Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
The Super Smash Bros. series is one of a kind, isn't it? Masahiro Sakurai is a genius for taking a genre as complicated as 2D fighting and opening it up to a massive audience of casual and hardcore gamers alike. The simplified control scheme is easy to learn and difficult to master, the items create tons of chaotic, exciting moments, and the concept of Nintendo mascots fighting for supremacy is just inherently appealing. There's really nothing like it.
Oh, except for a ton of games that saw the wild success of Smash Bros. and tried to replicate it. Now, we can sit here and argue all day about the semantics of phrases like knock-off, clone, or rip-off, but I think we can all agree that these games were undoubtedly inspired by Nintendo's fighting franchise. In honor of the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, let's take a look at all the would-be Smash Bros. competitors that can only dream of being as famous as the original.
Onimusha Blade Warriors (PS2)
Unless you're an absolute Onimusha fanatic who's got the game logo tattooed in bold on your lower back, names like "Samanosuke" and "Gogandantess" probably don't have the same familiar ring as "Mario" or "Ganondorf." But that didn't stop Capcom from turning its survival-horror/action hybrid series set in feudal Japan into a multiplayer brawler. It's a bit like the swordplay of Samurai Shodown on a four-player scale.
Does it do anything unique? Carefully timed critical hits and counterattacks are at the core of Onimusha's swordplay, and those same principles carry over to Blade Warriors' bouts. Also, since floating platforms don't make a ton of logical sense, many stages have you jumping from the foreground to the background to simulate verticality. Cool!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (Wii)
If you're going to make a knock-off, why not hire the guys who helped design the template? TMNT Smash-Up is actually the product of Game Arts, which had a hand in developing Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Sadly, it doesn't topple Tournament Fighters on the Super Nintendo as the greatest TMNT fighter of all time. And because Ubisoft publishes it, you can actually pit Raphael against a Rabbid. Guess who wins.
Does it do anything unique? Not particularly, no. You can win fights by knocking your opponent off the stage or depleting their health bar, and there's a Tag Team mode that lets you swap between two characters a la Marvel vs. Capcom. But beyond those changes, this is pretty much a straight port of the Smash engine with TMNT assets. Could be worse.
Small Arms (Xbox 360)
One of the earliest Xbox Live Arcade games (that wasn't a slapdash Midway port), Small Arms posits what would happen if you gave all the Smash Bros. characters gigantic guns. Shooting trumps punching as you pick from a huge arsenal of Unreal Tournament-style weaponry like chainguns and plasma cannons and proceed to blast the bejesus out of your enemies. The roster is as generic as they come, but this is still the Xbox brand's best (and only) Smash Bros. clone to date.
Does it do anything unique? Because you're aiming guns while you bounce around the stages, Small Arms actually employs a twin-stick control scheme that works to great effect. And because this is an XBLA game, there's actually some DLC--something Nintendo has yet to exploit!
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)
Some people are convinced that no, PSASBR (worst acronym ever?) is not a Smash Bros. knock-off. But come on. It's a fun, frenetic brawl between some of Sony's most recognizable mascots--which aren't very numerous, so a bunch of cool third-party characters made it into the roster as well. Shame that it doesn't feature Spyro or Crash Bandicoot, but the inclusion of niche oddballs like PaRappa and Sir Daniel Fortesque help dull the pain.
Does it do anything unique? Rather than defeating your opponents by rocketing them off the stage, super attacks are the only things capable of causing death. Honestly, this strange, critical design choice was probably the reason PSASBR gets a lot less fanfare compared to its Nintendo counterpart.
DreamMix TV World Fighters (GameCube, PS2)
Long before Solid Snake snuck his way into Super Smash Bros. Brawl, he was actually a part of this crossover beat-'em-up, which stars characters from Konami, Hudson, and Takara properties. You probably aren't familiar with that last one--that's because it's a Japanese toy company that released a ton of Hasbro favorites overseas. What that all means is: this game lets you orchestrate a fight to the death between Bomberman, Simon Belmont, Tyson Granger (the Beyblade kid), and Optimus mother-loving Prime.
Does it do anything unique? The method for beating your enemies is utterly bizarre: smack the coins out of them until none remain, then steal their wandering soul before they can reclaim it. Maybe it's all a depressing allegory for the dangers of capitalist greed?
Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS)
Tons of Cartoon Network characters, like Dexter, Samurai Jack, and the Powerpuff Girls duking it out in a battle royale? Sounds awesome! Sadly, its held back by controls that are nowhere near the smooth, responsive feel of the Smash Bros. handling. Still, if you spent hours of your childhood parked in front of the TV, the pure amount of fanservice and obscure references Punch Time offers up can help you power through the mediocre gameplay.
Does it do anything unique? Scoring knockouts is done the same way as PlayStation All-Stars, where you bash meter-building cubes out of your opponents that culminate in a devastating super attack. Oh, and it predates PSASBR by a year.
Guilty Gear Dust Strikers (DS)
When you've got hand-drawn fighting game sprites as gorgeous and meticulously detailed as those seen in the Guilty Gear games, you may as well try to reuse them as many times as humanly possible. Dust Strikers took the series' roster wholesale and dropped it into a barren multi-tiered stage, added four-player multiplayer, and pretty much called it a day.
Does it do anything unique? Smash Bros. has Home Run Contest and Target Smash, but Guilty Gear Dust Strikers goes all out in the minigame department. If you've ever wanted to guide May's dolphins through rings or play billiards with Venom, here's your chance!
Megabyte Punch (PC)
Megabyte Punch may not have any iconic faces, but the lack of star appeal is made up for by the fact that you're building your very own robot pugilist from scratch. By trekking through huge environments and beating up everything in sight, you collect parts that you can use to customize your little mech. Once it meets your high standards, you can take it for a test drive in multiplayer brawls. Oh, and the graphical style is awesome, full of bright colors and blocky 2.5 goodness.
Does it do anything unique? Pretty much everything I just said. Smash Bros. may be the inspiration for its gameplay, but the ideas here are pretty darn innovative. It's practically Smash Run before Smash Run became a thing.
Digimon Rumble Arena 2 (GameCube, PS2, Xbox)
Digimon, digital monsters; Digimon are the champions! Of plagiarism. Bandai clearly felt no shame making a fighter that copies the Smash Bros. in every conceivable way, right down to the style of the character select screen. But for those that prefer Agumon to Charizard, this is a serviceable Smash clone that uses health bars to determine KOs.
Does it do anything unique? Digimon can evolve (similar to some other digital monsters), allowing character can transform mid-fight into one of two distinct forms. That's pretty rad, provided you know anything about digivolutions, or the fact that they're supposed to called digivolutions.