How the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate trailers told one big, thoughtful story

Super Smash Bros Ultimate trailer trailers story storyline stories

Everyone loves a good Super Smash Bros trailer. They fill us with anticipation for whatever exciting new thing Masahiro Sakurai and his team have cooked up for the game, as well as an endless amount of hype for the introduction of unexpected characters like Joker or Sephiroth. However, while many fans can appreciate the excellent directing of these trailers and how they maximize the suspense of a fun reveal, what often flies under the radar is how the trailers form overarching narratives. Sakurai and his team not only created fun individual trailers for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but they also hid some deeper story threads that it would take the entire picture to see — whether that’s teasing the World of Light mode in the reveal trailer for the game, or hearkening back to the original Super Smash Bros. and how it established the characters being toy figurines.

The World of Light

In the reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Inkling is seen in what appears to be a typical Splatoon battle. Not long after, the scene darkens, and she turns around to be met by the fiery glow of the Smash symbol and the silhouettes of familiar characters who look surprisingly menacing. Subsequent trailers leading up to the release of the game had a commonly recurring motif of major characters being killed off after this.

Luigi falls to the Grim Reaper in the reveal trailer for Simon and Richter Belmont, Mario and Mega Man are taken out by Ridley, and so on. When it was finally time to reveal the single-player story mode, World of Light, all the pieces fell into place. In this trailer, we see every character, bar Kirby, get wiped out by the beam attacks of Galeem. Following this, various spirits are combined with the Smash characters’ lifeless figurines to form evil versions of those characters, complete with red eyes that now add more context to the original reveal trailer. By placing hints throughout various trailers in the lead-up to the reveal of World of Light, the team had foreshadowed the story of Super Smash Bros Ultimate from the very beginning.

If that weren’t impressive enough, they also achieved the same effect through music. The main theme song for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, “Lifelight,” is faintly heard in the background of the reveal trailer, and the full instrumental version provided the backing music for the fantastic “everybody is here” gameplay reveal trailer. It created an escalating sense of hype as more and more characters were revealed to be returning to the game, and it was a worthy follow-up to past theme songs from the series.

Going back to the World of Light trailer, all hope appears to be lost, but Kirby reappears as “Lifelight” kicks in with its full vocal track for the first time. While on the nose, its lyrics speak about themes of hope, and looking back at darker trailers beforehand, it all starts to make sense.

You are a toy!

Since the beginning of the series, it’s been heavily implied that the characters in the games are toy figures. In the words of the late Satoru Iwata, that’s because Nintendo wanted to justify why their beloved characters would hurt each other, and this can be seen in the opening cutscene of Super Smash Bros on Nintendo 64. Master Hand, which can be thought of as the hand of a player, takes the characters from a toy box and sets them down on a table, where they spring to life.

It’s an idea that reflects how children often take their favorite toys and play make-believe fights with them. It provides some context for the premise of the series, and it was also seen in the opening for Super Smash Bros Melee, where some hands are shown clearing away a table to place down toys and ready them for battle. In Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the World of Light reveal trailer clearly shows the toys once more, but they are used as tools to create evil doppelgangers by Galeem.

Sakurai and his team take this theme to its ultimate conclusion with the trailer for Sora as the final character for Super Smash Bros Ultimate. The fire of the Smash logo burns out completely, signifying the end of the series, and the characters return to lifeless toys as a result. It parallels the idea of a child growing up and gradually losing their sense of innocent glee and imagination. Mario, perhaps the purest representation of those feelings, wakes up and approaches a small flame that indicates that everyone may still have some of those wondrous feelings buried deep inside.

Mario bravely reaches into the flames and finds the Keyblade, the signature weapon of Sora. He takes that first step to reconnect with his inner child as many of us do in real life, and in doing so, he comes across a series that is the epitome of youthful imagination. Kingdom Hearts is a franchise where players can fight fantastical villains alongside beloved Disney and Final Fantasy characters, and it’s hard to find a more fitting allegory for children playing make-believe than this.

Players that grew up with or without Smash likely outgrew their toys and viewed them as playthings no longer worth their time. However, Sora canonically has the power to free hearts, which fits the theme of rekindling the childhood joy in all of us perfectly. Sora even flies in the air for much of the trailer. As Kingdom Hearts fans know, flight is an ability he learns from Peter Pan, the boy that refused to grow up. Sora was the ideal character to end the journey of Smash Bros as he embodies the childlike imagination that comes with pitting our favorite characters against one another, and it was the perfect way to cap off the theme of toys that started in the original game.

What are some of your favorite aspects of the Super Smash Bros trailers?

Chirag Pattni
Psychologist and long time gamer. Has a love-hate relationship with technology and enjoys all things Japanese.