Has Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Finally Figured Out Online Multiplayer?

Has Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Finally Figured Out Online Multiplayer?

Depends on who you ask.

I still remember the first time I tried playing online in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Playing on a fiber connection in Japan, I was stunned and disappointed to find everything running in slow motion. It was completely unplayable.

Online play has since proven to be a major thorn in the side for the otherwise acclaimed series. Online multiplayer has never been Nintendo's strong suit—Splatoon might be its most noteworthy success to date—but Smash Bros. has long been an especially bad case. It's been slow and limited since its introduction, keeping it firmly in the realm of living room party games.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo's latest chance to turn it all around. With paid subscriptions now available through Switch Online, the pressure is higher than ever for Smash Bros. Ultimate to actually be fun to play online. So does it succeed? Depends on who you ask.

Opinions on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's online play have thus far ranged from "It's not too bad!" to "This is a slideshow." These tweets neatly encapsulate the conflicting experiences players have had.

The quality of the online play has sparked discussions on whether Smash Bros. Ultimate should have dedicated servers, which have been met with other players pointing out that almost everything is peer-to-peer these days, and it wouldn't help much anyway. In general, those who are happy are reasonably satisfied, while those who are unhappy are really unhappy.

As always, your experience largely depends on your online connection, but with Smash Bros. Ultimate connection quality feels especially critical. In the early going, I couldn't even connect to Smash Bros. Ultimate online until I fiddled with my router long enough to get it out of Nat Type D—the status that has bedeviled more than a few Switch owners. Once I figured it all out, I was pleased to discover a reasonably smooth experience on a connection that generally sits around a wireless upload speed of 5 Mbps per second.

Since then about 75 percent of my matches have been perfectly smooth, with only a tiny handful hitching or freezing outright. I've generally stuck to playing four-player quick match with items, and thanks to Smash Bros. Ultimate's healthy online population, I've had little trouble finding games. It's helped passed the time while watching Bob's Burgers on the couch; a fine alternative for when my friends are unavailable.

By today's standards, of course, it's rather limited. The available options are the aforementioned quick matchmaking or a private lobby. You can play with Spirits if you so desire, but there's no ranked matchmaking or stats tracking. Unlocking challenges are the closest thing you'll find to tangible rewards for playing online.

What's there seems to be geared toward satisfying the bare minimum requirements for online play in 2018. It's utilitarian as hell, but at least it doesn't inundate you with microtransactions like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and other popular multiplayer games (unless you count the Fighters Pass). And more importantly, it's actually playable this time around... assuming it plays nice with your connection.

Smash Bros. Ultimate Still Isn't an Online Game

Where Smash Bros. Ultimate differs from its competition is that's still not really intended to be an online multiplayer game. In an era where it's common to throw on a headset and party up in everything from Destiny to Overwatch, Smash Bros. Ultimate is still resolutely a local multiplayer game. It's a game you're meant to laugh over with friends while crazy things happen on screen and everyone dies.

Looking even deeper, fighting games have many special challenges compared to other games. Even a little bit of input delay can mean the difference between successfully landing a combo and whiffing. The most intense fighting game fans will go as far as building their own controllers to try and shave a few milliseconds off their inputs.

Capcom has spent years trying to get games like Street Fighter to the point where hardcore fans are happy with the online play. Some would say it has yet to achieve this goal. If Capcom can't reach this difficult summit, then Smash Bros., which doesn't consider online a priority, barely has a chance.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a party game forever and ever, amen.

As it stands, this is easily the best Super Smash Bros' online play has ever been. This may be damning with faint praise given just how bad it was on the Wii and Wii U, but getting to the point of being playable online is a big milestone for the series. It opens up new frontiers that fans and developers alike may never have considered.

Super Smash Bros. is unlikely to ever be what you would call a "good" online game. Its roots as a local party game run too deep, the challenges are too formidable, and the will on the development side isn't really there. At best, it's a sideshow.

But what online play can do for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is open new frontiers for those who don't have local friends to play against. It can be a pleasant chaser after hours spent playing World of Light, or an extra distraction while binging Netflix.

That is it to say, it's actually worth playing now, even if it's not enough to sell a Switch Online subscription on its own. Hopefully your internet connection is up to it.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now available. Make sure to check our review, as well as our guides to all the fighters and more.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

Read this next

Nintendo Switch Cleans Up Over Thanksgiving With Its Best Sales Week to Date

The Switch sold 830,000 units over a single week. Damn.

Nintendo Needs to Actually Support Its Games For Longer Than a Year

Smash benefits from healthy ongoing support, but where is the love for the rest of Nintendo's games?

The Switch Topped Black Friday Even Without Price Cuts

It's also a top trend on Cyber Monday, too.

The Game Awards 2019 Nominations: Control and Death Stranding Among Top Nominees

And Smash Bros. gets some belated acknowledgement.

NPD: 2019 Is a Record Year for Fighting Game Sales

Still, Modern Warfare dominated October and the year.

Nintendo Has No Plans to Reduce the Switch's Price Point

President Furukawa says they'd like to sell the Switch at its current price point for as long as possible.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Terry Bogard Tips

SNK’s Terry Bogard has been added to Smash Bros. Here’s how to play him.

More Opinions

25 Years Ago, Breath of Fire 2 Was My First Journey to Kill God, and It Was Good

Even the world's worst translation can't destroy a good yarn about slaying the Lord.

"I Can Pretty Much Become Way Worse Than Gordon Ramsay"

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan would like to be seen as the "Asian Steve Jobs" but comes off more like "a jerk selling light-up mice."

Starting Screen | Why 2019 Is the Year I Decided To Stop Rushing Through Games

Some of us have been playing Death Stranding slowly, and it's far better for it.

Checking in on FIFA 20 for Black Friday: Does It Hold Up?

We enjoyed FIFA 20 during review, but is it worth picking up on Black Friday? We check in on EA's soccer sim.

More Fighting Games

The Guilty Gear Strive Interview: Why a Cult Favorite is Starting From Square One

The goal of Strive is to make everyone feel like a "newcomer."

No, Stadia Users Won't Lose Access to Games Purchased With a Stadia Pro Discount

Destiny 2 and other free Pro games are tied to your subscription—purchases are not.

The Game Awards 2019 Nominations: Control and Death Stranding Among Top Nominees

And Smash Bros. gets some belated acknowledgement.