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RETROspective: Smash Clones

On 07/23/2022 at 11:29 AM by The Last Ninja

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While never beaten, Smash Bros. has seen plenty of imitators and copycats 

In less than one week, the open beta for the free-to-play game Multiversus will be available to those hungry for more crossover fighting action. This game is another Smash clone, but it looks very promising and has a great cast, especially if you enjoy DC super heroes and cartoon characters (who doesn’t?). When it comes to platform fighting games, Smash Bros. is still the king. However, over the last 20 years there have been a LOT of clones. I used to think that most of these clones were using licensed characters, but I came to discover that it’s about evenly split between licensed characters and video game characters. Anyways, let’s look at ten Smash clones (I can’t do them all) and see if they succeeded or fell flat on their face.

Onimush Blade Warriors (2004, PS2)

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One of the first Smash clones was Onimusha Blade Warriors, developed by Capcom. This series has to do with Samurai fighting and ancient empirical Japan. The game has 16 playable characters and 7 hidden characters (which includes Mega Man.EXE and Zero!). The gameplay is more akin to basic hack and slash, but you can also use special elemental attacks such as lightning, fire, and wind. Stages also have different planes that you can jump back and forth between, which is strange yet different.

Considering that the character roster is a bunch of swordsmen/warrior types and their names are very Japanese, I imagine that this game didn’t sell too well in the West. It doesn’t have the name recognition that Smash Bros. has. Of course, if you’re into Samurai fights, you might really like this one. The setting is interesting, but the lack of variety is probably a big turn-off for a lot of players.

Digimon Rumble Arena 2 (2004, PS2/GCN/X360)

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This fighter allows up to four players to take control of 11 different Digimon and duke it out on various stages. There are also 8 hidden Digimon to unlock. A cool feature is that each Digimon can digivolve into more powerful Digimon for a brief time. Unlike Smash Bros. but similar to other clones, players have a health meter that must be depleted.

While the concept here is a perfect fit, the execution is quite lacking. The fighting mechanics are clunky and the characters’ voices get annoying very quickly. Playing as your favorite Digimon is probably great, but they’re all very similar until you Digivolve, and that doesn’t last long. (Personal aside: I think a Pokemon Smash clone would be really cool if all the various Pokemon had unique attacks like they do in the Smash games)

Viewtiful Joe: Red-Hot Rumble (2005, GCN/PSP)

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Man, I love Viewtiful Joe. Red-Hot Rumble was the last VJ thing to ever be released. It’s a four-player fighting game in which the characters are fighting to get the lead role in Captain Blue’s next movie. It’s not a total rip-off of Smash Bros, but is more like a party game. Some modes will have you trying to collect more coins than your opponent, or will ask you to do something specific like defeat a certain boss. The roster of characters is quite impressive, featuring characters from the games, anime, and even a few characters from the Devil May Cry series. 

The problem with the game is the one player mode. It’s really tough, and often it feels like dumb luck is the only way to power through and win. The bigger problem is that the only way to unlock characters is to play through the one player mode, which makes the game a bit of a grind if you want to enjoy multiplayer with all the characters. Still, the game can be a lot of fun.

Small Arms (2006, X360)

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This game was Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Smash Bros. The 14 playable characters are pretty bad in their designs and fighting styles (they all basically play the same). This is Smash Bros….but with guns. This is why everyone plays the same, because everyone has a big gun that they’re shooting at the other fighters. 

The single player mode is the basic “fight characters in order and then fight a boss” mode. Multiplayer is (of course) where the game is at its most fun, but considering that the game was only $5 upon release, the fact that it’s not that great shouldn’t be a big surprise. Perhaps Microsoft should try to make a Smash clone using recognizable gaming characters (like Master Chief and Crash Bandicoot).

TMNT: Smash-Up (2009, Wii)

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The Ninja Turtles seem to be a perfect fit for a Smash Bros-style fighting game. Developed by Game Arts, TMNT: Smash-Up (the title is a bit on the nose) features 16 playable characters, which includes a few different rabbids (Ubisoft published the game). The game is sorta based on the 2007 TMNT movie as April appears in her yellow suit and the turtles have their movie designs as well. Stages are pretty good and have hazards that can trap and KO characters. I think this is also the first time that Casey Jones and Splinter have been playable in a TMNT game. 

Unlike Smash Bros, the characters here have life-bars that must be depleted, although you can also KO characters by knocking them off the stage or if they fall into a pit. However, when compared to Smash Bros, the game is lacking quite a bit. The gameplay is not nearly as nuanced or interesting as Smash, and the game doesn’t offer nearly as much as SSB Brawl did. But perhaps the biggest problem with the game is that Rocksteady and Bebob are nowhere to be seen!

Cartoon Network: Time Punch Explosion (2011, X360/PS3/Wii/3DS)

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This licensed fighting game has characters from beloved Cartoon Network shows like Ben 10, The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory, and even Captain Planet (but why?). There’s also a good mix of villains, which is nice. So with all these cartoon characters, the game is instantly appealing to kids. Stages are also taken right out of the shows and have the usual hazards and things that happen while you fight. 

The problem with this game is, since it’s aimed at kids, the fighting mechanics are clunky and monotonous. The polish is nowhere near Smash Bros, let alone other cartoon platform fighters such as the more recent Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. Multiplayer is probably fun as chaos ensues, but it’s all very mindless. There is a single player story mode with very brief cutscenes and a narrator, but there’s not much content beyond that. Also, the menu music is the most cringey 2010s grunge music I’ve ever heard (shivers).

PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale (2012, PS3/Vita)

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This is perhaps the most well-known of all the Smash clones. This was Sony’s answer to Smash Bros, and well, it’s okay. The roster is mostly great with characters like Kratos, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, PaRappa, and Dante from Devil May Cry. However, obvious picks like Lara Croft, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro were missing. The game featured 24 characters, and perhaps best of all, the big bad you fought at the end was Polygon Man (perfect choice). 

Despite all of this, the game didn’t catch fire. The gameplay tried to set itself apart from Smash, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Players didn’t like the fact that you had to use a super move in order to KO opponents. The game hit the 1 million mark in sales, but that wasn’t good enough to justify a sequel. It’s a shame, too, because with some tweaking and some new characters, another PS All-Stars could have been a knock-out.

Brawlhalla (2017, Everything)

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No doubt you’ve heard of this one because it blew up. Brawlhalla is now on Season 6, having new characters added each season. The game features a cast of cool characters, but perhaps the main draw is all the licensed and video game characters that have joined the fight over the past few years. In addition to the original characters, the game features Shovel Knight, Hellboy, WWE wrestlers, Lara Croft, the Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter, G.I. Joe, and more! 

The bad news is that you have to pay for all of this. The game is free-to-play, but you’ll only get about 10 characters. If you want all those awesome characters, you’ll have to buy them or pay for the battle pass. The gameplay here is much more simplified than Smash as the characters have simple attacks and can pick up weapons. Some might not like how all the characters feel the same (I don’t, actually), but that might be the price you have to pay to have so many characters. Brawlhalla appears to be the most successful Smash clone yet.

Shovel Knight Showdown (2019, Everything)

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This spin-off fighting game from the excellent Shovel Knight is really fun. You can play as eight different knights (one of which is Shield Knight), but that’s not all—there are twelve more fighters to unlock, making for a total of 20 playable characters! Each fighter has four orbs of health. As you fight and collect gems, items will float by in bubbles and sometimes a platter will appear that you can open. Stages are straight from levels in the game too. The game also has a story mode that is unique to each character, and after fighting through several opponents, you’ll face the Enchantress as the final boss. 

I always thought it would be cool to play an 8-bit Smash Bros, and that’s what this is. There’s quite a bit of content here too. Shovel Knight fans will be pleased with all the unlockables and feats that can be done throughout the course of the game. I think it’s also funny how they pulled a Sakurai by having both Reize and Dark Reize as playable characters. As an 8-bit Smash clone, Shovel Knight Showdown is simply superb.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (2021, Everything) 

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You’re probably familiar with this one too since it just came out last year. This game features an impressive roster of characters from beloved cartoons such as Spongebob Squarepants, CatDog, Avatar, Ren & Stimpy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even better, each character’s fighting moves are faithful to that character’s portrayal in said cartoons. There’s a lot to like here. The game has even had DLC characters since release (Garfield and Shredder). Another plus is that they added voices to the characters (yes, the characters were silent when the game first released). 

However, the game is lacking the polish of Smash Bros. as well as the content (there’s not much to do). And let’s be honest: most of these characters are not fighters, which makes the game quite silly. Smash Bros. is full of fighters and has a (mostly) serious tone, but this game is perhaps geared more toward kids. Whatever the case, it stands out as one of the best Smash clones, and has sold very well too. Here’s hoping that the development team will keep improving the game and adding more stuff. 

Which Smash clone do you most enjoy playing? And why do you think Smash Bros. is still the king in its own field? Comment below!




07/23/2022 at 08:59 PM
Wasn't aware of all these clones. Viewtiful Joe?? Anyway, only played a bit of Smash. I preferred Capcom's Power Stone series, which has some similarities.

The Last Ninja

07/24/2022 at 05:05 PM

Yeah, there's a lot! I know that Power Stone 2 is similar to Smash (4 players), but I've only played the first one. 

Cary Woodham

07/24/2022 at 07:44 AM

I've reviewed most of these over the years.  When the Digimon cartoon first came out, my friends and I were into it for a while and we played the Smash clone and was very disappointed.  I didn't think the PlayStation All-Stars game was THAT bad.  Most of the other ones are OK to decent.  I hope I get to review Multiversus.

The Last Ninja

07/24/2022 at 05:06 PM

I was really into Digimon as a kid, it seemed a lot more interesting than the Pokemon cartoon. I'm curious to see what gamers will think of Multiversus. 


07/24/2022 at 08:43 AM

A lot of the fun in Smash is using Nintendo characters, and since Brawl, the crossovers in the video game industry at large. Smash Ultimate was a huge love lettter not only to almost the entire Japanese game industry (the only thing I think that they could have added was Adol Christin for some Falcom representation), but there was also a fair bit of Western representation there as well. Just wish Nintendo had allowed Scorpion to be in Smash.  None of Smash's clones have that kind of cachet, though Viewtiful Joe RHR was pretty good. PSABR honestly came at a pretty weak period for PlayStation, plus the characters weren't nearly as iconic as the ones in Smash. All I could think about was how Sony should have bought Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon when they had the chance to do so. Cloud and Sephiroth were an especially glaring omission given that Final Fantasy VII pretty much built the PlayStation brand single-handedly, but I'm pretty sure Nintendo had already secured Cloud for Smash Wii U/3DS by that point. 

The Last Ninja

07/24/2022 at 05:09 PM

Yeah, a big part of Smash's appeal is all the awesome and well-known characters. I think that Smash Ultimate is a histroic milestone for video games, one which we might never see again (hope not). 

Super Step Contributing Writer

07/24/2022 at 10:49 PM

I honestly didn't know most of the ones you said I should have heard of, including Brawlhalla and the Nickelodeon game. lol 

I do know about Multiversus from watching Maximillian Dood on YouTube, but otherwise I think Duck Game is my favorite kinda-sorta Smash clone. 

The Last Ninja

07/25/2022 at 02:25 PM

I don't know what Duck Game is so you have to explain that one 

Super Step Contributing Writer

07/26/2022 at 11:22 AM

Super Step Contributing Writer

07/26/2022 at 11:24 AM

Having a hard time getting the video but basically it's ducks with guns and 8-bit graphics. Much faster rounds than Smash Bros., but very much a four-person party game. 

The Last Ninja

07/27/2022 at 10:53 AM

LOL! I watched it. It seems more like Killer Queen Black than Smash Bros, but still looks like a really fun time. 

Cary Woodham

07/27/2022 at 05:49 PM


07/26/2022 at 10:42 AM

Gosh, I don't have time to play all the content in Smash Bros, let alones clones too! I had heard of more of these than I expected but still, this is a surprisingly robust subgenre.

The Last Ninja

07/27/2022 at 10:55 AM

Well the truth is, none of these clones probably have the amount of content that Smash has, and half of them aren't worth it anyways. 


07/27/2022 at 03:34 PM

I'm interested in some of the characters used in these games, but I'm just not into the genre. I certainly respect Super Smash Bros. The recent one actually started to pull me into it because of all the neat content and special modes of play. 

The Last Ninja

07/30/2022 at 10:37 AM

Even if you're not "into" Smash Bros, I think you have to repsect it because it's a celebration of gaming. Smash Ultimate has so many third party characters now that it's become a juggernaut, and I'm not sure if we will EVER see this kind of huge love for all of gaming in a single game again. 


07/30/2022 at 12:03 PM

Oh, I do respect it. Smash Bros is great. I'd play it in a heartbeat if anyone asked me to. Solo, not so much. 

We used to have Smash Bros tournaments at my library before COVID. I used to love hearing the kids yelling and cheering. They'll probably start them up again soon, I hope. 

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