The Punch-Out!! universe (パンチアウト!!, Punch-Out!!) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that originate from Nintendo's Punch-Out!! series of single-player-oriented boxing games. Originating as an experimental and ultimately successful pair of 1984 arcade boxing games designed by Genyo Takeda, Punch-Out in its NES incarnation became one of the most significant titles in the NES library, and is often remembered for including the likeness of professional boxer Mike Tyson as an endorsement. After a Super Nintendo follow-up, the series became one of Nintendo's long-dormant "historical relic" IPs, and had made no appearances or cameos whatsoever in the first two Super Smash Bros. titles - it was only the third game, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, that was the first to include in any form the series' signature player-character, the undersized boxer Little Mac, albeit in a non-playable cameo. After Canadian developer Next Level Games released a successful Wii reboot of the series in 2009, however, the Wii incarnation of Little Mac was included on the roster for the first time in Super Smash Bros. 4.
Around the timeframe of the launch of the Nintendo Famicom in 1983, Nintendo, hot off the heels of the definitive success of 1981's Donkey Kong, was still in the business of creating and distributing coin-operated arcade machines. The success of Donkey Kong and its arcade sequels eventually left Nintendo with an excessive number of television screens, however. Genyo Takeda, the general manager of Nintendo's Integrated Research & Development Division, and Shigeru Miyamoto were offered the proposition of making an arcade game machine that used two television screens, one stacked atop the other. During discussions on the genre and concepts of the game, technical limitations that prevented simultaneous scaling and rotation of graphics prompted them to deviate away from the concept of a racing game, and they settled on a dual-screened boxing sports game in which the top screen displayed match statistics and the bottom screen displayed the boxers (in a format very similar to many games on the modern handheld DS and 3DS game systems). Takeda became the lead designer of the project, and Miyamoto designed the characters, which included a nameless green-haired boxer that fought six distinctive opponents in a row. The game was presented in a third-person perspective directly behind the back of the main character, who was depicted as a green wireframe model in order to allow the player to see the opponent fighting on the other side. Takeda's brainchild, Punch-Out!!, was released in February 1984 to positive critical reception and became the first boxing video game to achieve a notable degree of success, and Nintendo released a slightly modified, harder followup named Super Punch-Out!! later that year, which pitted the main boxer against five new opponents.
After working on a little-known arm wrestling-themed spiritual spinoff named Arm Wrestling which was released in 1985 only in North America (as the last arcade game Nintendo independently developed), Takeda began work on a re-programmed NES port of his popular arcade boxing games. It was obvious to his development team that the NES did not possess the power to faithfully emulate the graphical style of the arcade coin-ops, including the wireframe player-character, so one of the measures taken with this version was to comically shorten the height and stature of the playable boxer and give him a black-haired redesign and a new identity as "Little Mac" (a play on the popular McDonald's-brand hamburger, the Big Mac), so that he did not obscure the detailed opponents he was fighting in front of. Other things incorporated into the game was a rough plot with cutscenes - Little Mac working his way up the circuits of professional boxing, and getting coached by his trainer "Doc" Louis in between matches - as well as background music and a password system for saving progress. Additionally, Nintendo's star character Mario made a cameo appearance as a referee.
Punch-Out!! was released in Japan as a gold-colored Famicom cartridge, which is now known as the "Gold Version". Meanwhile, Nintendo of America's founder and then-president, Minoru Arakawa, attended a boxing match featuring professional boxer Mike Tyson, and was reportedly impressed enough by the "power and speed" of Tyson's performance that he conceived the idea of using the athlete's name and likeness in the upcoming Western release as a means of stimulating the game's sales in the West. This decision to pay Tyson royalties for a three-year period for his likeness was further set in stone when Tyson won the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship on November 22, 1986. Tyson was added as a "final boss" in the initial release of the Western version, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, released in October 1987, and this version would eventually sell over two million copies in North America alone; this version was subsequently rereleased in Japan a month later. Once the three-year endorsement period expired, Nintendo re-released the game yet again, as Punch-Out!!, in August 1990, which replaced Tyson's likeness with an original character named "Mr. Dream". This is the version of the NES game that gets regularly included in Nintendo compilations and Virtual Console releases (and was also one of the featured collectible NES games in Animal Crossing for the GameCube). Disregarding differences between versions, the game itself was critically acclaimed and is regarded as one of the best and most classic games on the NES console.
Several years later in October 1994, a Super Nintendo sequel was released in North America named Super Punch-Out!! (not to be confused with the second arcade game of the same name), but it would not see a Japanese release until March 1998, when it was released as part of the Nintendo Power flash RAM cartridge series, a Japan-only peripheral for the Super Famicom which allowed owners to download Super Famicom and Game Boy games onto a special flash memory cartridge for less than what the full cartridge would have cost. Its presentation bears a closer resemblance to the arcade originals than its NES forerunner in that the player can see through the protagonist (in a different and more realistically-sized incarnation with brownish-blonde hair) while fighting his opponent, but instead of a wireframe, the protagonist's body is transparent. The identity of the protagonist of this game is a subject of debate, as official sources conflict on whether the protagonist is Little Mac or not. The game received mostly positive reviews for its colorful and detailed graphics and its accessible gameplay controls, and was both praised and criticized for its differences and conceptual separation from its NES forerunner, which many say ultimately had a wider audience and appeal. The game's cast included many omissions and newcomers compared to the NES game's, with several "new" characters originating directly from the arcade games.
Despite this strong track record for Takeda's series, the Punch-Out!! franchise was retired after the SNES release, and entered a state of dormancy that lasted for well over a decade, besides the aforementioned re-releases of both the NES and SNES games on Virtual Console and the like. And despite being a fighting-oriented Nintendo IP, Punch-Out!! was never featured in a primary contributing role in the crossover Nintendo fighting game series Super Smash Bros. during any of its first three installments, at most receiving a minor cameo in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The series was finally brought back into public attention with the mid-2009 release of a Wii reboot named Punch-Out!!, developed by the Canadian independent developer Next Level Games. The development prioritized preserving the look and feel of the NES iteration in the cel-shaded design style of the returning boxers, including the reintroduction of the black-haired short-sized incarnation of Little Mac. The game provides the controller setup of holding the Wii Remote controller sideways to convey the simple layout of the NES controller, but also incorporates the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as an optional control method for throwing virtual punches, and the game is also compatible with the Wii Balance Board debuted and popularized by Wii Fit, in which it is usable as an optional means for players to duck and dodge. The game received many positive reviews for its high-quality throwback to the gameplay style of the NES title while incorporating substantial new modes (including the first two-player mode in a Punch-Out!! game) and emphasizing a hardcore gameplay slant, and it sold over a million copies. As a result of the series' successful reintroduction through the Wii title, the Wii Punch-Out!! version of Little Mac was included as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. 4. Despite the success of the reboot, however, a new Punch-Out!! game is nowhere in sight, with the series only receiving its primary Smash representation, cameos of Little Mac in other Nintendo games thanks to amiibo, and a minor nod in Next Level Games' Luigi's Mansion 3 since the release of the Wii entry in 2009.
Unlike many boxing video games, which include competitive multiplayer modes and usually play like traditional one-on-one fighting games, each game in the Punch-Out!! series is a single-player experience where the player character fights defensively against a variety of imposing computer-controlled opponents. Little Mac usually cannot effectively attack the larger opponents because they are nearly guaranteed to block a lot of his hits, so in a pseudo-puzzle game element, Little Mac must constantly dodge and block different types of attacks (relying on subtle indications in the opponent's visual movements to determine what move the opponent will use next) and wait for a specific opening to launch a specific, well-timed attack to lower the enemy's health meter. Each individual opponent has very different patterns and twists to both his offense and method of getting damaged, and all of the enemies are just as varied in their outlandish, over-the-top designs - Little Mac's most famous foes include King Hippo, a massive and rotund boxer with an inhumanly-round face whose only weak point is his mouth whenever it is open or a patch on his belly button which can only be found by knocking his pants down, a weak-willed and weak-minded French boxer named Glass Joe, and the intimidating Turkish boxer Bald Bull, who will run towards Little Mac in a "bull rush" move and must be stopped in his tracks with a pinpoint punch right before he would knock Little Mac out in one hit with a body tackle. Furthermore, in the Wii game, Donkey Kong is featured as a hidden opponent. Little Mac is allowed to get knocked down and get back on his feet only so many times in a given match, and must knock out his opponents enough times before he himself gets T.K.O.'ed.
Although nothing from the series physically appears, it receives a minor mention in Mario's biography, which, among a variety of his other careers, mentions him as a referee, which he served as in the NES Punch-Out!!.
After a complete dearth of references to the Punch-Out!! games in the first two Smash games (excluding the mention stated above), Brawl debuted the classic NES incarnation of the main character, Little Mac, in the form of an Assist Trophy.
Little Mac appears as one of the many "minor" Nintendo characters that can be summoned out of an Assist Trophy in Brawl. When summoned, he will perform a series of jabs and uppercuts, while running and jumping around the stage. While Little Mac's attacks have very high knockback and damage, Little Mac is liable to jump off of the side of the stage and self-destruct.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (Others)
The only trophy from the franchise is included in the "Others" category of the trophy collection.
The Wii U and 3DS versions of Super Smash Bros. formally recognized and included the Punch-Out!! series as a featured universe, debuting the redesigned Little Mac as a playable fighter. The series' appearance is based off the Wii reboot of Punch-Out!! released after Brawl.
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Punch-Out!! series)
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Punch-Out!! series)
Main article: Masterpieces
All previous major Punch-Out!! content returns.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Punch-Out!! series)
There are no new Punch-Out!! arrangements in Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash games.
Main article: List of spirits (Punch-Out!! series)
Games with elements appearing in the Super Smash Bros. series
Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade)