Third Party characters in Smash, up until this point, have come from Japanese video game publishers with long and storied histories with the big N. This, however, is not a hard and fast rule. Indeed, I think Smash for Wii U and Smash for 3DS have taught Smash fans that, when it comes to Sakurai, things are only rules until they are not rules. No characters from traditional fighting games? Bam, Ryu joins the fight. Originating on a Nintendo platform is a must? Not if Cloud Strife has anything to say about it. Still, characters from companies in direct competition with Nintendo (IE Sony and Microsoft) seem like a bit of a stretch. There is one franchise, however, owned by Microsoft, which might just have a chance. No, not everyone’s favorite bird and bear combo, but Steve (the player character) from Minecraft.
Dropped into a strange new world, alone with no shelter, supplies, or purpose, Steve is a man against the world. Good thing he’s so handy with pick axe. Blessed with the ability to break down and recreate the blocky procedurally generated world in which he inhabits, Steve literally shapes in whatever way he sees fit.
Steve, as well as secondary skin Alex, serve as our default gateway into the World of Minecraft. While many players choose to use custom skins on their characters, Steve remains as close as one could get to a default and has reached a level of iconicness that has resulted in his likeness being a part of a wide array of Minecraft merchandise. He even has his own Lego figure!
The game itself, created by Markus “Notch” Persson, began life as a modest one person project on PC by the name of “Cave Game” back in 2009. Since then, the game has seen release on a wide variety of platforms, from mobile to console, and has found critical and financial success on all of them. The game is a first person (although a third person view is also available) crafting game where players must find and create using resources found in the game world. Lauded for the freedom it gives players from the get-go, there’s no “wrong” way to play Minecraft.
The game has found a particularly strong following with children, but it’s easy to play but hard to master ethos makes it appealing to gamers of all ages. Since its inception, the videos related to the series have consistently been amongst the most popular to watch on Youtube, and the game more or less created a subgenre of crafting games in the wake of its success.
Reasons for inclusion: As touched upon briefly in the previous section, Minecraft is huge. It’s less a game and more a cultural phenomenon. The game proved to be so popular that it surpassed 16 million registered users while still in Beta. It would go on to sell 122 million units, putting it between Final Fantasy (130 million) and the Legend of Zelda (89 million) in relation to Smash franchises. It did all this in a fraction of the time, as Final Fantasy debuted in 1987 and the first title in the Legend of Zelda landed in 1986.
The game has spawned tons of official merchandise, including books, toys (including Lego’s and Funko Pop! Vinyl figurines), clothing, mugs… pretty much anything you could think of. It has, for many children, in particular, become synonymous with gaming in a way which Mario may have been to previous generations. The game and game world were even popular enough to spin off to a point-and-click style adventure game by the name of Minecraft: Story Mode. It would make sense then, that if Super Smash Bros. is truly meant as a celebration of gaming, that a game as important and well received as Minecraft would receive some representation.
While Minecraft originated on PC, it is a game that has a home on a wide variety of platforms, including PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo devices. Also, unlike many Western games, the series is popular in Japan and, perhaps more importantly, popular on Nintendo hardware in Japan. The game is amongst the best selling E-Shop titles on the Wii U, and the Switch version was received with similar fervor. It should be noted that Nintendo also has allowed Minecraft to use custom Mario related content in its Nintendo releases. Not all franchises are allowed access to the big M, so this can be taken as proof of Nintendo’s faith in the franchise.
Reasons for exclusion:
Well, much like Master Chief before him, Steve is a Microsoft character. Microsoft and Nintendo are rivals in the console space, and rivals rarely share their toys. I doubt we would see Link as a guest star in next the next season of Killer Instinct, after all. Still, Minecraft, and therefore Steve, has already appeared, multiple times, on Nintendo hardware. Would it be so strange then? Also, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, has previously tweeted saying that he would love to see Banjo and Kazooie in Smash Bros. He also cited that Microsoft has worked with Nintendo on games such as Diddy Kong Racing for the DS in the past. The door is therefore at least somewhat open.
Steve also has several other strikes against him. These aren’t killers, per se, but they do slightly count against him. Minecraft is a Western game, and the only current Western character is Nintendo owned Diddy Kong. Minecraft is also much more recent game than most of the third party games. Bayonetta has proved that this isn’t a requirement, but Minecraft has not yet existed long enough to have any real legacy.
What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Steve makes it in.