Video Games

The Ten Worst Stages in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - The Great Cave Offensive

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate launched with 103 stages, which makes this game a nostalgia powerhouse for Smash fans of all eras. Some of the best Smash stages of all time make welcome returns, and there are even a few new ones crammed in as well. Needless to say, they weren’t kidding around when they added the world Ultimate to the title.

Of course, the Smash stage lineup isn’t without its misses, and with so many stages represented in this game, it was inevitable that a few bad ones would sneak in.

I’ve already explained my picks for the best ten stages in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. So now I’m going to talk about what I see as the ten worst.

Distant Planet

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Distant Planet

Distant Planet first showed up in Brawl, and it refuses to go away. It showed up in the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros., and now it’s back for Ultimate.

It’s kind of neat to see your characters represented as inch-high fighters (they are supposed to be toys, after all), and the changing weather is a nice concept. But the stage layout works really hard to ensure no one here is having any fun.

First of all, an enormous portion of the stage is dominated by stage hazards. On the left you have a slanting surface that gets extremely slippery when it rains, and on the right you have a Bulborb waiting to gobble you up. That makes the playable surface feel cramped. Even worse, everything is bouncy. The main platform is made of vines, and it’s bouncy. Above that is a series of three leaves, and they’re bouncy. Setting a Smash stage here is a little bit like placing a UFC fight inside a bouncy castle. It sounds fun in your imagination, but in reality it would just be annoying for everyone involved.

Oh, and the pellet system is one of the strangest, vaguest concepts to show up in any Smash stage. I’ve been playing this stage for years and I still don’t think I fully understand how it works.

Peach’s Castle

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Peach's Castle

I realize this stage is brimming with nostalgic feels for those who played the original Super Smash Bros. for N64, but if you can set your nostalgia aside for a moment, it’s hard to deny that Peach’s Castle is downright terrible.

This stage looks like something an eleven-year-old designed using Source modding tools. Nothing makes any sense. The main tower is completely out of scale. The backdrop is a painting of Peach’s actual castle, which seems like it’s just there to remind you that this stage looks nothing like it. There are rope bridges sticking off the top of the castle tower that go nowhere. There’s a single pinball bumper stuck in a random, asymmetrical location near the top of the stage. And what are those roof pieces made of, Lego bricks?

I apologize to the nostalgic OG Smash crowd, but this stage is an eyesore. Thankfully, Smash Bros. stage design was destined to get better as it aged.

PAC-LAND

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Pac-Land

This is another case where the stage design looks so juvenile it’s hard to comprehend how it managed to end up in a triple-A video game. With Peach’s Castle, it makes sense that the Smash developers would have been experimenting to see what works. But PAC-LAND came out in 2014. There’s simply no excuse for something that looks like a kid drew it in MS Paint.

I know I’m not the first person to point this out, but PAC-LAND’s worst offense (even worse than its all-caps title) is pushing aside the much better Pac-Maze for a spot on Ultimate‘s stage select screen. Just think, there’s an alternate universe somewhere in which Ultimate launched with Pac-Maze instead of PAC-LAND. Can you feel the anger welling up inside you?

Palutena’s Temple

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Palutena's Temple

Palutena’s Temple was clearly a botched attempt at re-creating the magic of the Hyrule Temple stage (or just Temple, for the purists out there). The two main problems are that it’s just too big and that there’s way too much open space. It’s also weirdly centered vertically so the top platforms are barely within the stage boundaries. There are platforms near the top that move up and down, and they’ll unexpectedly ascend out of the boundaries, leading to frustratingly confusing deaths.

Small pieces of this stage actually work pretty well. In fact, the Battlefield version is very good. It’s just that the stage doesn’t work as a whole. The two main sections would have probably worked decently on their own, but here they feel completely disconnected from one another.

Oh, and this is one of the only stages in this game where you can simply hold down on the left stick to fall off the map right from the spawn point (75m has the same problem, but I’ll talk about that stage later.)

I can’t deny that it’s pretty to look at, though.

Dream Land GB

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Dream Land GB

I actually really like the concept for this stage. The battle takes place on a Game Boy screen, complete with the dull yellow monochromatic color scheme familiar to anyone who got a Game Boy before the Game Boy Color was a thing.

But then the stage starts scrolling, and everything goes to hell.

No stage in Smash should ever scroll, and this one is filled with precarious cliffs and things that look like platforms but actually aren’t. All of a sudden, a great concept turns into an absolute nightmare.

Gamer

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Gamer

And speaking of nightmares, I can only imagine the sort of fever dream that would have inspired the Gamer stage. Holy hell, is this thing a mess.

This stage takes place on some sort of tabletop in the most terrifying gamer den ever conceived. Not only does the TV flicker on and off by itself, but people keep trying to look in the windows. And when they do, their eyes cast beams of paralyzing light. Whenever one of these flashes of light appears, it completely messes up the flow of combat, causing players to scurry into the shadows like cockroaches.

Oh, and this stage is often completely music-less. The absence of music can be a powerful tool when wielded properly, but here it just feels plain creepy.

Mario Bros.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Mario Bros

I think I would have been able to appreciate at least the concept behind this map if the designers would have put in even a little bit of effort. But they didn’t even try with this map, and it shows.

This is a re-creation of the original Mario Bros. (which also appears inside Super Mario Bros. 3), but look closely and you’ll notice they didn’t even bother to copy over the pixelated look of the original. Instead, they did a barely passable representation of the original, full of bad fades and cheap-looking details.

Mario Bros. just doesn’t work as a Smash stage, and it looks terrible to boot. What a waste of time.

75m

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - 75m

I can appreciate the concept behind 75m. It’s a throwback to the genesis of the platformer. Unlike Mario Bros., it actually commits to re-creating the pixelated aesthetic.

The only problem is that it’s a nightmare to traverse. The platforms are narrow and the ladders tend to get in the way. You’ll spend almost all of your time dealing with stage hazards and almost no time actually fighting. Here, you’re playing the stage rather than playing your opponents. And that’s just not what Smash is about.

The Great Cave Offensive

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - The Great Cave Offensive

It’s appropriate that this stage has the word Offensive in the title, because this stage is so bad it’s offensive.

Here’s the thing: in a different sort of game, The Great Cave Offensive would be a really cool stage. If you imagine some sort of Metroidvania-style platformer, this stage starts to make sense. In fact, it reminds me of the diabolical Mario levels I used to draw on graph paper back in elementary school. Plus, the lighting in this stage looks incredible. Someone put a ton of work into this.

But when it comes to Super Smash Bros., nothing about this stage works. It’s way too big, to start with. You’ll spend more time in a cat-and-mouse-style chase than you will spend actually smashing bros. The stage hazards are obnoxious. Remember what I said about the 75m stage, how it feels like you’re playing the stage instead of your opponents? That applies here as well.

The crazy thing about this stage is that the Battlefield version is actually really good.

Hanenbow

Super Smash Bros Ultimate - Hanenbow

You knew this one was coming. Hanenbow is possibly the worst Smash Bros. stage of all time. It first appeared in Brawl, and then it went away for what we all hoped would be forever. Hanenbow, we thought, would eventually fade into the dark recesses of our repressed memories. But then Ultimate had the audacity to bring it back.

The backdrop is just a generic fade from lime green to a darker green. Characters can only stand on the white lines in the center of leaves for some reason that’s never explained. The water looks horrible, constantly spiking upward for no reason. And the sounds — my god, those wooden wind chime sounds are the stuff anxiety attacks are made of.

If you’ve ever been forced to endure a round of Smash Bros. on Hanenbow, then you truly understand what it means to suffer.

Josh Wirtanen owns this place and has opinions about pretty much everything. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuajwirtanen.