Evolution 2014, held during July 11th through 13th in Las Vegas, will be the largest Super Smash Bros. tournament of all time. There are 970 people registered for the event and over 6 countries represented in the competition. This comes just one year after Super Smash Bros. Melee had made its return to the prestigious fighting game event (coming off a 7-year hiatus) by raising the most money towards a donation rally for breast cancer to earn a spot in the games lineup. Before that point in 2013, Super Smash Bros. had been for the most part a grassroots community, boasting humble numbers in its local and regional events and livestream audiences. It was a gaming scene relatively unknown and unaccounted for at the time — you probably had played the game but didn’t have a reason to get involved in the tournament scene. A tournament like Evo would prove to be just what Smash needed to get its second wind.
A lot can change in one year; since Evo 2013, Melee is experiencing a revitalization like nothing ever seen before in the gaming world and is well on its way to becoming the next big eSport. Melee at Evo 2013 shattered livestream viewership records and had an electrifying event which proved that, despite being more than a decade old, the game was a competitively viable title that still had life left in it. As a testament to the 180-degree turn the community has made, Nintendo, who, during last year’s Evo, almost pulled the plug on the competitions livestream by issuing a cease and desist to the Evo staff days before the event (a decision that was ultimately revoked shortly after), are now official sponsors for Evo 2014. 100-person tournaments are a common place as well, as Smash has seen a massive resurgence of interest this year.
So what does this all mean? Simple: the community is elevating to levels never seen before and is, unbelievably, still growing! Greatness hangs in the balance at Evo; someone will emerge as the best in the world after the event concludes. Evo 2014 is the next chapter about to be written in a storied saga of a game that, against all odds, has grown into one of the most exciting titles in eSports. Smash has evolved in just a few years from a quiet whisper to a large roar in competitive gaming and this weekend, the sounds of Smash will be heard worldwide. The question is, which player will make the loudest noise?
With the competition ready to begin in just a few days, here is an introduction to the players you should look out for in the competition. These are the stories of people who push the games limits, who make you say to yourself, “Is that really possible?”, and have shown that, even though Smash can be an amazing party game, it is a competitive phenom as well.
The favorites to win Evo 2014: The Group Known As “The Five Gods of Melee”
Mango is the favorite going into this event and is widely believed to be the best Melee player in the world. He won Evo last year in dominating fashion and is coming off recent major event wins at MLG Anaheim and Kings of Cali. Formerly a Jigglypuff player, a character known for its simplistic controls and gameplay, Mango began to experiment with the incredibly difficult to master space animals, Fox and Falco, to prove that he was not just a one-trick pony. He did just that, as he is the best Fox player in the world and arguably the best Falco as well — a player feared and loved for his incredibly aggressive and technical style. Mang0 wants to win this bad, being quoted to say that “there’s nothing I want more than to win Evo this year.” A win this weekend would solidify himself as the greatest Smash player of all time.
PPMD is next in line to take the throne in Super Smash Bros. Melee this weekend. The Falco and Marth main is the champion of SKTAR 3 and also Apex 2014 — the largest collective Super Smash Bros. competition — and has had an extremely impressive record in 2014, not dropping a set versus an opponent all year up until MLG Anaheim where Mang0 stole the show. PPMD encapsulates perfect textbook play, with a fundamentally sound play style that is nearly impossible to crack. He stands out as one of the most intelligent players in the community, as someone who has always stressed the importance of developing the proper mental skills as well as technical skills to exceed at the highest level of competition. He feels confident going into the event and wants to prove the early rumors correct in 2014 that were pointing towards him being the next champion of Melee. It is very likely that we will see him in the Grand Finals of the competition versus Mang0, a player he has defeated in the past and will need to take down once again if he hopes to break out as the best player in the world.
EMP P4K Armada
Armada is a European Peach main who burst onto the North America scene, which he took by force using a character the many believed did not have the potential to win a large event. He was formerly the undisputed best player in the world, a title he had retired with until the recent resurgence of Smash brought him once again into the competitive scene. His journey back to the top has been quite the ride — early rumors were circulating that he would not be able to mimic his previous success and he was too far behind the competition to catch up to the current meta-game after his hiatus. The Swedish native has shown that he is still as sharp as ever, winning major events this year, such as Super Sweet and CEO 2014, where he defeated the likes of Mang0 and more. The Peach main is notorious for his precise spacing and intense approach to the game, refusing to accept anything less than first place. Armada is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet outside of tournaments, but if you play him in tournament, he will not let up at all. A victory at Evo would set him back on course to reclaiming his title as best in the world and, after falling just short to Mang0 in the grand finals of MLG Anaheim, you know he is gunning for first.
EMP P4K Mew2king
Mew2king is one of the most iconic Smash players off all-time and is probably the most recognized Smasher in the current meta-game because of his skill in every iteration of the series. He is a player who earned the nickname “The Robot” as a result of his near frame-perfect execution and mechanical ability to break the game down in a “flowchart-esque” way. He has shown glimpses this year that he has the skill necessary to win an event of Evo’s magnitude, but there has always been something that has held him back, whether it be a mindset issue or an excuse about not having the right controller. He has made noticeable improvements in the past two years to strengthen his competitive mindset and has even had periods of dominance where he looked nearly unbeatable, but he will need to fully overcome his personal challenges if he wants to win the event. If the Sheik, Marth, and Fox player can keep it together and play to his full potential, he will be in the running to sweep Evo 2014. Mew2king’s biggest enemy is himself at these kinds of competitions, so if he manages to overcome these setbacks and not crack under the pressure, we may see the return of the King.
Despite being part of the “5 Gods of Melee,” the Jigglypuff player from Florida has never had a period in the competitive scene where he was considered the absolute best in the world. Known for his consistent play style, placing top 5 at almost every major event, Hungrybox has proven that he can rise to levels above the rest of his competition. The challenge that Hbox will have to endure is whether he can string together a tournament run where he defeats all of the Gods in one weekend. Out of the top five, Hungrybox likely has the most to prove to himself. With the competition getting better and better at every event, his ranking at number 5 in the world is slowly starting to slip away. A disappointing 7th place finish left him wanting more from himself at MLG Anaheim and he will need a solid performance this weekend to tame the surge of talent fighting for his spot on the Mount Olympus of Melee.
The 3 Underdogs
aMsa embodies what it is to be a Super Smash Bros. player. The Japanese Yoshi main made his debut in the United States at Evo 2013 where he left a lasting impression on the entire community with his red dinosaur. Taking a character that is widely believed to be low-tier — read: not tournament viable — and spinning its meta-game on its head, aMSa has emerged as a breath of fresh air into competitive Smash Bros. He is easily one of the most entertaining players to watch and has become an instant fan favorite due to his insanely technical and flashy play style. Last weekend, he defeated Mew2king’s Sheik in a match-up that is widely considered to be terrible for Yoshi. This is a player who has shattered expectations for what high-level Super Smash Bros. Melee looks like. Despite the fact that Yoshi is severely limited compared to the strongest characters in the game, aMSa has still managed to find success in tournaments with his unconventional yet deadly approach to the game. He will need to bring all of his tricks to Evo if he hopes to win, but he is no stranger to bad match-ups and has shown that he is capable of causing upsets. He believes in himself and always enjoys himself when he plays — sometimes, that is all you need to spark a championship run.
Axe is the best Pikachu player in the world and is riding off of the momentum from placing Top 5 at MLG Aanehim, where he netted an impressive victory over Hungrybox. The Arizona player single-handedly proved that Pikachu was a viable character, bumping him all the way to top 10 on the tier list after being seen as one of the weakest on the roster for a majority of Melee‘s meta-game. There is no other Pikachu like Axe’s at this level and after MLG, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find the same success he had in Anaheim. His play style is reminiscent of aMSa’s mentioned above: Axe plays without any fear or limitations.
Leffen is a rising star in the Smash scene and is believed to be next in line to replace Hungrybox as the 5th God of Melee if he keeps up the pace he has been on this year. The European Fox player has been tearing through the competition in 2014 and has impressive placements, including 5th at MLG Anaheim, which put him in the running to be the odds on favorite to win the event outside of the five Gods. The intriguing part about Leffen is his heel personality. He is known as the “villain” of the Smash community because of his uncensored persona and confidence to win, which has earned him his fair share of fans and haters. Leffen is a rare type of player, as someone who thrives off the energy of an entire room cheering against him. It will be very interesting to see how the Evo crowd receives him and how he responds to the pressure this weekend.
These are the players who will set the tone for the competition this weekend and have the best chance to win the entire event. A win at Evo 2014 would go down forever in Smash history, as this will be the most stacked and high profile event that competitive Smash has ever seen. A victory would be monumental for each of the players mentioned careers and you can bet they are all hungry to show that they should be considered the best in the world. It is hard to predict how things will shape up this weekend, as there are a lot of dynamic narratives at play. Will Mang0 solidify himself as the greatest to ever touch the game, can Armada mimic his former dominance, or will a hidden boss have the tournament run of their lives? The only way to find out is see all the action unfold on the Evo livestream, which will undoubtedly set a blaze to the eSports world one more time.