Super Smash Bros. series


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This article is about the competitive tournament scene. For the in-game mode, see Tourney (disambiguation).
Spectators at the Let's Make Big Moves Ultimate tournament hosted by Even Matchup Gaming in January 2020.

A tournament, or tourney for short, is a competition involving a group of players competing in a series of games amongst each other to determine who is the best player between them, with there often being some sort of prize for the highest placing players. The format of a tournament varies, though it typically takes the form of a structured bracket where players engage in individual matches to gradually eliminate each other from the tournament until only one player remains. Every game in the Super Smash Bros. series has had an active tournament scene, though the size of each game's scene can fluctuate greatly over the years.

Overview by game[edit]

The western tournament scene for the Super Smash Bros. series was incepted when Matt Deezie established the Tournament Go series in April 2002 with Super Smash Bros. Melee. The game had an active tournament scene in the years following its release, being featured at both grassroots tournaments and events ran by large e-sports groups, most notably Major League Gaming. Following the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the Melee scene experienced a recession as many players moved on to Brawl or stopped playing Smash altogether, though it would gradually rebound as many players, both old and new, returned to Melee after dissatisfaction with Brawl, kickstarted by the success of Revival of Melee a year after Brawl's North American release. Melee would then see an explosive growth in popularity in 2013, fueled by the success of EVO 2013 and the documentary, The Smash Brothers, where Melee has since remained extremely popular among competitive players over a decade later, with a large and thriving tournament presence far exceeding that of its pre-Brawl days.

Despite the severe dislike that most Melee players had for Super Smash Bros. Brawl and quickly abandoning the game after less than a year, Brawl would develop its own scene with a mostly distinct playerbase. For four years following Brawl's release, its tournament scene was on par with Melee's, if not even larger, with Brawl peaking at Apex 2012 in January 2012, the tournament that set the record for largest Smash tournament ever at 400 entrants, a record it would hold until EVO 2013 in July 2013 shattered it with 709 entrants. Brawl would immediately experience significant decline following Apex 2012 however, due to division over the game's ruleset (most notoriously regarding the legality of Meta Knight), the imminent release of Smash 4, the rise of Project M, and general growing dissatisfaction with the game; Apex 2013 and Apex 2014 would still attract well north of 300 entrants for Brawl, but very few other big tournaments in this time period could break 100 entrants, and several regions had their Brawl scenes die out. The release of Smash 4 would serve as a killing blow, with the vast majority of remaining Brawl players moving on to it, but a small group of loyal players would continue to play Brawl, and by the later 2010s, they would establish a niche scene that continues to this day, with Brawl tournaments sometimes appearing alongside other Smash games at larger tournaments.

When it was the newest Smash game, Super Smash Bros. 4 similarly rivaled or even exceeded the size of Melee's tournament scene, experiencing the same explosion in size that Melee did at the time due to the availability of well-developed streaming technology, improved social networking, and other improved tournament infrastructure, in addition to an already-existing Brawl fanbase that eagerly moved onto the newer game. It also attracted casual players into the competitive Smash scene to a much greater extent than any of the previous Smash games, due to the game being designed with a more competitive focus than its predecessor (through game design decisions like faster gameplay and better balancing, and adding competitive-focused online modes like For Glory), and competitive Smash in general being more mainstream than it was at the time of Brawl's release. Smash 4's tournament scene peaked in 2016, with the Smash 4 bracket at EVO 2016 setting the record for largest Smash tournament ever at 2662 entrants, and Smash 4 would have several more tournaments after this that broke the 1000 entrants mark or came close. Smash 4 would start experiencing decline in late 2017 however, with most recurring tournament series seeing substantial drops in their entrant totals from the previous year, due to stagnation and the game's balance being thoroughly upended by Bayonetta and Cloud. This decline would be accelerated once Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was revealed at E3 2018 and announced to be releasing in December of that year, though Smash 4 tournaments would still retain respectable entrant numbers to its end, with the Smash 4 bracket at both EVO 2018 and Super Smash Con 2018 getting over 1300 entrants. Once Ultimate released, the tournament scene for Smash 4 has become nearly non-existent as its playerbase near entirely transitioned to Ultimate, with the only Smash 4 tournaments remaining mostly taking place at events that explicitly hosts tournaments for all Smash games, such as Super Smash Con.

In a similar vein to Smash 4, the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would see another explosion in the size of the competitive scene, due to the game being developed significantly more competitively-minded than Smash 4, and Ultimate itself having a far larger pool of potential players, since it outsold all prior Smash games by a massive margin. Immediately in its first year, Ultimate established the largest competitive scene of any Smash game to date with over a half-dozen 1000+ entrant tournaments, including shattering the all-time record for largest Smash tournament, with EVO 2019 having 3534 entrants for its Ultimate bracket. Ultimate would suffer a serious setback however with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, that completely shutdown any large inperson Smash tournaments for over a year. As regulations regarding social events relaxed and inperson tournaments could start occurring again, Ultimate would start gradually rebounding, and by 2023, its tournament activity would come close to its 2019 peak, with forty tournaments that year reaching major status and eight of them breaking 1000 entrants, while peaking post-Covid with 2607 entrants at Super Smash Con 2023.

Competitive Smash 64 never had a time as the premier Smash game, due to the foundations for competitive Smash not being established until over a year into Melee's release. Nonetheless, with its unique gameplay that's very distinct from all other Smash games, Smash 64 has maintained a small devoted following since the release of Melee, establishing a niche tournament scene in the later 2000s that persists to this day. In addition to the traditional in-person tournaments, competitive play also frequently takes place online through services like Kaillera.

Project M, a Brawl mod featuring design and gameplay like that of Melee's, has also seen a number of tournaments dedicated to it. Beginning in 2013, the game saw a rapid rise in popularity and was increasingly featured at Smash tournaments, including supermajors such as Apex 2014. Initially restricted to a side event at many tournaments, Project M later developed its own unique tournament scene, with some tournaments being devoted almost solely to the game. However, since Project M is not endorsed by Nintendo, many major e-sports organizations and large grassroots tournaments excluded PM from their lineups, and many streaming groups also refuse to stream PM tournaments altogether, due to fears of legal issues over the mod. Although these blows have caused the game to lose significant ground to Melee, Ultimate, and formerly Smash 4, it still maintains a distinct scene to this day, often hosting its own tournaments that can attract over a hundred entrants.

Locations and sizes[edit]

"Major tournament" redirects here. For a list of major tournaments, see List of major tournaments.

Tournaments are held regularly in many regions all over the world, with the largest overall community centered in the United States, which has not only the largest and generally most talented playerbase, but also the largest tournaments, most notably GENESIS and EVO, which attract competition from all over the world. Japan also features a thriving competitive scene, and in recent years has become one of the largest competitive scenes for the most recent Smash titles. Canada, Mexico, and northern and western Europe (in particular the Scandinavian countries) also feature large, high level competitive Smash scenes, while Australia, Latin America, south Asia, and South America have smaller but still notable scenes, and even smaller scattered scenes exist throughout the rest of the world.

Various terms exist for describing the size, frequency, and intent of a tournament. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Smashfest: A smaller event, often without an entry fee, and more friendly than competitive in nature. Smashfests often feature several different games and allow players to compete with each other in a more casual manner.
  • STD: "Smash 'Til Dawn", An overnight tournament or smashfest where the goal is to keep playing until the sun rises (or later). Smash the Record is a very large example of this.
  • Weekly/Biweekly/Triweekly/Monthly: Repeating tournaments, usually in the same venue. Usually feature a regular group of players each iteration. Depending on size as well as player strength, certain monthly events can also be classified as Regional Tournaments if not larger (such as Mayhem in California and the monthly Smash 4 events at Xanadu)
  • Circuit event: Part of a regional circuit of tournaments, such as the 2GG Championship Series, Smash World Tour, or Panda Cup. Winners are usually given points based on their placings, and the top point earners on the leaderboards are invited to a finale tournament, or an overall points winner at the end of the season is given some sort of prize.
  • Invitational: A short list of players are invited to the tournament to compete, instead of registration being open to anyone. Players can be invited in a variety of ways: being directly invited by the tournament organizers, qualifying for the tournament by achieving a top placement in a predetermined tournament or a Last Chance Qualifier tournament, or voted in through crowdfunding. Invitationals will often have a large prize pool in place of being generated by entry fees. Smash Summit tournaments are the most prominent example of this.
  • Pre-local: A local or tournament that takes place prior to a larger tournament, usually a major, and as such often feature players from outside the region. Due to the nature of these events, they are often not tiered on global rankings even if the tournament attendance is large enough to reach a major or supermajor level.
  • Regional tournament: A large tournament that draws significant attendance from its hosting region, as well as attracts attendance from neighboring regions. On most global rankings, regional tournaments are tiered as C-tier. Especially stacked regionals that attract significant attendance from outside the hosting region, and have multiple top players in attendance, are referred to as "superregionals", and are often tiered as B-tiers on most global rankings.
  • Major tournament or national tournament: A larger tournament that draws an extraordinary amount of attendance from the broader region as a whole. In North America, these tournaments attract players from across the United States and Canada, while European majors feature smashers from across the continent. Majors can draw attendance from different continents; for example, European and Japanese players often fly in to large American tournaments. Most global rankings tier majors as A-tiers.
  • Supermajor: The most prestigious tournaments in the Smash scene, featuring a huge amount of the best players from around the world. Supermajors are considered to be the most important gatherings for players in the scene, and attract the most viewership and publicity, not only from within the Smash community, but also from the larger fighting game and esports communities. Examples of current Smash-centered supermajor series include GENESIS, Super Smash Con, and The Big House; many tournaments held by larger fighting game organizations, such as CEO, have also become supermajors in the Smash community. EVO, MLG, Apex, and Pound have previously been recognized as supermajor series. Tournaments can also be labeled as supermajors based on the extreme level of player talent; for example, in Melee, Get On My Level 2016, as well as Smash Summit and other invitationals, are often considered "supermajors" due to the fact that so many top 20 players attended, despite having fewer entrants than the other tournament series listed. Most global rankings tier supermajors as S-tiers, with some rankings tiering particularly large supermajors as P-tiers.

Prices and fees[edit]

Most tournaments require an entry fee from participants to play. These prices vary by region and tournament size, and differ for each type of event being entered; a typical entry fee amount for smaller tournaments is $5, while larger tournaments run $10, with it being uncommon even for the largest supermajors to have an entry fee over $10. Entry fees go into a "pot" for an event and are awarded to the winners of that event in pre-announced amounts, usually a percentage of the pot (for example a common payout split at small tournaments is 60% for first, 30% for second, and 10% for third, though the exact splits and how deep the payouts go vary greatly across tournaments). Tournament directors will usually charge an extra amount, commonly referred to as a venue fee, to help pay for the costs to use the venue, equipment, paying others for various tourney-related services, and for their own time. Venue fees usually cost between $5 to $10, though larger tournaments will frequently charge more, especially for nationals that last multiple days, where venue fees can run potentially up to the $100+ range. Often TOs will offer discounts on the venue fee for doing things that help run the tourney, such as supplying a setup and volunteering to help the TO, and larger tournaments will often charge a lower venue fee to players that pre-register early, while charging a higher venue fee to those who register late.

Legal issues involving the exchange of money[edit]

Some public venues like schools and places of worship consider gaming tournaments a form of gambling and ban it as such. All tournament directors are encouraged to check with potential venues to make sure they are tolerant of players paying to enter. Several well-known tournaments have had to cancel events when a public official discovered that money was changing hands between players at the event.

Smash Bros. tournaments are often thought to be illegal in Iowa under §725.7 of the Iowa Code, which states that it is unlawful for any one to "participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value" other than those outlined in subsection 2.[1] However, nobody is known to have been arrested due to participating in an esports tournament. There have been several attempts to pass legislation to explicitly legalize fantasy sports in the state, which may have implications for esports as well.[2][3] House Bill 165, introduced to the Iowa House of Representatives in January 2015 attempts to create a definition for "Bona Fide Contests", that among other additions, would legalize paying tournaments for games “by player-directed movement with a video or electronic gaming device”.[4] The current law allows for video machine golf tournament games, but not necessarily any other type of video game.

Tournament formats[edit]

There are many bracket formats commonly used by modern Smash tournaments, the most popular being listed here. The exact details may vary between tournaments, and some may use a different format entirely, but these tournaments are few and far between.

Double elimination bracket[edit]

The winners' bracket portion of a double elimination event.
The losers' bracket, where a player is placed after losing in winners' bracket.

The double elimination format is by far the most common bracket type at tournaments. A double elimination bracket is derived from the single elimination format but is split into two sections, the winners' and losers' brackets (W and L for short). The W bracket is almost identical to a single elimination bracket; however, losing in the W bracket does not eliminate a player from the tournament. They instead drop into the L bracket at a position that reflects how far they advanced into the W bracket. Anyone who loses in the L bracket (their second loss of the event) is eliminated.

The first round of the L bracket pairs two players who just lost in the first round of the W bracket. The winner of this set then plays a player who drops from the second round of W bracket due to a loss there; the player is placed in the bracket at the letter/number corresponding to the set in W bracket where they lost. (In the images at right, Champ lost at W-A and dropped into L-A.) Further L bracket rounds alternate between these two set setups: two players who survived earlier L bracket rounds play, and the winner of that faces someone dropping from W bracket.

There are three sets in a double-elimination bracket that are of special importance to participants:

  • Winners' Bracket Finals: occurs between two players who advance to the last set in W bracket without losing. The winner of this set is guaranteed at least a second place finish, while the loser will at worst finish third. The set in W bracket marked "C" is the winners finals set in the first image at right.
  • Losers' Bracket Finals: the loser of the winners' bracket finals plays against the one player to advance through all the L bracket rounds. The loser of this set is awarded third place overall. The set labeled "C" in the second image at right is the losers' bracket finals.
  • Championship Set (aka Grand Finals): the end-all set of the event. The winner of this set gets first place, the loser second. The wrinkle in this is that the player from the losers' bracket must win two consecutive sets to win the championship as opposed to the winners' bracket player only requiring one – this is due to the "players are eliminated upon losing two sets" philosophy and has the side effect of discouraging players from intentionally dropping a tough set to fall into the presumed-easier losers' bracket.

These three sets usually require a greater number of individual games to be played before determining a winner. Standard tournament rules have most sets being a set of "best two of three", while the three sets above are often sets of "best three of five".

Every player is guaranteed at least two sets in a double elimination bracket, making it a popular alternative to the single elimination format. The format also affords a player the chance to make a comeback after losing once in W bracket, as well as provide a greater difference in placing, to aid with ranking players' tournament performance.

The size of a double elimination bracket is determined in the same fashion as a single elimination bracket. Half the remaining players are eliminated every two rounds of the L bracket. The total number of sets for an n-size bracket is equal to 2(n−1); thus, a double elimination bracket takes exactly twice as long to complete as a single elimination bracket (assuming the bracket is not reset).

Placements guide[edit]

The following is the list of placements and which stage and round the player was eliminated. # refers to the maximum number of players who may share the placement. EVO uses a similar model for their events. This list is accurate for tournaments using double-elimination throughout, and lower placements would be inaccurate for tournaments using round robin pools or divisions, for example.

Place Eliminated in # Round of
1st N/A 1 N/A
2nd Grand finals 1 Top 2
3rd Losers finals 1 Top 3
4th Losers semi-finals 1 Top 4
5th Losers quarter-finals 2 Top 6
7th Losers eighths 2 Top 8
9th 5 rounds before Grand Finals 4 Top 12
13th 6 rounds before Grand Finals 4 Top 16
17th 7 rounds before Grand Finals 8 Top 24
25th 8 rounds before Grand Finals 8 Top 32
33rd 9 rounds before Grand Finals 16 Top 48
49th 10 rounds before Grand Finals 16 Top 64
65th 11 rounds before Grand Finals 32 Top 96
97th 12 rounds before Grand Finals 32 Top 128
129th 13 rounds before Grand Finals 64 Top 192
193rd 14 rounds before Grand Finals 64 Top 256
257th 15 rounds before Grand Finals 128 Top 384
385th 16 rounds before Grand Finals 128 Top 512
513th 17 rounds before Grand Finals 256 Top 768
769th 18 rounds before Grand Finals 256 Top 1,024
1,025th 19 rounds before Grand Finals 512 Top 1,536
1,537th 20 rounds before Grand Finals 512 Top 2,048
2,049th 21 rounds before Grand Finals 1,024 Top 3,072
3,073rd 22 rounds before Grand Finals 1,024 Top 4,096
4,097th 23 rounds before Grand Finals 2,048 Top 6,144
6,145th 24 rounds before Grand Finals 2,048 Top 8,192

Round Robin[edit]

Round Robin is a tournament format where every player in the tournament plays every single other player. There are no brackets and no eliminations; everyone keeps playing until every matchup has been played. Round Robin is most commonly used in major invitationals and is only occasionally used in open brackets, usually in events with a small entrants count.


  • They are perfectly fair, as every player plays the same people, thus preventing players from having an easier or more difficult tournament progression than other players (which is highly probable in a bracket type tournament, due to issues such as faulty seeding or being placed against players who play characters that counter theirs).
  • Seeding does not matter, and as such, TOs do not have to spend time creating a bracket while making sure it's seeded properly and balanced, thus allowing the tournament to start sooner.
  • They are optimally accurate, as they give the maximum amount of information to base placings on.
  • They provide the most amount of games played, spread equally among all players.
  • Relating to the point above, they are especially useful in creating more matches and a longer tournament in the event of small turnout, thus allowing small tournaments to feel larger.


  • Round Robins take an infeasible amount of time to complete for more than a dozen or so players. The number of games that must be played increases quadratically as more players are added, meaning that Round Robins can only be used for small gatherings. For x players, the number of matches required is x(x−1)/2. To illustrate this problem, if a 256-person Round Robin was done, it would take approximately 6 days of consecutive around-the-clock smashing.
A 5-way tie in a 5-person round robin tournament.
  • One rare but potential danger to Round Robin tournaments is the possibility of a tie. Round Robins are not assured to have a clearly cut winner like brackets do. For example, let there be 3 players, A, B, and C. A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A. Then A, B, and C all beat everyone else in the tournament. A, B, and C are then each in a three-way tie for first place. This principle is not limited to 3 players, though; it is completely possible that everyone in the entire tournament ties for first and last simultaneously.
  • Bracket manipulation is much more probable in a Round Robin, as it's significantly more feasible for a higher level player to afford intentionally losing a match or two to friends to boost their placing, while not harming their own placing.
  • "Meaningless matches" will occur, when players are mathematically eliminated from a money placing, or in the case of Round Robin pools, mathematically eliminated from advancing to the next round of pools or bracket, before finishing all their matches. All remaining matches of theirs become "meaningless", as the match outcome will have no impact on their capability to win money or secure a spot to advance farther in the tournament. As a result, these players may not care about their remaining matches if they do not care enough about bolstering their final placing, and either drop out (thus automatically forfeiting all remaining matches), or play their remaining matches with half-hearted effort (thus lose matches they would win otherwise). This in turn will inflate the placings of other players they were set to play after being knocked out of contention by essentially giving them "free wins", potentially disrupting the tournament by allowing an undeserving player to win money or advance over a better player, and overall undermining the advantages a round robin brings. Even in the case where no player's placing gets unfairly inflated in a tournament by this, players are generally less enthusiastic about playing "meaningless matches" than bracket matches with clear progression on the line.
  • The lack of a clear Finals set can hurt spectatorship, as those sets are typically the mostly highly viewed sets during tournament streams, and lacking a clear Finals set can make the tournament feel less conclusive for both players and spectators, especially if one player wins enough to secure first place before all sets are played. To alleviate this issue however, tournaments may instead have the two highest ranking players in the Round Robin play one more set at the end against each other to determine the winner, and can even emulate a Grand Finals set by requiring the second place player to win two sets to win the tournament. Alternatively, the Round Robin may be split into two separate groups to begin with, where then the highest finishing player of the two groups face off in a Finals set at the end.


Pools contain a subset of an entrant field, also informally known as "groups". Using this mechanism, players are split into appropriately-sized pools and do a "mini-tournament" with other participants in their pool using the pre-announced pool format, with the most common format pre-2013 being round-robin to yield perfectly accurate results and to give less skilled players more tournament matches, while post-2013 bracket pools have become predominant, as the explosion in the size of Smash tournaments necessitated a format that was more practical for the much larger tournaments. In round-robin pools, after all matches have finished, players are either seeded or eliminated in their pool based on their performance. Pools are usually used to narrow a large entrant field into a smaller subset for double elimination bracket play or for another round of pools, though they are occasionally just used to seed players in bracket without elimination. Examples of this method are:

  • In a tournament with 160 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 32 pools of 5 players, and then the top 2 players of each pool would make the 64-man bracket.
  • In a tournament with 48 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 8 pools of 6 players, and then the top 4 players of each pool would make the 32-man bracket.
  • In a tournament with 224 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 32 pools of 7 players, and then the top 2 players of each pool would make the 64-man bracket.

In sufficiently large tournaments, 2 or more rounds of pools would be adequate to useful. Examples are:

  • Apex 2012 Brawl singles – 400 participants
    • 80 pools of 5, top 2 players of each pool advanced to a second round of pools, yielding 160 participants.
    • 32 pools of 5, top 2 players of each pool advanced to the 64-man bracket.
  • Zero Challenge 2 – 192 participants
    • 32 pools of 6, top 3 players of each pool advanced to a second round of pools, yielding 96 participants.
    • 16 pools of 6, top 4 players of each pool advanced to the 64-man bracket.

Pools are usually only employed at large tournaments. N number of entrants are split into P number of pools, and the top Y finishers in each pool are either placed into a second round of pools or seeded into a double elimination bracket, which proceeds normally. The number of entrants for the subsequent round or bracket is P × Y. Placing well in a pool gives a player a better position in a bracket or the next round of pools, giving extra incentive to strive for the top pool positions. Tournaments using round-robin pools will result in a significantly larger amount of games being played than without them. There are a total of B(B−1)/2 sets per pool, with B players per pool. Thus a round of round-robin pools with N participants total requires a grand total of N(B−1)/2 sets.

Bracket pools differ by employing the usual double-elimination format in pools, where pools essentially become mini-brackets where a certain amount of top placing players (typically between the top 2 to top 4) feed into a final bracket or farther bracket pools. Usually a player that enters the loser bracket in bracket pools will remain in losers for the rest of their tourney run, with advancing to the final bracket or next round of pools not resetting their position to the winner side, so everyone can still only lose twice before being eliminated at most tourneys that run bracket pools, though occasionally tourneys running bracket pools may have a players reset back onto the winner's side upon advancing, such as at Apex 2013. Compared to round-robin pools, bracket pools lose the advantage of guaranteeing weaker players more than two sets, but they take considerably less time and effort to run, making them considerably more practical for large tournaments. Additionally, while a tournament with bracket pools may not seem to differ functionally from a normal double-elimination bracket, employing bracket pools makes large tournaments far easier to organize and run than just running a large normal double-elimination bracket would be.

Swiss system[edit]

The Swiss System, as used heavily in the professional chess world, guarantees each player the same number of matches and attempts to match players against others of similar skill throughout the tournament. Swiss system tournaments are rare in the Smash community due to their complexity and the large number of matches they create.

Players are assigned matches in the first round either randomly or based on some method of seeding (an attempt to rank players in order of skill before the tournament starts). Winning this set gives a player 1 "point", and losing does not give any points. Each successive round involves pairing two players with the same number of points (attempting to avoid repeat matchups), playing out those matches, assigning points, and repeating for the next round. Swiss systems generally run until only a single person has no losses; this will occur after R rounds, where R is the base-2 logarithm of the total number of entrants, rounded upwards. Swiss brackets are sometimes run for a pre-determined number of rounds, with the winner being the person with the most points overall.

The Swiss format can also be run in pools instead of the traditional bracket and round-robin formats, such as was done at Smash 'N' Splash 5 and Ludwig Smash Invitational. Though like with running Swiss format tournaments, this format is rarely used in pools due to its complexity and large amount of matches created.

Single elimination bracket[edit]

An eight-player single elimination bracket. First-round matches are on the left.

Single elimination tournaments are the least common of the four formats for Super Smash Bros. and video games in general. Despite this, tournaments sometimes use them for side events like crew battles to save time. Despite single elimination's flaws, Japanese Smash 64 tournaments often use the single elimination format, even in large, national tournaments. Some early Melee tournaments used single elimination.

In a single elimination bracket, players are arranged into a hierarchical structure where matches are played between two entrants; the winner advances to play another player the next round, and the loser is eliminated from the tournament. The player who wins the very last match of the bracket, after all other entrants have been eliminated, is the winner of the event, and the person who loses the final match finishes in second place. Most sports tournaments (like the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship) use a single elimination format.

Single elimination brackets are often described in terms of the number of entrants playing in the bracket. Because half the remaining players are eliminated during each round of the bracket, the total number of rounds is based on the base-2 logarithm of the entrant count (rounded upwards). A three-round bracket is used for 8 players, four rounds for 9 to 16 players, five rounds for 17 to 32 players, and so on. A bracket's size is usually defined as the smallest power of two that is greater than or equal to the number of entrants. Thus, a bracket with 47 entrants is referred to as a 64-man bracket, because 64 is the smallest power of two which is greater than 47. The size of the bracket also reflects the total number of matches throughout the entire bracket: for an n-size bracket, n-1 matches must be played in total.

Byes are used to fill positions in the bracket when the number of entrants is not a power of two. Any player facing a bye automatically advances to the next round. Byes are usually given to the top seeds in the bracket.

Single elimination brackets are rarely used at Smash tournaments for multiple reasons. One such reason players dislike single elimination is that half the players are eliminated having only played a single match (and every player overall gets to play significantly fewer matches). Another reason is that just having one bad match or encountering one bad matchup can result in a premature elimination for a player that would have placed better otherwise, thus giving less room for error, and overall less accuracy in the results. Single elimination also offers much less difference in placing, making them less useful for ranking players' performance.

Arcadian format[edit]

An Arcadian is a tournament format where all the ranked players from a specific region are banned from participating, therefore only allowing the unranked players to participate, giving the unranked players a chance at winning money and the glory of winning a tournament that they would typically have no realistic chance at. Arcadians still feature the same rulesets as other tournaments, however. Most Arcadians also disallow players from outside the tourney's region from participating, but TOs may screen out-of-region players to determine if they're eligible instead of banning OoR players wholesale. Arcadians may additionally have a clause to allow TOs to bar entry to any technically unranked player that would be deemed too good to enter, such as a player who was only unranked for failing to reach a PR's attendance requirement rather than from a lack of ability. Arcadians are most common at local and regional tournaments, and most regions periodically run Arcadians, typically once per a ranking season. Notably, 2GG: Breakthrough 2019 holds the record for the largest Arcadian tournament within the Smash series.

In-game Tournament Mode[edit]

Although each game since Melee has included a Tournament Mode for local play and Smash Ultimate features an online tournament mode, the in-game mode is rarely, if ever, used in actual competitive play, due to a variety of limitations of the mode relative to the rather complex structures that serious tournaments require:

  • Tournament matches are played in a best of 3 or 5 format, while Tournament Mode only allows single-game sets.
  • Tournament matches allow players to use any character for any game in any match, while Tournament Mode forces players to remain a single character for the entire tournament.
  • Tournaments almost never use a single-elimination bracket, which is the only bracket type available in Tournament Mode.
  • Tournaments require their brackets to be properly seeded for reasonably accurate results, while Tournament Mode gives no control over seeding and forces a randomized bracket (outside of Ultimate).
  • Tournaments don't often enforce a limit to the maximum number of players and can contain hundreds of participants, while Tournament Mode cannot handle more than a very limited 64 (in Melee) or 32 (in Brawl and Ultimate).
  • Tournaments require multiple setups to be run efficiently, while Tournament Mode can only exist on a single setup. Using Tournament Mode to simply keep track of brackets is additionally a very slow process given only one match can be edited at a time, any errors made cannot be corrected without redoing the whole tournament mode and each console used could instead be used as a setup players play on to progress the tournament.

For this reason, external tournament management systems are the norm in competitive play. The in-game tournament modes are more frequently used for casual play, as these limitations are less impactful on lower-stakes games played quickly between casual players of varying skill levels, and because the in-game tournament modes offer a variety of quality-of-life features, such as in-game bracket management, in-game button-mapping, and dynamic controller assignment, that would otherwise be tedious or difficult to manage for the casual player.


Due to the competitive nature of tournaments and the stakes involved with winning and losing, parties attempting to cheat is an inevitability. Cheating is defined as one or more individuals conspiring to break the agreed upon rules or finding loopholes in said rules to gain an unfair advantage or some other illicit benefit.

Cheating can take many forms, each varying in severity, subtlety, and goal. An obvious form of cheating is outright breaking the rules. This can include attempting to play in an environment outside of the typical structure without the consent of all other involved parties, intentionally performing actions that are explicitly banned, or hacking the game to play differently.

More subtle forms of cheating that reach a realm of ambiguity include intentionally playing worse than expected or convincing an opponent to play worse, often referred to as "sandbagging," as well as intentionally losing games to avoid certain players and having an overall easier time in a tournament, sometimes referred to as "match fixing" or "bracketology." While these do not necessarily break the rules, they are generally frowned upon and will lead to disciplinary action if proven to have occurred.

Cheating is usually punished if discovered, though not every situation is black and white. Not all cases of cheating are created equal, and punishments are often more or less severe because of it. Less consequential instances like pausing during a match may result in forfeiting a stock at most, while something more severe like fixing matches may result in disqualification from the tournament and a ban from all future events. There are also cases of genuine mistakes or "act of God" situations where no one party is at fault, which is usually dealt with on a case by case basis by the tournament organizer.

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