12 essential Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tips to know before you play

After months of hype, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally out in the wild. Now everyone can kick the crud out of Pikachu and Pichu during their morning commute. The latest entry in the franchise fighter hits all the right notes, melding characters from games like Castlevania and Splatoon into one cohesive, 20-year-old battle. 

While Ultimate may feel familiar at first, it actually has tons of little changes that make the entire experience smoother and easier to customize. If you’re intimidated by any part of Ultimate’s gigantic amount of content, don’t worry. We’ve put together a handy list of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tips that will help keep your brawl all the more brighter. 

1. You can create your own custom rulesets

Ultimate lets you create your own custom rulesets. It’s as simple as heading into the Smash menu, selecting the ‘create ruleset’ option, and choosing whichever options you prefer. If you’re like us, then you’ve probably started a game of Super Smash Bros. Melee or Wii U and instantly jumped into the action, forgetting to switch the match type from ‘timed’ to ‘stock’. Playing with stocks, more commonly known as lives, makes the game more intense for players and easier to track for people watching. You can also decide which items are on, whether or not final smashes are enabled, and what style you want to play in. There’s room for multiple presets so you can create your dream rulesets for chaos alongside a more clear-headed, fair format. 

2. Unlock characters in your stride with the World of Light

Unlocking characters, stages and other extra goodies is the most addictive part of playing Smash. Luckily characters unlock quickly in Ultimate, with a new one emerging every three or four fights, plus you can also unlock them as you play the the World of Light. You’ll start the campaign with Kirby and new characters will come in individual fights throughout the map. Once you unlock a character there (and it isn’t already unlocked through multiplayer matches) it’ll show up on the character select screen. Seeing the ‘new challenger approaching’ screen after a handful of hard-fought matches makes it that much easier to play a few more...

3. Ditch spirits to up the difficulty in World of Light

While World of Light does have multiple difficulty selections, you can make the mode even more challenging by ignoring the spirits you collect throughout the adventure. Spirits, or separate characters you collect and level up, increase your stats and act as a form of progression as you face harder and harder enemies. If you’re so inclined you’re able to completely ignore this aspect of the singleplayer mode and play through it with the lowest possible stats. If that’s too much, you can choose weaker spirits or choose the type disadvantage out of the three spirit types to cut the different for our own custom difficulty level. 

4. Enjoy every level with battlefield options.

One fantastic thing that Ultimate adds is the ability to play levels in three different forms. You can play a stage like Hyrule Castle or Corneria in their standard layout, a battlefield layout that removes the hazards and turns the stage into a flat surface with three platforms, or on a plain old final destination-esque flat surface with nothing extra. All you have to do is press X over a map when you’re selecting a stage, the mini display-image will show you what each version of the map looks like. It’s a nice change since sometimes you want all the crazy visuals of Brinstar Depths without the lava launching you to your death a couple times every match. 

5. Be ready for character unlocks at all times

Character unlocks can come at a lot of different times. If you exit World of Light, classic mode, or several other modes after playing for a bit, a new character will pop up and a fight to unlock them will start. It’s a good idea to select a character you’re skilled with whenever you’re exiting out of these menus, since you’ll use whatever character you chose last. These unlock fights can be tough at times, as it’s tough to be Wolf when you’re struggling to figure out how Isabelle works, so it’s always good to put your best foot forward. 

6. Unlock characters in Challenger’s Approach

After a few hours in-game you’ll be able to unlock characters directly with the ‘Challenger’s Approach’ option in the ‘Games & More’ menu. Once you get a short prompt for the game, all you need to do is select it and you can easily fill out the rest of your roster. 

7. Play a structured tournament in-game

Unlike previous games, setting up a tournament in Ultimate is easy. Just select the ‘Tourney’ option in the ‘Smash’ menu and select how many players, how many CPUs, what sort of format you want, your preferred ruleset and you’re good to go. 

8. Use your spirits in regular matches

If you like the Spirit component of battles it’s easy to enable them in regular multiplayer matches as well. Just select a new ruleset and turn Spirits on. Once you’ve done that you can select or randomly choose what Spirit you want to equip.

9. Turn pausing off during battle

Pausing, both accidentally and on purpose, can completely throw off your rhythm in the middle of a fight. If you want to ensure that no one “accidentally” puts the battle on hold, turn the option off in the menu. 

10. Level up spirits right before using them

You can level up a new, low-level Spirit in the World of Light by pressing the left shoulder button after you select them from the menu. You need snacks to automatically level them up though. They’re found throughout the campaign and as rewards for hitting certain milestones while playing. 

11. Select the music you hear during a fight

Just like changing the layout of a map, you can choose what you hear as you fight as well. Just hit Y when you hover over a level in the stage select menu and browse all the epic tunes for one that tickles your fancy. 

12. Get better by fighting Amiibos

Like Super Smash Bros’ Wii U, you scan your amiibo and fight them in-game. Be careful though: the level nine computers are much harder this time around. I could barely handle them so I don’t think I could handle a level 50 amiibo.

If you're enjoying Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, then why not see where it ranks in our best Nintendo Switch games list?

Freelance Writer

Aron writes for Upcomer covering the video games and eSports industries in-depth. He was previously a freelancer whose work appeared in Wired, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, and GamesRadar, among others.