The mere suggestion of a Fortnite character in Super Smash Bros. makes a lot Nintendo fans rage (primarily millennials, in my experience). The notion that this fad game, this corporate product that reeks of trend-following opportunism, could stand near the greats that defined our childhood is an insult. Yet if you look away from social media and towards everything that Fortnite is and has become, you’d have to admit that it’s just as industry-shaping as Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and every other franchise in Smash.
For years Smash fans have tried to work out the logic behind what makes a character “worthy” of inclusion in the roster. Min Min forced us to admit that there are no rules, but that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out some of the basic criteria. Many characters, such as Byleth, are probably Nintendo-mandated to promote a current release. When it comes to third parties, however, Smash creator Masahiro Sakurai seems to prize industry achievement. Take a look at the Terry deep dive, and see how Sakurai lovingly delves into the history of Fatal Fury and its place in gaming history.
The truth, no matter how much you might hate to admit it, is that Fortnite has changed gaming since it debuted its battle royale mode. The most noticeable and immediate effect is how every game in 2019 tried to be a battle royale. Many will attribute that to PUBG, which was taking off with streamers before Fortnite got big, but Fortnite took the genre and made it something everyone could play. Even now, while Apex Legends emphasizes skill and Warzone goes deeper into lore, Fortnite remains the battle royale you can “get” with one glance.
This is much like Smash, which is instantly recognizable thanks to its cast of beloved characters. In fact, Fortnite’s roster these days is starting to look like Smash’s. Last season let you be several Marvel characters, and now you can don the armor of Master Chief, Kratos, and the Mandalorian. The industry recognition doesn’t stop there, either. The game has actually been made canon in other universes twice now – the Marvel event was referenced in the comics, and Star Wars dispensed important lore exclusively in Fortnite.
This impact extends into the real world as well. Fortnite has become a place to hang out, separate from the pressure of its competitive multiplayer. Epic has embraced this by creating Party Royale, a version of the game that serves as a pure social hub. Party Royale has seen special concerts from big artists, and screenings that encourage discourse on racial equality. US President-Elect Joe Biden even made a Fortnite island as part of his campaign.
Who’s to say if these social events actually changed minds about voting or activism, but just the fact that they even existed shows how Fortnite has evolved beyond a simple game. It’s a force of pop culture now, and aims to be a positive part of society at large. I too found it obnoxious when my younger nephews were flossing nonstop and dabbing like it was the height of comedy. And I hate that someone like Ninja represents gaming because of the fame he got through Fortnite. But that doesn’t change the fact that Fortnite is pushing gaming as a medium.
It reminds me of the way Minecraft was a few years ago. Many gamers who played the original Final Fantasy VII or began their Pokemon journey on the big brick Game Boy found Minecraft annoying too. We lamented the lame YouTube song parodies or how kids wouldn’t shut up about creepers. While many still groaned when Steve was revealed as a Smash fighter, for the most part Minecraft is recognized as an essential gaming franchise. Its entertainment value spans well beyond just playing it, and creative builds still dominate YouTube and are used to teach children.
When taking all this into account, it seems like a Fortnite rep in Smash Bros. is only a matter of time. And let’s face it: it’s well deserved.
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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.
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