It’s fitting that a tournament named Genesis would set the stage so well for the next era of Platform Fighters. Much has been written about the historic tournament series, which helped revitalize competitive Smash in 2009. By all accounts, the third installment set a new bar for grassroots tournaments. This time, it also hinted at just how high that bar can go.

We went to Genesis to learn more about how a new Platform Fighter can break into the tournament scene. We wanted to know how players train, why they chose that particular game, and what drives them to attend tournaments in the first place. With the genre poised to break out in 2016, what will it take for a new title to join the giants, Melee and Smash 4?

We found one answer in a surprising place: the original Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64.

The Smash 64 Moment

At 238 entrants, Smash 64's Genesis 3 event stands alongside the largest Melee tournaments up through 2013. By comparison, in 2011 the Smash 64 tournament at Genesis 2 had just 22 players. We wanted to find out what was motivating players to turn out in spades.

We expected many of the Smash 64 players we spoke with to say they came to see Isai, and indeed many players cited the reclusive legend as what inspired them to get into competitive 64. With Genesis 3 happening on Isai’s home turf, we knew he would drive turnout. (We even designed our wristbands after his famous advice.) However, the previous Genesis was also held in the Bay Area, and didn’t see nearly the same turnout.

When we asked what prompted players to attend this tournament, the most common answer was “the community.” There is a pervasive sense that the community is just getting started, thanks to the meticulous efforts of sites like onlinessb.com. An official Genesis 3 crowdfunding campaign flew out some of the best Japanese players, and a grassroots player fund raised an additional $3,300 to bring players from Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Australia and Canada.

With their Hori controllers in hand, Smash 64 fans told us origin stories of witnessing the game, through YouTube videos or in person, played at a much higher level than they thought possible. A thriving online platform allows players to spar even if they don’t have a local partner, and online tournaments regularly break 150 entrants. 

Players cited Smash 64’s approachability, relative to Melee, alongside the feeling that the competitive scene was just starting to hit its stride. These players relished the chance to ramp up their skills and compete on a new stage.

With Smash 64 joining Melee and Smash Wii U, we witnessed three thriving, but very different, Platform Fighters celebrating their communities at Genesis. Each Smash game at Genesis was as distinct as Street Fighter from Mortal Kombat, with unique strategies and play styles that appeal to very different players.

There was a time that the Smash community believed just one game could support a competitive scene at a time. We’ve proven that to be false. Our community has grown to cherish the different nuances of each game, from the acrobatics of Melee to the daisychained finishers of Smash 64

As we look to see just how big Platform Fighters can get, the dazzling attendance numbers of Melee and Smash Wii U lead the way, but Smash 64 proves this is a long term, sustainable trend. As new entries join the fray, the audience – and the genre – will flourish.

Huge thanks to everyone who chatted with us at Genesis. We have a lot more to share.