Favorite and Least Favorite Super Smash Bros Items
ITEMS ON! We cannot stress this enough. You come to a Super Trashed TV Super Smash Brothers event, the items are on. All bets? Off. Shirts? Gray area. But items are on, no exceptions. (Okay, some exceptions, like if we’re doing a more competitive event, but usually, let ‘em rip!)
There have been a LOT of different items across the five(ish) games in the series. Some of them have returned for every iteration (Fire Flower) and some had more fleeting existences (Cloaking Device). Some have simple and obvious uses (Beam Sword) while others require a bit more strategy and planning to properly implement (Healing Field). Each one has its own special role in the larger Smash Bros ecosystem, and we’re grateful for every single one (except Special Flag; fuck Special Flag and fuck you if you like it).
But what are our favorites? And which ones do we wish would disappear, never to be seen again? It’s time to get subjective in this new STTV list: What’s everyone’s favorite and least favorite Smash item?
FAVORITE ITEM: Assist Trophy
Smash Bros isn’t just a fighting game to me. It’s not just a party game, either. For my money, the best thing about Smash Bros is how it functions as a celebration of gaming history. It’s a veritable Hall of Fame of characters and concepts from an entire medium, all coming together in a game everyone can get behind. Sure, it started out as exclusively Nintendo, but starting with Snake and Sonic breaking the seal in Brawl, everybody now has a chance to play.
Sadly, not every game can be represented with a fighter of its own. It has to have a character with a roughly anthropomorphic shape while also making sense as someone who engages in combat (Isabelle notwithstanding). That’s where Assist Trophies come in. How else could we get references to PONG, or Brain Age, or the SNES version of SimCity? We even get to learn about franchises that never made it to the US, like Devil World and Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, and begin to hate their very existence when another player summons them and they fuck shit up.
Yes we know it’s called Color-TV Game 15, shut up.
The main argument against Assist Trophies (and their older sibling Poké Balls) is that they can be overpowered: Some of them have strength that can be compared to Final Smashes. I would argue this is what makes Smash Bros so great! The chaos and unpredictability of the summoning items keeps everyone on their toes. How often has someone been lagging behind, only to have Phosphora from Kid Icarus show up to lend a hand? And what about when someone with a dominant lead gets their hand on one, but the only thing that comes out is the largely ineffective Starfy? It’s immensely satisfying.
And Assist Trophies are the only way we’re ever going to see Waluigi on a Smash stage, so we might as well embrace them.
LEAST FAVORITE: Super Launch Star
Sorry. These things are boring. I don’t have anything against trap items as a whole (Motion Sensor Bombs and Pitfalls slap) but Super Launch Stars don’t launch far enough or last long enough to be a real threat. It takes a specific and dangerous technique to put them off a stage’s edge with the launch going in the correct direction. On top of that, after being deployed, they only stay there for ten seconds!! Ten seconds?? You want me to set it up and successfully knock my opponent into it within ten seconds? And it doesn’t deal damage?? And it can also launch me?? Fuck outta here. Bumpers also last for ten seconds, deal damage when thrown at an enemy, and are much funnier.
The Super Mario Galaxy games deserve better representation. Let’s get some Bee Mushrooms up in here! I wanna see Marth dressed up like a bee, dammit!
FAVORITE ITEM: Beastball
I had a hard time choosing among the beastball, the pokéball, and the assist trophy (specifically Kapp’n, that little fellow who drags your enemies to school and/or hell, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-style.) All three introduce just a little bit of unpredictability, chaos and cartoonishness in a game that tends to take itself too seriously.
I suppose, despite the nostalgia and fun of the roulette, the assist items can backfire, as with a Nintendog or a Mew. So I’m going to go with the Beastball, which is a little bit more reliable despite being, well, goofy. I don’t know anything about the beastball; I had to google “baseball smash ultimate” before writing this because I didn’t even know its name.
Such a satisfying thwack when it lands, sending one person flying and starting a mad dash among the rest as they stop what they’re doing to play a life-or-death game of fetch, in hopes that they get the next throw of the soon-to-vanish projectile. There’s no guarantee that the beastball will target who you want it to. But still, whip it from far away and it will still find a target to connect, dealing out death from across the stage. And when you’re on your last stock, both you and your opponent nearly dead but duking it out to claim one last, good hit, is there anything more satisfying than whipping the beastball at them, it vanishing as you go in for an attack or dodge away, just to reappear at the exact moment your enemy moves in for the kill? God, I could weep.
Of course, this is controlled chaos. Some items are such a mess that you may as well throw out the rest of the match. This, of course, brings us to
LEAST FAVORITE: Smoke Ball
When a smokeball appears on the stage, I tend to just throw it over the edge. Otherwise, there are two things that can happen. One: My opponent throws the smokeball at me, shrouding my character in a steady cloud of smoke that obscures my, the player’s, view. I have no idea what I’m doing so I frantically defend, too unsure of my positioning to chase anyone down. Or two: I throw the smokeball at my opponent, blocking my view of them. I try to move in to attack, but my blocked view leaves me feeling unsure of how to respond once fighting starts.
This is the only item I can think of where I’m deadass not sure if I’m supposed to want to hit my opponents with it or get hit by it. In either scenario, I always seem to end up on bottom. I’m being serious about not knowing, by the way. What am I supposed to do here? I would love for someone to let me know. Every item is fair because anyone can grab it and use it first. But the smoke ball is the one to transcend that automatic balancing to always favor my otherwise dogshit opponent and cost me precious time off the clock and a stock, no matter how it’s used.
You might say, “But Dan, what about Nintendogs? You even called them out earlier!” When a dog jumps on you, it is doing what a dog is expected to do. You understand it. Welcome or not, and the Nintendog assist trophy is certainly the latter, you know exactly what to expect out of the creature before you: a brief pause to your day; an enthusiastic drain on your attention. And if a real dog were not welcome, would you blame the dog? Or would you blame the person walking beside it, who is responsible for training and leashing it? When the Nintendog runs up, blocking everyone’s view, you are united by the collective obstruction. You call whoever grabbed the assist trophy an asshole, but you know it’s not actually their fault; they’re in the same boat as you.
But not with the smoke bomb. Not that technicolor orb that uniquely betrays me, even when I’m the one to use it. No part of this game is more annoying.
LEAST FAVORITE ITEM: Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom
I don’t even like video games for real. Don’t play them often, don’t invest in the ones I own. You can ask me what I think about a game I purchased at launch, that I played to completion, and I wouldn’t even have an opinion. I guess Jak 2 was fine??? The game I played for 40 hours, but can’t remember a second of, was decent?!?!?!?!?!?
So it makes sense that Super Smash Bros Ultimate is the most confusing game of all time (imo imo). I barely know how to move my character. I’m woefully unsure on what the hell a spot dodge or a DI is (or how to do it). And you also expect me to get ALL of the video game references, spanning from Color TV-Game 15 to ARMS, flying around the screen at all times?
Recently, during one of our pal Jesse’s streams of him playing beloved retro games for the first time (with ample help from viewers and our community), I finally “got” a reference. And it pissed me off. EarthBound, the Western port of Mother 2, is universally praised but it’s hard to concisely express why. It's a clever, well-designed roleplaying game dripping with quirky humor and charm. EarthBound is also chock full of some absolute nightmare fuel enemy characters. Yucky, gross-for-no-reason, high-school-notebook-scribble monsters casually prey on the latchkey child protagonists.
One such problematic sack of scum is the “Ramblin' Evil Mushroom,” a bipedal not-so-fun fungi. A few hits from them and it can make the menus look weird and the overworld controls a little wonky. Players see a little mushroom over their avatar’s head indicating they’ve been “mushroomed”—it’s kind of cute. From afar, from the comfort of my backseat gaming, Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom is a low-level enemy, easily dispatched, a mild inconvenience.
From my own controller, within the context of Super Smash Bros, where enough spores from the Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom will reverse my left and right controls, it’s the most annoying gameplay feature this side of an open world NPC escort mission.
EarthBound isn’t Smash, obviously. But, I imagine the effects of being mushroomed is pretty easy to navigate in a turn-based RPG setting. There’s ample time to consider what you’re doing, an in-game location to remove the effect; EarthBound only requires a slight increase in awareness to make the influence of R.E.M. a non-factor.
In the fast and furious multiplayer, multi-item, free-for-alls synonymous with our brand of Super Smash Bros, when the Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom is on the board, everybody hurts. Smash’s dynamic, fighting-fracas devolves into a juvenile two-level game of keepaway: first, to avoid being infected, and two, if infected, to avoid being attacked. For the unaffected opponents, the game becomes more simple: beat the shiitake out of the compromised and vulnerable. Sounds fun? It’s not!
A Smash player’s first interaction with the “funky” shroom will most certainly result in an unexpected death. You won’t know what’s happening until you’re already flying off the edge, thinking that you’re jumping to safety. It’s a little disconcerting that there’s no mental model, no collective unconsciousness, to forewarn a player’s imminent demise. EarthBound is far from the most popular game with the most recognizable iconography. Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom is the third most famous fungus in Smash’s collection of items. The design of the pink, leggy, anthropomorphic amanita doesn’t shout “this cloud of farts will reverse your controls.” I call bullshit.
Until recently, on the PS3-4-5, and even more recently on prestige Home Box Office TV, mushrooms in pop culture only made you tall, give you an extra life, or designate you as a Smurf (that lives in one). Before, the only time one could imagine associating mushrooms with disrupting one’s faculties involves “knowing a guy,” the woods, and some orange juice. There was a time where meeting Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom and it leading to accidentally self-destructing in the midst of this “fun party game,” was grossly irresponsible, War on Drugs-level copaganda messaging. In that world, I’d say, “break the stigma on alternative medicine, Nintendo. You can save a life, Sakurai.” Now, of course, Sakurai was right. Mushrooms will take over your brain and destroy modern civilization. It’s only a matter of time.
Back to Smash: there’s obviously some freaks that can “rewire” their feel and strategy for the game, so skilled to be able to continue their attack while controls are reversed. But that ain’t me. I’m just trying to have a good time.
The only “benefit” to being mushroomed is that players tend to be so erratic, flopping around in their confused panic, that they’re nearly impossible to hit. But, there’s also probably some sickos, players who are skilled and knowledgeable enough to infect and “read” the movements of the infected, for whom “confusing” another player before hitting them with an expert Smash attack, spike or combo is as perversely satisfying as fishing with a .50 caliber rifle.
FAVORITE ITEM: Ramblin' Evil Mushroom
Ok, everything OJ said above about this fun little guy is not incorrect. Hell, I fully gave up on Earthbound because of how punishingly hard it was, for seemingly no reason at times. One of the most frustrating portions was this hellscape of mountain caves absolutely filthy with these bastard mushrooms, an annoyance for what they do to your controls, but also because it is nigh impossible to avoid these encounters, depleting precious health and resources before you can even get to the thing you are supposed to be fighting. “You just gotta grind,” they say. “Get good,” they say. Sorry I just want to play through this charming little story in this world full of freaks and not log 70 hours leveling up my slingshot or whatever.
But that’s a beloved (and flawed) JRPG from times long gone. It’s got nothing to do with Smash. I love Smash for the chaos. That’s why we play with items on! I love seeing someone incredibly technically skilled get completely unraveled by a series of unfortunate assist trophies or Pokeballs. The pinnacle of this, for my money, is when you have successfully shroomed someone, they have successfully responded by anticipating the inversion, and then the shroom wears off, sending them flying off the stage by their own command. Humiliating for them, incredibly powerful for me.
LEAST FAVORITE: Gooey Bomb
I have come to terms with the fact that my hatred for this is entirely due to my own incompetence, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Feels like 100% of the time there is a sticky bomb on stage, it’s going to end up on me, and it’s going to be devastating. I’m not even sure I understand how the transfer mechanic of the bomb works, because I have never successfully done it. At this point, when I see one, I do my best to get to them and huck it off stage. I can't stand to even look at it. A cursed item, 0 out of 10.
FAVORITE ITEM: Home-Run Bat
A venerable classic. Devastatingly powerful, arguably the best throwing item in the game, and a unique animation for every single character that uses it? Sign me up. And that’s without even mentioning that perfect *SCHWIIIIING* sound effect that plays when you connect a hit. It’s the perfect item. And baseball is hardly tangentially-related to Smash Bros. in the first place! Huge W for baseballers.
LEAST FAVORITE: Gust Bellows
Okay, Nintendo. Come on now. Get real. You’re putting the least exciting item from the worst modern Zelda game into the biggest and best playable museum of gaming there is? And it’s completely broken in a way that isn’t even satisfying to kill with? Step off. Get down off your high horse and make a real item. Beetle is already here! Skyward Sword is covered! It is not a good game and you don’t need to keep acknowledging it! This is one of VERY few items we turn off during STTV matches because it is actively a bad time for all involved. Do you have any idea how bad an item needs to be for us to ban it? No thank you.
FAVORITE ITEM: Home Run Bat
Straight up, I love baseball. I also just love this quirky game of famous pixelated characters beating the ever loving shit out of each other. So obviously I’m gonna like the Home Run Bat. It’s super powerful, has a unique animation for every character, and when you land it the sound effect is SWHINNNNG but really it’s fuck you. It’s as satisfying as landing a fully charged smash attack except that, even at low health, your enemy just dies. Because you hit a home run. I also just love the idea that, in the otherwise fun and chaotic game this is the most just straight up real weapon you can get. You live in an area that has a history of home invasions, you got a bat sitting next to your bed. I got one; it’s a pink girl’s youth softball bat with Pink Sapphire written down the side. You don’t fuck with Pink Sapphire. Like for real, it’s just a bat and you can just beat the shit out of people with it and if they give you enough time you can wind it up and, boom, watch them fly over the fences. It’s also funny that it’s actually a really good thrown item, like, that’s just mind games. “Here, catch this thing that could win me the match.” I just really like baseball. I don’t know if they actually took inspiration from any real baseball player’s swings, but I can’t watch someone hit a home run and not have that sound play in the back of my head. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Barry Bonds SWHINNNNG
Ken Griffey Jr SWHINNNNG
Will Clark SWHINNNNG
Bartolo Colon 2x SWHINNNNG
FAVORITE ITEM (2): PokeBall
I was the last one to put in an entry for this and I can’t believe no one said Pokeball. Like, it got mentioned a whole lot, but not even Dan Dan the Poke Man said it. It’s a ball you throw at people and a fucking Pokemon comes out. It’s great! There’re so many options like it could be something legendary, or surprisingly useful, or just Goldeen who flops around and does nothing. Which, full stop, has always been crazy to me. Magikarp is the splash around and do nothing Pokemon, Goldeen getting that distinction is a direct reference to the anime when Misty tried to use a Goldeen inside and it did just that. Like, it makes sense, it’s a fish out of water, but I never got why it wasn’t Magikarp. Anyways let’s talk about the ones that are dope as hell and make me happy. Snorlax’s fat ass just taking up half the stage, Latias and Latios going HAM and crashing into everything, and one of the coolest gimmicks Smash has ever had, Ditto just becoming a Ditto of your character. It’s amazing! Even the ones that kinda suck are fun, like oh it’s just an Eevee, well prepare to get head smashed my dude! Yeah Pokemon are awesome and just seeing one appear on a stage is like buying a lottery ticket except it doesn’t cost money and will guarantee you a fun time!
LEAST FAVORITE: Boss Galaga
Items are fun. I think we, the people writing this article, can agree on that. But what if I was to tell you that there is an item that is the opposite, dare I say, not fun. That would be Boss Galaga. When it gets thrown on the field it loops around and then zeroes in on your opponent and sucks them up to be carried off the stage to die but also probably get submitted to some weird alien experiments. How do you get out of it? Unclear! There is no other item in the game I can think of where, even in the most competitive match, your opponent will stop what they’re doing and try to tell you how to get out of it. LIKE THEY KNOW! Alien technology may have built the pyramids but they sure as shit are gonna carry you off this stage with no damage on you because Nintendo thought vague “mash out of it” directions were gonna be enough. Fuck Boss Galaga, me and all my friends hate Boss Galaga. Motherfucker wasn’t even hard to kill in its base game, but now it’s an indestructible bug looking thing with a tractor beam that has one goal and it’s to ruin your day. Like, aliens, if you’re gonna anal probe me that sucks (no disrespect to anyone who’s into that obviously) but if you’re gonna suck me off into the high heavens and tell me I can tap out at least listen to my taps!! Safe words exist for a reason, like, I said banana 10 times, Boss Galaga, why you still acting like this!?