenever I play with my brother, we’re particularly big fans of the Smashdown mode, in which a character is eliminated from the roster after every match – once you’ve had one fight as, say, Ness, they will then be unavailable until the game is over. It’s random and it avoids repetition: a perfect combination.

The idea of spending hours and hours on the same character still bores me to tears

Much though I prefer randomness, though, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t characters I preferred, or ones I’m better with (and on the flipside, ones I don’t like). My brother and I know each other, and we know to worry if certain characters come up. If he’s lucky enough to get Zelda or the Wii Fit Trainer, or if I’m stuck with any of the Star Fox crew, I’m in trouble. If I’ve got Mr Game & Watch, Pac-Man, R.O.B., or Rosalina and Luma, he stays out of my way.

Ultimate is a good game because, in a sense, I can enjoy the best of both worlds. When I’m having fights, I opt for random characters. But then, there’s also the World of Light mode and the Spirit Board – countless one-off battles with an objective, and I often find it’s easier to stick with the same character and just change the spirits around. As a result, I have a space to practice with the characters I like, and I don’t get too bored with them because the aim of the game changes slightly each time (coupled with that, I only play in short bursts anyway – I don’t have it in me for hours of practice).

I don’t know if my view on the most extreme instances of maining have changed – the idea of spending hours and hours on the same character still bores me to tears. But there is a certain comfort in knowing that, when I’m playing on random, the appearance of some characters ups the odds in my favour.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.