The best players in Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Bros. Melee hasn't changed much since 2001, but the hugely popular platform fighter's metagame is constantly evolving. Players continue to discover new techniques, which opens the door for up-and-coming talents to creep up on even the most veteran smashers.
Despite constant changes in Melee's Top 100, five players have won every single national tournament since early 2015. The disparity between the best players and the rest of the top 30 is so great that even casual viewers can reliably predict the top 4 placers at most major events. While the Era of the Five Gods, a time when five players won every single major tournament from the late 2000s to 2013, may have ended with Kevin "PPMD" Nanney's hiatus and the rise of William "Leffen" Hjelte, cracking the top of competitive Melee continues to be a feat for only the most dedicated smashers.
That's why we're putting together a list of the current best players in competitive Melee. Whether you're new to the game or a seasoned vet, these are the names you need to know before you watch your next Melee Top 8.
Alliance | Armada (Peach, Fox)
Adam "Armada" Lindgren is the best Smash Bros. player in the world. Fresh off a dominant nine-tournament winning streak, Armada is the final boss for anyone looking to sneak in a tournament win. Since February 2015, Armada has the most tournament wins and hasn't placed outside top 3 at any major tournament he's entered.
Armada's consistency puts him above the rest of the Gods. Even in his losses, Armada forces his opponents to their brink, while dominating the field better than anyone; even taking a game off of Armada is considered a massive feat. His last two majors haven't been his best, he placed third at Smash 'N' Smash and second at Royal Flush, but it'll take more than a couple losses to dethrone Sweden's finest.
Team Liquid | Hungrybox (Jigglypuff)
With careful spacing and ruthless punishes, Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma is always a threat to take any given tournament. Hungrybox is the only Jigglypuff player in the SSBM Top 40, which is a testament to his intimate knowledge of the character's game plan and execution. Hungrybox is the reigning EVO champion, and if it weren't for a lackluster second half of the year, he might've been the best player in 2016.
Like Armada, Hungrybox rarely drops games outside of the top 5, despite facing highly skilled players in questionable matchups like Fox and Falco. Hungrybox is often referred to as the most clutch smasher, as his last-stock rest reads are legendary. Hungrybox is the last player you want to take game five, last hit, last stock — in that situation, he's even better than Armada.
Cloud9 | Mango (Fox, Falco)
While Armada is the most consistent and Hungrybox the most clutch, Joseph "Mango" Marquez has the most fun of any smasher. The leader of MangoNation, the loudest and most dedicated fanbase in Melee, fans sometimes joke that Mango is a Mario Kart streamer that plays Melee on the side. That said, stellar performances at Royal Flush and Genesis 4 cement his case as a top 3 player.
Mango's inconsistency is is biggest demon. But for every seventh-place finish, there's a historic losers' run against the best players around, and when Mango is on, no one can beat him. Mango's strength is his unorthodox decision making and strong sense of what his opponent wants to do. He'll often go for volatile plays because he's confident it'll pay off—and it usually does. Mango also has some of the best lasers of any active Falco, and his combo game will pop in any highlight reel. Whether he busters out or not, Mango's fans will have his back.
Red Bull, TSM | Leffen (Fox)
William "Leffen" Hjelte might've single handedly put an end to the Era of the Five Gods, as he beat every single one of them and proved himself a threat to win any tournament. Leffen is the youngest player on this list — he's only 22 — but his accomplishments already top some of the game's greatest. In fact, if visa issues didn't keep him out of the U.S. for most of 2016, he might've made a run at Hungrybox's No. 2 spot in last year's ranking.
Leffen's Fox is one of the fastest. He uses precise movement and high-risk techniques to push his character to its limits at the top of the modern metagame. Leffen sometimes struggles with consistency, but his peak could rival Mango, if given the right opportunity. Although he eventually lost 3-1 in the second set of grands, Leffen's recent losers' run at Smash 'N' Splash 3 included sets over Mango, Armada, and Hungrybox. Watch out for Leffen to make even more runs this summer; he's just getting started.
MVG, Echo Fox | Mew2King (Marth, Sheik, Fox)
Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman somehow balances multiple games and characters to be one of the best overall Smash Bros. players in the scene. Mew2King thrives on the ledge, knocking opponents away and gimping their recovery. He's also dominant on Final Destination, where no platforms can save you from his ruthless chain grabs.
Like his top level counterparts, Mew2King does struggle maintaining peak performance late into tournaments. Unlike Mango, who thrives in the losers' bracket, Mew2King wins from ahead. If Mew2King gets knocked into losers, his mentality suffers and his performance deteriorates. An example of this was Genesis 4, where Mew2King nearly bested Armada in winners finals, but was knocked out 3-1 in losers finals. Still, Mew2King often dominates lesser opponents, and is still a worthy adversary for any top pro.
Team Liquid | ChuDat (Ice Climbers)
The newest member of Team Liquid, Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez, has been a top Melee player from the start. His top placings span every era since 2003, but his 2017 run is one of his best yet. ChuDat started the year by beating Mango at Smash Summit Spring, Smash Rivalries and Dreamhack Austin. He earned second at Dreamhack, nearly resetting the bracket against Hungrybox in a timeout scenario.
This year ChuDat also took multiple sets off of Mew2King, including a win at Battle of BC 2 in early June. His patient play and ruthless wobble setups have even spawned debate over whether the Ice Climbers' controversial infinite should be legal in the first place. Regardless, ChuDat is another name to watch for the rest of 2017.
Panda Global | Plup (Sheik)
While not a God, Plup is one of the most consistent top players in Melee. He placed in the Top 6 of every major he's attended this year, and he won several stacked regionals to set himself apart from the pack. Plup even placed fifth with Luigi at CEO Dreamland, which is now the highest Luigi placing at a national.
Don't let his top-flight Luigi or Samus (his former main) fool you: Plup is also one of the most technical Sheik players in the world, with precise movement and consistent tech chases. He has wins over all the Gods, save Armada, and strong records against players slightly below him. Look for Plup to continue his fifth-place streak, perhaps earning a few upsets along the way.